The German cultband Secrets Of The Moon release their album “Seven Bells” in March 2012. The album is dark. As you could read in the review back in February. S.G. has spoken to Imhotep on several occasions, and these interviews are from 2002 up to date. Let darkness surround us.
When I read the lyrics for “Carved In Stigmata Wounds” it’s obvious that you don’t hold much contempt for human kind. Especially when we look closer to the – Destiny – part, which deals with the fate of mankind and its clear unimportance. I wonder, do you feel this misanthropy towards humanity in general, or do you only view this against the religious principles?
”We don't take a stand with the content of the record. The lyrics on "Carved In Stigmata Wounds" are based on visions of a dying evolutionary world clearing space for what is to come. My personal religious appearance is not important in this context. The spirit is above all.“
The lyrics for “Carved In Stigmata Wounds” are, as far as I understand, part of your trilogy, the first part being “Stronghold Of The Inviolables”. Where “Stronghold…” represents a new world, “Carved…” denies and destroys this world. Does this mean the third part will be a creation of a new world, since you have this idea that in order to create you must destroy? What is it that makes you write your ideas from an occult point of view, instead of making it obvious to the common man?
”I write the lyrics from my point of view. It's not of interest if the listener can follow me or not. There are some occult theories integrated in the lyrics but that should not detain the listener to take a closer look. Moreover I think that the lyrics are more direct than they were on the first album.”
You hate stagnation, and I guess this goes for your lyrical evolution as well as the music you create for Secrets Of The Moon. How does the lyrics evolve?
“Lyrics and music are equally important but I try to keep both things separated from each other. Lyrics evolve independent from the music. It's important to catch an atmosphere with music that fits to the lines I wrote. I have a clear vision in mind about how music should affect me, us and the listener. It must go hand in hand, it must be created independent but the vision is the same! It has not been easy to write the lyrics but it had to be spoken out and so I did. The lyrics on the next records will be different again because I want to accost the listener this time, make him a part of the shit that's going on.”
There’s one thing that always puzzles me when it comes to black metal, and especially black metal with less sales-potential (and often more soul). Howcome you play black metal (without major keyboards, big choirs, symphonic orchestras)?
“That's ok with me. I don't have much interest in the Black Metal scene nor do I listen to bands from the genre where we approach. People within Black Metal should not care about the likes of others but try to find their own expression, their own identity. It's a heart-based thing and we don't want to share our heart with anyone else.“
Why not make a rock or pop album with the same theme, and where you may be able to sell more than you do today?
“We chose the shape of extreme Metal because it represents our thoughts in the best way. If we feel right with doing a dark rock album in some years we will surely do. No one can nor should dissuade.” Enough of that, and let’s us spend some time with Secrets Of The Moon’s music, and your debut “Stronghold Of The Inviolables”.
I listened to it once again, and I must say that despite its wicked sound, it contains an atmosphere rarely conceived by other bands. It’s unique and different. Looking back at it from today’s point of view, I’m a bit curious if the album gained any success outside Germany?
”Yes, it did! As "Stronghold..." was released by an American label (Red Stream) we got much attention from the states and the rest of Europe. It brought us a big step forward. Not in the same magnitude like Prophecy did with "Carved..." but the Americans did a great job.”
Moving a couple of years back in time, I wonder how you regard “Stronghold…” today?
“We're still satisfied with the recordings. Not because we like the sound or the songs but due to its uniqueness and its occult approach.”
“Carved In Stigmata Wounds” is your newly released album, though it is more than a year old musically speaking. I’m not going to ask you if there’s anything you should’ve or could’ve done better, because every musician gives the same boring answer. But before we delve into the actual songs, I’d like to ask you what you think is the best aspect with “Carved…”?
”It's again the atmosphere the album provokes. You see, atmosphere is all for us. I think "Carved In Stigmata Wounds" has quite a "free standing" feeling. The atmosphere is not only dark but also abandoned in a very positive sense. Moreover I think the variety in each song is able to push the listener into very different moods, which is also a good aspect on the record.”
The first and most obvious aspect with “Carved In Stigmata Wounds” is the length of the songs, lasting from 7 to 12 ½ minutes, except the opener “Crowns” and the closer “Dust”. Besides the natural reason that it felt right, didn’t you feel it was daring to write such lengthy songs when most metal bands today try to at least have half the songs within the radio-friendly 4-5 minutes at most? And of course, why did the songs, generally speaking, turn out to be up to 12-13 minutes?
