The Vision Bleak are unique, both musically and visually. They are an all encompassing experience that the band have been crafting and honing for many years. But it has now been over a decade since that Deathship and its crew first set sail and this year’s “The Unknown” brings a slight change in the wind and, in turn, an adjustment in course. The Vision Bleak’s sound is still “…from the grottos of hell, to the dark skies above, resounding through the night…”, but main-men Schwadorf and Konstanz are steering it towards a new heading and undiscovered lands. Schwadorf kindly took the time to explain more and answer a few questions.N: I was lucky enough to review your new album for Ave Noctum (don’t worry – I liked it!) and much was made of a change in direction. The press release even used phrases like ‘reinvention’, ‘end of a journey’ and ‘second birth’. Phrases that can strike fear into the hearts of long-term fans like myself, but on closer examination of “The Unknown” I felt it was just a natural progression for the band and is still undeniably and utterly The Vision Bleak. Do you feel the direction of the band has changed musically? In what ways in particular?
Schwadorf : Yes I think we changed our direction on “The Unknown” in the sense that the music and lyrics are more personal, more emotional and feature less of the gothic theatrical story-telling elements we had before. This is a more introverted record in the sense of looking deeply inside ourselves as opposed to the more extroverted approach of our previous records. Of course the band’s sound is similar to our previous records that is because it is the same musicians performing and this will always sound like The Vision Bleak. It is the way we sound. But also I think this album is much more guitar based and heavier and darker than any of the previous records.
AN: “The Unknown” marks the band’s first step away from the Gothic Horror style lyrics that you’ve favoured in the past. What was the reason behind this, was there a particular lyrical subject you wanted to explore and is there one track on the album that inspired the change?
Schwadorf : Actually we were well aware that we want to change with this album into a new direction both musically and lyrically right after we finished touring for “witching hour”. We just felt we fulfilled a cycle with this album. So for us this was a step into the unknown too from the very beginning of writing this album. Strangely the title track was also the first song written for “The Unknown”.
AN: I’ve always loved the additional power that the style of drumming brings to TVB, and although the drums are as integral and excellent as ever, there seems to be a desire to try and explore other, quicker tempos on “The Unknown”, was this a conscious decision or did it just happen because the songs demanded it?
Schwadorf : The songs demanded it as easy as that! When I wrote the songs I programmed much of the drums at home and when we finally recorded the drums for this album Konstanz stuck to many of the first programmed demo ideas on the final record because the programmed drums felt like they were an important part of the composition.
AN: That song-writing dynamic has always intrigued me with TVB because of you basically being a duo. How do you generally write as I presume you can’t ‘jam’ like many bands? How does your average TVB track actually come together and has that differed on the new album?
Schwadorf : Most of the material is written by me – I am in constant exchange with Konstanz however who is feeding me with some ideas as well during the initial period of the songwriting. All songs are composed primarily without vocals – however I often have ideas for lyrics when I write the initial riffs already as they inspire me and invoke certain pictures in my mind which later will be featured in titles or lyrics. We then go to the studio to work on the details of the song, I return to write the lyrics, we work on the vocal lines and finished is the song.
AN: The artwork on “The Unknown” is by the excellent Dan Seagrave, who is mostly recognized for Death Metal covers (though not solely), was there a piece of his artwork that made you both think “We must get this guy to do our album cover”, or was it a case of his style fitting the direction of the new album?
Schwadorf : Well, in the early 90s when we were young Metal Heads we ran around in Shirts with Seagrave Artworks almost daily. “Left Hand Path”, “Altars Of Madness”, “Clandestine” were/are our faves. We have always loved his style like anybody who grew up with the Death Metal of this time. Since we wanted to underline our new approach to The Vision Bleak and at the same underline the 90s Vibe of “The Unknown” Seagrave crossed our minds. We were delighted to hear that he is in for the job and even more delighted when we saw the final art!
AN: TVB have spent many years crafting an image as well as a musical style, will the band’s iconic Victorian/Gothic image continue? Hopefully it’s not a switch to jeans and T-Shirts lurking in the future?
Schwadorf : No. To us the whole picture counts. Music, lyrics, graphics and outfits. We have modified our stage look to something slightly more Metal and slightly darker but it still has the Victorian Horror Vibe.
AN So given TVB’s musical style, your image and interests, as well as an obvious love of playing live – if money, logistics and red-tape weren’t a problem and you could play a gig at any landmark or venue in the world, where would it be?
Schwadorf : We certainly enjoy playing live but our main craft will always be the creation of new music and lyrics. This is what at least I enjoy most doing ever since.
Playing on the olde, rotten and forlorn graveyard on which we shot the Photos for the album would be a damn good match to our sound!
AN: There’s a TVB compilation being released this year (I’m pretty sure you have included every track I hoped you would) – I just wondered if you had a say in what tracks were included on it? If so, were there any disagreements or tracks you would have liked included that weren’t? Also on the other side, I wondered if either of you actually have a favourite TVB song that you couldn’t imagine NOT being on there?
Schwadorf : We did the Track list for the compilation and it was a pretty fast decision I must say. Of course you could have changed or altered it in many, many ways since we love all our songs but the ones featured definitely give you a great oversight of our works so far.
My favourite TVB Song right now is definitely “From Wolf To Peacock”. It’s very personal to me and resonates 100% with who I am.
AN: You are both involved in other great musical projects, when you are writing specifically for one (like Ewigheim for instance) do you ever suddenly realize an idea would be better suited for another project and shelve it for later, or do you try to adapt it for the particular band/ project you are writing for at the time?
Schwadorf : In Ewigheim Yantit is writing most of the music so that doesn’t come in the way. I sometimes have had decisions to make whether to use something for The Vision Bleak or for Empyrium but it’s very rare. Usually the vibe of a certain theme kind of dictates for what project it should be used. The short instrumental “Who may oppose me?” however was a decision that had to be made whether to use it for Empyrium or TVB.
AN: What are/were your influences, both musically and lyrically for TVB in the first place? Have these changed as the band has progressed?
Schwadorf : Musically: Metal. From Iron Maiden over Metallica and Slayer over Sepultura, Morbid Angel to Entombed and At the Gates to Paradise Lost and Tiamat, Moonspell, Master’s Hammer, Rotting Christ, Emperor and Darkthrone.
Lyrically: The self. The imagination. Sceneries. Movies. Lovecraft, Poe and Byron.
AN: I know it’s a question you have no doubt been asked before, but how did you two meet and decide to work together in the first place?
Schwadorf : We met at my Studio in 1999 when Konstanz was recording with his former Band Nox Mortis at my place (Klangschmiede Studio E, studioe.de). We got along very well during those recordings and the mix and decided to try to co-operate musically. Good idea I must say, hehe…
AN: So that was the start, but what about the future? What do you have planned for TVB and indeed, what do you both have planned for other projects in the foreseeable future that you’d like to share?
Schwadorf : We are soon playing Hellfest in France with both Empyrium and The Vision Bleak, returning from that a new Ewigheim Album will be recorded. August some Festivals with The Vision Bleak and Ewigheim. September Empyrium Shows in Turkey and China. In October we are negotiating a tour with The Vision Bleak to support a bigger band. End of year Ewigheim Shows for the coming release.
Thanks so much for your time and for sharing your answers with the readers of Ave Noctum, and of course congratulations again on your fabulous new album.
Thank you very much!
(Interview Andy Barker)