EXCLUSIVE: Rising from the depths…CVLT Nation interviews Drowning The Light + Track Premiere
Drowning The Light have a reputation that defies the normal introduction.
For the past 12 years, this Australian-based dark musical collective – founded by creative mastermind Azgorh Drakenhof – have produced nothing but raw black metal. Because it is their life.
This approach has seen them flourish into one of the most relevant, and important, acts from the underground movement on their home soil and across international waters today.
In a CVLT Nation exclusive, we talk to Azgorh himself about the direction of the band’s upcoming 13th full length, From The Abyss – featuring the world premiere of the track, “Below The Horizon He Stalks,” from this release.
So how are you and what have you been up to?
AZGORH: Hails! All is well in this southern dominion, other then the putrid summer poisoning my sanity. At the moment, I am taking in my surroundings and becoming reinvigorated and inspired – writing a lot of music as expanding my own personal philosophy. It has been an interesting few months.
There has been a lot of buzz about your upcoming full length, From The Abyss. How far along are you in completing this offering?
AZGORH: From the Abyss is finally complete, I am just waiting for the final mastered version to be given to me. I am hoping for it to be released next month (February).
AZGORH: Shortly after Oceans of Eternity (2011) was released, I started composing some of the songs on From the Abyss. Over the course of the last three years, it was recorded in various locations. Guitars, bass and keys were recorded in Scourge Studios, vocals recorded in the Serpents Lair and drums in Adversary studios.
Was there any outside input, in a production sense, on this release?
AZGORH: Other then the drums being recorded in Adversary Studios, as usual all other recording/mixing/production has been done by members of the band – in this case Balam (Pestilential Shadows, Naxzul) – without outside influence. Sometimes it is hard to let outsiders put their imprint on something that is a reflection of the darkest parts of your soul, and art that is so personal.
Drowning The Light has always held a preference for experimentation high. How were you able to portray this in the studio this time around?
AZGORH: There is not so much experimentation, like you can find in, say, The Obscure Worship Chronicles, but there definitely was in a way fans I’m sure will notice. However, I did not want to be highly experimental in sound on this album. I always wanted album number 13 to be a traditional Black Metal album, influenced by the greats from the 90’s – but of course still unique and original.
You’ve mentioned previously that you’ve been working on this album for the past three years. This is the longest period between full lengths for the band. Why was this the case?
AZGORH: A lot of time was spent in creating and writing the songs. Usually, I would go into an album with the entire thing written. But for this album, different songs were written and recorded in different periods, and reflects as so. There has also been a lot of time spent on mixing, which is usually not the case with Drowning The Light, as well as much more layers then usual. Each song has at least six layers of guitars, for example, and some riffs playing three different things at once. It does show and it has been worth the wait.
Did Blackheart (Atra) and Wraith (Nazxul), who have worked with you on previous releases, have any involvement on this album?
AZGORH: Neither Blackheart or Wraith were involved on this album. However, both are still close comrades and have my full support.
Balam (Pestilential Shadows, Nazxul) also contributed this time around. How’d that come about and how much input did he have overall?
AZGORH: I have been comrades with Balam for well over a decade now. In 2003, we started the band Pestilential Shadows together – I am no longer in the band. So in a strange way, writing and recording this new album was quite nostalgic, yet still something new and fresh. Balam has made a huge contribution to the album, especially to the recording and mixing. He has added a different element and also, as we have very different styles of writing music, both of us can add and compliment to riffs by write interesting counter melodies, bass lines or harmonies that might not make sense – yet somehow work.
Did you collaborate with any other musicians/individuals on this full length?
AZGORH: The only other contributors on this album was from JFN (Darker than Black records, Absurd (Germany)), who wrote some guest lyrics for one song – as he did for a track on the last album also. He has been a comrade for many years and one of the few people I have the highest respect for and who has kept the old Black Metal ideals since days of old.
Lyrically, where does this album take you?
AZGORH: When we started the writing and recording process of this album, I wanted it to be a continuation from Oceans of Eternity – which, to me, was a hymn to the apocalypse and an ode to the cycle of man ending. From the Abyss is born from that darkness and destruction, as destruction, of course, is creation, and a return of a medieval-like sorrow.
Like with almost all albums and concepts in this band, you need to look beyond just the surface. As the years have gone on and my visions for this album have grown, the abyss in my own mind also grew. This album has a range of concepts, from the return of the Varcolaci to the serpent or ouroboros releasing it’s tail and letting the world fall into oblivion – only to relock it’s jaws for a new cycle to begin. Also, exploring those who have tasted the end lighting a promethean fire in their heart and minds to rise again, to the ocean and the mysteries of the depths, to my own mental abyss – just to name a few.
