Fire ep (pan.o.ra.ma journal) The enigmatic shape of ALCHEMIST emerge from a dismal paradise to mutate into a sole form,and this alchemic process was veiled under "Fire" the first release of this project which offer us 5 pieces of pure spectral ambient soundscapes moving into surreal scenarios and entering you to vast regions of darkness in which resides the inner fire,ready to be trasmuted. "Loka Vuotaa Verta" is the first experience hee,full of repetitive drone elements dressed with sutile spaces complementing perfectly each other to handle a perfect balance from start to finish. "Tumma Alkemisti" is the second spectrum,this time more dense and vaporous than the first one,and keeping its strong presence and mutational nature within the pass of minutes. Next comes a version of Loka Vuotaa Verta" in two versions the first one is a remix,in which the music sounds more in deep than first one,but still keeping its own characteristic structure.The other one a demo verion.The album close with "Tumma Alkemist" a demo track too,with lower sound but with such enigmatic passages which surrounds the whole picture of the track. While ALCHEMIST sails into a sea of mysterious enigmatic shape,we must let you know that this solo project endeavors to search the dark side of thought and sound. Webpage for pan.o.ra.ma journal + Fire & Water ep's (Blood1000) Alchemist has released two EPs via Sombre Soniks, a label which promotes ritual dark ambient music and ‘Muziks for thee darker side of life’. The EP’s each comprise just a couple of tracks with alternate mixes/demos. But, these tracks are amazing. The EPs released so far, named Fire and Water, are part of four from this artist whose home is in Helsinki, Finland.
Joka Vuotaa Verta introduces Fire. It also appeared on Explorers Of The Darkest Depths Vol. 1 http://eotdd.blogspot.com/2011/06/blog-post.html and is a great composition that merges a classic dark ambient rumbling background with a light but edgy repeating synth with a distinctly ominous air. Translated as ‘that which is leaking blood’ you can imagine the life-force of some esoteric creature slowly ebbing away. Tumma Alkemisti, or ‘dark alchemist’ is more ‘organic’, and very atmospheric. The imagination conjours a subterranean environment housing the work place of this mysterious entity, whose experiments are scattered around, created, alive and unable to escape from this forbidding place.
Two other versions of Joka Vuotaa Verta are included – a demo and a remix by P23, and a demo version of Tumma Alkemisti closes Fire. My favourite of the two EP’s is Water. Essence kaiken elämän (Essence of All Life) is an 8 minute piece that is much lighter than the two tracks found on Fire, but which still retains an element of mystery. The track is more of a journey as opposed to the feeling of a single environment that I got with Fire. My favourite of all the tracks, though, is Kallioilta merinäköala (From the Cliffs Overlooking the Sea). This is more of a classic dark ambient composition, but what really stands out is that is has a retro sound that would not be amiss in a 70′s horror flick. The difference, though, is that this is a very professional track. It has an amazing cinematic feeling. The retro organ sound really gets the imagination going. I can’t really describe it adequately. It is dramatic without being loud or in your face. As with Fire, Water includes a P23 remix and a demo of the introductory track and a demo of Kallioilta merinäköala.
Overall, the EP’s certainly compliment each other. Fire is 23 minutes and Water is 43 giving an hour of dark ambient sounds which are guaranteed to stimulate the senses. Cinematic, dramatic and evocative, the listener is taken on a journey through aspects of both elements. I’m definitely looking forward to the rest of the series. Webpage for Blood1000
Air ep (Damned by Light) Air is this one man act's third release from the set of four EPs, each dedicated to one of the four elements of nature. As Fire- and Water-EPs have already been released and Earth is soon to follow, I can only guess what the project will explore in the future. The EPs are currently available only as downloads for the price of £2,50. Same as the two previous EPs, "Air" is composed of two song mixed and mastered by Sombre Soniks Studios, one track remixed by the label-head, and the two main tunes' early and unprocessed versions. The track titles are in faulty Finnish with proper English translations accompanying them, which, again, applies to Alchemist's earlier releases as well.
The opening six-minuter "Pillars of Sky" delivers calm and soothing ambient. The minimalistic scene is built from higher digital synth-notes creating an airy serenity, whereas some deep and vast low frequencies create the calm and neutral movement that simulate a feeling of vastness. All the fluctuation and movement during the song is subtle and hard to grasp, and I mean this in a good way; this is the way to portray air in an aural form. The following seven-minute piece "Child of Ruin and the Ageless King" brings on a stronger soundscape with more of a structure; the basses fluctuate with more power, and the higher notes are presented as a calm and slowly evolving rhythm. Everything is still, and if the soundscape wouldn't be so minimalistic, light and airy, one could definitely throw the word "epic" in there. After the neat and theme-strict main songs, it's time for the remix by P23. His version of the song is foggier and all the sounds carry more rugged edges. To get all poetic, it's more like a blurry and dreamy vision of the opening track, with everything resonating on a faster rate. It's a hint gloomier as well, but still suits the theme. It's just a different aspect on Alchemist's vision on air. As for the demo-versions of the songs, they present the tracks' structures and components in a clearer, sturdier and slightly harsher form, but don't carry the same amount of calm, serene and airy atmosphere. If you prefer to hear the instrumentation or are just curious what lies behind the songs' surface, you're glad these are included.
The cover image and the colourscape pleases my eye and suits the EP's theme and sound perfectly - and even manage to do so without giving the listener too concrete or dominating visions of what they're meant to be hearing. The Ouroboros-drawing seems oddly rugged, though. It's nice to see that even though this is a download-release, "Air" comes accompanied with the basic infos and both the back- and front covers. I was going to complain about the EP's length, which indeed is an issue since the two main tracks don't last for longer than a bit over 13 minutes, but the record needs to be put to context to see the whole image. "Air" is one piece in a set of four, and if it were longer, it would become too dominant and the quartet would be too massive. That being said, I still would've gladly enjoyed a longer piece of sky-view serenity. "Air" does justice to its theme and left me hungry for more, but, perhaps because of the strict theme and its minimalistic approach, it didn't deliver the final wow-factor that would've enslaved me. Maybe I should return to this EP after I've gotten acquainted with the remaining three pieces of the set. I'll be waiting to hear "Earth" in the near future. 7.5/10 Webpage for Damned By Light + Air ep (pan.o.ra.ma journal) With this new Ep,ALCHEMIST give birth to his most hidden mysteries and desolated visions ,reflected in each one of the 5 compositions released here. "Pilarit Taivas (pillar Of Sky)" offer us an exquisite cosmic voyage,so calm...so dark...so meditative...A piece with interesting moments due sensations you got when hearing carefully. "Lapsi Tuhon La Ikuinen Kuningas(Child Of Ruin And The Ageless King)",is a self proceative transformation based of meditative tunes,and in deep atmospheres ofering you interesting elments from start to finish. next comes "Pilarit Taivas" a impresive mix by Priapus 23,still with such dense calm atmospheres but with the magickal touch Priapus 23 gives to its own music! next comes "Pilarit Taivas" Demo version and "Lapsi Tuhon La Ikuinen Kuningas(Child Of Ruin And The Ageless King)"demo version. some tracks were remixed and reamstered at Sombre Soniks Studios. and art visuals by Marc Azrael Hoyland! Again the mysterious shape of Alchemist offer us an interesting release.So we must wait the 4th final part of this series of releases. Webpage for pan.o.ra.ma. journal
Butterflies Are Witches (Radio Black Forest)
Leicester’s Colossloth makes a return with his follow up to 2010's 'Antipathy in nature’ LP which was released on cult label Doom Mantra .Known for his dense excursions into the fringes of consciousness with his brand of twisted dark pagan electroacoustics, this time sees him release on esoteric based web label sombre soniks. Filled with Cryptic allusions to wicca and arcane gnosis, the 5 tracks here would suggest they had been culled from personal experience of such things rather than a keen interest. Here we are thrown into forays into the magickal unconscious via sublime robotic voices and strings, conjuring up an image very much like a junkyard strewn with possessed animated matter trying to make sense of itself and order itself into some semblance of form. Indeed the ghostly textures would not be out of place in some warped kids TV programme or the baroque world of Czech filmmaker Jan Svankmajer. Drones and the kind of sonic maladies we know him for are present, but more restrained and at times, and dare I say, melodic, albeit still full of unease. Indeed, you could say all the tracks here seem bathed in some kind of preternatural anticipation and uncertainty.
