America rarely delivers euphonously distinctive rythm-companionships, Mr Salminen found out about one. Catch up on what has happened since the 95's superb Amid It´s Hallowed Mirth. Straight on...
You have changed your lineup often lately, why is that? In the booklet of your new full-length there are both Erik Kikke and Sasha Horn mentioned in the lineup, but in your website's biography they are replaced with Larry Roberts and Emmett Hall. So what is the situation right now?
-I guess we should have mentioned in the CD booklet that Sasha Horn and Erik Kikke we're mainly session musicians. Sasha only played for the CD, and Erik Kikke played with us in live situations. Kikke only plays on one song on the recording, Forever With Unopened Eye. He helped write it with us, so he recorded it with us as well. Other than that, Eric Burnley recorded all the guitars. Larry Roberts is our new full time second guitarist. He is by far, the best person for the job. He will be recording the next CD, as well as playing all live shows with us. He is permanent. Emmett Hall was let got from the band for personal issues with everyone. I'll just say things got to be "too much to handle". We have a new permanent drummer as well. He is Joe Nunez from the band Larry came from, Neurotoxin. He is really amazing. He's the perfect piece of the puzzle we've needed for a long time.
Your music has taken a huge step from Amid Its Hallowed Mirth to Of Sculptured Ivy and Stone Flowers. Is the reason simply the lineup changes?
-The direction we're taking now, and the music that's written can be all attributed to Eric Burnley. He writes the main foundation for the music, and we all embellish on his songs. He is an amazing songwriter, and there's not much he creates that we dislike. We had the band discussions on the direction we wanted to take the music, and we're all on the same page with our ideas. The lineup change really had nothing to do with the overall idea for the music direction, but the line-up change had everything to do with the ability to take it into that direction.
Why did the band's lineup change? Was the old lineup (during Amid Its Hallowed Mirth) not good enough, or did you have different opinions taking a specific direction in your music?
-It was a different time. The members of the band we're into different styles, and there was little communication between all of us as far as direction went. We had an entire second CD ready to record for AvantGarde at the time, and just before recording I decided it was pointless to put it out. It would have been a repeat of the first CD. I knew if that was recorded, it would most likely be the last Novembers Doom CD to come out, and I didn't want to end it like that. I knew exactly what I wanted, and It took some time to find and assemble everyone we have now, and in the long, I made the right choice, because the band we have now, functions as a perfect unit. Everyone is a true professional at their instrument. It's no longer five guys getting drunk and jamming. Now, it's all about creation, and atmosphere.
What did happen between For Every Leaf That Falls and your newest album?
-That only thing that happened between the mini-CD For Every Leaf That Falls, and the new full length Of Sculptured Ivy and Stone Flowers, was the band letting drummer Abbas Jaffary go. He had too much going on in his life, and didn't have the time to put into the band that we all required. He's still one of our best friends, and biggest supporters. Other than that, we spent more time with each other creating music, and thinking about it more than ever before. We we're all so pleased with Eric's ideas, we didn't think it was possible for him to top himself, but all I can say to that is, just wait until you hear the new stuff we're writing.
How did you manage to get a whole new lineup for Novembers Doom?
-It was a long process, with a lot of weeding out the bad. Eric and Mary have been with me now for two years. It's just been a long process of finding the pieces of the puzzle with the perfect fit. We're there now, with the lineup we have today. Even when we play live, people comment on how well we all perform with one another. It's a great feeling that after all these years, the band is finally whole.
Are all members of Novembers Doom happy with the new release?
-Of course, with any band and a recording, there are some things about it we would like to change, or have done differently, but in general, yes, we're all happy with the new release. I think it is the strongest release from the band to date, and it's getting killer reviews, so I really hope people pick up on it, and enjoy what we've worked hard to do.
As a vocalist, what influences your singing-style?
