Tucked alongside the Voronezh River in Russia lives a shaman. This particular shaman is also an artist, musician and the driving force behind a small publishing house. With an independent ethos and strong creative flair, the impact of this discovery has been considerable. Deep. Stirring. Personal. Enter our guide, Ord Err, as we walk the paths of old together…
Pariah Child bids you a hearty warm welcome! As the sun sinks lower in the autumnal sky, leaves are falling thick and fast here. Has Winter’s cold grip already taken hold in your land?
Good time of a day, Pariah Child, on behalf of the Status Prod label, Mist over Wormwood, Voronezh land and me personally, Ord Err! In the Voronezh lands, autumn is in full swing. The leaves have already covered us with a golden veil, but the cold fingers of winter have not yet squeezed into an ice hoop. Autumn in Russia is beautiful and inspiring. The rivers are not yet covered with ice, the trees have not lost their luxurious hair, melancholic rains are interspersed with a bright, warm sun, and the autumn smell raises from the depths of the soul something exciting, agonizing, with notes of longing for the outgoing warmth. Of course, winter is approaching, but for now we enjoy the last days of still awake nature…
How and when were you first touched by the spirits, forces and energies in the world around you?
When I was very young, I began to pay attention to the events taking place in my life, which I could not explain logically and, accordingly, understand their nature and regularity. Over the years, these events have increased, and understanding came from a completely different side. The acceptance of myself and the forces around me, communication with them, the exchange of energy came. There is no doom or backbreaking work in this. You talk to them – they talk to you.
Please describe the wider region of Voronezh where you live. Have you discovered inspiring sacred sites in the locality or is the gift to connect carried deep within?
It’s worth starting with the fact that the Voronezh region is at the junction of two tectonic plates, we have practically no earthquakes, but from the point of view of energies, this is not fun at all.
Officially, the city of Voronezh was founded in 1586 as a guard post, although people lived here before, since the 1st Millennium BC. And from that time, they almost continuously fought for territory. With the advent of the sentry post, the situation has improved, but not much.
In 1695 Voronezh became the cradle of the Russian Fleet. The fleet was built heavily and not without losses.
The history of Voronezh from the time of Peter I to the Revolution of 1917 is full of numerous events such as the city being destroyed by fires several times. There was a drought and famine too.
During the Great Patriotic War (1941-1945), the front line passed through the centre of the city, residents were killed by invaders, 92% of houses were destroyed. Death was everywhere. The city, literally, was rebuilt on bones.
We live in these energies, with our centuries-old history of death and rebirth. Everywhere there are stories of ghosts, anomalous stars, places as sacred and black as night itself.
The gift of communication is something difficult to describe and comprehend; it is rather another way of obtaining information.
Earlier in this issue, Tony Tears testified to creating and wearing specific masks in different phases of his esoteric journey. What role, if any, do masks play in meditative practice for you?
The mask is a significant element of strength in many cultures and traditions. It serves as an expression of the shaman’s inner potential, a means of union with the spiritual essence depicted on the mask. The mask is a merger with the gods, with all the powerful spirits of this cult. This is a unity with the cult, with the spirit of the mask, an appeal for his help and support.
But, most importantly, the mask is also the main protection. It makes it possible to appear in a modified image, if you need to be invisible. The mask allows you to travel into the world of spirits, and when you return, remain unrecognized by them. This makes it possible to endow yourself with superhuman qualities that cannot be achieved in ordinary life.
The mask should not be worn for fun or decoration though. This is a cult aspect that requires respect and appropriate treatment. That is why images of masks are created. They can be painted, carved from stone, from wood or other natural materials. Such masks can be worn directly on the body, or be located in the house, however, they are the subject of a cult, retaining the ability to protect their owner and the ability to merge with the spirit.
Your ability to craft talismans and amulets is uncanny. An art form almost forgotten. Where do you source these materials? Do you have a sense of the face you will carve from the outset or is each revealed gradually during the process? And do you need specific circumstances, say smells, sounds or lighting, to achieve the optimum results?
Thank you for your kind words. Initially, I cut in stone. For example, I made candlesticks in the ORD album “Sacra Mental Hypno Drone: Rituals, Revelations & Purification” (deluxe edition) myself. There are only 40 of them. Once I was presented with deer antlers, and when I was finishing the candlesticks, I already knew that in future I would cut on the bone and horn. All the material I order in Siberia, where they undergo a special antiseptic treatment, and come completely ready for carving. I cannot say that I know the face that I will cut. It is unfamiliar to me. It appears gradually, tells his story – who he is, where he came from and why. This process does not depend on me. I would say that the faces of the spirits control my hands so that I can manifest them.
When there were a large number of artefacts, we created the workshop Mist over Wormwood together with Darina Voinova, the co-owner of our Status Prod, label.. Darina is responsible for the design and planetary matching of faces, as well as the creation of jewelry that has a practical and esoteric meaning; I am responsible for the carvings. This creative workshop is now an integral part of the label.
A month ago, to coincide with the Autumn Equinox, you held an exhibition of striking paintings. Named “Spirits Who Wear Masks” the recurring theme of faces was present again. Some skeletal, others ghostly and all rather impressionistic. Over what length of period were they created? Would you elaborate on these visions given form in this body of work and any accompanying themes buried within?
All paintings were created this year, in a fairly short period. In fact, they were created in the same way as amulets. It’s just a different form of display. The picture is a container of the spirit for communication, an amulet for daily help. The spirit manifests itself in the process of work, sometimes others appear behind one face, and then the picture displays many faces. It was not easy to have time to display them all, but I think I did a good job with this task. An exhibition of my works took place in one of the oldest galleries in our city on the day of the Autumn Equinox. Within the framework of the exhibition, I conducted three performances: “Revitalizing the Mask,” “Meditation with Spirits” and “Letting go” – a musical act, revitalizing and revealing each picture, combining a sound canvas with an artistic canvas. The fusion of sound and visual images breathed life into each of more than 40 paintings and miniatures, manifesting its essence, making the viewer see, hear and feel.
During the exhibition, people wanted to buy my paintings in private collections. Therefore, after its completion, I put my paintings up for sale. So, now I am releasing not only music albums, but also my own paintings under the ORD brand.
Can you describe the emotions you channelled at the installation or how the intimate audience reacted to the experience?
As an ORD artist and ORD musician, each performance was a ritual, creating a space outside of place and time, where each external image served as a reflection of the internal, and hidden desires taking on their physical form. Without which the physical body can neither exist nor move, the beginning of a dialogue with the Spirits, the manifestation of the essence of the Mask.
The audience reacted in different ways: someone looked for their images and found them, someone else simply fell into a state of trance, and for others, sounds and images showed the intimate that is usually hidden in the most secret corners of the soul. So the reactions were different, yet no one remained indifferent.
ORD resides at the very core of your being. Ritual sounds, shamanic rhythms and traditional instrumentation blend to create an otherworldly impression. Time out of time. In a bid to better understand your roots, how, where and when did this musical journey begin?
I have come a long way from gothic, through martial to ambient. This is a long, necessary, but difficult path to overcome oneself, experience and spiritual maturation. ORD is a kind of cleansing, a withdrawal into oneself, an opportunity to show the world what am I, of what I am. Of course, the ritual part was always with me, but did not find such full expression in music. When I began to collect musical instruments, from Tibetan singing bowls, bells, overtone flutes to Yakut ritual instruments, when I began to order a variety of modular synthesizers and other noise boxes, then that ORD, which you can see now, was born. Of course, I change, like everything around me and my music with me, but as you very accurately said, ORD is the very core of my being, this is me.
For some eighteenth months now, “Sacra Mental Hypno Drone” has resounded in my home. Early in the morning. Late at night. Often on repeat. Its magnetic pull difficult to describe. Given that it was your first opus, what framework, if any, did you apply in order to achieve maximum impact?
Thank you, I am pleased that you are so hooked on this album. Hope your family doesn’t mind!
If only you knew in what conditions and how this album was created! It was an impulse of the soul, which I tried to express with the help of everything that came to hand and whenever I could, I extracted sounds and recorded them. In the middle of working on the album, I had a heart attack and ended up in the hospital, but even there I was recording sounds and writing poetry, which was very frightening for the staff. Of course, I continued working on the album as soon as I got home. I was carried away and couldn’t think of anything else.
Two versions exist. The second, considerably more limited than the first, contains another disc amongst other bespoke artefacts. Can the primary album be fully understood and appreciated without the latter?
The second version is deeper, even more intimate and fuller. Of course, handmade ritual artefacts: ashes of a ritual fire, stone candlesticks, pine needles are elements of spiritual cleansing, an opportunity to make your journey into the depths of consciousness, understand your essence, understand where to expect help from. The limited edition bonus disc “Rituals & Purification” was written by me at the hospital and is an addition and explanation to the first disc. Now that the limited edition is completely sold out and I’m looking forward to release “Rituals & Purification” as a separate edition in the future.
Ironically enough and quite by chance, it appears that I have been exclusively listening to “Purification’ rather the “Revelation” session that precedes it! Why I was drawn to the omega disc in the first place I cannot say. But given the cyclic nature of these inner journeys do you think my inverse experience of the double album matters?
Apparently, you need more Purification than Revelation. Literally. This is how the world works – we have what we want most, what we need. The wave of liberation and transition to another level of yourself turned out to be more in tune with you now. It makes no difference which path you go; the main thing is that this path leads you to yourself.
Belatedly beginning at the beginning, my impressions are now quite different. Whilst the first movement carries a solemn air, the intensity after the second narration was unexpected! Each consecutive “Revelation” comes in comparable waves. Meditative trances mingle with a medley of arcane instruments Some spells more hypnotic than others. Presence is strong. At the fore and all around. By the fourth piece, it feels like the ritual has moved outside. The flames licking the night sky. If indeed we left the temple at all. Come the fifth and final stage, the wind is howling, the mountains vibrate and it feels like the world will come crashing down to engulf life itself. Would you care to comment on the structure of the compositions and where they were executed?
I recorded sounds at rituals, supplemented and expanded with live musical instruments, and we can say that the structure of the compositions corresponds to the structure of the rituals conducted, but it largely depended on what I played live in the studio.
Often printed lyrics are excluded. But you went a step further to present the beautiful Russian texts in English. Why was it important to reach out to the audience with a glimmer of meaning?
It was important for me to convey the meaning, I wanted the audience to be able to penetrate, immerse themselves and think over. Agree or disagree with me. Much can only be thought about by reading. Then the meaning of what is heard can change, be supplemented by something, or, conversely, purged of what the imagination had attributed to it. All this action is a search for truth, and each has its own process and the truth is also its own. My path can be described with the words that you can read in each edition. Maybe we are going the same way.
Returning to the familiar slopes of “Purification” and the lungful of air being released again and again to the beating drum, there is a palpable freedom of spirit. Restless or rallying. The bells and tambourines coaxing, enticing, encouraging flight through the forest then high above its leafy roof. The shamanic call from below exhilarating. Hear us! See us! What did you feel?
I felt inspiration and decline, a surge of energy and complete disappointment, a rise and fall of the soul. A state of mind that cannot be described in words. How impossible it is to describe in words what the shaman feels during the ritual. You know your path, but until you understand how to go through it, you fall and get up, rejoice and grieve, but you move. Lack of movement is death.
Why were the second, third and fourth movements not directly acknowledged on the double album? Are they some form of earthy post script to the rite of purification?
As I mentioned previously, during the recording of the first album, I had a heart attack. It hurt my health, but it also gave an impetus to the development of my creativity, so I left the hospital with new texts and new ideas.
And in the end, instead of one album, it turned out to be two. It would be strange to release two albums in a row, so we decided to add the songs as a bonus to the deluxe edition of the first untitled album to keep the intrigue. In the future, as I said, we are going to release “Rituals & Purification” as a standalone release.
One of my favourite sequences of the album is a whispered passage set against raging fire and a gentle rhythmic pulse that punctuates the flames. It is particularly potent. Awe-inspiring. Any comments?
Perhaps you mean just that very personal moment of my experience of the process of purification, the transition to a new level? Cleansing is not as deliverance, but as a moment of salvation. The moment, when any person, whoever he is, feels the essence of life.
This was the fourth album released by the fledgling Status Prod. It remains the most daring in aesthetic presentation. Explain the motivation to remove your creations from common industry and instead invest so much personal handicraft to the finished article?
For those who want to dive deeper into the ritual, follow the same path as me, perhaps it might be interesting to have not only the disc, but also those items that I used during the ritual. By the same principle, the album “Live Fire Meditation” was released with this personal touch. Each handcrafted investment is designed to complement the musical component. Conduct your ritual and draw your own conclusions. For those who like music, but are not interested in the ritual aspect, we made a regular edition that does not involve such investments.
What sacrifices were made to shape and share the forty signature stone candle holders?
The album artwork was, of course, colossal. For several months I carved the candlesticks, then we performed rituals and then spent a month just packing. It wasn’t easy, but the result is worth it. Any creativity is a difficult job, but it brings the deepest sense of satisfaction.
Given the dual format of the album, as soundtrack and art piece suitable for meditation, what level of feedback have you received to date? How much of that comes from inside Russia and beyond?
At first, this album was not very popular, and this is perfectly understandable. A debut by a new and unknown musician released in a luxury edition. But, over time, almost everyone began to order it. Almost a year ago, we gave you the last copy of this edition and took it off sale as sold out, yet orders still continue to come…
The feedback we have begun to receive, only now, has come from completely different people and mainly from abroad. I am very pleased that the audience likes what I do and this, of course, inspires me in my work.
From the outside looking in, 2017 seemed to have been a pivotal year in the development of Status Prod. The roster has been expanding with two or three handcrafted albums presented annually. What was the agreed premise of providing a home to other artists such as Lemna and When The Moon Is In Her Second Quarter? What more can you share about these shadowy entities?
Until 2016, the label was an auxiliary platform for the implementation of our own creative experiments, and since 2017 we decided to approach the work of the label more seriously. At the same time, we began to look for and release third-party musicians. As in any work, there are overlaps and difficulties and several releases never saw the light of day, but the work with the others was quite productive. For example, the leader of the Lemna project was so immersed in creative experiments that he closed the project. So, there will be no more Lemna albums, unfortunately, and now we only have a very small number of copies of this author. WTMIIHSQ, on the other hand, is preparing a new album with me as a guest musician, which will be released very soon. The WTMIIHSQ project is anonymous and even we did not know these ghostly entities for a long time, and I, perhaps, will keep them incognito.
But, in general, we are always open for cooperation with musicians in the genre of dark-ambient, ritual, death-industrial, black-industrial, atmospheric black metal, anything that coincides with the label’s theme.
Hladna was unknown to me yet their back catalogue appears colossal. How did that particular collaborative session happen with ORD? Did you lure this icon out of hermitage for the occasion? Having listened to the session many times, I’m curious to hear any memories you recall from in or around it…
With Koloyar Dreved, the leader of Hladna, we had known each other for a long time in absentia, but met in person shortly before the performance. The idea of a collaborative session came up suddenly, almost before the performance, so the whole session is improvisation. Koloyar took the lead throughout the performance and carried out the ritual, I was more likely an assistant, but this performance, surely, had not to be only heard, but also seen. The audience was in complete trance during the whole session. Then when everyone came to their senses, they did not let us go for a long time, asking questions to delve into the essence of what had just happened to them. Of course, it was a wonderful experience, which I hope Koloyar and I will repeat it again.
Status Prod. has a distinctly customised sound and style. What are your aspirations for the years ahead if indeed you plan so?
The label has a lot of plans, really. However, the situation in the world is making its own adjustments. Let me tell an open secret: in 2020, the pandemic greatly affected the work of all labels, regardless of their focus and standing. The plans have already had to be adjusted, but we will fix the situation. Now there are plans for three new releases in 2021, not only Russian, but also foreign musicians. We are superstitious people, so we will not name names or guess the exact dates. We will, of course, make an announcement in advance when the time is right…
ORD remains very much at its core. Whilst I have not yet absorbed all albums or even approached them chronologically, do you sense any arcs of development, shift in direction or intensification of specific elements over these three or four years? For example, “Avalokiteśvara“ is an intrinsically gentler journey than “Sacral Mental Hypno Drone” albeit undoubtedly created by the same hand…
Yes, of course I do. Life flows, changes and I move with this flow. New stories appear and I try to voice them. This is how albums are born. On the “Kamadarshana” EP, for example, you probably noticed that tribal elements appeared there. I have something else to pleasantly surprise you musically. But, in general, it will be the same ORD, with its own handwriting and its own unchanging rituals.
My copy of your stunning new album came with a cutting of lavender. Its fragrance lingered on my fingers and around my nostrils during that first sitting. Even now, I can recall its aroma. Would you share some reflections on its symbolic significance?
Surely! When we created “Mist over Wormwood,” we already knew that we would use in our work everything that nature gives us. Lavender is the symbol of the Mist, in this case. Thick, sticky, pre-dawn fog, passing through which you gain clarity and purity. Since we make our amulets only from natural materials and in strict planetary conformity, we attach a corresponding plant to each product. It is both a ritual and a kind of signature of our workshop.
That brings us full circle to Mist Over Wormwood. The poetic name given to a sacred place where we experience the unknown. Also a virtual rallying point to reflect upon and celebrate the Wheel of the Year. That ethos has underpinned this very discussion and the life you lead. How significant is this wider community or movement as a gateway?
Of course, Mist over Wormwood is a reflection of the lifestyle that we adhere to. When you enter the ritual of being, you can no longer not be there. We adhere to shamanic rituals, nevertheless, and the Wheel of the Year, in this case, is just a word that names the main milestones of the year so that it is clear what they mean. Some sort of symbol of paganism in the modern world. MoW is a way of broadcasting to the world the way we are going. And a workshop. We make not only amulets, talismans, amulets from bone, horn, stone, but also dream eaters, ritual candles and just jewelry from natural minerals. We write texts and articles, maintain our own lunar calendar, make rituals. So our interests are very broad.
Thank you kindly, Alexey, for taking the time to cast perspective on your many activities. They have stirred forgotten memories and enriched my life. The parting words are yours…
Thanks Danny. I am very pleased to talk to you. I’m glad that I could to tell my story and I hope it was interesting for you. Take care of yourself in any circumstances and look for positive aspects even there, where, it seems, they can no longer be found.
Danny Angus (October 2020 / January 2021)
This interview was originally conducted as part of a previously unpublished series. To be continued…
Sometimes, playing it straight with strength and conviction is all that a band needs to do to successfully win you over. A few years back at Keep It True, Emanes Metal recommended their “Throat Attack” LP for its catchy NWOBHM sensibilities. True enough, it hit the spot. But their new record hit the spot even harder. Easily one of the highlights from 2016, it should go down very well with Saxon and Judas Priest devotees. I’m just not convinced that many have heard the band or their story. This is it…
Welcome Reno, how the hell are you?
Hi Danny! I’m very fine! Appreciate your interest in our band.
The “Digital Overload” LP has been cranked up high here since it was released a few months back! It’s a feel good, full throttle, Heavy Metal record. Did you capture the vibe you sought when conceiving it?
Yes, we are incredibly happy with this album. Probably the first time that the production gives the songs the penetrating power they deserve. It’s definitely a no- bullshit Heavy Metal album, straight, catchy and heavy… sounding exactly as we wanted it!
My introduction to the band came via its predecessor, the “Throat Attack” LP, and as much as I enjoyed its honesty, the new album feels more compact and infectious. Did you approach either the composing or recording sessions differently?
For the last album, the “Throat Attack” LP, the approach was more spontaneous. Many songs were not even finished when we started the recording sessions. But this time, we paid a lot more attention to details such as vocal arrangements and guitar solos. Especially the vocal lines and refrains are much more memorable compared to the last output. Although the new songs are more refined on this one, we tried to remove any unnecessary ballast from the songs before we started recording them, leaving only the essence of steel…
So perhaps it’s not only my imagination! Would you agree that the record is stronger?
We feel the same! The new record is definitely stronger. The songs are better and more versatile.
Scratching below the surface, the lyrical themes are often darker than the upbeat mood. Religion, technology and war. The need to break free. Universal social issues. Is that the current climate? The world in a sorry state?
It’s great to see that you took a closer look at the lyrics. The need to break free is one of the cornerstones and a central statement of Heavy Metal, the fuel that keeps us going.
