Country of origin:
Symphonic Black Metal
Astral, Sorrow, Sadness, Darkness
The Path Less Traveled Records
Justin M.: Bass
See also: Azoth
Subverseraph: Keyboards, Vocals (backing) (2006-present)
Donn Donni: Vocals
THE INTERVIEW (Answered By Subverseraph)
1. First and foremost, there's a mighty gap between the release of your last album, "Regenesis Creation." I first heard about you guys from that record, because a friend of mine had seen you in Little Rock (I'm in AR by the way) and talked you up a good bit. So immediately, I grabbed the album and found it to be profoundly interesting. But I kept waiting for another offering from you guys, and began to think that the band might have disbanded or something of that nature. Could you explain exactly what happened in that six year period prior to releasing this album?
Subverseraph: Who's your friend? I've lived in Arkansas twice in my life--from '86 to '93 and again from '99 to September of 2006, when I moved from there to Austin, Texas to join the VESPERfold [roughly a year-and-a-half after my musical endeavors with Greg and Jason Grunwald (both ex-FALLEN EMPIRE) came to an end]. The years between the releases of R.G. and S.W.O.A. can be defined by the following: my induction into the horde on the position of synths/backup vocals; a (frikkin' AMAZING) Canadian tour; Heathen Crusade Festival; the loss of original bassist Tony Compton; the establishment of Amplitude Media Studios; an ill-fated, bassistless west coast tour; Seattle Death Fest; the loss of guitarist James Hardin and his being replaced by a rejoining JZD; Justin M.'s filling of a long-vacant bass position; an east coast tour (with our Swedish warbrethren in GODHATE); an utter clusterfuck of a fest in Monterrey, Mexico; the rise and fall of MySpace (HAHAHA!!!); my re-engaging in the pursuit of martial arts after a 12-year period of sedimentary lifestyle; yet another utter clusterfuck of a fest in Monterrey, this time with MAYHEM (fool me once--shame on you; fool me twice......); the birth of William's child; Kristoph's wedding; the hiring and firing of "managers;" total cockteases leading up to total radio silence from various labels; assorted live dates and festivals across Texas; countless LONG nights in the studio, writing/composing/arranging the material found on S.W.O.A.; the cathartic severing of ties and the acclamation of new, infinitely more essential bonds.
2. Next, I would ask you to describe the recording process for this album. What was the toughest part of that process?
Subverseraph: S.W.O.A. was written, recorded, mixed, and mastered out of our very own Amplitude Media Studios, engineered/produced by Kristoph and co-produced by William and myself over the course of the year-and-some-months leading up to its release. The most tedious part of that process for me was choosing which strings patches to use when so that I wasn't canceling myself out. You can map/block your shit out in the rehearsal room, on paper, and in your head 'til you're blue in the face, but when it finally comes down to tracking it over guitars, bass, and drums, it's practically a whole 'nother story. It's all about frequencies, or so I've learned.
3. What was it like working with Carl August Tideman (Winds/Arcturus), Jason McMaster (Dangerous Toys, Watchtower), Erika Tandy (Autumn Tears/Ignitor) and the guy who designed your album cover, Jon Zig? But I'm really kind of curious about Jon in particular. Did the guy kind of just call you up one day and say "Hey, I did an awesome album cover for you; is there any chance that I could also be featured on the album?"
