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Cuban-turned-Swiss solo project Godes Yrre has far more of a history than its demo plus two albums back catalogue might suggest. Founder Abel Oliva was kind enough to give us all the details in this detailed interview...

Interview with Godes Yrre.
"Solo Avantgarde Doom band Godes Yrre, with its Industrial core and mixture of extreme/noise elements, is somewhat hard to classify. Created in the early '90s in Cuba, as an offshoot of Death Metal outfit Sectarium, it then went into a near-two-decade hiatus before releasing the first of two full-length albums in 2017. Founder Abel Oliva hasn't been idle during that time, however, so we thought we'd follow up the late-2018 release of 'Ghost Warriors' with a chat about his long musical career."


Multi-instrumentalist and composer Abel Oliva.


Hello Abel, and thanks for agreeing to be interviewed for Doom-Metal.com. How are things with you?

I'm still alive! I had an accident and I fractured my left wrist so I was between hospital and very bored. But I have not stopped working on the conceptual ideas of the next Godes Yrre album and also mixing songs from the new album "Dead Movie Star" by Naurea, my electro-industrial rock project.

So, you're originally from Cuba? I don't think I've ever knowingly heard a Cuban Metal band of any sort - what was the scene like there when you were growing up? What were your earliest influences?

In Cuba the metal scene from the late '80s until the beginning of 2000 was intense, few bands but each with a different proposal, nowadays quality has declined and there is a lot of mimicry. Imagine a country with a communist dictatorship and the challenges of making metal! I began to listen to rock in the '70s through the radio stations of Florida, in the 80's I discovered extreme metal being at the university, although I was already listening to the heavy music scene. At the beginning I only had access to the most "commercial" like Slayer or Metallica but later to bands like Morbid Angel, Entombed, Pungent Stench, Malevolent Creation, a lot of Florida underground as they came through cassettes to Cuba for the large number of Cuban emigrants who live there. At the end of the interview I'll leave you something that I wrote at another time so that you understand better how those years were.



You started off playing in Death Metal outfits Nekrobiosis and Sectarium, is that correct? How did you get involved in them, and how successful were they?

The first band had a short life, just a few concerts and a demo that I have not yet managed to recover. But it was Sectarium's seed, which was known throughout the island and thanks to the demo "God's Wrath" (1994) also known in the international underground. We were a trio where I played the guitar and composed music and lyrics, in addition to making arrangements. Franto was the bassist and also composed music and lyrics, Duvier the drummer contributed his. The binomial with Franto was super because we were like brothers and we had the same ideas about the underworld, horror novels and occultism. We read a lot and from there came many of the ideas. With his death the band died, and it was hard for me to keep going. Even so, we publish in 1998 the demo "Larvae of Splendor" which we were recording at the time of his death. Both demos have been collected in the compilation "Larvae of God" which is available on streaming platforms and soon to come out through Hatemetalrecords America (Mexico). Also, Black Noise Records (Argentina) re-released in 2017 the demo "God's Wrath" on cassette.

Godes Yrre also dates back to the early 1990s, with your demo 'A Divine Image' recorded in 1994. What was your intention when setting up the project: did you have any specific musical goals for it?

I was trying to mix the sound and cadence of doom metal with the machines. A process of experimentation and search, of trying to do something different from the rest. I had borrowed a Yamaha keyboard and thanks to that I could compose and record that demo in a local radio studio, with the help of a friend playing the keyboard and Franto on main vocals. The demo had some underground distribution and some other reviews in fanzines of that time. After that the project slept a long 20 years...

Godes Yrre - 'A Divine Image' (Official, 1994):


What sort of facilities were available for recordings back then? How easy was it to get studio time and equipment?

A horror movie. The studios I had access to had good acoustics and mixers, but in general the technicians did not know what to do with the distortion of the guitar and guttural voices. There were also no multitracks so we needed to record by transfers from one 2-track machine to another. I played the guitar while my friend Prida played the keyboard that had incorporated the drum loops, then I played the bass and my friend played the keyboard choruses, then Franto sang and I spoke in some sections, all at the same time. A total madness with the transfers. We did everything in about 4 to 5 hours. Then I discovered a small private studio 50km from my city but its prices were very high for the time. A curious fact, it belonged to a reformed church. In those years I used a German guitar and a bass from the former DDR, an amplifier/speaker from the same country and a self-made distortion, it was almost impossible to access to conventional technology. I can say that we tried to make magic.