-I've always been a fan of Death style vocals, but not Chris Barnes Cannibal Corpse style. I always thought it was heavy as shit, but why have lyrics if no one can understand what you're saying? I really make an effort to be as audible and understandable as possible, I have a lot to say, and want it to be clearly heard. I think Dan Swanos voice is amazing, he achieves this perfectly. I wouldn't say he's an influence to me, but he's a popular name with the same ideas I have on vocals. Personal influences for me, Duane from old Chicago Devastation, & Troy from Sindrome. These we're guys who have amazingly heavy voices, but we're so clear, you heard every word. That to me is more of a talent that jamming the mic into your mouth, and making sounds like an ape. ANYONE can bury a mic in their hands to muffle and deaden the sound, to make the vocals sound heavy. Look at old Grave, this guy had on of the best death metal voices out there, and never laid his hand on the mic. He's an inspirational talent to me as well. I'm starting to ramble. I'll stop there.
I know you're quite a huge fan of My Dying Bride (tell me if I'm wrong), so what did you think of their experiment with 34.788%...Complete?
-I am a big fan of the band, as well as being good friends, so my opinions of the new material might be biased. I like some aspects of the new CD, and I do think its all right to experiment with music. It's not like they never did this before. This has been a band that has experimented from day one with their music, and I hope they continue to do so. If they wrote Turn Loose the Swans over and over, it would be great for a couple of CD's, but then people would bitch that everything sounds the same. It's very hard to please everyone in music. If you change a bit, and experiment, people complain. If you don't, people complain and call you boring. It's a double edged sword, so a band has to do what makes them happy, and not worry about what everyone will think. Although, I am glad to hear they're new CD is back to the old "Swans" era of their music. I can't wait to hear Aaron growl again.
You did the artwork for Of Sculptured Ivy and Stone Flowers, what do those "humanoids" in the cover art represent? And do you have something to say about those symbols in the back before the song titles? By the way, those colours in album reminds me of Autumn...
-They actual figures on the cover were created by Al, the artist credited on the disc as "additional artwork". I had a few paintings he did, and took what I like from a few of them, and made the cover. To me, they cover concept is this... The "Humanoids" as you call them on the two sides represent love. The figure in the center represents hate, and the ghosted white face on the bottom represents a person in general. The circle in the background with the text around it is life. So all put together, It's concept is basically, in the course of your life, love will generally turn its back on you, and leave hate to devour and consume you. Love isn't always genuine or pure. You can learn to love something, but it won't be pure. Unpure love leads to pain and hate. It's a cycle that no one can escape.
You had your hands on Skepticism's Lead and Aether digipack -artwork too?
-Yes. I used to do a lot of work for Red Stream records. I am a designer for a living, so I have worked on many bands CDs. A few of bands I've done work for are Angelcorpse, Macabre, Bethlehem, Skepticism, Broken Hope, Em Sinfonia, Divine Empire, Gorguts, Monstrosity, Oppressor, Soil, Solitude Aeturnus, Legend of a Madman (tribute to Ozzy CD), and theres a ton more I can think of right now.
Lyrics... what are they mainly about? Lost love?
-I write about things in my life generally. Everyone has had lost love, or pain of some kind. I embellish on things in my life, and try to create words that will have meaning for another people and not just myself. The new material will be a concept piece, and more of a fictional feel to it, but within every song, there will still be a personal meaning to it. This will be very hard to people to see the true meaning of the words buried below the fictional story line.
The style how Cathy Jo Hejna sings is quite unusual too, I guess she is an opera singer? Why did you end up using her talents in your songs?
-We never wanted to use a female singer on the band for the novelty of having a female singer. We wanted to someone with a special quality that would be very hard to compete with. She is perfect at this. She is an opera singer, and is classically trained. I have been friends with her for years now. She heard the early music we were doing, fell in love with it when the two elements came together, she gave us the commitment.
Who is responsible for the songwriting? How have the songs been made up?
-In the past, Eric Burnley has written the foundation for the songs, and we all add to and help arrange the music in a way where we're all totally comfortable with it. He's a great song writer, and very easy to work with. Larry will be helping with some writing this next CD, so we're looking forward to adding new elements into the music as well.
Novembers Doom has done gigs in the US, how has the response been like? What about tours in Europe, ever?
