Friday, April 12, 2013

Interview: Totengeflüster

Totengeflüster, the symphonic black metal trio who hail from Germany, just unleashed their debut full-length album, Vom Seelensterben, upon the masses this past February. Vocalist Narbengrund sat down with website owner Villi Thorne to do an in-depth discussion on the album material and the driving forces behind it. For a review of the album, click here. More information on the band, as well as audio samples, can be found at their official website.

The interview is done between Villi Thorne and Narbengrund.

Today we welcome vocalist Narbengrund from symphonic black metal band, Totengeflüster, for an interview. Hey there! How have things been for you since the release of your debut release, Vom Seelensterben?
We are very well and happy that everything works that well, even better than expected! The resonance is excellent and we get lots of positive feedback from our fans, with many photos and messages. On the other hand there’s a lot to do (Totleben for example works several hours per day with only answering mails and updating our websites, not to mention all the time he invests for composing of new songs or artworks) and sometimes it’s simply hard to combine our main jobs with our private live and the band but I guess that’s a necessary evil. 

I've noticed that in a lot of reviews you've been compared to early Cradle of Filth and Dimmu Borgir. Was this your intention? Are they among the artists that helped to influence the album?
Well, I personally think that we play a kind of symphonic (black) metal, so of course there are similarities to other bands of this genre, furthermore Totleben and my humble self rose up with those two (DB & COF), so maybe you can say that they were something like our starter drug. Besides the fact that they influenced us since the very beginning, especially Totleben (our main composer) is a huge fan of Dimmu Borgir and of classical music itself, he also loves cinematic music like Danny Elfman and so on, so briefly said it wasn’t our intention to sound exactly like them but we neither tried to sound completely different from them. 

It's really interesting, and surprising, to hear your choice of raw audio quality for your symphonic blasphemies. It's so rare to hear that gritty roughness in symphonic metal of any kind in this day and age of over-polished melodies that I'd consider the album a diamond in the rough, so to speak. What made you decide to go with this style?
We didn’t want to sound that polish since the beginning, because besides our preference for the symphonic kind of black metal, we all adore the original style of black metal and in addition to this, we liked the more raw sound of the early works. If black metal purists say that it is blasphemous to rerecord albums like “Stormblast”, than they’re somehow right, because the new over-polished sound rapes both, all the memories you had with this masterpiece and also the magic which existed in between these unholy notes. I’m not sure what to think about re-releases like this one, because I can understand that a musician likes to adapt a beloved piece of music to his “actual sound” and maybe they simply had not the possibilities back then but on the other hand I think that an true artist only releases art he truly loves and stands for and if you really love something that intense you won’t be even able to think about a change. But back on topic, the sound question was something that was discussed quite early and we both (back then there were just the two of us) wanted to have a guitar sound like Enthroned than newer Dimmu Borgir and I’m very satisfied with the result. I think this more “raw” sound fits much better to our music, to the vocals and to the whole concept of Totengeflüster: From the very beginning it was a concern for us to create music which represents both grace and ugliness and which combines the horror of beauty with the beauty of horror.

Founder Totleben, who contributes bass, guitars and orchestration for the album, has done CD artwork for various bands; including Canada's own Necronomicon. I was actually surprised to hear this. I just saw Necronomicon live last year at Hellfest Lanaudière! What other bands have you contributed artwork to, and at what point did you decide that you wanted to cross over from visual artist to musician?
Totleben is still a creative force when it comes to artworks; his newest output is the new Necronomicon artwork for the “rise of the elder ones” album, but he reduced his visual work a bit to the benefit of his musical work. He contributed artwork to many other bands, the best known are probably Unlight and Imperium Dekadenz from germany. Furthermore he created artwork for bands like Zanthropya Ex, Chaossphere, Unleash the fallen, Bastard, Pictura, Lost Shade, Morgh, Faith in ashes and many more... He also created some logos or artworks for events. If you are interested in his work, you can view his work on 
The idea to become a musician is an old one, before the true birth of Totengeflüster, Totleben and I played in a more raw oriented black metal band (this is where the prototype of the song “Vom Seelensterben” was born) but it didn’t work that well, besides that Totleben wanted to create a more symphonic kind of music and so he decided to concentrate on visual art back then and composed alongside a bit music, which later became the headstone for Totengeflüster, so both, his visual and tonal art more or less coexisted all the time. 

