DARK FORTRESS – Morean on Venereal Dawn, the music and the lyrics
Eternal Terror journalist Karina Cifuentes did an interview with Morean, the vocalist of the german black metal band DARK FORTRESS.
The lyrics make use of poetry metrics and archaic language, not to mention several different modern languages. Which poets inspired you? And I guess since the lyrics are so interwoven rhythmically with the music it must have been a really careful, well thought writing process, tell us more about it.
Thanks! Like we always do with everything else on our albums, I do put a lot of effort into getting the words right. I must say, after all these years of composing music non-stop, I really enjoy fiddling with words lately. The poetic form allows me to condense the story and complex and abstract imagery into a compact and multi-layered corset. I chose for this rather classic form for most of the album, since also the music and artwork are done in a rather classic and organic, very measured style. I am no writer, much less a proper poet, and English is not even my first language, but hopefully my skills with words are enough at least to do the music and its inherent Magick justice.
Writing lyrics is a process of two tracks running parallel for me. For the content, I open myself to whatever the music and underlying vision channel into me, and this often takes me to extreme places. It’s a deeply personal and often cathartic spiritual trip which provides me with something solid to say in every song. At the same time, I approach the vocals totally from the music side for the form, mainly as far as the sounds and rhythmic flow are concerned. Often me and Santura will work with random placeholder lyrics while a song is being written, and then I spend weeks hunting for the right words and puzzling them into as tight a form as possible so they can take on the hypnotic qualities you’d find in spells and mantras. The goal is that the lines can take on a life of their own in the listener’s minds, and open doors in their spirits as well. The initial question is always: rhyme or no rhyme? Because once you start rhyming, you have to be consequent with it, and I turned that into a game, so that at the end I managed to sometimes get 2, 3, even 4 rhymes per line. It’s one of those nerdy composer things I guess, but it does work well with the music, because the notes are structured according to comparable principles.
As for influences, who I look up to most are the great poets of course – for example, Goethe’s Faust or the masters of more recent ages, like Paul Celan or the great expressionists, have set the bar extremely high for what you can do with language. In music, the lyricists I always respected the most are people like Martin Walkyier in his days with Sabbat, Carl McCoy of the Fields of the Nephilim, Dani Filth – say about his band what you want, but his language skills are pretty much unparalleled in my opinion – but also bands like Akercocke or Tool, who stand out head and shoulders between all the repetitive and mostly quite unimaginative cliché lyrics in our genres. I don’t like to only use the same words everyone else does all the time, because if it’s only words like hell, evil, Satan and darkness all the time, the song becomes flat and the lines don’t mean anything anymore. In that sense, it’s pretty tough to find a personal touch in extreme metal lyrics these days, because although English will always be my favorite language to write in, it’s been so grazed that it’s hard to invent anything new. This is also the reason why I’ve had the wish to incorporate other languages for some time. In the past, we used a bit of Latin here and there and in our opinion that worked really well, so this time I expanded this possibility to the languages I like most, sonically – Spanish, Arabic and Romanian in this case. So it was purely for sound purposes that these languages appear, for the rest our use of them has nothing whatsoever to do with any real or historic cultures; their variety only serves to underscore the fact that this Venereal Dawn is a catastrophe affecting everybody. The idea to use Nahuatl came from the story – the Lloigor which come to Earth and start possessing and transforming mankind speak to the protagonist and reveal that they have been here before in more ancient times. I guess some of my pet influences come together here – Lovecraftian scenarios, my personal astral odysseys and weird ideas about cosmology, but also the principle of bypassing the conscious mind by using obscure language so the song or passage can work like a spell. Many bands (including mine) have done this with traditional spells, but I preferred this time to use actual language instead of some flawed pig Latin or fake Sumerian. This is why I also provided translations for everything; I want the mysticism to come from what I say, not from preventing our listeners from being able to follow the lyrics and just supposing there’s something deeper behind them. Besides that, the Nahuatl passage in Betrayal And Vengeance is also a nod to my Mexican friends and the fact that the whole concept first came to me when I was there a few years ago.
In which ways the cover artwork represent the overall lyrical concept. Who made it and why did you choose that particular painting-like style?
All artwork on this album is done by Nespress, who I got in touch with through a good friend in Rotterdam. We knew very early on we didn’t want just another CGI-/Photoshop-cover, because that’s been overdone so much. So I’ve had this wish to work with an actual oil painting, and we were fortunate to find exactly the right artist to paint what I saw in my mind – I wanted the classic look of an old master painter combined with the spiritual abyss of the subject. It’s great we could create all the artwork from scratch together with the music, concept and lyrics this time, and the booklet is full of awesome drawings for every song. Everything on the album was supposed to be real, as opposed to relying too much on computer tricks to make stuff look and sound good.