-America is a very hard market for the style we do. The response has been really good, but nothing like it could be if we get to Europe. That's where this music belongs, and that's where we need to be to promote it. We are trying to set something up for a month or so in Europe early next year, so we're all hoping that something pans out for us.
Who is this Mark Piotrowski, as he did the music for the Before The Wind -song?
-Mark is a good friend ours in the band Oversoul 13. He listened to the song "For Every Leaf That Falls" and came up with an intro for the song, totally on keys. We heard it and liked it, and were only to going to use it in live performances, but we all decided to add it to the CD at the last minute. It adds a "different" element to the CD. It breaks up the CD, where people have something new to listen to.
You included the three songs from For Every Leaf That Falls to this new lp, why? Lack of material?
-Not at all. Those songs were intended to be on the full length all along. The Mini-CD is sort of a "preview" for the full length, or a demo of the full recording. Since the mini-CD was a limited pressing, not many people have it. The songs are too good to waste on something limited.
You sold around 5000 copies of your debut because of worldwide distribution. What are the numbers like with the new CD?
-As far as I know, it's moving very well. I don't have exact numbers yet, but in a few months, we'll know for sure. I can tell you that we're already well on its way to beating that number.
You're doing vocals for Em Sinfonia too, how is this band/project like and who are in it? And have Em Sinfonia released anything yet/do you have a record deal yet?
-Em Sinfonia is a project put together by Brian Griffin (Broken Hope). He asked Mary and I to perform on a four-song EP, and we were both happy to do it. It was released on the same label we're with now, Martyr Music. It's in the same genre as ND is, but it's still a different side of Doom/Death metal. Check it out, it's killer stuff.
What are your thoughts about the doom scene nowadays? Have you followed its movements closely?
-I know that in America, it's a hard market. The scene in Europe for this style of music is really the best in the world. The fans there really get into the melodic, atmospheric music, where America seems to be more into the grinding death metal, or the Korny type bands. We're lucky enough to be able to play live with different types of bands, from Death Metal to Stoner Rock to Goth. We seem to fit in all over, which is a good thing for us performing here in the states.
What are your near future plans?
-We're already writing the next full length, and it should be ready to record in early 2000. All I can say is if you like Of Sculptured Ivy..., then I promise you, you will like the new material just as much, if not more. It is shaping up to be a much stronger release.
Something to say to the readers/last comments?
-Thanks to everyone who have bought our CD's up until now, and for those of you who have not yet checked us out, please do so. There's something for everyone in the Of Sculptured Ivy and Stone Flowers CD.
A review of Of Sculptured Flesh and Stone Flowers from the same issue:
When I first heard For Every Leaf That Falls, I was very surprised. The band had progressed a lot. When Amid Its Hallowed Mirth was quite stuffy; the MCD and this new album, Of Sculptured Ivy and Stone Flowers are very bright. Band has only two found members left and both are vocalists: Paul Kuhr III and Cathy Jo Hejna. Because of the line-up changes the guitar riffs are far away from debut. The whole music has evolved from that misty doomish death metal (I couldn't understand some riffs on that debut, they were too repetitive in some points, they didn't continue naturally) to professional and usual doomdeath. As their debut had Cathy's vocals this one has too. They're varied and you can see that she has taken some singing classes, the female vocals are very unusual (she doesn't sing any lyrics or anything). But that doesn't help me, as I usually dislike female vocals I didn't like this one's either. I thought they had progressed from the MCD era, but they didn't. The music is very much the same as it is on For Every Leaf That Falls. That isn't bad, but I liked the MCD more. It doesn't have tracks like Before The Wind, which is made with synths (drum beats and all), quite flat and unoriginal. But no, this album isn't bad, it just has some contents I don't like so much. Of Sculptured Ivy and Stone Flowers contains 10 songs, three are from their last MCD, For Every Leaf That Falls. The highlights are the MCD tracks and With Rue And Fire as well as Forever With Unopened Eye. Latter song includes a guitar solo at the end.. Overall, Novembers Doom doesn't give anything new with this album, it's pretty much same.. groovy riff based doom/death. But those who liked For Every Leaf That Falls and want same stuff, will like this new one, I guess. I myself think there is never too much of this kind of stuff.