Hi Tlmnn, thanks a lot for accepting this interview. How is all going up there in Berlin? I bet it's a lot colder than here. What will be on your play list while you answer my questions?
I’m listening to Unearthly Trance’s posthumous 'Ouroboros' double CD and will later turn to some Museo Rosenbach. Spooky Tooth is on cue as well.
Well, given the fact that the release of 'Idola Specus' is a real event, as the release of your first full-length took twenty two years, what are your feelings about it after some months and a lot of comments from the fans and the press, which mostly received it really well? Was it always clear for you that Drowned would release an album, or are you as surprised as Drowned fans must be?
After the demise of the 'Viscera Terrae' line-up things looked pretty much fucked up for a while. It was surprising that I managed to get yet another line-up together which in fact turned out to be the most productive one that Drowned has ever had. Without T2/T.NGL and G/G.ST, Drowned would be history and “Idola Specus” would never have been possible.
If you ask me, I see this recording as the fulfillment of all the good things Drowned represented on the previous ones. All the elements have been pushed to the extreme and you sound darker, heavier and much more introspective, although it's a less aggressive and slower recording that the previous EP. Obviously, there's been people claiming they still prefer 'Viscera Terrae', or even the demos, but you can't please everybody. What's your impression on 'Idola Specus' and what do you think you achieved and improved when comparing it to your precedent creations?
Thanks very much. I totally agree that the album takes the sound of 'Viscera Terrae' to another level. After all, you cannot do the same thing twice, yet I am also very conscious of the identity of the band and what I am looking for. 'Idola Specus' is more refined, varied and atmospheric than any of our previous recordings.
With all due respect to Mors Dalos Ra and his contribution on your previous release, I find G.ST's voice much more fitting for your sound. His voice is equally deep, but sounds even more harrowing and desperate. I really think he's made a great contribution to the band. Despite the change was only due to the occupied agenda of your previous singer, don't you think it has been for the best?
MDR did a great job on 'Viscera Terrae', but his voice is of course also very much associated with Necros Christos. When we had recorded drums, guitars and bass for “Viscera Terrae”, we passed the recordings on to MDR along with the lyrics, and he solved the impossible task of working out the vocal lines within two weeks. As far as the whole recording process is concerned, “Viscera Terrae” was in many ways an extremely lucky and unlikely accident.
The situation now is a fully working band, something that Drowned had never quite been in the past, or only for very short periods of time. The songs on 'Idola Specus' were rehearsed intensely, so G.ST could gradually develop the vocals. He has also contributed a lot of lyrics which probably also shows in his performance. It’s a very different process.
And, as said before, I specially find a much deeper and surrounding atmosphere, which is my favorite part of it all. Every time I play the album (cause it's one of those albums that haven't left my turntable since I received it) I get completely drowned (I can't find a more suitable word in fact) by the huge ambiance it distills. Did you fall into heavier paths just naturally or was there a conscious decision to lower the tempo? Had the inclusion of your mates in Essenz anything to do with that?
On one hand, it was just the way the songs were developing; probably also as a reaction to 'Viscera Terrae' which is extremely dense and uptempo. “Antiprism” with its twisted doomy beginning and the intro section of “Gnomon” were the first music that I wrote after 'Viscera Terrae'. On the other hand, T.NGL is not a typical Death Metal drummer, he comes from a doom background, so that may have emphasized the slower aspects as well. It’s however very important that the music is flexible and contains a wide array of tempos. 'Idola Specus' is definitely not a doom album as some reviews may suggest. There are lots of uptempo parts as well, not to mention “Letzter teilbarer Strahl”, one of the fastest Drowned songs so far.
Working with Matias Ahonen for the mastering of the record was indeed another very good choice, as he's given the album a finishing touch that keeps its organic sound and strengthens it with a vitality and heaviness that is beyond a lot of the recordings we find nowadays on the Death Metal field. Why did you choose him and not other usual engineers? Which other previous works from him did you like?
The other guys had worked with him on the second Essenz album which sounds amazing, so it was a logical decision. But the organic qualities of the sound also have to do with good microphones and top-notch sound engineering, so cheers to T.NGL for that also, hehe! Plus we recorded at our rehearsal place; what you’re hearing is our own gear in its natural habitat.
Maybe 'Idola Specus' is not one of those vinyl releases we find so often nowadays, with an explosive cover full of color, symbols, whatever creatures ... and full of extras, but on the other side nobody could say you haven't spent a lot of time and effort giving it an extremely fitting packaging. From the mysterious cover by Manuel Tinnemans (which, as I could expect, was not appreciated by everyone) to the two really minimalistic and clean cardboard sheets, I can only think of that old statement saying “less is more”. Simple and effective, again. Can you please give us some details of what kind of idea you transmitted to mr. Manuel Tinnemans and how should we look at this visual mistery?