How has working with the aforementioned bands helped to further the career of Totengeflüster, have you drawn any musical inspiration from them?
We barely drawn some inspiration from all those bands, since most of them play a completely different kind of music as we do, but some of them helped in another way: We recorded at Warroom studios, which is possessed by Marc Globig who both, recorded and produced “Vom Seelensterben”. Lyfthrasyr mastermind Aggreash created an additional choir on “gefrorene Tränen” and Schinder Papst of Zanthropya Ex, which is a good friend of us, contributed some vocals on “Ein Traumgespinst” – altogether definitively a benefit for the whole album!

Overall, do you feel that Vom Seelensterben has been well received by both audiences and reviewers?
The resonance was largely very positive from both, the audience and the reviewers. There were also some reviews which weren’t that well researched, sometimes there were some mistakes as well, but still we’re very satisfied with the result. It’s very interesting to read, which aspects of our music are felt as positive and which as negative and as always reactions may differ from reviewer to reviewer. 

Lets go more in depth about the album itself. The orchestral compositions seem very classical in nature, versus the razor sharp instruments that chaotically dance around the keyboards. It's very contrasting. In your mind, what is the most effective use of orchestration and how difficult is it for you to write something so elegantly detailed?
The most effective use of orchestration differs from what you wish to create. The use of orchestration can improve the atmosphere greatly, just look at horror movies and their skilful use of background music. Vom Seelensterben is both, a horror story and a musical work, so we focus our attention on two things: 1. The overall atmosphere 2. The moment.
It was very important to us, that the story and the music, with all its effects, with the razor sharp guitars, the devastating drumbeats and the multifarious orchestration, work together as one and improve each other. So in the end the orchestration depended on the story and if the story took a “break” it left room for some more epic moments or dreamy interludes. 
It needs a bit of effort and a lot of time to write something “elegantly detailed”. Totleben thinks, that you can’t compose something detailed in only a day, it needs to cease for a while, because audition but also his other senses change with each day a bit and so he works usually for a greater amount of days to complete such an complicate arrangement. Actually we work on new material and this takes the “elegance” of the orchestration to a new level...

A rough translation for Vom Seelensterben from German into English is "Soul Dying", and from what I could gather the song titles are equally as horrifying. Describe the overall lyrical intent of the album, the storytelling that is involved.
Vom Seelensterben is on one hand a ghost story; the main character, lives isolated, he suffers heavily from solitude and grief and it seems that a weakened soul like him (or her) is the perfect victim for being possessed. Once possessed, his only wish is to make the ones suffer which brought him in his former situation of desolation – on the other hand this all could also happen without any influence of a spectral being and the possession is more a symbol for the vicious “voice” inside, a voice which couldn’t be tolerated by the society and had to be caged in the depths of our soul. The point when he hears the specters voice may be the straw to break the camel’s back, the point where his soul can’t simply take anything more of all this. 
Maybe this “vicious voice” could be called “Totengeflüster”, because the protagonist thought of it as dead and it whispers to him, it seems to him like something foreign, how ironic if we remember that this voice is more himself than his actual “soul”. There is also a third aspect that you can read out of those lines, which criticizes the society as a whole, but also the “lifestyle” of the modern masses, including the loss of their individuals for the sake of an ocean of facelessness. I think of finding ones true self is a life task and should be taken very seriously, but so many choose the path of least resistance, the path of the sheep. It is all about to lead or to be lead and the ones who choose to be lead by the puppeteers that dictate us how to live are the true weaklings. 

How did you go about getting the anguished vocals to capture the essence of horror that the lyrics convey, even to those that don't understand German?
That’s a very difficult question, because I didn’t thought about how I could get the most anguished vocals, but I think one reason for the sound is that I wrote the lyrics and the lyrics are very personal to me, so I could put a large amount of my emotional distress inside the vocals. There is a lot of negativity inside me life which is very difficult to handle, especially when you reached a point where the feelings inside became that intense that they either are black or white.... maybe I’m somehow similar to the Vom Seelensterben-protagonist. Fact is: they need to be canalized. The lyrics are a part of me, in every single moment they represent the essence of me and I’m proud of them. I think good lyrics need to be woven into some kind of personal emotion or else the vocals will never sound genuine and intense.

That about wraps it up for this interview. Thank you so much for taking the time to answer these questions. It was a pleasure to hear and review your material as well. Here's to hoping that touring finds you well this summer!
We’d like to thank you for the opportunity of this interview as well as for your interest in our work. We truly appreciate it.


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