Poland has a rich history of blackened death metal bands. Devilish Impressions was formed in 2000, since when they have been enhancing the genre with atmospheric and symphonic elements. As a follow-up to the band’s third album “Simulacra” in 2012, an EP “Adventvs” has been released this year (http://devilishimpressions.bandcamp.com/album/adventvs-eritis-sicvt-devs), comprising two new tracks and the whole of the band’s first avant-garde black metal demo from 2002, “Eritis Sicut Deus”. Andrew Doherty took the opportunity to get an update from Quazarre, the band’s founder member, guitarist, vocalist and inspiration.
AN: It’s great to speak to you again and thanks for agreeing to be interviewed for Ave Noctum. First of all, it was fascinating to read the sleeve notes of your “Adventvs” / “Eritis Sicut Deus” and your account of how you “blackened your musical taste”, as you put it. My vision of both these works, in spite of their distance in time, is of a swampy underworld from which there is no escape. In your notes, you paint a picture of Ozimek and its billowing steel works on the one hand, and miles of forests on the other. Is Ozimek still with you in your mind when you create your music?
Q: Hey Andrew! Well, not really… I mean, I believe it obviously took a great role in shaping up the band’s spirit and self-consciousness back then, while I lived there. But it’s been ages ago and therefore I’ve been getting inspired by many different surroundings ever since. Including also the London ones where we happened to meet each other.
AN: My impression of the two “Adventvs” tracks was that they are the most deeply psychological pieces you’ve created, as if you are taking time to get inside our minds and disturb us. Is this how you envisaged “Adventvs Regis” and “Meteoron”?
Q: Sounds interesting, however, but I have never composed any song thinking of what kind of impact it may or should have on a listener…
AN: The other striking aspect of “Adventvs” for me is its range of technical subtlety, as if you were experimenting with a new direction. The “Simulacra” album had great instrumental depth too, but “Adventvs” doesn’t have the anthemic and at times bombastic war-making qualities of “Simulacra”. I heard more bass on “Adventvs” and it seems as if you’re less mechanical and you’ve allowed yourselves to expose and explore new dark territories. From a technical point of view, how would you compare “Adventvs” with “Simulacra”?
Q: A number of things have changed in comparison not only with “Simulacra” but also with Devilish Impressions’ earlier works. First of all, when giving a spin to “Adventvs” you can easily notice a different approach to issues related to the production process. This time, instead of making it sound like “in-your-face” sort of thing, we’ve focused on making it wider, deeper and less compressed. More like the middle 90s productions, with acoustic, natural sound of drums, lot of reverb on toms and a snare drum – these kind of things. Our music has also turned heavier than it ever was, partly due to the use of 7-strings guitars during the tracking. And yes, indeed we’ve made a bass line louder while mixing the songs. Furthermore, you can hear our bassist Vraath backing me up vocally too. Also, for the first time ever I decided to sing in Polish, and although it’s just several phrases here and there I have never done anything like that before. This time around the material is totally guitar-orientated since we have reduced the virtual instruments to the absolute minimum. In fact, you’d now have to try really hard to guess where these limited lines are based within the new songs. In return, we’ve introduced a bunch of other elements to these new compositions such as overtone singing and a couple of exotic-sounding instruments such as ‘Chinese Chau Gong’ and ritual Tibetan hand bells called ‘dril bu’.
AN: What was the thinking behind the release of “Adventvs”? Was it to keep the public mindful of Devilish Impressions, or maybe was it to pronounce to the world that you’re ready to strike out in a different, perhaps less theatrical direction?
Q: Both, I think. It’s been two years since the release of the “Simulacra” album so we felt it was the right time to remind our followers we’re still active and full of new, hopefully better ideas. In a way, the new tunes also indicate a re-defined sonic direction we will be heading to on our next full-length. Well, maybe not exactly, as we always try to keep some aces up our sleeves when it comes to the follow-ups…
AN: You seem to have cultivated a niche in majestic anthems through surging melodies and marching progressions. Both “Adventvs Regis” and “Meteoron” have malevolent majesty and even melancholy. Before that “Icaros”, “The Scream of the Lambs” and “The Last Farewell” on “Simulacra” and “Har-Magedon” on “Diabolicanos” all share these qualities. How do you know that you’ve created a suitable level of majesty? Do you reach a point where you have a feeling within you?
