|Australian Elegeion is a band not much has ever been said about in the Doom Metal community. A closer look at its history would set the record straight, though: before its first full-length release in 2001, the band, under various monikers, has strived to create a sound of its own: an original mix of Doom Metal with classical instruments and female vocals.|
|(1) Hello Kwan, and thanks very much for agreeing to be interviewed for doom-metal.com. Let me start by welcoming you to England – how have you found it here so far? What led you to choose the UK as your new base?|
Hey Mike, cheers for the welcome to this great country! It's been pretty good so far, arrived in winter this year, and it still feels like winter when it's summer. Does it ever stop raining?! Well I guess the positive is that it's good inspiration for doom metal! I have chosen UK due to my being both an Australian and British, with family ties to this land. And, of course, because doom metal began in this country.
(2) Can you tell us a bit about yourself: who you are and where you're from?
I am born and bred in a patch of the world called Melbourne, Australia and have witnessed Earth make 36 revolutions around the Sun. I'm getting older, but maybe not wiser.
(3) It's quite possible, partly due to a quite sparse discography and partly due to a fairly low profile – even for a Doom band – that our readers aren't very familiar with Elegeion. Could you give us a brief description of the band's musical philosophy?
Elegeion would probably qualify as an old doom band now, having been recording and releasing every so often since 1995, and even a few years before that under another name. The original philosophy was to combine doom metal with classical music, and there is still evidence of that up until the most recent release. Ideally Elegeion want to achieve a monotonous and melancholic atmosphere, with flourishes of shade and light. The direction is forever downward into the depths of obscurity.
(4) You told us recently that you'd moved over from Melbourne to generate exposure and take the band to a higher level. Do you feel it would be difficult, or impossible, to make that breakthrough if you stayed in Australia? Is that because the place itself is limiting, the musical scene is tough or more because you personally needed the change?
I would say a bit of both. Moving was for more than just band reasons, life is about experience and education is about travel, so that is always on the cards regardless. Yes I do see more opportunity in Europe than you could ever have in Australia, for example there is nothing like Wacken, Party San, etc in Australia. There is no mass culture of metal, which is something I craved there, or at least a critical mass to make things viable. Touring Australia is very restrictive, being many hours of nothingness in between cities, it makes touring more time consuming and expensive. Also the world doesn't really seem to take notice of much Australian metal, especially doom metal, unless they are on a US or UK label. So it's a double whammy there - if you can't easily tour and cant get on an overseas label, you are likely lost to the world's attention.
(5) The band line-up, on recorded work at least, has generally consisted of you plus various guests and session musicians – only James Wallbridge and Dieudonnee have shared full credits, at various times. Has coming here formally left you as the sole member of Elegeion, or will you still be working with any of the previous contributors/band members?
Well, that is still to be decided, however I've always been the main driving force behind Elegeion, and solely financed both full length albums, therefore it could be solely me. However I am open to see who's game enough to join me to get the ball rolling here. Elegeion's old live bass player Iain previously relocated to Finland to join the band Rapture, so I may have bass duties covered. Either way, I will still be writing the music and steering the band's direction.
(6) You've advertised on the doom-metal forum – and presumably elsewhere - for musicians to re-establish the band (http://www.doom-metal.com/phpbb2/viewtopic.php?f=37&t=6989). Any luck so far? Anything you'd like to add to or expand on from the original request?
Nothing so far, as far as I'm aware. I'm pretty keen to find a good doom metal drummer first off. The rest will flow from there, so any interested and competent doom metal drummers out there – contact me!
(7) There's obviously a lot of history to Elegeion. You started out in 1993 playing Black/Death Metal as Greydawn, became Sombre Skies, then Transcendence for your initial demo release and – by 1997 – with the demo repackaged as the Candlelight-released EP 'Odyssey Into Darkness' finally settled as Elegeion. It sounds quite chaotic - how did all that change and evolution come about?
I think the early chaotic history came from the fact that I always wanted to do Doom metal, however the only metal musicians we knew when we were in our early to late teens were our own brothers and a couple of mates, who weren’t keen on doing just Doom. This meant we had to compromise with our mates and start off doing Black with some Doom influences, which led to James and I breaking away to concentrate on what we wanted to do.
(8) What were your major influences in those formative years, musical or otherwise? You have been quoted along the lines of creating the band to blend all of those because you were unable to find any music that fitted the style you were seeking. Was that actually the case, and do you feel you'd achieved that with the first EP release?
