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We have just met Akroma thanks to their fourth album "Apocalypse [Requiem]"; now we'll also have a chance to chat with their founding members about the history of this peculiar French band.
Welcome to Aristocrazia Webzine. How are you?
Matthieu: Hello, I'm fine and thank you for letting us some space in your webzine. I'll try to do my best with English! [smiles]
Since it's your first time on our webzine, let's start by introducing the band and its members to our readers.
Matthieu: Well, Akroma is a symphonic black metal band formed in 2003 in Nancy, France. The core of the band is a duet: Matthieu Morand (guitars, orchestrations, score) and Alain "Bob" Germonville (vocals, lyrics). From the first record we knew that we wanted to make something violent, dark, technical, progressive and huge. So we imagined music somewhere between Cradle Of Filth and Dream Theater. We recorded four albums including "Apocalypse [Requiem]". The other band members are Pierre-Yves Martin on the bass, Laura Kimpe is in charge of the Latin chants and the almighty Dirk Verbeuren is behind the drum kit!
Before moving to your latest effort, I'd like to talk about your history. "Sept" was your first album, made of seven seven-minute long songs with seven guest guitarists and — of course — based on the seven deadly sins. It may sound a little silly, but it was a very interesting debut nonetheless. How was working on such a peculiar album?
Matthieu: Thank you! Well, I have to remember back in the days; it was fourteen years ago that I started to write the first song [laughs]. I wrote the music quite fast; in six months I guess I had the seven songs. It was not as orchestrated as now, because I wanted to have a keyboard player in the band at that time. So I didn't melt too much orchestral instruments in a same time. We had a pretty good idea into what we wanted for Akroma. Working on the first album was really fun, we had just begun to learn to work together with Bob. He wrote the lyrics from the music and we tried many things with the vocals. When the demo was recorded we looked for musicians. That was the hardest part because Akroma just came out of nowhere and I had to convince the seven guitarists and the other members to join us. It was quite long and took me almost two more years to gather all the material to mix the final album.
Then "Seth" came: once again, ten songs based on the Ten Plagues of Egypt with ten solos played by guests; obviously, you chose not to make ten-minute long songs this time. This was also the second album with a biblical theme, which is quite unusual for an Extreme Metal band — aside from the openly Christian ones, of course: how did you choose to work on biblical topics?
Matthieu: The Bible is a big book with many stories inside. This is just a pretext to make a good story from one theme (seven deadly sins, ten plagues, twelve Apostles, Apocalypse, etc.). We just take the theme, then we make up our own story and our own lyrics from it.
Having mentioned uncommon themes, "La Cène" has probably the most unusual one: the Eucharist, with each song representing one of the twelve Apostles. Since French is not a language I understand, I'd like to ask: more precisely, what did you talk about in this album? The life of each Apostle, their meaning in the Bible or anything else?
Matthieu: We do not discuss in "La Cène" about the apostles of the Bible themselves. It is a transposition of the Gospels at a time closer to us with fictional characters. Actually it is indeed a story of revenge. Damien is the main character interpreted by Bob. His mother was prisoner of a sect composed of twelve men, each one bearing the name of an apostle. You guess that they raped her in order to get a new Messiah. But the woman escaped and hid from this sect during all her life. When Damien is a grown man, he understands the distress of his mother and decides to find those twelve apostles, kill them and play the last supper with their corpses. The particularity is also that each apostle is killed the same way that he died in the Gospels and the day they are celebrated in the Gregorian calendar.
We've finally arrived to 2017, the year of the "Apocalypse". I've already said what I think about it in the review, so I'd like to know how you feel about it, compared to your previous albums.
Matthieu: From my own point of view, I think musically and conceptually we reached a goal we never expected to get to one day, it's really amazing and we're living a great time. The album is unanimously acclaimed from now and we are very proud of it.
The theme of the album is quite obvious reading its title: as ambitious as ever, but definitely fitting Akroma's style of concept albums. How did you work and research to write the lyrics?
Bob: For the lyrics it is very simple: we take themes from the Holy Bible and then I create stories. We hope they are good enough to catch the listener.
