So, some months passed since the release of your seventh album, “A World In Their Screams”, but, how do you feel towards it now? How was it received by the media and fans? Do you still find that preference towards your first trilogy, which made you famous, or the newer stuff is getting good feedback too?
Although the album has been well received in principle, I don’t have the feeling that the audience honestly appreciates it – but I’m not surprised. It really is a difficult, frightening album for the inexperienced listener. The situation seems quite similar to the release of The Umbersun 10 years ago, when critics were impressed, but many didn’t know what to make of it. And today, everybody is desperate to find a copy.
I remember my first encounter with Elend was because of an interview on the Italian Grindzone Mag, and since the beginning I was attracted by that band of classical music students who worshipped Darkthrone and created Dark Neo-Classical music with a satanic devotion. How has Elend changed since your first album, “Leçons de Ténèbres” until nowadays and which are the biggest differences between your first albums and the last ones in your opinion? I can imagine you’ve been asked before about that, but, where does your moniker come from?
The term “Elend” is German for “misery”, “distress”, “despair”. We chose it because of its significance for our music and particularly for the Officium concept.
The music of the Officium albums was intended as a kind of survey of the complete Western musical tradition, from the Renaissance to the middle of the 20th century (where a new renaissance occurred, however one that has failed to gather the masses, because this role was taken over by pop music), growing more violent and dense on the one hand, and more modern on the other, as it advanced. The new Elend cycle took off from there, with a focus on contemporary music, avant-garde as well as pop, incorporating other traditions and tendencies. All of this happened quite consciously: we had done the most out of what you call the “classical” Western tradition already.
As I said on my review, I feel some similitudes between your music(or the one on this album) and the one of some bands of the Dark Industrial/Neofolk scene like Der Blutharsch or some Cold Meat Industry stuff, perhaps not so much for the music but for the atmosphere and kind of feelings you transmit. What do you think about it? Do you have any interest for that kind of bands or scene?
We couldn’t care less for the concerns of the Neofolk scene and have expressed our disgust about its aesthetics several times. This music, which in itself is trivial and completely insignificant, goes hand in hand with fascist aesthetics (sometimes oblique, sometimes explicit) and not only appeals to a group of people that can relate to these fascistic elements; obviously, many just lack the capacity to detect and question them. Although any listener is entitled to draw the associations he wants, I want the reader to be aware that Elend reject any relations to the ideology inherent to this type of approach to music.
What can you tell us about nowadays Elend’s line-up? When you started you where only three persons if I’m not wrong, but you’ve been attracting more components and now the bands is quite complete. Who does all the composition? Is everybody helping on that side or the majority of musicians are only that, session musicians?
The composition has always been taken care of by Iskandar Hasnawi and myself. Our engineer Sébastien Roland had worked with us on the first album and joined us full-time in 1997. Around this inner core there is a group of close collaborators: David Kempf (violin and direction of the orchestra), Esteri Rémond and Laura Angelmayer (soprano vocals and vocal effects). Our lead female vocalists have changed over the years (Eve Siskind left us during the recording of the second album, Nathalie Barbary joined us at that time, but the last album she appeared on was Winds Devouring Men), but they have never contributed to the process of composition. All other musicians are session instrumentalists and vocalists whose number varies depending on the album. For an in-depth illustration of line-up details I suggest that the reader takes a look at the appropriate section on the official Elend website:
I know your first three albums’ lyrics were orientated towards dark and occult lyrics, but are you still using that kind of subjects on your news songs? How has this side of Elend evolved? “A World In Their Screams” seems to be quite an apocalyptic title. How important is the message for Elend, which is almost an instrumental band?
I can understand that Elend might appear as instrumental music through some pieces, especially since much of the music has such a cinematic feel, but this is only one aspect. An Elend album consists not of music alone. The visual and textual dimension is as important to us as the sound. It is a way to combine all the various aspects of the work that we are interested in doing together in one single object – light years away from the current view of music as an entertainment product.
As a thematic backbone, the lyrics are essential for anyone who wants to dig deeper than the mere musical surface. The poem that underlies the 3 albums of the Winds Cycle could be described as the tale of an errancy in the chaotic, tragic world of Greek antiquity, thus the quotes from ancient Greek authors abound. Unlike the Officium, which depicted a world inhabited by an angry God, an incarnation of resentment, this new cycle shows a world without God (even if customary deities are present), where man is the toy of circumstantial forces beyond his understanding: time, the elements, war; a tragic world. The winds and their destructive power circumscribe this journey.
But I firmly believe that our albums work on various levels. You don’t have to understand all the musical, lyrical and visual references in order to be able to appreciate them. If you do, it introduces a welcome additional dimension, but it is not necessary at all to realize all the implications or hints.
Have you ever thought about reproducing your music live again? I think you only did it once in all the band’s history. Do you think it would be easy or it’s quite complicated to reproduce the right atmosphere for Elend’s music on stage? Don’t you think it would be great to make an Elend concert into an old cathedral?
A cathedral would be great in theory, but it would be far more difficult to achieve a satisfactory result there than in a concert hall specialized in staging performances of contemporary classical music – and this is the only option we have. It is out of the question to have most of the music in playback, which we had to do in our only live performance. Anyway, the budget for such a venture would be far beyond our financial capacities: beyond the concert hall, we would need at least 100 classical musicians (the greater the number, the more density in the music, but also the less precision – this is a problem we don’t have in the studio) and an outstanding conductor; but also a great amount of technical equipment (computers, synthesizers, samplers, speakers, amplifiers) and technicians to operate those machines. Finally, we would need 2 weeks of rehearsing with everybody involved.
Being a band which had, almost in the past, a big relation with religion, what do you think about all them nowadays? What do they represent for you and how do you see them in relationship with nowadays world situation? Has it lost it’s power or it is still there, controlling and having an influence on humanity’s fate?
The fact that the Officium dealt with themes partly based on Western philosophy and theology has led many people to believe that Elend have had more than mere abstract interests in the matter of religion. The point is that what we tried to achieve with this cycle had to be presented in a comprehensible form. Most people in our culture are familiar with the Christian religion and related topics, also regarding deviating interpretations in philosophy or literature, such as Paradise Lost. In order to produce our tripartite maelstrom we thus looked for a symbolical figure that could embody this process (Lucifer). From a Catholic ceremony designed to welcome hope and light as the symbol of Christ’s resurrection (the “leçons de ténèbres”), held on the three nights before Easter Sunday, we achieved a descent into utter hopelessness and emptiness (hence the name “Elend”).
Do you still feel attracted by extreme Metal music? Which bands surprised you these last times as well on the Metal scene as on others? Do you think, as some people claim, that nowadays musical scene lacks so much of originality or it’s just a matter of searching and finding interesting bands?
I have great trouble finding original musicians these days. This does not only apply to metal, and it has been going on for a couple of years.
Some short choosing questions: (please explain us why did you choose them)
- Politics or religion:
- Peace or war:
- Earth or fire:
- Past or future:
- Satanism or atheism:
Except for the third point, on which I have no opinion, I believe that my answers to your previous questions make those choices obsolete.
You arrived to the end of the questions. Thanks a lot for your time, it’s always a pleasure to interview a different kind of band like you, receive my best wishes for the future. If you want to add anything else, it’s your time…
Thanks a lot for your interview and for following our work for such a long time. It is people like you who have made it possible for us to keep releasing our albums.
Gia Thanatos is a webzine dedicated to music for the apocalyptic times. No matter the scene or genre it comes from, and mainly chosen according to its author's taste.