ELOA VADAATH – Pushing Metal Parameters Part II
Here is the second part of our extensive feature with the Italian progressive, avant-garde metal band Eloa Vadaath. Vocalist/ guitarist Marco Paltanin took the time to give some deep answers to my numerous questions, and with this section you will learn more about their new album Dead End Proclama, his thoughts on the world that we live in today as well as some of his favorite artists through the years.
You’ve gained the chance to perform live opening for acts like Deicide, Vader, Krisiun, and Shining among others. How would you describe Eloa Vadaath live in comparison to your studio endeavors? What type of reactions do you get in a live environment- as I would imagine that your progressive, avant-garde style of metal isn’t for everyone to easily grasp upon initial exposure from the stage?
Yeah, we’ve been supporting a lot of big acts during the last 2 years (one month ago we played with The Ocean Collective and Cult of Luna to make an example) and it is always a pleasure but it doesn’t always turn into a real "chance": our music isn’t for everyone easy to grasp on CD, no mystery it is even more difficult to follow in a live situation. Nonetheless, I don’t think it is absolutely fundamental to really follow what’s going on, just enjoying "the flow" would be enough; there are many aspects people seem to appreciate that keep them under the stage. If I had to point out two of them, I’d say dynamics play a big role (since our music has hard moments but a lot of rhythmic and melodic stuff too) and of course, as someone said somewhere in a review, the "roller-coaster ride of styles" we try to put together.
Concerning differences with the studio-work, we try to minimize them. Almost all we write and record is thought to be reproducible in a live setting. That said, we are more edgy when playing live while on CD, having to deal with rich arrangements, everything has to be inevitably contained and controlled.
The latest studio album came out earlier in 2013 "Dead End Proclama"- and in a previous conversation you mentioned its three year development from songwriting sessions to final recording. How did you gain interest with Noisehead Records, and where do you see the growth of the band between recordings?
"Dead End Proclama" is a strange kind of beast in my opinion because its composition was really stretched through many seasons. We actually played a primitive version of the opening intro "Moloch" for the first time during a concert in 2009; I recorded a rough and yet complete vocals/guitar take of "The Sun of Reason Breeds Monsters" right while our first LP was going to be published in early 2010 and we wrote the closing track "We did it!" more or less from May to August 2012, just a few days before starting the recording sessions. A lot of things can change in such a time span, what you aim for as a composer or as a musician either. That’s the key for its richness. By the halfway point of 2011, we had more or less all the melodic ideas and the main riffing but seeds had to grow patiently before we could arrange everything properly, work on details and make connections from part to part inside the songs and from song to song too.
You may come up with complicated or simple music, it doesn’t matter: in my opinion, a good CD requires time and, whenever you ignore this principle, you can feel as a listener that it sounds somehow "thin", poor, not personal. I’m persuaded that a lot of people may hate our CD (as well as I hope many others will love it!) but I think nobody will fail to recognize the detail and the work behind it.
About the growth of the band, I really think "Dead End Proclama" is miles from our first LP and that of course relates to the quality of the music itself but not only: "A Bare Reminiscence of Infected Wonderlands" was an eclectic record in the world of extreme metal but I don’t see for our new album any prejudicial boundary of this kind, because it switches from aggressive moments to mellow parts which are not even metal only ("Ad Rubrum per Nigrum" is a classic example, a sui generis song knowing moments with a heavy edge but fully played with an underlying classical guitar). We are now more aware of the roads we’ll have to leave for the future, what we should look for and how to possibly make our music more concrete and compact. We will see…
What got us interested in Noisehead Records is a mix of things. They were quick answering us and willing to produce the CD in their studios instead of just asking for a finished work; and it was actually an experience we wanted to try: just playing without taking care of production too. Moreover, we had all the material ready for a CD and we felt it was time for us to release it. They offered us a deal and we went for it.
How do you balance the technical proficiency and exotic instrumentation with creating compositions that the average listener can grasp and retain? Who would you consider some of your fellow compatriots in the metal, progressive, or avant-garde scene that you look to for influence and inspiration?