Whilst wicca’s musical companion to some degree for some of us might makes us think of folk (the most significant and celebrated release in that genre perhaps being Seldiy barns and Nigel Bourne’s Pagan Easter: Ritual Music For The Spring Equinox on Psychic TV’s Temple Records imprint back in 1988), the emergent UK drone/dark ambient scene of recent years though is perhaps becoming the new folk soundtrack to Albion. If this is so, then it makes this release definitely the perfect thing to draw down the burgeoning post-modern moon with.
Ending with the tempestuous disquiet of ‘Bones Beneath the Balefire’, (for me the EP’s standout track) All Butterflies are Witches ends in a crescendo leaving us enthralled and anxious to hear the next release by Colossloth.
All in all it’s more of a ritual soundtrack and less visceral than the previous Colossloth releases, making it perfect for a quiet nights eerie contemplation. Webpage for Radio Black Forest
Recurrence ep (pan.o.ra.ma journal) The Debut Release of this amazing Project from Jindrich Spilka,and "Recurrence" fill my expectatives. I have been waiting the release,and let me tell you ,the ambum is great. This one include 4 compositions floating into obscure and cryptic ritual ambient. With intense moments due eerie atmospheres and convergences created here. "Becoming" opens the release,with such dense soundscapes filled with sinister elements and subliminal voices which enrich so much the whole composition. "Something Strange" is the second one,and the endless suggestive voyage,continues...This time DRUHA SMRT,submerged you in dismal atmospheres,with amazing synth passages and strong wishpering voices. sudenly the percussive sounds entering like a vast march to chthonic realms. The thir one is "Via Eschaton",so intense, obscure and strong in its own nature. It looks like a shamanic trip,due how each minute the music transform itself,layer to layer creating a paralell universe,into such mysterious ritualistic sounds.The release ends with "Recurrence",complementing perfectly,in a neverending cycle,a magickal vision where recurrence is the point of equlibrion and self evolutive process. The voices of Lucie Spilková,gives an interesting touch to the whole track too. Without a doubt "Recurrence" is one of such releases worth to explore due the dynamism and ritualistic patterns developed here.
World Funeral Requiem (Damned By Light) This download-EP is the debut of Plaguewielder, a project from the same artist whose work I've previously heard through the album "Dance of the Twilight Stars," released under the name Hoyland.
Ambient is still the name of the game, but the emphases and atmospheres are very different from the artist's works as Hoyland. The music of Plaguewielder is strongly dark and gloomy ambient with something I perceive to be a medieval undertone - a constant presence of rotting death.
The songs are built in a slow-paced and minimalistic fashion where each note counts. Luckily the artist handles his craft and, despite the minimalism occasionally ranging to almost silent moments, the atmospheres don't start to sound dull, too thin or repetitive at any point. The synths are employed as a versatile mixture of different kinds of ominous tones; from harsh low-pitches to darkly ethereal and gloomy higher notes playing in the distance, the soundscape is versatile but still unified. The strong drum-sounds serve as a great dramatic add with their powerful rhythms, and at times they deliver an "explosion" to shake up the soundscape and make sure the listener stays awake, so to say.
The vocals are one of the key things that bring this EP a lot of personality and depth. Amidst the layers of nicely vast and pleasingly professional-sounding (but certainly not too polished! the layers are vivid, but carry the smell of rotting human flesh) ambient-keys there lies gurgles, snarls and other effect-like vocal sounds. They are heavily processed and fittingly inhumane to suit the EP's theme, and their distorted sound also helps them to better fit amidst the synth-notes. I think that the EP would sound way less effective and appealing without them, as in a way, they summarize the thematic points of death into an undead and inhuman sound travelling among the atmospheric synth-sounds.
As far as ambient-EPs go, this one's a really strong one - and especially so for a debut release. Now that Plaguewielder have built a strong musical and thematical foundation for their works, it's time to take things further; to search for more original and affective synth-sounds, maybe even samples, and to generally bring something bolder and more listener-intrusive to the setting. There are a multitude of ways to enhance the grim and death-smelling moods and atmospheres; now Plaguewielder needs to find the ones that are the most suitable, fresh and powerful to further develop their expression. I'm already curious for the project's future output. 8-/10
Winter Dead World (Dominion Magazine) The Grave Dominion is a transatlantic collaboration between musicians Joseph Edward Karstens (Backyard Ghost) in America & Ninah Drone Queen (The Spirit Dies) in Ireland. Four years and three albums into their collaboration the duo have finely honed an enviable cinematic sound. Where a lot experimental, dark ambient and classical orientated bands tend to suffer musically from technological and or budgetary limits that hamper their ambitions. Instead The Grave Dominion work in harmony with their independent status and geographical positioning taking time and care to create, which is immediately evident upon listening. Building around cores of swirling drones, each song effortlessly weaves an independent, evocative atmosphere; whether it is the isolation of 'Pariah', the contentment of 'Like Rain' or the Serenity of 'Skyfall'. The emphasis on hanging chords, drones and simple melody creates a seamless movement between each piece that, as a result, gives the sense of an implied narrative. And it is this sense of narrative that is central to that truly cinematic feel that bands such as this all aim to achieve. There are some wonderfully experimental moments on this album that could have just been played out and built upon more to really push at the boundaries of the bands sound. But for fans of ambient and cinematic music this is still a very rewarding listen. 4/5
Live Improv 01 (Heathen Harvest) If you don’t know where Ulug-Khem have got their name from, you’re not alone. I spent a fair few minutes trying to discover the etymology of this project’s namesake before deducing that the Ulug-Khem is a local name for the Yentsi River, the largest river that flows into the Arctic from Russia. Not only is the Ulug-Khem a tributary though, but another part of the Tuva province, just one of the many desolate and bleak areas of Russia a few hundred miles down South. In fact, this area is so barren that Google haven’t even sent their streetview car there. That’s the level of remoteness we’re talking about, a place which the beaten track intentionally steers away from. Whether the musical project Ulug-Khem decided to name themselves after a Russian shanty town comprising of wooden housing, dust roads and large earthen mounds or a Northern river rich with coal deposits, one thing’s for certain: the geography of the music is far easier to map out.
Ulug-Khem is a live improvisational project between Akoustic Timbre Frequency and Tamerlan, the latter taking care of classical guitar duties and the former looking after the wind instruments. The first thing of note here is the inclusion of the classical guitars, an element which is highly unusual in a ritual ambient album, and you’d be forgiven for entertaining skepticism as to their effectiveness. Tamerlan uses the guitar mostly in a strumming pattern, which provides a basic rhythm for each song and gives each number a certain percussiveness. The style, ebb and tempo of the guitar is very free, not conforming to any strict time or speed, regularly speeding up and down, always giving an appropriate pace and flavour to the ambience, as well as an exotic warmth to an otherwise normally cold and dark area of the music world.
ATF follows the mood set by the classical guitar, ushering in sighs, bell chimes and the soft howls of wind instruments which are subtly done, and spaced few and far between. Indeed, though it seems that Tamerlan may be leading the way though the improvisation, the reverse could indeed be the case at times as well. The fusion between the two gives off a sufficiently satisfying dark ambience, but one which is sprinkled with the glow and fluidity of nylon strings, the combination made all the more natural given the improvisational setting. Indeed, if this were an EP of pre-cognised, structured songs that had to be adhered to and mapped out, the delivery just wouldn’t work so well, it would feel forced and overhammed, but here it appears far more fluid and sentient.