Some of the lyrics are pretty simple, dealing with the daily issues we are facing in this modern world. Others are telling stories of a not so distant, post-apocalyptic world, where technology is the master and people are the slaves. The digitalization of our daily life and the technologisation of complete economic sectors is a thing that really scares me. Our system is attackable and fragile. One day we will pay the price for it…
Beginning with the b-side, “Savage Nightshifts” is an odd title. The song itself could certainly be about any religious fanatic. But is the focus a suicide bomber?
Yes, you are right, the lyrics are written from the perspective of a suicide bomber. It’s a topical subject, and we always wanted to write a song about it. The original title for the song was “Arabian Nightshift” but we modified it to make it sound more universal and less political. Not to mention that the original title would probably not be helpful while planning our upcoming Arabian tour… Ha! Ha! No, just joking…
“Righteous Saviours” takes an alternative angle to criticising conflict. The invading force may appear to be defending foreign liberties. But are the motives genuine? Was there any particular war in mind?
That’s an interesting interpretation. To be honest, the words to this song just came into my mind when I heard the riffs. I wasn’t the intention to tell a concrete story, but the stompy rhythm of the song just required some kind of martial-military lyrics. So it’s basically just about soldiers going to war in a foreign country… Not meant to be judgmental or anything like that!
Again, “Sideway Warriors” is such an unusual phrase I’m left scratching my head! What do you mean? How does it link to being the outlaw or a drugs-tested soldier in the song?
Ha! Ha! Yeah, it’s indeed an unusual phrase… We like these contrasting song titles a lot. Maybe I was inspired by Riot’s “Swords & Tequila!” I’m really into these kinds of song titles that combine the classic cheesy barbarian Metal vocabulary with ordinary things. It’s like bringing Swords & Sorcery lyrics back to the street. That’s where Metal belongs anyway… Ha! Ha!
But “Sideway Warriors” is basically about drug-addicted, homeless people who have nothing to lose. The violent revolution of the junkie-outlaws…
Perhaps I’m reading in too much. But does “The Last Straw” describe living with the horrors of war when a soldier returns to civilian life?
No, this song is dedicated to our first drummer Dany “King” Schilliger, who commited suicide in 2007. He’s still the invisible, sixth member of the band; and we wanted to write some kind of Power Ballad ever since he passed. The lyrics are trying to describe his thoughts just before he decided to take this path. It was some kind of psychological purification to write this song.
Okay, flipping back, please would you elaborate on the double whammy of “Electric Expander” and the title track? They appeared together as the 7″ single teaser as well as holding prime position opening and closing the a-side…
These were the first two songs that we finished for this album and I still think these are the strongest tracks on it. That’s why we decided to release them as an appetizer before the album came out, as I think these compositions bundle the strengths of Sin Starlett in a perfect way!
They tap into the technological themes and computerised presentation of the record. For me though, “Electric Expander” seems more indebted to Priest’s classic cosmos. Was that deliberate?
Yes, the lyrics of both tracks handle with technological themes…”Digital Overload” in a more personal, profane way while “Electrical Expander” draws a picture of a technological invader that enslaves humanity. Some kind of a “Judge Dredd” sequel! Musically and lyrically, “Electric Expander” is totally inspired by Priest, no reason to deny that. They perfectionized this kind of song writing long before we started to make music, but we are trying to carry on the flame and add our personal stamp to it.
“Digital Overload” carries that old sci-fi fear that machines will enslave the human race. It’s frightening how we have become glued to computers and mobile phones in the past 15 years. An unhealthy compulsion. But can we still put them to good use and think for ourselves?
It’s very frightening, and I’m really concerned about the direction our society is going. I really hope that the newer generation has competence to deal with these things in the future. But I’m afraid they can’t. The whole technological process has moved so quickly in the past ten years. I think things are going too fast for us to deal with it. But I wouldn’t say that everything is bad about this digital evolution. If you use computers and Smartphones as an instrument of communication, it can make things easier. Especially for an underground scene such as Heavy Metal. It can open up new possibilities, for example, to get in touch with Metalheads all over the world.
“Force and Thunder” challenges conformity. How do you apply that as a band?
The song is indeed about breaking the chains of conformity, to find complete expression and not to care about expectations from others. As a band, it’s definitely not our main goal to strive against the stream and maybe this makes us some kind of rebels within the Metal scene? We don’t have any Satanic image and we are not an over the top retro band that tries to sound exactly like Maiden anno 1982… We are just trying to write perfect Heavy Metal songs based on passion and dedication to this music. This may sound unspectacular, but in the end this is what sets us apart from many current traditional Heavy Metal bands.
Have to commend your honesty! Now lyrically speaking, “Tear Down the Halls” stands out as the simplest upfront rocker! An ode to Saxon and Priest? Is it escapist or giving expression to how you live or a little of both?
Ha! Ha! Yes! Simple but effective. We tried to capture the feeling before we hit the stage. The song has some kind of feel good vibe in it that brings you into a rocking mood. Lyrics for such a song have to be a simple and memorable.
If we talk about the cover there’s no escaping Priest again! How did you meet the artist and had you asked Jaron to paint with the “Ram it Down” meets “Painkiller” hues when explaining the brief?
Jaron Gyger was already responsible for the artwork of our last long-player “Throat Attack” and we basically told him about the main theme of the record.
The antiquated computer design throughout the sleeve makes sense. But where does the robotic hand fit in the concept?
We already had the idea that the claw of “The Punisher” (which also appeared on the last two album covers) should play an important role. Jaron came up with that idea that he could form a whole mountain range out of electrical and digital trash then let the claw appear as a pneumatic gripper! It makes for a post-apocalyptic scenario and the robotic arm is digging deep into the relics of a digital world…
Well, I must congratulate you! It’s a thoroughly enjoyable record. It screams classic without being a soulless copy like so much revivalist crap nowadays. Age sometimes has its benefits, eh?
Ha! Ha! Thank you! We really think it’s a great record and hope it doesn’t get overlooked between the numerous new releases these days. As for age, yes, it has some benefits, but getting up on Sunday morning after a night of headbanging and partying is definitely not one of them…
Don’t we all know it?! How have you launched and celebrated “Digital Overload” on stage?
We played a release show at our hometown Lucerne with our friends Ruler from Italy and High Heeler from Austria. Check them both out if you are into classic Heavy Metal!
It was an outstanding evening! We played all songs from the new album & some old evergreens we haven’t played for a long time. I think it was our longest show ever lasting about 2 hours! Our producer, Many Maurer, (ex-Killer, ex-Krokus) joined us on stage and played one of the new songs with us, which was for sure a memorable moment.
Any tours in the works or new places you would like to reach with your music? Somehow I imagine that the energy could be all the more infectious in the flesh!
A small European tour would be a nice thing for sure, but it’s already quite a difficult thing to coordinate the gigs we have on the weekends. All of us have regular full-time jobs and some of us have families, so at the moment, we’re focusing on single gigs in the countries nearby and maybe a few gigs in a row within Switzerland. But we’ve already played in Greece (Up The Hammers), Italy (Play it Loud) and Spain (Pounding Metal Fest). We’re always open to such adventures and we hope that this kind of intercultural-exchange will intensify in the future!
Is it safe to say that Christoph Widmer has settled in as your new bassist?
This is correct! Our old bass player, Lukas “Grounder” Marti, had to leave due to job- related circumstances. We’ve already been practicing several times with Christoph “Stopf” Widmer so he’s now officially part of the gang. He’s one hell of a bass player and we are all excited to hit the stage soon with our new comrade in Metal.
So what are the band’s priorities going forward? You’ve already enjoyed reasonable longevity albeit with a low profile so I wonder if that’s enough…
Playing live, convincing people of our qualities and spreading the Heavy Metal madness!!! That’s basically it. We buried the dream of being rich and famous the moment we decided to play classic Heavy Metal. Ha! Ha! Of course, it would be great to bring the band to a higher level, to receive more support from the scene and being booked for the important festivals. But in the end we are doing this because of the passion and the thrill for the music itself. The existence of this band is not dependent of any success. As long as we feel the inner fire burning, we will keep on writing new songs.
Respect! How do you view our beloved Hard Rock and Heavy Metal in 2016? Many of the original bands and musicians are literally dying out. Music has become fragmented into infinite genres. The whole industry has become decentralised. Perhaps it matters not and bands should build gradually from the grass roots with a diy attitude if they deserve to be seen or heard…
It’s a shame that good music is almost not supported these days. It’s almost impossible to pay your bills just by playing in a (Metal) band. Many talented bands split up because they are facing the problem of being on tour all year and not being able to cover their living costs in the end. That’s sad. Good music should be heard, and especially in these times of media overkill, labels should make sure that good bands are heard. But of course, Heavy Metal is made for a niche audience and the times have changed. So let’s be just happy with the current situation that the (underground) Heavy Metal scene is active and vital.
Final question. Some have expressed confusion or disdain at your name. Personally, I like it! But why Sin Starlett? And why should they care or give the band a shot?
It’s the question that must be asked in every damn interview! Ha! Ha! We were looking for a name that separates us from the nun-slaying, witch- killing competitors in the Metal scene. A name made out of two terms that makes no immediate sense, but is memorable and unique. Just in the tradition of Thin Lizzy, Def Leppard or Van Halen… Well, they make sense actually compared to our name! Of course the name also refers to our main lyrical topics in our younger days, such as damnation in hell, sin itself and judgement day. Looking back, choosing another name would made it probably easier for us to gain more listeners so maybe we should move to a small Swedish town, change our name to “MERCILESS STEEL” and have a new start?
Never! It has been a pleasure, Reno! Hope to see you on stage, preferably in Ireland, one of these days…
Danny, thank you very much for the interview! We would love to come to Ireland one day! Spread the Heavy Metal Decadence all across the globe, stay löud & keep the Hard ‘n’ Heavy Cult alive!! If you want SIN STARLETT to tear down the walls at your hometown, drop us a message on email@example.com and we’ll get back to you!
Danny Angus (July 2016)
In the seven long years since “Digital Overlord” was released, the band has released another 7″ single and the crushing “Solid Source of Steel” LP. Show them support and buy direct! https://sinstarletthardandheavy.bandcamp.com/album/solid-source-of-steel
Very much keeping themselves to themselves, the Maine power trio makes little fuss and seems to have even less impact on their wider environment than their deft club-wielding talents deserve. Such is life. Nonetheless, curious as I was to hear the ins and outs of their last record, I lit a large fire on a nearby hill and lured them out of hiding for a rare collective conversation…
You’re welcome, welcome and thrice welcome! How’s life in the Maine Cave? Are you OGREs still keeping society at arm’s length?
ROSS: Still staying locked down, listening to tunes, playing guitar, and reading lots of sci-fi novels. Really, nothing has changed in my life.
WILL: Same here. Lucky to be an essential worker!
ED: Still working. Apparently landscaping is essential.
What impact has lockdown had on the band? Has the time and space alone provided a fresh perspective on how you want to move forward?
ROSS: Well, we have long used the metaphor of “going back into the cave” whenever we have taken a hiatus from the band, so I guess you could say that, this time, we were forced back into the cave. The marauding villagers (maskless, of course) were too much for the beast, so apparently it was time to hibernate. Don’t worry, though – you can’t keep a good Neanderthal down, so I’m sure you’ll hear from us again.
WILL: It would have been great to have played some shows to promote the new album, but obviously that wasn’t a possibility. Hopefully there is still a future for live music! The uncertainty of everything is crazy.
ED: Ya, we had a couple of cool shows planned….but, of course, all cancelled!
It’s hard to believe that the populace had to wait for a whopping five years for your fifth album. How did the preparation differ to “The Last Neanderthal” preceding it?
ROSS: In a lot of ways, the process was similar – after a bit of a break, we started jamming again in Will’s basement and, once the ideas started to flow, we realized that we were soon approaching an album’s worth of material. The ultimate catalyst for what came to be “Thrice as Strong” occurred when we were invited to Arkhangelsk, Russia to play a festival there. One night, we got in a long conversation with one of our translators about Putin, Trump, and their autocratic ways, and before we knew it, the concept of the “Cyber-Czar” was born. When we got back home, we started writing that song and realized that it would be a key track on what would eventually be “Thrice as Strong.”
“Thrice As Strong” has an honest, stripped back and laid bare vibe. How much of that comes down to regular gigging versus old friends comfortable in their own skin?
ROSS: I would say the latter, for sure. While our gigs certainly are where we shine as a band, I think our albums definitely reflect that “friends jamming in the basement” vibe that we all love. “Thrice As Strong”, in particular, is less “produced” than our last couple of albums (not that anyone would ever describe any of our albums as being particularly glossy!). I think that stripped down vibe fits the material, which is definitely more varied this time around while still embracing that “comfortable” OGRE sound.
That said, those wooden stakes look anything but! Would you perhaps care to elaborate on how or why your hard rock crimes against humanity made you wanted men? Dead or alive…
ROSS: Well, that’s what happens when you let the beast out of the cave! This time around, the last Neanderthal turned on his masters, who apparently were not so strong after all…
How much of an undertaking, Will, was the painting? If I understand correctly, the heads were brushed to scale.
WILL: Ross came up with the concept being a fan of the horror novels from the ‘70s with the die cut covers. Unfortunately we weren’t able to get the circles cut out on the final version so the concept kinda got lost, but the spirit is there. Once he had the idea, I ran with it. I knew I wanted to do a real painting for this one. To me, a painting is the true test of an artist. Just you, the colors and a brush. No digital effect to hide behind. Anyway, it was a big project for me over the winter of 2018/2019. Blood of Winter, indeed! The panel I painted on is pretty big, so the heads are a little smaller than life sized as you mentioned. I don’t feel like I 100% nailed Ross’ likeness but the time was winding down and needed to wrap it up, although I think it looks more like him when you can see the full piece with his hair. I’m mostly happy with the results, although there were a couple printing errors on the vinyl that will forever drive me crazy, but that is the case for every cover I’ve done. Nothing will ever be perfect!
ED: Will had this gigantic painting of us in his house. It was pretty weird going up the stairs and being confronted by your head on a stake… weird, but cool!
And the reactions? The sleeve seems to have split readers into two camps. Have to say, I love the execution.
WILL: Thanks! I have read some reviews online that were pretty critical of it. As I said before, if we were able to pull off the die cut effect I think people would have understood the creative decisions I made a little better.
ROSS: Though I certainly wish we could have done the die-cut cover, as I originally envisioned, I think Will’s artwork on this album – right down to details like font style –is masterful. As to the criticisms, I think some metal fans are so caught up in the idea of what a metal album cover “should” look like that they would rather embrace clichés than originality.
Too true, Ross! Now “The Future” was a striking way to open the album. Very catchy, like the pandemic, the latest unknown to sweep across the planet. Do you think that this shared threat to life has brought communities and countries together? Will there be any lasting positives from the experience or are we destined to forget the common good as soon as it passes?
ED: Hmmm, I’m gonna have to go with the “forget and not learn anything” option. I feel more and more that humans can’t really handle the modern world… too complicated. We need to be ruled by algorithms.
ROSS: While the three of us tend to lean towards a more cynical, pessimistic, even misanthropic world-view, I’ll admit that this pandemic has brought out some of the best in many humans. Unfortunately, it also has highlighted the very worst in the powers-that-be, so I fear that, in the end, this very well could be a zero-sum game. I sure hope not, but we’ll see what happens in the coming months.
When I think hive mind, I think of the mighty collective consciousness of the Borg in Star Trek. But your song takes a different angle. In our current isolation, technology has been a blessing for the vulnerable. But have we gone too far and forgotten the simple art of conversation with those around us?
ROSS: Since you mentioned Star Trek, I will hand this one over to Will and/or
WILL: I can’t speak to Ed’s influence in writing the lyrics, but we are both big Star Trek fans. We even were working on a song for the album that we didn’t finish that was about a specific episode of the original series. Hopefully we can get back that one again one day. Anyway, the real issues involved in the song can certainly bring to mind the Borg. If you go against the collective consciousness of the social media mob, your life could be ruined. Resistance really is futile!
ED: Exactly. Social media is literally driving us all crazy.
Was “Big Man” inspired by anybody in particular?
ROSS: I’ll let Ed speak to this one, but whenever I hear this song, I have in mind one particular politician, who fancies himself a “big man” but is anything but. (Hint: His name rhymes with “dump”).
WILL: I always think about Andre the Giant’s match with Hogan at Wrestlemania III when playing it.
ED: Andre was awesome!
“Cyber Czar” is classic OGRE through a Judas Priest prism. But is the tyrant that different to your deluded and menacing president?
WILL: Going back to the conversation that we had in Russia, the initial idea was about Putin downloading his consciousness into a satellite so he could keep everyone and everything under surveillance. But a dictator is a dictator. You can really plug any power tripping bully into that role and have it work. I don’t really consider our music political, but you can get away with it, as Star Trek did, through the prism of science fiction. Our album “Plague of the Planet” was kinda influenced by living in a post 9/11 America, and “Cyber Czar” addresses issues that have cropped up since.
Keeping it local, talk to me about your love of Maine man Stephen King. Have you ever met him? Do you think he differs to his pen persona?
ROSS: I have met King a couple times in slightly more formal settings. The first time was at a book signing – I was wearing a Herschell Gordon Lewis t-shirt, which he commented on. I met him a few years later at a writing awards ceremony and got to talk to him a little more. He definitely seemed like a down-to-earth guy, at least in those two encounters. We are still trying to get him a copy of the album so that he can hear “King of the Wood” – and maybe play it on his radio station!
Class! Which is your favourite story that he has written? Which film adaptation do you think missed the point? If there is one of his creations that you feel has been overlooked, which one would you recommend?
ROSS: My favorite King novel, hands down, is “The Shining”, which scared the crap out of me when I was a kid and still freaks me out when I re-read (which seems to happen every few years). In terms of short stories, I’ve always loved the “Night Shift” collection – “The Boogeyman,” “The Mangler,” “Jerusalem’s Lot,” “Gray Matter,” “Sometimes They Come Back,” and the list goes on. One overlooked story from that collection is “Strawberry Spring,” which is one of the creepiest stories about a serial killer that I have ever read. I don’t think too many of his novels could be considered “overlooked”, but I do think “Gerald’s Game” is a good one that might fit that bill. I also love “Hearts in Atlantis” and its interesting take on the Vietnam war. In terms of films, there have been so many awful ones – as well as some real gems – but I will go on record saying that I did not like the new “IT” films! The kids were great, but Pennywise and all those lame jump scares – ugh. “Misery” and Kubrick’s “Shining” are two of my favorite King film adaptations.
WILL: I like all his classics: “The Stand,” “Salem’s Lot” and “Misery.” I think most of his film adaptations miss the mark. His novels are so dense with details and backstory that I can see why they are difficult to adapt. In terms of lesser known works I enjoyed, I really enjoyed “Cell,” the one where cell phones turn everyone into zombies. It was a short and to the point and was a fun genre piece. He can kinda meander in his longer works but this was right to the point. I love time travel stories and am interested in the theories around the assassination of JFK, so I also liked “11/22/63.” Although I was disappointed that it did not go against the official narrative, it was still well written and very suspenseful. I just read it thinking the main character not only travelled through time, but also through an alternate universe in which all the bullets came from the book depository.
ED: Agree with most of the above, but there is one short story that has always stuck with me. It was in his second collection, “Skeleton Crew.” It’s about a doctor who is marooned on an island with a suitcase full of heroin and his operating tools. He ends up slowly eating himself.
ROSS: “Survivor Type”! That is one of his sickest stories of all time. “Skeleton Crew” has some fantastic stories in it.
At the heart of the album, “Judgement Day” feels like the odd tune out. Was it intended to be a homage to Metallica or did it happen unexpectedly?
ROSS: The main riff has been floating around the OGRE jam room for a few years, and to be honest, I wasn’t initially that fond of it, for the reason you mentioned – too Metallica-inspired. Now, I love classic Metallica, but I never really imagined them to be an influence on the OGRE sound, so it just didn’t feel right for the band. However, with some arranging and a few doomy riffs to balance out the chug of the main riff, I think it all came together well. In fact, it turned into one of my favorites on the album!
ED: Pretty sure the riff came off of a week where I relistened to “Ride the Lightning.”