”We worked so hard on "Carved In Stigmata Wounds" and it just felt right. We did not care too much about the length of the songs. It's interesting because the press often wrote about the length of the songs. The album as a whole is quite long but a 7-9 minutes song is not long to me. 30 minutes are long. 7-9 minutes is a perfect time because you're able to put many different characters in a song.”
The second aspect is clearly the production. It’s strong and each instrument is easily heard and related to. The drums, guitars and the voice have their natural place in the album, but it’s more surprising to notice the bass and its role. In “Kaosthrone” it’s highlighted and makes a dark atmosphere in the first two minutes of the track. What’s the reason for the marked bass? I mean, compared to most other metal bands Secrets of The Moon’s bass is seemingly more important and stands on its own…
”We used the distorted bass almost like a second guitar in the past, especially on stage or in the rehearsal room because one guitar was not able to complete the wall of sound. It was only natural that Daevas played the distorted bass on the record as well. So, you're right the bass plays a very markable role in the songs. It incorporates a very wide expansion.”
The third aspect is the atmosphere as a whole. It’s utter dark and there are few signs of hope. At the same time the album contains many cool parts which have certain grooves. How did you work to find the balance between the atmosphere of darkness and making the songs interesting?
“As I said previously it's all about the vision. Basically it's only about keeping thoughts in one direction, following the vision until the end. Pervade it to the maximum. That's why "Carved..." turned out like it is. We tried to keep the songs as simple as possible in the recordings and placed keyboards and effects only where it was really necessary. We don't need to rub our musical skills in somebody’s nose. If a progressive part feels good to us we let it float. There are no rules!”
The fourth thing “Carved In Stigmata Wounds” is how you develop the songs in themselves. There is no strict formula. “Cosmogenesis” is your most progressive track in the sense that it changes a lot during the seven minutes it lasts, while the major title track builds, changes and move forwards. At the same time I feel that the songs differ from each other, and each song has its own element(s). So, what do you say to those who think the album is too long and maybe even a bit boring?
”If they feel like that it's ok to me. They should place the CD on e-bay or delete it from their harddisc. To me each song stands for itself. Maybe "Carved..." caught too many different feelings for loads of people but as long as we feel well with it, everything’s fine. OUR music must give US the creeps!”
A fifth aspect is the use of keyboards. In “To The Ultimate Embers And Ash” you have this section from 1.40 minutes to 2.15 minutes where it leaves its most significant mark upon me, but also throughout the album the keyboard is present here and there, but never as a main focus. When you formed these lengthy tracks, weren’t you tempted to use it more in order to make it more audible to the common listener?
”Sometimes keyboards are necessary to transport an atmosphere but it can be deadly to put keys in the foreground. Take e.g. "In the Nightside Eclipse"! This is the best example how keyboards should underline the main music. More can kill the main intention. The keyboards on "Carved..." would never destroy the intensity of a song but keep it up to a higher degree. That was our main purpose and we succeeded.
The sixth noticeable element of “Carved In Stigmata Wounds” is the vocal. It’s clearer than the traditional screamy vocal we’re used to in underground black metal, or even black metal in general. You also vary the vocal quite a lot throughout the album, though with the main focus on the grimness of your voice?
”We tried to put many different vocal styles on the records which underlines the contents of the lyrics and we wanted a very clear voice this time, no screams, no effects, no reverb. Everything became very pure and I think it fits to the music. You rarely find longer vocal parts on "Carved..." and in contrary you find many instrumental parts that act without voices.”
A seventh thing with “Carved In Stigmata Wounds” is the riffs you’ve spawned. There are fast parts, there are mid-paced parts and there are slow parts. And in example the first three and a half minutes of “Miasma” is very militant, both in the expression and in the feeling. So, how do you write your songs and how do you develop them into the final result?
”My way of writing music is quite simple. If the mood feels right I pick up the guitar and start playing. I start to record riffs which appeal to me and work on second guitartracks. Afterwards I play the tracks over and over again, envisaging about the impact of the whole riff. If the music still enthuses me on the next couple of days, it is music for Secrets of the Moon. Afterwards I present this music to the other members and we devise the whole structures together. I have hundreds of tapes with riffs together. We use approx. 2-5% of the material that I write.”
An eight and the most eye-catching aspect with the release is naturally the booklet and the CD as a whole. Luckily I have the double-CD release with the four extra tracks. It seems extremely thorough and conscious, and it is surely interesting to know how you came up with the ideas around this release?
