Guitarist and lead vocals Nephilim – Thy Despair
Interviewed by: Anders Sandvall
Thanks to Roberto at Rockshots Records for setting up the interview.
Thanks to Rockshots Records for the promo pictures of the band.
Thy Despair is the name of Ukrainian gothic/doom/symphonic metal act that released their debut album THE SONG OF DESOLATION in May this year (2020), which follows up their EP FREE ONE from 2018. The band has been active on and off for years and seen many members come and go. To whit, the only remaining original member today is Nephilim (guitar/vocals), whom I spoke with for this interview. Of course, I had to ask him about the many member changes as well as why the band chose to record the EP in two versions, one on English and one in Ukrainian. The band are huge fans of Game of Thrones and have therefore made a lyric video inspired by the TV-series. All fans of Tristania, Draconian, and Dimmu Borgir look no further, here is something for you.
Hi Nephilim, how are you today? I hope you and the band members are safe and healthy and haven’t caught the Covid-19 virus!
Hi, we are doing well, thanks. None of us has caught the disease.
You founded the band back in 2006, what made you form a band in the first place?
We wanted to play the music we like and express our thoughts with it. Those were hard times with a lack of money as we were students, but we had a strong wish to bring our ideas in dark metal music.
According to the band’s biography, you started out playing gothic doom metal. Is that correct and how would you like to describe what kind of music Thy Despair plays today?
Yes, we started as a gothic doom metal band long ago. The songs were longer and slower but still very atmospheric. “Falling Star” from the new album is one of the songs written back in 2006, however the album version is revamped and changes pretty much from the initial version. Now we call our style dark symphonic metal, but in fact it is a mix of gothic, symphonic, melodic death and black metal.
Did the band record or tour back in the beginning?
The band played in many clubs and festivals in different cities of Ukraine and made some demo records. Unfortunately, we didn’t know how the music industry works so we started making official releases just a few years ago. This is why you can still find our early demos in the internet which have never been released officially.
After three years the band was put to rest, what happened?
Different reasons, mostly due to the human factor. Some of the bend members of that time gave up playing music, others switched to other projects.
In 2014 the band returned with a new line-up and with new material. What made you want to re-form the band and was it hard to find new members?
We all liked the music of old Thy Despair and recognized that the band had high potential that we couldn’t realize in the past. That is why we decided to revive the band. Members of two Kyiv bands: Lord of Dust and I Miss My Death united their efforts and that’s how the new lineup was created.
What was the name of the single the band released in 2015 and what did fans and media think of it?
The single was called, in Ukrainian Вільний, “(The Free One)”. It was released after the band dissolved so no promotion was given to it. It remains just a part of our history.
Was it after that the band once dissolved again Why did you put the band on ice a second time?
Human factor again. This lineup was gathered as a side-project of members of two other bands as I mentioned before, so after some time some of them lost interest and returned to their main bands. So Thy Despair was put on pause for two more years.
During 2017 the band emerged from the ashes yet again with you as the only member left. Where did you find members to join forces with you?
Elin was a singer in Thy Despair for a short time during 2007. Strike and I played in Lord of Dust. So the three of us gathered on a test rehearsal to play some songs of Thy Despair and see what would happen. We liked it a lot and this is how the story of modern Thy Despair started. During the next couple of months other members joined the band. Anton played bass with Strike in his side project Blackmind. Navka and Alex were found through the Internet.
You’ve played a lot in your home country. Do you have a lot of fans in Ukraine now and have you toured anywhere else?
Thy Despair is quite known in the Ukrainian underground. We’ve planned to tour abroad this year but COVID-19 ruined our plans.
Is it hard to be a metal band in Ukraine do you think?
When you like playing metal nothing can stop you playing it. Of course, there is a problem with places to perform in Ukraine, especially in small cities where the clubs don’t always have good backlines. Also, metal is not the most popular music genre in Ukraine, so you won’t make money. But after all, for true metalheads metal music is not for making money. It is our religion and the way of life.
Was it an easy decision for you to once again awaken the band?
After we gathered with Elin and Strike for the trial rehearsal I understood that the time for Thy Despair had come. Even though most of the band members have their side projects and other bands they play in, Thy Despair remains our most adored band.