Have to say, I love the idea of the human race as a computerised science project from the future! Do you have a strong sense of purpose in this life? Where are you going?
ED: Well, I think in the future, conscious life could very well migrate to a different form. Biological intelligence may have reached its peak and be displaced by something else in the next evolutionary step.
ROSS: It’s clear that Ed reads a lot of sci-fi novels.
We all know 2020 is a write off for international travel. But what about 2021? Have you had any serious discussion with Enrico / Cruz Del Sur Music about making that long overdue European live debut?
ROSS: Nothing yet, but that’s a conversation that we’d love to have whenever we can extricate ourselves from this COVID nightmare.
If you had a free hand, where would you like to play? Hint: Ireland is the correct answer!
ROSS: Umm, Ireland? Actually, we would love to play your home country and hang out in person with the one and only Danny Angus!
WILL: A European tour, including Ireland for sure, is the last unfulfilled dream for me so I really hope we can do it one day.
ED: I wouldn’t mind playing in Germany or the Scandinavian countries.
Looking back, please share some memories from your Japanese and Russian tours. How did the appetite of the local audiences compare to back home? Did you have much of an opportunity to soak up their respective cultures?
ROSS: Oh man, we could write volumes about our experiences in Japan and Russia. To address your final question first, I would say that “soaking in culture” was far more meaningful for me than the music we played (which I still loved, of course). In Japan, we had the most amazing host and tour guides, Toreno Kabayashi and his girlfriend Mai, so we really felt like we got an insider view of life in Tokyo and beyond. Hanging out before and after gigs with the guys and gals in Church of Misery, Eternal Elysium and Blood Farmers were some of the greatest moments in my life. And playing on stage in front of crowds that actually came to listen to your music was just amazing. I also loved the fact that, in Japan, gigs were generally over by 10pm, rather than 1am like they are here in the States. I think they’ve got a perfect system for live music over there. Russia was a different experience for sure, but just as amazing. In Arkhangelsk, we met some of the kindest, most open-hearted people we have ever met – people who remain friends to this day. Despite all of the mess created by the leaders of our two countries, the people we met in Arkhangelsk were no different from the people who go to our shows here in Portland, Maine. And the response to our music was fantastic!
WILL: Cultures like Japan and Russia are so vastly different from my white bread small town upbringing. It was really like entering into alternate realities. Those are the experiences I will always treasure and remember. We might not have been able to get rich from our music, but I feel rich from the life experiences we had. Japan was just complete sensory overload at all times and some of the coolest music stores ever. I felt like in Japan, everything kinda got to us and we didn’t really play all that great aside from maybe one night. But we redeemed ourselves years later in Russia, where we kicked ass. Going from the plane to the hotel in Russia, seeing all the buildings still blown out from WWII and the general state of the city, my initial feelings were like “what the F are we doing here?” But then meeting our hosts and translators and handlers, as well as the folks at the shows, like Ross mentioned, these people couldn’t have been more warm, friendly and welcoming. They treated us like the Rolling Stones! The dude who ran the festival was named Aleksandr Mezentsev and he was a total sweetheart and one of the biggest characters I’ve ever met. Dude can put down some vodka, let me tell you. I loved the warm sake in Japan, but that Russian vodka is the smoothest stuff you’ll ever have. And there was never any shortage of it. I only blacked out one night.
If you had a time machine, where would OGRE go and why?
ROSS: Ancient Rome in the time of Augustus Caesar. Either that or Leeds University, February 14, 1970 to watch The Who perform the greatest live album in history. Maybe we could open up for them.
WILL: I would go back to the ‘60s and buy every comic book I could for my collection. And then maybe go check out what was going on on that grassy knoll…
ED: Prussia of the 1700s if I could be Frederick the Great. He put the Absolute in Absolute Despot.
With twenty years behind you, is there anything else the band needs to say or do before it’s too late?
ROSS: I’ve got big ideas for another album concept, but I need to convince the guys that it’ll be worth our while…
WILL: It’s been a long time. We’ve seen so many trends come and go in music. Some may even think we have worn out our welcome. It seems unlikely that we will ever level up to Witchcraft or The Sword status, but I don’t care. I love playing music with these dudes and I think we will always have something to say!
ED: I think another concept album might be a possibility. Sure is a lot to comment on…
It’s time for this hermit to take my leave. Any parting pearls of wisdom?
ROSS: Get back in the cave. And wear a mask!
WILL: Have a good time… all of the time!
Danny Angus (June / July 2020)
Twenty years? Twenty fucking years! I had no idea that the band was celebrating their anniversary today, this very afternoon, when I had an impulse to dig up all four full-length studio albums and crank them up louder than my neighbours would have liked. Here I am, grinning from ear to ear, dreaming of them lifting the roof off a local venue…
That sentiment was true of November 2013, when I originally prepared this interview. Almost another decade has passed since then. But I still dig the Swedes regularly. Furthermore, there are now five albums to enjoy. If you missed “In The Shadow” LP (circa 2017) copies are still available via Artefacts at Pariah Child! Now back to the main event…
So how did celebratory gig go in The Liffey, Jocke? The lowdown please including the setlist, atmosphere and any other memories of the evening if that special patent beer did not wipe you out altogether…
Well, we tried to gather as many ol’ members as possible, there been some as you might know… Ha! Ha! But as we had a really short time to get it all together we had not the opportunity to have everybody. That said, original guitarist Fredrik Gleisner and his predecessor Fredrik Finnander showed up and played on some tunes. Actually this was the first time I’ve seen the band play. Eric our second drummer drove all the way from Amsterdam where he lives nowadays to play on two songs. He also provided our beer. He runs a brewery in Amsterdam. The beer was no kidding one of the greatest tasting beers I ever had. The atmosphere was really good at the Liffey (yeah Irish sports pub, those are very popular in Stockholm) even had a friend from Berlin coming for the gig. Dennis, our ex-bassist, was absolutely pissed and made a fool out of himself… Again. Ha! Ha!
The Setlist: “Break the Chains of Time” (current line-up) “My Day of Tomorrow” (Finander instead of Daniel) “I’m Sinking” (Finnader and Gleisner on guitar instead of me and Daniel) “Danish Denim” (current line-up) “Childhood in the Shadow of the Bomb” (current line-up) “Bring me the Fire” (current line-up) “Roadflower” (Eric on drums, Tomas Bergstrand should have played guitar instead of Daniel but was ill and couldn’t do it) “My Sacrifice” (Finnander instead of Daniel on guitar) “I Don’t Belong” (Dennis on bass instead of Jens) “Time is Running Away” (Gleisner on guitar instead of Daniel, I played until the end of the first guitar solo part then Finnander took over).
Would it be fair to say that this birthday bash was as much about looking forward to another ten or even twenty years together as it was about celebrating how far you have come?
Hmm, it is hard to say. At the moment we are very inspired to go on with new songs and gigs. Me personally, I’m not very fond of rehearsing old songs, you know. I don’t mind playing them live but at the rehearsal I like to have something new to try out to stay out of boredom. Twenty years sounds very loooooooooooong, but another ten should not be impossible. As we never had any success with the band (at least not in the commercial way) we have never really gone backwards. We’ve been on the same underground level since our first record really. With maybe a slight touch of progress. If we have had some success then gone back to being not successful one might have been disappointed. Now we’ve been disappointed for twenty years and can’t tell the difference! Ha! Ha! Ha!!!
Well, I think you have written consistently strong yet quite diverse material across your respective records over considerable gaps in time. What do you think it is that makes the Knutsson / Leidi song writing partnership special?
You mean the Lennon / McCartney of Swedish Flowerpowermetal? Ha! Ha! Well first the songs aren’t always written the same way. Sometimes we actually do them together. Sometime one does the music and one the lyrics. Sometimes one of us has a quite clear idea of a song and the other one contribute with some new parts. Some songs are written by just one of us. If you for some reason think we agree and do not have fights over songs, arrangements, lyrics and even lay out of record covers you are wrong. We argue all the time. But sometimes we are very consistent. As I play guitar (Josa can play guitar as well but you know what I mean) I tend to come up with more riffs of course. But actually I am very fond of songs that Josa made with quite simple riffing and arrangement. About the diversity of our music I think it we have a broad musical interest. I personally listen to almost all kinds of music. During periods when I write music I try to listen to non-metal music. I do not want to copy things from similar bands by mistake (happens anyway) and I think other music can give you some cool ideas. Another thing about the diversity is that we actually sometimes put the live set list together to suit the audience. If we just play a regular rock club we might do faster and shorter rocking tunes than if we play on a dedicated doom festival for example.
And no other changes in personnel lately, I hope?
Well, you got a hint in the first question. Dennis who came along already for the first demo left the band the autumn of 2012. Let me put it this way, I really like Dennis but he likes beer more than likes me… and music! Ha! Ha! He made some really bad gigs and finally we couldn’t have him any longer. Now we have Jens Sidegård who we’ve known for a long time. He is also a beer drinker! Ha! Ha!
Tell me about your frame of mind when writing “Empty Hand” as the lyrical tone of the record seems to be more downbeat and frustrated than usual yet still inherently defiant. What have been the biggest challenges you faced along the road? And what inspires you to keep plugging away?
Oh dear, is it really that way? Well actually, for me, that record is so long behind me. You know some songs were made close after the “Roadflower” record which was recorded in 1999, which should give some perspective. Right now, I’m not really focusing on our new record “In the Shadow” and I have my sight on writing songs for the album after. That’s how I am. About the gloomy “Empty Hand” I will have to check the lyrics. Hang on a minute… Okay, I see what you mean! I can’t guarantee that the new one is much brighter! Ha! Ha! As you might understand, we do not write nonsense lyrics. We write about our lives and how we feel. I wouldn’t say we are cynical but I do think it has to do a bit with our northern heritage. We are quite fortunate in many ways but we are a bit melancholy you know. Long dark winters with only the famous bottle to find comfort in.
It’s great to see the band back on vinyl! Given that you tend to keep to 40-45 minutes I wondered if you write records with the format in mind?
Yes, no doubt about it! I do not like the CD era when all bands did 70 minute records with 30 minutes of shit.
The shape of the opening half of the album is rather interesting with the slow burning title track and slower “Empty Words” then building up pace “In The Arms of Death” and through the downright infectious “I Don’t Belong” before the ‘80s Metal explosion of “Somebody Else‘s Share”… How much time do you deliberate on running order? And what do you think makes a good record great?
I/we are really accurate when putting the record together. We think A and B side and how we want to build the flow through the record.”Ghosts of the Past” had a quite different opening. But actually, as we will not sell millions of records anyway, we don’t have to think in the traditional way when it comes to the order of the songs. We can afford to be arty farty!
How come “Somebody Else’s Share” and “Harmony and Noise” were not included on the last album given that they were written way back then? Do you think they did not fit the mood or had you simply too much material to include it all?
A bit of both and we did not nail the songs on that recording. We also got the feeling we could do them better. I had a fantastic rehearsal shitty recording of “Someone Else’s Share” and the one we did during the “Ghosts of the Past” recording felt lame to that one. The “Empty Hand” version is more gutsy.
What is your favourite song on the latest record? Why?
Hard to say actually… I like them all. I love to play “Someone Else’s Share”, “In the Arms of Death”, “I Don’t Belong” and “King Cliff”, that doesn’t make ‘em the best but they are fun to play. We got some real killer ones on the forthcoming album which I am really excited about too.
I really enjoy the sequence of the closing three tunes too although find the end comes too soon (in a good way)! Fortunately, you vowed after the release of “Empty Hand” that there would not be another five or six years until the next album. Apart from the Venom single I missed, how has the new material been brewing? Any speculative release dates or label plans?
We recorded during Easter 2013. We’ve been in contact with some labels and with a bit of luck the record will be out really soon. A guy is working on the final mix at the moment and I am working on the cover. The record will be called “In the Shadow” this time around.
Freedoom Records needs to be reborn! Any chance of another string of classy singles on coloured wax? And some more cartoon portraits by Oskar Kristiansen?
I have resurrected Freedoom Records and released a 7” with Atlantic Tide a couple of months ago. By the way, did you know Oskar played guitar on the very first Rise and Shine rehearsal? I played bass and came up with the riff for “I’m Sinkin”…
I really want to see the band play! Am I gonna have to travel to your home town or can you be lured to Belfast?
We will come to Belfast if there’s an opportunity!
Is touring important? I appreciate it is expensive and the band is to some extent dependent on opportunities. But I had at least half-hoped Doom Shall Rise, if not Roadburn, would have offered you a slot ten years ago after your then drummer, Eric Nordin, passed me the “Break the Chains of Time” EP in the Chapel back in 2003! (See my enthusiastic review in #1…)
So do we but I don’t think we are hip enough, at least not for Roadburn.
Me neither! But there are a handful of old promotional videos available for streaming on YouTube, which I assume were on your homemade video back in the mid ‘90s. Have you ever considered transferring that material for a DVD edition, with more good quality live footage and any other archive material of interest?
There are loads of shit music films from the ‘90s. I worked with stuff like that and could borrow cameras. I think material will be on YouTube in a near future. Both new and old material…
There are also two or three songs from the first two demos that never made it on to the singles or albums that I need to hear as well as the excellent exclusive cuts “Man’s Best Friend” and “Into The Fog” that everybody should here. Again, will you be compiling this rare studio material in any shape or form?
If someone would be interested in releasing it we would. There’s a whole album recorded as well. The record was never released for different reasons. Most of the songs (if not all) have been released on other records. But I am a bit worried that if I listen to it now it may sound too bad.
Okay, clearly you still love the old bands you always did. But what about your contemporaries? Do you still feel a kinship with peers inside and beyond Sweden from back then or these days?
I can only speak for myself. With some bands I keep in touch. Like the ex-Terra Firma guys, ex-Norrsken, Grand Magus and so on. I have a bit problem with some of the new bands. Some of them don’t seem to have the heart in what they are doing. In Sweden for some reason a couple of years ago everyone loved Pentagram. The same suckers never heard of Trouble, come on give me a fuckin’ break! And to get back to an earlier question, I would not be able to live with myself if I for some reason accidently copied one of those new bands. That’s another good reason to not listen to them.
To what extent do you think it is more or less difficult for a band to make an impact nowadays? Are we surrounded by too much cynicism and apathy with swathes of music at our fingertips?
I of course listen to music on the net. If something is good and is released on a vinyl I might even buy it. For some reason, I think if let us say I should start another band now it would be easier to sell it nowadays with the fortunes of internet, Spotify and YouTube. With a band that’s been in the shadow for twenty years it seems to be a disadvantage with the same fuckin’ shit! Ha! Ha!!!
Well, regardless, the phoenix has risen again. I hope the ethos of “Too Much, Too Fast, Too Loud” carries you on for many years to come! I’m waiting for my invite to the next Deadringer party…
Thanks! See you in Belfast or Stockholm soon…
Danny Angus (December 2013)
Ever since discovering her beautifully haunting voice in the 1990s via Paul Chain singles, albums and live performances, I have imagined a charismatic poet, performer and singer captivating audiences from the stage of intriguing Italian clubs. Curious to hear how her artistic journey began and keen to explore the role collaborative music continues to play in her life, she was invited to share that story. It also coincides with the recent launch of “The Atlantean Afterlife (…Living Beyond)” by Tony Tears on 26 March 2021, where she provides lead vocals alongside her male counterpart, David Krieg.
Pariah Child bids you enter, Sandra! Make yourself at home.
Hello to you Danny and all friends who follow Pariah Child…
Knowing very little about your roots, what are your earliest memories of performing arts?
I was a very introverted child and already at an early age I felt different from my peers. I knew that life was not like fairy tales and I locked myself up in an imaginary world, where the imaginary friends were my deceased grandparents and I deepened them from there through the art of Spiritism.
Did you have a burning passion for music, poetry, drama or art from a young age?
In adolescence, I felt the need to express my emotions with dance and song yet always in solitude.
What were your personal favourites from these mediums? Why?
When I reached adulthood, I started attending concerts by Goth and Punk groups. From that point in time, I started moving deeper into dark genres, where I became lost in my emotions.
How did you explore and nurture this creative spirit within as you grew? Was it slow and gradual or was there an urgency to express?
From Goth, I listened to The Damned and The Sister of Mercy. In Punk, it was The Sex Pistols, as well as Italian bands (always in these same genres), right up to Paul Chain Violet Theatre. Of the latter, I was a big fan and in the ‘90s I became his partner.
What about the wider impact of your homeland and culture?
Each experience was a stage, another piece in my continual growth. Whilst I sing in the genres I discovered through Paolo and Antonio, the Italian Dark Sound, in reality, I love all styles of music. I love Italian music, especially the one contaminated by the New Wave like Matia Bazar, or even ‘70s and ‘80s Pop like Kate Bush. In fact, in some concerts other than Tony Tears, I played cover songs by both of these artists.
When was your first experience on the stage? What was your role in the performance? Looking back, how did it feel?
My stage debut as a live performer was in 1990. I had no idea what to do. I simply interpreted what I felt by improvising my emotions…
Have you encountered the same stirring sentiments each time you perform? Or does the environment alter the experience in any way?
Certainly the environment helps to find the right atmosphere. The same can be said for the mood of the audience. However, I always focused intently on my emotions, in the moment, throughout my performance.
My introduction to your singing voice came via Paul Chain albums. How and when did you meet? Was the “Sangue” 7” Single your first creative collaboration in a studio setting?
As I already mentioned, way back in 1990, I met Paolo at a concert. It took place in a former slaughterhouse. Shortly after that experience, I found myself in another world. I began appearing in a few concerts as a live performer. Believe it or not, “Sangue” was not the first vocal collaboration. It was, in fact, “Presence of the Soul’s Forest” when, one day, I found myself in the studio house, a huge room in front of a microphone, which I still remember vividly. Paolo, he placed me on a platform (figuratively speaking), I started improvising for the first time on an unknown (musical) base in a phonetic language. I was in some form of trance. I didn’t have the faintest idea what I had done in the “Presence of the Soul’s Forest” yet this song marked the beginning of my vocal collaboration.
Returning to the single, please talk about this particular song and your approach to it. As no lyrics were printed on the sleeve, to what extent did you prepare melodies or phrases beforehand versus improvising on the day?
Okay, coming back to the split with our friends in Eversor, yes, “Sangue” was my first experience in our native language. For some strange reason, I don’t remember the experience well, but it seems to me that I wrote the text and enjoyed doing it. Honestly, I’m not a lover of patterns.
Come the following year, the album, “Dies Irae” was very much you, as the voice, and Paul Chain providing the instrumental canvas. How do you remember that period? Do any songs, in particular, still inspire strong feelings?
Personally speaking, I am very attached to the “Dies Irae” album. It was the first real step in the use of my voice. Certainly the piece I am most fond of is the “Presence of the Soul’s Forest” because I still remember the emotion in resenting myself and recognizing myself. I do not deny the amazement I felt. Who was I?
“Emisphere” was a daring double album. A conceptual piece. A spiritual journey. Would you elaborate upon the themes?
I perceived “Emisphere” as a continuum of “Dies Irae” – an atmosphere that is felt, lived and Interpreted. I state that, as per the “Dies Irae” recordings, I did not know the musical bases upon which it was built. Once again, “Emisphere” was completely improvised.
This recording, to me, could be described as performance art. The vocal layers you provided in “I Want You” are disturbing. Almost like a traumatic scene from a play. Like Moorcock reading Macbeth. “Transformation” also feels lived, rather than sung, the change real. What do you think about my reading?
Do you think that I lived in Paul Chain’s home studio and I even recorded my voice in the kitchen or bathroom? Ha! No. For this reason, I agree with your observation.
Which is your favourite piece? Why?
“I Want You” because it is absolute madness! “I Want You” is also the piece that best represents me.
Without you, “Emisphere” would have lost much of its haunted, anguished and beautiful flavour. How much energy and direction did you invest in the process? Did you achieve everything you had hoped to capture?
Honestly speaking, in my interpretations, I have revealed between the lines what I am, what we are, and I have never set myself a goal or at least one of pleasure. I lived the moment with my emotions. No expectations. I did it for the simple need of giving and giving myself.
I imagine that your live band experiences with Paul Chain were numerous and diverse. Were you more at home on or off stage? Do you still cherish any memories from “In Concert” (1993), where you were credited as a performer or “Official Live Bootleg” (1999) as the singer in the red cape?
