A state between life and death, an intermediate zone, where you are alive and dead…
Einkehr, the debut album of Germany’s Vivus Humare, found its way into the world on 23 January 2015, eight years after the band’s formation in 2007. Composed around an elaborate narrative involving three main themes – ‘Der Schmerz Weckt’ (The Pain Arouses), ‘Auf Morgendlichen Pfaden’ (On Morning Paths), and ‘Traum’ (Dream) – the album is a striking piece of work that is epic, shadowed, tense and pulsing, doomed and desolate and dynamic throughout.
Here, guitarist Leshiyas and bassist / vocalist IK talk to MR’s Jason Guest about the album’s and the band’s process, its themes, the diversity of black metal and the internet’s impact upon the genre, their reasoning behind limited live appearances, and high art, of course…
Thank you both for taking time out for this interview and congratulations on your album, Einkehr.
Leshiyas and IK: Ave Jason and thank you for having us!
Vivus Humare has been making music since 2007 and your only other release so far has been 2008’s Prolog demo. Why has it taken so long for the band to release an album?
Leshiyas: There were a couple of reasons. After the release of Prolog we wrote new songs and decided – I believe it was in 2009/10 – to record our first album completely on our own rehearsal/studio room. During the recording process our former vocalist quit the band, so Mt. joined to take over vocal duties. After finishing the recordings we had to look for a new rehearsal room and move everything to our new place, therefore we could not continue to work on the album. Afterwards, in 2011/12, we went back to it and listened again our recorded material, only to find ourselves totally dissatisfied with the overall realization. We decided to delete the whole thing, and start to record everything again from scratch. So, the actual recording/mixing/mastering process of Einkehr was between Summer 2013 and Autumn 2014.
How is the Vivus Humare of 2014 different to the Vivus Humare of 2007? How has the band’s sound developed since its inception?
Leshiyas: Today we don’t use a keyboard anymore. Our style of Black Metal is quite open and more clearly than in our early years, nevertheless the songs of Einkehr are almost older.
IK: I think the whole band reached a new level this year, working now quite focussed on their visions. I am really proud to be a part of such an impressive and strong band.
How long were you working on Einkehr? And did you have an idea of how you wanted it to sound or did it take shape as it was being developed?
IK: We teamed up some when in late 2012 I think, because I searched a rehearsal place for my project Mosaic. In that time the preparations for the recording were in full progress. But nobody knew that they / we are going to re-record the unreleased second demo from 2011. The plan was to release this and go on with the new ideas. The problem was, as Leshiyas already told before, that the old project files were totally exhausted and over worked, and generally not satisfactory. We started to re-record and revise the entire material and re-arranged and also did expend a few parts – the result was Einkehr.
We started with the drum recordings around June 2013 and finished them in August I think. In the end of October all guitars and vocals were tracked down. Then there was a kind of stagnation, because of the bass guitar issues. The long-term bass player left the band in February 2014 and Leshiyas took over the bass guitar issues for Einkehr. Today I handle them. After this a very long mixing war started and was over around August 2014 and the final mix was given to Patrick W. Engel for the mastering issues. In this period I started to craft the visuals for the debut record and in late October everything was given to Eisenwald. So we needed over one year for the whole record, till it got the shape which was intended and we are really satisfied with the final result.
Leshiyas: We tried to get an earthy and clear, not too polished sound on the album. This was the approximate plan. We changed and experimented the whole time until we were satisfied.
What was it that you wanted to achieve with Einkehr? Did you set any goals for yourselves?
Leshiyas: There were a couple of goals for us. At first we wanted to bring a long period of working on the material that belongs to Einkehr to an end, set a final stroke. Secondly, the record had to satisfy us completely. And it was time to set a first sign of Vivus Humare in the world.
The track ‘Der Schmerz weckt’ was on your 2008 demo. Why did you choose to include this track? And how has it developed since 2008?
Leshiyas: ‘Der Schmerz weckt’ belongs to the story we’re telling on Einkehr. It was important that this song appears on the album again. We incorporated the lyrics of ‘Der Wanderer’ (on Prolog too) to have the story’s prequel on the album and we had the opportunity to make some things anew. The 2008-Version featured a keyboard and our former vocalist. Since a couple of years we don’t use a keyboard anymore, so we had enough free space in the song to involve new elements, which represents Vivus Humare Anno 2014.
IK: I think the album version totally represents the huge development between the demo and now. The new version is totally revised and re-arranged, there are many details added and which have to be discovered. It is also the only track where three of us do vocals.
The album has three main themes: ‘Der Schmerz weckt’ (the pain arouses), ‘Auf morgendlichen Pfaden’ (On morning paths), and at the conclusion, ‘Traum’ (dream). What inspired this? And how did it inform the writing of Einkehr?
Leshiyas: This three songs base, roughly speaking, on a fictional story about an individual, who is driven by the quest of self-awareness. The first song ‘Der Schmerz weckt’ openings the search, in ‘Auf morgendlichen Pfaden’ the pilgrim continues and the rising sun stands metaphoric for a beginning of deeper understanding. In ‘Traum’ the existence of this understanding isn’t longer safe. All songs have the various forms of reflection / contemplation (= Einkehr) in common.