Subverseraph: As ARCTURUS's Aspera Hiems Symfonia is the album that inadvertently brought the founding members of V.S. together, Tidemann has always been one of William's heroes, and one day, William decided on a whim to contact him about the possibility of a guest appearance on the album; Tidemann replied cordially and in a timely manner, basically saying that were he to dig the material and were he to find the time, he wouldn't mind providing us with a contribution or two; the songs and sections were sent to him; he got back with us the same day (or the next, if memory serves me incorrectly),expressing his being impressed and honored to lay some leads down for us, and shortly thereafter, we had them. Needless to say, we were awestruck by what he gave us and are eternally grateful to him. Erika's been a friend of mine and of the band for some years now, and when faced with who to approach about female vocals, the question was never there. We didn't want some soulless, obligatory-sounding soprano; Erika is experienced and has the range, power, technique, and uniqueness that "Casting Dawn into Shadow," "Eye of the Clock Tower," and "Death She Cried" called for. (http://www.reverbnation.com/morgengrau) The same goes for McMaster on "...Clock Tower" and "Relics of the Impure" who came into the studio one evening, was handed lyrics, heard what he was about to track over, tracked it, and left, being there for all of about 20 minutes or something. (http://www.reverbnation.com/evilunited) At the time of this interview, Erika has performed "Casting..." with us live on three separate occasions and McMaster twice on "Relics..." with hopefully many more to come. They're bad-asses. And speaking of bad-asses,...Jon Zig--frontman of Austin-based brutal death metal bands IMAGES OF VIOLENCE and SARCOLYTIC (both of which have been recorded by Kristoph out of Amplitude) and renowned tattoo artist known for the album cover artworks he's done for the likes of SUFFOCATION, AVERSE SEFIRA, PSYPHERIA, etc. (http://www.medusaink.com/; http://www.facebook.com/Sarcolytic; http://www.facebook.com/ImagesOfViolence) As equally talented behind the mic as he is with the needle, we couldn't have asked for anyone more brutal to supply us with what he did on "An Empire to Mourn" and "Legacies Befallen," and as we are toward all of whom agreed to accent our art with their talents, we're honored and eternally grateful for his propelling our album into an all-new dimension of might.
4. How do you think this album differs, or is it a step above your previous release "Regenesis Creation?" I'm hearing some definite goth influences, particularly on the song "Casting Dawn Into Shadow." To be honest, there are even some parts that remind me heavily of early Graveworm, which was a truly formidable gothic black/death band in their era. What influences did you bring into this album that you didn't have in the last offering?
Subverseraph: S.W.O.A. is everything that made R.G. what it was and more--harder, heavier, more venomous in its faster sections and more monolithic in its slower ones, vastly more complex, more extreme all around and above all, darker. The 6-year period between albums was, within the confines of the band as an entity and in our personal lives both, one of bittersweet maturation and progressions throughout the more forboding of life's territories, so it's only natural that S.W.O.A. reflects such catharsis. Plus, our current lineup is VS's strongest to date, so the potential for more masterful performances was there in spades. Interesting as to how "Casting..." came to be: one somewhat directionless evening at Amplitude, I was in the control room, dicking around on my Fantom with a synthline I had been playing with of late; Kristoph at the console hears it and goes, "Sounds like something THE BIRTHDAY MASSACRE (a non-metal guilty pleasure of his, mine, and William's) would do; sick; let's lay it down," to which I oblige and after which he tracks scratch guitars over and programs scratch drums under, resulting in what eventually became 0:00-0:50 and 1:40-2:13. The "gothic" undertones coursing through the influence we cull from early-90's Swedish death metal within our music gives us a certain edge that distinguishes our sound from that of the average so-called "symphonic black metal" (a very broad and generic label that we resent and feel transcendent of) band. GRAVEWORM is not amongst these influences. Engraved in Black came out around my senior year of high school, and I bought it not having heard anything off of it prior. I can probably count
on one hand the number of times I've listened to it since--kinda came off to me as a less effective AGATHODAIMON, honestly. Good band, great musicians--not my cup of tea, personally.
5. Neoclassical and medieval folk music plays a huge role in the band, and has since it's inception. What composers do you consider the biggest influences in this notion. And as for metal influences, what bands or musicians in that genre do you consider to be key inspirations for your work?
Subverseraph: Pagan/folkish metal: BATHORY (duh), BORKNAGAR, (early) ENSLAVED, SATYRICON (nothing past Nemesis Divina, of course), PRIMORDIAL, ABIGOR's Nachthymnen (From the Twilight Kingdom), SUMMONING, THY SERPENT, KAMPFAR, SIEBENBURGEN's first 3, DIMMU BORGIR's Stormblast, NAGLFAR's Vittra. Non-metal but neoclassical and/or folk-related: HAGALAZ' RUNEDANCE, DIE VERBANNTEN KINDER EVAS, QNTAL, NIYAZ's self-titled, CORVUS CORAX, DEAD CAN DANCE.
6. Vesperian Sorrow is a rather interesting and unique name for a band. It not only has the tinge of black metal nature, but it also has a slightly gothic semblance that I think you've fully embodied on this powerful release. Who came up with the original name for the band, and what does it mean?
