Obsidian Tongue have released their second album, "A Nest Of Ravens In The Throat Of Time", and Aristocrazia took the opportunity to offer, in addition to the review, also a look into the duo formed by Brendan Hayter and Greg Murphy.
Hi Brendan, let's start jumping unnecessary preamble and I immediately ask to you: who are Obsidian Tongue and What are your goals?
Brendan: Obsidian Tongue consists of myself and drummer Greg Murphy. Our goal is simply to make the most emotional and melodically rich extreme metal we possibly can.
Your atmospheric black seems to have more points of contact with the one proposed by the cascadian scene, and it is impossible not to mention Agalloch and Wolves In The Throne Room. Do you feel some spiritual contact between your proposal and the way in which those bands express themselves?
I have heard the word "cascadian" thrown around a lot recently, especially by people talking about Obsidian Tongue. However since we live on the other side of the country it is hard to feel connected to the scene coming from Cascadia. I also have not heard a lot of bands from this scene, other than Wolves in the Throne Room. I can say though that WITTR and Agalloch have been influential on Obsidian Tongue in the sense that I really hope to make other people feel similar feelings to the ones that those bands have made me feel over the years.
I got the opportunity to listen "Volume I: Subradiant Architecture" and, after I have received a copy of the new album, I have noticed a better and deeper approach to the melodies, an atmosphere that evoke more feelings and flashes of psychedelia that have enriched your music. Did you changed your songwriting process? Did you get inspiration from some new sources?
There was no change in the songwriting process between albums, there was just the creation of new songs that developed the band further. "Subradiant Architecture" was the first few Obsidian Tongue songs written, and the album is really just a foundation to build our future music off of. Writing those songs made it possible for the new songs to be written.
On the record the presence of several clean vocals sections feeds a kind of feeling that, in some epic moments, carries the songs in a dimension outside the normal flow of the time. In the titletrack the guest vocalist is the Agalloch's singer, John Haughm: how did you get in touch with him and why have you choose this song to take advantage from the collaboration?
We met John Haughm at a festival here in New England that both of our bands played in October 2012. We talked for a while at the show and then kept in touch online after that. I had the titletrack written and always felt like I wanted somebody else to sing it. I imagined that John's voice would serve the song well, perhaps because the song was inspired by Agalloch in the first place. I sent him the demo and asked if he would be interested in singing it, and he accepted.
What meaning do you give to the artwork of "A Nest Of Ravens In The Throat Of Time" and to the Friedrich Nietzsche's quote included in the booklet?
The meaning of the artwork is basically an extension of the band's aesthetic that I really wanted to get across. Psychedelia has been a huge inspiration for Obsidian Tongue since the beginning, and while our album doesn't sound extremely psychedelic, the aesthetic of psychedelic metal was driving all of the writing sessions. After our first album was presented, it was time to let our real mission statement be known. I told the artist Jake Kobrin what the album meant to me and without hearing any of the music he came up with the design for the cover. His design truly encapsulates what the music means to me, and even at a first glance of the art you can see this is not just a standard black metal offering. The Nietzche quote on the inside is just another extension of the record's vibe and the band's aesthetic. He speaks of music coming to you when your will is at its lowest point, it offers healing powers and an opportunity to form a new perspective on existence now that you have experienced the loss of our will to live. That is an underlying concept running through the album that will be extended into our future releases. The idea of depression as a catalyst for mental and spiritual development, that is, if you have the enchantress that is Music holding your hand and guiding you through the abyss.
Nick Skog and Hypnotic Dirge Records are often guests in Aristocrazia. He is a serious and reliable guy, and he has so far produced good albums. How did you meet him and how did you decide that this label was the right one for Obsidian Tongue?
I found Hypnotic Dirge Records online some time last year. I was searching for new and interesting labels that I might like working with for either of my bands, Obsidian Tongue or Truthseeker. Hypnotic Dirge is a purveyor of both black metal as well as post rock and doom metal, so I sent him both of my projects at once to see if they were interested in either. Nick was really into both of the projects and the first thing we did together was actually re-release the debut Truthseeker EP on his Bandcamp, supported by a new press release. We then agreed to release the next Obsidian Tongue album together. I feel connected to the aesthetic of Hypnotic Dirge and I am happy to be working with an independent label run by such trustworthy and dedicated individuals.
The release of this second album was a co-production between Hypnotic Dirge and your label, Dissociation Records. You can provide us some news about the work you are doing with this label?
Dissociation Records is not a fully functional record label, it is more just an "umbrella" under which my musical offerings can be found under. I will not be releasing anyone else's work. When you see the name Dissociation Records that simply means it was funded and released by me personally. Hypnotic Dirge and myself split the manufacturing costs and I paid for the recording and artowrk costs, while Hypnotic Dirge executed the PR and digital distribution. It has been a great co-operation.