You've since remastered part of the demo for a Bandcamp release. What happened to the other two 'lost' tracks? And how do you view 'A Divine Image' now - what would you say are its good and bad points?

I really do not know what happened to the lost tracks. Throughout 20 years I have moved many times and also changed PCs, at some point those two tracks disappeared. I use this interview to request anyone who has them to send them to me! About the demo, I like how it is conceived, its point in favor is its dirty sound and the immense voice of Franto. Its weak point is the quality of the mix. But I still think it retains some magic...


Godes Yrre discography: 'A Divine Image' (Demo, 1994), 'A Divine Image' (Remaster, 2017), 'Inside The Whale' (2017), 'Ghost Warriors' (2018).


When did you move to Switzerland? How different did the musical scene feel when you got there?

I arrived in Switzerland in the summer of 2013, to this small country full of contrasts and a beauty almost unique. I have to say that it took me 5 years to stabilize myself because at the beginning it was very hard, without friends, contacts and without speaking German (official language of the canton where I live). The Swiss scene is not very big but in exchange it has immense international friction. There are many festivals and concerts throughout the year. I have tried to start a band but there is a lot of elitism (as in any other country) and it is difficult to gather other musicians who wish to do the same kind of music. It's because of all that I decided to go ahead by myself, because in the end it's about releasing my demons, to continue composing and making music...

The first new Godes Yrre release was 'Inside the Whale', in 2017. Why did you decide to resurrect the project name rather than start a new one: did you feel there was an obvious overlap between the original demo and what you wanted to create now?

First: I had a good name for the project. And second, I had the nostalgia of not having been able to do more in the same line of composition. It all started again because I began to re-mix the old tracks, then I tried to put in other drum machines and in the end I said "what the hell, I'm going to make a couple of new tracks!" That's how Godes Yrre came back to life.

As an aside, how much involvement did you have with music during the intervening years? Did you work with other projects besides Naurea? There are a couple of long gaps (1994 - 2002 and 2003 - 2012) - were you doing anything in those periods?

I never stop making music. Between 1991 and 1993 I was with Nekrobiosis (power metal). From 1994 to 1997 with Sectarium (death / doom / black metal). From 1998 to 2000 between two bands: Anger Seeds (power / trash metal) and Eskoria (punk). From 2001 until arriving to Switzerland with C-Men (nu metal / alternative / industrial metal). In the middle of all the above also several projects like Godes Yrre himself, Vile (heavy metal), Olimann (dark house), Naurea (electro-industrial rock) and I kept doing music for theater (about five soundtracks). Also as a guest on several projects.

Naurea - 'Dead Movie Star' (Official, 2018):


'Inside the Whale' had a strong Industrial edge to it, so it would seem you picked up some different influences along the way. Were there any particular bands that you would consider significant in providing those influences?

I listen to music of all kinds and I am a great reader of historical novels, that is undoubtedly my great influence. Of bands that have influenced the industrial side from the mix that GY carries, undoubtedly in no particular order NIN, Ministry, Front 242, Die Krupps, among the main ones.

How well did you feel 'Inside the Whale' achieved your goals for revitalising Godes Yrre? Is there anything you would have done differently, with the benefit of hindsight?

Undoubtedly the weakest point, as was well commented on your site, is the recording of the voices. Looking back if I could have used more aggressiveness in the concept. As for the drums being too "machine", that's my concept and I'm happy that everyone thinks in their own way about that detail. In general, this album helped me to prove that I could continue with a project like Godes Yrre.

Godes Yrre - 'Inside The Whale' (Full, 2017):


You put it out on tape, presumably without any label backing. Do you have a preference for physical formats over downloads?