Subverseraph: It was formulated by Don Donni, Kristoph, and William when it was decided that the band's original name, UNHOLY DESCENT, was no longer befitting of the music they were writing upon the induction of William in 1996. Derived from the latin word "vesper," "vesperian" pertains to duskfall, sundown, the onset of night, etc., and "Vesperian Sorrow" is open to an extent of interpretation. Anything along the lines of the following is valid: mass grievance at the demise of light, scourge/plague of eternal night, profound bereavement for endless death marked by the banished sun and rising moon (i.e. the Beowulf-Grendel dynamic), metaphor for the Black Death, etc. You get the picture; choose one or all.
7. You guys are from Texas. Of course, seeing as I'm living in the state right above you, I understand what the scenes are like here and how ignorant some people can be. Have you ever had any of those shows where people stood outside with signs saying "heavy metal is evil" or something of that nature? Being in Bible country, I'm sure it happens quite a bit.
Subverseraph: BWAHAHA!!! I wish. The only time we've experienced anything like that was at a gig in Victoria, Texas, but the "protesters" evacuated before we actually arrived at the venue, unfortunately, so no, not exactly. Too bad.
8. What is the message of "Stormwinds Of Ages?" Could you describe some of the more powerful lyrical concepts that you want the world to know about? Is there anything that you feel might need clarification?
Subverseraph: There is no latent "message" behind what we do. We stand for nothing but ourselves, the music itself, and the band itself as an entity. The concepts behind my favorite tracks are as follows: "Stormwinds of Ages" is a war anthem, the Nephilim's call-to-arms; "An Empire to Mourn" is about a conquered civilization forced into subterranean relinquishment; "Casting Dawn into Shadow" tells of a blood flood that begets a pandemic of strigoi; "Legacies Befallen" chronicles a bloodline cursed for generations by an undying inheritance of daemonic possession; "Of Opiates and Accolades" illustrates the seemingly contradictory balance of Light and Dark required to live a life of authenticity.
9. You gentlemen have been lucky enough to play shows not only here in the states, but festivals in Germany, England, Canada and Mexico. As such, I'm sure you guys have some interesting tour stories. What are some interesting or downright comical tour stories that you guys can share with us?
Subverseraph: A month after I joined the band, we embarked on a 3-and-a-half-week tour of Canada/Quebec with several US dates along the way, one of which was Rochester, New York. A woman from one of the opening acts made her lady boner for Kristoph all too apparent, much to the dismay of her band's frontman who was evidently in some kind of relationship with her. Well, after the gig and while we were loading out behind the venue, this guy storms out of the club yelling as he passes each member of V.S., "Fuck you! Fuck you! Fuck you!" Donni: "Huh? Fuck ME?" Douchebag: "Nah, you're cool. But fuck you!" He then gets in his car and drives off after doing some drunken angry donuts in the empty parking lot. A few minutes pass, as we go about our business loading up the trailer hitched to our tour van, and then he returns, fullspeed ahead, seemingly intent on crashing his vehicle into it (with our drumtech inside). Foiling his plan to fuck us up, though, was some type of formidably-sized pipe that stopped his ass dead about 5 feet short of collision. Drama queen survived, but his car didn't, and as smoke began to rise from under its bent-to-shit hood, HE STARTED CRYING!!! BWAHAHAHAHAHAHAAA!!!!!!!!! Total Darwin Award.
10. Where do your lyrics come from? What inspires them?
Subverseraph: They stem from visions had by Don Donni, scenarios upon which he elaborates in poetry and creates spectral landscapes behind--all blighted by decay in one form or another. They're fairly stream of consciousness and as esoteric as the listener wishes them to be as per their own interpretation.
11. What are some good books, films, or computer/video games that you guys might recommend?
Subverseraph: Check out the latest (animated) installment in the Starship Troopers franchise, Starship Troopers: Invasion. Directed by Shinji Aramaki (Appleseed, Bubblegum Crisis, Gasaraki, etc.) and executive-produced by Casper Van Dien, it pays way more homage to the original novel by Robert A. Heinlein and is infinitely more bad-ass than the 1997 film, not to mention, its 2 piece-of-shit sequels. I haven't made the time to delve into many books lately, but one that I HAVE is one I found in the 2-dollar clearance bin of a Barnes & Noble several weekends ago--The Illustrated History of Torture: From the Roman Empire to The War on Terror. Seek it out, and be sure to read it while eating BBQ-flavored vienna sausage.