If the formation was comprised of Jazz musicians and the concert assumed a Jazz setting, I adapted and improvised. If the formation centred on Classic Rock and then on Doom, I sang some pieces, like Jimi Hendrix and I was a performer. Always fluid and in the moment…
Have you any sense of how many concerts you played in the ‘90s?
Well, many years have passed and I honestly cannot remember exactly how many concerts I did with Paul Chain. Perhaps dozens and dozens throughout Italy and with many different formations…
Close your eyes and describe the most intense aspect of any performance you recall? Why were you so deeply moved in that moment?
Each and every shred of my memories contain emotions. It is truly impossible to choose just one. Each concert gave me something different.
The last three songs captured from this era were presented on “Unreleased Volume 1” collection. My cousin used to play “She Tomy My I” on repeat whenever I visited! Presumably they were recorded before 2003? Do any other significant memories from these sessions coming flooding back?
“She Tomy My I” was certainly recorded well before 2003 given that I left Paolo in 1998/99 (for many reasons). To this day, however, I remember several musicians with fondness. There was a genuine friendship, and from time to time, we still hear from them.
The curtain (apparently) fell for many years in the new millennium. Well, until the Italian Dark Sound of Genova invoked your ghost circa 2017/18… Where did you go? Were you pursuing other interests outside of this movement? Ultimately, what was it about Tony Tears (and to a certain extent Abysmal Grief) that resonated with you to make a return?
Leaving the Paul Chain project out of necessity, I took a couple of years off. Then I rediscovered writing in poetry. I ventured deep into myself, to get to know myself better, thanks to, and through, esoteric techniques.
Since then, you have already dedicated energies to two Tony Tears records and performed a number of concerts with the band. How has your relationship evolved and deepened during such a productive period?
The meeting with Antonio (my current partner) in 2016, was like dusting off my ancient vocal arts, which, thanks to greater technique and spiritual growth, allowed me to pick up and develop my expression in “Demons…” and the “30th Anniversary EP” that followed it. As already hinted, there was also a short collaboration with my friend Roby from Abysmal Grief on the “Blasphema Secta” LP…
In the context of Tony Tears, how important is your vocal partnership with David Krieg? Sometimes you play separate roles. On other occasions your voices overlap. So how intuitive are you musically, emotionally and spiritually as a pair?
The collaboration with Davide is very important. We understand each other and are tuned to the same wavelength. We both have our spaces of expression and there is a good feeling between us. In short, we have a good time!
In spite of time passing, I’m delighted to hear that your voice has not diminished in presence! Whether spoken or sung, it still sends shivers down my spine. Do you feel the same spark of artistic youth in your belly or has experience brought deeper conviction?
Over time, I can tell you that I have acquired a vocal technique that allows me to be even freer than in the past and for me this is fundamental. Belief undoubtedly follows my artistic path and spiritual growth.
“The Atlantean Afterlife (…Living Beyond)” will be released at the end of this month. Given that the album was only recorded, mixed and mastered over the summer and autumn months of 2020, are you still living and breathing its exotic atmosphere?
I think this new album is a blend of deep emotional experiences where each and every one of us gave our best.
If our readers had never engaged with a Tony Tears album before, how would you describe it?
A journey, a communication beyond reality, and I mean that sincerely without diminishing the previous works of Tony Tears.
The album is rooted in Egyptian iconography. Why is this landscape and ancient culture integral?
Regarding the themes of our works, Antonio always takes care of them. He follows a personal path, one that he lives in reality, beyond any simple presentation of themes, which of course he know intimately. This album is no exception.
The album is presented in two halves, in the Italian language first and the English language second. This balance seems significant rather than convenient. What was the band’s intention?
Antonio always wants to be free and the same goes for the band. Avoiding easy labels, he does what he feels right. If that means making a song with an Italian text, he does just that. Should he be more inspired by a song in English, he adapts. He sets no limits. Convenience zero. Naturally, two genres blend in Tony Tears: ‘70s Dark Sound music strongly inspired by Italian bands, such as Jacula and Goblin (Antonio mentions this pair most often to me). Often for this style he prefers that they are sung in our mother tongue. Then there is Metal (by which we mean 360° of Metal), where he prefers to have an international aspect, and therefore, over these compositions, he opts for them being sung in English.
To what extent did you write or shape the lyrics and their corresponding melodies? Or did Antonio, as master of ceremonies, devise the respective parts in entirety for Davide and your good self?
Davide and I applied our vocal interpretations to the new album and were free to do so. As far as I’m concerned, whether I sing in Italian, English or phonetically, my style remains improvised even if in a musical context it is not.
Out of interest, do you have a personal preference for the Italian mother tongue, English or wordless harmonisation when you sing?
I was born from improvisation and honestly I feel more fluid expressing myself with the phonetic approach. But I disdain neither our mother tongue nor the English language. I would add, however, in addition to singing in Italian and sometimes in English with Tony Tears, I use phonetics and have customized my style a lot. Perhaps it appears more like a song in a real language even if it is invented. Initially, Antonio encouraged me to develop it and nowadays I’m comfortable with this approach. I have to say, he was right. This new way of personalising phonetics makes everything unique, for both me and also for the band.
Tony Tears, as I understand, deliberated long and hard on the striking artwork that binds the new opus. Would you please elaborate on its significance?
Antonio has explained to me that the concept is about a Cult that originates from a time before the Egyptians (dating back to Atlantis). However, the Egyptians are the ones from whom we can gain the strongest sense of this Cult. Antonio told me that for a variety of reasons, calculations, and more, this Cult (linked to Magic and Reincarnation) is destined to return. It’s a very profound topic and no doubt he will answer more fully in the future…
Masks, also remain at the beating heart of Tony Tears! A certain symbol, an Egyptian cross, is repeated on each mask with a different colour in the background for band members. Any comment on these designations?
Even these living masks, as Antonio likes to call them, have an Ankh on them to represent the origin of the Cult. The Ankh, according to him, is not the Egyptian key but rather the key of the one who taught us everything on earth. The colours in the background are the Entities of each of us, without which every effort of will would remain in vain. To keep it brief and to the point, each colour is the essence and the cross the quintessence, the effort and origin bound together.
Why do you not wear a mask or appear together in the band photograph by the burning altar?
I don’t wear the mask out of personal choice. I prefer facial expressions while also respecting the Tony Tears principle. But you must understand that we, the band and I, live in different cities and it was not practically possible for pandemic reasons to move from Rimini to Genova, and therefore, for this album photo shoot I was forced to do mine alone in my city.
As there may be no (or only very limited) opportunities to celebrate ‘The Atlantean Afterlife (…Living Beyond)” on stage, how do you intend to spend 2021?
It’s difficult to say. Things can change from moment to moment. I will certainly find freedom of expression in other objectives. I’m always looking for something new.
Any other burning ambitions at this point in your life?
It is forbidden to stop. You can evolve in a thousand ways, just look for, and feel other ways. The important thing is to go beyond yourself and learn.
Thank you for sharing, Sandra! Do you have any parting messages for our readers?
Thank you Danny for giving me the opportunity of this interview. The only thing I can say to every one of you is this message: Always be true to yourself and always pursue your dreams. Hugs to all!
Danny Angus (March / May 2021)
Even if armed with a reflective shield, curved sword and other aids of divine origin, would you have had the courage of Perseus to face Medusa? One of three winged women with large staring eyes, gaping mouth, lolling tongue, flared nostrils and serpentine locks of hair. Your first look would be your last! Perching my hand on Mario Di Donato’s stone shoulder I wonder why he had been captivated so…
Some six stiff years in the Underworld, The Black emerged with another mammoth double album. Why was it so long in the making?
The members of the band have had a bad time due to personal problems. So, none of us, had the mood to compose. Fortunately, over time, we have left behind these difficulties and we have found the will to enter the studio to record our last album “Gorgoni.”
Please explain your fascination with the Gorgon that led to this dedication of musical and brush strokes…
The Gorgons have fascinated me ever since elementary school. Especially Medusa! They are creatures who represent the evil in man and at the same time his punishment. If you look at Medusa, for example, you can remain petrified! In my music, as in my painting, I often speak of the struggle between good and evil. For these reasons, I have represented Medusa in my music and in my painting.
If she represents the female genitalia and the devouring urges of female sexuality, do you share Freud’s view that the terror of Medusa is the terror of castration?
I can say that I share the point of views of Freud. Medusa is the fear of the male before the discovery of female sexuality. The decapitation of the Gorgon can be seen as an attempt to suppress this sexuality. Woman, over the centuries, has often been the object of this attempt.
The soundtrack is suitably dark and diverse. From the very beginning, it conjures creepy visions and the terror takes different forms as the story unfolds. How do you think it feels compared to previous albums?
“Gorgoni” is the album that has the best production of my entire discography. We were able to take advantage of cutting-edge recording techniques thanks to a higher budget. This has allowed me to develop my typical sound.
Three years on, it is rumoured that the band has another two albums in the making! Centred on human phobias, “Metus Ostilis” seems to slot in well the seven deadly sins of “Peccatis Nostris” and the fear of the “Gorgoni” so why is the human psyche endlessly alluring?
I am interested in the fears of man, his phobias and his weaknesses. I watch with great interest at everything that revolves around these topics. I try to convey the emotions I get from these observations in my music and in my painting.
Boccaccio’s “The Decameron” sounds like a deep well of recounted fables through a 14th Century Italian filter. Of the hundred tales told by ten characters, which is your favourite and why?
I like all stories of “Decamerone.” It’s not easy to choose a favourite though. I can tell you that I’m working on new material, which is inspired by 10 stories from it. But I can’t tell you what these stories are, for the time being, it is still Top Secret!
Did you pen the music with a tale in mind or vice versa? And have used quoted Boccaccio’s language in the lyrics or retold them in your Latin metre?
This is my sequence: history, texts and music. I use Latin for texts. The language of “Decamerone” is the language of so-called “volgare” and it represent the Italian language of the 1500s.
Was it difficult to condense the essence of the whole into an album? And at what point did you decide enough ground had been covered to make it complete?
The subject is very vast. It was not easy to compose the lyrics and music. As I told you before, however, this is a topic that fascinates me and affects me a lot. For this reason, I also had great fun doing it! Before entering the studio to record the album there were some things that did not satisfy me and I had to see them together with the other members of the band. Now I think this one of the best albums of The Black!
The Black does not appear to be a prolific live band although did play the Metal Magic festival in Denmark this summer! Please describe your performance, the songs included and atmosphere throughout. Was The Black represented as it should have been in your eyes?
You’re right. The Black plays few concerts. We try to play only in the best places and to select those dates that really offer anything interesting. For this reason, The Black has played at the Malta Doom Metal Festival in 2012 and at Metal Magic in 2013. In both cases, we were very good. Regarding Metal Magic, Denmark is a great place and the people were very warm and welcoming! I was treated like a King and I hope to come back soon to play in those parts. In this particular concert we played songs from “Gorgoni,” “Reliquarium” and “Peccatis Nostris.” Our performance was much appreciated by the public and supported us from the beginning to the end of the concert. I can honestly say that things have gone beyond expectations!
You have also been billed to play with Misantropus at Halloween! Who booked the concert and will you be adapting your set to suit the festivities?
The date of Halloween has been organized by Misantropus. It’s an Italian group that plays a great Doom Metal. They are our fans by many years. They have all my records and our t-shirts. We have become good friends. Long ago I was their guest in Sermoneta (Latina) and they made me visit the artistic treasures of their city. Everything is ready for the concert to celebrate Halloween, a magic night with a religious significance very strong. Our obscure music is very suitable for situations like these.
When not writing and playing music, how much of your days are spent painting? Is oil on canvas your preferred medium?
Music and painting are two complementary aspects of my personality. The two are not mutually exclusive but co-exist. My favorite technique is oil on canvas but I also use many other techniques such as acrylic and tempera… I really like using mixed techniques for painting. This I was also taught at the art school.
I love your style, colours and particularly the darker themes explored. “Dies Irae,” “Infernal Moat” and “Hell” were all crafted in 1980. What are your memories from the times when you were composing them?
All my paintings are a figment of my imagination. I have certainly been impressed by other works of art but I don’t let them inspire me consciously. So when I paint I’m not surrounded by books, paintings or other artefacts. Work only fancy. My inspiration has remained unchanged over the years. Certainly in the ’80s I have made some very important works, but my art has always been very much alive also in later years.
Tell me about your self-portrait! Is your heart in the past or are you a knight of the present?
Metalheads are the warriors of the present! Despite society usually thinking that Metalheads are like criminals, we are culturally and humanly valid people that very often fight for the good ideals.
Looking back over your career, what is your proudest accomplishment to date?
My preferred painting is “Inferno” (1974) because I had opportunity to expose my opera at the famous exhibition F.P.Michetti. I don’t have a preferred album. But if I have to tell you a preference it might be “Infernus, Paradisus et Purgatorium” (1990).
As a man of culture, please describe some of your favourite pieces…
My preferred song is “Whole Lotta Love” by Led Zeppelin. This song has broken the wall between Rock and Heavy Metal.
My favorite book is “Pinocchio” – the story created for children by Colllodi, an Italian writer! Pinocchio represents the contrast between good and evil. He is a cunning character, a liar but at the same time with a heart of gold and a large humanity. Then he never gives up. It is very strong and in this looks like me. I have a large collection of books and puppets of Pinocchio and I have organised also an exhibition in my city Pescosansonesco…
My favourite work of art is the “Gioconda” for its beautiful shapes and geometries. But I also love a painting less known called “Madonna col Bambino” by Filippo Lippi. This painting was made with oil on canvas. It’s fantastic because the image seems alive!
If you were to design your own coat of arms, what would be depicted, with what motto and why?
The badge should be a wolf’s head in the centre with four lions at the corners. The lion is the symbol of my city, Pescosansonesco. The motto should be “Nunc Et Semper” (Now and ever shall be…)
I have intruded long enough and must let you return to your studio! Thank you Mario. Looking forward to gazing into The Black again soon…
Thanks for the interview! A salute to the readers of your magazine! Metal will never die…
NUNC ET SEMPER!!!
Masters of the Pit #2 (September 2013)
Common Eider King Eider invokes the spirits of long ago. Solemn and cloaked, their ceremony takes shape slowly. The ceiling of the cave is certainly rather high, given the droning passage of the wind, with stick and bone piercing those gusts at intervals. Come “The Dark Winter” and the intensity is magnified a hundred fold. Cymbal splashes and the rapid rattle of wood against taut skin lend a manic edge. The monks become one with icy draughts, the choral vibrato summoning “Litha” for the final rite. Bowed strings bring a beautiful melody. But the atmosphere is fraught. A snarling man beast struggles to purge the demons within. Despair. Anguish. Time suspended. The choir steadfast. On hanging notes, that tension dissipates. Respite for the cast aside?
Enter Rob. You are very welcome in the world of Pariah Child. How are you keeping? Where have you been?
Hello, and thank you for talking with us! I think this year has been challenging, and revealing for all of us. There has been hope, and there has been devastating disappointment. The old world is being challenged, and the new world while embraced by many, is being attacked by those in power. We are being attacked. We are being left to fend for ourselves. We are being left to die.
No doubt this calendar year has not gone quite according to plan. What impact has the pandemic had on your lives and how have you made the time out of time count since lockdown began?
The lockdown has been hard for me and other people who struggle with depression and substance abuse. I don’t think I have made this time in lockdown count, because it has been more about survival. It has been more about self-care and not spiralling out of control into depression and self-isolation.
Please elaborate on your relationship with animism. How does this belief inform your living breathing sound?
Animism informs all that we do. It is the very foundation of our spiritual understanding and practice. Sonically, we channel spirits present during gatherings. We aim to give some sort of voice to those without voice.
Your albums defy convention. For me, they are an experience rather than a collection of songs. So what framework, if any, do you apply to creating music?
We come up with meditative or intentional titles, and build from there. It provides a very intimate exploration of the subject for both Andee and I. We each come to topics with our own unique experience, hopes, and truths, and if we have our own intimate reasons for invoking a piece, it seems more accurate and present. This is true in recording and in live situations.
Vocal elements are woven throughout your work. But my impression is that they are largely wordless. Why is that? Do you find language too limiting? Is sound more all-consuming without the distraction?
If we aim to channel, and we are successful in any way, we feel the meaning and voice, and intention or message will be heard without words. I think what comes out is a type of language, so I what comes out might not be words but transmissions are being made.
You have spoken about striving for simple titles, ones that channel and reflect personal experiences. Dare I say that the poetry of “Shrines for the Unwanted…” almost contradicts that simplicity even if the sentiment is true! Given that this album moved me deeply, would you share its story?
That album came from our first European tour. When we would arrive at a location, we would find sticks and rocks and branches to use as sound sources from the place we were performing that night. During the performance, the branches would break, rock used, dirt… At the end of the night we would sneak away to a quiet spot outside with all of the pieces used and build a shrine in the shadows for all of these spirits forgotten or cast aside… voiceless… unconsidered. We documented all of the shrines in a book. I think we built 25 shrines on that our, hidden all over Europe. I hope some are still standing somewhere, unfound.
For every species of bird, Common and King alike, the nest is paramount. Talk to me about the importance of location. Where is your ancestral home? Or as a shaman leading a nomadic existence does it really matter if you can communicate with spirits wherever you go?
I am a ghost with no one and nothing.
I imagine that the Pyrenees now hold a special place in your heart. Any impressions or memories you would like to share from your time spent deep in the mountains?
Hearing red deer rutting just out of sight in the late afternoon sun…
As “Égrégore” is an occult concept representing a thought form or collective group mind it seems an apt title for the first of two collaborative albums. To what extent did you achieve that elemental goal with Yan?
Collaborating with Yan is simple and easy and natural. I think that we both come from such similar foundations, that intention wise, it was effortless and fluid. We didn’t talk much beyond the initial framework of the concept for this recording. We would meet late at night after his family had been put to sleep… sit in silence for some time… and then start recording.
My copy of “Palimpseste” is in the post so I cannot compare the two movements. From your perspective, how would you describe these differing creative journeys? Has the emphasis shifted somehow with Cober Ord’s participation now more pronounced?
As it is true both Yan Arexis, and Yan H. both originally comprised Cober Ord, it is currently the solo project of Yan H. “Égrégore” sounds more like the creative / ritual / sonic process of sitting still in a space and letting the voices be heard on a slow unfolding time scale. “Palimpseste” correlates to driving all throughout the Pyrenees and exploring caves and streams and forests and Neolithic sites and assembling field recordings and moments much in the vein of musique concrete. I have so much trust and admiration and inspiration for both of those individuals that they will both stay with me and influence me musically and ritually moving forward.
Having never had the pleasure of communing with your live aura, what do you consider essential instrumentation to be able to perform? The bare bones of your craft if you will. I have had a vision that you brought an empty suitcase on tour. Before playing any given gig, you would explore the surroundings and gather together natural elements of the district: sand and shells, soil and leaves, bark or pine needles to sprinkle over the stage, your altar, then played barefoot, grounded in nature, in the moment. Might it work?
That is actually exactly what we do… Ha! I think this concept will be unfolding exponentially in the future into creating total environments or installations for both ourselves and the participants.
Have you a favourite plant?
To what extent do you improvise on album themes on stage? Is there a push pull relationship between channelling and recreation?
All of the arrangements we perform live are actually quite strict as far as framework goes. Framework as skeleton… as the structure that all else clings to for support. There is improvising, and there is being taken by the spirits present. I think the most exciting moments are when we try weaving different themes or sections together and experimenting with overlapping intentions and sonics….
Leaving yourselves open and vulnerable in the moment, have you experienced strange or hostile moods, with or without an audience, when playing? How do you cope with that danger?
I think that when working magic, one should have a framework to operate in that offers the necessary protection. I have my personal system and ritual framework that seems to work for me. With that said, there have been some very intense experiences both live and in private that have opened doors, perspectives, emotions, wounds, both for Andee and myself, and for the participants. I kind of measure the “success” of a gathering by the types of conversations we have with participants afterwards. What went on for them. What opened up for them. Where they went. What was present for them spirit wise…
Returning to the theme of animism, I imagine that you have played in some natural spaces. But how do those energies contrast to the urban environment?
