Interview with founder Astargh
By Oliver M.
Three years after the critically acclaimed “Son of the Morning”, Elderblood are back in 2016 with their second opus “Messiah”. Released by cult French label Osmose Productions, this new assault is a masterpiece of Symphonic black/death metal. We asked their founding member Astargh many questions about his works within Elderblood, the Ukrainian black metal scene, his past contribution for Nokturnal Mortum and his projects.
Hails Astargh! Before we talk about your new album “Messiah”, I would like to focus on your previous opus “Son of the Morning” first. Three years after its release, what’s your opinion about it?
Hey! I see “Son of the Morning” as a good experience. This release gave the opportunity to declare itself but for me, this material is no longer relevant. So, I see no reason to look back on it.
I remember that “Son of the Morning” was praised by the critics. It was released by the excellent US label Paragon Records in 2013. Do you think they did a good job for the band at that time? How did you find the opportunity to sign with them?
When I searched for a label, I’ve been sending e-mails. Mike almost answered immediately. He already had the experience of working with another group from Ukraine. Paragon did a good promotion and distribution for this release. We have received many good reviews.
To promote this first album, you did a very nice video clip for the song “My Death”. I really enjoyed it. Are you planning to do another one for a track from “Messiah”?
We’re planning to shoot a new video but I can’t say when it will happen. We haven’t decided yet if this video will be for a song from “Messiah” or from the new album.
So far, you’ve been playing at several festivals in Ukraine and Czech Republic. What are your projects in terms of shows?
We love to play concerts. We are currently looking for a booking agency. Anyone who wants to invite Elderblood can write to: email@example.com.
Elderblood’s current line-up is composed of Odalv and yourself. Are you satisfied about it or are you planning to welcome more full-time members in the future?
Together we recorded and released 2 albums. We are not dependent on those who play with us. Recently, we’ve had a new guitar player and he has some good ideas. So, maybe I won’t be the only composer on the next release.
In 2015, you joined the roster of cult French label Osmose Productions. How did it happen? Do you think they are the ideal label for Elderblood?
It was like for the first album. I’ve been sending e-mails to labels and Hervé answered me. Then, we signed the contract and the album has been released since.
Now, let’s talk about your second assault “Messiah”. In my opinion, it’s a masterpiece of Symphonic black/death metal. Congratulations! Do you consider it as the perfect sequel of “Son of the Morning” (which was awesome by the way)?
I would not call it a sequel, it is a view from the other side. “Son of the Morning” is the light of Lucifer. “Messiah” is the Tagirion’s Sun that is blinding. It’s an attempt to plunge deeper into the darkness of the Abyss. The third album will complete this theme.
Your guitar solos are well done and strengthen the melodic side of the compositions. What are your influences as a guitarist?
I listen to a lot of music, including instrumental. Brian May, Joe Satriani, Glen Tipton and K.K. Downing are simply brilliant and have undoubtedly influenced me. But as a guitarist, I was more guided by Thrash and Death metal.
You also did a great job regarding the production of your albums. Elderblood’s sound is modern, powerful and very well polished. Do you think Symphonic black metal acts should create a polished sound or propose something raw?
I think the album’s sound is the choice of the band and their producer, if they have them. I do not think we’ve really got a very well polished sound. I do not like the plastic sound but rather playing fast music. We have compromised in order not to create a mess.
Regarding your lyrics, they don’t deal with Slavonic paganism and Ukrainian heritage at all, unlike the ones written by most of your local counterparts. They lean more towards Satanism and Chaos. Why did you make this choice?
Recently, Slavic paganism has become a trend in the Ukrainian metal scene. Each band wears embroidered shirts and writes the same text and music. I make music that I like and write lyrics on themes that are interesting and close to me.
What do you think of the Ukrainian metal scene? In my opinion, Ukraine has one of the best black metal scenes in the world. Do you agree?
There are many great bands whose members have friendly relations with me, for most of them. But I do not follow the novelties of the Ukrainian scene. I am neither interested in any group nor any of their releases.
As a musician, are you sensitive to the problems that are occurring in your country? For example, did the War in Donbas have an impact on the writing process of “Messiah” in some way?
Of course, the war has affected every citizen of Ukraine. Is this a reflection found in the “Messiah” album? Perhaps, but it was not the goal.
You’re currently based in Kharkiv, close to the Donbas region. What’s your general opinion about this conflict?
This is not a conflict, this is a war that Russia started against Ukraine and against the whole civilized world. Unfortunately, the degenerates from the Ukrainian government do very little to confront the aggression of Russia. Europe is too cowardly to admit it and so, tries to appease the Kremlin bastard.
Before founding Elderblood in 2011, you were Nokturnal Mortum’s guitarist for a few years. When did you discover Nokturnal Mortum for the first time and how did you join the band during that period?
I started listening to Nokturnal Mortum in the early 2000s and later, Helg introduced me to them and other black metal bands. NM had problems with a guitarist for a long time and in early 2007, I joined the band following an invitation of Vrolok.
You played guitars on the cult masterpiece “The Voice of Steel” in 2009 and did a fantastic job. What’s your opinion about this amazing album?
This is a very powerful work although I prefer the earlier albums like “Goat Horns”, “To the Gates of Blasphemous Fire”, etc.
Why did you leave Nokturnal Mortum in 2011? Are you still in contact with the members of the band?
Now, these reasons are not important. Then, I had a difficult period and it was necessary to change something. I am very ambitious and I wanted to do something different. At that time, nothing happened in NM.
What are your projects?
I have GreyAblaze, which is a DSBM / Post Black metal side-project. Both Helg and Odalv help me for that. I am currently looking for a label to release our debut album.
Thank you very much Astargh for taking the time to answer my questions and for your brilliant art. I wish all the best to you and Elderblood. Slava!
Do you have anything special to add to conclude this interview?
Thank you for your questions and interest in Elderblood.