Our main philosophy has always been not to be complex or strange for the sake of avant-gardism but at the same time to refuse every musical limitation; for that reason we’ve never felt a specific need to abhor refrains or repetitions in song structures, to make an example. Nor do we push ourselves to play ten times the refrain for "radio necessities". It’s not that our music has to always be technical just because we play progressive (playing high speed, poly-rythmic stuff all the time without any experimentation doesn’t make of you a progressive band at all). At the same time, we won’t step back when soloing or making complex rhythmic patterns fit. We simply use the musical tools we feel that would be right depending on what the song needs. You won’t experience shredding on "Vever" for example because it’s a damn depressed and slow song! But "Dead End Proclama" has all this and then some because its feeling and lyrical theme required it, in our point of view. Saying that we don’t uselessly over-play on ballads but that we may do that on a more tight and complex track doesn’t seem so unpredictable or genius intuition right? The main difference is that we don’t renounce to write melodic and easy-to-play music as well as aggressive or technical, while others would do that just to fit their genre.
Talking about the past (but recognizing a perennial debt) I cannot say bands like Opeth didn’t have a part in our way of interpreting music. What I personally find always interesting is Devin Townsend: brilliant, inspired, brave and impossible to label under a single genre definition. On the sheer avant-garde side, Sleepytime Gorilla Museum have long time been a beacon for me. Should I quote smaller acts, I like the Spanish guys of As Light Dies and, in Italy, Sunpocrisy; they are all interesting realities.
Is it your mission to be complex as possible at times, but also vary the arrangements of every song to keep the listeners on the edge of their seats not knowing what to expect next?
We don’t want to sound complex at all costs to tell the truth; every song comes from an idea (mostly through a melodic spine, rarely from a rhythmic pattern) and it develops the way we feel more natural. So as I said before, you may find a song like "Vever" with the spirit of a decadent ballad, keeping that feeling till the end just because it doesn’t need anything more. More often though, the song becomes complex and that happens probably because we treat music as a whole and we don’t necessarily stick to precise categories of the genre. Interest in music is created through surprise, whether it is conveyed through an unexpected modulation or an uncanny sound, a tempo change. Imagine a 600 page book of which you can expect everything after 20 pages. Would you read that? I’d say its boring. In music it’s the same for me: I won’t stand any music, complex or not, failing to surprise me. If we feel a jazzy part or a rock lick, a black metal passage as well as a tango (as in "We did it!"), a classical or exotic instrument or whatever else is the hint the song needs or the evolution that can give it a new sparkle of life before the end, we go for it without hesitation.
Can you explain your lyrical outlook within Eloa Vadaath? What inspires you to write the songs such as "The Sun of Reason Breeds Monsters" and "A Dead-End Proclama, Mr. Goldstein" for instance? Do you also know going in which parts are going to contain the clean vocals versus the extreme vocals?
Though I wrote the majority of them, I’m not the only one writing lyrics so I will speak for myself. Even if it really depends on the moment and I don’t want to keep out any possible theme for the future, in "Dead End Proclama" I’ve been obsessed by some recurring issues. If we take as example the songs you quoted, they are linked at a core level. "A Dead-End Proclama, Mr.Goldstein" is based on Orwell’s novel "1984". Obviously the most interesting aspect of it is the idea of a Big Brother controlling people minds, habits and lives and mainly through the inoculation of the fear of losing control, the security of things that the State can grant. Everybody sees the implications; does that sound familiar? In "The Sun of Reason Breeds Monsters" I’ve tried to underline the preconditions of this scenario in our real world: the complete loss of any mysticism in favor of pure materialism from the positivistic thought till today; the hyper-specialization, blistering knowledge so that everybody shall rely on somebody else for the most part of his decisions and opinions (while on the contrary scientists of the past knew the importance of interplaying a great variety of disciplines); the arrogance of science discarding everything that doesn’t fit its concrete scheme of thought with branches going from medicine to physics, from education to moral habits. Not everybody really realizes how far this has gone. Want an extreme example? The dismissing of all the physicians who started to take again in consideration the Ether theories in opposition to Relativity, despite the apparent freedom and ethic of science… and I’m stopping here; I want to get deeper with that in future lyrics :).
Concerning vocals, they usually come natural with the music and this was true for "Dead End Proclama" too. However, during the recording sessions our producer Mario suggested to change drastically the balance between extreme and clean vocals. It was a direction we had previously decided to take for future works but we had not thought or dared to anticipate it to this work! So once we were finished recording instruments, we came home and in the next couple of months we took the challenge and worked hard on vocals only. Nicolò dedicated to the greatest part of the growl/scream side and I focused on cleans. We came back to Noisehead Studios in November to record them and the result is on the CD 🙂
What type of goals do you set with Eloa Vadaath in the short term and long term?
