Indesinence – Excavating a Living Death Paradigm
With Vessels of Light and Decay, Ilia Rodriguez and co. delivered one of my favorite albums of 2012, via an enveloping sense-assault of songwriting powerful enough to un-jade these ever-wrinkling ears of mine. From the patiently-constructed punch of the music to the layout and packaging, the new album easily earns the respect of those in the know. An intelligent, thought-provoking discussion on the album and the band’s inner workings follows; enjoy. -Jim
Greetings, Ilia! Congratulations on the appeal and musical achievement of your latest album, Vessels of Light and Decay, and the decade-plus journey that has brought Indesinence to this level. The genres of Metal that are the band’s forte – serious, aura-filled Doom and Death Metal – appear to be experiencing a renaissance of sorts. Since the European doom/death heyday in the early ’90s with the release of iconic albums by My Dying Bride, Anathema, and Paradise Lost, how have your feelings toward this music evolved?
Hello Jim, and thanks for your words. So far it’s been a fairly long and sometimes erratic journey in terms of output, but one thing that was always clear in our minds from the outset was that we wanted to offer the best music we had in us, and we’re pleased that a few new people seem to be getting onboard with this new album. The feedback so far does make us feel that the efforts and hardship have been worthwhile.
I must confess that Doom-Death is not necessarily a massive staple in our personal listening diets and, aside from some of the bands that inspired us to make music in this way back then (obviously the Peaceville three in their heyday, but also Disembowelment, early Cathedral, Thergothon, Unholy, Dusk, etc) we’re not massively attuned to the style’s present. There are of course some ongoing bands we know and love, such as Ataraxie, Evoken and a few others, but on the whole we listen to a wide range of stuff and, if our sound was also informed by other things at the beginning, that is probably even more the case these days. From a creative standpoint, it’s a healthy place to be in, as we feel this pushes us to try to add our own twist to the template and approach our songs from a place of genuine inspiration rather than aping whatever is going on with whatever musical current. But ultimately we do of course still love the concept of Doom-Death and what it represents: the refreshing lack of a stereotypical image and presentation, the genuine and underground feel of the music and the opportunity to challenge one’s self, the audience, and the genre itself.
While most DM bands focus on gore, UK doom/death metal bands like your own have typically placed greater focus upon more esoteric images of the decay of mind, body, and soul. How do stylistic choices like these impact the moods Indesinence intends to create with its own music?
Massively. I have long maintained that death and darkness as concepts are hard to fully grasp or even appreciate without placing them into some sort of context. You need their opposites in order to express something that goes a little beyond the basics. Don’t get me wrong, we love many bands who single-mindedly worship or worshipped death, however naively or willingly – I can enjoy listening to Hellhammer or the first two Grave albums all night long, but Indesinence has never come exclusively from that sort of place, for better or worse. Granted, the music may be firmly rooted in Death Metal, but there are significant layers brought to the picture via our own thoughts and personal experiences as living people. I guess I’ve always ultimately perceived Indesinence as “living” music. To all intents and purposes, we always want our albums to sound alive, and to inject that into the listener, to make them feel exhilarated. Maybe we’re just not talented enough to write proper, full-on Death Metal songs with this band, so our songs end up as these labyrinthine compositions that are just subconsciously trying to go into all sorts of weird directions.
Members of Indesinence participate in other active bands. While this practice is common, unlike most industrious musicians I don’t sense any dilution of quality between Indesinence and the other bands (Binah, Cruciamentum, etc) associated with its practitioners . How is this high standard maintained when time is at a premium and/or attentions must be divided?