Ulug-Khem’s improvisation doesn’t work on paper, but it does in sound. I was sceptical of this idea, especially given my curmudgeonly stoicism regarding ritual ambient, but this is a project that just works. I’ve come back to this time and time again, and each time it’s been a good experience and each time it’s been over too soon. A full album of this material may be a little too much to stomach, but an EP is a perfect length, and 20 minutes of rich, warm acoustic delivery moved and influenced by the cold essence of ritual ambience is an enticing match, especially for a genre with not much variety. It’s like the combination of cheese with tuna – it shouldn’t work together – but it does. And you have to try it for yourself to concur. 4/5
Webpage for Heathen Harvest + Live Improv 01 ((pan.o.ra.ma journal) Is a pleasure to be enchanted by the mutative and sensitive musickal exploration of both artists,this time emerging with a very intense piece,due the nature of how each one of three compositions were created and the final result.AKOUSTIK TIMBRE FREKUENCY in the mind of Priapus 23,always mutating into suggestive,subliminal explorative tunnels,with high exposition in ritual musik,this time has created a perfect work in percussive elements and winds instruments for this release.In the other hand we have TAMERLAN,and its always eclectic classical guitars,adapting beautiful harmonies and sutile melodies.The album is built into 3 magickal shamanic compositions to awake in deep levels of subconscious,due how each one of the tracks have been created here.The way as the guitar elements emerges from a nostalgic paradigms and covered by in deep atmospheres asnd sombre passages.The music is penetrating and well performed ,giving us an idea of how creative are both of them.The Secondo ne contains more in deep passages but still covered by such enigmatic acoustic guitar parts from start to finish.The way as Priapus 23,explore the diverse atmospheres,with such suggestive percussive elements gives to the track a very penetrating and mysterious feeling from start to finish.The third compositions has suh incredible exposition of sounds which characterized the whole album.This cooperation album,is one of such pieces which you shall never forget due how each one of such shamanic evocative elements are created here,mysterious,ritualistic piece with interesting moments from start to finish! so form ore info just go directly to sombre soniks in order to explore this album and some more such as ALCHEMIST,MELANKOLIA...and more!!! Webpage for pan.o.ra.ma. journal
Interview with Damned By Light 20/05/2012 First off, could you sum up to our readers what Sombre Soniks & Sombre Soniks Studios are about? P23 > Hello there... Firstly, Sombre Soniks Studios was started to provide a mixing & mastering service for artists, specialising in thee darker forms of Muziks, which of kourse spans anything from Dark & Ritual Ambient to some sub-genres of Metal to some forms of Dance and Hip Hop. Sombre Soniks was then set up after this as both a platform to showkase thee artists that I am working with and my services as offered by SSS... From this it has now expanded to inlklude thee free kompilation releases that I have been organising and also other works from artists that I feel have a genuine, strong Ritual or Ethnomusikologikal atmosphere and/or way of approaching their sounds.
Are you the sole person working behind the two entities? P23 > There is a Network of allies that help with thee releases and promotion, etc inlkuding thee Dutch visual artist Fabian van der Meer, who has provided some excellent promotional short films for thee kompilations, thee Danish artist Madguten and his excellent mirrored processing of some of his paintings to kreate thee 23 ‘info kards’ for each of thee Dark Ambient kompilations and Marc Hoyland who has been helping with thee kreation of thee promotional flyers and artwork for Alchemist and Plaguewielder). I also rely partly on thee artist themselves to help with thee promotion, etc as part of thee ‘kollaborative’ ethos that I try to follow with thee label...
Dark Ambient is rarely the first musical thing a person gets involved with, be it either as something to listen or something to create. How did you originally drift into the fields of dark ambient, and more specifically into ritual music? P23 > I have always been drawn to ‘darker’ and more ‘extreme’ Muziks and, through this, I diskovered thee works of Throbbing Gristle, Coil, Virgin Prunes, Psychick TV, etc... A few years after this I was introduced to thee early Muziks of Hybryds, Sigillum S and Zero Kama when a new aquaintence likened my own Muziks to some of their releases. This was a perfekt blend for me of thee soundskapes that I had grown so fond of, plus a strong Tibetan/Eastern feel, which was another interest of mine. I have always had a strong interest in thee traditional Ritual Muziks of various kultures and this study led to my Final Major Projekt whilst studying a Music Production kourse entitled ‘'Thee Ritual Muziks of Non-Western Civilisations'. Through this I was able to explore thee tonal qualities, instrumentation, alternative muzikal skales, overtone theories and thee psykoakoustiks of a variety of kultures inkluding Tibetan, Indonesian, Tuvan and Mongolian as applied to their religious rituals.
I know you have a long history working with your ritual/ambient-act Akoustik Timbre Frekuency, but what other working experience, studies or training have you had? P23 > I have personally been working with both thee kreative and teknikal aspekts of sound for 22 years, exploring and developing my knowledge and skills. I have a 'Ritual Ambient' projekt, 'Akoustik Timbre Frekuency', for which I have had 17 releases and 5 re-releases over thee last 10 years. I have also kreated exklusive kompositions for over 30 kompilation albums. I have gained experience in mixing and mastering various Projekts over thee years including work for Vuz Rekords (Germany), Quartier23 (Germany), Le Crépuscule du Soir (France), Zos Kia Sounds Recordings, Naturmacht (Germany), Hoyland (Norway), Melankolia (USA), Druhá Smrt (Czech Republic), Spagirus (Amerika), Sound Skrapes (Amerika), Ouroboros (Italy), Snowfade (Italy), Black Sun Temple (Holland) and Tamerlan (Serbia). I gained some experience in beta-testing new audio software over thee years, utilising my expertise with komputer Muziks software. At thee end of 2003, I was part of thee beta-testing team working for the Sonic Charge software team for thee new MikroTone drum makhine program. I also helped to beta-test thee Propellerheads Rekord software. I also got thee opportunity to help konstrukt and work for 7 years as a studio engineer for both an analogue rekording studio and digital produktion suite. I took part in thee design and build of thee analogue and digital studios and dealt with thee general maintenance of these. I also supported and supervised thee rekording, mixing and mastering processes as well as setting up and maintaining Mac Pros, iMacs and Mac Book Pros (running Reason 3.5, Logic Studio 9 and Final Cut Pro) and PCs (running Premiere Pro, After Effekts and Audition). I have studied a formal two year ‘Music Production’ kourse in thee past which kovered many subjekts inkluding Computer Music Production, Sound Creation & Manipulation, Modern Composition, Studio Production, Audio Recording, etc. I am presently kontinuing my studies with a BA degree in Creative Music Production.
How do you find and choose the bands which you'll give a release on your label? What is it that a band must possess to be a part of your roster, and are there some certain no-factors you won't allow? There's a huge mass of dark ambient-groups, both good and bad, so I would assume it takes a lot of effort to pick up the best ones from the mass. P23 > I just know... I feel it, straight away... If I get that feeling... Then I take note and see if they would be interested in kollaborating with thee label... That simple really... I have had thee same feeling thee first time I heard Alchemist, Druhá Smrt, Plaguewielder... It needs to bring something extra to thee usual sounds and themes associated with thee genres they work within, whether it be thee quality of thee produktion, thee Muziks themselves or even thee methodology behind their kreative processes. In this respekt, I must give special mention to Druhá Smrt , who I have had thee privilege of following through their next release with Sombre Soniks, scheduled for November. Thee Process involved is something to be respekted for its genuine approach to thee ‘Ritual’ side of Muziks. Thee recent release by The Grave Dominion is another good example as this kombines an expert ability to transition between genres effortlessly with a minute attention to detail when it komes to thee produktion side of their material.