I feel that there are just as many spirits present in urban environments and natural environments… Maybe some are of the same family or clan, and others are unique to location. I feel it is important when going into a situation of channelling or spirit communion to not bring your own expectations or spirits that you work with or spirits from your own place… You have to be totally open to what is going to happen. You have to be totally open to the spirits of that place that want to interact with you. I feel in both places there is sadness and loss and warning.
What was your most striking live experience to date?
L’Homme Savage Festival 2018. The most amazing (festival) experience I have ever been witness to. When we got done playing, I looked up and 300 people were in various states of trance… sitting… lying in the grass…. a fire built in the middle of the audience. One of the most beautiful experiences of my life.
There must be more ideas, perhaps even fully formed albums, bubbling towards the surface. Where will you go next?
Live installations…. 10 hour overnight dream performances where as people sleep, we try to influence their dreams.
Have you been reading much lately? Enlighten us!
Cormac McCarthy, Georges Bataille. Also the Baedan Journals.
We have come full circle. If you can find the words to express your parting thoughts cast them now…
Thank you for taking the time to present us with such thoughtful questions! May these times bring about community which we never imagined. May it open our eyes to the care we might give outside of ourselves. May it expose those who would do harm. And may it shine light on all we take for granted, so that we move forward in a different manner.
To be expanded in tbe next print publication of Pariah Child…
Seldom will an exclusive interview be published online before it has graced the pages of Pariah Child. But for this very special artist I’m prepared to make an exception. From humble roots way back in 1988, Tony Tears has blossomed with aplomb. A living, breathing embodiment of the Italian Dark Sound, the catalogue is as stunning as it is diverse. With an EP and full-length album released in little over the last twelve months, the band has just entered the studio again to record their next LP. To celebrate and reflect upon this hive of activity, Antonio spent a couple of long evenings casting a little light and shade on his evolving esoteric path…
Welcome Antonio, to the shadowy realm of Pariah Child. Artistic minds are often considered to be troubled. Would that be true for you?
Hi Danny, thanks for the invitation in Pariah Child. Yes, definitely. I consider myself a person who lives on art and artists are all a bit problematic or if we prefer “a little crazy”. In my art forms, the one that most represents me is definitely music. I come from a family of musicians and poets.
As a child, were you more attracted to the mediums of drawing and painting or creating music?
There have always been artists in my family. My paternal grandfather wrote poems, my father is a painter and was a great guitarist. He played in Rome in the golden years of Italian music. I mainly took up music from my father. Also painting. So, I would say that the form of art that most represents me is definitely music.
How did your fascination with artistic expression develop as you grew?
It was a spontaneous path. When I was very young I liked to draw, and the drawings that came to my mind were things related to imaginary landscapes, mystical creatures and things like that. Over time, my maternal great-grandmother, believed to be a country healer (well known in Abruzzo), realized that I was a child with some particular “gifts”. She told my mother I had mediumistic skills. In the meantime, while I was advancing in mediumistic drawing, I was starting to take guitar lessons from my father. I was 11 years old. It was actually the guitar and music I preferred to do. I realized that this was my true art form. However, over the years I carried on with both. Let’s say that drawing (today oil painting) is more of a personal form of mediumship; that is, to “materialize” what certain Entities teach and communicate to me. The same is also true with music of course. They are two different but equally mediumistic art forms. I like painting because it is intimate and solitary; the other (music) is more to be followed and in a group (for this purpose more demanding) but music, once made, it’s the best for me. There is also another form of art that I have been doing since I was 6 years old: martial arts. This always helped me to develop self-control and a development of inner energies that serve me a lot also in my esoteric life. Everything has gone hand in hand over the years.
Why were you (and why are you still) driven to create? Is the urge unexpected with unseen force or are you a master of destiny expelling inner visions as and when you see fit?
I lead a fairly reserved life. In fact, I don’t like social media. They are present, but I don’t spend much time there. The main reason is because I love real life; in contact with nature and with certain forces that I have always been able to perceive. On a low level, they are often considered to be larvae, or troubled souls of the dead and the like. For some time now, I must have contacted some evolved Entity; perhaps thanks (also) to some successful magical practices. So, I will not be here to say with who knows what torments (because it is not true) but I have seen the results of these rites and fortunately with very positive implications. This means that the tormented Entities always intrude and in the past I have made some mistakes, in some cases it can be dangerous, but I have reached a level of preparation that these low “Entities” can come away with little. So, I follow “teachings” of Masters who often confirm me in everyday life. Universal masters who go far beyond the conception of the man of good and evil; they could be the face of the same coin. I put their teachings and (tangible) confirmations into music. It can be said that I follow what they tell me but above all what they make me live, and since the messages should be transmitted, I pour their communications (or teachings) into my music. The concept that could be the face of the same coin, is my belief, and derives from the fact that, in years of studies (and practices) I have always stumbled upon books where even certain Demonic Entities could be controlled (not easily) to solve personal issues yes, but also for the sake of other people; very special books on magic. I compared them with other knowledge such as Allan Kardec’s books on Spiritism; I am quite attached to the spiritual concept of Kardec (not only to him anyway) and if at the beginning it seemed different from some magical things, studying it in more detail I understood that in reality it could contain issues that also centred on demonic Entities and other Entities that can be evoked with Practical Magic. What may lead you astray on Kardec, is that its first-run philosophy may seem a little too religious but if you are very careful you will notice that it is not so. Many high Entities in his books say they had to speak that religious way because otherwise many people wouldn’t understand, and that says a lot. The very concept of Duality in universal forces (which everyone can call whatever they want) is a real question and is truly lost in the mists of time; it happened in the first Egyptian dynasties with the concepts of Red Dragon (Ra Hoor Kwiut) and Black Dragon (Hoor Paar Kraat) which is the opposite side to the Red Dragon, that is its Entity opposed (but face of the same coin) from these ancient concepts the religions have taken (all) something and incorrectly rewritten. So, Kardec’s philosophy applied to ritualistic magic (trying to make it as correct as possible) is the path I have been traveling for many years and it has led me to firmly believe in certain things and to bring them to music; most of the time they are the ones who tell me what to do; besides it is I who decide what to do. I would say 50% of the two.
How does this process of creation help maintain your psychological balance?
Even if it is not easy to control certain Entities, in the past I have suffered and erred a lot but today I have perfected these matters and I can only do constructive things. This means that I can pass from being a calm and positive person to something opposite; in spite of this, I manage to be fairly balanced and the music, once I have made my album, it is like a seal, I can perceive its magical and particular essence, there is truly something that goes beyond music. This helps me to channel energy better and to give me a beautiful artistic balance but also of life. There are three aspects that in my life are indivisible by now, they are: the Esoteric experiences, the Music and the realization of these two things (linked together) to live life in a total and balanced way.
To what extent has this relationship changed over the years as you have become older and dare I say wiser?
I could say after being initiated by my great grandmother at the age of 15. But I do not want to be accused as someone who exaggerates or who invents goodness knows what story, so sorry I will try to keep it brief. At the time I was already doing some spiritualist séances and I was wrong. I was persecuted by certain Entities that frightened me. I was very young then, it took a few years to get those Entities out of my way. One person literally saved my life. From there, instead of giving up and abandoning certain subjects, I deepened them and slowly resumed practicing. Even after correcting myself, I made some mistakes, but minor ones compared to the past. I understood that spiritualism could be practiced (with greater results) in a different and less risky way by doing other mediumistic forms compared to spiritualist séance. I dedicated more time also to Magic, which is equally important and in a certain sense linked to the first. I started everything at 12. At 15, there was a mistake of mine, I recovered and started doing things in the right way between 20/25 years; but as my great-grandmother said to me, I was predisposed for certain things from birth. In my life I have been initiated into the esoteric world three times (even if it would be enough once). the first time since my great-grandmother when I was 15 years old (very young), the second and third time in more recent times by two important people; one is a Master who has special gifts, very mediumistic and Reiki, the other a Master of Magic and Demonology (and everything that is more related to the esoteric Magical world). As you can see, it’s not a game for me and I’ve always believed in it. You will have noticed (and it is no coincidence) that it is already twice, even in the previous question that the number “3” returns in the most important things in my life; this is proof that certain forces are always there (even at this time). In fact, the Esoteric Magical Master just mentioned above, revealed to me that my vibratory number was “3” and that I had to notice in my life how important it was; a vibratory Entity is associated with it (let’s call it that), that’s all on this question. Believe me, I have not exaggerated anything, in fact, I have minimised.
Your sixth album, “Demons Crawl At Your Side” explores the themes of possession, madness and torment through demonology, film and art. Why does this fascinate you so?
“Demons Crawl At Your Side” was made in a period where I was “attacked” first hand. You must understand that when you have known certain forces and have been in some way part of it (even with mistakes of the past) when you improve yourself and as much as you come out of it, you become even more sensitive and receptive. At that time, I saw and felt these (unfortunately negative) Entities around people; I breathed their nefarious energy and they on several occasions made me understand that the very fact that I perceived them bothered them. When you feel these things, it happens that people, on the street (led by these Entities) challenge you, annoy you, and commit all sorts of things that can lead the human being to commit from the most annoying thing, even, to atrocities. It was an experience that led me to believe that (especially today) possessions are real and take place in a subtle way (even when we don’t notice it). It is not necessary that a person necessarily has to vomit green, blaspheme, and twist to suffer a possession. Certain dark forces feed on the ignorance and indifference (superficiality) that the human being has towards them. Many schools of spiritualist thought maintain that in order to remove certain negative forces one must be indifferent to them. I don’t totally agree. What is certain is that if one knows it can prevent, knowledge leads to shielding itself, vice versa, no, because you become vulnerable. I know, an exaggeration may appear; because then all people should be interested in these things, but in reality it would be enough to understand. The fact is that unfortunately today people don’t want to understand. It’s not nice to understand, better to live in a caged world. This generates true evil, true possessions. So, “Demons Crawl At Your Side” is a very painful, dark, but equally Heavy Metal album. I’m proud of it because the mix of everything I’ve done better in my project and band since 1988 (year of foundation) is just right. The choice of the inserts taken from the films: “The Exorcism of Emily Rose”, “Demoni”, “Devil Dog” and “Omen III” were intended to make the atmosphere that permeated the album more sinister and real. I can guarantee you that the choice of these films is less superficial than it seems. These films reflect real facts, and also reflect the ambiguity of real evil. Actually I am fascinated by the esoteric search for man; the positive aspect of Darkness, since Darkness also has its positive end. However, being involved in certain things, when you come across negative energies that attach themselves to indifferent (negative) beings and are attacked by them, you cannot help talking about it. Based on what happened to me (and it often happens) I made a painful Album, a seal (for me and for those who know how to get into it) because I fought against these forces. “Demons Crawl At Your Side” is a fair balance between Italian Dark Sound and Dark Music in the true sense of the word. A complete album and one that has been lived.
Trauma comes in many forms. What is your earliest traumatic memory?
In spite of the esoteric events I already described, my first trauma arose from another matter. You must know that I have a congenital disease that even if it is a nonsense, it was something that was noticeable as a child and was for a short time a cause of suffering (or trauma if you prefer). This “disease” is Microtia, a deformation of the auricle of the left ear, the same that Paul Stanley of Kiss has (among other things, I love Paul Stanley as a guitarist, as well as Kiss). As a child, as I said, for a very short time this deformation was noticeable and I knew the first forms of human malice, the other children (but often also “adults”) made fun of me. I remember that we ended up in many fights, but then I suffered a lot and cried. As soon as I grew up (shortly after) I didn’t care anymore, I realized very soon, that nature had deigned me with a fairly pleasant aspect and that I didn’t miss my first girlfriends and satisfying human relationships. As soon as I came of age, I began a series of surgeries which led me to have a practically normal ear within several years. Today, little is known and thank God, I wear my almost 48 years very well. So, there are no more traumas. However, as a child for a very short period I suffered a lot.
Mental health has really only become a bigger issue in the public consciousness in recent times. For some though, it remains taboo. How has Italian society coped under the rule of the Church and State?
As I said before, when talking about “Demons Crawl At Your Side”, the wider population (including Italy) for several years now, prefers to live in an illusion. In a world that runs fast and doesn’t want to stop. Years ago I made an experimental Dark Sound Album entitled “Vortice” and yes, it spoke of the Mayan prophecy, for many this prophecy did not come true, falling into error because in 2011 the axis of the earth (if only very little) moved, this shift made many things change both materially and also psychically . From there, human beings did not take anything into consideration, did nothing to understand, and began a real free descent towards all kinds of sufferings (climatic, violence, up to reaching viruses, the last one COVID19) and everything is tied together. The saddest and truly malignant thing (the only real evil existing in the world) is that the “powerful”, the political class and even the church are the cause of these things, for the simple reason that many know but for various reasons (including economic interest) they want to keep them hidden. However, by now, many things are before everyone’s eyes and (if you want) if the human beings were more united, united between the “simple” and “common” people, the powerful class (clergy and politicians) could not ignore us. However, that’s just what they don’t want. I am of the idea that even they are possessed by the one true and authentic evil. I never believed in the speech of conspiracy theorists that the powerful “use” occult powers (occult in the true sense of the word) only as an excuse to ask for political purposes and for money. The money god is more important to them. Although I agree with the fact that politicians and the church itself is interested in the God of Money, for me, there is something much bigger and less rational behind all this, I am convinced.
Speaking of troubled minds, how and when did you discover the works of Alfred Kubin? Please elaborate on the lure that draws you in…
I met him in a book of art that my father owned. Although he has always done it out of passion, my father is a very good painter. He has had several requests to sell his paintings in some exhibitions but always refused. Anyway, I realized immediately, looking at the works of Alfred Kubin, that he was a “visionary”, or rather: he saw things as I think they really are. In his works the world of dark figures mixes with man’s atavistic fears until he lives with them and they are made to appear almost like a normal thing and not entirely to be feared. The real terror is to let these same figures take you somehow. A bit like saying that the figures of an unknown world are there. They observe you. If you want to live with them you become a unique world. If you are afraid of them they can drive you crazy and lead to death before your hour. You will have already noticed (if you noticed) the similarity of what I saw in his works and the album “Demons Crawl At Your Side”. Initially one of his works “The God of the Snakes” was to be the main cover of the album, but then we opted to use our photo with the masks and we put this artwork inside the CD. I really like his creations.
The painting adorning the reverse of the album sleeve is by no means his most grotesque or unnerving. Whether it’s a demon haunting or a tortured soul almost pleading, I cannot say with certainty. The line is blurred. How does the image resonate with you?
The figure is clearly a Monster (or a Demon if we want). If you observe the fingers, his hands are pointed and are placed in a position that seems to want to launch an attack on those who are observing him. The rest of his body is like a giant crawling snake body. His face, however, seems to hint at a smile.
It’s that expression that I find so ambiguous!
So, in me, it has always seemed like something with a human face that tries to please but that at the right time, crawling next to us, can launch a deadly attack. All this represents society, as it is in its majority, that is, possessed and always ready to act under the influence of these true negative forces. I saw in that work everything that could represent the meaning and deep meaning of the album.
And what are your thoughts on “The Other Side” by Kubin and the way in which his nightmarish novel dips into the subconscious?
I don’t like to tell lies (if not strictly forced) and I never magnify things. On the contrary, I tend to simplify things that really happened to me. Therefore, I will tell you that I am not a great reader of novels. For heaven’s sake, I don’t deny that they contain funds of truth, but personally I prefer books and real culture over novels. I read some novels I read from the classics of E.A. Poe to those of “Carmilla” by Sheridan Le Fanu, “Dracula” by Bram Stoker, the ancient novels about Ghosts and so on….
As for Kubin’s “The Other Side”, my singer told me about it and I must say that it is in line with my esoteric thoughts. I like the way of describing these worlds that man initially sees as dangerous but then in the end they are truer and less dangerous than man himself. Indeed, the man in these worlds seems like an intruder, fantastic! But I know Alfred Kubin more for his works of drawings and paintings.
It’s intriguing that your front cover depicts the band in demonic masks and on the back cover you are all unmasked. Are you deliberately tapping into the different faces of madness? Possession? Schizophrenia?
You see, today, many bands (besides make-up) have started using masks; I could name a lot of band names, but one thing I’m enormously proud of is that we Tony Tears used them first. In the year of foundation and the first demo “Strane Sensazioni” (in 1988) there was already the photo with my mask. I was 15 years old and already a lover of Rock / Metal music. I followed a lot both the Italian scene and the foreign one, thanks also to my older brother (who kept me updated with the Italian bands) I must say that there was really no one who used the masks, only Tony Tears. Even if someone can say that ours was a project still in its infancy, I say that in any case I already existed. What does a young project or young band have to do with it!? Even Death SS (if we go to see it) from 1977 to 1987, until the release of the anthological record of Minotauro Records did five concerts (if I remember correctly) and a couple of semi-official demos, let’s say that even if the name spread much in the area of Romagna and around; then little was known about them. Still, time has given it back its historical merits, and today we know that Death SS have unique make-up and they are a unique band in the world (for skill and historicity!). Their definitive crowning which consecrated them was from the album “In Death of Steve Sylvester”. I took them as an example because they are (of course) among my favourite bands ever. I love the old and new Death SS! My story (our story as Tony Tears) is very similar in some ways to that of Death SS. In 1988 I had made my first demo (inside it there was the photo of the very first mask…) therefore, without a shadow of doubt, the first Band in Italy to use the mask and not the classic make-up was us! By now, fortunately, in Italy and abroad among those who follow the genre, (and having now made several official albums) it has become known the truth about the Tony Tears masks.
This preamble on the History of the Masks of the Tony Tears it was necessary. For us, the masks are a very heartfelt thing, and I have to take a small step back in telling you that, thanks to my culture (but also practices) linked very much to Spiritism by Allan Kardec and also from other schools and forms of thought I have always firmly believed (since a young man) in life after death; although I am convinced that the life we are living (living now!) is equally important. Indeed, it is from living the present that the great reparation of our Soul starts. Precisely because the soul has a great free will (as well as man in material life) every Tony Tears mask is destined to change. Over the years, between used masks (at least twenty), the unofficial ones (made but used very little) I have created fifty different models of masks (the average of one per year since I was born …). In addition, I designed another hundred never used. The masks in Tony Tears, as I said, are changeable, because every Tony Tears Album is changeable, each of our periods is changeable, the Magic itself is changeable, the soul is changeable (especially the soul). Hence, in Tony Tears the mask always represents and will represent our changing Soul, because this is the way, in the world parallel to matter, that Extrasensory world (both of souls who reincarnate but also of already existing evolved Entities). So, for me (for us), our masks are what we truly believe in, our true face, our true experience and life condition. However, precisely because we truly believe in what we do, we have never hidden our true face; just like in “Demons Crawl At Your Side”. This decision has the significance of the fact that, with or without a mask, we (the human being) always have “hidden” sides which, if not accepted and elaborated, can lead him to madness and his death (before the times foreseen by the Karma). So, this condition will not lead him to a healthy madness (the artistic madness in being different from the mass of ignorant so to speak, that would be a healthy madness…) but an anguished madness, of fear, of torment. The more man rejects certain things that his soul claims, the more he is forced to fight you one day. It is inevitable. Understanding them as soon as possible and accepting them, understanding them, helps a lot. Here is explained the fact that, as much as we use our masks, we do not hide our true face; whether we use them or not, we are always ourselves. We are True. Always!
Please elaborate on the creation of your masks. Which materials have been used? How much preparation was required to make a mask? From the fifty pieces, have any been particularly important representations of your evolving self?
