“If you are trying to make money as an extreme metal band, instead of composing music purely for the love of it, then you are quite frankly a fool.”
Interview by Jason Guest
Jason: To begin, can you tell us about the album title, Novit Enim Dominus Qui Sunt Eius (Ed: reviewed here), its significance, and what it means in relation to the music?
Abyssal: The title of the album loosely translated to “God knows those who are his”. This title doesn’t specifically define any constant message that underpins the album, however it is generally fitting and indicative of the range of themes covered; most generally the futility of human endeavours and their inevitable decay and degradation.
Jason: There are two short atmospheric pieces on the album, ‘Elegy of Ruin’ and ‘Elegy of Staves’. Is there some significance as to where they are placed on the album?
Abyssal: There is not a tremendous amount of meaning behind the instrumentals, and their purpose is generally just to break up an otherwise impregnable wall of metal music, however they are loosely correlated to the tracks which they precede.
‘…Ruin’ introduces the metaphor of the headless serpent – the formless and chaotic nature that ideologies adopt, and thus the inherent difficulties in combating them. The ambience is intended to signify the listener’s literal approach to the serpent
The title of ‘…Staves’ is borrowed from the ideas of William Catton, and introduces the Malthusian epoch. This is represented by the sound of an ever growing cacophony of infants.
Jason: Rather than a straight-ahead DM album, the album feels more an experiment in darkness and atmosphere rather than an attempt to throw riffs and hooks at the listener. Why take this approach to your music?
Abyssal: There is a surfeit of death metal that aims to create earworms through catchy riffs, and that is all well and good to a certain extent. This approach was never really what Abyssal was about – while Denouement was somewhat more riff based, it still was not particularly accessible or gripping.
Jason: Does this approach make it more interesting creatively and from a writing perspective?
Abyssal: It does not necessarily make the approach more or less interesting, but it certainly requires a different way of thinking compared to how one would go about writing a song intended to be catchy. There is certainly more that you can get away with when aiming for atmospheric music – typically songs will bloat somewhat and lack the leanness of a more conventional track.
Jason: What are the lyrical themes and where do you take inspiration from?
Abyssal: There is a great deal of material that both albums delve into, and a great deal of variety in what we cover as well. Typically, the real world is used as a basis for lyrics, rather than occultism or fiction. This is somewhat of a quirk when comparing to other similar artists, as much of the concepts we use are drawn from sources which do not appear conducive to extreme metal music.
Catton, Fuller, prominent Humanist thinkers like Hitchens etc. The list would be quite long if I went on.
Jason: Who designed the artwork? Were they given complete control over the design or did the band have a hand in its design?
Abyssal: The artwork for the original self-released album was courtesy of a Lithuanian photographer named Kristina Gentvainyte; she was also responsible for the artwork on the debut record Denouement.
Her photography is varied, but often depicts the bleak, decayed and forgotten, and so is a great fit for Abyssal’s music.
The original layout was re-imagined for the Profound Lore issue of Novit…, as well as for the Exitium Productions cassette, and the Iron Bonehead LP.
Jason: For you, how does the band on Novit Enim Dominus Qui Sunt Eius compare with the band on your 2012 debut, Denouement? How have the band developed in the interim between the two?
Abyssal: There is a fairly marked difference. The albums touch on similar concepts, but differ in their approaches. Denouement is much more conventional, straightforward and cathartic than its successor, which fumbles and churns around in the dark much more obtusely. The discs share a common feel, but obtain it through different means.
Jason: Are there any particular bands or albums that have had a direct impact on the band’s sound?
Abyssal: This list could easily consume the remainder of the interview. The influences of the band are surprisingly eclectic, which is often why composing something coherent is so difficult. Everything from Swans to Ulcerate and Giles Corey to Impetuous Ritual.
Jason: When writing, do you have an idea of how you want the tracks and/or the album to sound, or do they take shape as they are being developed?
Abyssal: The mood of the album has always been the guiding principle. With Novit… it was a fairly conscious decision that the record was going to be darker and more brooding. The individual tracks largely fell into place around this framework. This may not be the case for future albums; who knows? It is too early to pigeonhole any specific way of writing as the one true way.
Jason: Is there a theme, concept, or a philosophy that underpins Abyssal’s music?
Abyssal: There is no constant theme which is present in Abyssal’s music. There may be a general mood that we gravitate toward, but the actual concepts covered are generally quite varied. Looking at just Novit… the tracks range from chaos to religion; from ideologues to extinction. The content on Denouement is similarly varied.
Jason: What’s your opinion of the internet and its impact on the music scene? Do you think that because of the ease of making music available, the internet has affected the quality of music?
Abyssal: As with anything, it is a mixture. We reap the benefit of gaining access to a larger audience, but perhaps lose some of the romance associated with the more naive history of the genre. I believe firmly that the quality of releases nowadays is as good as it has ever been, and the internet helps a great deal when digging for such gems. However, saturation of the extreme metal genres with poor quality or woefully generic music is certainly exacerbated by the freer access to listeners that the internet brings.
Jason: With the impact of illegal file-sharing on music sales, do you have any concerns about survival in what seems to be an increasingly challenging market?
Abyssal: I will always argue that file sharing the releases of independent artists brings in more value than it saps. Abyssal has hitherto endeavoured to offer albums for free download, and rather than listeners taking everything and giving nothing, quite the opposite has occurred. There remains healthy demand for physical media (not just CDs, but also more niche formats like cassette and vinyl), and the free availability of music has enabled more individuals to listen, critique, recommend and share.
Illegal file-sharing is a thorn in the side of those in big business, but to small scale artists it is a sure fire way to increase your sphere of influence tenfold. This is something that independent artists still do not seem to fully embrace, whether it is because of the propaganda surrounding the issue, or merely due to their own rigid principals.
Abyssal has no concerns about “survival” because we do not view the extreme music scene as a “market” – it is an artistic movement, and if you are trying to make money as an extreme metal band, instead of composing music purely for the love of it, then you are quite frankly a fool.
Jason: What’s your opinion of the UK death metal scene? Are there any bands that we should be aware of?
Abyssal: The UK has emerged from a period of relative homogeneousness into something that is actually quite varied. The brutal death explosion of the mid 2000’s has largely died out, and in its place is a decent collection of doom bands, such as Coltsblood and Crypt Lurker, more adventurous death metal bands; Sheol, Acatalepsy and Sarpanitum, and some great black metal, like Haar, Wodensthrone, Ninkharsag and Arsaidh. On top of this, the old guard of the brutal death era are still floating around, bands like Neuroma, Scatorgy and Cancerous Womb.
Jason: What does the future hold for the band? Is there more material in the works? An album perhaps?
Abyssal: The third Abyssal release is well on the way, and should hopefully be surfacing early next year if all goes to plan.
Jason: Any plans for live shows? If so, will we be seeing you in the Midlands?
Abyssal: There may be a handful of live shows, only time will tell.
Jason: Thanks again for taking time out for this interview.
You can access Abyssal’s music on Bandcamp