Does Sombre Soniks perhaps have an ideological basis? I've come to understand that you're a practitioner of occult yourself, correct? P23 > Thee main ethos is purely to Ritual workings and Ethnik Muziks that I feel deserve more attention. Thee label itself has no specifik ‘okkult fokus’, it is left open for thee Artists to express themselves within thee ‘belief-system’ they see fit. I am indeed also very interested shamanik/okkult working personally and have been experimenting with various systems for over 20 years now kulminating in thee synthesis of my own personal way of working, but I try not to let this kolour thee ethos or feel of thee label. I strongly feel it is up to thee individual to diskover their own path and not to blindly follow thee ramblings of another... Another ideal that seems to be held in high regard by thee more Ritual-based Projekts I have been working with under thee Sombre Soniks banner.
Generally, do you contact the bands, or do they contact you? If someone reading this interview is interested to get his/her material released on your label, what should they do for it to happen? P23 > I have kontakted all of thee artists that have been released on thee label so far... As I said, I am always listening to others work and will usually kontakt thee artist if I like what I hear to either kollaborate on a release through thee label or participate on one of thee kompilations that thee label also releases.
When you were founding the label, was it obvious from the start that it'll be a digital label, or how did you make the choice? Will the future releases all be digital, or do you have some physical releases being planned? P23 > Finances and konvenience have been thee deciding faktors so far for thee label... I feel bandcamp is a great tool for online distribution and more tools are being developed all thee time – so why not take advantage of these? Having said this, I am planning to start to work on some physikal digipak releases in thee future, starting with full album releases from Plaguewielder, Alchemist and Ulug-Khem using thee CD manufakturing service offered by AngenturThiel, a kompany I am working klosely with as an audio engineer, giving thee option to mix, master and manufakture your finished release for your projekt. Thee Temple Ov Azathoth sister label will also be releasing a series of Lovecraft based CDs in kollaboration with Will Connor (Seesar/Vultures Quartet) & Simon Marshall Jones (Spectral Press).
Further, will your label focus solely on music, or do you have any intentions on releasing written or visual art, videos for example? Something closer to concept art, so to say. P23 > I am open to these ideas but, for thee moment, I have been koncentrating on thee Muzikal aspekt. Although, of kourse, there is also thee visual work from thee residents artists for thee promo films, flyers and release artwork. I like to think this offers as much of a promotional platform to these artists as thee Muzikians...
Do you help the bands in providing the artwork, and are you perhaps a visual artist yourself? Have you turned down any cover artworks, or do the bands have complete freedom in choosing them? P23 > Thee Projekts have komplete freedom over thee artistik output of their releases and so are welkome to submit their own material for this. As mentioned before, there is also a network of visual artists working with Sombre Soniks that kan provide help if needed. Granted there would be some koncepts or images that I would rejekt, but I think that this will not be an issue with thee choices I have made so far for thee label. I personally think there is a place for pushing thee boundaries of what kan be done regarding this, but that is not one of thee aims of Sombre Soniks itself and, in fakt, I kould see it distrakting from other aspekts of thee label, artists and works themselves.
One of the main things (in my opinion) you've done with Sombre Soniks is the series of Dark Ambient-compilations, which recently had its third part published. Each of the lengthy compilations has 23 tracks by differents artists and groups. You've mentioned that you started the series in order to promote otherwise unnoticed ambient-acts. This of course leads to the question of how have the compilations been received? P23 > I have been extremely happy with thee great reception Sombre Soniks has had from both fans and artists alike, as well as some really good support from thee media via press and radio.I must thank yourselves, Aural Apocalypse, The Chestnut Tree, Xiled Radio and pan.o.ra.ma journal for their kontinued help with promotion, etc. I also have to mention thee Abismo Humano network in Portugal, who have recently offered to promote thee future releases from the label through their radio show, ‘Human Abyss’ and thee ‘Abismo Humano’& ‘Heaven Is Not Too Far’ zines .
Does it bother you that the bigger names might take attention away from the all-unknown acts on the compilations - or is their function moreso to bring more attention to the compilations' existence? P23 > Yes, I like to have a mixture of new and established akts for this reason. If I send out a promo pak for any of these kompilations I feel it kan work both ways really – thee newer artists benefit from some exposure they may not have experienced, but also some of thee bigger, older akts kan attrakt a new listening audience that maybe had not grown up knowing of them.
One of your releases is called "Do What Thou Will," which features 34 groups remixing and otherwise editing a song by your own brain-child Akoustik Timbre Frekuency. It's easy to think that this release would be one of the highlights for your label, maybe even your musical career. How did the release come to be, and, of course, were you satisfied with the results? P23 > Thank you for your kind words. I must whole-heartedly agree with you, DWTW was an amazing projekt and, I feel, highly underrated haha... It started with the idea to send out a gift of a raw, purely akoustik rekording to some friends and it wasn’t long before I was approached with thee idea of various artists sampling and utilising thee material... From this I decided it would be a great opportunity to kollaborate with some of my favourite artists and friends and asked people to kreate something with thee piece... When asked what they kould do with thee akoustik session, I found myself repeating ‘Do What Thou Will’ over and over and, from this, thee title was kreated...
Other than that, what've been your highlight moments with Sombre Soniks? P23 > Everything so far really... It has been a great challenge and also given me thee opportunity to work klosely with some extremely talented artists.
Do you have other theme-compilations coming up or being planned, akin to the mentioned "DWTW"-release? P23 > I am in thee very early planning stages for another Ritual kompilation release along thee same lines as this, but that is all thee info I kan give at this time... It is okkult afterall... ;)
Can you yet reveal any releases you have coming up on the label? I'm particularly interested in the next Alchemist-EP. P23 > Lots of artists lined up for thee koming months, inkluding thee highly anticipated Alchemist ‘Earth’ ep to komplete thee ‘Elemental’ series of works for thee label. In thee koming months I will also be releasing material by Colossloth, Pauahtun, Grey Light Shade, Babalith as well as a series of Vulture’s releases based around their kollaborations with various traditional instrumentalists from around thee world.
You've mentioned founding a sub-label "Temple Ov Azathoth," which would be focused on works focused on or influenced by H. P. Lovecraft's works and the Cthulhu mythos in general. What is the label's current situation, and what do you have planned for its future? P23 > This is an extremely exciting Projekt, that will konsist of a series of ten releases featuring readings of short stories, from both Lovecraft and more kontemporary prose, with akkompanying bakground atmospheres kreated by a range of artists. Thee first in thee series will be kreated by my own projekt, Akoustik Timbre Frekuency, and Will Connor of Vultures Quartet with thee talented aktor Jake Harders providing his excellent vokal skills for thee readings. Thee literary side of this Projekt will be in thee very kapable hands of Simon Marshall-Jones, from Spectral Press, and thee release itself will konsist of a CD, with both instrumental and narrated versions of thee kompositions, plus a small booklet with all of thee relevant writings inkluded. We are in thee process of rekording thee first release at thee moment, with thee sekond already in thee planning stages!
To me, it's clear you have quite a lot of experience from the field you're now working in. What was it that originally gave you the idea that you should start offering mixing & mastering services on a professional level? P23 > I decided it was time to try to leave thee studio work and koncentrate on working with Projekts that I kan identify with and relate to and, through this, offer a service that is komplimentary to some of thee more obskure genres & sub-genres involved within thee ‘dark music scene’. It also offers me an interesting and challenging experience rather than thee usual ‘make it loud’ produktion that is prevalent within some of thee more mainstream genres.
You've mainly done mixing & mastering work to groups playing dark ambient and ritual music. Is this a matter of your personal preference, or perhaps a result of old acquaintances and thus the mere beginning stage of your work? In other words, do you see yourself doing studio-work for groups playing other types of music (metal, punk, whatever) if you're contacted by a such group? Noting the name "Sombre Soniks," though, I would assume your aim is to work with darker music. P23 > I would have to say it is partly through aquaintance, partly through wanting to offer a specialist service for this side of things as I mentioned before. I am open to other forms of Muziks though, of kourse, and have experience working with everything from Metal to Hip Hop to Pop to Dance through my years working in rekording and produktion studios.