Yes that is correct. Back then there was not much around that resembled what we played. I don’t even think the term Gothic Metal was coined back then (as far as I can remember, anyway) – it was all called Doom Metal. In fact, to our knowledge, the only other Doom band with female vocals we knew of at the time was the 3rd and the Mortal, but they weren’t using classical instruments. Elend were using classical instruments, but no metal guitars. My Dying Bride was using metal guitars and classical instruments, but had male only vocals. So, due to the limitation of access to other information (remember pre-internet times?), we honestly thought we were the first ones doing what we called Classical Doom – Doom with classical instruments and female vocals. Our ultimate goal was to combine the atmosphere of Disembowelment and the Classical melancholy of Henryk Gorecki’s Symphony No.3 (Symphony of Sorrowful Songs)...that, in our minds, would have been the ULTIMATE sound. I feel we never achieved exactly that, however we did achieve something unique and special at the time, so much so that it got the attention of the cult labels Head Not Found and Candlelight Records, to which we briefly signed.
(9) The first full-length album, 'Through The Eyes Of Regret' came out on Modern Invasion in 2001. It was in many ways a continuation of the style of the EP - long, sombre, atmospheric pieces with orchestral strings – and won critical acclaim for that. Did it actually take that long to make the album, or was it held up for other reasons? Were you satisfied with the results, when it did emerge?
There were delays on that release because Candlelight was going through a re-shuffle internally, which resulted in several bands, including Elegeion, being dropped. This meant the advance we were waiting on was also dropped. It was only after a few years in early 2000 that I had saved enough money to self-finance an album...so my life savings went into that one. I was fairly satisfied with the album, but I still think it would have benefitted from better drumming, and more time on the string section. But it is what it is, and I did the best I could at the time.
(10) Band discographies credit a variously unreleased or self-released EP in 2003: 'For Blacker Things'. I've never seen or heard of a copy anywhere: did it ever see the light of day? If not, is it ever likely to? As a slight aside, it's actually also quite hard to find either of your albums these days and quite costly if they do turn up - is there any likelihood of them seeing re-release?
Yes the EP exists, however it was never ever released until about a week ago actually! Check this link: http://wolveshelmproductions.bandcamp.com/album/elegeion-for-blacker-things-ep-2003 I was never truly happy with the quality of the recording, and it was really an experiment trialling blast beats and black metal riffage combined with female vocals. The direction of the EP was a combination of my Black Metal days and Elegeion, in fact the riffs dated mostly from the Greydawn era (1993-1995), and adapted for Elegeion. Morbius Warseth from Greydawn does vocals on the second track. As for the availability of the albums, Regret is unavailable (I don’t even own a copy), and Last Moment is also unavailable. I have about 100 copies of Last Moment, however I left them sitting in storage back in Australia! Labels are more than welcome to re-release these albums. For now they are only available via download at the following link: http://elegeion.bandcamp.com/.
(11) The next official release was a second full-length album, 'The Last Moment', in 2005 – this time, through Dark Symphonies. In some ways very different to the previous album, comprising shorter songs and including a piano ballad and even a post-punk pop-style track. Notably, it's also the only release where the songwriting credits are not exclusively yours. Is it fair to say that was a largely experimental album, rather than a permanent change of direction?
Yes I would definitely say that was largely experimental, especially the tracks not written by myself. The tracks that I had written were still very much in the Elegeion vein, however shorter and more concise. I gave James the opportunity to contribute, as he is the other founding member of the band and I thought I should also showcase his style. Dieudonne’s track “Scars” was included because it had all the elements of Doom Metal, whilst being a pure piano ballad. I restructured it to flow a bit more logically and to allow room for the string section that I had composed for it. Funny now that, due to the popularity of her song, most people expect Elegeion to play more piano ballads. Sorry to say that I think that was a one-off. If you listen to the Reignstorm single, I think that is more a reflection of Elegeion’s true direction but I am still not averse to experimentation.
(12) Reviews for 'The Last Moment' were mixed and quite polarised, with it seen as a bit disappointing for those who expected another 'Through The Eyes...' and an interesting expansion of eclecticism by others. It stayed true to the core theme of melancholic atmosphere, though, and the – admittedly atypical – ballad 'Scars' has since had numerous video postings on YouTube. Overall, do you feel it was a successful release in its broader appeal, or a mixed blessing in its move away from easily-defined Doom?
Good question. To be honest, in retrospect, maybe I should have written a few more typical Elegeion Doom tracks for that album to offset the more experimental tracks. If solid Doom metal was the majority of tracks, listeners would still have called it a predominantly Doom album, but because the balance of Doom tracks and non-Doom tracks was more or less equal, it could be perceived that we were trying to move out of Doom, as have so many other bands in the past. In short, I agree with those who were a bit disappointed... there are some killer tracks there, but not enough to make it an overall killer album. I guess if we were a big band like Metallica, we could record 30 tracks and choose the top 10, but unfortunately for underground bands, you gotta work with what you have, and compromise to get things done. It is what it is, and it defines where I was at that point in time.
(13) It was another six years before the 2011 download-only track 'Reignstorm' came out (http://elegeion.bandcamp.com/track/reignstorm). Clocking in at nearly 16 minutes length, and very much in the 'old-school' Elegeion mould, is that a pretty big hint as to where the band's current direction lies?
