Though only a couple of weeks into 2012 the year has got off to a strikingly impressive start in metal releases with Lacrima Mortis from the doom metalers The 11th Hour. Fuelled by melancholic tones and a deeply striking theme the album is a wonderfully inspiring and emotive weave of oppressive riffs and stark intent graced by soul searched melodies. Provocative and perfectly intrusive whilst engaging it is hard to imagine many future releases will consume and fulfil as thoroughly as Lacrima Mortis. With great pleasure we had the chance to ask multi-instrumentalist and song writer/composer Ed Warby from The 11th Hour about the album, band and about his music.
Welcome and thank you for finding time to talk with us at The Ringmaster Review.
How are emotions on the ‘eve’ of the release of new album Lacrima Mortis?
Excited mostly, no matter how many albums I make this is always a stressful period but the first reviews have been very good so I’m a little more at ease.
You must be proud of what is a stunning and creatively impressive album. Did it come out as you envisaged when recording or has it surprised you a little how it evolved?
All songs were demoed extensively so there weren’t many surprises anymore once I started recording. On the other hand it is a magical moment every time a part comes together the way you hoped it would, especially after focusing on little details for weeks and finally being able to hear a piece with everything in place.
As you write and compose the songs and play all instruments on the album did the songs find their form more in the studio or did you have a firm shape and direction to them before hand?
I usually have a very clear idea of what a song should become, but sometimes you find a part lacking and you have to search for a way to make it work. I added the choir in We All Die Alone at a later stage, and the intro was done during mixing. But I’d say 90% of the album already exists in my head before I start, it’s almost a visual thing for me.
Being the sole song and music contributor to The 11th Hour must give you not only control but a freedom to develop as you go?
Absolutely, I enjoy being in a band situation as well but it’s great to have the freedom to do literally anything I like without having to take other band members’ opinion into account. That’s not to say I don’t value their opinion, but The 11th Hour is so extremely personal I don’t think I could write easily with another person.
Sleepless nights too considering you also produced the album? Haha.
Sleepless nights are an integral part of the album-making experience, unfortunately. The closer I get to the deadline, the worse it gets. I can lie awake for hours thinking about a fade-out, or a delay, small things that nobody will notice but it drives me insane! I cannot however take credit for the entire production, I did record and engineer the whole thing but the mix was done in Sweden by Ronnie Björnström.
So you bring in an outside ear and opinion during production to test and challenge the safety one could fall into doing it all oneself?
Ronnie is my outside ear and his contribution is hugely important. By the time he gets involved I have lost all sense of perspective so it’s refreshing to have someone “fresh” come in at this point. The most important thing he taught me is to look at the big picture like a casual listener would, instead of obsessing over details (which I will continue doing as that’s how I work, but good advice it was nevertheless).
When I started recording in February I told Napalm optimistically I’d be done by July so we could have an October release but I missed that deadline by about 3 months. Once it became clear I wasn’t going to make my original target I didn’t set myself a new one, although I knew I didn’t have unlimited respite because of the whole promotional side of releasing an album.
As with your previous album Burden of Grief, the new release is extremely powerful and dark. It does though have a lighter, for want of a better word, touch giving a fuller experience, do you agree or what are the differences for you?
I think it’s a more colourful album than the debut, which was very bleak and dreary. The arrangements are much richer and there’s a lot going on in each song, so the replay value has hopefully increased.
The songs feel deeply personal in places; certainly they hold a surety seemingly of experience. Is this the reality and what inspired the albums concept?
While the lyrics themselves are largely fictional, they’re invested with a lot of deeply painful personal elements. The main inspiration comes from the death of my parents, which happened a long time ago (mid and late 90’s respectively) but it’s something that I will always carry with me. When I made Burden Of Grief my sister was very ill as well as she suffered from the same lung disease that killed both our parents, fortunately she was successfully transplanted in 2010.
In reference to the themes on both albums are you a cheerful person at heart haha?
I am, jolly and cheerful! But I do have a very strong melancholy side, I can totally lose myself in the past and when I do the doom just comes pouring out.
Unfortunately due the effects of illness you could not collaborate with Rogga Johansson vocally on Lacrima Mortis, did this feel like a big setback initially?
Absolutely, at that time I still believed I was going to make the deadline so it really put a spoke in the wheel. And while I knew Pim did great on stage it was still a gamble as I didn’t know whether his voice would work well with mine and the rest of the music on the album.
