Astriaal are quickly becoming one of Australia’s premier extreme metal bands. With the incredible ‘Summoning the Essence of Ancient Wisdom’ mCD moving into a second pressing due to unexpected popularity, these black metallers have been garnering huge respect as well as audiences on their recent tour with fellow Australian stalwarts Destroyer 666.
by vocalist Azarkhel and drummer Gryphon.
Kev- Summoning the Essence of Ancient Wisdom' has been available for a number of months now, and has garnered praise from many publications. With the benefit of hindsight, have your views on its material changed since its release? What element in the recording, if any, would you change or improve upon?
Arzarkhel- When we recorded the “Summoning…” EP, it was initially intended as a three track promo primarily for ourselves, and to record a new track “As Mist befell the Ruins”, which was to be included on the “Under the Southern Cross” metal compilation. We were offered a place and not wanting to use a “Glories…” demo track, we headed into a new studio. Subsequently, Dissident Records offered to release the promo as a MCD, which we felt was too good an opportunity to pass. We then recorded two more tracks “Meridian’s Ablaze” and “Summoning the Essence of Ancient Wisdom” to give the MCD more weight. So yes, as you can see with the benefit of hindsight, had we known that the promo was going to be released, we would have polished our performances a little more and spent more time mixing and mastering the tracks. As it stands we are very satisfied with how the music and whole package materialized. There was a strong need to show our listeners that we had progressed since the “Glories…” demo, in terms of musical complexity and artistic vision. It has helped us gain strong recognition internationally as well as Australia wide exposure through underground metal shows and touring, even though the material on the MCD was written over two years prior to it’s release. I eagerly await to unleash our new material upon our listeners, with the benefit of label and full studio backup. The full-length will be Astriaal’s darkest and most musically diverse release thus far…
Since your lyrics delve into much more arcane and challenging areas,
explain to us what each song on your mCD expresses or portrays lyrically,
either your own personal interpretation or as a collective of everyone's
Arzarkhel- A short description of each track follows.
Meridians Ablaze Intro: The lyrics expressed pertain to the inevitable end or extinction of all forms of life, inherent to this finite planet. Religion and its associated icons/false idols will be rendered useless when the infernal winds are upon us. Whether this is through our own nuclear extermination or through solar consumption, when our nearest star, the sun engulfs Earth reducing it to a molten landscape. Either way Man’s fate will ultimately end in fire.
Celestial Transcendence of the Aphelion: The lyrics here relate to Earth’s orbit of the sun, with the aphelion being the furthest point from the sun in this orbit. Within the boundaries of lyrical fantasy, if we were to escape this orbit or gravitational vice, then our Earth would slowly drift further into interstellar space. An ice age would incur; human adaptations would have to take place for our own survival, though eventually this would fail, leaving the planet a barren and frozen wasteland. Celestial… explores this fantasy.
Serpentis: Derived from the Serpens or Serpentis constellation, describing an ancient mythical entity residing within the astral netherworlds. A serpentine guardian of space and time.
As Mist Befell the Ruins: A concept regarding a warrior’s funeral rite. Wounded, a lone warrior is drawn intuitively towards mist enveloped castle ruins, here he lays and reflects upon his life, as the warmth and last breath within him expires. With a departing vision beneath the stars, his spirit is left to roam the majestic astral depths…eternally! I perceive this as being a most noble and inspiring concept of death.
the Essence of Ancient Wisdom: Is the spoken verse inscribed amidst
the middle twilight found within the booklet. Its meaning is for your own
K- Apart from the clear influence of black metal originators, you're quoted as saying (Loud Zine, Issue #25) that non-metal acts such as Arcana and Dargaard have a major impact on you. To those unfamiliar, can you please explain who these are and what influence they've had on Astriaal's songwriting?
Concerning this statement, it is more directed towards the structural and
emotional ability bands such as Arcana, Daargard and Wongraven encompass
in their compositions. Indirectly, we in Astriaal aspire to create songs
with similar intensity of emotions, either with the timing of the more
epic or inspiring passages to the emotional depths of our misanthropic and
sorrowful faster sections, thus leading to either a beautiful or violent
change. In this relation we are inspired by the above mentioned bands.
Anyone who listens to your compositions will comment on your heavy use of
complex and technical melodies. What do you think is the attraction of
being melodic, especially in black metal where a major focal point is
Arzarkhel- All of us in Astriaal hail many varied forms of musical expression. From brutal death metal such as Suffocation, Hate Eternal etc, to the sombre spectrums of Dead Can Dance, Black Lung etc. Personally I find bands that can incorporate brutal and complex speed with a melodic or beautiful clean section, perhaps at the end of the day, more inspiring. A few bands that have mastered this art would include: Abigor, Borknagar, Satyricon, Burzum and Ulver, just to name a few. The attraction I believe is it gives the listener an equal dose of both misanthropic and melancholic emotions at the same time. This is not to say I do not appreciate the sheer brutality of bands such as Myrkskog, Nile, Zyklon, Immolation etc.