The preparation comes from sketches on drawing. After that, I purchase masks from any theatrical shopkeeper. The masks, therefore, are very simple materials. They can range from (classic) plastic or papier-mâché ones. The latter are certainly more professional, but not easy to find. The colour must represent the soul, therefore, from the first mask of 1988 up to those used to date, I chose white and black. White is the sum of all colours. In an esoteric sense, therefore, for me, white represents the experience of all reincarnations up to absolute purification. The black masks, on the other hand, are the absence of light. In an esoteric sense, it represents the black soul who, having had no light (light in the sense of spiritual search in life, or a life devoted to true evil), pays the consequences also as a soul, retracing the same sufferings in the Soul. The concept of Black may appear similar to White (in a certain sense it is) but, nevertheless, it has a meaning more than souls (or Entities) linked to the earth and in a certain sense more “rebellious”. In any case, the choice of one or the other of the two “colours” is often chosen for an aesthetic taste combined with a design to be used on the masks and not specifically linked to the meaning of the two “colours”. (Black and white are not even colours). There is no fixed rule in choosing a colour or a mask model, they represent Change. Change in the meaning of each album. As each musical album is different, the Mask is different too. In the past (on some rare occasions), on some album there was no photo with the mask. However, there was also a mask dedicated to that album. For many years I applied to my masks only paints (acrylics) with drawings of tears. Even if, at first glance these tears seemed the same, from observing each other you should understand that they were different in the design (and also in the meaning). Over time, improving my techniques on pictures, I also improved the operating techniques on masks, and in more recent times, I also applied clay objects to them. For example, the type of mask used for “Demons Crawl At Your Side” which is certainly one of the most beautiful models ever made. Obviously, since the masks in the Tony Tears are changeable for each album (for a meaning of Occultism and Esotericism) I have never made expensive masks. However, I have always tried to make them as professional as possible. For the latest “solo” album, the Darker Progressive Electronic “The Wail of the Elements” I chose a beautiful Steampunk mask (one of the first science fiction forms born in the Victorian era). I chose this because it aptly represented the human being who tries to evolve until he reaches a point of no return, just as it is happening (really) between man and nature. The Steampunk mask chosen for “The Wail of the Elements” (for example) has not been retouched or modified. I liked it as it was, and I used it without changing it. It was the first case in my entire discography and since the Tony Tears project exists (1988) that this has happened. In other words, to make you understand, there is no fixed rule in the choice of masks.
The time of realization, usually can go from a week to almost two. Again, it depends, if the masks are only painted. Usually a couple of days are enough for the draft of the drawing, and five days to paint the masks, even several times over, in order to give the right colour chroming. Instead, if (besides carrying out what I have just said) I have to add objects with clay, or objects of all kinds, the time doubles and it goes to almost two weeks. Sure, the choice of masks is made on the basis of a belief strongly linked to my esoteric experience and it is not a sham; as someone does (and tries to copy us without admitting it). But the history and name speaks for us. From the fifty masks created, some were double (or second choices). However, all were representing a specific musical and extra-musical period that mirrored us. There will be some fabulous masks for the Band’s new album (already in preparation), but I can’t say more at the moment.
Tony Tears has multiple personalities. Your discography blurs the line between solo works and having a fully-blown line-up. The pattern is not even chronological! How does the differing chemical balance of minds suit you?
This is your opinion. In reality, I tell you that it is my way of understanding esoteric and occultism. I have a well-marked path, and it is far from having multiple personalities; if anything, I am consistent. It is true that I combine “apparently” different currents of thought but I have learned to bring them to my “advantage” in life. I love being consistent and what I just explained is proof that I am. The same applies to the record chronology in the “apparently” different genres. Over the years I have made “solo” albums where I played everything, albums where I ranged from more Metal songs with Martial rhythmic sections, in Kraut Rock style, to more extensive music with Industrial and experimental sounds when the Industrial did not yet exist; as an example I would say the 2000 CD “Fears and Sensations …” although the recording was not very modern, it had its vaguely industrial experimental Italian Dark Sound charm. This was repeated after, with the album “The Reality Before All”, although from this second album the sound began to be definitely more professional. “The Reality Before All” was an album with longer suites, while in “Fears and Sensations…” (with the exception of the last song) they are all catchy songs. Despite this apparent diversity between the two genres, personally, I don’t see a lack or a melodic diversity in the two styles practiced by solo Tony Tears and Tony Tears as a band. In both styles there is always something recognizable and in both there are two essential characteristics in the Tony Tears band, namely: the melody and the compositions are two very important things, they will never be missing. So, the difference is only in the length of the songs that goes from those more Anthem Rock to those more Dark Electronic Progressive stylings. In singing we range from Italian to English, sometimes I leave my most solo albums wholly instrumental (but it’s something I’ve been doing since 1988). So, there is always a great compositional and melodic arrangement capacity in my songs and in my albums in general. The very fact of defining the more soloists and the others as a band, is given only by the fact that the fixed Band is used to play live and to make most of the favourite songs by myself, or the Dark Sound ones with a formation behind. In fact, the so-called “solo” albums are because, there, I find myself doing (as in the past) all by myself. One day, when we have a keyboard player in training, also the songs from the “solo” albums will be reproduced live in the Tony Tears Band. Therefore, Tony Tears’ discography understanding be done by inserting both the Albums played alone more in the style of Electronic Dark Progressive, with the Albums where more is done Metal with the Band. The difference is not in proposing something very different from one another; even in the Albums with the Band there is no lack of more atmospheric songs (even if combined with Metal and they are much shorter). The so-called “solo” albums are not minor or simpler than those with the band, they are not a filler or something very different from the things done with the band, they are (in reality) to be considered all Tony Tears albums. I can guarantee that in many “electronic” Albums (so-called soloists) by Tony Tears there are musical finesses that if you don’t know how to play will never be able to do, there is great music inside them. As you can see, also on a chronological level there is a unique and coherent path. The so called solo albums are born from personal ideas that I feel I can use in music in a totally solitary, but there is no musical difference, we are always consistent. Our minds are on the same wavelength, also because, when I make my “solo” albums I don’t keep the band still, we are always active, and they are excited to play in the Tony Tears.
Apologies for the interjection. But on that thought of training a keyboard player, have you already played live as Tony Tears? Will this become a priority in future? How do you envisage the ideal presentation of your works on stage?
Here in Genoa, it is difficult to find keyboard players and bass players. Maybe more so keyboard players. In my project and band, the majority of fans see me as the guitarist of the Tony Tears. I hardly see my band with two guitars; I wouldn’t even like it, because, having a very particular touch, I want to remain the only guitarist. I’ve always rather imagined the Tony Tears Band with a good keyboard player. However, the risk of finding a Power Metal style keyboard player is there. Precisely for this reason, we are looking but with great caution and without haste. Among other things, in Tony Tears Band (always) I deal a lot with keyboards, therefore, as we now find it, any player should accept the condition of dividing the keyboards with me (at least in the studio) and this makes the matter even more difficult. On the other hand, thanks to the technique and the harmony that we have as a Band so far, we are able to make up for the absence of both a second guitar and a keyboard player. Both our former bass player and the new one have always done a great job of bass, both for power and for filling, which makes our songs explosive (in the true sense of the word). Anyway, to answer your question, yes, we have already played live. In 1989 there was the first concert, even if in an unofficial way, in the sense that there were no albums but only demos, therefore, the members of that band of kids did not have time to study the pieces. We had a concert with masks, sets, however the songs were Dark / Doom Metal improvisations, more or less sketched in the rehearsal room. In the same vein, there were other concerts in the 90s. For many reasons, in the following years I dedicated more time to bands to play live, but the idea of bringing a fixed line-up to Tony Tears has existed in my mind since the project was born in 1988. Although I made several albums first like Tony Tears, the difficulty of having people capable not only technically but also within the project with the right frame of mind (since it is not just music) pushed me to wait and not to be in a hurry. For this reason, there were no concerts before the last period that goes from 2019 to today. I repeat, as Tony Tears (myself) in other bands, I played a lot in all eras and this made sure to keep the name of Tony Tears alive. This meant that when Tony Tears (Band) played, it was like we had always played and in a way it was the truth. From 2019 to today, we have played three very important concerts. One in Parma at the Obscura Doom Festival, in its sixth edition, with: Ferum, Chains, Night Gaunt and Messa. Many people in the audience came especially for us. Then, we played at the Carignano Theatre in Genoa on a large stage, with Rebels Under Rain, Deathless Legacy and Freddy Delirio And The Phantoms. Finally, we played at Angelo Azzurro, also in Genoa, as Headliner. Angelo Azzurro is the most Metal venue in Genoa and although we were at the end of the night and thought no one would come; the place was full of fans. We were stunned. We didn’t think it could happen because nearby there was a concert by a well-known Metal band. Yes, from now on, it will become the normality that Tony Tears will play live. Believe me, it was a fire that burned under the ashes, since it was my will from the time when I was a kid, when I started with my first official 1988 demo “Strane Sensazioni”. The sets of the Tony Tears will always be particular, the feel never tacky. In the three concerts that we played, we brought my esoteric paintings, our masks, statuettes that David and I use (also for our rituals). We have not managed to bring everything completely. In the future, we would like to enrich our stage decoration further, but I don’t want to make suggestions for other bands to copy. I will keep it secret for now…
Having released two albums as a trio in three years do you feel more cohesive as a group? To what extent do you think that this partnership made “Demons Crawl…” a stronger album than if you had tried to execute it alone?
In reality there are three titles when counting “Follow The Signs of the Times”, “Demons Crawl At Your Side” and the vinyl EP celebrating thirty years of the project (and band) Tony Tears. So, the works with the formations are from 2015 to 2020. Even in the past, there have been guest musicians in different works. So, as you can see, there has always been consistency (even in trying to establish training). The things I did totally alone, were just the Dark Electronic Progressive works, because I liked it and it was a job that allowed me to do it. Today we are very cohesive as a band and as a group, and by group I mean the things just explained above. Today Tony Tears is a team, therefore, necessarily, it is better than doing things alone; but they are two different things as a way of understanding the works, so the thing is not comparable (in measure). Both things are important, even my so-called “solo” works have evolved compared to those done years ago. To give you an example, while I’m writing this interview, my latest album “The Wail of the Elements”, an album on the electronic dark progressive style, has been released for less than two months, yet, compared to previous works, it is ten spans higher. I have improved exponentially in terms of sounds, recording, mixing in these types of works (which I do totally on my own, including mixing, everything). I am very proud of “The Wail of the Elements”. If I had done “Demons Crawl At Your Side” alone it would have come out equally beautiful but different from thinking of it as a Band. Instead, thinking about it for the Band, a great album came!! And that’s okay so…
The names of your esteemed colleagues should be at least vaguely familiar to those with even a passing interest in the Italian Dark Sound. Please tell us how and when you met. What brought you together and how have those bonds strengthened over time?
Two old friends who understand me and follow me of many years (since the early 90s) are: David Krieg on vocals, and Lowrence Butleather (Lorenzo Mapelli) on drums. David, I met him in the very early 90s in the Black Widow Records store. Lawrence, on the other hand, I met him in the company of friends always in the very early 90s. They are the friends and musicians I’ve been playing with for the longest time. In addition, there is always a long-time friend and Tony Tears fan; that is, Regen Graves of the Abysmal Grief. Regen, I met him at “The Black” concert in ’98 where with Abysmal Grief, they rang on the support. For a short time, he played bass with us, then he decided to devote more time to his band (and we understood it). Regen remained as a helper; sound engineer, and graphic aid. Regen is also very good at graphics. I, however, in the graphics I should improve a lot. I have a lot of taste in the choice of covers but the result that Regen obtains with graphics, light effects and title logos, he is always excellent, we often leave this task to him. He cares for us and is happy. Then, there is the second female voice, which is my partner, that is, Sandra Silver (Sandra I don’t think she needs any introduction, also considering her vocal past with Paolo Catena and some performance collaboration with Steve Sylvester). I met Sandra when I was a boy (in the 90s) when I went to visit Paolo Catena at their home; I saw her again after years at a martial arts internship (which I have been practicing since I was 6 years old) I immediately snap the spark between me and Sandra. Only after a few months did we decide together that we could embark on a journey with the Tony Tears. Personally, I have always believed in Sandra Silver a lot, I have always supported her, since her works with Paolo Catena. Then there is the new and definitive bass player: he is a fan of ours, at our concerts (in Genoa) he has always been in the front row. A young boy but with a great interest (and culture) for the esoteric, in addition, has an exceptional musical culture for his age. This boy is actually a guitarist of a very good Genoese band, but he also has a passion for bass and plays it great; he is a young boy (the youngest of the band) but he brought great enthusiasm and a breath of freshness, it took! Then there is the girlfriend of David Krieg (Lisa) who is a good designer and author of paintings of various kinds. Lisa, created the design of our T-shirts. There’s a kind of team behind the Tony Tears today, and that’s a great thing. Each of us has a partner who can do something and everyone can bring ideas inside.
We have already touched upon the Italian Dark Sound on multiple occasions. As a native, please explain what it means to you personally…
In my opinion, the term Dark Sound cannot be reduced to something restrictive like Doom. Traditional Doom Metal (which is then the classic Dark Metal) is the real Dark Sound; Trouble, Candlemass, Manilla Road, Sarcofagus, Witchfinder General, Angel Witch and Demon; but also Iron Maiden in many moments, Judas Priest, MercyfuL Fate, King Diamond, Saint Vitus and many others. In Italy, our historical Bands of true Dark Sound includes Jacula, Antonius Rex, Goblin, Mario Di Donato with The Black and Requiem, Death SS (also the modern one of the last period), Paul Chain (with all its variants of name), Black Hole and Run After To (never mentioned, yet very good). All these foreign international bands have contributed to the Dark Metal world in all its forms. As for the Italian bands, the same is true; and in fact, you want our esoteric cultural tradition, you want the popularity of all our bands just mentioned, but I think I can say (without a shadow of a doubt) that Italian bands are second to none, and are well known and appreciated by now all over the world. Tony Tears, by name historicity, beginning of the project, and bands (1988) are not very second compared to the historical Italian bands. Indeed, by now, in various reviews and interviews we are seen as a band of the time (rightly in my opinion), as well as for the year I started (1988) also because Tony Tears Sound takes a lot from the old school of Italian style; even if we managed to put it, sometimes, into modern contexts. For me, therefore, this genre (and this tradition) transcends myself, goes beyond music itself. Tony Tears’ music is a continuous change and evolution of my esoteric experience poured into music, something so profound and lived that it cannot be described in an interview. However, I don’t like having the Doom label (as it is understood today). Today, this term refers to something slow, spasmodic, even too much in my opinion. Tony Tears is not like that. Our melodies are always open (they breathe), even when they are very gloomy. Obviously, in Dark Prog Electronic style music, music is more atmospheric, but the melodies and composition are many and open. In the Metal pieces, we have here and there some calm but never excessively slow moments I don’t like excessively slow music and I don’t like the opposite extreme either. For this reason, I am a lover of Classic Metal (and classics) rather than Doom as it is understood today. For me, the Italian tradition is not Doom as someone else might understand it. If I listen to the “slower” things of the Italian bands mentioned above, they are never excessively slow. If you hear Tony Tears’ things, they are not overly slow. By slow, I also mean songs that are half an hour on the same notes that make Rock repetitive with: drums, bass, guitar, voices. Personally, I could never do such a thing. For me this is to force something. In fact, the labels that some reviewers give to bands always leave the time they find. Some labels have been attached to us, such as Doom or simple but fascinating music. I don’t agree with these labels and statements, because: first of all, Tony Tears is not canonical DooM and we never want this to be and secondly, our rock music, like a band, our songs more stage, are deliberately more captivating. But I can assure you, in the middle there are many of those musical and technical subtleties, which if a person does not know how to play he will never be in able to do them. I have studied music from a lifetime, and I continue to study, therefore, I tell you these things as a competent musician and not an amateur. For this reason, a band like Tony Tears wants to get out of the discourse of labels, because they are always made by those who have a very limited vision of music; I’m sorry to say it but it is so.
Look at The Black, who now make reputable Dark Metal and with “Gorgoni” they have taken a monstrous step forward, yet there are those who continue to catalogue them as cult bands, when (instead) they have gained (especially with this album) a place among the most important bands of Italian Metal in general and not necessarily in Dark / Doom alone. Look at the ridiculous criticisms that some make of the new Death SS, saying they have marketed, only because they have “detached” themselves from the traditional Dark Sound of the first seal. But why, sorry? Has the band Death SS not always made a dark and gothic Dark Metal? I think so. Was it supposed that the new Death SS would remain the same like almost forty years ago? Absurd! This is what I mean. Those who make music do not care (rightly) about the opinion of the few who would like to relegate a musical genre to worship. There are bands that want to get out of the cult logo (or label), and it will seem strange, but Tony Tears is also part of this movement. The new album (now in preparation) is a big step forward in this sense. I know someone will be disappointed. Patience. In addition to those who understand us (among old fans) we will gain new fans. We cannot remain anchored to someone’s thought. From birth, Tony Tears was already projected to evolution and a proof of what I say lies in the fact that if somebody listens, in a chronological sense, right, our albums (our discography) they will notice what I am saying. We have gone from making a Dark Sound Metal to experimental electronics, a little old-fashioned perhaps (but made with our style) with technical improvement and increasing recording capabilities, therefore, it is not surprising. One thing is certain. Tony Tears will always be sincere in what they propose, wanting to make a qualitative leap does not necessarily mean marketing yourself. That’s what was said about (new) Death SS and it happened to many other bands; statements and “accusations” made by those (few but don’t give up) who would like to have a Doom job (Doom as it is understood today). It seems like they are a distressing machine that cannot stop. So for me, the Italian Dark Sound tradition meant having loved (and having lived) the bands mentioned earlier. But having a project and a band (Tony Tears) that existed since the age of the bands mentioned above and being (us) changeables (changeable by our nature), we cannot remain anchored to canonical Doom, it has never been like this. Evolution is an important thing, often the difference between professional bands (even in the Italian Dark / Doom) and those that are not, lies precisely in this difference. Tony Tears is part of the Italian tradition and we will always be proud of it. We also look at the evolution, both in the most theatrical songs (Dark Metal) and for my solo works. “The Wail of the elements” is much more professional, modern and powerful as a solo album compared to things done years ago, but it is consistent with an Electronic Dark Prog style I’ve always done. Our tradition is wonderful and second to none. Tony Tears is part of it…
To be continued…
What does the name conjure in your mind? Death? Pain? Suffering? Melancholy? Well, that would be a beginning. But it goes deeper than that, at least six feet underground, for the founding principle of the band was to explore the relationship of inner spiritism with the world beyond. Their tools have been the thorough study of occult texts and divination of the deceased. This brew of funeral mysticism, necromancy, horror cinematography and literature are, in turn, reflected in the lyrics and the music becomes the soundtrack to that story. Their guitarist, sometime drummer and lyricist, Regen Graves, will begin the initiation…
Greetings Regen, the time has come. Are you prepared?
Hi Danny, I’m glad to answer your questions.
Please begin by introducing the trio at the heart of your craft? How, where and when did you meet? What initially brought you, and has kept you, together?
Abysmal Grief was born as an esoteric band in 1996. At that time I was deeply into Horror and Dark Metal, and I wanted to create a project in which I could express my passion towards Occultism and everything concerning Death and graveyards, the most wonderful places in this world. I changed many musicians but finally the line-up was stabilised with the arrival of Lord Alastair, on bass, and Labes C. Necrothytus, on keyboards, and soon after, lead vocals, two guys with the same passion for the Dark sounds and Death. Since then, many musicians joined and left Abysmal Grief for different motivations, but we continue walking together on our path towards the End.
Abysmal Grief is a distinctive and fitting name. What was its source?
I simply wanted a name that could express the main subject of our style, something that could remind you of the main feelings about Death and Sorrow. I don’t remember how it came out, surely turning over and over again the pages of my English dictionary…
Not that many moons ago, the band released the “Mors Eleison” MLP on I Hate Records. How was that partnership forged?
At that time, I had these three or four songs that I wanted to record in the same release, and as Horror Records was too busy I decided to contact Ola to ask if he would be interested in this kind of material. They were enthusiastic about it, and suggested the 12” format, so we entered our studio and recorded the “Mors Eleison” MLP in three weeks. It remains a very important work for us, like a manifesto of our musical concept.
Given that the label rarely releases vinyl and the band had, to that point in time, been primarily concentrating on demos and singles, what led you to the superb, yet dying, format of the mini-album?
In the beginning. our idea was to record simply a sort of maxi-single, but when the songs were ready to be recorded, I found out that it had to be something more important, so, according to I Hate, it became a MLP, not a CD simply because we hate that format!
The gatefold is visually striking. Please explain why you opted for “The Death and the Maiden” painting by Marianne Stokes to adorn the sleeve.
