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Thursday, July 7, 2011
Interview - Cult of Erinyes' Corvus & Mastema
You may remember a few months ago that I reviewed the first full-length album from Belgium newcomers, Cult of Erinyes. The album was certainly one that still sticks out now, being one of the best debut full-length black metal albums I've heard all year. I was lucky enough to get a chance to get in contact with them and was kindly granted an interview, here are the results.
Ian: How did the Cult of Erinyes form and where did your inspirations come from in the beginning?
Corvus: Cult of Erinyes was formed in 2010 (even if the idea of the entity started to grow in me in 2009) by Mastema (vocal, lyrics), Baal (drums) and myself (guitar, bass music). In 2008, something happened in my life and it was really a sort of revelation. It was clear that I had to do exactly what I wanted, and Cult of Erinyes is the most obvious consequence of that revelation. Concerning the inspiration, it comes from the music I listen to, of course, but more than that, it comes from life in general, and from my will to develop myself as a musician and as a human being. We don’t have any boundary, exception made for the will to propose something strong and coherent.
Ian: The erinyes are figures in Greek mythology, what made you decide to reference them in your name?
Corvus: The Erinyes, as the deities of vengeance, directly punished the one responsible for a sin. Religions usually see the judgement as an element that comes in the afterlife, and that’s why those dogmas are born to fail and enslave mankind. Cult of Erinyes praises the facts and is for those who believe that assuming their essence and facing their consequences is the only way to find who you really are. Nowadays, various societies prefer to occult each individual's essence, so the world can “turn round”. But that’s just an illusion for morons. Cult of Erinyes aims at those who praise the forbidden, the occult and has the guts to look at themselves in the mirror without being afraid of what they will see.
Ian: What significance does the symbol of a trinity hold to you?
Mastema: From day one we felt that this band should always be just the three of us. The chemistry is there, we have the same goal. Corvus and myself have the same background and the same desire. It was a perfect match in terms of what kind of music we wanted to play and, most importantly, what we wanted to express with it. And Baal fits perfectly in that chemistry as well. So the idea of the "trinity" was really something on a personal, human level in the first place. All the ideas related to the imagery came after that and will always be secundary. The trinity simply stands for a strong unit to us.
Ian: When you look back on the "Golgotha" EP, how would you say that you've progressed since its inception?
Mastema: It must be said that there is very little time between the EP and our first full length, a couple of months at most. So I think the direction of the songs isn't that much different between both releases. But "Golgotha" was very important as we could materialize our ideas in the studio and were able to find a sound and a certain feeling that fits to our music. This kind of experience is impossible while rehearsing the songs, it is achieved through a studio experience. So in that sense, the EP was very important. "Golgotha" was recorded rather quickly, and all the instruments except the drums were recorded by Corvus at home. So the sound of the EP is still very rough, kind of blurry. That's the major improvement we've reached for on "A Place to Call My Unknown". I think the sound of the record comes pretty close to what we've had in mind. Apart from that, as Corvus' writing evolves very quickly, you can also feel some differences in maturity between both releases. The EP definitely comes closer to an experience for us, we were much more confident and "ready" with the writing and recording of the album.
Ian: When listening to "A Place to Call My Unknown" I heard elements of your sound that really made me think of Neurosis. Do you take any influence from them?
Corvus: I have never listened to Neurosis actually, so it’s totally involuntary. But I can appreciate some related bands (in the style) like Amen Ra from Belgium, so maybe your feeling comes from that.
Ian: Despite being a very enjoyable listen, I feel that this album has some more subtle qualities that do not reveal themselves so easily to the listener. Are more cerebral moments something you like to include in your compositions?
Mastema: I wouldn't say so, actually. Of course a few of those moments might be heard here and there, but overall I'd say our approach is very much "anti-cerebral", as opposed to how we did things before starting Cult of Erinyes. We wrote and recorded the album very spontaneously, which wasn't always that easy as we were tempted to control our music too much sometimes. But our goal was that our music should be like a sudden burst, something very organic and uncontrolled. If something didn't fit, we just threw it away, we didn't try to "fix" it. We wanted something raw and honest. The only "cerebral" thing in the process is probably the lyrics, which I've spent a long time on, rewriting bits and pieces very regularly. But I think I know what you're referring to. The songs, while being quite simple and straightforward, are dense at the same time. It requires some time to fully immerge oneself in the overall feeling of the record. I guess it takes some time to fully apprehend the album, not because it is intricate but because it is a complete experience, with an uncompromising atmosphere.