Yes I guess it is. After all the experimentation, I think what I do best is what you hear in the first EP and the last single I did. I still do have a desire to experiment with new instruments and influences, but as long as I balance it - actually outweigh it with what I know I can do well (i.e. old school Elegeion) then it should keep me satisfied, and hopefully fans too. That’s a pretty good hint of my direction.
(14) It's probably worth a separate question, as it brings us up to date with the history – that's a long period of silence: what happened between 'The Last Moment' and 'Reignstorm'?
Well that period between Last Moment and Reignstorm was that period in my mid-20’s to my early 30’s so I was pretty bogged down in carving out a living for myself, travelling the world, serious with girlfriend, then wife then a kid. Doom Metal required extended periods of isolation and introspection to write, so when it came to music, I still wrote and recorded, but not such complex and serious stuff. During that time I recorded with my old satanic rock n’ roll band “The Murphy Boys” – Show No Murphy (2006) and “Hail Satan” – Nekro Metal (2008) which was a re-visit to the old garage days with singer Morbius Warseth. Both are available on http://wolveshelmproductions.bandcamp.com/.
(15) We touched briefly on musical inspiration above: in slightly more depth, perhaps the key elements of Elegeion's sound have always been your distinctive vocals and guitar - both of which seem to be based on Black Metal aesthetics, but fit uniquely into a Doom framework. Is that how you'd describe your style? Was this something you consciously developed to fit the music, or did the music evolve around it?
It wasn’t a conscious development, more a natural development from my first experience writing music, which was Black Metal riffage. I must say I was really creative at that time and taped literally hundreds of riffs that I still draw on for inspiration. Even my latest recording Reignstorm uses exact riffs from my demo tapes and riffs I had remembered from Greydawn in 1994. What I did and still do, is take my old Black Metal riffs and slow them to down stroke only riffs, and presto - you get the sound of Elegeion!
(16) The other prominent components are your use of female vocals and orchestral strings. Both have long since become accepted – in some cases, even stereotyped – elements of Doom subgenres. What inspired you to start working with them in the first place? Will you continue to do so, and are there other neoclassical – or any other – influences you'd like to consider?
As I mentioned before, back then I’d say female vox and strings were the exception to the norm, even in doom metal. I was definitely inspired by My Dying Bride, ever since I heard “Symphonaire Infernus Et Spera Empyrium” (correct me if that was bad latin!). It blew me away because it was so unique - dirty doom guitars, evil echoing vox and this beautiful clean violin soaring over the top was just so incredibly unique, strange and unexpected that I was addicted from the beginning. And when I first heard 3rd and the Mortal’s “Sorrow” I got that same feeling of awesome doom guitar layers, with this innocent angelic voice soaring over it – the feeling you got when you discovered this stuff was that you wanted to keep it to yourself because it was so unique and special. I would have to say that these bands are probably what set off my inspiration for Elegeion, and I will continue to incorporate non-traditional influences, whatever they may be.
(17) Leading on from that, in the context of nearly twenty years ago, Elegeion were very much part of the pioneering expansion of Doom into a much broader spectrum of styles. With such a small catalogue of recorded works, though, it's easy to overlook them amongst the more usually namechecked bands of the time. Does that bother you - do you feel that you should have had more credit for that legacy? Do you ever get credited for influencing later bands?
Well considering MDB released Symphonaire in 1991 and 3rd released Sorrow in 1993, and I wrote Beyond Despair in the summer of 93/94, I guess I wasn’t that far behind the pioneers, but back then, even a year or two late was already too late in the game. Doom was evolving so incredibly fast that I have never seen such a rapid rate of development in metal since. Even though we were quite early in development of what is now “Gothic Doom”, I am not bothered about recognition or credit because there were a few other bands that were doing it before us. Some bands have told me that some of my songs influenced some of their songs, which was pretty cool, but I’m quite happy being a nothing in the grand scheme of things. It just means I should have worked harder, or smarter, to get out there at the outset.
(18) Do you have any regrets about the way it's worked out so far for the band and yourself, or is it more a case of looking forward and focussing on what comes next?
Yes I do have many regrets (i.e. check the name of the first album!), but you are right – I would prefer to focus on the future and make my dreams a reality.
(19) Can you give us any idea what that may be – any firm plans in place? Do you have any more studio material written or recorded? Presumably any sort of live work would depend on recruiting a full band, but is it one of your goals to take Elegeion on the road?
My primary goal is another album, then tour after that. I have some ideas, but still need to flesh things out. Nothing is firm just yet, except my desire to achieve something groundbreaking very soon.
(20) I think that covers all the questions I started out with. Is there anything more that hasn't been addressed, or that you'd like to add?
Well here’s where I plug my websites:
(21) It only remains for me to thank you again for your time and the opportunity to talk with you, and to wish you success with the band. I hope to hear – and see – a lot more from Elegeion in the near future!
Thanks Mike for taking the time to interview me! Hails to doom-metal.com – the most dedicated doom website in the world, and I will let you know when I have some new material for you all. Keep it Doooom!!!
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