We speak the word of glory and that of abomination…
With their second album, The Dead Of The World, due to drop on 24 December and ruin every ‘Best Album of 2014’ list, answering as one, Germany’s black metal mob Ascension took time out to talk to MR’s Jason Guest about the album, it’s writing and inspiration, the meaning of music, Lovecraft, and a bunch of other stuff. Just listen, read it, and then throw all your other albums away… well, put ’em aside awhile at least.
Thanks for taking time out for this interview and congratulations on The Dead Of The World.
This is your second album. What did you want to achieve with it? Were there any specific goals that you set yourselves?
What we try to achieve with every new record is to turn ourselves inside out by the means of our art. We chose Ascension to be the medium to transport and transcend our feelings, our innermost abysmal visions. It is a divine tool of communication between us and our gods, the powers we descend from. We speak the word of glory and that of abomination. So, naturally The Dead Of The World became the record about what we felt, saw and didn’t see over the last four years. In this period of time a lot of things moved and changed. Some for the better, some for the worse. There was a very strong feeling of hostility towards and absence from the world. To cast those feelings into a record, as unaltered as possible, was the main goal we set ourselves. For us, the second album overflows with negative emotions and darkness, so I dare say we succeeded.
How do you approach composition The Dead Of The World? Do your works begin with a melody, a passage, or a concept perhaps? And how do you develop these ideas?
I don’t want to go too much into detail with those things. After all, writing and composing music or writing lyrics is a magical procedure for us. It is hard to explain anyway. Yes, the songs can begin with a riff or melody, a lyrical line, or just outspoken feelings and ideas we talk about. It differs a lot actually. After that we take every step necessary to put everything we want to express into the song. The main place for this is our rehearsal room. We moulded it in a way that corresponds a lot with the idea of divine communication. Sometimes things can go very fast, sometimes it takes on endlessly and you nearly lose your mind. It is all a matter of inspiration.
Did you have an idea of how you wanted the album to sound or did each of the tracks and the whole thing take shape as it was being developed?
We knew what we wanted to express and which feelings we wanted to conjure. But the actual songs and the sound of course developed over time. It was a long and demanding process. I think The Dead Of The World is way too complex to have had this all in mind beforehand. And we did not want to limit us in any way. Moreover, spontaneity can be a virtue from time to time. And it is the irrational and subconscious aspects that fascinate us most about this our artform.
Your Consolamentum album of 2010 dealt with the transformation of a human soul and its journey from ashes to salvation. Is there a theme, a concept, or a philosophy that underpins The Dead of the World?
There is kind of a red thread, yes. But it is definitely no concept like on our debut. The more we worked on the record the more we realized that this will be an album about death in its thousandfold shapes.
What are the lyrical themes? And where does inspiration come from?
The Dead Of The World speaks about the gods of death, about physical death, about metaphysical death, about solitude and being a shadow and about the relation between the high and the low, about this world and the beyond. Well, where does the inspiration come from? We ask ourselves the same question a lot actually. Some songs are influenced by real life events. With that being said I do not mean mundane, useless everyday life but real, very deep emotional experiences. Very terrible and at the same time beautiful things we had to live through over the past years. Other songs have a more metaphysical, philosophical or visionary approach. The feelings that comprise those songs and lyrics are no less real and intense but the inspiration definitely comes from other sources than life.
The album artwork is incredible, very striking. Can you tell us about the design and what it represents?
The artwork is incredible indeed. It was created by David Glomba, a very talented artist we worked with for the first time. Besides the front and back cover, he created a unique drawing to each of the seven songs and a symbol for each song. I am pretty sure that the LP version of the album will not be challenged by a lot of records. We are extremely proud of it and very thankful at the same time. I really don’t want to go into detail with the artwork. First of all, it is David’s work and he should be the one talking about it if he wants to. Second, the album isn’t even out. We really want people to dive into the albums artwork together with the lyrics and the music. I am pretty sure that there will be a lot of interpretations to it and maybe each one is equally worth and true in its own way. In the end it is important what you see in the artwork and not, what people tell you to see in there. I don’t want to affect the way people approach the artwork
Why did you choose to work with David Glomba?
Our label boss showed us some of his work at some point. As we wanted to achieve a certain mood with the artwork we instantly felt connected to several aspects of the drawings presented. I daresay that he really outdid himself with the artwork for our album. It left us breathless.
The band name means spiritual pursuit and the album artwork features a new symbol for the band. Does this represent the band’s spiritual progression?
Yes, this is one aspect. Ascension is an ever-growing, ever-changing beast. The sigil shows our relation to the more spiritual aspects of the band. It will be used as a wellspring of power for us, on and off-side the stage
What does the act of creating music mean to Ascension?
Music is a very powerful medium for conveying messages, secular and spiritual. Do you think that music – something intangible and abstract – is itself imbued with a power to provide an avenue into these unknown aspects of existence?
Yes, definitely. We always considered music to be of divine origin and character. It is a medium of transcending the flesh and the spirit. Remember the story The Music of Erich Zann by H.P. Lovecraft? Is that not a beautiful and at the same time terrifying example of the nature of music?
You will be heading out on your first tour in 2015 with Bölzer, Vassafor and Dysangelium. How are preparations going for these shows?
Good. It will be an interesting experience for all of us, bands and audience, I am sure. We will play at The Dome in London on 22 February with the 3 mentioned bands + Destroyer 666. We consider this to be a massive line-up.
What would be your ideal venue or setting for an Ascension show?
Inside a mass grave, I would say.
What does the future hold for Ascension? Early days I know as the album is to be released on 24 December, but is there more music in the pipeline?
No. We will concentrate on the tour and some festival shows in 2015. With the last four years in mind we decided to better not plan too far ahead. Time will tell anyways. Right now, the album is what people shall consume. It will be worth the wait, I am sure.
Thanks again for taking time out for this interview. Do you have any closing words for our readers?