Did you already presented the new songs on stage? Do you think it is always essential to be active in live or the music can safely remain something personal and not necessarily repeated thousand times in front of unknown people?
Yes, we just returned home last week from one month on the road performing songs from the new record every night. Some musicians function differently, but for us it is indeed essential to be active in live performance. You can write and practice a song one hundred times and experience your own personal catharsis through that process, but to really give your songs the gift life and nurture them as living creatures (in our case our songs are ravens in our perspective), they should be brought out into open air and granted the opportunity to grace the senses of other people. If a song was deeply moving to you when you wrote it, that means it can be deeply moving for others. You owe it to yourself and to your creation to offer exhibition to a willing audience, in hopes that you all can share a moment of rejoice for the power of music together.
It is difficult to manage your participation in Obsidian Tongue, in Blood Of The Gods and in Thrawsunblat, avoiding a band steal other resources to the others? And there is some news about the second and the third band?
It has not been difficult at all so far. We all just work around each other's schedules, and in the case of Thrawsunblat I just had to rehearse and record the bass lines over the course of a few months last year, which was after the Obsidian Tongue album was done and we were not performing very much. As far as news of those bands, Blood Of The Gods has a new EP coming out very soon, and Thrawsunblat just released an acoustic EP called "Vast Arboreal Sky" on Bandcamp recently. I am not sure when the next Thrawsunblat project will take form at the moment, but knowing Joel's creative pace I'm sure he'll have a whole new batch of songs for me to learn soon enough!
If I'm right, you have known David Gold of Wood Of Ypres, he was one of those characters who was carving out an important space in the metal scene. What memories do you have of this artist who prematurely died?
Yes, I met David in March of 2011 when Woods Of Ypres came to play in Massachusetts. Obsidian Tongue opened for them and I made acquaintances with David and Joel at the show because they enjoyed our set and I was already a fan of theirs. We kept in touch on the Internet after the show, and in the fall of 2011 I learned they were in search of a new bass player for upcoming tours they had planned. I inquired about the position and showed them some previous bass work, and after some more talking they gave me the gig. Unfortunately, David passed about three weeks before we were supposed to meet up and rehearse for the tour. It was still an honor to have been offered the gig, but sadly I do not have many memories of David because we did not get to spend the time together that we were going to.
In this historical period seems nations, one way or another, try to block or monetize the art with a series of ridiculous impositions. The latest news comes from Canada that has decided to include a two hundred seventy-five U.S. dollars surcharge for any musician who comes from abroad and the situation weighs heavily on underground bands – which certainly can not afford that outlay – and on the cost of the tickets, because the bands will increase their cachet to not miss anything. There is no way to mediate politics, economy and culture?
I only heard about Canada's new bill very recently, and I am quite bewildered. Just the fact that they think the majority of traveling musicians can really afford these costs? As if we are riding in our vans with tens of thousands of dollars in a box under the seat? I don't know. I still can't believe it honestly, it is too stupid to believe right away. I will have to read about this issue more before I can say anything else.
What are your favorite albums? If you had to choose an album, a book and a movie to devour in one single day what would be your choices and why?
Album: Tool's "Lateralus". This album is my foundation as a musician. I got it when I was thirteen and since then my life's mission has been to make music that makes me feel the way that album made me feel. Book: "The Complete Works Of Edgar Allan Poe". I have had this compilation of all of Poe's work for about eleven years now and he remains my favorite author. There's just no explanation for the affect his writing has on me. Movie: I'm afraid I haven't delved into the world of great cinema as much as I should have yet. If I were to pick a movie of the ones I've seen, I would either say "Forrest Gump", "What Dreams May Come", or "Legends Of The Fall". Yes, I am a cornball.
What relationship do you have with nature? It happens sometimes you leave the city to spend the day into the nature looking for inner peace?
I have never lived in the city and don't plan to, for the sake of keeping as close with nature as I can. My relationship is constantly growing, yet stays the same, in the sense that desires and ideas and people come and go, but the silence of a forest always brings your deeper self to the surface. Where I live, my relationship with the ocean and lakes/ponds is one of my strongest connections. I stare at the ocean until my vision starts to adjust and my mind slows until nothing is real except the water's motion, the water's sound, and my spirit's fulfillment.
What will be the next Obsidian Tongue's steps?
I am working on an exceptionally long composition for a 4-way split album we are doing with three other New England bands. We are still shopping around for the right label to release it under, but we are all very excited about this undertaking. After that, Obsidian Tongue will put out an EP that expands on the hidden conceptualization of "A Nest of Ravens In The Throat Of Time".
And the interview is over, then I leave you the word one last time to send a greeting or a message to our readers.
Thank you for inviting me to talk, it is quite flattering to know anyone cares enough to hear what I have to say! To everyone, keep listening to music, keep creative and face your fears.