I don’t really know what to say about the long term not to fall in stereotypes like "walking giant stages all over the world" or something like that :). But it’s easy for the short term: promotion, promotion, promotion. Trying to get more attention before releasing anything else. And of course starting to experiment in new music with this newly created vocal balance, polishing our style to become more compact and perhaps less demanding for the listener but still hopefully capable to retain the musical quality. I can feel we all have a bunch of new good ideas to develop, we will see what will come in the near future; the only thing I can certainly say is that the next work will be definitely different from what we’ve done till now.
How do you view the world in 2013? What areas of concern do you think the leaders of the world need to focus on to make things better for the current and future generation that will inherit the Earth?
A complex question that would require an in-depth answer. To keep it simple, everybody should agree that we are living (part of the world at least) on standards that will place a heavy burden on future generations. That’s a fact. It may seem only a part of the problem, excluding other sensible themes as unsolved and new wars around the world, the economic frailty we are experiencing, the environment seized and at a point of no return etc. but it really has an influence on all this. Because the constant growth is the problem, being such a non-existent concept in nature if you think of it. The funniest (?) thing is that this growth has proportionally reduced the necessity of workers instead of increasing it. It has created the need of theoretical and complex financial products that have been venomous for the world economy, leading to severe cracks. It has stimulated wars for the control of pipelines and oil stocks. For who’s worth? Lobbies and corporations? What could leaders of the world do about that even when they are not part of this system themselves? Don’t get me wrong, there are positive signs here and there and people’s sensitivity is quickly changing on various themes; but as far as we will enthusiastically embrace the useless life model that’s offered to us, we will never be able to affect leaders’ choices because we will be part of that engine.
I’m talking about waking up and re-appropriating the sense of our lives, surpassing the nihilistic and cynical trend the "weak thought" philosophy of our times has elected as god after getting rid of the unexplainable (which is more or less what "The Waking Prophecy" and "The Sun of Reason Breeds Monsters" are about). Things, objects are dead but not everybody is aware of this. And things are also contagious. The more they find inconsistent and superficial beings, the more aggressive they become. Just to be clear, I’m not sponsoring religions here, I’m not faithful to any of them. I’m saying that we should grow as human beings and see beyond our appetites or presumed necessities. Because it’s mainly on our bloating well-being, on our need to eradicate pain beyond common sense, on our distorted visions of success and power that this system thrives. All in all we have to realize we have been and still are the spirit of this cancer we condemn. We are, everyday. But as we change this all can change with us.
Do you share any particular passions or hobbies outside of music with the band member(s) of Eloa Vadaath? How do you re-charge your creative energy because the demands of your music are enormous in my mind both on a mental as well as physical standpoint?
We are really friends but you wouldn’t imagine how different we are from each other, even if I’m not saying we don’t converge on a lot of moral assumptions, aims or whatever else… and yeah, if we take "reading" as example of a hobby (but I tend to consider it almost a necessity), we share that of course. But we are individuals in the real sense of the word and I think this is one of those aspects enriching us as a band because it necessarily reflects on our way of playing and composing. For that reason, even if our writing style is thoughtful and not particularily fast, we have never experienced a "creative drought" yet. Without pretending that this could last forever, it’s really easier for us to always find new elements of interest taking inspiration from music as a whole than a band sticking to its sub-genre, destined sooner or later (often sooner) to replicate its riffing and ideas. Should we ever make a CD that adds nothing to the previous one, even if it is a good release, we would know that our cycle as Eloa Vadaath has come to the end; but I think and hope it will not happen that soon 🙂
Where do you view the metal scene currently in your home country as well as internationally? Do you believe there are certain areas that bands, fans, or promoters fail to put attention towards that ultimately hurts the final output and product in the long run?
That’s undeniable. What really made metal different from other styles of music was the approach of the listener: every release could be listened to, proposed and valued despite its age, like it was unaffected by obsolescence. For that reason, even a 14-year-old metalhead used to see the sense of going back in time and buy what he had no chance to listen to before, to expand its collection of CD’s or cassettes. Musical value, structures of the songs, technique, defining personality as an overall sum of all these aspects, were respected and considered more important than a surgical, plastic production. I don’t think that metal had benefits from the flood of music provided by the internet revolution, although it gives a chance to everybody to get heard (does it in a useful way though?): all the things I quoted before are lost.
If you listen to music from your Ipod, PC or mobile phone, the most important thing is a production delivering music through the narrow and poor bandwidth those means can offer. Do you think that enlarges or reduces the variety of possible approaches when producing a CD? I’m always surprised when I hear someone saying that today’s metal is uncomparable with the quality it used to express in the past. They often don’t realize that the reason they don’t enjoy it is mostly referrable to the global flattened sound that puts together a lot of releases instead of exalting the personality of each band. That’s one part of the problem. The other, is the extreme use of PC-editing, building false idols, creating the illusion of a perfection so unreal that we may say it’s the personified nemesis of what metal used to be.