How does it feel to be responsible for the end result of some artist's work and vision? Do you ever get nervous or scared when working on someone else's album? I could ask the same about the remixes you've done for some artists, such as the ones you've done for Alchemist's EPs. P23 > It is thee best and worst experience haha. Happy to give my best, but always thinking there must be that something extra I kan do haha... I always want to do my best for thee artist, whether it be for a release on thee label or thee produktion work for release elsewhere. I really enjoy working on these releases, like thee Alchemist ep’s for example, and losing myself kompletely within thee sounds. I like to try to augment what is already there within thee works and so try to ‘live’ thee releases for thee period I am doing this.
Regarding the above, what kind of discussions do you have with your "employers" when you're working on their material; what kind of methods do you use to understand what the artist's going for? How is the overall process; do you send files forth and back throughout the mixing, or how do you go about it? P23 > There is usually a lot of diskussion between myself and thee Projekts involved to make sure I am fully aware of what is expekted from thee work that I do and what ‘sound’ they are trying to achieve. I will also send several versions of thee finished master so that thee kustomer will have a choice of masters, each with a slightly different emphasis on thee sounds and instrumentation within their kompositions.
Have you done any additional instrumentation for the albums you've worked on? You have a long history of working with various acoustic instruments, so I wouldn't be too amazed if some would've asked for your contribution. P23 > I was invited to kreate thee vokals for thee new Plaguewielder ep, which was a lot of fun, and will be working klosely with them on this in thee future. I also form half of thee ‘Ulug-Khem’ projekt, with Timur from Tamerlan, utilising a variety of my akoustik intruments to provide thee bakground atmospheriks for his wonderful guitar pieces.
I asked the same regarding your label; what does a band need to do to get you to mix/master their works? P23 > They simply have to kontakt me via thee main website, email or my Facebook page. From there we kan sort out thee details and start to determine what is expekted from thee service, etc...
Whose material are you currently working on with SSS? P23 > Recently I have kompleted thee mastering work for thee debut ep by Druhá Smrt, released on thee Sombre Soniks label. I have also had thee pleasure of mixing and mastering thee latest Melankolia release, ‘III’, to be released on Quartier23 in June and have been booked to work on thee next Tamerlan full release for thee same label. I have been taken on as an in-house post produktion engineer for thee European sektion of thee Zos Kia Sounds Records label and, for my first assignment, I am in thee process of mastering thee next Vulture’s Quartet release for a vinyl release later this year. Also, I work with thee AgenturThiel kompany in Germany as an audio engineer for their CD manufakturing service, specialising in small runs of digipak format releases.
If you have something to add, advertise or what-not, do it. This paragraph is for whatever you want to say?. P23 > Firstly, I’d like to thank all of thee Projekts that have taken part and helped support Sombre Soniks so far, both through thee kompilations and main releases with thee label, and look forward to working with them all much more in thee future. There are already many more interesting releases lined up for thee rest of this year and thee expansion to physikal produkts is going to be a great step forwards, so I am hoping for a very positive future for thee label and studio itself...
Thank you for your time. P23 > Many thanks to you at DBL for this opportunity and for your kontinued support.
------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Colossloth Interview with Damned By Light 09/11/12
First off: greetings! How are you doing today? Wooly > Hello, I'm doing great today thanks, just having a glass of red wine and relaxing.
Let's get into Colossloth. Why did you choose the name Colossloth, what does it represent? To me, it has a kind of an humouristic edge that I don't find in your music. Wooly > Yeah it started off as a "two words joined together"-name to describe the sound of the music: colossal sloth, big heavy and slow. The music was more doom noise when I first started back in 2006, since then it's evolved a lot but it still holds the slow and big elements - and maybe I'll introduce some heavy guitars back at some point.
Could you tell us something about the history of Colossloth? When was the project founded, and why? What were the main ideas, both musically and thematically, that gave birth to it? Wooly > Back in 2006 I got bored with trying to be in bands that didn't have the same musical outlook as me, so I thought I'd try something alone and experiment. I really enjoy not having to rehearse and sort out all the other shit that being in a band brings. I've always been into dark music and electronic noise, wicca, and nature, all this is what makes Colossloth today.
Are you a believer/practitioner of Wicca, or what kind of an interest do you have towards it? Wooly > I've been learning and reading about Wicca for a while now and it's something that speaks out to me on many levels, it's a beautiful thing and I urge anyone to buy a book and read about it. People think it's something dark and nasty but it's the complete oppersite.
"Butterflies Are Witches" is a really interesting name, could you tell us what do you mean with this title? Wooly > The "Butterflies Are Witches"-title is something that came to me many years ago whilst in a forest, just watching butterflies drift majesticaly through the trees. It reminded me of the beauty of nature and wicca hand in hand.
The EP has a really peculiar and detailed sound, far from the generic ambient-hum. What kind of qualities were you looking for in the sound when you started working on the release? What were the ways with which you tried to bring out the Wiccan theme through the music, if any? Wooly > I wanted this release to sound different to the other dark ambient releases out there and bring in some unususal melodies and styles, not everyone likes it but the one's who do love it! Some one said it was prog dark ambient, haha, not sure about that. I'm lucky to have a good friend Dave Hill who is a genius at mixing my noise into something clean in his studio. The Wiccan theme is present throughout the release but only on a personal level for me.
To my shame, I'm forced to admit that the aforementioned EP is the only one of your releases that I've come to hear to this day. How does it reflect the general Colossloth-sound - is it a good starting point for getting to know your music and its general style? Wooly > Yeah this release is a good starting point for the Colossloth sound of today but it'll always evolve into other things. My other album was a vinyl release on New York label Doom Mantra, if you go on ebay there is always someone selling a copy for silly money!! I remember seeing it for sale for £25 on the HMV website a while a go, insane!
The interview is nearing its close. Is there anything else you'd like to add? Wooly > Just like to say a massive thank you to all the labels that have put Colossloth releases out over the years and I'm really proud to have made great friends along the way. Many thanks too for this interview.
------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Druhá Smrt Interview with Damned By Light 26/04/13
Hello there, how're you doing today? Jindřich & Lucie > Greetings from the Beskydy mountains. We're still waiting for the real Spring and for some events on Spring. So exciting times!
First off, how'd you introduce and describe your music to someone not familiar with your works? Jindřich > It is quite hard for me to describe it, because I can't distance myself from my own creation. Dark ritual muzik with mainly drone- and ambient-influences and male and female voices, maybe..? But very approximately. Soundscapes for/from our life-flow.
Your first track was published in 2011 on the Dark Ambient vol. 2 -compilation on Sombre Soniks Studios, but when was Druhá Smrt founded, and why? Was there a special reason or an event that led to it, or was there a cause that DS was born for? Jindřich & Lucie > It was started in 2009 e.v. as an attempt to create a sonick expression of ritual practices and life-flow by Jindřich & Lucia S. (official statement). So, we just decided it was time to express the energies which we live. Frankly, we did not think specifically about why. Jindřich > I remember that it was natural, something like "... and now let's create our ritual sound flow". It was the right time.
Was it clear from the beginning that Druhá Smrt would be heavily atmospheric and ambient-based music, or did you ponder some alternative forms of musical expression? Is (dark) ambient ambient something you listen to and explore often, or just one of the many genres of music you're into? Jindřich & Lucie > Yes, as we mostly listen to Ritual Ambient, Drone and Dark Ambient, although we also listen to Black and Doom metal, Industrial, shamanistik muzik, ethno, film muzik, neo-classical, etc.
Are there some bands, music groups, or even visual artists or authors that you'd regard as highly influential on your work? Jindřich & Lucie > We wouldn't like to look for any specific influences, because their effect is most likely a subconscious one mainly. Too much of wonderful Muzik...
How did you choose the name "Druhá Smrt" to label your works? It stands for "a second death," correct? Jindřich & Lucie > Exactly. The name has its origin partly in symbolic expression, paradoxically "new beginning" for us, and it also refers magickally to "non-sephiroth" Daath. It's also the title of a novel from J. L. Borges that we like.