The tape version of "Inside the Whale" was released through Black Noise Records (Argentina) with only 100 collectable copies. I have to admit that I am a big fan of original copies on tape and LPs to listen at home (though now I do not have a tape player). But in the modern times we live in and the accessed streaming, although it is not of great acoustic quality, is the way to reach the entire planet in seconds. So, I would summarize the matter in: to listen better on tape and LP, to make a project known, streaming works very well.

This year's release was 'Ghost Warriors'. It's a bit of a leading question, since I had some involvement in watching the album develop, but how would you say it differed from 'Inside the Whale' in both approach and execution?

First of all, my thanks to you Mike for all your support, advices and the grammatical correction of the lyrics! The theme in the album "Inside the Whale" was biblical, with a mixture closer to the industrial. The new album "Ghost Warriors" is about (as the title indicates) the forgotten warriors through the centuries, the past glories of empires. It has a more orchestral feeling and more aggressive and guttural voices. Both albums will be connected by the next album because it will be a trilogy. I can anticipate that as a concept it will be more doom and symphonic, but my creative process is chaotic and maybe I'll change my mind on the way hahaha.



One question I always ask: what do you consider to be the essential qualities of Doom, and how do you go about realising them in your music?

From my perspective doom is marked by the musical density and the slow tempos to create melancholic and oppressive atmospheres. But in art there is nothing written with certainty. I combine everything I can think of to give some variation to tracks that have been conceived with a limit of 7 minutes (cabala, numerology and dementias apart). You have to give sensations, and listeners will tell if their heart was extruded or simply they got bored.

Are we likely to see a physical version of 'Ghost Warriors', do you think?

I hope so. Hatemetalrecords has planned its CD release this year but they are still delayed with the release of "Inside the Whale". I am trying to make a release on tape for collectors and looking for someone who is willing to release it on LP. But I assure you something, it will definitely be released in some physical format.

We have reviewed both the 'new era' Godess Yrre releases ('Inside The Whale' and 'Ghost Warriors'). Would you say those are both fair assessments, or is there anything you'd like to add, good or bad, by way of comment?

For me, reviews are very important. You have made accurate and timely reviews. Personally, I liked them because they have made me see weaknesses and virtues. I have to admit that as far as the weaknesses were known before, I am not one of those who are blind to the truth. I say again: thanks doom-metal.com for writing about Godes Yrre!

Godes Yrre - 'Red Skies' (Official,2018):


So, what's next for Godes Yrre? Do you have anything planned yet?

I am thinking and writing ideas for the next album with which I hope to close the circle of 3 albums with 7 songs each of 7 minutes. The next album will deal with what there is beyond death (through various religions and mythologies) and all its central concept is already written. I hope to finish it this year so that it will be released in the next winter. After that, I will most likely focus on doing something different within Godes Yrre, but that would be another story with an uncertain future.

And in the longer term, do you have any particular vision for where you'd like to take the band? Any idea how would you like it to be spoken of, looking back from sometime in the future?

I would like to give live concerts, maybe between this year and next year. I do music because I feel the need to do it, and I assume that perhaps over the years someone may remember a project carried out by a Cuban-Swiss half-crazy hahaha. Seriously, we all want to be remembered for our actions, but will we be? That is why I do not stop to think about the future when I have so many plans in the present.



So, what else occupies your time outside of music? Is there anything you'd particularly like to be doing, given a free hand to indulge?

I live for the music, not from music. I have a small tattoo studio called SkinMask Tattoo, for half a year. I also work 50% for the branch of a transport and logistics multinational doing its invoicing for Europe. I am a professional architect and also worked for many years in graphic design. What would I like right now? Devote myself partially to architecture, to the conceptualization of projects. Or maybe direct a movie, I have a script project saved some time ago... I'm full of dreams because, what else can make us continue, despite everything, forward?

I think that finishes all of my questions, and I hope that's covered both the historic and contemporary phases of the band, so if there is anything you'd like to add, the last words are yours...

Art is impossible to explain, and even less that intricate mental process that leads to the conceptualization of a work. That's why specialized reviews are so important, something that Doom-metal does with care. Godes Yrre still has a lot to do, and I expect from you the timely review. We are all warriors, and we must go on, as the legions once marched through the plains and valleys. Never stop fighting for your dreams, because at the end of the road there may not be a light, but the eternal abyss.


