TTI: Who were the first people to hear Trance Of Death and what were their reactions to it?
F.S.A.: Only a few friends and the reactions were mostly positive.
TTI: According to some of your earlier interviews, this album was almost entirely written in 2013. If that was the case, what made you wait four additional years to finally release it?
F.S.A.: We started working on it right after the release of our mini album and the process stretched over six years. By 2013 we had a lot of music written, most of the material on the a-side of the record for example, and the basic structure of Metanoia Journey. Then one of our guitarists left the band in 2014 and took some of the songs with him, so we had to rearrange some of the material. We had to continue as a three-piece after that, and since I was living in Austria until a year ago, it was hard to make progress. When our new guitarist David joined the band and I moved to Germany, the album finally took shape. We made an extensive pre-production where we focused on one song at the time, tried out a lot of different things, worked out all the bits and pieces, and made a demo recording of it afterwards. Once we had all the songs arranged and recorded, we were able to work on additional instruments, melodies, harmonies, etc. as well as vocals. This whole process was crucial to the outcome of the album and was a very good preparation for the studio.
TTI: The opening track entitled Entrance, that was performed only by two cellos and a piano, may seem like somewhat unusual and unrepresentative instrumental introduction to this album. Can you say something about that piece of music?
F.S.A.: The intro is based on the last melody of the album and was roughly re-arranged for the cello part. Steffen Murau, who played the cello, improvised around this melody and that’s what you hear on the record. I think it sets the mood for the record perfectly.
TTI: There is an obvious conceptual connection between the last three songs on the album, as they represent separate parts of Trance Of Death trilogy. Style-wise, I can’t say they differ too much from the first three songs, but I guess the common theme that keeps them inseparable is hidden in lyrics. Can you say something about them? What are Reflections, how those reflections make someone embark on Metanoia Journey, and what Other Worlds represent the final destination of that journey?
F.S.A.: It is hard to explain the meaning of each track because the lyrics are very personal and partly inspired by the effect the music has on us. The title track is a journey leading to the unknown, starting at the end of your life. It’s a transition through different emotions, mental and physical states and a way of breaking new ground without knowing what lies ahead.
TTI: There is a sun fading behind the red horizon, all within a giant eye that dominates the cover of Trance Of Death. Is there some deeper meaning behind that image?
F.S.A.: The cover stretches over a gatefold sleeve and there is more to it which you will see once it’s out. You are right with the eye, it’s the center of the whole design and connects the outer sleeve with what’s inside. But it depends on the perspective. It can also be the point of view from within someone’s eye who stares at a vast landscape and whose mind drifts away. There are many ways to look at it, and like the rest of the record, its interpretation should be individual to the listener.
TTI: One of the things that crossed my mind while listening to Trance Of Death was that this is how Tribulation would have probably sounded today, had they decided to keep evolving within the death metal idiom following the release of The Formulas Of Death. Unfortunately, they chose to simplify things, become more accessible and take the easier and much safer route with The Children Of The Night. Still, the only two albums I can think of right now, that are comparable to Trance Of Death in terms of their scope, vision, eclecticism and artistry, are precisely aforementioned Tribulation album and Sweven by Morbus Chron. That being said, Trance Of Death resonates as much darker, more ominous and essentially more of a death metal album than any of those two. How do you feel about this description, do you think it explains adequately the soundscapes you wanted to explore with this record? If pressed to do it, how would you recommend Trance Of Death to a person who hasn’t had the chance to listen to it yet?
F.S.A.: We don’t try to sound more death metal than any other band. Our music comes naturally and we don’t force ourselves in any direction. I think the diversity of the record makes it appealing to all sorts of people, but if you want war metal blast beats from the beginning to the end, this might not be your cup of tea.
TTI: Your eponymous EP, that was brilliantly wrapped up in Jonathan Hulten’s artwork, instantly put Venenum on the map and made you a force to be reckoned with. Still, that effort was nowhere near as imaginative and artistic as this album, it was more an example of vintage death metal done right. Would you agree that Trance Of Death gave completely new dimension to the band’s sound, to a point that it almost represents a discontinuity with the music on the EP? How would you compare those two releases?
F.S.A.: We don’t want to limit ourselves and are open to all kinds of influences, no matter what genre. That’s what makes this record diverse and dynamic. It should be very obvious that a band doesn’t sound the same after six years. People change and evolve, and so does the music. I can’t really relate to people who expect from a band to repeat themselves. It’s totally boring and uninspiring. I’d rather have a band I enjoy listening to do something new and original, at the risk of not liking it, than repeat what they have already done before. The important thing is to stay authentic.
TTI: Tell me something about Thomas Pietzsch, the owner of Sepulchral Voice Records. Obviously, you consider him to be invaluable and reliable business associate, otherwise you probably wouldn’t have released both the EP and this album on his label. Having said that, apart from his professionalism, what are some of his personal traits that you like and respect?
F.S.A.: He is a very good friend of the band and has supported us immensely from the beginning. There is nobody that we trust more with our music than him. Thomas is one of the most honest people I know and one of the few people whose opinion I value.
TTI: When I was discussing phenomenon of death with Yoni of Grave Miasma, he expressed his belief and hope that experiencing the very moment of dying will surely be the most beautiful moment of his earthly existence. Considering that the title of this album deals with that very same moment and presumably aims to emphasize the beauty of it, would it be accurate to say that you share the same hope?
F.S.A.: I experienced that moment and it had a great impact on me and changed my view of life. Since I am not dead, I can only assume what comes after death based on my experience, but I personally believe that this experience is individual to everybody as is your life, senses and emotions.
TTI: Many death metal bands that are intrigued by the mystery of death, and all the questions without answers that inevitably come to mind when one thinks about it, tend to express their fondness in reverse manner, merely by loathing life. Is Venenum one of those bands? Do you also think that life is essentially worthless?
F.S.A.: It’s very fashionable to have an opinion like that when you play death metal, but I doubt that most of the people really think that way. If you really loathe life that much why not end it? We don’t feel any need to express ourselves in that way, we rather let our music do the talking.
TTI: When you read books, what do you seek in them? Do you like them to relax you, or to cause you a headache by pushing you into deep contemplation?
F.S.A.: It depends on my mood. When there is time where I could read, I mostly listen to music instead, but there are periods where I prefer to read. I like fictional books, but sometimes I read out of purely linguistic interest. I find it easier to relax while listening to music because you can adapt it to any situation. You don’t have to actively listen to music to still benefit from its effect while reading requires full attention.
TTI: In any art, I always prefer style to story or concept, meaning that I will always enjoy more a well written book than an interesting one. If writer’s style is captivating and smart, you can open his book on whatever page and enjoy his writing, in spite of not having any idea what the book is about as a whole. Same goes for movies and music. How about you, do you feel the same way?
F.S.A.: I basically feel the same. Art has to shake your senses and communicate more of a feeling than a specific message. It should encourage your imagination and inspire you to make up your own story in your head.
TTI: When it comes to satisfying your physical needs or the way you feel about material things, which philosophy in your opinion has more weight to it, asceticism or hedonism? And why?
F.S.A.: I don’t live my life based on any kind of philosophy or religion, but if you want to break it down to those two examples, I would rather lean towards hedonism. Any kind of abstinence can be very healthy for both mind and body, and should be practiced if needed, but to degenerate in excess is much more appealing. It’s all about balance and self-awareness.
Originally published on 10th February 2017.
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