Not without difficulty, but somehow the result always made us feel glad we took the ride. We have this unexplainable way of being able to make time where there is none, and throughout these years we have all been involved in a few other bands and projects. Obviously we do try to keep it realistic, and sometimes something has to give. Indesinence hasn’t played more than three dozen shows during our existence for example, and whilst this might seem like a fair number for an underground band, if you bear in mind we’ve been doing this for ten years now, it does in a way feel like we’ve spread it somewhat thin on the live front. But we are OK with that; sometimes less is more. Where we do not skimp on time, however, is on our recordings. This is the main focus of our efforts and dedication, and the releases must have the very best we can give behind them. In that sense, “Vessels of Light and Decay” is really the sound of four guys going mental at the expense of their health and sanity to stubbornly pour themselves into this silly Metal album… we literally wouldn’t be able to make a better record for our standards than this today – this is us at our creative best, imperfections included of course.
Though the statement-making presence of this album suggests a new beginning of sorts, it has taken six years since your last album to get here. Would you attribute the length of time to a meticulous thought process in its sonic design, conflicting commitments, some combination of both, or something else entirely? Did this stretch of time put a test upon the band’s patience, or solidify its resolve?
Definitely a combination of the above. We’ve had our share of non-musical happenings prolong the process, such as serious personal and family issues, work, two of the band members getting married, and also our pal and brother Chris leaving the band in 2009 to pursue other interests. But we also don’t work fast, and I admit this is to some degree intentional. In some ways, we are our own (and each other’s) harshest critics, and we tend to allow for quite a bit of time for each song to breathe, and to re-consider and re-visit arrangements in order to ensure each composition makes sense to us. A couple of the songs on “Vessels…” were put together fairly effortlessly over a couple of months and then slightly re-arranged over time, but others took a lot longer than that. Then you also have the odd case of massive overhauling in terms of arrangements – “Unveiled”, for instance, was originally conceived as a track featuring clean and acoustic guitars only, and it was a long and roundabout process that lead it to its current incarnation. And of course nothing is every truly finalised until we reach mixing stage. Then it becomes final, but only because we no longer have a choice, hahaha!
Vessels of Light and Decay has garnered a fair of amount of deserved praise within a very short span, striking a common cord in reviewers and death/doom fans alike. Was there any sense amongst the band that this collection of songs would resonate with listeners the way it has? What, in your opinion, has the support of a well-respected label like Profound Lore contributed to that success?
It’s certainly what we were hoping for; not necessarily in a sense that we wanted to become much better known, but more stemming from our intent to release an album that would truly reach anyone willing to invest in it and have some degree of impact. We’ve always felt our music is designed for active listening, and the listener’s input is every part as important as ours, and that once the music is created it’s no longer the band’s sole property, and it just goes on a journey of its own. When people tell us they’ve bought the album and it has meant something to them, that to us means mission accomplished.
We’re immensely flattered to have had Profound Lore’s backing, of course. Chris’ help has been pivotal in making this happen; he is just a really good guy who knows what he likes and the success of Profound Lore is grounded on his healthy enthusiasm when sharing this music with likeminded enthusiasts, so the fact he’s been so supportive of this record is very humbling.
As noted in my review, Vessels of Light and Decay balances death metal and doom metal equally, where most bands lean heavily one way or the other. How was this equilibrium achieved?
Rather intuitively, I guess. We loved bands such as early Cathedral, early Paradise Lost and Disembowelment or Thergothon for the fact that they approached Metal from a place of musical extremity yet demonstrated that speed and technicality were second to vibe and ambience in terms of successful artistic expression. We’ve also always loved classic Death Metal albums by Autopsy, Demigod or Bolt Thrower, who wrote music with tremendous aura to it, and songs that built a real sense of place, a place where, as a young and impressionable listener, you always felt you had to thread very carefully. Both musical approaches share common ground, and I honestly couldn’t exactly tell you how we decided to split the Doom/Death ratio; we probably didn’t even think too much about it… we were fans of atmosphere-heavy bands from across the spectrum and inspired by their creation, and we took that thrill and ran with it the best we could.
Songs like ‘Communion’, a catchy punisher of a track, are made all the more memorable with the utilization of synths to great effect. When composing, are the atmospheric elements already in your mind, or do you wait until all the guitar/bass/drum tracks are completed before giving your attention to them?