I've understood that you two are a couple, correct? Does this somehow show in the way your operate within the band or in the way you share the responsibilities regarding the compositions, artwork, and such? Jindřich & Lucie > It is natural for us. We have a confluence in our life-flows, so we experience all the rituals, magickal currents, thoughts and emotions together. So when one gets an idea, it affects us both. Jindřich: muzik and vocals, and Lucie: artwork and vocals... Together: Druhá Smrt! :)
I understand if you wish to keep this one a secret, but would you like to reveal what kind of instruments you use, and what kind of methods you use to acquire the source sounds? Jindřich > It doesn't need to be a secret. We record to DAW via audio interface mix 24-bit/192kHz. I do not use loops and everything is played "live" (in other words: in real time only... not step by step!) via MIDI keyboards, VST samplers, VST synths, sometimes real guitars, and fields recording (of course with some adjustments done afterwards). Search for "sound" is rather given in advance due to the fact that the muzik comes to my consciousness from my unconsciousness only when the soundscape rises as a whole (so the "inspiration" for the work comes all at once), although I also welcome an immediate inspiration during recording. But, due to the authenticity, vocals are recorded only once. We do all this because we feel it is a necessity in order to transmit the energy while it's still flowing.
Your debut EP "Recurrence" came out in 2012. How did you end up with having Sombre Soniks release it, and have you been satisfied with their work so far? Have you followed how the EP has been received, and are you still fully satisfied with it yourselves? Jindřich & Lucie > We are totally satisfied! It's amazing how Sombre Soniks Studios agreed to the release. We are very proud and honored that we could have "Recurrence" issued on Sombre Soniks. Big thanks to Priapus23 for his mastering that improved the original recordings, for his advices and for his friendship. Absolute professionalism, and we have to say that their access to artists is very motivating. We were met with only positive reactions with "Recurrence," and we appreciate the community for its approach. It was the first important step for us, for which we want to thank Sombre Soniks and all our fans. It should be understandable that we want our next albums to released via Sombre Soniks exclusively. It is something more than label for us. :)
You gave quite an interesting description or summary regarding your debut EP: "The album is an attempt to musickally channel the energy hidden in the ritual process of transformation and self-actualization in times of Eschaton. Seeking the gate that leads to the pathway of the Pandaemonickal deep unconscious source of life and death’s flow. The work of eternal recurrence." I'd have a few questions about that. The first one: you obviously practice rituals, and I've come to understand that your beliefs play a big part in your day-to- day life as well, correct? What kind of rituals were performed while working on this EP, if you don't mind me asking? Further, are there some you'd recommend to your listeners, either to deepen the experience or to help them in some way? Jindřich & Lucie > Yes, but to clarify: ritual approach to life involves the "ceremonies," but we rather perceive it as a "current" which we live. Rituals as a whole, and partially the other acts, are DIY... and the first phase is the revelation of one's own True Will. Inherent Dream. I wrote DIY, because I am influenced by many things, such as fringe thelema, chaos-magick, lovecraftian magick, shamanism, alchemy, archetypal psychology, etc... but the ritual acts and ceremonies are a very personal source of energy. What's fundamental, is our life-flowing...
I'm suspecting the (un)consciosness, self-actualization and transformation all refer to some kind of mental and/or spiritual awakening. When did you achieve it, and how - or is it fully an on-going process? Further, how did you originally wander into the realms of occult? Jindřich & Lucie > Self-actualization... It's a neverending cyclic development process, a Path without goal ("delivered from the lust of result"). This also relates to the fact that the psyche has no end either. Each additional deep archetype that is integrated by ritual activity leads to an even deeper level. But when I write deep... "As below, so above..." Jindřich > My interest in the occult and Hermeticism stems from my interest in literature and surrealism when I was a teenager. I've dealt with some of the "magical practices" for about 25 years.
You also speak of the times of Eschaton. What kind of an end or end-times are you talking about here? A full-fledged apocalypse, or a person's physical death? Further, what are your views and beliefs regarding one's physical death - what comes afterwards, if anything? I'm assuming this "eternal recurrence" refers to this matter. Jindřich > We don't perceive the Eschaton as something that comes as an apocalyptic event in linear time in the future, but as a time (or "time" beyond time) of transition into con-current aeons that run in parallel right now. Like an attractor which occurred after the increasing entropy of the shamed old aeon, the christian era of inflated super-ego, and in this sense I enjoy the immanentization ov a new, although maybe strange age of chaos, and the awakening of ID-Entity. If I had to describe it literally, for me this time of transition is Pandaemon Aeon of chaos-magick that I see as consistent with the Wordless Aeon, outlined by Kenneth Grant in his books. Also, I think that it is an internal process of transformation of archetypes in the human psyche or/and the transmutation of human into in-human psyche. Eschaton also has significance for me as an "egocide" viewed from a psychological perspective as an alchemical mortification stage: change as a prerequisite for growth. "Eternal recurrence" is like permanent development, deeper, wider... transformation through transgression beyond horizon of one's own possibilities... I see physical death as a part of "life/death/life/death/life..."-process...
Since it seems to be a theme-release, what does the EP's second track "Something Strange" refer to? Jindřich & Lucie > It is the phase of a ritual, when after the initial invocation "something strange" comes... change, awakening of "otherness" in the Jungian sense of Self (strange to Ego), but in this case there is rather an element of "Lovecraftian magick" practice in "Mauve Zone." This question is interesting also because it leads directly to the present as it will be revealed.
What could you tell us about the EP's visual side? There's a suspiciously red landscape on the back cover, but what is the cover image all about? Lucie > The back cover is our everyday sunset, and the front is a vision of "eternal recurrence." The basis for this graphic was a photo of a snowflake sprinkled by our blood... This hexagonal frame has specific meaning for us... The graphics were created spontaneously.
You've taken part of five compilations with an exclusive track. Did the songs' themes or the ways of creating and processing them vary a lot from the work you did for "Recurrence"? Jindřich > I think that there is some difference between albums and tracks for compilations, but it's not the difference in the basic sound structure of the compositions - only in the length and purpose, because an album will alwaysbe more complex. Also, we take care that the theme resonates with our lives, so for us it is the same path. It's amazing to participate on nice projects/compilations. I also have to say that such collaborations like our track with Akoustik Timbre Frekuency on Dark Ambient Vol. 5 was something magickal, and for me it was very important and spiritually rewarding. Both compilations and albums are a part of the same DS current.
I've understood that you're also working on an entirety called "Daemonick Mantra." What can you tell us about it? Jindřich & Lucie > "Daemonick Mantra" was a project of our affirmations to Four Pillars ov the Year Wheel. It was recorded for our and our fans' enjoyment and released for free. Four Mantras, Four Moments ov Cycle... So, work on it is closed.
What lies in the future of Druhá Smrt? I've understood that a CD-version of "Recurrence" will be released in the near future, true? How about live performances, do you have any of those planned? Jindřich & Lucie > No, it won't be "Recurrence." The next step is a new CD "ukhulth" on Sombre Soniks Studios. Something about this CD: "This ritual is not an attempt of evokation, but really is invokation. What is in ourselves, our deepest buried Id-Entity, which is not as simple as superficial Ego. What is different - otherness, and what we fear most... is our hidden self. Dark One, who dwells forgotten in the kingdom of the dead, in the realm of dreams and visions. If we want to achieve wholeness and walk to the path on permanent transformation (which is individuation), we must wake up what is dead in us. Only then we can achieve it all, together with what we have forgotten and lost. It is again an eschatonickal ritual (like Druhá Smrt muzik is) because it is about our Dark Self, risen from the alleged grave, which will lead us in the paths of the future - through the time of the end - and maybe out of time..." ... so, about live performances: we haven't got any not planned, but maybe it'll happen in the future when our children grow up a little more. Secondly, it would have to be a ritual for this specific event. A CD or a digital album can capture (as a magickal diary) an energy transmission of what happened, or a current (and soundscape is a current) which was started by a ritual act and is now flowing, but we can't usually repeat the ritual physically again. It's not our arrogance or some pseudointellectual blah, but really a mainly physical problem for us. :)
Are you active in other fields of creation than music, such as visual art or literature? Jindřich & Lucie > No. Druhá Smrt is currently the only artistic expression for us, and we think it will remain that way.
