Album of the Month

The debut full-length from Greek band Automaton is weighty, sludgy, coffin-lid-slamming Doom perfection.
(Read more)

Random band

Obero's style is some kind of fresh and original retro 70's heavy rockin' Doom. An hallucinated mix of 70's hippy trips and the heavi...
(read more)

Czech solo project Mistress Of The Dead is not one of those of those bands which seeks publicity. You'll find very little about them anywhere on the internet or on albums you may own. Which is why, in the year that GSP re-release their entire back catalogue, we are extremely grateful to band founder Vlad C. for giving us this exclusive look into the band's history and motives.

Interview with Mistress Of The Dead.
"Here in the underground world of Doom, there are plenty of bands who do not court publicity. For whatever reason, they prefer their musical creations to reach the listener unexplained and without personal bias, to be appreciated - or not - on the strength of their content alone. Such a band is the Czech solo project Mistress Of The Dead, whose numerous releases detail their common themes of graveside pain and loss simply through artwork, lyrics and, sometimes, a sentence or two of dedication. Those familiar with the works will, doubtless, have been able to piece those together to form some picture of their tragic origin. Well, it's not my place to pry undecorously into their more private aspects - but, nonetheless, as 2018 sees GS Productions unearthing the whole MotD back catalogue for reissue, individually and as a luxurious limited complete box set, I couldn't resist asking whether it would be possible to flesh out some background to this archetypally cold and uncompromising Funeral Doom band. My sincere thanks go to Vlad C. for agreeing to provide this rare opportunity."

The only official picture to be found on the internet of Mistress Of The Dead's Vlad Cristea Vales, in the hot seat with us today.

Hello Vlad, and thanks a lot for talking to us. I very much appreciate that you release very little that's personal, either on releases or via interviews, so I hope this conversation can both respect that and still unearth a little about your music! So, perhaps I can simply start by asking how are things with you right now?

My kind regards to you, Mike.

Many things happened since the time I started MotD project, many changes came and many personal battles and spiritual tests had to be fought, a lot of things and tortures I had to bear along the cemetery path of my earthly living here.

Especially from the year 2008, when I suffered from some serious health difficulties which were mostly overcome during several years, which made my musical creation of Mistress of the Dead almost impossible to carry on...

Looking back, you formed Mistress Of The Dead as a solo project in 2004, and put out several releases over the next year or so. What was the fundamental purpose of the band, though - were you recording for your own benefit, or was it intended to reach other listeners?

Yes I just started to make my music only for my own "pleasure" - perhaps for my own "spiritual ventilation" or, better said, relief, to get rid of some certain inner overpressure and maybe for some friends in my surroundings who would be interested in it to listen and understand what's hidden inside.

I didn't actually have any higher or "wider" ambition or target of course...

At the time, on top of it, I had a strong feeling that it would be unnecessary to spread something like that widely.

Mistress Of The Dead - 'Dying Candle And Forgotten Withered Rose' (2004):

Has that changed at all over the years, or is that still the main principle behind the music you make?

Nothing has changed until now despite that I'm older and maybe a little bit wiser than I was when it all started years ago, so for many things in my life, events, and even music I've got some more mature approach, it all seems to be a little bit different when I compare the period when I originally created the Mistress of the Dead project.

The flow of time changes many things.

From time to time, you've explicitly dedicated some tracks and albums to Henriette C., and others more cryptically as, for example, 'the one I only know from the tombstone'. Is all of your work inspired by this single Muse?

My most precious angelic One - she's my biggest and greatest inspiring Muse I'm connected with, by the strongest sensual bond which a mortal human being can imagine at all...

...and I'm sure that one day, when this torturous earthly experience and pilgrimage ends, we will be together there in the Heavens or maybe in some other reincarnation - though I would prefer not to go through this earthly existence once more, if you understand...

Long ago She died - half a woman, half a child... in 12 years of Her terrestrial being here when we walked the same path of our childlike lives.