As you mentioned Pim Blankenstein of Officium Triste took over with blistering effect. Did you have to change the songs at all to accommodate his impressive delivery?
Not at all, I already had all the vocal lines worked out for Rogga and Pim came well-prepared so the recordings were a breeze. We changed a few words here and there so they felt more comfortable to him, but overall it as exactly what I wanted. Talk about a blessing in disguise!
This is a wicked question but how do you think the album has benefitted from having Pim contribute as to if Rogga was able?
I think Pim’s voice is more solemn and therefore more suitable for doom, Rogga is one of my favourite growlers but he’s very “death metal”. Pim almost sounds like a force of nature when he starts bellowing and that really gave an extra dimension to the growling parts.
Can we ask about how The 11th Hour came about originally and the inspiration for its direction?
It was Rogga that came up with the idea of doing a doom project, but he being as busy as he is that never happened and we made Demiurg’s The Hate Chamber instead. I liked the idea though so I started writing on my own and when I had enough material for an album I asked Rogga to provide the growls for it. The first song I wrote was One Last Smoke and that set the direction for the rest of the album pretty firmly, Rogga convinced me I should sing myself and he put me on the right track as far as the lyrics are concerned.
Your history involves a variety of bands and styles in the likes of Gorefest, Hail of Bullets, and Ayreon as examples. Are you trying out genres and styles, like a boxer moving up in weights?
Good theory! It’s more simple than that though, I’m from a time when there was just “metal” and “everything else” so to me it doesn’t feel as wildly eclectic as it may seem. I approach each project the same way: what’s best for the song and how can I give the best performance possible?
On the contrary, I love getting behind the kit and not having to worry about anything else than bashing the hell out of it. You could say It’s almost liberating in its restrictiveness as such.
The 11th Hour originally was just a studio project but starting with one show initially turned into a live unit, did this mean any changes to the music from its studio creation?
We play to a backing track with all the orchestral parts so the music can’t change that much.
The main difference is that live the songs sound even heavier, which is something I didn’t really expect. The 3-guitar line-up works brilliantly since it enables us to play everything you hear on the album without sacrificing the heavy foundation when there’s a harmony lead.
You have some great musicians in the band but was there any air of unease passing over parts of your composition to others to bring forth live?
For a self-admitted control freak it’s quite a scary thing to have other musicians perform your songs, but like you say I have a great band and I find I can let go a lot more easily than I thought. Drummer Dirk Bruinenberg was a bit worried I’d be looking over my shoulder constantly to glare at him in disapproval, but he does a great job and so do the others.
What are the influences past and present that inspire you to this day?
Musically I can be inspired by almost anything, I’m a musical omnivore and I buy tons of CD’s every month. I have periods where I’m totally into vintage soul (that’s the one I’m in right now), or 50’s country, delta blues, but I also keep up with most current metal releases. I got into music because of KISS and that is still a big influence on me as far as “why do I do this” goes, and no that reason is not “getting filthy rich off band merchandise” but rather the excitement I felt when I bought my first KISS album as a kid.
Reading that you were writing towards Lacrima Mortis almost from the moment the first album came out, are you working towards the next, certainly in writing songs?
No, I figured I deserved a break from writing and recording as I’ve been working non-stop for 3 years. So I turned off my workstation in November and only turned it back on to help Pim and Stephan (Gebédi) record some guest vocals. I plan to remain inactive until April and then Hail Of Bullets will have my undivided attention.
What is next for The 11th Hour as the album is released?
First I have to teach the songs to the other guys, we’ve done 2 of them so far and they sound great. We’re trying to book some good shows for the next few months, looks like we’ll do a shared album presentation with Asphyx here in The Netherlands which should be fun.
Thank you so much for talking with us, it has been a pleasure.
The pleasure was mine, thanks for the challenging questions!
Would you like to leave with any words or thoughts?
I think I’ve said everything I wanted to say and more, so I think I’ll let your readers go now…
For more about go to Lacrima Mortis http://www.napalmrecords.com/hp_artists.php?osCsid=94e34f54ff2a43d28603a8d7e62250be&artists_ID=THE%2011th%20HOUR
Read the Lacrima Mortis review @ https://ringmasterreviewintroduces.wordpress.com/2012/01/13/the-11th-hour-lacrima-mortis/