Just out of curiosity, have you ran into any great bands lately that you'd like to bring out here? Be they either ambient or some other type of music that you're into. Jindřich > Akoustik Timbre Frekuency, Viginti Tres Saecula, Babalith, The Grave Dominion... Lucie > Im Dunkeln, Tamerlan...
Is there something you'd like to add, ask or advertise that wasn't mentioned above? Jindřich & Lucie > We would just like to say: honestly, thank you all at Damned By Light for the interesting questions and for interviewing us. It has been a true pleasure. :)
I thank you for your time and wish you well on your path.
------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Plaguewielder Interview with Damned By Light 26/04/13
Greetings, Azrael. The first question I have is this: how'd you define your music to someone unfamiliar with it? Are there some bands or artists that you could compare your sound or concept with, without grimacing in discomfort? Azrael > Greetings. Plaguewielder to me is a cocktail of despondent, morose, forlorn, nihilistic ambient music with ritualistic tendencies. A deliciously dark overture of disease, decay and death. I am sure there are some bands and projects out there that have similar sounds and certainly themes that are similar to what we are are doing but none come to mind off the top of my head. When I started composing for Plaguewielder there was no other music in my mind that I wanted it to sound similar to. If so then it was purely a subconsious act within my experimental stages. Obviously parts of my other project Hoyland creep into the soundscape every now and again, but I think that is only natural because of the ways I compose.
When was Plaguewielder born, and why? Did you have the same vision and themes for it in the project's beginning as you do now? Azrael > Plaguewielder was brought into existance in the early Spring of 2011 as a means to express things I didn't see fit to express with my other project Hoyland. Hoyland was never meant to be blacker than black music, but something that is both light and dark and also something inbetween. A lot of grey areas are explored in terms of themes and atmospheres regarding Hoyland whereas with Plaguewielder it is alot more macabre, obfuscous and rotten in terms of sound and atmosphere. At other times there can be tragic sounding melodies and atmospheres also. It is a far more extreme entity and something that reeks of putrid death and decay. My vision and outlook regarding the whole scope of what Plaguewielder is shall indeed remain the same now as when the project first began. If anything I wish to develope, explore and dig deeper regarding all aspects of what Plaguewielder is.
I know that you've described Plaguewielder as "Nihilistik Plague Ambient." Would you like to open up this definition a little bit? Azrael > Nihilistik Plague Ambient is the very definition of everything that Plaguewielder is. Extreme, savage, despairing and spiteful. The plague part is describing a theme that has been a major part of the project, the black death, disease and death. The final part I think is self explanatory. I think the term is also open to interpretation and can mean different things to different people. Priapus23 was the one that came up with this term.
What is the concept of Plaguewielder? The song titles bring out such themes as nihilism, death, darkness, suffering, and even some occult and chthonian themes. Are these simply some things you're interested in and want to explore deeper, or is it moreso about who and what you are as a being? Azrael > The primal theme has been disease, death, suffering and the mortality of all things flesh. Extreme darkness. The one thing in particular that has dominated the material thus far is the bubonic plague, better known as the black death. This is something that has fascinated me since I was a child and is a morbid curiosity to me. I do intend to go deeper with the themes and also at some point expand into other things also. The themes will always be set in the hidious and macabre though as that is an integral part of what Plaguewielder is.
Further, is there some certain reason you're bringing out these topics through the medium of music instead of, for example, writing or painting? Do you have some other artistic ventures outside of musical expression? I've understood that you've at least done some cover artworks for albums, correct? Azrael > Music has always been a passion and it is every thing to me. I see it as the best form to truely express what lies within my heart and soul. Of course I am not dismissing writing, or painting or any other art form. Everyone has their strengths and weaknesses regarding art. Music works best for me and is my own personal weapon of choice. Like a painter I work with a blank canvas that is called silence and audio is my paint. Outside of music I have been known to turn my hand to poetry and try to write but it is not my strongest expression. I've never had much of a hand when it comes to painting, it's just not something I can do unfortunatly. I have however in the last few years started to experiment with doing digital art, creating texture pieces and the manipulation of photographs and things like that which as you mention became part of creating album artwork. I have created album covers for a US ethereal ambient project called Melankolia, Thaumiel Sonozaki and I collaborated on artwork with Priapus23 for the Akousik Timbre Frekuency album Ritualistik Kuttings. I have also done some of the artwork for my own projects. I try to do the best with whatever I am working with and what my focus is on.
How is the process of creating new Plaguewielder-material like? Where do you draw the inspiration for it? Azrael > It all depends on the inspiration as to how a Plaguewielder track is composed and structured. First thing I do is think about what I want the subject of the song to be and how I want to express it. Then it comes down to composing the music. Sometimes a bass line or a melody would set the idea off for a track or sometimes it could be a particular rhythm, a feeling or a particular sound also. I will then build on that idea for one section of the song. I then think where the song is going and decide what the next sections could and will be. After this I oversee the structure, dynamics and flow and make sure everything is exactly as I want it to be. At this point the song is handed over to Priapus23 for his vocals parts, mixing and mastering. When I was a young child I had a great fear of death and dying once I had a full comprehensible understanding of it. My fear was so great that I used to have terrible nightmares which occured night after night. Then there was one particular evening when all this changed. I was staying with relatives and the time had come to retire and go to sleep, which was relatively late for a small child. In my slumber I had a dream, but it wasn't like a normal dream as in visions and such but more of a feeling. A terrible feeling. Everything was closing in and darkness was washing over me like a deathlike sensation. I had no history of sleepwalking prior to this dream yet I was woken at the back door of my relatives house trying to get out and escape this fate I had felt. I had apparently ran out of my bedroom and through the whole house screaming in sheer terror. After this incident I never had a nightmare about death ever since and my fears dissapeared. I have no fear of dying at all now, but find it interesting and a natural part of the life cycle. I would say that experience would be the basic foundational inspiration as it is something that I have never forgotten. Other inspirational sources would be from my interest in books and literature, movies and things like that.
Your debut EP (which I reviewed a while earlier) "World Funeral Requiem" was released digitally through Sombre Soniks Studios. Was it originally your intention to make this EP a download-release, and how did you end up in Sombre Soniks' roster? Have you been satisfied with their input so far? Azrael > It was originally my intention to release the Plaguewielder material in a physical format but I require it to be a particular quality and standard. When I was putting together some of the earliest Plaguewielder tracks I sent them to several labels I thought could be a good home for the project. I was also approached by some labels who had taken some interest in what I was doing. Some of the labels I had sent tracks to was very polite, saying they appreciated the sounds but had no room on their already fully loaded rosters. A couple of labels that wanted to keep me on ice so they could see how Plaguewielder developed as I continued working on tracks. There was also other labels that refused to answer my questions regarding the quality of their materials used for releases. I was approached by Priapus23 and Sombre Soniks with the idea of Plaguewielder appearing on the second volume in a series of compilations that was dark ambient based. Priapus23 is a good friend and had helped me a few times with certain Hoyland tracks in the remixing and mastering department. He had also given me some label ideas for Plaguewielder. I relished the chance to appear on the compilation. It was discussed that Priapus23 would mix and master the track to really bring it to the next level from the demo tracks I had made previous. It was during these conversations that we thought about adding vocal textures to the track. This really did put the track in a place I really wanted it to be, adding further dimension and increasing the atmosphere to a catastrophic level. A few months later I had begun to write more tracks and kept Priapus23 in the picture regarding everything that was going on. He had some ideas about mixing and mastering and I had the craving for him to perform more vocals. He understood fully in regards to what I wanted the Plaguewielder sound to be, plus we worked so well together within this whole entity that it wasn't long before he became a fully fledged member. We both agreed that Sombre Soniks was the best home for Plaguewielder as then we would have full control of the output. I couldn't be any happier in regards to Sombre Soniks and the way Plaguewielder has been handled.