The album contains 13 tracks which can all stand alone as individual spells, yet all work as a whole and represent a new stage for the band. It is still very much Drowning The Light but also something new, like a serpent shedding its skin.
Did you find you drew from spiritual, political or social means during the writing of this album?
AZGORH: A lot of this album is a reflection of my own spirituality and everything that is the darker side of my being, from ideology to nightmares to the occult, folklore, satanism, melancholy and hatred. I am never inspired by modern political tripe. Drowning The Light does not care for such sheep-minded mentality or what the masses think. Modern society disgusts me. So, of course, the thought of the world of mankind burning to the ground and in ruins always brings forth much inspiration. I always feel that even though this band is from this time, it is not of this time.
You’ve also recently mentioned that you personally feel this album is Drowning The Light’s “magnum opus.” Why is this the case?
AZGORH: I feel this album is where everything until now has been leading. It is drawing from everything that this band is and was, everything that inspired Drowning The Light to begin with, and an almost rebirth of sorts as well. When I finish every recording, I feel, at that point in time, it is the best we have done. But there is something more this time. The fact I have listened to a lot of these songs for three years and am still not tired of them – that I can still get chills from them and taken to another place – I think it says a lot. For me, this album is all encompassing.
The cover art for this release is particularly twisted and dark – created by Tentacles and Teeth. Why were you drawn to this artist?
AZGORH: I was drawn to his art due to some Cthulu-based art works I had seen him do, and his talent for capturing dark mythical and horrific creatures from the depths is superb. I gave him the general concept I had dreamed in my mind and he sent me back nine rough ideas to pick from. From there he elaborated on the one I felt most connected to and he created the beast that is the cover art. He had a lot of creative freedom, but also gave me a lot of options. I feel it reflects the album perfectly and could not of asked for anything better.
While you’ve been writing this full length, you also released Lost Kingdoms Of A Dark Age. Why was this material not destined for the full length?
AZGORH: As From the Abyss was being recorded, the demo Diabolical Winter Spells was to be released on vinyl and Blackheart said he had some material we could record to be a bonus offering on the vinyl. But as it evolved, Lost Kingdoms of a Dark Age became it’s own medieval darkness – too good to just be ‘bonus’ material – and almost a bridge between Oceans of Eternity and From the Abyss, both musically and conceptually.
There was also a recent guest appearance on K.F.R’s Nekro Part III track. How’d that come about?
AZGORH: I have been in touch and comrades with the dark artist behind K.F.R (artist Maxime Taccardi) for many years now. He has done quite a lot of art for Drowning The Light, including all the amazing art for each set of lyrics in Catacombs of Blood. Also, the label I run (Dark Adversary Productions) released the first K.F.R album ANTI on CD. Maxime has my full support and K.F.R is such a brilliant and rotten experimental Black Metal project, completely vile and anti-commercial – it is dark art in its purest most stripped back form.
What has been your most interesting collaboration to date any why?
AZGORH: It is very hard to say. I was honoured to be part of quite a lot, including the first Drohtnung album, K.F.R, the upcoming Evil Brazil album, as well as lyrics for Vampyric Blood and a few other guest vocals here and there. Also the split releases Drowning The Light has been part of over the years – again, a complete honour with those bands involved.
What do you hold as your most treasured release to date and why?
AZGORH: I would still say the split with Satanic Warmaster and Mutiilation was and is one of my proudest moments, as both bands are a heavy influences on Drowning The Light and, to me, have some of the most iconic albums in Black Metal history. So this, of course, will always be something special that humbled me a lot.
Do you feel the ideals of DTL have changes since the outfit first emerged in 2003?
AZGORH: Too much. But, at the same time, maintaining a lot of my early ideology. It is forever expanding and maturing. If it wasn’t, I would be a stagnant human. I have a lot of things in mind for the future, including some shows abroad and some special conceptual releases. This band is very much part of who I am and I don’t think I will ever stop being inspired or having visions and ideas for this dark reflective entity. I am still possessed by Black Metal, just as I was when I was 15 - although maybe not quite as volatile (laughs). Even with the special edition of From the Abyss, it will involve people using their mind to solve a riddle of sorts and being rewarded for it.
Will you be playing any shows in 2015 – in Australia or overseas?
AZGORH: I hope to do some live rituals both within Oz and abroad, whether they be public or not is another thing. It has been almost three years since we played live, so I think it is time we cursed the masses once more and corrupted their fragile minds.
To keep up-to-date with all things Drowning The Light or receive updates about the upcoming From The Abyss release, just visit their bandcamp page here.