Q: Not really. I mean, I never actually plan on how to measure it. There are certain songs whose atmosphere, in my opinion, demands the addition of more melancholic parts here and there, while others are based mostly on heavy, aggressive guitar-riffs. As you have surely noticed our music has always been and will most likely remain based on contrasts.
AN: Let’s move on to “Eritis Sicut Deus”. I’ve always felt that you underestimated its quality. Even in your sleeve notes, you suggest that it’s a work of “second wave black metal” drawing its inspiration from Emperor, Arcturus or Limbionic Art. Of course as it is the first work, there would be no benchmark, but whereas “Adventvs” is more mature, measured and precise in its form, “Eritis Sicut Deus” is experimental, coherently atmospheric and strikingly original. What do you think?
Q: Of course, at the time it was a real thing to me and others involved in its making. And, even if we have drawn inspirations from these fantastic bands indeed, I still believe we’ve made something extra out of it. On the other hand, being its creator doesn’t let me stay objective and critical enough to handle this situation properly, to give a clear picture of its value.
AN: Your swampy, shadowy vocals, which you use on all your works and in your other band Asgaard sound as if you are a warlord making pronouncements from underneath the surface of a fragile earth. They’re unique and transmit a natural evil. They’re also part of a range of vocals that you use. At what point did you realise their power?
Q: I’ve always wanted to sing and have started pretty early I must say. Since forming the first “band” it was me handling the vocalist duties but, of course, my voice has been changing over the years and is now definitely different to the one in the beginning. Like with any other instrument, the more you play on it, or in this case, the more you use it the better it gets. And seeing many records out there simply fucked up with vocal parts as dry as dust, I’ve been working my ass off in making my voice multilayered. So when adding it on top of a song I hope it works for its better, not the other way round… And it’s not that I did realize its power at some point, I’m not one to blow my own trumpet, hahah. Just noticed it’s different compared with those of other vocalists I’ve been a fan of. I began hearing that with each and every record it was getting more characteristic and thus more recognizable.
AN: Speaking of Asgaard, who are one of the most unusual and avant-garde bands that there are, what elements do you think you have brought into Devilish Impressions as a result of playing with them?
Q: None, I’d say. Yet again, for the same reason as with your earlier questions it’s pretty hard for me to be judgemental here… I believe Asgaard, both musically and lyrically, represents a different, far-distant world comparing to the one we create under the name of Devilish Impressions, that’s for sure. Besides, it’s not me writing music for Asgaard wherein my part of the “job” is just to get the vocals done. Of course, one may find certain similarity of my “clean” vocals I occasionally use within compositions of Devilish Impressions to those in Asgaard, but I don’t think they bear a striking resemblance to Asgaard’s. If this does not sound convincing enough, well, although these are two different bands it’s still me being part of them both, the same guy behind the microphone…
AN: Following on from this, I can see that there’s a camaraderie amongst Polish metal musicians. Have much have you benefited from being in the middle of such a vibrant movement of serious creators of metal as Behemoth, Christ Agony and many others?
Q: Polish metal scene has always been pretty strong and diverse. Of course, the huge commercial success of bands like Behemoth has attracted attention of fans from all over the world, and they in consequence have started to search for other acts. This, of course, is good, especially for the newcomers. At the same time, Poland’s not that big after all, therefore it’s difficult to find the right people to play the metal music with. That’s why I believe we tend to cross paths willy-nilly. Even if you take us only as an example, we have contributed to several other acts, including Christ Agony, Crionics or Asgaard to name but a few…
AN: You give credit to Starash for his contribution in the early days. You’ve had numerous line-up changes over the years, but notably I’d say the introduction of your drummer Icanraz has beefed up the quality and intensity. How do you go about gathering others’ thoughts to validate or enhance the musical ideas you have for new works?