"World Funeral Requiem" is quite a name for a record. Is it a theme-album of some sort? Azrael > Although the tracks on World Funeral Requiem are not related to each other directly in my own mind, they are part of the theme and Plaguewielder way. It all comes down to the listener who can decide how much or how little the tracks relate to each other. I always wanted to leave it open for people to decide for themselves.
At least some of your songs feature vocals (well, moreso gurgles, snarls and what-not), but do any of them feature lyrics? If not, is it something you've considered adding? Azrael > Everything regarding vocals I have left in the hands of Priapus23. That is his department and I just leave him to do what he feels serves the songs best. Like I said before, we are usually on the same page regarding everything ideas and soundscape wise. I respect the ideas and creativeness he brings to the table and I feel what he does vocally on the tracks suits the atmospheres and sounds perfectly. To me it truely sounds evil and decayed. The idea of having lyrics or even subliminals in the tracks is a big possibility for the future.
While on topic, the vocals have been handled by P23, the man behind Sombre Soniks Studios and Akoustik Timbre Frekuency, a musical project I have great respect for. He also mixed and mastered your first EP. How did you two come to work together on this project? Azrael > When I was working on the debut Hoyland album "Dance of the Twilight Stars" I had started listening to Akoustik Timbre Frekuency and so I was aware of Priapus23. I really admired how different the project sounded and how Priapus23 worked. In early 2010 the debut Hoyland album was released on the German label Quartier23 of which Akoustik Timbre Frekuency had released albums on also. Later I received a message from Priapus23 asking me if I would like to partake in an experimental compilation idea he had which was called "Do What Thou Will". As you can imagine I was extremely suprised he had contacted me as I had an admiration for his art. After the compilation was completed we kept in contact on a constant basis. Later when I was demoing tracks for Plaguewielder I revealed to him my ideas and he seemed genuinely intrigued. I mentioned I was looking for labels which he helped with, giving me the names of a few labels that he thought could be interested. As I mentioned earlier I created a track for a dark ambient compilation album that was to be released through Sombre Soniks. That was the beginning of us working together with Plaguewielder. The tracks for the first release "World Funeral Requiem" were progressing very nicely, the vocals from Priapus23 were sounding really great and in a moment of pure clarity it was decided that Sombre Soniks would be the best home for Plaguewielder. I really can't express enough what it means to work with Priapus23 within Plaguewielder. His skills with the vocals, mixing and mastering have made a huge difference and brought the project closer to my original vision. He is as crucial to the project as myself in my eyes.
Plaguewielder has been featured on (at least) four different compilations with exclusive tracks. How have you come to take part on these, and are you generally a fan of compilation-releases - with exclusive material or not? Azrael > The first time Plaguewielder appeared on a compilation album it was advised by Sombre Soniks that I get in touch with the guy that was putting it together. I did so and that was the entrance of Plaguewielder into the dark ambient and experimental music arena. All of the compilation appearances, with the exception of the Dark Ambient Volume 2 compilation by Sombre Soniks was set up in a similar fashion. I have always tried to submit exclusive tracks with both projects to compilation albums. I like to do that.
What are your future plans for Plaguewielder? Do you already have some new releases, compilation-partakes or even live-performances in mind? Azrael > The next step will be a full length album. I wish to delve deeper into the chaos and darkness. Explore where we can go with the sound and really develop everything. At the moment it is only in the planning and sketch phase but I have some ideas. Compilation appearences will begin again when we have the material to do so. I have also had plans to shoot a real promo video for a track for quite some time now. That is something I would really like to do and I think would add more dimension to what we are doing, especially with the vision and image part. Priapus23 and myself have discussed doing something live. It is something we have and are still considering. I would relish the prospect of performing our death ritual live.
Plaguewielder isn't your only musical project, as you currently work under the name Hoyland as well. Would you like to tell us something about this project and its newest album "Upon The Mountain Vastlands"? Are you currently a part of some other projects as well? Azrael > I began Hoyland in 2006 as a means of escaping frustrations with bands and to try something new. I had worked on something similar before in the late 1990s with my good friend Kev Thacker. A project called Ilmarin which made two albums. Hoyland was me stepping out alone for the first time musically. Compared to Plaguewielder Hoyland is more "ethereal ambient" with pagan themes, but also influences from liturature. Hoyland has had four releases so far: "Dance of the Twilight Stars" and "Upon the Mountain Vastlands" both of which was released on the Quartier23 label, "The Trinity of Painted Symphonies" which was a triple split album with Melankolia and Tamerlan and "Dreams Within a Dream" which was a digital release but is being released on CD very soon. "Upon The Mountain Vastlands" is the second full length album that was released at the begining of 2012 on Quartier23. Like the first album it contains nine tracks but I feel with a progressed and developed sound, touching on neo- classical in different parts of the album. I also utilised some retro electronic sounds alongside the orchestral sounds as I am a big fan of 1980s movie soundtracks such as the Tangerine Dream version of Legend. The album was mastered by Priapus23 at Sombre Soniks. I spent a whole year creating the album and I am very pleased with the final result. Along with Plaguewielder and Hoyland I also operate in an ethereal ambient/neo- classical Tolkien based project called Gil-Galad which was formed with Mike O'Brien of Melankolia. This project honors and celebrates the writings of J.R.R.Tolkien and Middle Earth. Another project I am involved with is called Thornland that was formed with vocalist Dagon with whome I am in a black metal band with called Heathen Deity. Thornland is a dark folk/ambient project. Currently the only output so far on CD is a track we did for a compilation album on the U.K. label Cold Spring but we have a full length album sketched out and planned. I also play in a few other bands.
This one's just for the sake of not forgetting your past. Your earlier band- projects include names such as 13 Candles, Wither and Ethereal Forest. What were they about, and are they dead and gone now? Azrael > 13 Candles is a goth band I joined in the early to mid 1990s. It was the first band I ever played with and to this date is the most successful venture into music. We released three albums and was very much a touring band, playing with the likes of Cradle of Filth, The Damned, Christian Death and many others. This band ended in 2000 but by 2005 we had started to do the odd show here and there. Now we are fully functional as a band again and have some shows planned for 2013 in the U.K. and are planning a new album. Ethereal Forest is a black metal band with some folk metal tendencies. This band is currently recording it's debut album. Wither is a Norwegian symphonic black metal project that never really got past the demo stage, which was a shame. I would have liked to explore Wither more.
This one's quite irrelevant, but I'll bring it up anyway. I originally wondered why your EP's cover artwork looks so familiar to me, until I later realized that the same image has been used by Anaal Nathrakh on their 2009 album "In the Constellation of the Black Widow". Did you know of this prior to releasing the EP, and are you familiar with the works of Anaal Nathrakh? Azrael > Gustave Doré's paintings and artwork are very renowned so it comes to no suprise that the image has been used before. The Grim Reaper piece is my favorite by him and I wanted to incorporate it into my artwork for World Funeral Requiem, but heavily altered. In the original the reaper is sitting on the moon whereas I wanted him to sit upon earth. I had problems making that image look good so I decided to take another of Doré's pieces that depicted people that were suffering and dying and placed them under the reaper. This is to represent the world and of course humanity. After this I engulfed the whole image in flame rather than have a starlit sky as in the original piece. I am very aware of Anaal Nathrakh but I had never seen the "In the Constellation of the Black Widow" cover before. I like their earlier work like "The Codex Necro" and "When Fire Rains Down from the Sky, Mankind Will Reap as It Has Sown". After "Domine Non Es Dignus" in 2004 I had lost track of the band and didn't follow them so much.
Anything else you'd like to add or discuss further? Azrael > I'd just like to say thank you all at Damned By Light for having me, it has been a true pleasure.
Thank you for your time! I'll be looking forward to Plaguewielder's next release. Azrael > Thank you!