Appendix

Abel was kind enough to attach a couple of articles, for anyone interested in the evolution of Cuban Metal, in general, or the band Sectarium in particular. These have been appended here in full and unaltered, should you wish to peruse further.

A Short Review of the 90s Cuban Metal Scene

Heavy metal took root in Cuba with the band Venus and their 1986 release, “The Hardest Metal.” Following the success of this sound, the band continued producing similarly accelerated and energetic tracks, such as “Pershing” and “They Metallizing Space.” Even as the popularity of metal continued to grow around the world, emanations of that burgeoning international scene reached Cuba under peculiar circumstances. As the Communist regimes in Eastern Europe began to collapse, Castro declared that Cuba would seek to avoid many of the problems that plagued the totalitarian governments in those countries; however, the Ideological Department of the Communist Party and the Interior Ministry continued to target young rockers and metal fans in Cuba. This pressure from the government caused Venus to disband in 1987, but another significant band, Zeus, emerged at around the same time and has remained active since that time.

January 7, 1987 was an important date in the history of metal in Cuba. The formation of that Amateur Musicians of Rock (AMAR) represented the response of rockers and metalheads to the ignorant treatment of gender issues by the Hermanos Saiz Association (AHS). The idea originated with drummer Ricardo Alfonso and the independent promoter, Luis Kohly. Many local metal bands supported the idea, including Zeus, Hades, Horus, and Metal Oscuro.

In the late 1980s, more extreme forms of metal began to evolve. The creation of bands such as Cronos from Santa Clara (the band later changed its name to Medium) and the Death Metal band Destrozer from Holguin marked a shift toward a more extreme sound in the Cuban underground.

Like the music, the performances became more violent as well. In the summer of 1992, the Death/Thrash band Metal Oscuro performed at the former Playa Culture House. Metalheads in attendance clashed with the police, and many of the young attendees were arrested. In response, more than 300 metalheads converged on the police station in Havana to protest their incarceration.

That same summer, the first Death Trash festival took place in the town of Placetas, organized by a local band called Necrofago. Also present at that fest were the publishers of the fanzine, Death Through Your Veins. (One of the publishers, Canek Sanchez Guevara, who also played in a band called Metalizer, was the grandson of Che Guevara and later became an outspoken critic of Castro and the Communist regime. He died in 2015.) The fest lasted two days and sparked hostility from the local residents. Nevertheless, a second edition of the fest occurred in 1994, which reflected the consolidated nature of the Cuban underground metal scene that had emerged between 1990 and 1993. The scene in Havana spawned bands like Judgment, Celhlow, Krudenta, Madness, Kindred, Trance, and Agonizer. Meanwhile, other parts of the island gave birth to Metal Sacred from Pinar Del Rio, Necromorgue from Matanzas, Infestor, Cronos, and Alien.

That same period of time also saw the emergence of Sectarium, one of the most significant bands in the underground extreme metal scene. Sectarium’s guitarist, Abel Oliva, was also responsible for organizing two national fests in his hometown of Caibarién in 1992 and 1993, featuring an array of bands spanning from Punk to Death Metal. At the same time, the eastern part of the island was giving rise to several other important bands, Metalaxia, EPD, and Destrozer (later Mephisto).

In May 1996, the First National Exhibition of Rock took place Karl Marx Theatre in Havana. At that time, the Cuban public had grown tired of the recent surge of interest in salsa, and the various strains of rock music began to draw more attention from a new generation. This occurred even in spite of the many obstacles impeding the proliferation of rock music, in general, and metal, in particular. With few exceptions, radio stations did not play rock or metal music, and it was never permitted on local television stations. On January 2, 1997, just as the metal scene in Cuba was flourishing, Franto Paul Hernandez, the vocalist and bassist for Sectarium, was brutally murdered outside a nightclub in Sagua la Grande. While this violent death increased the cult status of Sectarium, it left the Cuban underground in a state of anger and frustration. Meanwhile, a song by Zeus, entitled “Diablo Al Infierno” was included on a compilation of Cuban music (also called “Diablo Al Infierno”) that was compiled by David Byrne and produced for the U.S. market. Around the same time, the well known Death/Grind band known as Combat Noise emerged in Havana and continues to be active to the present day. Another significant occurrence in 1997 was the debut of Cuba’s first Black Metal band, Mephisto, hailing from the eastern city of Holguin. Thus, by the end of 1997, the rock and metal scenes were firmly established in Cuba and would continue to expand and evolve over the next two decades.