Her grating unforgettable tragedy never vanishes from my memory and She's still with me though... She's very distant sometimes - but when I feel worst here on this miserable world, She comes to me to soothe my torture - which is sometimes nondescript because of my very high sensibility...

We're often in unceasing telepathic contact...

...so, I guess I've written much more than I should...

Funeral Doom is a very fitting genre, perhaps the only possible one, for the bitter and morbid motifs that run through your lyrics, titles and artworks. Did you come to that style entirely naturally, or were you also influenced by other bands or music?

Yes, as you've just said - entirely and naturally - but I was helped a little bit by some funeral doom pioneers who influenced me on my doomy journey. There's no need to name them, they are very well known by all "insiders".

But even the non-metal musical scene as Bach's classical organ music, classical dark chamber music of different authors was very inspirational - and, of course, the lack of such bands as those previously mentioned funeral doom ones in our Czech musical doom scene led me to do something unpopular on the musical scene.

Then years ago I also tried to create some ambient and melancholic instrumental music which will never be released, but gave me a good preparation to go on in the other field of funereal doom...

And yet there's also a strong thread of spirituality and belief that also shows through in the material and dedications - does this mean they also express some hope or greater meaning, if not for this life then somewhere beyond it?

I don't belong amongst people who blindly but firmly believe - simply I know...maybe much more than any mortal man can even imagine, and more than could be pleasant and bearable for him...

Yes, there's quite a lot of personal knowing of post-mortem life and contacts to some wandering souls needing our help to bring them to the Light...

...sometimes even through the miraculous suffering and some form of victims, masses, etc.

What sort of technology did you start out with when you began recording - presumably it was a home studio set-up? Do you still use any of that equipment now?

Yes, everything is recorded in my home self made musical studio and the majority of my original equipment is still used as it was all begun years ago.

It's a blend of normally commercially reachable musical equipment - nothing special and mysterious I guess...

And have you always done your own engineering, recording and mastering, as well as composing and performing? Did you have any formal background in any of these musical disciplines, or has it all been self-taught?

Everything from the very beginning - I'm an autodidact - absolutely at every branch. You’ve meant more above, but at least I don't have to be depending on a larger collective which would only restrain me from my own work and certainly it would devour a lot of precious time...

Earliest releases.

The early years of Mistress Of The Dead were extremely prolific, recording-wise - and discographies generally list the self-released albums as demos. Was that the case: were they actually recorded as demo versions, or as full albums that just happened to be off-label?

They were all mentioned as full lengths - but with the only difference that they wouldn't be officially released, nothing more. Doesn't matter how you call it - simply it's clear that album having playing time more than 60 minutes deserves to be taken for a full length - no matter if it is official or not.

The originals are all pretty much unobtainable now: were they successful enough that you sold or traded them all?

Some of them I traded for some precious musical materials for my own personal CD album collection, but some original titles are still reachable straight from me - of course not the older demo albums - but only previously officially released albums as it is "I Know Her Face from the Tombstone", "Weeping Silence of the Dead", "White Roses, White Coffin", "Henriette's Message from the Other Shore" - and some split discs - could be found here.

Mistress Of The Dead - 'Only Ashes And Remembrance' (2006):

From 2006 onwards, Epidemie Records put out several of your albums. How did you get involved with labels, and was it significantly different to working independently?

Originally I actually didn't plan to get involved with any official label - I told myself that it was enough when I made a couple of self-made colour CD-rs - in quality, as is standard - and I did it this way quite a long time - it was absolutely satisfying for me to make some exchanges with some label distros this way to get my favourite pieces for my personal collection.

But in the year 2005 I was contacted by EPIDEMIE RECORDS to question if I would want to let them release some albums officially as professionally printed...

...so I didn't oppose it and the first couple of previous demo-albums - Buried and Cryptic were edited by this underground label...

So, in fact I didn't contact any labels in this period of my creation, but labels turned to me on their own.

The cooperation went on with Australian excellent label Ruinproductions in 2006 also by releasing two albums at the same time - so it was I Know Her Face from the Tombstone and Weeping Silence of the Dead came out...

...and so on...

