by Liisa Ketonen
Consisting of intensive and rich evocative explorations, Hyperion the debut album from Finnish post black metallers Woland has emerged as one of the most thickly captivating and provocatively enthralling releases in recent months. It is a release which has to be heard and felt to understand its potency, not one easily explained by mere words and descriptions. Grateful for the opportunity to learn more about one of the best albums so far this year and its creators, we loaded up the questions for guitarist LXIV who talked with us about the history of the band, the journey in making Hyperion, the relevance of Nietzscheism to Woland’s lyrical premises and much more…
Hi LXIV and welcome to The Ringmaster Review and thanks for sparing time to talk with us.
Before we talk about your recently released debut album Hyperion, could you give us some background to the band and its members?
The band was formed in late 2009 while W’s other project, Cavus, was touring with Mayhem. W was having a bit of a ‘fallout’ with the extremely crude and disgusting side of black metal that is Cavus. I was their sound tech on the tour, and after few pints of wine it was agreed that together we’d do something completely different.
The road to this point was extremely long, not only considering the album but also the line-up…Good, reliable and skilled musicians with a flexible calendar are hard to come by. Especially when you have to be able to sit with them in extremely confined areas for extremely long times without wanting shove your thumbs trough their eyes.
Fortunately it seems now, that we’ve managed to gather a group that fills at least the most of these needs.
Was there a deliberate intent with the band at the start in regard to sound and direction then?
From the start it was clear that we were going to make something unheard, unseen and provocative. Through music, it crystalized in the making of the Conquer all & Live Forever promo. That was the foundation on which we started to build the album.
There is seemingly a core black metal heart to your sound but equally there is an expanse and diversity to it which potently takes Woland in other imaginative areas. How do you see your sound from the inside?
The diversity of the sound isn’t really a thought out process per se. Our musical ambitions and tastes are unconfined. It’s only natural that our music comes out that way also. Our core lies in black metal. From there we can expand, abridge and disturb as we see fit. I haven’t really wasted my time thinking what do we sound like. We do what we do; we sound what we sound like. It’s more about emitting emotion, I really couldn’t care less about genre specifications and are we ‘this’, ‘that’ or ‘that behind the that’.
Some of this rich diversity must be deliberately crafted though but how much is it the organic evolution of your ideas?
The parts, ideas, lyrics, artwork etc. really came through by themselves. We weren’t really going through the process of writing looking to stir some shit up…that’s just a good bonus. But sure, we didn’t just whip something up. This album cost both me and W a few nervous break downs. The diversity and the maturity of the music is not there because we just happen to be talented. There is very little on the album that wasn’t thought out, pondered and reasoned back and forth for many times.
I’m not an artist, I’m a craftsman.
Out of curiosity what inspired the band name?
by Liisa Ketonen
The name originates from the Soviet satire ‘Master and Margarita’. When we were pondering a name for the band, we found that the somewhat surreal and cheerful depiction of Satan and his mishaps represented extremely well what we were trying to accomplish through our music.
Plus our original drummer has a very peculiar resemblance to the cat Behemoth.
In the literature accompanying Hyperion, it states that Woland ‘gazes to the future with a Nietzschean vision and welcome it with opened arms.’ Could you expand on that for us?
The term ‘Nietzschean’ may be somewhat disconcerting. His thoughts merely resembled somewhat what we we’re trying to accomplish with our music. Personally I’d prefer a term like ‘promethean’ or ‘luciferian’.
I feel people have grasped the whole ‘nietzschean’ thing way too sternly. It’s not a ‘thing’ of Woland, it’s not a gimmick; it’s not what separates us from the herd. It’s simply a good phrase to describe our stance in music, lyrics and the whole scene surrounding them.
Black metal is known for misanthropy, destruction, hate, darkness, coldness etc. You know the basic stuff every mentally 15 year old finds fascinating. We wanted to flip the coin around. Freedom, empowerment, apotheosis…I’d rather create something meaningful than waste my time destroying something meaningless.
Is there something in particular which predominantly inspires your lyrical themes and premises?
In these types of questions, I’ve mentioned the aforementioned apotheosis. I believe the main themes of the album rely on fulfilment, whether they be spiritual, erotic or philosophical by their nature.
The influence of some of the modern world’s most prominent philosophers and writers as stated in the promo piece is open to see in the lyrics but how would you say that stimulus impacts on the actual music?
Speaking strictly about music, I haven’t considered it when writing. But naturally the themes we carry in our lyrics and the passion towards aforementioned writers and mythology, echoes in our music.
I believe it can be sensed in a grand scheme of things through the album. We strive for greatness, bigness, impact and awe. There is lots of well thought mechanics, arches, lines and themes, whether they be musical or lyrical.
To answer your question, the way I see it, we treasure the same type on refinement of creation, as do and did the great minds we build our band’s foundation on.
As we said earlier you have just released Hyperion, your debut album. I believe it was planned to appear near the end of last year, what brought about the delay?
Actually, it was supposed to be finished much earlier. There were tons of delays, problems and inconveniences that plagued the making process. Not to mention that we were getting pretty obsessive about the whole project…And at same time we were ready to pull the plug numerous times. It was an extremely difficult project from start to finish.
As you mentioned you released the double single, Conquer All /Live Forever in 2011, both now appearing on the album. Did you rework them for Hyperion and how would you say even in the relatively short time has your sound and style progressed from those first songs?
The songs were re-recorded and some parts were getting a bit of a make-over. It took three years from Conquer All & Live Forever to get to the release of Hyperion. I wouldn’t necessarily call that a short time, especially considering a difference between a promo and a debut album.
But you can clearly see that it all was there already in CA&LF what Hyperion is about. It was only a matter of making it bigger and better in all fronts.
