DATE OF INTERVIEW:
14th January 2016
METAL DISCOVERY: First of all, how did AHAB start? And what was the motivation?
CORNELIUS: Daniel and Christian founded AHAB as a funeral doom project. They just got into this kind of music and felt that this was something for them. They recorded some riffs, which turned into songs... and Christian came up with AHAB to give this baby a name...
(Cornelius Althammer on drawing Ahab's creative inspiration from the seas)
"The oceans are a symbol for the sheer power of nature, which should make us human beings feel humble. Isn´t that a truly doomish thing?"
Interview by Paul Sims
Official Ahab Website:
The Call of the Wretched Sea (2006)
Nautical obsessed doom merchants Ahab have, once again, trawled the seas to find inspiration for their latest album concept. This time, for their fourth full length release, they've utilised the fantasy sea horrors in the survival/adventure tale, 'The Boats of the "Glen Carrig"', an early twentieth century novel by William Hope Hodgson. Metal Discovery quizzed Ahab's drummer, Cornelius Althammer, about their latest funeral doom metal voyage and just what it is about the sea that fascinates them so much...
Ahab - promo shot
Photograph copyright © 2015 Uncredited
Official Ahab Facebook:
Thanks to Andy Turner for arranging the interview.
The Divinity of Oceans (2009)
The Giant (2012)
The Boats of the Glen Carrig (2015)
MD: Let's talk about the new album, ‘The Boats of the Glen Carrig’. Your fourth and, wow, what a great album it is! I always find you guys to be such a consistent band, always releasing great albums with songs that have a natural flow to them. Something that is no more apparent than on this new album. Tell us a bit about the writing process in AHAB? And if this has changed as you've progressed?
CORNELIUS: Well, the writing process in AHAB changed a lot during the years from record to record. On ‘The Boats...’, we finally did it the way it actually has to be. Every single song was composed by the whole band in our rehearsal room. Some riffs were brought there from home, of course. But composing happened as a band. It was an extremely lively way of doing it. We had lots of discussions, even small fights, but we didn´t resign until every single band member was totally satisfied. Thank you very much for your opinion on this album - I have never been so pleased with one of our albums before. It seems it has payed very well to work this way. I don´t dislike our previous albums, that´s for sure. But most of the songs on those were written at home by Daniel on his own. He did very well; amazing songs emerged from this conclave, if you want to call it that way. But, this time, there is a greater flow throughout.
MD: You're seen as quite a literature loving band. Was this ever the plan? Who are the avid readers in the band?
CORNELIUS: This just evolved. When Christian had the initial idea to use ‘Moby Dick’ as lyrical groundwork for the first album back in the days, it turned out to be somehow fascinating integrating literature into our music. All of us love to read, but Stephan and Christian are the biggest nerds here.
MD: ‘The Boats of the Glen Carrig’ is a great fit for AHAB. I was very excited when I heard that you had taken this particular book as your fourth album concept. It was the first William Hope Hodgson book I read many years ago and, since reviewing the album, has prompted me to dig out my copy, so thank you for reminding me about such a great book. To me, it seems a perfect fit for AHAB. How did you find out about it and how far into the book did you get before saying: “yes, this one”?
CORNELIUS: A fan of ours pointed us to W.H. Hodgson. Stephan ordered some books with stories of this guy. All of us got kind of into him, but finally Stephan said: “Read ‘The Boats…’, I think this is the one we were searching for.” All of us did and, after a short while, we agreed. I cannot say how far each one of us exactly got into the book, but I knew about its special atmosphere far before the ending.
MD: The artwork for the album is glorious. Colourful, entrancing and also slightly disturbing. It fits the album perfectly. How did this artwork come about? Was this planned by you or did your artist have free reign?
CORNELIUS: A bit of both. Christian told Sebastian Jerke (who also painted the artwork for our previous album ‘The Giant’) to make it colorful. Sebastian read the book as well and listened to rehearsal recordings I sent him to get into the right mood. During the process of creation, Sebastian constantly kept sending us drafts of the particular elements, of all those creatures. Christian came up with the idea to have them drawn as naive, even infantile, with nothing in mind than their very instincts.
MD: You've said that you wouldn't tackle HP Lovecraft as it's too obvious. I see that ‘The Boats of the Glen Carrig’ is a good compromise. But as an AHAB fan, I really think that you could take a Lovecraft sea tale and do things with it that many bands couldn't. Do you think that Lovecraft is off the agenda forever for you guys?
CORNELIUS: Well, never say never... It is very hard to refuse, for Lovecraft seems to be just perfect for us. But I could not imagine this will happen. For myself, I can clearly say I would love it but I am against!
MD: What is it that you look for when you are looking for the next concept for an album for AHAB?
CORNELIUS: A book, haha... No, seriously, it is just... a certain mood... this is very hard to explain. If I read and then hear stuff in my inner ear that sounds Ahabish, this is probably a good one to go.
MD: What is it about the sea for you that has drawn you to sing about it constantly?
CORNELIUS: Can you imagine anything more fascinating? Mankind explores space but a cosmos lying directly around the corner (at least for some of us), which has a huge impact to all our lives, hasn´t been explored nearly at all? Because we cannot go that deep? We can leave the planet but cannot dive that deep? The oceans are a symbol for the sheer power of nature, which should make us human beings feel humble. Isn´t that a truly doomish thing?
MD: How did the cover version ‘The Turn of a Friendly Card’ (originally by The Alan Parsons Project), which you released as part of a special edition package, come about?
CORNELIUS: This is a great song. But, somehow, also kind of kitschy in its original version. Very, very interesting how drastically reducing tempo, and heavy instrumentation can form something into something completely different. With Olaf Iversen´s vocals on it, it totally sounds like a classic doom song. It fits so perfectly well, somebody not knowing the original would probably not guess this is a cover song.
MD: I presume that you get recommendations from fans? Any that are possibilities for the future that you would like to mention?
CORNELIUS: Well, sometimes there are. For the reason of current happenings, we were asked to cover some David Bowie stuff. I am never against challenges like this. I don´t know what my bandmates think of it. Probably we are going to talk about ;). The question always has to be: Is there something I can do better, or very differently in some way, that a hidden aspect can be revealed in a song? Doom worked perfectly well on ‘Turn of a Friendly Card’. I don´t know, if this would work for Bowie or even Lemmy, haha... Covering a song just for the sake of playing a cover is the wrong approach, in my opinion.
MD: Thanks for the interview and I hope the album does really well for you!
CORNELIUS: Thanks a lot for your interest!