Ian: What is it about the track Black Eyelids that makes it one of your favorite Cult of Erinyes songs?
Corvus: It is the very first riff I wrote for Cult of Erinyes (considering Anima is an ambient song). At that time, I was unable to properly play the guitar, but I felt I got something not “that bad”. So it gave me the will to seriously play the guitar and create a new entity. The main riff of the song is VERY simple, but it sounds good. No need to intellectualize music! Cult of Erinyes is more about a vibe, a special feeling, than about “songs”, structures or about musicianship, even if Baal is a fantastic drummer. I don’t think I need to be good, because it’s not the key. The key is all about cohesion, and I have got the feeling we have that. Having technical skills is only a way to write music more easily, it’s not a goal, and way too much bands are wasting their time with meaningless technical parts where there is absolutely no vibe at all.
Ian: You don't work in solely black metal, and you've even said that the first Cult of Erinyes song was the ambient piece Anima, do you believe it is natural for you to venture out and explore other musical territories that have nothing to do with black metal?
Corvus: If you listen carefully to the songs A Thousand Torments and Permafrost, you’ll notice they have almost exactly the same structure. It’s the same energy spread in different ways. Some ambient entities are way more extreme than the so-called raw black metal acts. It’s all about energy, really, not about a style.
Ian: Do you feel the term "progressive" is an appropriate one tagged to your band?
Mastema: I'm flattered because I love progressive music, but I don't really think it applies to our music, no. It might be in the future, who knows? We are open-minded. Again, I think the record's overall feeling has several layers, and evolves in an intricate, perverse way from beginning to end. But I wouldn't label it "progressive" though.
Ian: Mastema has said that he writes lyrics based more on history rather than religion, magic, or culture, what is it about history that intrigues you? When lyrics are written, is it a collaborative effort?
Corvus: Mastema is responsible for almost all the lyrics. Dolmanseh, a very close friend of the band, wrote the text A Thousand Torments, and that’s the only exception for the album. For each song, I give some keys to Mastema; I explain to him the feeling I have about the songs. I often write the songs starting from a feeling, not from music, so I describe that precise feeling. But Mastema is free to do whatever he wants. Concerning History; you’ll find all the keys about mankind in History. That’s a never ending topic that shows everyday how mankind is condemned to its perdition…
Ian: How do you believe the writings of Nietzsche have influenced your ideals and the music that comes out when you write?
Mastema: Tough question, and it's even tougher to answer without sounding like a pretentious asshole. Let's just say Nietzsche is of course a brilliant philosopher and poet, but there are other brilliant people like him. What differentiates him in our opinion is his visionary, prophetic view on life and society. Talking about Nietzsche sort of implies a very intellectual reflection, but it isn't that much actually. Nietzche's works have influenced us because they struck a chord somehow, they echoed to something which is in us. I believe this is an important part of philosophy, it's not only reflecting upon something, it's truly understanding the meaning of it, you have to dive into several layers of comprehension to reach the very core of a thought, of an idea. And this is partly a very organic process. That is what happened with Nietzsche for us. Of course, it sounds corny to say we've been influenced by Nietzsche because so many black metal bands state something like that. But what can I say, we are influenced by his work, we feel close to it intellectually and emotionally. We have actually read his works, unlike many so-called "admirers". Now I sound pretentious, right?
Ian: What significance does the realm of imagination and the human consciousness impact how you create music?
Corvus: Imagination is not the word I would use to talk about the creative part of Cult of Erinyes. It’s more an exploration of my mind and it demands a sort of isolation. The creative process is hard to describe, but again, it’s all about energy and feeling. It’s more about human unconsciousness if you know what I mean…
Ian: How would you compare the experiences of working and writing in Psalm with the creation of songs in Cult of Erinyes?