Matthieu: Basically Bob and Me we discuss about the theme we want to work on. Then we discuss about the scenario, the story we want to create from the biblical theme. We sometimes call upon of friend of ours who is a Priest and a huge metal fan. He was a great help for example during "La Cène".
For the first time you decided to sing in English: why did you make this choice, after three albums in French?
Matthieu: We wanted to explore this possibility in order to get the opportunity to share our music and our lyrics with more people.
Musically speaking, your mixture of Symphonic, Progressive and Black Metal creates a very personal sound: how do you think it evolved during all these years of activity?
Matthieu: The evolution was mainly on the orchestrations and arrangements. I got more and more confident in my scoring, I worked hard on it, I learned, I analyzed a lot of symphonic scores. Then I tried to synthesize my passion for classical music and for metal music together. Since "La Cène" we don't work with a keyboard player anymore, so I'm in charge of all parts. I have no more boundaries of technical matters (playing) and rendering (many instruments can play together at the same time). That was the big evolution. Now I'm really close to what you can have with an orchestra and indeed my music can be played by an orchestra.
The ear-piercing (in a positive way) vocals of Alain Germonville are one of the most distinctive features of Akroma's music: even though some may find them annoying, I have to say that I've always loved them. Did you get inspired by any singer in particular to develop this kind of scream?
Bob: For singing it is true that I learned to sing from the Cradle Of Filth's albums and some others but I always wanted to have my own style without copying a particular singer. What makes the originality of Akroma is the singing that is so special. That makes it unique to Akroma and you can recognize our music right away.
Your songs combine many interesting elements, with often complex yet melodic results: how do you compose them?
Matthieu: The core of the scoring is the same; my process is always to write the guitar part from the beginning to the end. I have also in mind the theme of the song in order to create the right atmosphere. I'm very into catching the listener with a good melody or a particular riff, something different, sometimes very technical or just an acoustic part for example. The song "Offertorium" is quite representative of the synthesis of all that.
How is the situation on stage? Are you promoting "Apocalypse" through live shows?
Matthieu: Akroma is not performing live shows.
Let me ask just one spicy question: I'm a bit disappointed when I see that there are not so many Akroma fans, while some other bands gets thousands of followers in just a few months. Maybe it's because of the unusual vocals, maybe the musical style is not very appealing to the (metal) masses, maybe it's just the French language used until this new album, or maybe it's simply due to a lacking promotion. Even though I'm sure that you're happy with your quite small but surely fond fanbase, why do you think your band still dwells in the underground scene, despite its ambitious nature, quality music and hard efforts?
Matthieu: You are right and all the reasons you're listing are maybe a part it, leading to the actual situation. We try to do our best, with the Fantai'Zic label to promote our music but it's a wild world [laughs]. The main thing for us is to make the best album we can. The presence of Dirk Verbeuren from Megadeth on drums in our new album may change the situation!
And now a silly question: if you had to choose five albums to bring with you on a desert island, which ones would you choose and why?
- Rush – "Hemispheres": it's simple; it's the best album ever.
- Malmsteen – "Marching Out": it's the album that gave me the desire to play guitar. I practiced a lot on this album and Yngwie is one of the best guitar players in the world.
- Overkill – "Horrorscope": damn, this album is so great and synthesis the spirit of the Nineties. One of the best thrash albums.
- Iron Maiden – "Powerslave": because you just can't live without it. The best album by the band.
- Cradle Of Filth – "Dusk And Her Embrace": without this album there would be no Akroma. This is the pure essence of the music we wanted to get close to.
And if you can add five more:
- Dream Theater – "Metropolis Part 2"
- Megadeth – "Rust In Peace"
- Nevermore – "Dead Heart In A Dead World"
- Telephone – "Crache Ton Venin"
- Metallica – "Master Of Puppets"
Even if you have just unleashed the "Apocalypse", are you already thinking about your next album?
Matthieu: Not really. We let the time go by and we'll see in a few months if we are ready to work on a new album. For me a cycle has come to an end. So if there is a next album we will have to think about something really new!
Thanks a lot for the time you spent with us; if you want, you can say anything you want to our readers.
We are glad to have the opportunity to be interviewed in Aristocrazia and to be read in Italy! Hope we gave you the desire to listen to our new album.