December 2009 - LORD OF THE GRAVE
One of the musical highlights in 2009 was 'Raunacht', the debut album from Switzerland's LORD OF THE GRAVE. The concept is simple: heavy-weight riffs are piled up to form massive sonic sculptures, almost as gigantic as the Alps in their home country. Despite the sluggishness of their material they succeed in keeping it thrilling and exciting. While some other doom bands try to stimulate the hearing system with third-grade riffs, unbearable pathetic vocals and nonexistent songwriting skills, LORD OF THE GRAVE manage to attract interest within a very short time. And the best of all, 'Raunnacht' remains enthralling until the very end. Fans of Saint Vitus and Electric Wizard are at home here, but everybody else who likes his doom unbelievably heavy and impregnated with a Sabbathical solution of 1970's heavy rock should try this band.
2009 has been a very successful year for LORD OF THE GRAVE. As already mentioned, 'Raunacht' has been released thru The Church Within Records and received a lot of good reviews worldwide. Then there was the common tour with Revelation, Mirror of Deception and Lord Vicar that was rounded off by an appearance at Doom Shall Rise Festival. Reason enough for Cosmic Lava to get to the bottom of things and so I've sent a couple of questions to bassplayer Michael Greilinger, who belongs to the veterans of the Swiss doom scene and played also in Switzerland's first doom band Windfall. His career has included a longer stay in Voodooshock as well as in psychedelic deathrock outfit Phased. Furthermore vocalist/guitarist Robert took part in answering the questions of this interview, which we made at the end of 2009.
Before we talk about your colossal debut album 'Raunacht', tell me a little bit about the history of the band. There have been some changes of the line-up, right?
Michael: Yeah, we just had the last change a couple of weeks ago, when our old drummer Jukka left. Luckily, we've found a replacement quick in the person of Schmidor, who used to play with Rob. Also, myself has been been in and out and back in again. I was at the first couple of rehearsals, because Rob wanted to do a band with me. Funny enough it didn't work out back then in 2006 when Rob and Jukka founded the band. I wasn't too much into the songs at first, so...but like two years later, when Rob asked me, if I knew a good bassplayer, I was sneaking back into the band, so to say.
R: That's right, it's always a kinda struggle to find the right people who want to play music with you, and vice versa. I don't know...It seems to be a phenomenon throughout the genre. The only thing that's different with us is, it happens already in such a short period of time and before we launched the rocket yet. I hope it settles some time.
How do you write your songs? Is everything meticulously planned or is there also a place for improvisation?
R: Mostly I come up with the idea for a song, somehow it seems to be the easiest way to create something steady. But there's always space for improvisation in the song at certain points. But too much improvisation can fuck up a song as well. It's a thin line really. Sometimes I write songs out of an improvisation, sometimes a song becomes an improvisation. Sometimes a riff becomes a song throughout improvisation. Some songs need to age like wine others deflagrate. These are mostly impros because they only seem right for a certain span of time and are too fragile to get hold on to. Sometimes you can try to get a hold on to them, but it never quite feels the same afterwards. But then, they're not actual songs really. Also each song is played a little bit differently each time, but I guess that happens in every band, songs and players develop. I guess I'm missing the point here, what was the question again?
Hahaha...no, don't worry...it's ok. What is more important for you: The riff or the song?
R: Without a riff no song, is there? But you're gonna have to play something that makes a song, which has to be a riff, right? They are really depending on each other. To me it's more like how you arrange the riffs in a song, how you have the cherry on top of your cake. A riff may be great but it has to be super-genius not to fuck up a whole song in general, if it isn't arranged well. You know, it's such a fine line between stupid and clever.
Michael: I'd say that at first, there is a riff, a catchy riff. A riff that also has to sound good, even when the guitar is not plugged in. And then there's some more riffs and parts. And then we fiddle it all together somehow and tune it into a song. I guess, our specific sound is important also for the end result.
This year, you've released your first full-length 'Raunacht' through The Church Within Records. So, how long have you been in the studio and how did you get together with label owner Oliver Richling?
R: Oli saw us at the first Dawn of Doom Festival and he seemed to like us. We were planning to record some stuff that time and sent him the rough mixes. With time he seemed to like the material even further, so we've decided to work together, that's how... He's a cool guy, very supportive, also he has a good taste in music which shows in the other bands he has on his label. We got lucky there.