Can you tell us about the artwork, its design, what it represents and how it relates to the album?
IK: I took over the whole visual concept for Einkehr. The front art represents the band name in total – buried alive – and also represents the record title, the only way to concentrate on your inner feelings, totally isolated some miles under the earth.
While the other visuals parts, like the skull with an ouroboros formed to an eternity symbol and the hourglass, represents that the time is running fast and only death is real.
The vinyl edition will feature seven additional supplement cards, which deal with various artists from the dark past.
Who is the artist? Why choose him/her? And how much direction was given for its design?
IK: The main engravings were taken from old books, there was no credit at all of the artist, I just found them and started to work with them, modified them in that way that they are now totally fits to our concept. The supplement cards include mainly works of Heinrich Fuseli but also Francisco de Goya, Philipp Otto Runge, Johann Schoenfeld and Joseph Koch. All visuals where carefully selected by Leshiyas and me to give an idea what we see with our inner eye when we listen to our songs.
How did you come to work with Eisenwald? Why did you choose to work with them for the release of Einkehr?
IK: The Eisenwald HQ is quite near to our hometown and we know each other since some time. We simply reached out for interest, and the deal was sealed quickly. That is the story behind it, nothing more nothing less.
Is there a philosophy or an ideology that drives the material, both musically and lyrically? And how does it manifest itself in your compositions?
Leshiyas: A special, continuous concept is not given. The idea behind Vivus Humare is deep-seated in our band name, which basically means ‘buried alive’. The associations around the both physical and metaphorical intentioned mental state, builds the ‘Cosmos’ Vivus Humare and prepares due to its extensive scope for interpretation plenty of space to let off steam musically and linguistically.
Can you tell us about the band name, what it means and what it represents for the band? And why Latin?
Leshiyas: The name Vivus Humare means, as said, buried alive. Latin is an ancient language and today rarely spoken. So it’s standing virtually above the everyday life. So we don’t deal with trivial ordinary matters, but with more existential themes.
Buried alive defines a psychical as well as physical state between life and death, an intermediate zone, where you are simultaneous alive but soon dead. It is interesting to set this state to music, because there are a lot of options of interpretation, e.g., what an individual, who is buried alive, can do before it suffers an agonizing death.
Having been involved in black metal for a long time, you must have witnessed many changes. For you, what for you are the most significant? Is the scene what it once was?
Leshiyas: Sometimes it feels like traditional Black Metal is dead. There are a lot of Bands, who play the same shit like in the nineties without any inspiration. But there are really good bands who take Black Metal more serious in a way they reach deep occult and mystic spheres. Today, Black Metal is quite open in its musical styles and lyrical and ideological themes. New influences and trends like post rock, especially USBM, changing and enhance the instrumental possibilities. On the opposite, there is a movement which is orientated towards the eighties roots of Black Metal in a nostalgic and traditional way. The audience is more divided in subgroups, because it isn’t anymore only one kind of Black Metal. I think it’s important for the survival of Black Metal, to always reinvent itself without denying the heritage.
IK: The scene is really overfilled with bands, some years ago there were quite a bunch of good bands, today there are many good bands out there as well, but it gets really difficult to get some attention in the ‘scene’. But that is not the idea behind Vivus Humare. We compose music for ourselves; if there is an echo from the ‘scene’ it is good, if not – there are other worse things that happen at sea.
Because of the internet, black metal is a lot less underground and is so easily accessible. How do you think the internet has affected black metal?
IK: Well, we live in 2014 so the internet is the first way to promote music and it is a good way to get a first impression of a band. I think Bandcamp is the most important platform nowadays – you can check and buy, and when you buy you get immediately access to the full album, that is a pretty good concept!
Leshiyas: I have an ambivalent view on the Internet and Black Metal. I agree with IK but with the Internet all has become really fast-moving. Bands come and go without saying something essential. It is so easy for bands and musicians to bring their musical vision to the ears of people, but also for amateurs. When I look a few years back into the times of Myspace, every so-called ‘band’ promoted their immature crap. Today it seems to me, most bands are more professional in dealing with the internet. It should still be seen as a tool, not self purpose.
What does the future hold for Vivus Humare? Is there more music in the pipeline?
IK: Sure we have some plans, if you remember the Einkehr songs were written from 2008-2011, so we have all material from 2011-2014 still not manifested yet. The concept for the second album already took good shape and it is a continuation of the story behind Einkehr, there is also one track finished based on a Trakl poem, which will be a part of a planned ‘Georg Trakl’ compilation sometime in the future.
Any gigs or tours planned?
IK: There is nothing planned. We are not a band that wants to play very often, because everybody has his own life and live preparations steal a lot of time that could be invested in crafting new music. The idea is that we play up to four gigs per year. That is enough for us, because we believe it should still be something special to present our music live.
Thanks again for taking time out for this interview. Do you have any closing words for our readers?
Thank you for giving us the opportunity to introduce Vivus Humare. Listen to Einkehr and judge!