Why have there been so many member changes?
Different people had different reasons: lack of time, skills, serious approach. There were changes in the past but since 2017 our lineup is unchanged and close knit.
Debut album THE SONG OF DESOLATION
When did you start to write material to the debut album?
We took old songs Thy Despair had written in 2006-2011 and revamped them in a more modern way.
You used all three songs from the 2018 year EP THE FREE ONE on THE SONG OF DESOLATION; why? Have you re-recorded the songs and added something new to them on album?
The records differ quite a lot. They have some different parts and different production sounds. Also they have new vocals and the whole sound differs quite a lot.
The Free One (Official Audio)
Has anyone else in the band been a part of the songwriting process?
All the band members bring something personal to our music. Even if it’s taking the old songs, every band member tries to improve his part to make the music better. Of course, not all of the changes are approved but we make all decisions collectively.
The bio mentions that some of the lyrics are influenced by the war in eastern Ukraine, is that correct? Which songs are in that case about the war?
“The Free One”, “War”, and “Falcon” are strongly influenced by external aggression caused by Russia in Eastern part of Ukraine. The lyrics are full of allegories and tell about the struggle of Ukrainian people for freedom in all times.
Where do you find the inspiration to write music?
We find inspiration in travelling, legends, and other music. Also we inspire each other when one of us starts composing at a rehearsal and others join in to bring in their ideas.
The album contains 10 tracks and clocks in on about 42 minutes. Which of the songs are your personal favorites that makes you extra proud to have written?
All the songs are great but personally I like “Falling Star” the best. This song was written more than 14 years ago and finally it reached the world.
What are the songs “Falling Star” and “Ghost Rider” about? Those two are the longest ones on the album.
“Falling star” says that you should always hope for the best no matter how bad the things are. “Ghost Rider” tells a story of a night rider on a hell-born motorcycle who gathers the souls of sinners in the name of Satan. It’s inspired by real life as Strike, Elin, and I like motorcycles and adore travelling long distances.
Why did you name the album THE SONG OF DESOLATION? Does the title have any special meaning to you and the rest of the band?
This name unites all the different songs into a whole. The album doesn’t have a single concept as most of the songs have different topics: love, hate, war, mysticism. But despair, solitude, and sorrow which you can feel in our songs can be combined under the word desolation, and we are singing the song of it.
Your vocalist Elin made the cover art; was she given free hands to create the cover?
Yes, it is fully her art. Elin studies to be a designer and she is really good at it. Her ideas are bright and creative and it would be a crime not to involve her into creation of the album art. Elin also took part in the art creation as a photo model.
How would you say the band has developed musically compared to when you last were active?
We became more professional and added more melodic death and black metal influences in our music. We have already started to work on our next album including some doom metal influence.
Ghost Rider (OFFICIAL LIVE VIDEO)
Which other band’s music lies close to Thy Despair do you think?
Epica, Tristania, Draconian, Within Temptation. We have some elements similar to these bands but I don’t know any band that plays exactly the same style as we do.
In the bio it can be read that even when “everything goes extremely bad you should still stay strong, struggle and hope for the best otherwise you won’t survive or you will turn into a backbone-less slave”. Is that something you can sign under on?
This is what my favorite song, “Falling Star”, is about. Though despair is mostly the main subject of our songs we still think that being abandoned to despair ruins your life. So you should always stay strong, hold the line and hope for the best, no matter how bad the things are.
THE SONG OF DESOLATION has been out for a while now, have you read any reviews in the media regarding the album? Do you care about what critics have to say about your work?
The reviews are mostly nice. But anyway, even if they weren’t we don’t care, we just do the music we like.
What reactions have you gotten from the fans?
We’ve got a great feedback from people all over the world. People from Great Britain, Germany, Japan, Brazil and other countries all over the world leave us nice reviews and we are happy to create the music so many people liked.
I read that fans of Draconian, Tristania, Dimmu Borgir, Insomnium, and Wolfheart would appreciate your music. Do you agree with that?
These are the bands we were inspired by. I think fans of all these bands can find something interesting in our music. I would also add Epica to this list, but unfortunately I don’t know any band playing the same style as we do.
Label and management
The band is now signed to the Italian label Rockshot Records, are you happy with the work the label have put into the band and the album so far?