This album has layer after layer making it musically complex, not so many bands get it done right and it takes time, but you have made an excellent job so congrats. A mighty sonic cathedral indeed! It must have been a long mixing process. Who mixed and produced it and how much and in which ways the band got involved in that process?
Thanks again! Since Stab Wounds, Dark Fortress have done their own producing, which is in the hands of V Santura from the first written note to the final master. This time, it was pretty complex tho indeed, and Santura called in the help of a good friend, Michael Zech a.k.a. A.R. (a.o. Secrets of the Moon, Ascension, Ruins of Beverast) who is a producer himself, has great ears and brains for music, and supplied the much needed feedback Santura needed to get the mixes done.
The guitars, I want to know if you, Morean, are playing the acoustic guitars and how those are going to be translated live on stage.
I actually played everything on The Deep – it turned into a little "solo" slot on the album for me. The other acoustic guitars (on Lloigor and I Am The Jigsaw Of A Mad God) were played by Santura. In the latter two, they are more a sonic addition which doubles the electric guitars and won’t be missed too much when we play those songs live, hopefully. I doubt we’ll ever play The Deep live, so I just went crazy with overdubbing myself into a kind of orchestra.
Tell us about your background as vocalist and guitarist, which other projects do you have? (I’m specially interested in Alkaloid)
I’ve been playing metal since I was 13, always on guitar, later also on vocals because there was no-one else around to do them where we’re from. At 20, I became a flamenco guitarist and moved to Holland to study with Paco Peña at the Rotterdam Conservatory. Some years ago, I had to quit picking with fingers unfortunately due to a problem with my thumb, but I still play electric whenever time allows, mostly as a soloist in my classical work, but also in Noneuclid and, indeed, Alkaloid. About Alkaloid, I can tell you that the idea to form a new band one more time had been around for a few years between us and our good friends from Obscura. We wanted to have full creative control to create something new, without the ballast of history of our other bands and without having to fulfill expectations based on what we or our predecessors created many years ago. The band setup and concept went through a few stages before we settled on this line-up now. It was mostly Hannes Grossmann’s initiative, but I was happy and honored to join for guitar and vocals. It’s completely insane to come with yet another band, considering our schedules have been way too full already for many years, but the opportunity to play with these legendary musicians and to go nuts without any creative compromise was just too good to pass up, especially since also Noneuclid moved more and more to the symphonic side in recent years and Alkaloid is gonna be still really brutal. We have tons of material written, mostly by Hannes and some by me, and we’re trying hard to get the first album done asap. Hannes and Christian Münzner, who will also contribute music, actually already started recording this summer!
This album must have been influenced by other non-metal genres, if that is the case so I wanna know which ones and in which ways.
Not so much by stuff outside metal, actually. Maybe in the choir arrangements, where I could use my classical music knowledge of course, but in principle, everything on the album is pertaining to metal in our eyes. Sure, Dark Fortress’ home is in black metal, but I’ve always seen it first and foremost as a metal band, because all of us are into different styles of metal. We just like to stretch the boundaries of what is metal to the limits at times, turning the sonic world of what for other bands is just an intro into full songs for example. But our base is always metal. The bands we ourselves were reminded most of in the new material would be old Emperor, Opeth, Tiamat and Anathema in their glorious transition phases (around Wildhoney / A Deeper Kind Of Slumber, respectively A Silent Enigma) and (as always, for me…) Fields of the Nephilim, but none of these were used too consciously; we think we manage to sound completely like Dark Fortress in everything we do, and we hope the world will agree.
I guess the biggest difference to standard black metal on this album, besides a few things we did with the vocals, was our approach to the drums. There’s some blast beats and fast stuff on there also of course, but for the rest, the drumming is actually closer to rock drumming. Seraph learned a lot in recent years, has an academic degree in drumming now, and in sound and style grew way beyond the often rather limited musical and dynamic range of metal drumming. It would be insane to make him hold back his bigger vision of his metal drumming in favor of always the same standard beats. Also, we’ve been around the block a bit, and the emotions that these songs came from wanted to go more into an epic than constantly fast and brutal direction in many songs. So we try to keep the essence of black metal at all times, but take our freedom to find new musical forms to manifest in.
What lies ahead for DF (tours and release)?
We’ll do a short European Tour with Secrets of the Moon and Schammasch in October, and hope to score a decent amount of summer festival gigs for next year. Let’s see what comes in, but I personally always love going to places I haven’t been to or played before. It’s one of the bonuses of being in an international band. We are also working on a video clip which we hope to finish in the next month or so.
Anything you would like to add?
Nothing besides salutes and thanks for reading and checking out our new baby! Hope to see you out there soon, preferably from a stage!