DATE OF INTERVIEW:
THE VISION BLEAK
8th July 2016
METAL DISCOVERY: It states in press blurb that, for the new album, you “dared to compose without any pre-conceived bias or restriction”. So, in what ways did you approach the songwriting process differently to ensure you stepped out of your comfort zone, and into new modes of composing?
SCHWADORF: The biggest difference was definitely that the album was composed in a very short amount of time for its biggest part. All the songs, except for the title track, were written in November and we started the recordings in December. This made us really go with the flow instead of over thinking things over and over again.
(Schwadorf on eschewing The Vision Bleak's established compositional approach)
"Stepping into the unknown is always rewarding."
Interview by Mark Holmes
Official The Vision Bleak Website:
THE VISION BLEAK DISCOGRAPHY
Recently releasing their sixth full-length album, 'The Unknown', Germany's The Vision Bleak have indeed made a brave foray into the unknown. Emancipating themselves from their erstwhile lyrical preoccupation with literary and filmic horror fiction and mythology, the self-proclaimed dark metal duo, this time, offer up introspective ruminations of a very personal nature. Yet the literary references and provocative metaphors haven't been entirely abandoned on 'The Unknown'; the very first track, 'Spirits of the Dead', borrows its title from an Edgar Allan Poe poem. One half of the German duo, Schwadorf, explained to Metal Discovery just how The Vision Bleak set about approaching the writing process for 'The Unknown', both instrumentally and lyrically...
The Vision Bleak - promo shot
Photograph copyright © 2016 Lukasz Jaszak
ULF THEODOR SCHWADORF
Official The Vision Bleak Facebook:
Thanks to Andy Turner for arranging the interview.
MD: I guess the album’s title could reflect your new compositional direction, but it also seems to be linked to your usage of an H.P. Lovecraft quote: “The oldest and strongest emotion of mankind is fear, and the oldest and strongest kind of fear is fear of the unknown.” Were you fearful or apprehensive of the unknown when emancipating yourselves from songwriting paradigms of the past?
SCHWADORF: We knew it was a necessity for the band to go on. There's no choice. I really felt I need to challenge myself while writing and not use verse/chorus schemes in most of the songs but, instead, step into unknown territory composition-wise and find a new approach to composing The Vision Bleak songs. The title, by the way, was inspired by the ‘Dracula’ quote: "I will not let you go into the unknown alone". But the Lovecraft quote we used later, and is a very fitting description of what the album is about too.
MD: As well as fear of the unknown, did the writing process also prove to be an exhilarating and liberating one by breaking free from the known?
SCHWADORF: Absolutely. It showed new ways to be The Vision Bleak without lying to ourselves, nor to our audience. Stepping into the unknown is always rewarding.
MD: The music has this wonderfully pervasive dark atmosphere throughout, which has been crafted to perfection. Did you get a sense of songs’ atmospheres at the point of composing the music, or would you say the atmosphere was created at the point compositions started to take shape, with all the different layers in the instrumentations?
SCHWADORF: The atmosphere must be there from the very beginning when a new song is written. If a beginning riff/idea wouldn't be evocative and immediately inspire me for lyrics/phrases or just a picture before the mind’s eye, I'd not continue working on it. It's always symbiotic; that's why the atmosphere is strong.
MD: It’s been said that, lyrically, “gone are the tried-and-trusted nods to horror classics and fictional terror” and “The Vision Bleak are facing their personal demons and the horror that lives within themselves.” But do you think that a lot of fictional horrors are metaphors for personal fears, anyway?
SCHWADORF: Again, absolutely. Our lyrics have always been full of metaphors, personal emotions and psychological depths. This time, we made it more obvious, though, and communicated it to the public. Still, it is surely the most personal of all our albums.
MD: Did you learn anything about yourselves by confronting and reflecting upon your personal demons, and was it a cathartic experience, in any way, writing in this introspective way?
SCHWADORF: Composing music is a necessity to me. It creates a balance within me and inspires my personal life just as my personal life inspires my writing. It's very cathartic. ‘The Unknown’ resonates 100% with our personalities and who we are.