It’s obvious that bands concentrating on styles of music that live of wild power, tightness and so on are privileged; in connection to the dropping of music-sales, that’s the reason why labels and promoters are trying to push these realities, they are simply more marketable at the moment.
That said, in my point of view there are a lot of great acts out there (some of them quite anonymous) that, despite that pop-like hype I described before, give birth to music of enormous and brave quality.
What are your top 5 albums of all time (metal or non-metal) as well as an underrated band that you think everyone needs to track down and listen to and explain why?
Tough choice! There’s so much I like, it’s too demanding to answer. For that reason the following list won’t even try to include the obvious. I will pick-up those that have been the dearest to me and the most inspiring for what I’m writing with Eloa Vadaath. They’re in no precise order:
King Crimson – At The Court Of The Crimson King. There are a lot of awesome works of this band, but this one is pure magic for me and it’s the first of its kind. Dynamics at their peak and an atomic bomb in music. It gives me the impression to contain everything in nuce.
Blind Guardian – Nightfall in Middle-Earth. My first metal CD but still one of my favorites. Reducing it to power or epic metal would be blind (I know, quite appropriate!) because its inspiration and melodic taste, plus the quality of its arrangements make of it a work beyond metal: a complete, connected opus of unrivaled coherence.
Death – The Sound of Perseverance. Another CD I had quoted before; for me the apotheosis of a road this band (along with others such as Pestilence) had started with masterpieces as "Symbolic", "Human" or "Individual Thought Patterns". That’s when death metal as it was known before ends. That’s when a new bridge is definitely built from extreme music to progressive.
Sleepytime Gorilla Museum – Of Natural History. Do you want a no-compromise avant-garde band with a tremendous violin player? Served. Following the trails of bands like Anglagard and contemporary music in general, this CD explores every nuance I can imagine with a density and an atmosphere rarely reached. Not recommanded for non-adventurous listeners, this LP may be a sour bite; there’s nothing regular here, not even the production. Insane and spilling genius. These guys would be my choice for a way, way underrated band (now unfortunately disbanded) along with german rock-progsters Eloy.
Opeth – Blackwater Park. Although it is a brilliant CD, I was in doubt whether to include this or not and skip, for example, Cynic’s "Focus" or even non-metal masterpieces (classical music as Mozart’s or Poulenc’s Requiems, Mussorgsky’s "Pictures at an Exhibition" or Tom Waits’ "Alice", Queen’s "A Night at the Opera", Genesis and so on); but, not to betray the intent of this list, I had to keep this in because it is another of those releases that shuffled again the cards, introducing a quiet but inevitable revolution. Death and others had created a death metal akin to prog but pure progsters were still reluctant to explore styles of music with massive use of growling and screaming vocals. With "Blackwater Park" this is over forever.
What are your views on the importance of imagery and artwork when it comes to the band- or for metal in general?
After my implicit ode to the physical CD or vinyl, I could not deny that artwork plays a big role in my mind… at least when you have something to say on a lyrical level. It helps to convey the atmosphere you are looking for and the sense of the music itself.
We have always tried to skip clichés or eye-catching solutions without specific connection to the music. In "A Bare Reminiscence of Infected Wonderlands" the whole booklet and the cover too is metaphoric and filled with symbolism we wanted to convey. Everything on it has been hand-drawn.
With our new release "Dead End Proclama" we’ve followed the same path but with a cleaner approach. Although there is still a good dose of symbolism, we wanted the designer to make a booklet that reflected that sense of ending, where the proclamation marks the acceptance of it. We immediately loved the idea of the cover in its simplicity: those crows flying in circles… over something? Or looking for something, for anything alive on a barren land? In that misty, smoked background, the observer is not allowed to know what happened; and inside, ancient symbols of that noble art now apparently dismissed, alchemy, as milestones to suggest that you may get to know if you looked for them.
Bathed in those cold colors and dead, forgotten symbols for the alchemical adept, lyrics appear aseptic and ordered as a computer witnessing the end and compiling a data-record without emotions. A splinter of "fallout times" our music itself, being so articulate, wouldn’t be able to define by itself: the booklet for us becomes part of the work and not a nice, useless decoration. Consider this when illegaly downloading it 😉