If anyone is into the underground progressive/experimental black metal scene of the last couple of years, you probably already know Aenaon. This Greek band released one of the most exciting black metal albums this year and I was lucky enough to interview the band.
Ian: Greetings, how are you doing right now? Thanks for putting out such a great album, it's a record that really should get a lot of people's heads turning toward you guys.
Astrous: Hello Ian, at the moment, while Greece is totally fucked up, I'm relaxing and trying to enjoy the heat of the summer. The promotion for us is running smoothly, so everything is ok hehe! Thanks for your kind words, it means a lot for us to see people appreciate our work.
Ian: What kind of feedback have you gotten from people about the new album?
Astrous: Till now the feedback is pretty cool. We get messages from people around the world that really enjoyed our work and they are kind enough to share these feelings, this is something new and flattering for us. From the other hand, except the acceptance and impassioned reviews, we read reviews that makes us wonder if they listened the album! However, it's a fact that any review is subjective and depends from the tastes of the reviewer.
Ian: At the band's core, I think you could say you're a black metal band, correct? What was it about black metal that made you want to use it as the medium of your many musical ideas instead being a death metal or doom metal group?
Astrous: As listeners, we are fans of black metal from our first steps in metal music. Before Aenaon we were playing on other black metal bands, so I think it was natural to continue playing this kind of music, but as persons, we are evolving and live new experiences and this of course has an impact on how we realize music. I must admit, that we don't listen only black metal... we find interesting most of metal genres but our thirst for music is making us to search a lot of different musical styles...
Ian: I know bands don't like to categorize their music but would you say that terms like "progressive" and "avant-garde"are appropriate for Aenaon?
Astrous: Probably yes, but this is also quite subjective. A guy that listens Naked City, probably will describe Aenaon as a black metal band... but what about a guy that listens Ildjarn or Profanatica? So I think that these terms are ok to categorize our music, but we must not stay in these terms... Anyone can take a taste of our sound and make his own conclusions.
Ian: Despite the very progressive/avant-garde sounds that come through in your songs, they all retain a melody and a hook of some sort, is it important to make songs that aren't so weird that they're not memorable? How is a Aenaon song usually written?
Astrous: No, we don't have limits during the creation of a song. We keep anything that sounds interesting but it's also meaningful, in a catchy or emotional way. Composing only weird or melodic music would be so boring. Responsible for the songs is Achilleas C., he presents us songs or riffs and together we decide which ones we must keep or not. But the final result is always different, as new ideas come by with the accession of vocals and the instruments of the other members.
Ian: About how long did it take the band to write the songs that would eventually be used on the "Phenomenon" EP?
Astrous: I have to admit that I don't remember exactly considering that many of the ideas were existing since 2006. To complete the songs and the recordings I bet that it didn't take more than three months. The recordings of "Phenomenon" was enough in bulk state comparing with "Cendres et Sang" sessions.
Ian: Looking back at that EP, what kind of memories come back to you?
Astrous: At that time, all of us were enjoying our comforts, a lot of fun, beers and sleepless nights full of metal and abuse, really good times! I still remember the rehearsals at a miserable studio without ventilation, heat and sweat was the only that we could breathe.
Ian: From what I can tell, a track like Navel from that album is a very important one to your fans, what do you think it is about that song that makes it stand out from the other's on the EP?
Astrous: It’s not so complex or abstruse as the rest songs and probably has better riffs! Simple… hehe Actually it's a funny story. One week before the recordings we had another track called Spheres of Orion, we were playing it on rehearsals but it didn't sound right. So, I went home with our ex-member Draugen and I told him to catch the guitar and play 2 simple riffs I had in mind. The next day we rehearsed it. Our drummer Vanghmar and Thyragon put some new prog-rhythmic ideas, Achilleas put some leads, and I had some weird ideas with the vocals. So that was the death of Spheres of Orion and the birth of Navel!
Ian: How did the split with Satanochio come about? What was the concept of "A Parallel Zoetrope" if there was one?
Astrous: After "Phenomenon" we had some changes in the line-up, so we thought that releasing just a song would be a perfect test for the album. Also we decided to change our sound a little bit following the Navel patterns with more weird way of view. We knew Satanochio and we admire their works... We ask them about a possible split and they accepted it. "A Parallel Zoetrope" doesn’t have any concept, but Costin Chioreanu, the designer of the cover had this excellent idea to unite the lyrical themes of these two songs.