MD: There still seem to be a healthy dose of metaphors at work on ‘The Unknown’, so there’s an implicit and poetic, rather than explicit and literal, element to the lyrics, but did you feel exposed or vulnerable by writing about personal subject matters this time around?
SCHWADORF: Being an artist, you always expose yourself. Like mentioned before, The Vision Bleak has been very personal for a long time, full of poetic metaphors and psychological depth. If you know my other band, Empyrium, you know that I am not afraid to show a lot of my sentiments in the music I/we create.
MD: You haven’t entirely abandoned literary horrors as the album opens with ‘Spirits of the Dead’, which is obviously the name of an Edgar Allan Poe piece, in which you quote the great man himself from said poem. In what context are you using his words here, and how do they relate to your own fears?
SCHWADORF: It's a perfect quote to set the mood and give the audience a taste of what's going to happen in the next 50 minutes. Also, there is a lot of talk of graveyards, silence and death in the lyrics, so that quote just was like written for the album. I was so happy when I stumbled upon it.
MD: Will you ever return to literary sources as your basis for future songwriting, or continue down the path into further unknown territory, with more introspective contemplations of your own psyches?
SCHWADORF: I'd say now that we unchained ourselves from being caught within our concept, almost everything is possible. But it's by far too early to talk about it.
MD: Now you’ve started this new chapter of The Vision Bleak, do you still think your self-proclaimed “horror metal” label is applicable?
SCHWADORF: Yes, I think so. There's is still the atmosphere. A lot of lyrical themes and the whole imagery is still "horror". But we are fine to be called a dark metal band as well.
MD: The album cover is an absolutely magnificent and thoroughly atmospheric piece of artwork; I think Dan Seagrave’s perfectly captured the essence of the music. Did he exceed your expectations of what you hoped he might be able to produce for you?
SCHWADORF: Yes, when we first contacted him we knew we wanted his style to underline the 90s vibe of the music. So, in emails, we talked about ideas back and forth until we found a theme that we thought would work great. Dan sent us a sketch on which we agreed on and then we didn't hear from him until that morning I got a mail from him with an attachment. Of course, I knew it was the cover. Man, that moment I opened the attachment...
MD: Presumably, you’re fans of Dan’s work from over the years? Do you have any favourite album covers from his work? Personally, I think ‘The Unknown’ is up there amongst his best.
SCHWADORF: Absolutely agreed. I still sometimes get goosebumps just looking at the cover. It's a masterpiece.
MD: Prophecy have also released a compilation album of your material on the same day as ‘The Unknown’, which contains tracks from the new album as well as older material. This seems to be a fairly unusual move, so was a compilation album, at this time, purely a label decision, or did you feel the need for one too?
SCHWADORF: It was a label decision and we thought, why not. We did the tracklist, foreword and layout with our graphic designer, so we were in full control of the outcome. It's a cool way to introduce new audiences to the band!
MD: You seemed to subvert the post-album release touring norm by playing a series of shows around Europe in April, ahead of the ‘The Unknown’s release. Was it a case of the tour being booked and the original release date delayed? And will there be more shows later in the year to support the release of the album?
SCHWADORF: We just wanted to put away the pressure of finishing the album, just for a tour, and used the old school approach of promoting the album on a tour instead of only touring for selling the album. We decided this when we started recording the album. More shows to come! We are supporting Pain across Europe on their "Coming Home" Tour. Check our site/Facebook for more details!
MD: Finally, to counteract all the fear, horror, menace and darkness, can you offer up any final words of optimism, brightness and positivity?
SCHWADORF: "There is a pleasure in the pathless woods, There is a rapture on the lonely shore, There is society, where none intrudes, By the deep sea, and music in its roar: I love not man the less, but Nature more." Byron
Songs of Good Taste EP (2001)
The Deathship Has a New Captain (2004)
Carpathia - A Dramatic Poem (2005)
The Wolves Go Hunt Their Prey (2007)
Albums & EPs
Set Sail to Mystery (2010)
Witching Hour (2013)
The Kindred of the Sunset (2016)
The Unknown (2016)