Q: Let’s make one thing clear… It’s always been me writing Devilish Impressions’ music and lyrics, the one having the lead if you will. But it’s not that I underestimate others’ thoughts and their musical ideas. Quite the contrary, I’m always more than happy see them physically involved within the creation process, obviously, as long as their offerings remain coherent with the general concept of Devilish Impressions. I’ve given credits to Starash for contribution in the early days simply because the ‘Adventvs’ sleeve notes apply to the ‘demo’ era, and it was Starash with whom at the time I was mostly composing our music. But yes, welcoming Icanraz on-board has definitely been one of the most important moves we have ever made, a move which resulted not only in changing our sound and feeling but also in rising greater awareness of what we together are capable of.
AN: You strongly give the impression in the sleeve notes that there is a philosophy or “manifesto” as a driving force behind Devilish Impressions. We’ve looked at the musical side but I’m increasingly impressed with the artwork on your albums. Who created the artwork for “Adventvs” and how did you satisfy yourself that their work matches your philosophy and music?
Q: The artwork has been prepared by Martin of Black Moon Design, a young but also an extremely talented guy, one of the most inspirational I’ve ever worked with. Before we’ve started to work together I presented him the tracks and lyrics that were to land on the record, so that we could find a concept reflecting the message we wanted to convey. From then on he’s been working on the booklet, trying to match all the graphics to the atmosphere of particular lyrics. Once we had them all ready, he offered something which is now known as the EP’s cover art.
AN: Do turbulence and horror interest you?
Q: Yes, I’m a big fan of horror and thriller movies. Adding my love to the fantasy on top of that can give you a hint of what sort of atmosphere I’d love to achieve while composing.
AN: Many things have happened to you and Devilish Impressions over the years. Are there are any particular achievements or milestones above all others which make you especially proud?
Q: It’s hard to point the highlights because at the time of getting through something each and every step up was to me and others such a highlight, for instance landing the first deal with a record label, suddenly appearing in the world’s famous metal magazines, getting slots on tours and festivals along with acts we’ve been huge fans of, making it bigger and bigger, recording the follow ups… On the other hand there have also been lots of fuck ups that we’ve experienced. The perfect one to start with can be the now-legendary confiscation of the CDs, which were set to be used for finding a label, by German Customs officials which eventually led us to take a coach from London to somewhere near the Poland / Germany border where we then faced an absurd level of Customs’ ignorance and we nearly froze to death. What else, hmm, several cancelled tours, loss of our jobs and money, or a serious car-crash we had while touring Russia last year… But you know what Andrew? All the ups and downs we’ve gone through over the years have somehow made us who we are these days. And, despite even the shittiest moments, playing in Devilish Impressions is something that still excites us more than anything else! I mean it!!!
AN: I know it’s been a struggle for you to survive over the last few years but you’ve always kept the metal fire burning. Lack of money and recognition are part of the struggle of all but a small handful of musicians, of course. Have you ever had moments where you’ve thought you’d rather be an accountant or something and just play music with a few mates?
Q: Never! I mean, it’s a tough business so it forces us to work here and there to pay our bills yet we do it all for one purpose only: to always keep the flame burning, to be able to rise the flag of Devilish Impressions and hang it out wherever we can get to!
AN: Returning to current matters, I know you had a tour to promote “Adventvs”. How did that work out for you?
Q: Yeah, we had that run in Poland a couple of months ago. What I find pretty important is that it’s been the first one here in our career with Devilish Impressions headlining the bill. Lots of fun, fantastic maniacs we’ve come across with and many great moments to remember. You know Andrew how much we love to play live so we really can’t wait to hit the road again.
AN: What’s the situation on the record label front at the moment?
Q: I’m now in discussions with several record labels concerning the deal and it will be clear whether we can get ourselves hitched up anytime soon or if we are to search for a little bit longer. I’ll obviously prepare and post an appropriate statement on our webpage and social platforms once anything gets confirmed on this front.
AN: For as long as I’ve known you, you’ve always been a man with a vision. It’s now 2014. Looking ahead, what vision do you have for Devilish Impressions?
Q: This again would be to keep the metal flame burning! To give birth to the new sounds, to win more fans and to remain musically unpredictable, even to ourselves…
AN: Finally, is there anything that you would like to say to readers of Ave Noctum?
Q: Eritis sicvt Devs!!!
Thanks Quazarre! As always it’s been a pleasure to share your insight and vision. I look forward to seeing you and your band mates again very soon. All the best and keep up the Chaos and Rebellion!
(Interview by Andrew Doherty)