Honestly I have to say this record was planned to be ready one whole year before it was actually released, but the recordings got fucked up somehow and the master was unlistenable, also it costed us a bassplayer. So we've decided to re-record that stuff again.
Like at the first studio session it took us only a weekend to record everything. Everything played life, mostly first-takes. Some guitar overdubs on 'Bardo' & 'Ghosts of the Pyre', that's it. The whole recording of the vocal took like 2 hours. Oh yeah, there's a percussion overdub on 'Raunacht' as well, but it's not that obvious though.
You've chosen a very original album title with 'Raunacht'. Instead of some boring occult movie images, you've taken a title and artwork, which is closely linked to heathen European tradition. In addition, there's a picture in the booklet where one can see three persons disguised as demons. How was the whole idea born, and can I assume that you're behind the costumes?
R: Youâ€™re reffering to the 1960â€™s and 70â€™s horror flicks, right? Well yeah, no, ours is super vintage from the 60â€™s and 70â€™s B.C. and maybe even further. The artwork is from the same guy who does the artwork for Black Shape of Nexus, wich is their singer Malte himself. We asked him if he would like to do something while we were on tour together, he agreed. So he grabbed his camera, got into his time machine and took some picture of our previous incarnations in a cave in the alps around 65 B.C.. It proves because of the crimson, the atmosphere looked really different back then. You may ask him yourself, on the other hand you can assume anything you want to. No seriously, Malte wanted some clues to be able to work with and he kinda picked on the songtitle thatâ€™s all. There was this possibility to call the record Raunacht, because we recorded it during that time of year, so it kinda just happened. Itâ€™s really strange how people always ask if thatâ€™s us on the cover...
In April 2009, you've been on tour together with Revelation, Mirror Of Deception, and Lord Vicar. It seems like a meeting of friends, where there was much fun including the usual excesses. Tell me a little about that short tour. Any highlights? Any low points?
Michael: As some of you probably know I'm a hardcore John-Brenner-Revelation fan. So that was really a dream come true playing with them. All in all it was especially great being on the road with four bands, with Oli and a driver and every single person was really easy going and nice. Obviously a tour with four bands wasn't too easy to book, so the itinerary was quite ambitious. First date in Hamburg, which was great, not only because the soundguy at the Marx knew how to mix loud bands. Then off to the KA6 in Zerbst, an almost idyllic venue in eastern Germany with lots of space and lots of interesting things going on, so far everything went great.
Then we headed off to Vienna, when the other bus with Revelation and Lord Vicar in it, nearly lost a wheel on the motorway in the Czech Republic. First, there was still hope, we'd get another bus for them to be in Vienna on time, but sometime in the afternoon we had to cancel the show in Vienna, because we couldn't get another bus. So the poor chaps from the other bus had to wait until they got two cars to get to Crailsheim, where we could spend the night and played the next day. After midnight, it was Peter Inverteds birthday, so we had a lot of Long Island ice tea to celebrate that and to forget about what just had happened.
Another highlight: The next afternoon some of the guys went sightseeing in a medieval town nearby, whereas Chritus, Jussi, Milli, our drummer Jukka & me went to the swimming hall, because there was no shower in the club. It was great to see some hungover longhair guys swimming in between some elderly German folks...our show that night was weird on one hand, because Rob nearly fainted on stage, on the other hand we did a little surprise playing Vitus' 'Mystic Lady' with Lord Chritus singing. That was cool. And of course Doom Shall Rise was great too, not only because I had the impression that we left quite an impression but also meeting all the old and new friends again. One of the best weeks in my life!
Michael, I know your past musical history. You've been in Windfall, Voodooshock and Phased, but Robert is like a white sheet of paper to me. Rob, what have you done before you've formed LORD OF THE GRAVE. Please, give me an insight in your musical past. And what did your drummer do before he joined the band?
R: I had a Sludge Drone Band called ANTHRAZITFÃ–TZEL, after we went to the studio we broke up. Maybe weâ€™re gonna release that material some time...Jukka, our former drummer played in an Indie Rock Band called the Weeds, they were pretty good and had quite some effort. But they broke up because the guitar player/his brother wanted to do his own thing and Jukka was more into metal anyway. Also he had some random stuff going. And Schmidor, our new drummer, well, he used to be the drummer in ANTHRAZITFÃ–TZEL.
I already had mentioned that you played in other bands before, Michael. What is the reason that you left Voodooshock and Phased, and why did you return to LORD OF THE GRAVE after a short break?