12. What are some new bands that you think are worth checking out, whom we might not have previously heard of? Are there any other bands/musicians in other genres that you think are worth checking out?
Subverseraph: Black metal: CEREMONIAL CASTINGS (Battleground, Washington), INQUISITION (Seattle, Washington), INFERNAL WAR (Poland), VALKYRJA (Sweden), HYMNS (Fayetteville, Arkansas). Death metal: GODHATE (Sweden), SARCOLYTIC (Austin, Texas), MORGENGRAU (Austin, Texas). Terrortech: SUICIDE COMMANDO (Belgium), PSYCLON NINE (Hollywood, California), C-LEKKTOR (Mexico), DIE SEKTOR [Atlanta, Georgia (their Scraping the Flesh EP and To Be Fed Upon album; the dubstep-ish tendencies throughout their more recent material turn me off)].
13. What hobbies do you guys pursue outside of the band? Is there anything about you guys that we wouldn't have guessed?
Subverseraph: Martial arts has always been a part of my family, what with me, my brother and father studying Tae Kwon Do ('90-'93 in Arkansas) and Kajukenbo ('93-'97 in Hawaii), and since early 2008, I've taken on Tukong Moosul, which is what's taught to the South Korean Special Forces. It's the "other woman," so to speak, to the band and my V.S.-related endeavors. Through the academy I train at now, I fell in with a team of stuntmen/fight choreographers, which opened the door to some acting in film that I've done in recent years and continue to do every now and then.
14. Even though it's been a while, Dimmu Borgir put out Abrahadabra. Even though there are many people out there who hate the band, what did you gentlemen think of it, if you've even played it at all? The same question goes for Morbid Angel's Illud Divinum Insanus. What were your impressions, and do you think it was as awful as everyone has said?
Subverseraph: Rhetorical questions. Upon exposure to MORBID ANGEL's I.D.I., I was embarrassed FOR them. I need not elaborate. Abrahadabra has a few interesting moments strewn about here and there, but DIMMU BORGIR is a shadow of its former self, and that's never been more evident than on said album. Listen to Puritanical Euphoric Misanthropia (everything up to which was excellent, in my opinion, especially Stormblast and Spiritual Black Dimensions) and then to Abrahadabra--Daray's a bad-ass drummer, but the guitars (when you can actually hear what they're doing exactly--claustrophobic mix and testosteroneless tone) are fairly uninspired for the most part and buried somewhere beneath a Harry Potter orchestra that inadvertently NEGATES any dark atmosphere and INSULTS their no-longer-upheld, Nordic might-encapsulating style of blackened metal.
15. Despite the fact that you've been around the world and produced four albums to your credit, your talent has been overshadowed by other bands, and there are some metal fans who haven't even heard of you. By the sounds of this disc, it seems like you guys are hoping for a major breakthrough album. What's even more is that you're not even attached to a label anymore, yet I'm seeing an add in my latest Decibel (magazine) that looks as professional as any label advertisement would. How in the world do you guys manage to do this by yourselves? And what could other musicians who wish to be independent learn from you?
Subverseraph: S.W.O.A. was released on The Path Less Traveled Records, and the only backing we have from them is through distribution, so yes, we are essentially independent. We manage to do this on our own out of choicelessness. Despite countless attempts toward it, we're not signed to Napalm or Season of Mist or Nuclear Blast (yet), but in the meantime, we're not just going to sit on our laurels waiting for "something to happen." We MAKE shit happen because we can't afford not to--to the best of our ability, cognizant of past experiences with at the very least, more to gain. And it's not cheap or easy, but is anything of any lasting worth? Advertising (like everything) costs money, and you get what you pay for. Metal is art, and art is suffering. If you're unwilling to make financial sacrifices and sacrifices of time and are too inept to network with others in the field or are too immature to delay gratification, expect to remain as nothing going nowhere.
16. I'm not even going to beat around the bush. Whether or not you're in Greece or London playing a show, you're still American citizens and there's one hell of an election going on in our country. Let's get political for a second. What are your views on the unemployment rate, the tax cuts for the rich, and imminent destruction of the middle class? There are literally some people who are scared to death by the election of a new figurehead in the White House, and that in turn scares ME to death. What are your thoughts on all this political drama?