”I am media designer and I earn my daily bread with it so it was just natural that I did the design of the CD myself. I am responsible for most official graphical needs for the band. In the booklet of "Carved..." you find a few collages which really turned out the way I look upon the vision of the lyrics. The booklet has got its own very unique and independent way of expression.”
A final aspect and maybe the most important one concerning this incredibly release is the whole there’s to it. If we think of the music in itself and nothing more, I wouldn’t claim it’s an album filled with originality and inventiveness. But, there’s always a but, the combination of production, booklet and music makes this album one of the most unique album released in several years. Fact is, I can’t think of any album that is very similar to this. There are different elements in every track, and once the listener has learnt to know the tracks from each other and become one with the album there’s no way back. Do you think you’re able to overdo “Carved In Stigmata Wounds”, or must you once again change direction and come up with something different, since your two albums so far are like night and a different night?
”We are currently working on the new record and we finally found a second guitarist who is able to work with us. He is a close friend for years and has the same musical background. It feels fresh. We do not care about any limitations in music. The new material surely is different to the last album. Our advantage is that people never knew what to expect from us so we have musical freedom and we thoroughly use this wide room for our music.”
We must not forget about the four extra songs on the limited CD-version of “Carved In Stigmata Wounds”, which doesn’t fit into the album but still are good enough songs to become released, especially “The Devils Tempest”. In there, we also find the “The Protagonist” by Dead Can Dance. Hmm, a peculiar choice for a black metal, at least in first sight. Do you see “The Ambience Of A Dead Star” as something people should have in mind while they try to get hold of “Carved In Stigmata Wounds”? And why should these four tracks be listened to with headphones, while the main album should be played as high as possible?
”This is only because we mixed the songs through headphones only (!!). They sound "wider" through headphones. Actually "The Ambience Of A Dead Star" has nothing in common with "Carved..." because it's a different session, it was a different time. "The Ambience Of A Dead Star" shall reflect the death that lies beneath us, beneath earth’s population. This world is dead. It has always been and we should not exist but we do. It's wrong! We chose those four tracks to become part of the whole because they present inflection points for us.”
If we shall make a summary of Secrets Of The Moon so far, the band is not one of those “…rats that walk the paths of your ancestors…”. You create your own world and bring in new ideas (and principles). Do you feel that Secrets Of The Moon deserves to be noticed by the huge herd of metallers out there? Could it be that you’re content with being a band that makes a path of its own?
”Oh no, I don't think that a huger crowd will notice us. Our music is not for the masses. It's good to know that there are people treating us with respect because they know that we are different and it's good to know that there are individuals who really understand what we stand for, being ambassadors of a new philosophy in dark metal.”
Are your new songs easier to perform live? While thinking of it, I guess the audience get into your music and stay there during the shows due to the hypnotic feeling some of your songs actually contain. Do they get somewhat confused due to the variety you have in your creations?
”It's great to see that many people are familiar with the songs on the latest record and know our words as well as we do. But also people pay their tribute for just watching the show, forming their own opinion. We often fall into a very hypnotic state of mind, which is why we normally do not communicate much with the audience.”
“Carved In Stigmata Wounds” is in my opinion your magnum opus (so far). The minutes lasting from 5.45 minutes to 11.20 minutes are really out of the ordinary. I was caught by surprise when I heard these minutes and understood absolutely nothing. I didn’t understand what it had to do with the lyrics and the song as a whole, but I really liked it. How have people reacted towards these minutes and the song as a whole? I mean, there is no other song ever that’s even similar to this track, at least not to my knowledge…
”Many critics appointed the songs as some kind of blueprint uniting the wide aura of Black Metal which is indeed a praise I think. It left many people speechless which is something that surprised us a lot. We never thought about reaching so many positive reactions with this song. Maybe because the last five minutes have a very progressive background.”
Now, that you’re leaving the interviewing schedule behind for some time, maybe in order to concentrate on the final section of your trilogy, do you feel you’ve received response from people who actually understands what you’re aiming for, or is it more that you have to disappear from the spotlight for a while and await the comprehension of more people? I mean, why do you choose to let these next few words be your last for an unknown period of time?
”We will do a couple of interviews with the release of the new album but until then we will leave this as our final words. We don't want to talk too much and let the music speak instead. We also thought about regretting interview requests forever but time will show how we will handle this. Interviews, especially written ones are very time consuming and we don't have much time in our lives. This should not be meant as arrogant, it's just a natural development for us. Anyway, I thank you for your questions. I am sure that this new year will bring us forward spiritually and musically and I am very interested in your thoughts concerning our next steps. There's much to come...”
Composed by Roy Kristensen