Yes, they tried hard and we appreciate it. As this was the first time we have signed to the label we had a lot of questions and Roberto from Rockshots Records kindly answered all of them.
How did you end up inking a deal with Rockshot Records? Were there any other labels that showed interest in the band?
We had a long e-mail writing with Roberto from Rockshots Records and built trust-based relations.
Rockshots released the album in Europe but who distributes the album in North America or Asia for example?
Our label deals with it through partners.
Are the any plans on releasing THE SONG OF DESOLATION on vinyl?
For now we don’t see a point in it. Maybe we will think of it for the next album.
Falling Star (OFFICIAL LYRIC VIDEO)
Are the band fans of the vinyl format? Any vinyl collectors in the band?
I can’t say there are fans of vinyl in our band. However Elin has a signed vinyl of 1914 band. It is Ukrainian band who has signed to Napalm Records last year.
Is the album available on Spotify or iTunes?
Sure, the album is available on all popular online stores and streaming services.
Are you going to sell the album at your Bandcamp site?
Yes, you can buy either digital or physical version of The Song of Desolation on our Bandcamp page.
Are there many fans that bought items at your site?
Not yet but we hope our new album will increase the band’s popularity
Which are the items that are the most popular to buy amongst fans?
Limited edition of our EP album with Ukrainian lyrics was the most popular item, before the new album was released.
Are you currently working with any management?
Not yet, but we realize that without good management the band can’t succeed. So at the moment we are searching for manager.
Past present and future
Why does the band have a Facebook page but not a proper website?
Nowadays interactive Facebook page where you can see the band’s news and can even ask the band a question mean more than just a website. However our website is in progress.
Who runs the Facebook page?
Navka and I work on it.
Besides Facebook and Bandcamp, which other social networks is the band using?
We do have Instagram page where you can find the band’s photos and short videos
Army Of Dead (OFFICIAL MUSIC VIDEO)
Does the band get a lot of fan mail on Facebook, what’s the most common question the fans ask you?
We mostly get positive feedback. The most popular question is about the dates of the next concerts.
You chose to release the EP in both English and Ukraine, how come you wanted to sing on your native language?
By releasing EP with Ukrainian lyrics we made dignities to our native language.
On your Youtube channel you released “Epic Game Of Thrones lyrics cover” what can you tell us about that?
We are big fans of Game of Thrones series and this is our fan tribute with lyrics and arrangements written by the band. We have got a lot of nice feedback about this song.
Epic Game Of Thrones lyrics cover
Are all of the band members fans of GoT?
Most of the band. However, there is also a person in Thy Despair who hasn’t seen a single episode of GoT.
With the Covid-19 virus the world is put on hold, and all tours and shows are also canceled. When do you think Thy Despair could head on the roads again?
We are waiting for the quarantine measures to allow big shows to take part in them.
Do you long to get out and meet the fans and play some new material?
Sure, we’d love to. We like playing on live shows and we were very upset as we couldn’t even make our album presentation.
What’s the status in Ukraine regarding the COVID-19 situation?
The same as in most European countries. We’ve got second wave now and things are getting worse every day.
Is live streaming on Facebook something the band is going to take on?
We haven’t tried it yet, but if nothing changes with live concerts then we will try for sure.
How is the hard rock/metal scene in Ukraine doing? Are there many active bands at the moment and are there places to perform at for harder bands (when possible, I mean)?
There are places to perform but we would like them to be more. We have a lot of good metal bands and 5 of them even are signed to Napalm Records. Also there are several big metal festivals in Ukraine like Faine Misto and Zahid fest.
What would you like to say to the ones who haven’t heard the music of Thy Despair yet?
Want to listen to dark beautiful symphony with just a grain of hope? Try listen to Thy Despair.
Could you give the readers three reasons why they should buy SONGS OF DESOLATION?
I would call the three reasons this way:
– Dark romantic
– Powerful symphonic sound
– Pure angelic female voice
Well that was all for me and metal-rules.com today, thanks for taking the time making the interview and I wish you and the rest of the band all the best in the future. Stay safe and healthy! Finally do you have any words of wisdom to share with fans and readers…
Thank you! In these hard times stay healthy and support Thy Despair \m/