Corvus: Psalm was a band (we’ll probably never record any new material under that banner) with a shitload of composers, and that’s the reason why there was no cohesion between the beginning and the end of the band. Psalm was a “band”, with a bunch of dudes having fun in the rehearsal room and on stage. Also, I was Psalm’s bassist, not the main guitar player, so I wasn’t the main composer: Baron an Algol were. Cult of Erinyes is not about fun; I do what I have to, it’s actually hard to explain. It’s like a mental and physical reaction. The writing process of the Cult is something very personal and I would not be able to write this music during a Saturday afternoon spent in the rehearsal room with other musicians and some beers.
Ian: A lot of metal musicians see writing songs as sort of an exorcism of the negative and hateful and angry parts of themselves, but from what I've read, you seem to write music as more of a ritual. How do you view the conception of your music?
Corvus: Cult of Erinyes is way more than music in my eyes. The term “obsession” would not be strong enough to describe the feeling I have towards this entity. Cult of Erinyes’ music is the perfect reflect of my very essence, or more precisely, the perfect reflect of the development of my very essence. It grows inside me every time I write a song, and that’s the reason why I need to write music almost every day. I see the music as “ritualistic” because the way I write music is to create a state of mental trance, it’s quite hard to describe. It’s the reason why almost all the songs have a precise moment where everything will implode. The most obvious moment on the album is probably the second part of the Black Eyelids song. At that moment, you’ll hear what Cult of Erinyes is really about, and I’m not only talking about music here.
Ian: Based on what I've read in other interviews you've done, I think it's clear that you view Cult of Erinyes as a band that acts as a vessel for your own personal journey and experiences, would you agree with that statement?
Corvus: Totally. This is why I have the feeling Cult of Erinyes will have a very long and productive journey.
Ian: Do you see the black metal scene as a restrictive one? Do you consider yourselves to be part of the black metal scene at all?
Mastema: We definitely consider ourselves as being part of the black metal scene, yes. It is the genre we love the most and the genre we want to play, it's as simple as that. I don't think it's a restrictive style at all, there are many bands, old and new, that prove that black metal can be extremely adventurous and surprising. If I had to give one example, I'd say Negura Bunget, who brought black metal to a whole new level in my opinion. There are constantly new records that impress me because they prove black metal's versatility. I personally also like old school black metal and with Cult of Erinyes, I think it's quite clear we remain close to the classic "heritage" of black metal. Modernity is not our goal, we don't even think about such things. But we do like to push the boundaries and explore this genre. That is what we did on songs like Black Eyelids, which is slower and doomy, or even Last Light Fading and Call No Truce. The key is doing what feels right, that's it. Our music doesn't live by any codes or rules, it's a very open process where we try out our ideas freely and see if it sounds right or not. The overall style will always be black metal, but in that context we like to try out a few things. It's a matter of following your instinct.
Ian: Do you see Cult of Erinyes as a band the is rebelling against the norms of both music and society?
Corvus: I don’t think my “happiness” will come from the society and the norms imposed by the so-called “good thinkers”. We are not rebels, because we don’t want to change the world, only ourselves. Cult of Erinyes does not belong to a moment or a place. It goes way deeper than that, so the norms of music and society are not for us, they don’t have any impact on the way we are building the Cult.
Ian: What bands or artists do you feel a kinship or connection to?
Corvus: I will sound like a total asshole, but the only strong connection I feel is the one I have with my own entity. Of course, I listen to other bands and have a lot of respect for several entities. I would not use the word connection, but let’s say I was strongly impressed by the first Anaal Nathrakh, and I still appreciate a good old Dissection or Mayhem.
Ian: I hear you have already started writing for your next album, do you have any plans on how it will differ from "Golgotha" and "A Place to Call My Unknown?"
Corvus: Yes. I have the skeleton of the next album and some songs are already in the pre production phase. It will be a granite of Black Energy, where no light will be tolerated.
Ian: Thank you for allowing me the opportunity to interview you, that's all the questions I have. The last words are yours!
Mastema: Thank you very much for the interview. The Cult won't remain inactive for a long, we have plenty of ideas and the next assault is already planned!
Corvus: thanks to you.
The Cult of Erinyes is definitely a trio to look out for in the future, pushing walls out while keeping true to the black roots. Definitely check this band out if you haven't yet.