Michael: As for Voodooshock, that line-up just somehow fell apart, because of the long distance Uwe and me and our then drummer were living apart from each other. Also, I somehow lost my enthusiasm for playing music in general for a while. And well, with Phased, I've been in and out of that band several times. And no offense to the guys - in the end it was the famous case of fucking your ex-girlfriend. First it's fun but then you realise why you're not having a relationship anymore. And as for LOTG, as said above, Rob was asking me if I knew a bassplayer. I couldn't think of someone. But I've seen them play live a couple of times in the mean time and they had turned into quite a beast and they played exactly what I liked. So I asked them if I could play with them, this time, it worked out and that was it.
I know that you have a slightly different view on the current condition of Doom Metal, Michael. A few years ago we also had a nice conversation via email under the heading 'Doom is dead...and rotting'. Maybe you remember that refreshing, inspiring virtual talk. How do you judge the situation in 2009?
Michael: I even still have that e-mail... I think it's quite cool these days compared to the early 2000's. There's some older bands still playing or playing again like Revelation, Iron Man, Church of Misery, Orodruin or Unorthodox that are still great. Then there's a bunch of new bands like Saturnalia Temple, Black Pyramid, Elder or Procession that are great. Also, there are cool bands with people we know from their past work like Argus, Memory Driven or Lord Vicar. Also, Pentagram were really great on that recent Euro tour. So, generally, I think the scene is quite healthy these days. I only wish Internal Void or the Blood Farmers would do new records. And I absolutely hate what Trouble and Candlemass are doing these days. What I still like about the scene is, that everbody is somehow in touch with everybody and the internet has made that a lot easier.
It's become totally easy to check out new stuff, while like 15 years ago tape trading was state of the art. Somehow I miss these days...On the other hand, today there's the whole downloads problem - but there's also the umpteenth vinyl revival. Also a lot of new bands popping up everday, sometimes I have the impression, every musicians has to "release" his bedroom recordings on myspace and call that a doom band - sometimes some of that stuff is surprisingly good, some of it is average, but most of it is total crap. But as I'm getting older, I'm at peace with myself more and more, so to say, and I try not to get too angry about shitty stuff. But then, there's a lot of hypocricy in the scene - and if someone voices an unpopular opinion in public, he/she has to take a lot of shit from the doom conformists...
Switzerland is famous for bands such as Hellhammer, Celtic Frost, and Coroner, but not much is known about Swiss Doom Metal except for Windfall. Please, broaden my horizon.
Michael: Well, there isn't much going on. Besides Windfall, there was Tollwuet, actually they had started even earlier than Windfall. The Tollwuet lineup with Roger, Specky & me was supposed to reunite for one gig, but Roger had problems with his ears, so we had to cancel that. Then there's sHever, an all female doom death band, they are cool girls, very supportive and they got us some gigs. And there's a band called Pylon, that has like two or three CDs out, but honestly, I'm not too familiar with them. That's all I know of. There's a couple of bands that are more like the Neurosis/Slowcore thing, but I wouldn't count them as "doom".
R: I would add Excruciation, a band who didn't get that famous in the Celtic Frost Fahrwasser, altough they are from the same era and area. Still crisp though. Frachter is an experimental drone project of a friend of mine who lives way across the country. He piles amps & cabs and plays an upright bass through a BigMuff. I'm not sure if he has a record out. MIR from Basel would also go under Synthi Drone Doom Ã¡ la Melvins or Swans. And as mentioned above my former band ANTHRAZITFÃ–TZEL. And while we're at it, maybe Designer.
Whatï¿½s next for you guys? Any big touring plans lined up? Any place in particular youï¿½d like to play?
Michael: I was a first time father in October, so we didn't book too many gigs, besides the Low Fequency Assault in Nuremberg & the occasional hometown gig, Also, we have a bunch of new songs ready for the next record, possibly also some stuff for EPs. Then there's a split 12" with The Deep Blue coming out, also on The Church Within Records. Then quite possibly there will be a vinyl version of 'Raunacht' featuring a couple more songs recorded during that session.
Iï¿½m all out of questions, so thanks a lot for your time and interest. Is there anything that we forgot? Ah, there's still something.... Michael, what do you think about Blood Farmers?
Michael: BLOOOOOOOOOOOOOOD FAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAARMERS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Apart from that, I just wanted to say thanks a lot for the interview. And back in the old days everything was better;)