Listening to Hyperion, you can sense that the band deliberates and works on every aspect to intensive levels, working it all to flow and combine seamlessly. That draws the imagination to wonder, was the album a long journey in its actual creation?
As I mentioned earlier, yes, it was an extremely long and tedious journey. During halts we grew impatient and anxious to finish the album. Getting back to work, we realized that some parts would have to be reworked…Ad infinitum. You see how this could get quite difficult especially when you have two extremely pedant people without limitations considering time?
Sometimes we felt that we had made some major breakthrough that would finally cut all the knots open for the rest of the album…the next day I’d call W and inform him that it’s all crap and I’m going to delete it all from the face of the earth.
Yes, it was a long journey.
Was this primarily more down to getting things perfect or were external obstacles as much a part of its lengthy birth?
Both. All of us were going through some major changes during the making of this album and we’ve had our share of difficulties with securing a strong line-up for Woland.
But I’d be lying if I said that it was all because of external problems…I recorded the guitars twice, spent an eternity working on the arrangements, trying different aspects, W spent over a year working on the lyrics and vocal lines. I mixed the album almost thrice, if I recall correctly…
It was a sum of many things but in the end, I think it was just that we were insanely fixated on the album. Fortunately, when the labels started to show some serious interest towards us, we were forced to finish the album. Otherwise we might still be in the studio working on it.
Have some songs dramatically changed from their first guises over the time it took to complete?
Art of Ascensions started as considerably slower and pale…W’s notion that it sounded like “coked up AC/DC” made me work a little more on the arrangement.
Elevated Existence was originally a 16-minute mammoth. After W made me see, that it truly was shit for the most part and I was only stroking my artistic cock, I scraped the whole thing and started fresh. The ending is the only thing that survived to the album as it is.
It is fair to say that every song upon Hyperion captured our imagination but None especially lit a fire in the passions, a track we called a true artistic predator. Can you tell us about the song, background, its emergence, and recording etc.?
To this far, it’s been the most controversial track on the whole album. People seem to hate it or love it…Which naturally pleases me.
The track was written under an extreme aftershock of and absinthe filled evening. So maybe that’s where the magic lives. I believe W was also having a bit of a meltdown during working on the song and he was stuck for weeks with the lyrics and vocal arrangements.
Considering recording, there really isn’t anything extremely different about the album…But during the writing and mixing process, I was, contrary to many songs on the album, striving for disturbing soundscapes so that might be a part of the difference.
Lesson learned; Drink more absinthe and try to fuck people up more often.
Is there a particular track or moment on the album which for you brings an extra tingle of pride or satisfaction?
I find that the title line of the aforementioned None came out rather well. The ending of the album also deserves a notion.
How does the writing process work within the band?
For the most part I take care of the music while W handles the vocals, lyrics and artwork…but naturally we give ideas to one another and beat the shit out of each other considering criticism.
Tell us about the ‘breather’ on the album Honey in the Lion and Risto Tiihonen, who performed it, and in a thoroughly intensive and dramatic album from start to finish, why was it placed exactly where it was on the album, between Extacy and Rapture and Live Forever?
That melody is actually over a decade old and hence the oldest song on the album.
Earlier in the making of the album, we had discarded a song or two from the final selection. We just didn’t feel that they had the necessary quality to them. Unfortunately for us, they were also faster paced songs, which kinda tied our hands considering the song structure of the album. When we didn’t want to introduce weaker songs to the album just for the sake of variety nor did we want to rework songs which were already on their way to be finished, the idea of a ‘breather’ rose.
I didn’t want to take the easy road and make just make a bunch of ambient noise, which seems to be the trend in metal. Nor did I want to place the breather in the middle of the album as a divider for it is not that. It doesn’t divide the album into two sections it simply is a little islet in between the two vast oceans, that doesn’t mean that it bears no meaning nor significance. To me, it’s one of the most germane tracks on the whole album.
As for Risto, we go way back and he is a close personal friend of mine. He’d already performed the piano solo on Live Forever, so the choice was easy when I knew what type of a song Honey in the Lion was to be.
You also have some guest vocalists on the album; Geir Bratland (Dimmu Borgir), Mathias ‘Vreth’ Lillmåns (Finntroll), and Janica Lönn (Black Sun Aeon). How did their contributions come about and was it always the idea to invite additional vocalists?
We didn’t plan the guest appearances from the start but from the very beginning we were open to the concept of using guest talents. But the striving force was always a need for something specific. We’d run into a situation where we noticed the need or want for something different. Then it was merely a matter of finding the right person for the job. Fortunately for us, we are very blessed with talented acquaintances.
Woland by Storm Photography / Janica Lönn
For us Hyperion is a uniquely outstanding encounter, a release which sets a high benchmark for you to follow…Are you nervous yet?
Not at all. The binding force of Woland’s music is our freedom from constraints and the will to strive forward. Our next album will come when it’s ready and it will sound as it’s intended to sound like.
Hyperion sounds as it sounds because we have no interest in mimicking the ways of others. I have even less interest in mimicking my own works.
What comes next from Woland and can you give us an idea what you have in store for 2014 as a whole?
We have some festivals on the table as well as some potential shows with some major acts but nothing I can comment on the moment. Our performance at Blastfest, Bergen last week opened us some options from which you’ll be hearing shortly.
All in all, at the moment it looks like it’s gonna be a great year.
Once again big thanks for talking with us.
Have you any last thoughts you would like to leave us pondering?
Thank you for having us.
“Wer nicht liebt Wein, Weib, Gesang, der bleibt ein Narr sein Leben lang”
Read the review of Hyperion @ http://ringmasterreviewintroduces.wordpress.com/2014/02/16/woland-hyperion/
The RingMaster Review 09/03/2014
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