Ancient – Interview with band founder/singer Aphazel
Ancient is not a metal band that is a household name in the metal community. Yet they have developed a loyal and growing following in the black metal underground scene with the release of a few well-respected metal offerings. The band continues on with their latest release ?Night Visit? via Metal Blade Records. I had the opportunity to speak with band founder/singer Aphazel who gave me some insight on his band and what the future holds for them. You can check out their website at www.ancientband.com or www.metalblade.com for more information.
Interview By Keith McDonald
Tell me about the new album (production, recording, etc.).
We recorded in Italy again this time at a studio called Mirage Studios, it?s a very good studio and we know the owner of it, they usually produce other music than metal but we had our sound engineer/ manager Alex with us there, and we managed to get some very good recordings done, then we went to Sweden and did mixing at Studio Fredman, we?re very satisfied with the result this time, the sound is pretty much just the way we wanted it, it sounds very warm and analog, and aggressive and powerful at the same time.
What are the tour plans?
The plans are to tour the whole of Europe in January/ February and march, then hopefully the US and Canada in April or so, and we will also try to hit South America and Japan afterwards. We?re scheduled for a tour in Russia in November, but it?s not 100% sure if it will happen. We tour as much as we can, really.
The new material is more aggressive and heavier, was that the idea or just what happened naturally?
Maybe it was a bit cause Dhilorz had more input in the songwriting this time, and from the start we did want an album that was rather aggressive and with not a lot of keyboards and no female vocals, so it was a bit of each, maybe also cause we used Mesa amplifiers it kinda inspired us more to use that aggressive sound a bit more than on the last album.
How strong do you think the black metal market is these days?
I don?t know exactly, many bands quit so for those who are left it?s a kind of advantage that there?s less of the bigger bands around now, on the other hand a lot of people are just downloading music from the internet instead of buying CDs, and that hurts the bands. We just do what we do; I don?t really follow the market or trends etc. so much.
Do you see much of a difference in the European metal scene that in the US?
Yeah, especially for extreme metal, it seems to be a lot more underground over there still, and I suppose that won?t change in the near future. I was living 3 years in the US and I got a pretty good idea of how different it is over there, it?s just a lot more underground with black and death metal compared to Europe where you can see black metal videos on national TV, and there?s tons of big magazines that feature extreme metal etc. it?s all a lot more commercial over here and there?s a lot more fans as well. I think it?s a bit cause of the way things are in the US, the government is more strict and not so open minded towards extreme music, on the TV, radio, many places in Europe there?s clubs that get cultural support from the government so they easier can organize concerts, and the governments in general invest in cultural activities for young people, in Norway many bands (even if they are black metal or what they want) get support from the government in different ways to keep up their activity! It?s also not seen as something really bad or crazy to listen to extreme metal, it?s accepted by most people. People over here are in general more open to new things than in the US perhaps.
I see that Ancient started out as a solo project then became a band. How did that come about?
I was playing in a death metal band in ?90-91, but the guys weren?t really serious about it and just did it as a hobby, so after a year and a half the band slowly fell apart and I was also not really into playing death metal anymore, so I decided to start some music on my own. I was recording some demo tapes with a drum machine, and put down some rough tracks. After a while I asked the drummer from the death metal band, Grim, who was an old friend of mine and who lives close to me, if he would put on some vocals on it (he was also a singer), and from there we started developing the tracks together, and started practicing with him as drummer/ vocalist and me as guitarist. We recorded one full album and a mini album together, and after that he grew tired of playing black metal and decided to quit the band, in the summer of 1995.
Why so many member changes?
When Grim left the band, I was already in contact with Kaiaphas who used to play in Grand Belial?s Key and Thokk, I was very impressed by his vocals and I had been in the USA earlier that year and met him etc., so when Grim left, I immediately know that I wanted him as the new singer in Ancient, even if the lived in the USA, I didn?t care, so I moved over there, I was a bit bored of living in Norway anyway so I didn?t mind so much going over to the USA. Then in ?98 I moved back to Europe, I felt I like it better here and I didn?t have the visas etc. to live in the US permanently anyway. Then when I moved over here I had to find a new line-up again, so the line-up changed have been mostly due to my moving, and vice versa. Now the line-up have been stable for almost 5 years though.
Which album has been your most successful to date?
The album which sold the most copies was ?The Cainian Chronicle?, that has sold about 30.000 copies until now, it was a good time for black metal then, and we did a great album. The other albums have been selling almost the same amount though.
How would you describe your music to someone who never heard the band before?
I think I would just call it dark extreme melodic metal, I think it?s difficult to find a good name for our style as we have so many different influences. I don?t think we?re exactly a black metal band but for purposes of convenience it?s easier to use that label, as people know more or less how we sound then. I mean, we?re certainly not death metal, you know.
How was it playing in countries like Israel and Romania?
It was very cool, in Romania we were the first black metal band from abroad to ever play in Romania and the people were really crazy and liked our gig a lot, there was like an army of security guards there with guns etc. hehe. Israel was also very interesting, a quite different place in many ways, but the concert was more or less like a usual gig, we were the first black metal band to play Israel and people were quite excited to see us, it was strange to come to Israel though, they have so many different customs and life there is not really like in Europe.
Was it hard trying to establish a metal band out of Norway or is the scene good there?
No, it was easy, cause there were a lot of musicians into black metal and extreme metal at the time, I just played with Grim though, and when we did concerts we had a session bassist, and it was always easy to find musicians there.
What’s the future for Ancient?
We will possibly do a tour in Russia in November, it?s not 100% confirmed though. On Halloween we will play at a festival in France opening for the comeback gig of Dissection, so that will be very cool. Next year from January to march we plan to tour the whole of Europe, and hopefully we can come to the US in April or so, if the album sales over there are good and the general interest is good, it should be possible, then we hope to also tour south America and Japan and anywhere else we can. And around the summer we will start to think about the next album.