I found this painting quite casually and liked it soon because in some way it reminds me of the image of the Annunciation, even if in this case, the Angel is Death, giving it a grim meaning, only better…
What does the title mean? To what extent does it unify the artwork and the music within?
The meaning of “Mors Eleison” is something like “Death have mercy” and expresses the fear of most people facing Death, just like the figure of the maiden on the front cover.
Your rendition of “Occultism” by Paul Chain is more than commendable and it seems an appropriate choice for your ends. But were any others, such as, say, “Mortuary Hearse” or “In The Darkness” considered? Perhaps that particular song and the legendary composer behind it carry a special significance?
I soon chose “Occultism” because it comes from my favourite Paul Chain vinyl, “Detaching From Satan” MLP, which I consider an absolute masterpiece of Esoteric and Spiritualist music. I always had the idea to play a cover of Paul Chain but I waited to be really ready and with the appropriate magical preparation to write the lyrics. The realization of the “Mors Eleison” MLP was the right moment and the perfect concept for it.
Was it an arduous task to replace the phonetic lyrics with your own words to fit the metre? Out of interest, did Labes C. Necrothylus have a go at imitating those phonetics before you lifted the quill to begin that process?
I had no problems about those lyrics. It came quite naturally, Both Labes and I have listened to this song for many years, and we really made it ours.
Has Paul Chain heard this bold interpretation of his work? If not, how do you think he would react?
I don’t think he has heard it, and I imagine he has no interest at the moment in having to do with anything of his past. He probably wouldn’t’t like it…
Was “The Shroud” really recorded as early as 1999? Was it presented unaltered for this MLP and if so, why has it only surfaced now? Do you have much in the way of older material like this that has never been heard or seen the light of day?
“The Shroud” was recorded totally improvised by me in 1999 and I never listened it again for years. Then I found it in a old cassette and I decided to clean it up and put it in one of our releases that could fit in some way with the feeling of ceremonial sorrow that I had when I recorded it, and “Mors Eleison” was the right occasion. I have a lot of other synth/keyboard songs that I have never used, but maybe someday people will listen to it…
“Mysterium Umbrarum” is an intriguing and eerie composition with howling winds and the devilish tune of the clarinet mingling in the background. Would you reveal the general flavour of the lyrics that accompany them for those of us who do not have a grasp of the language? Is some form of rite being undertaken?
This song represents a sort of initiation in which is recited a Spiritist creed based upon the Doctrine of Allan Kardec. I composed this text referring to my studies and it expresses the sum of the Spiritist Theory: In the first part, the Medium introduces himself as the main officiator, while in the second part the adherents expound the creed like a kind of oath.
How did these guest musicians become involved in this particular song? Some may already know Tony Tears from your earlier split single collaboration. But probably not the others…
Tony Tears is a great musician and an old friend of mine. We share the same deep interest in the Occult arts. The other members are musicians or writers from our city who follow and support our message. We are also good friends, and when I asked them to take part in this recording, they accepted enthusiastically and very seriously.
The label pressed 500 copies of the vinyl and in a matter of months, they disappeared from the source. While the band and some mailorders may still have a few copies to spare were you taken aback by the rate at which they were greedily consumed by the underground? Has the feedback you have received matched this level of enthusiasm?
I really didn’t expect this MLP would have met with such success. We were very proud of the final sound and obviously also of the gatefold packaging by the label. But none of us had foreseen that people could react in this way. It represents a satisfying result and proves that our message has been understood.
Shortly after the MLP essentially disappeared from regular circulation your debut self-titled album was released by Black Widow Records. But what our readers may find shocking is that it was recorded the best part of two years earlier! That must have been frustrating. It may even have stopped a weaker band dead in its tracks. What lay behind the delay? Do you think this has hindered the development of Abysmal Grief at all?
You are correct. This delay has been deeply frustrating for us. The album has been conceived, recorded and mixed under very inauspicious influences and we suffered the unprofessional attitude of a lot of people and some kind of ostracism during the entire production process. But I don’t want to go into details, I just can tell you that next album will be entirely produced and managed under my control, including the release date and every aspect of it.
Well, crucially, the album did eventually surface. Please elaborate on the shadowy painting by Laura Campanella, which seems to represent the opening lines of the album. But to whom do the five sets of hands belong and why is only one face visible?
The only visible face is that of the medium, while the other people are shaded in the darkness meaning that living people remain in the obscurity about the true knowledge, which is reserved only for those few who can obtain the answers from the World Beyond. I found this image from an old theatrical show and decided to have it painted for our cover because it represents perfectly the message of the album. She made a great interpretation.
To what extent would you say that this ceremonial flavour, audibly and visually, is indicative of your direction or was it specific to that era and the ideas you were then exploring?
The songs of the album are from different periods and represent, in some way, a sort of esoteric path in which I developed my studies, so it must be considered as a sum of my knowledge so far. The whole work, including music, symbols and packaging have been conceived as a unique concept, which is indicative of our musical and philosophical style.
The short interludes, “Dirges” and “Divination” give the record a continuous feel and fleeting reprieves from the primary songs. But do you think it would suffer without them?
I decided to use these interludes to introduce a more atmospheric tone to the album and I think they fit perfectly with the long songs. They have a musical value and function to give the listener a little break between the long compositions.
What is you favourite composition included herein? Why?
I have no favourite compositions. Every piece represents something personal. I know this is a common answer but it is the true. I couldn’t choose one song over the others.
“Creatures From The Grave” seems to stand at the heart of the album. Was that deliberate or might it be explained by its familiarity from the earlier split single or even its consistently faster pace?
It was a casual decision. The order of the songs, apart from the first, is based on their length in relation to the sides of the vinyl format. I always use this parameter for our releases, as we never consider the existence of the CD format. This is the reason why we will record only 45-48 minutes albums and their structure will always be in relation to the length of the vinyl sides.
Mario “The Black” Di Donato is another cult figure within the Italian underground. How did he become involved with the band and what did he contribute to “The Necromass”?
In the past, we played two concerts with The Black and we deeply respect him. Moreover, we are both with Black Widow Records so it was very easy to contact him and ask for his collaboration. I am proud of his contribution. He is a great artist.
In this particular song, you have branded the funeral rite as the necromass, which you view as some form of rebirth. What do you mean by this? What do you consider to be the purpose of this spiritual existence, if indeed there is one, beyond answering the call of the living?
I simply mean that stupid mankind thinks to rule the world, and all the stupid religions claim to give us sure answers, but we are nothing and our existence here is limited and incomplete. We can only try to get answers from the ones who lived before us and know where we are going. But in my opinion, those who lived are not that interested to have contact with us, and most times their messages are completely misunderstood. This is the reason why we consider Death the only passage to a higher level and the funeral is the last rite that can set us free to evolve…
“In static rest eternal life…” suggests that existence is more than movement. If there is more to life and death than physical form, what then defines being?
This is a good question, and probably we need more than one interview to answer it without falling into ridicule or boring the readers. I think that our physical existence is only a passage in the long way of our soul, and the Death of our body is a liberation. We should define this as a starting point, then everyone can reflect and work out his own opinion about his path, far from stupid religious dogmas.
Do you feel the eyes of the dead upon you wherever you are, wherever you go and whatever you do? Do those stares belong to anyone you had met in this life before they passed to the other side? If anything, what do they ask?
I feel the presence of dead people many times, but it doesn’t mean that I have supernatural powers! In your opinion, what makes most people’s flesh crawl if they find themselves inside a graveyard at night? The fear of some “zombie”, or something similar in typical horror movie style? I don’t think so. We keep Death inside us, as our birth is simply the result of a previous End, and we are made of it, so it is present in our subconscious for all our corporal existence. I like walking through the tombstones and observing the photos of the deceased just because they really communicate with us, even if we are usually too afraid and blind to understand them.
You seem drawn to the colour violet. Is its relationship with death and funerals more significant, more metaphorical, than the picture previously painted by Death SS in their song “Black and Violet”?
In Italy, people fear to put black and violet together, as they are considered symbols of Misfortune. I am attracted by them, as I think every sort of bad influence on my life can raise my spirit, so I surround myself with every kind of symbol and object that could take my existence closer to the End.
On the inner sleeve, it is interesting that you have adopted the symbol of a snake devouring its own tail. Is there ever a definitive end or only new beginnings and endless cycles?
It is an Ouroboros and it represents the continuous cycle of Life and Death. It contains the XIII, which is the number of the Tarot for Death. Together they represent eternal change and the infinite Ends that our soul has to face. There is not only one Death for us, and this is simply great, don’t you think?
Speaking of cycles, Horror Records is about to exhume your “Hearse” 7”single as a limited edition picture disc. I hope the deluxe gatefold sleeve will be retained! Will there be any other changes apart from the shift in format? Does demand remain or is it more important to keep your releases in circulation and gather new followers as your message spreads?
Well, I think that the picture disc won’t have any gatefold cover! Apart from that, there will be nothing new about the songs, obviously. Horror Records decided to release this version as it became sold out in a very short time, and lot of people continue to ask for it. I think it is a good idea, as we have been always very proud of that release.
Two other new 7” singles have already been prepared for release by Horror Records in the coming months, the first of which is a pairing with Denial of God. What unites and separates both bands? In this instance, have you agreed to explore a common theme or is contrast paramount?
The main difference between Abysmal Grief and Denial of God is that we play essentially Doom/Dark, while they are a Black Metal band. Apart from this, we share the same passion in Occultism, Necrophilia and Horror, so I thought it would be great to collaborate with them, and maybe someday we will manage to organize some gigs together around Europe. It would be great. We didn’t agree about any particular concept, so I am just waiting to hear their grim song…
Your contribution to the split single is a fresh interpretation of “Brides Of The Goat”, which originally appeared on your “Funereal” Demo Cassette in 1998. Why have you opted to return to this specific song now and how will this version vary?
“Brides of the Goat” is the only song from that period which we continue playing on stage, so I thought it would be great to record it again with Labes on vocals with a more doomish style, as over the years, we slightly changed the final part of the song during live exhibitions. The final result is really grim and heavy, I hope our old fans will like it.
Do you think that this two-pronged attack provides a valuable opportunity to reach more listeners through the other band? Is that even relevant to you as an artist? Perhaps brotherhood underlies it?
The only reason why Azter and I decided to release this split is the deep admiration we have respectively. We really don’t give a fuck about reaching more fans. This is just a sign of respect and brotherhood between Abysmal Grief and Denial of God in the name of Horror and Death.
The second single will be called “The Samhain Feast” and released at its corresponding calendar date. What can be anticipated from the title track, “Grimorium Verum” on the reverse and the artwork that will house them?
I really don’t know yet if this release will be confirmed or not. Everything depends on the future availability of Horror Records. The songs are almost ready, we are mixing them now, but by the moment everything is still wrapped in a sort of violet mist…
If that were not already enough, readers will delight in the knowledge that the new album has essentially been fully written and recording sessions are imminent. You have described its flavour as less ceremonial, more necrophilic and harsh, yet remaining dark and slow! Does that still allow space for the haunting organs? Would you be willing to unveil a little of any specific songs and their accompanying lyrics?
The organs and the keyboards are a fundamental element of the music of Abysmal Grief! This album will be in the same vein as all our compositions, and musically it is in the exact middle between “Mors Eleison” and “Abysmal Grief”. About the lyrics, they are a little more personal and descriptive than the first album, but there are no conceptual differences. Obviously I don’t want to pre-announce anything more about it…
Once again, Black Widow will help realise your vision. How will the album be presented and when do you estimate it hitting the shelves?
There are going to be no differences of production for this new release. It will be released on LP and digi-pack CD formats again, and I would like it to be available in 2009, which is a very special year for us, being our 13th together. This is the reason why I want the master to be ready before the end of the year: I don’t want to repeat the same delays of the previous album…
Alexander Baal joined your ranks approximately five or six months ago to take up the position behind the drum kit. How is he settling in as an individual as well as a musician
He is an old friend of mine and when I asked him to help us he accepted and soon wanted to become an official member. He is very serious and professional so we are satisfied with his efforts so far and I hope we will be ready to return on stage next Autumn.
If he were to stay for the longer haul, it would surely be advantageous for Abysmal Grief. Not only would it free you up during rehearsals and recording to focus on your craftsmanship, the band can also begin thinking about a return to the stage. Would that be a priority after the completion of the album?
Sincerely, we have never suffered from the deficiency of a drummer, as we never considered concerts as a fundamental aspect of our music. In the last years, I have changed a little my opinion, and this is the reason why in, the future, probably you will see a fourth member in our line up, obviously, only if he is really into the Occult and deserves to play with us…
How would you describe the ideal live representation of the band?
A concert in which we could really evoke something from Beyond. But it will be impossible, I think, in that circumstances we are often involved by the crowd and it is not imaginable to concentrate deeply. But if we can manage to make the people feel our same feelings, it is anyway a great goal for us.
In the past few years, you have played concerts with some of your Italian brethren who also explore dark and brooding sounds, such as The Black, Misantropus and L’ Impero Delle Ombre. But what has been your most memorable performance and why?
The best concert we played was probably two years ago in Germany where people were really mad and crazy for our show, and I must admit we played very well. Azter has the recording of that show. Perhaps, in the future, it will be available in some way… Concert organization outside Italy are more professional and serious than they are here, and it allows the musicians to perform better. This is the main reason why we will prefer going around Europe in the future!
Italy has a rich and dark musical tradition spanning from the late ‘60s to the present day. What is its impetus and why is it so unique?
I think Italy has suffered the influence of the infamous church more than any other country in the world, and it influenced deeply any kind of art. If we speak about music, I don’t consider so strange that many of the great occult bands are from Italy. We usually have a deep sensitivity about mysticism and the fear of Death. It is very sad, but this is the truth…
It might be viewed as quite insular or impenetrable as some bands have opted for their native tongue, Latin or even created a new language through phonetics. That, in my view, is a strength, and diversity should be encouraged. But why does there seem to be less media coverage as well as live opportunities for these great bands beyond your borders?
Well, if you think that the old great bands have notoriety here in Italy, you are completely wrong! Most Italian people never listened to Death SS, Paul Chain or Jacula! The Italian Dark Sound is much more famous outside Italy than inside, and this is one of the big contradictions here.
Please elaborate on the sense of community and collaboration between likeminded musicians. For example, while we have already touched upon those who have leant a hand to Abysmal Grief, you, personally, have been involved with Malombra and Il Segno Del Comando. Do you think such cross pollination is healthy and important?
I think that it is supposed to be collaboration only among bands really similar, musically or conceptually. I would never collaborate with a Death Metal, NSBM or Hardcore band as I don’t like those kinds of music or their message. On the contrary it was an honour for me to collaborate with Mercy or recording and mixing the song of Tony Tears for our split single in 2004. Musically, I am influenced only by those few bands that really share the same esoteric concept of Abysmal Grief, and obviously not only from Italy.
If you had a free hand, would you consider doing a full-blown project outside of Abysmal Grief? If so, what would be its focus and who would you like to be involved?
As I told you before, I have a good number of ritualistic synth/church organ songs that are buried among my tapes, and maybe some day I will give them new life… For the moment though, my only project is Abysmal Grief and I really couldn’t tell more than what I am expressing now with my band.
You may have already partially answered this question, but for which musician, Italian or otherwise, do you have the most respect? What is your favourite recording? Why?
The greatest artist and esoteric musician of all the times was Paul Chain. As everybody knows, he is artistically dead now, but his place has been taken by Mortuary Drape, which plays quite a different kind of music but keep the same esoteric aura. My favourite recording from Paul Chain is “Detaching From Satan” although not forgetting “The Story of Death SS” which is a great album, probably my absolute favourite, while from Mortuary Drape, I think “All the Witches Dance” is their best one. I have a deep respect for them.
Music is not your only passion. Perhaps you would describe some of your favourite horror films and directors, literature and authors? What makes them special, what impact have they had on you and how does that eerie atmosphere seep into your own creations?
Apart from music, my second passion is going around and taking photos of ancient graveyards or ossuaries. I like grim pictures, especially in black and white, and this is the reason why I am a big fan of all the old horror movies of the ‘50s or ‘60s, and generally of all those minor directors as Rollin, De Ossorio, Joe D’Amato and many others… Our music has always been influenced by some of those movies, and also from authors as Poe, Stoker, Bierce and so on.
You take your study of the occult seriously. What led you to this path, which aspects have particularly captured you interest and how have you explored them?
When I was younger, my attitude was much more superficial and dangerous. I was attracted by every kind of Magical art, but soon I decided to concentrate on the Dead and relations with them. My intent was just to go deeper into the knowledge of myself and some strange particulars of our existence, and obviously to explore the Death and its deep influence on our life.
Throughout your reading, which occult texts have you found most illuminating and least relevant? Any recommendations?
I read several books about this subject, especially from Kardec, who theorized very well the Spiritist doctrine. Sometimes he is a little too much “religious”, but I consider his “The Medium’s Book” a fundamental text to go deeper into the World of the Dead.
How do you interpret the following?
XIII is the Esoteric Number, the End and the Beginning.
Chains of Death is one of the first Death SS songs I ever heard, and the final act of all of our shows…
Cremation is only a way to avoid the Arrival of the Worm…
Purgatory never existed.
Paradise is an illusion for fools and ignorant people.
If you were a character rooted in the horror tradition, which figure would best represent you?
Probably Death in Bergman’s “The Seventh Seal”. I love that character and all the philosophy behind that film.
If you could ask me a question, Regen, what would it be?
Have you ever opened a coffin, Danny?
Once or twice…
We have reached the End. For now. Thank you Regen, for the comprehensive insights. Clearly there is much on the horizon and Pariah Child will continue to champion your cause. The final words are yours…
I thank you for this very long and close interview, and for your interest and respect towards our music and philosophy. In Death…
When Abandon All Hope was first taking form way back in the winter of 2002/03, there was clearly some strange elements in the Finnish water supply! As part of that first issue of the zine, I tackled the triumvirate of Minotauri, Spiritus Mortis and Reverend Bizarre. Whilst the former two were unleashing some formidable demos Reverend Bizarre was the first to secure a record deal that gave birth to their legendary debut album. It remains a stone cold classic and has been re-released many times over. Here lies that original feature from the vaults…
Hail Albert! Welcome to Doom Metal Hell and another year on this god-forsaken planet! How are things in your neck of the woods?
There are some dark clouds in my sky, but I guess it is quite much the same with most of the people! Some of us are born in sweet delight and so on… This year will bring us as a band our first and maybe last tour, and at the same time, our first gigs abroad, a few split singles and perhaps the next CD. Only time will tell. Right, when there are just few days before our departure to Germany, everything seems just perfect. It gives me strength to know that I will see great bands and drink free beer every day. The return to Finland will be hard, but at least I can have this short time of total madness!
Your debut album “In The Rectory Of The Bizarre Reverend” is one hell of a dollop of Doom in the classic tradition! Did you achieve what you wanted to?
We could have done a bit better album if we had had a few days more for mixing and for vocals, but as the time has gone by I dare say that we achieved quite closely what we were trying to do! At first I was very disappointed about the whole album. I heard only the weak moments! The other guys were a bit more pleased right from the start, I think. To me these songs are closer. I have carried them for so long. It is impossible to record them just the same way I hear them in my head.
The album should have made a couple of laps of the underground by now. Should being the operative word as you had some problems with distribution. What did you learn from this experience? How will you handle future albums?
I know nothing about our future, concerning our deal. I haven´t got too much information from our label. We still have the deal with them, but I personally wouldn´t like to work with them anymore. If we have learned something it is the old fact: read the contract and don´t sign it if you aren´t really sure that it will work out fine. In our case, the sub-label with which we signed was brought down, and we were moved to the main label and now we have been licensed to another label again. Our album came out last spring but it wasn´t available in any shops. The official release date for the second edition of the album was just a few days ago and now I have seen the album even in one supermarket. A confusing sight! But I don´t know too much about these things sadly as I would like to keep as many strings as possible in my own hands!
How have the reactions been from those who managed to lay their hands on it? I have heard nothing but praise! You must be pleased to have made a strong impression on the unsuspecting masses.