Subverseraph: Shit, sheeple wanna put enemies of the Constitution in office that wanna rape us one civil liberty at a time, they'll reap the rewards. It matters not. Too far gone for far too long. All will be a post-apocalyptic Hyborian age of Conan soon anyway where the only law is that of the sword, and quite frankly, the older I get, the more that that law is the only one that makes any sense. Scared of it being all Mad Max and shit? Why? Certainly simpler that way.
17. Imagine this. You were given the ability to create total destruction upon the earth, in order to cleanse all of mankind. How would you do it? Massive fireballs from the sky, monsters rising up out of the water, perhaps? Describe to me, no matter how silly; your perfect apocalypse.
Subverseraph: Definitely with monsters rising from the ocean's depths to give civilizations worldwide the ultimate ass-kicking. Japanese giant monster movies are something that I was obsessed with as a kid and never grew out of. Mass destruction is my meditation. I'd love nothing more than for Godzilla-esque leviathans to reveal themselves to an oblivious and meddling mankind through reducing the world's superpowers to flaming rubble beneath their clawed, saurian feet (and tails).
18. Do you have anything else to share with your fans, or any other messages you need to get out before the end of the interview?
Subverseraph: I do not, but eternal thanks for the interview and for your support and to the fans worldwide for yours--y'all make it all the more worth it; we'll see ya soon. Stay dark. \m/ >,< \m/
I apologize for the length, but thank you for your answers, and maybe if all goes well, I'll be able to see you guys at Downtown Music in LR, as I missed you on the tour for the last album. I'll definitely buy a shirt in support!
Vesperian Sorrow - Stormwinds Of Ages (PR2012) - Texas epic extreme metallers, Vesperian Sorrow are certainly no stranger to me. I jumped at the chance to review this disc and it was well worth it. As much as I loved 2006's "Regenesis Creation", 2012's new album was well worth waiting for.
But with six years comes it's share of differences. For instance, this disc has more of a gothic feel and a much higher production value that definitely dwarfs the production on their earlier disc. The vocals are absolutely killer, comparable to latter God Dethroned, but even better I think. The melodies and riffs are fucking beautiful, as well as the solos. The drums blast every which way and still manage to not lose the atmosphere that the synths carry so well.
I honestly didn't expect this much of a gothic metal influence this time, but it seems to have worked well for the band. Don't worry though, as there is still plenty of black metal influence here as well. It all melds together so seamlessly, just as I would've expected.
Sometimes there are layering effects on the clean vocals (which sound very dark regardless) and some female vocals on major standout, "Casting Dawn Into Shadows 5:23." I've ever heard full on clean in "Eye Of The Clocktower 7:14" and never knew that their vocalist had such a great singing voice. Speaking of that track, it's a long epic, and definitely deserves that title.
Fans of more popular black metal bands like Dimmu Borgir and Old Man's Child that feel those bands haven't offered anything that great in a while might want to check the Vesperian camp over here out. But I won't even lie that I am still drawing some major vocal comparisons to God Dethroned here, and I like that a great deal.
This disc is actually full of surprises and every damned one of them is worth hearing. When they say "epic" they mean epic. I literally feel this disc as the soundtrack to a very dark fantasy role-playing game. You could probably play it during Dark Souls. But I'm sure that these guys don't care, and probably play it too.
There's not one song here that I can't recommend, not one instrumentation that I did not like here. Everything definitely was set to kill, and to thrill. This is not boring, and it's most certainly brutal. You're going to hear great riffs, great drumming, fucking killer vocals and the kind of synths that make this kind of metal epic. I had no idea I was going to enjoy this disc so fucking much, so I recommend that you check it out too, because it's one of the year's best, quite simply.
There's so much meat to this album, and so much ground has been covered in each and every one of these songs. If these guys don't get known for this fucking disc, then they just won't get known and I'd piss all over the scene for it. This is the kind of metal that's going to mean something, and I'm sure that the underground embrace is going to come for them soon enough. This is a disc that was well worth waiting for, quite possibly the best of their fucking career.
You can't go wrong with this one.
Highlights: The Whole Disc, even the intro! Play it again and again.
(11 Tracks, 57:00)