There were a couple of split albums during that period, with Quercus and Funeral Of My Soul, both Czech bands. How did those come about? And is there - or was there - any particular 'Czech Doom scene' that you were part of?

There's the rule of simplicity - all musicians I made splits with were my musical companions and friends I made an acquaintance at some doom musical concerts, and the word gave the word and we agreed that could be fine if we made some material together - why not?

To another part of your question I could only say that I don't know if I could say that there exists any funeral doom scene in our small country - maybe a couple of bands play like that, but most of our doomy bands cannot be indicated like that cause their conception of doom is much different and long distanced from this "definition" of what funeral doom music actually is, mostly mixed with more positive and rather experimental elements. I myself know about maximum four groups who could be subdued like that because of their style of playing...

...so this is actually the Czech funeral doom scene - not too large as we see - but maybe I'm not too well informed and their number is a little bit higher than I consider.

Mistress Of The Dead - 'Henriette's Message From The Other Shore' (2011, full album):

Since 2007, we've heard very little from the band, aside from 'Henriette's Message From The Other Shore' in 2011. Had you basically said everything you wanted to, at that point, or was there some other reason for the sudden drop in output?

My friend, surely there was a reason for the sudden drop - I had to fight for my life and especially health with a very malicious illness, so I must lay any other matters to the ice - there was nothing else left...

Of course I'd be much happier if I left this world and made towards eternity to my Dearest one, but it wasn't enabled for me.

Visibly my time hasn't come at this time yet...

And after this long silence, you have a new album out, 'Beloveth Forever in My Thoughts', which dates back to 2013. How come you never released it back then? And is it only surfacing now as part of GSP's reissuing the Mistress Of The Dead back catalogue?

Simply said - no one wanted to release it - there was no interest in this previous flood of MotD albums to release another thing sounding so tediously similar in 2013.

So I calculated it to never be released - no problem, there would be only a couple of copies for my most faithful friends and there would be no obsessive need to release it officially - no one other would ever hear...

If there wasn't Vitaly Savisko, who offered to release all my discography, this last album would never see the light of this world - a sure calculation...

The GSP limited complete box set.

On the subject of GSP - as well as individual physical and digital reissues, there is the forthcoming limited box set containing the complete works and more. Where did the idea for that arise? Are you pleased with the result?

The idea arose from Vitaly Savisko from GSP - it's all his great work and, of course, the GSP collective and their very skilful graphic-artist cooperating with GSP under the name Blackdante, whose intuitive graphical arts are simply astonishing.

Do you have any plans to produce any further new material after this, or is it something of a suitable point of closure for the band?

Yes, of course I'd like to release some other new materials, but I think that only merciful fate and God knows when and if it's going to be. It is clear that we can plan anything, but everyone knows that no human plan will ever go out without it...

But I'd like to create even a couple of new materials, but I cannot give any sure horizon of time to it.

Later releases.

It can be said that Mistress Of The Dead is one of those bands quite famous within the underground, and which epitomises the coldest, bleakest and most funereal extremes of the Funeral spectrum. Is that an achievement you can be both satisfied with and proud of?

Maybe I feel some kind of pride - but I guess first of all: worldly glory is just field grass. There should be mainly humility...

Thank you again for your time and participation. Is there anything you'd like to add as a last word to close this interview?

My own grave at Henriette's cemetery is awaiting my ashes prepared to devour them - it's close - almost opposite to Her (Henriette's) dearest grave, where Her angelic face shines from blackest marble tombstone. "Life is a mere meeting, farewell, and memories" says Her epitaph...

Even after death we want to look at each other's face...

...and under my portrait You will find engraved by golden letters this motto:"Only Love is what remains for eternity..."

...I think that's all...

Editor's Note: At time of publication, preorders are still open for the limited complete box set, including a personal signature. This offer ends on July 25 2018.

Click HERE to discuss this interview on the doom-metal forum.

Visit the Mistress Of The Dead bandpage.

Interviewed on 2018-07-14 by Mike Liassides.
Advertise your band, label or distro on doom-metal.com