Sectarium Biography

Sectarium - 'God's Wrath' (Demo, 1993):


Necrobiosis, a band that briefly existed in Caibarién between 1991 and 1992 and recorded one demo, entitled “The Death Squad,” dissolved into two separate entities, Alien and Sectarium. The latter project coalesced, in 1993, when two members of Necrobiosis – drummer, Duviel Quiroz, and guitarist, Abel Oliva – united with Franto Paul Hernandez, the ex-vocalist/bassist for another band called Infestor. Hernandez decided on the name “Sectarium,” and the band was conceived. Musically, they were drawn to Death, Doom, and Grind metal and lyrically inspired by subject matter associated with ancient and pagan cults, horror literature, nightmares, and biblical accounts of Babylonian culture. Although members of the band had already established some international contacts through the mail with bands and zines since the 1980s, even acquiring recordings or zines related to extreme metal was a difficult task in totalitarian Cuba. In those early years, the government routinely censored not only metal, but all rock music, declaring it an “instrument of capitalism.” Tape trading was the lifeblood of the scene at that time. Very few people actually owned LPs, and when they did, they immediately copied them to tapes, which were dubbed and passed around to others. The familial connections between many Cubans on the island with those who had escaped to Florida resulted in a heavy influence of the Florida Death Metal scene on the young Cubans.

Drawing together these influences, Sectarium immediately began writing material and soon entered CMHS Studios to record. In 1994, Sectarium released its first demo called “God’s Wrath.” Distributed through Europe, Latin America, and the United States, and reviewed in many prominent zines, “God’s Wrath” quickly garnered accolades throughout the underground. By that time, Sectarium were in contact with numerous other highly regarded bands outside of Cuba, including Entombed, Pungent Stench, Orphaned Land, Moonspell, My Dying Bride, and Sarcofago. Interestingly, despite the obvious stylistic similarities between Sectarium and some of the well-known Brazilian bands, the band was not especially influenced by the Brazilian scene. Rather, they seemed to draw their influences from similar sources in Europe and the U.S. such that Sectarium’s synthesis of its influences produced results similar to those of its Brazilian contemporaries.

Over the next few years, Sectarium became one of the most active metal bands in Cuba, playing numerous shows, including several national festivals. By this time, the Cuban government was more or less ignoring the rock and metal scenes, recognizing that the young adherents to the scene were primarily concerned with making music, even though there existed a strong strain of dissent among many within the scene. Nonetheless, the government’s relaxed approach during the early 1990s allowed the scene to flourish.

As Sectarium continued gaining recognition, the band members also pursued side projects. Oliva and Hernandez, along with keyboard player, Ernesto Prida, began a band called Godes Yrre – a self-referential band name meaning “God’s wrath” or God’s anger,” derived from the original Old English Beowulf text. Godes Yrre recorded one demo, “A Divine Image,” released in 1994. Hernandez also worked with guitarist, Manuel Varela on a third project, named Spiritus, which, in 1996, released a tape called “Soul Enslaved” on the Mexican label, American Line Productions. In addition to his musical output, Hernandez edited two issues of a zine called Dissection.

Tragically, Hernandez died, on January 2, 1997, just as Sectarium was recording its second demo. Entitled, “Larvae,” Oliva and Manuel Varela completed the recording at Koinonia Studio and released the demo as a tribute to Hernandez in 1998. Following Hernandez’ death, Oliva continued playing in various metal, hardcore, punk bands in Cuba until 2012, when he relocated to Switzerland. He continues to write and record under the name Naurea. Quiroz remained in Cuba but eventually lost contact with the music scene there.

Sectarium - 'Larvae Of Splendor' (1997):



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Interviewed on 2019-01-22 by Mike Liassides.
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