Even though a good friend, Manuel Tinnemans was not involved at all, I don’t know where this information comes from (Ed: it was obviously an error) … The front cover and graphic design were executed by myself. Timo Ketola contributed the Bés demon drawing on the vinyl/CD label. As for the overall visual style, all of the elements used are pretty strong on their own, and I didn’t want to compromise them by adding murky background images or any kind of decorational dirt. This is what we have to say, take a good look.
As for the front cover, it wasn’t specifically created to be the cover art, but soon after I had taken the photo back in 2007 or 2008, it became clear that it would be a good candidate. It’s haunting and mysterious without being figurative. An uncanny, formless vapour. What more could you ask for?
Timo Ketola was in charge of the design of the demon we can find on one of the center of the vinyl. On the credits you mention it as the Bes demon, and what I could find about Bes describes it as a protector of households, mothers and children, and the defender of everything good and the enemy of all that is bad. That seems like a strange choice for a Death Metal band. Could you please elaborate on this?
Haha, I’m not perfectly sure but I suppose Timo wanted to grant us some protection.
The figure of the gnomon appears two times on the lyrics of 'Idola Specus'. The gnomon is the part of the sundial that projects the shadow, and it appears on an almost mystical form on “Vacuous Sanctum”, where you describe it as follows: “the revelation of shadows appears as an obelisk ... they who curse its presence are diving vastly into ember”. Am I wrong or should I find some Luciferian reference on these words and the others found on that song?
Sure, why not. You could call it Luciferian even tough that might be narrowing the meaning. I don’t like to interfer with listeners’ interpretations, but let me say that many of the lyrics on the album reflect the relation of light and shadow and distortions of reality. One main theme is the gnostic/cognitive process. The “Gnomon” can be seen as a metaphor for both impending doom and realization.
When I read your lyrics I've got the impression of facing a very metaphorical and unconscious transmission of feelings and thoughts. I find them very different to most of what we can find in other bands of the same style, even if they can tread similar fields such as the occult. In your case I find something less “intellectual”, like you directly vomited the darkest part of your mind on paper being on a psychedelic trip. What kind of state of mind do you need to find yourself in to capture such expressions of darkness?
True, I’m not so much into writing stories when it comes to lyrics for Drowned. It doesn’t feel appropriate to me. The lyrics are more like an extension of the mysterious atmospheres of the music (and that also goes for the cover art, by the way). I have a notebook with ideas and snippets of lyrics that I often extend, rearrange, and return to. When G.ST started to contribute lyrics we also exchanged text fragments that both of us expanded on. It’s a bit like clustering words and atmospheres into larger structures of lyrics.
In the last years I've frequently been thinking about how much better the German Death Metal scene looks right now than in the biggest part of its history. In the nineties there were some great acts, but after that I must say I can't think about more than two or three bands that deserved the attention. Bands seem much more concerned now, not only about the music but about all that surrounds it (image, lyrics, exposition ...), and some of them have in fact leaded the international resurgence of the Death Metal spirit. Your thought on this?
You’re perfectly right and I couldn’t put it better.
In fact, one of the differences with the nineties is that the Death and Black Metal scenes seem closer now, probably because of an approach from both to their sources, as well as a certain common ground when it comes to the more obscure lyrics of the bands that have been popping up in the last years. You formed the band in 92, how have you lived all this process, especially when it comes to how Death Metal evolved (or decayed) from that moment?
Death and Black Metal have essentially always been the same thing to me. In the early 90s, Death Metal lost its spirit, and while the second Black Metal wave originally tried to get closer to the original meaning of this music it created horrible new trends instead that were even worse than the downfall of Death Metal. All of this defintely had its merits, but the situation from about 1995 until 2000 was terrible for Metal. It seemed that all that was left was really bad clones of either Burzum or Cradle of Filth. It was extremely surprising to witness the rebirth of the scene during the 2000s.
Given the amount of hard to find recordings Drowned has before 'Viscera Terrae', which are only available on places such as Discogs for really high prices, have you considered the possibility of re-releasing them on a compilation? That would definitely make my day and other followers of your music.
Honestly, I just don’t think the old stuff is good enough to deserve a re-release. There are so many demos that are way more relevant.
The final question is obvious: will next Drowned full-length be 'The Second Coming Part II' or is there a slight chance that you may focus on that sooner this time? Will Drowned speed up its writing and recording pace or will it stay the same?
Given the working conditions that we have now I’m pretty sure that we will come up with a new album way sooner. In the past, Drowned hardly ever had a perspective of songs being rehearsed and released in time. I would mostly do guitar demos on my own without being sure if the songs would ever be recorded with a band. We have played a good number of shows since the release of the album and are about to start working on new songs very soon.
Thanks a lot for spending your time on these questionnaire Tlmnn. Good luck with whatever the future brings to Drowned. I leave the last words to you, feel free to add anything else I may have forgotten on the way.
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