Ian: What kind of ideas and concepts did you want to put into and refine on "Cendres Et Sang" that you didn't make use of on previous recordings?
Astrous: Well, during the compositions we don't have any hesitations or plans. We let it flow in a natural way. However the basic idea for "Cendres et Sang" was to make it more "organic" and multifaceted.
Ian: I know you take influence from many different genres and groups, but I notice that there seems to be a great love for King Crimson and DHG among you all. I can hear elements from both bands coming through in your sound, but I would say that the full-length really begins transforming them into a much more original sound, would you agree with that?
Astrous: Yes, DHG and King Crimson is a small sample of bands that we like and listen, but someone that is not into these bands will find some others to compare us. Imagine that one guy in his review wrote that we have Paradise Lost as one an influence, among others… pretty funny for me, hehe! Yes I agree with you and I’m happy for that. Originality is not just a detail and some bands must realize this factor.
Ian: There's quite a large jazz influence coming through your songs, to what extent has jazz/fusion influenced your sound?
Astrous: To be honest, all these jazzy parts just occurred, we didn't have in mind that we're combining jazz with BM. Actually, we were combining influences from other music genres too, but it seems that those experimentation with the jazz elements stood out. We think it's a good idea to extend those influences in our future works.
Ian: Personally, I thought that Black Nerve was an obvious standout track simply because of how varied it was. For me, it really felt like the entire band was stretching their creative muscles, would you agree with that?
Astrous: At some way of view, yes. Black Nerve has a lot of elements and maybe was the basic reason that we keep it for the end of the album. It's quite "stressful" song with a really powerful and emotional beginning. It's one of my favorites!
Ian: What exactly is the cover art of the album and is there any sort of concept that went into its design? Who designed the cover by the way?
Astrous: The cover, as the whole artwork, is illustrations/paintings of a great Polish friend and artist, Lukasz Wodynski. He is a modern painter with elegant aesthetic. The cover shows a figure of a human body that is in a dysfunctional position between life and death. It symbolizes our organic origin, but also the human endeavor for spiritual deification.
Ian: The sound on "Cendres Et Sang" is much less synthetic and industrial sounding than "Phenomenon," was it a conscious effort to move away from a more industrial/symphonic sound and into more organic and natural sound?
Astrous: Yes, definitely. We wanted to make something more organic. And this is one of the reasons that we chose the specific title for the album. The translation of "Cendres et Sang" is "Ashes and Blood", what more organic and meaningful of these two words?
Ian: What went into deciding what guests would appear on the album and why did you choose them?
Astrous: Having guest musicians gave us the chance to make the album more "complete". They offered their own approach, it was very important. Some of these guests were V'gandr of Hellheim on Grand Narcotic Harvest song and Thomais of Dakrya on In Heaven cover, we knew V'gandr and Thomais due to their bands and we really respected them and wanted them to be a part of our work. Other guests like the saxophonist, Christos Aggouridakis and pianist Vasilis Agiomyrgianakis (he was a keyboard player for Nightfall in the past) are friends and good musicians.
Ian: What went into deciding to cover In Heaven on the album, it's really a good cover but manages to retain the same sort of morbid nature of the original.
Astrous: Eraserhead is one of my favorite movies and this scene is amazingly melancholic and spooky at the same time. I thought that it would be interesting if there was any way to cover it. Thomais and the piano work make it even better.
Ian: Who would you site as some of your non-musical influences (writers, tv shows, art, etc.)?
Astrous: On a lyrical level I’m really inspired by people like Kazantzakis, Νietzsche, Kafka, Darwinand Marquis de Sade. Aesthetically we really enjoy German expressionists and later European surrealists, not really fans of digital arts. We don't really watch a lot of TV but we're all fans of good cinema and sometimes cult and horror movies (not always good but still joyful hehe).
Ian: What's next for Aenaon? Can we expect any live shows?
Astrous: I hope so! We have some problems at the moment, as you can understand a lot of weird stuff is going on at the moment at Greece, but we hope we'll start live shows as soon as possible. You should also expect more recordings, maybe one more 7'' if we find an interesting band to cooperate with, and I guess we have already new ideas for the next album.
Ian: I guess that’s about it, thanks for letting me interview you, it's been a pleasure. The last words are yours.
Astrous: Thank you Ian, it was a pleasure for as too. Hope to see you in a live show in the future and keep on the good work!
I think it's a given that you should listen to these guys, awesome band! Definitely get "Cendres et Sang" if you like any sort of experimental black metal, you will not be disappointed!
Interview by Ian Flick