Well as you said, our album has been quite much praised everywhere, which is of course a delightful thing for us, after we have done so much work and fought to get everything as we wanted it to be. As I said, I was personally very disappointed when I heard the album for the first time, but after reading all these reviews and hearing all the comments I have begun to accept this album. It is still our child even when it is a bit retarded. We have had such a good response so far that from now on it really doesn´t matter what will be said in the future about this album. In the end all these words don´t mean a thing, as we know what we tried to do, and we know where we succeeded and where we failed. In the future we will try to do everything a bit better. More than I am glad for our personal success, if we can speak about success with the record sales that we have had, even when we don´t know any numbers, I am glad for the fact that Doom Metal itself is getting more respect nowadays. Our album is just one piece of the tradition. Doom Metal is more important than just one band. We are very conscious of ourselves being a part of something bigger.
For those who have been deprived of this Doom masterpiece please describe it to them in your own words. What need they know about Reverend Bizarre?
It is a record full of music that is heavy and slow and has lyrics that don´t deal with marijuana, hot rods, tits or pussies, but death, horror, loss, judgment and destruction. The atmosphere is that of discipline instead of relaxation. This isn´t any chill out music. If I may say so, and I may, this is a very definitive Doom Metal record. The production is good and the playing is decent, not too good, but good enough. What you should know about us is that we know exactly what we are doing; that we truly cherish the tradition of Saint Vitus and Witchfinder General, that we don´t fool around and that we come from Finland which is the land of silent people hardened by the long and cold winters.
There seems to be an underlying sense of irony in the band name for the sermon of the Reverend Bizarre is essentially subversive. But at the same time it follows the tradition of the forefathers of Doom…Black Sabbath, Saint Vitus, and Count Raven. Any comments?
There is a certain sense of irony for sure, but what pleases me is that you have noticed the similarity to these other classic names, especially Saint Vitus and Count Raven, which like our name refer to some person. If you had been thoughtless you might have added Orange Goblin, Captain Beyond or King Crimson.
How did you come to choose the painting “Witches’ Sabbath” for the cover of your debut album? Do you think it ties in with the music and lyrics?
I had some other ideas first, and even when I had already thought about this painting I feared that it is too obvious: Someone must have used it already and it was just too well known painting. But when the time to decide came, I thought that what the hell, let´s use it! I mean it just felt so perfect, and in my opinion it is a perfect cover for this album! It gives the listener some visual hints about what is to be heard. In some way it is like a gate to our world. The painting has much cruelty in it, babies are in the stakes and so on, but still it has also much beauty. There is lots of beauty in the most terrible thing in life. I mean right now I feel very miserable, but when I think about this situation I begin to see and feel how sacral is this feeling of emptiness inside. Of course this painting doesn´t tie up the lyrical context in any way, as all the lyrics were written before I came up with this cover art, but actually it gives you quite opposite information. Our lyrics in this album are quite Christian in some way, but this painting is almost satanic, and I am talking about satanic art now, not any religion. We have also an excerpt by Anton LaVey in the page three of the booklet. It is very opposite when compared to the lyrics. I like this controversial thing. I like misinformation and confusion. I want to keep my fellow people a bit aware all the time. Everything can happen. You never know if some lunatic comes and cuts your throat open. It is the same with our music and lyrics and artwork. You will never solve our puzzles that we hide everywhere. I don´t want to explain our means too much. It is more fun for the one who buys our album to think for herself or himself.
“You speak with mystic language utterly with no meaning”(taken from “Burn In Hell”). But the word of the Church was not always so transparent especially when it was shrouded in Latin in the Middle Ages. Do you find it at all surprising that the Church attacked movements such as the Lollards who only wanted to be able to read the Bible in their native tongue?
I don´t! I am not too familiar with these Lollards, but in general the Church needed to keep most of the people outside the very meaning of the dogmas and the doctrines, because it made the church more powerful. The whole idea of the Church and the State comes from the possibility of domination of the not so wealthy ones. Especially Christianity is good for this purpose as it teaches you to turn your other cheek and take what is given for you, even when it means you will be destroyed. In this song I take a role of a real Christian who understands what Jesus really meant, not what the Church wants to teach for people. This person feels anger when watching all the preachers trying to manipulate people and have more money and power. This song is done in the same fashion as Trouble did their Christian message songs. It fights for the goodness. Of course this song doesn´t reveal my own thoughts in any way, except that I do hate all these TV preachers and other liars.
With this “mystic language utterly with no meaning” I try to say that this speaker doesn´t even himself or herself know what he/she is speaking, because it is not important. Important is to speak the right words even if they don´t mean a thing. This is how I see our world nowadays. People speak a lot but they say almost nothing. That is why I try to speak as little as possible. It is hard for me as I have some gifts of speaking total nonsense.
I think many people would be able to relate to “The Hour of Death”. Have you lost any friends or family members to the grave? Why do you think that the only certainty in life is the most agonising to come to terms with even for those people who believe in life beyond the grave?
Yes I have… My songs don´t reflect my thoughts or my ideas about life in any straight way, or sometimes at all. I sometimes take roles, like an author of a book does. If I say in a song something, it doesn´t mean I personally think that way too. When it comes to death and life after death, in some way I feel that when I die, something of me remains here, maybe in some electrical form or maybe in the work I have done. Right now I think that death would be a great relief as I am very tired of this life here. Sometimes I pray that I wouldn´t have to wake in the next morning. So I have thought about death quite a lot. In this particular song the idea is that the loss is so enormous that the person who has lost his loved one can´t bear it. He feels that the only solution is to “be in grave with her, slowly transforming back into dirt”. I can´t say that I have a similar feeling, or that I even have had one, but when I sing this song I can feel that loss inside me. This song touches me very deeply. Especially “remembering the days of joy not so long ago…”
There is the end in every life, this is a fact that makes some of us tremble, or feel depressed, but to some of us it gives hope for a better state of existence. Of course I hope that I would meet a few people when I have gone, but I don´t believe that I will. If I could believe, my life would be less depressing. I am interested in the idea of human life with only this one certainty – we all have just this short period of time here, then we must leave everything. Sometimes this idea of leaving gives me strength. Sometimes I would like to cry.
“War is raging somewhere. Every second someone will die” (taken from Doomsower) is difficult to deny. To what extent do you believe that religion has been the cause of war through the ages? Or is it a veil for humanity’s inherent lust for power?
I guess lust for war and domination and conquering is natural for the human race. Of course religion has had an important part in many conflicts, but when you study these conflicts more deeply you can find out, at least in some cases, that the importance of the religion is just cosmetic. There has been some kind of religions as long as there has been need to bury the dead and explain the forces of nature. To cut it short there has been religion from the very beginning of human race. There has been also violence from the very beginning. It is hard to divide these two from each other, and in another view it is hard to combine them. There would be wars without religion also! And there would be religions without wars. War is a natural process in the history of man, in my opinion. I don´t have to like the idea of war by saying this, but I don´t want to act like some cheap modern Jesus and say that I am against war and violence. That would be quite much same like I am against breathing, or natural ways of dying.
“Doomsower” describes the state where you don´t care anymore what will happen. It is like catharsis. Your own problems need so much concentration that you can shut your eyes for the suffering of others. I personally don´t care what is out there… In some way I have died many years ago. Maybe one day I will care again, but right now all is meaningless, but survival. Day after day, week after week.
There have always been wars and people have been dying because of violence. Take it or leave it. Religion has been the tool of power and oppression, but it shouldn´t be forgotten that religion has been the tool of survival too. Because people have believed in something they have had strength to carry on even when everything has been destroyed by war. Cities have been rebuild, badly injured people have kept fighting because they have believe, at least in something! Right now there are people living in warfare. Religion has strong psychological meaning. I don´t have belief, but I am also ruined. Maybe I could feel better if I could believe. Believe in love or whatever. I believe in friendship, but only because I have some very good friends, who will be with me until the day I die. Maybe in the same way God has revealed himself to some of us and that is why they can believe or actually they KNOW!
I haven´t seen God, or felt Him or Her, but if there is God I would curse that God anyway, as my life has been endless suffering in the spiritual level. I can´t worship God that has possibly decided that I will suffer and some other pigs can have a good life.
The lyrical content of “Cirith Ungol” is based on “The Lord Of The Rings”. What would be your favourite passage from this mammoth book? For me it would be the journey through the Mines Of Moria. The language is so dark and foreboding. My heart pounds in my chest as the company plod on and on. Then it rapidly accelerates once the drums begin to roll in the deep…
That is a good scene, but I personally like the house of Tom Bombadil. Not because I worship this semi-hippie character, but because this scene has so great atmosphere of safety and the horrors lurking outside. Bombadil is a strong character and yet he won´t take part in the action. It is interesting. It gives you a good picture of the strength of the Ring. Bombadil knows how strong the Ring is! The House of Tom Bombadil is like the last moment before the horrors begin. I also like the scene where the fellowship meets the Black Riders the first time. And the scene where they meet Aragorn… It is very exciting when you read the book for the first time. I like all the three books, but somehow the first one is my favourite. It brings you to this world first time and builds a base for the whole story.
By the way, for sure the song is based on the book, but when I got idea of doing a song called “Cirith Ungol” it was because I wanted to do a tribute for the band with the same name! I got the song ready and we did the lyrics in one sitting, Peter and me.
How do you think it has translated to film? My main criticism is it is too short. The sense of time is compressed into action only scenes. I guess grim days of nothingness would not make a blockbuster unlike the grim notes your massive monotonous song!!!
Of course it is too short, and I agree with you about the sense of time. In the book you truly feel how slowly the time goes, but in the films everything happens so quickly. These three hours has been the shortest I have ever experienced! Both films could easily be at least four hours. But my friend bought the DVD set of the first film and he told that there are some special scenes, and he also told me there will be lots of added scenes in the second film´s DVD edition. I really liked both of the films. They are very similar to how I figured the whole world and so on. Great acting, marvellous directing and great music. But too short as you said! Maybe they would add our “Cirith Ungol” to the DVD set of the last film. They could edit a music video for it out of the movie!!! Yes. In our song we tried to create this sense of journey and the sense of time! How the days are long and full of misery!One more thing. Before these films I didn´t like Liv Tyler, but now I am almost in love with her!
You mentioned recently coming across the old epic Heavy Metal band Manilla Road thanks to Ari from Minotauri! What is your favourite record from the band? Have you heard the latest output “Spiral Castle”?
Yes, I think it is Ari´s fault that I am nowadays a huge fan of Manilla Road. I may have had the “Crystal Logic” before he brainwashed me, but most definitely I can thank him for pushing me to buy everything I can get!!! Favourite… This is a very hard question, as you know! In some way, I like everything I have heard, but the least I like “Metal” and “Atlantis Rising” but I like them too! Maybe the favourite ones are “Mystification” which is a perfect album, and “Crystal Logic” as it has so great songs and it was my first time, but I like “The Deluge” and “Open the Gates” also VERY much! Great band!!! I haven´t heard neither the “Spiral Castle” nor “Circus Maximus” but for sure I will get them too! And what is this new re-release? ”Mark of the Beast” yes, I have to get it too!
Please share a few words on the “Friends of Hell” Tour with Minotauri and Spiritus Mortis. Do you enjoy playing live? If you could tour with any band past or present who would you ask to join you on the road?
I personally haven´t enjoyed too much playing live, so far, as I am almost neurotic perfectionist. Especially neurotic I am about tuning my bass!!! I don´t like to rehearse for the shows and I am worried about the lyrics. Do I remember them? I guess I would like playing more if I didn´t sing! Other guys like playing I guess. And our last gig was so good that even I enjoyed, and I am quite sure I will enjoy some shows in our Germany/Belgium trip! The audience has a very big role with this thing!
When we had these shows with Minotauri and SM I enjoyed more the backstage activities with the guys, and watching them play! They are great friends and great bands!
I have also some problems with my hearing and because of that playing live and even rehearsing worries me a bit. I damaged my hearing when I was a bit younger. I played in bands that had very high volumes, plus I also played some insane noise music.
The last part of this question is quite easy: Saint Vitus. I get an erection even when thinking about seeing them play live! Well, it will be great to go on the road with Revelation too. They were on tour with Vitus, and now we are on tour with them. After ten years have gone some new band will be touring with us! It is great to tour with Mirror of Deception of course too. But Vitus is the greatest. Trouble would be good too! Vitus, Trouble and Reverend Bizarre on the road and I could die as a happy man! I hope members of these bands are reading this!!!
By the way, I am waiting for a message from Paul Chain where he would say that he wants to have my vocals in the other side of his next album. It would be great to follow in the footsteps of Dorrian and especially Sanctis Ghoram! Paul if you read this, remember me!
Are you looking forward to your first gigs beyond the bounds of Finland? The bill for Doom Shall Rise is an impressive one indeed. I know you are a fan of Oversoul so how do you feel about sharing the stage with Revelation?
For sure, it will be our first time playing abroad and for a REAL Doom audience! Helsinki was a little before-taste but now it is for real!!! I was a fan of REVELATION already when we started back in the mid 90s. “Yet so far…” was one of those few Doom records I had back then! But we never tried to play like them as we wanted to reach even further back to history! As I already told you, playing with Revelation is a dream come true! They influenced me in the beginning and now we will meet them, see them play, have beers with them. Great! Absolutely, I have had some contacts with Dennis and Jim. Dennis seems to like our music.
Will the split 7” with Orodruin (which ultimately became a 12” vinyl) be released in time for this tour? What can you tell us about this new song?
No it won´t be. We will enter the studio 18th April 2003, which is the memorial day of the suffering of Jesus on the Cross!!! This new song, “the Demons Annoying Me” is one of the darkest I have done for Reverend Bizarre. The composition is very traditional in the fashion of Vitus. The lyrics have a very evil atmosphere, and they sound very personal. I won´t tell you how personal they are. Everyone can decide for himself or herself when they hear it! The title has been taken from a painting by James Ensor. This song is one of the latest I have done. I have made only a few songs after this one. You might be interested to hear that all these new songs will be released before our next full-length album. Actually there will be much older songs in our third album.
You have already contributed one song to “At The Mountains Of Madness II”. Please tell me which one it is. What do you think you the other bands and songs on the compilation? Do you think this collective effort is a good means for spreading the name of underground bands?
Yes, we did “Doomsower” just for this compilation in 2000. In the same sessions we did also “Funeral Summer” which was released in Out of Focus compilation (Psychedelic Fanzine). Right now it seems that this “Funeral Summer” will be our track on “Mountains II” too. I don´t know why. Perhaps Rich likes it better. Both of these songs are already pretty old recordings so of course they sound a bit weak, but I guess it will be interesting for people to hear this old recording, whichever one it will be! This early version of “Funeral Summer” is pretty good, and I like “Doomsower” too, even when it is faster than the album version plus my singing isn´t too strict.
I haven´t heard all the other songs yet, but I am sure they will be all great! This compilation is a very important release. I respect Rich Walker very much. He was the first person that gave us a chance to appear on CD. This compilation was supposed to be our first real CD appearance. Well, now we have the album out, but still it is great to be on this compilation. If I had known it takes so long time to have it out, I would have liked to record some new track for it, but still I am happy for this release!
Have you prepared many new songs? How have they developed from those on the album and your demos? Will you be playing them live?
We have all the songs for our second and third album ready. I mean all the music has been written, I still have to do some lyrics. We also have a few songs that will be perfect for some special releases and whole material for a MCD. Most of the songs that will be on our fourth album are also ready.
We have played live so far songs from our first three albums. In our Doom Shall Rise gig, we will play songs from the first and the second album, and same goes with the tour plus we will play some songs that will be released as a MCD someday, hopefully! We have played “Funeral Summer” a few times live, but now it has been dropped from the list. This song will appear on the third album.
Our second album will be bit faster than the first, but the third will be much slower. It seems that the fourth will have a kind of an epic feel to it. But these are only plans of course right at this moment. There will be songs coming from all three of us in the future.
No doubt your demos and rehearsal tapes are long sold out. Might you re-release them in the future? If not are fans welcome to send you a blank cassette for these old cuts? Personally, I would be keen to do so missing out on “Slice Of Doom”.
Well, I have some good news for you and if there are any others who would like to have the songs from the demo. I have already talked with one label about an official CD release of “Slice of Doom” with lots of bonus material including most of the other recordings we have done before the album and one rare rehearsal tape excerpt from around 1995 with the original line-up. So please don´t send us any blank tapes, but wait for this release. It will be a great one. I am personally taking control over the track list, remastering and the booklet. I am happy that these recordings will be available for a wider audience even when they aren´t of course of the same quality as the album material. But they are still essential for the possible fans of our music!
It would come as no surprise to me if you were a record collector. If so please tell me of some of your favourite records. Do you prefer their sound and atmosphere to the CD versions?
I am collecting some records, but I know how bad a collecting habit can get, so maybe I can´t speak about myself as a collector. I don´t have to have the first vinyl editions and such. Witchfinder General is the only band whose vinyl I am hunting! I need “Soviet Invasion” and the original edition of the first single. Most of the doom classics I have on CD. I have almost everything I need. Soon I will get some rare Hellhound gear, promo catalogue and so on. I have all the GOOD Rise Above CDs, all the GOOD Hellhound CDs… I am also trying to find everything from Burzum. I just got “Once Emperor” bootleg. Well, okay, I admit I am a collector. I am collecting also other music than Metal. I like these march bands like Blood Axis and Der Blutharsch. I just ordered a pile of rare compilations including BA songs. I sent money all over the world and I got everything I needed! I have all the missing Der Blutharsch CDs waiting for me in one place. I am still waiting for one rare split w/ Blood Axis and Allerseelen.
I found the original CD version of “Ancient Dreams” some time ago, and “Heavier Than Thou” from a local store, can you imagine? I like vinyl but I like CDs too. I think the Hellhound CDs for example are rare enough FOR ME so to speak. They haven´t been too widely available here in Finland. I am not going to hunt down the vinyl. It would make me mad. Of course I will buy them if I find them by accident!
But I have some rare vinyl such as Witchfinder General, Candlemass, Cathedral and Sister of Mercy (I am not joking). I even have some rare cassettes!!! More than a record collector I am a book collector. I collect occult literature, especially Crowley and such, but also Finnish translations of Lovecraft, Ken Parker books… Ha! Ha!
As I said I almost have all the CDs I need. BUT if some of the readers would like to get rid of the first Iron Man CD and the first Saint Vitus on CD I would be very interested!!! I have them on CD-R and cassette, but still.
One of my favourite records is the re-release of the first Witchfinder General single, as I bought it from one of my heroes, Angelo/Cold Mourning. Along with it, I also boughT the Cold Mourning splits!!! Of course I like my “Death Penalty” on black vinyl and my “Friends of Hell” picture disc, and my “Filosofem” (book version) and many others!!! “Blessed by Sabbath” original demo cassette by Warning… One think that I would like to have is the Burzum demo cassette. I have held it in my hand and I have it on CD-R, but I would pay a great sum of money for that. The copy I saw even had a short message from Varg himself! Written with a pen. Void has the first Paul Chain album in CD format, with slipcase, so I perhaps have to kill him one day. That is the only solution.
If you could only take three albums to your deathbed that you would listen to for eternity what would they be?
Only three! This is difficult. I apologise all the Doom and Heavy Metal fans when I am not choosing only metal, but I hope you understand. Iron Maiden “Piece of Mind” vinyl because it is SO important album for me, and brings me warm memories. I got it after I had been in the hospital when I was about nine years old! Musta Paraati “Peilitalossa” CD, because this album has so deep meanings inside it, and great songs. Finnish Gothic Rock/Futurist classic. The CD has lots of bonus material. Burzum “Filosofem” because Burzum is one of the best bands and because this album has both main elements of Burzum ambient and that other element… Ha! Ha! So it will be essential listening.
I didn´t choose any Doom or March (like Der Blutharsch) as I guess I won´t need it in my days of dying. Hey! If I would be wise I would have said I want to have these following albums, because it would mean that I have had the chance to do them before my dying. Right now I am not so sure if they will ever be recorded: Herven Agal “Cursed are the Weak” and “All Hail Father Winter” and the Reverend Bizarre songs from the “Funereal World” although I would choose the first list, plus I would listen to “Musiikkiluokka” by Leevi and the Leavings as much as I could before my deathbed times!
Albert, I thank you for your insights and more importantly for one of the greatest albums I have heard. May many more follow! The last words are yours…
Thank you for your very interesting questions and all the kind words! Keep up the good work. I hope we will stay in contact and you keep checking out our coming releases! Cheers!