K- How do you see the connection between 'Summoning' and your demo tape 'Glories of the Nightsky'? Do you view 'Summoning' as an expansion upon 'Glories' ideas, or is it more of a separate entity aimed at replacing it in terms of direction and presentation?
Arzarkhel- We saw “Summoning the Essence of Ancient Wisdom” as an exponential leap in terms of song structure and sound quality in comparison to the “Glories of the Nightsky” demo. When we released “Glories…” our goals and stylistic representation was somewhat in its foetal or primitive stage. We needed to release “Summoning…” to show our listeners a more accurate depiction of Astriaal’s music and art direction, which we felt the “Glories…” demo could no longer adequately represent. These feelings are rising again as with each new song we write, the progression in terms of emotional scope and technical layering appears to reaffirm Astriaal’s quest for sonic evolution. Unfortunately we must bide our time before we can enter the studio again, due to rather heavy touring commitments this year. We eagerly await to unleash the new material upon our listeners as the next journey shall see a professional engineer and production quality to far surpass “Summoning…” The new songs are intertwined with darker and twisting blast sections, laying the foundations for colder more mournful acoustic sections. The full length will be Astriaals quintessential sonic metamorphosis.
K- This current recording is already incredibly diverse in its offerings, moving from hateful black metal to acoustic passages with ease. Is there any conscious choice in determining what is incorporated into your sound, or does it just occur naturally? Stylistically, where do you wish to go from here?
Gryphon- It is not preconceived that a composition will feature an acoustic or calmer section, but at the same time, it is definitely intended. Some tracks have a calling for a calmer section, while others will just blast into a hate filled furnace. It is the mood of each track that determines the outcome. Personally, I think unrestricted aggression is what keeps metal out of the mainstream. Hate is a strong power also, and as aggression and hate can be strongly linked, I assume it is a natural progression to see Astriaal become more musically aggressive. Hate of people and society leads to misanthropy, which again is another strong theme that is prevalent is Astriaal. A theme that wont be left for some time. Misanthropic Aggression is probably the most accurate depiction of our united future…
K- Its been fairly widely documented that Astriaal holds more than a little contempt for major commercial black metal bands. Since these acts are considered by many as leaders of the scene, what do you think the future holds in store for extreme music as a whole?
I don’t necessarily have an issue with commercialised black metal bands,
I think most bands are striving to be the best (musically and production
wise) they can. I do get
disappointed when some bands release material I think is designed to draw
a bigger audience though. It’s
a tough situation. If you
never attract new people to your music, you’re effectively stagnated and
dead, but in contrast, what was wrong with the audience you had in the
earlier stages. I think a lot
of the so-called “bigger” bands lost the main reason why they started
to play metal. However as I
have said – each to their own. I
will always hail albums like Shadowthrone and Nemisis Divina, Nightside
Eclipse and Anthems, and De Mysteriis and Wolf Lair Abyss, even though the
follow up releases didn’t interest me in the slightest.
But that is just my opinion. You
have to remember though that while you are still playing black metal, or a
variation on this vast genre – you are effectively still performing some
of the most extreme music on the planet.
So to say that these bands have sold out is somewhat ridiculous.
If Dimmu Borgir can attract more people in Europe to support black
metal, then I guess in the end that is good for them, but it is definitely
not for everyone. The thought
of twelve-year-old kids getting around in Burzum shirts horrifies me to a
K- As a final question, what are you touring plans for the near future, and what's the status on a debut full-length?
Gryphon- We have just finished the “Summon the Phoenix” tour with Destroyer 666 which was killer. It took in Brisbane, Melbourne and Adelaide and was insane by all standards. It was good to be part of D666’s last Australian Assault before they departed these shores for Europe.
As for upcoming tours; we are playing some shows with Sakkuth and Devolved in Queensland in June as part of the “Conquering the North” tour. Then we return to Sydney for the Bloodlust Festival in early July with 10 other extreme metal bands. This will be followed by another show in Sydney on the 13th with Dungeon followed by a Canberra show on Saturday the 14th of July with Psychrist and Myrddraal. Then there is another metal festival in Brisbane in late July, before we return to Metal for the Brain in October in Canberra. Hopefully after this we shall have some time to finish up the material for the full-length so it is ready to record early in 2002.
for the status of the full-length, we have been receiving really good
reports from O/S and a few label offers so we will have to see what
prevails with the new release. “Summoning…” has definitely served its purpose in
opening many doors for Astriaal, especially internationally. The material is around 75% completed. It takes us a very long time to compose new material (even
longer than it took us to reply to this interview), so hopefully between
now and the end of the year it will be finalised.
Some tentative track names include Throne to Perish and Reaper of
Dark Ages. As for direction,
we shall see what transpires – although it will retain the feel of the
“Summoning…” release and build upon it’s foundation, with a far