It really depends. In some cases, the arrangement will come to us immediately as we are working on a particular passage, and sometimes the song will need some absorbing time before we can work out where the extra elements achieve their best impact. For instance, the keyboard parts on “Communion” were conceived on the same session as the song itself and have remained the same since, whereas we listened to various demo versions of the closing track “Unveiled” for over three years before we could start thinking about the extra keyboard layers and even some of the leads on that song. Adding all those extra arrangements is always a gradual and intuitive process, and the moment when this happens does largely vary depending on each song and its surrounding circumstances.
While united in taste, differences between American and European Metal fans and their diverging behaviors in regards to attending and participating in performances great have been noted. In your touring life, have you yourself seen any stark differences in the way fans on opposing sides of the pond enjoy doom/death shows? What could American doom/death fans learn from their European counterparts, and vice versa?
I have yet to visit the States in a gigging or music-related scenario, so I can’t make that comparison, but I‘m sure the right audiences can be met both sides of the pond. Our drummer Dani has been there a few times with Grave Miasma and Cruciamentum, and he speaks highly indeed of the experience. We’d love to do it; hopefully one day.
Aside from continuing to make a living through your own art, are there other less obvious goals with Indesinence you are trying to reach? What fulfillment, if any, has the release of the Vessels of Light and Decay given you? When comparing the new album with its predecessor, Noctambulism, what contrasts stand out the most to you?
I don’t make a living from any music, none of us do. I’m 34 and I’ve been working full-time jobs through my entire adult life now, and I know the same goes for the other guys. I actually answered one other interview last week where it was also assumed we could pay the bills from our music, which I found surprising and intriguing. Like many musicians working at our level, we have qualifications and training to do other non-music-related stuff, and we have to work hard Monday to Friday to be able to fund a lot of what we do.
The above clarification probably helps answer your second question in better context; as it means we of course feel very fulfilled with every release we manage to record and put out there. Granted we’ve had some label support for every release, but make no mistake, the hours and days you invest in each recording are something that nobody can pay you back. But the outcome is that at least a bunch of people will listen to this thing we’ve worked on and get a kick from it, maybe even consider it a valuable item in their collections, and something that’s brought something worthwhile into their lives. And this, of course, is the best reward we could ask for.
As for any contrasts between “Vessels…” and our previous releases, it’s hard for us to tell after so much time spent submerged in this material. Our idea was to develop and refine our ideas while remaining faithful to the sound, and to maybe expand a little on the groundwork laid on the two previous releases, to think about how to better structure the songs in order to achieve a grater and more lasting impact on the listener, whom I guess is the ultimate judge as to whether we’ve succeeded. Ultimately we don’t perceive each new release as an improvement or a step backwards, but more as simply another chapter, or perhaps a slightly different take on what we do.
As you are obviously driven to not only create but to do so effectively and prolifically, what is your Muse as a practitioner of extreme Metal? What has kept this Muse alive and full of vitality during the last six years?
The fact that I still love this music, and still feel there are things left to express. I’ve been listening to music since my dad played me Grofe’s “Grand Canyon Suite” at the age of four, and to Metal for over twenty years, and I still get that thrill when I discover a killer release either from a new band in whatever genre, or an old classic I hadn’t yet come upon. I perceive our humble contribution as an opportunity to say “thanks” and put our two pence back in, and to hopefully try and bring that same feeling to others. Of course there are all sort of other difficulties and small rewards along the way, but none beats the feeling of putting an album out after months of hard work, and knowing that someone somewhere might be getting a kick from it, plain and simple.
Thanks for giving time and attention to this interview, Ilia. In keeping with Worm Gear’s tradition, you have the final word; feel free to pontificate and/or plug!
I’m as bad at answering these things as I am at keeping normal answers brief. Thanks for your time and support Jim, and hails to everyone who has checked our to stuff, and to those who will. Only deaf is real!
~ by cliftonium on January 1, 2013.