Greetings, Azrael. The first question I have is this: how'd you define your music to someone unfamiliar with it? Are there some bands or artists that you could compare your sound or concept with, without grimacing in discomfort?
Azrael > Greetings. Plaguewielder to me is a cocktail of despondent, morose, forlorn, nihilistic ambient music with ritualistic tendencies. A deliciously dark overture of disease, decay and death. I am sure there are some bands and projects out there that have similar sounds and certainly themes that are similar to what we are are doing but none come to mind off the top of my head. When I started composing for Plaguewielder there was no other music in my mind that I wanted it to sound similar to. If so then it was purely a subconsious act within my experimental stages. Obviously parts of my other project Hoyland creep into the soundscape every now and again, but I think that is only natural because of the ways I compose.
When was Plaguewielder born, and why? Did you have the same vision and themes for it in the project's beginning as you do now?
Azrael > Plaguewielder was brought into existance in the early Spring of 2011 as a means to express things I didn't see fit to express with my other project Hoyland. Hoyland was never meant to be blacker than black music, but something that is both light and dark and also something inbetween. A lot of grey areas are explored in terms of themes and atmospheres regarding Hoyland whereas with Plaguewielder it is alot more macabre, obfuscous and rotten in terms of sound and atmosphere. At other times there can be tragic sounding melodies and atmospheres also. It is a far more extreme entity and something that reeks of putrid death and decay.
My vision and outlook regarding the whole scope of what Plaguewielder is shall indeed remain the same now as when the project first began. If anything I wish to develope, explore and dig deeper regarding all aspects of what Plaguewielder is.
I know that you've described Plaguewielder as "Nihilistik Plague Ambient." Would you like to open up this definition a little bit?
Azrael > Nihilistik Plague Ambient is the very definition of everything that Plaguewielder is. Extreme, savage, despairing and spiteful. The plague part is describing a theme that has been a major part of the project, the black death, disease and death. The final part I think is self explanatory. I think the term is also open to interpretation and can mean different things to different people. Priapus23 was the one that came up with this term.
What is the concept of Plaguewielder? The song titles bring out such themes as nihilism, death, darkness, suffering, and even some occult and chthonian themes. Are these simply some things you're interested in and want to explore deeper, or is it moreso about who and what you are as a being?
Azrael > The primal theme has been disease, death, suffering and the mortality of all things flesh. Extreme darkness. The one thing in particular that has dominated the material thus far is the bubonic plague, better known as the black death. This is something that has fascinated me since I was a child and is a morbid curiosity to me. I do intend to go deeper with the themes and also at some point expand into other things also. The themes will always be set in the hidious and macabre though as that is an integral part of what Plaguewielder is.
Further, is there some certain reason you're bringing out these topics through the medium of music instead of, for example, writing or painting? Do you have some other artistic ventures outside of musical expression? I've understood that you've at least done some cover artworks for albums, correct?
Azrael > Music has always been a passion and it is every thing to me. I see it as the best form to truely express what lies within my heart and soul. Of course I am not dismissing writing, or painting or any other art form. Everyone has their strengths and weaknesses regarding art. Music works best for me and is my own personal weapon of choice. Like a painter I work with a blank canvas that is called silence and audio is my paint.
Outside of music I have been known to turn my hand to poetry and try to write but it is not my strongest expression. I've never had much of a hand when it comes to painting, it's just not something I can do unfortunatly. I have however in the last few years started to experiment with doing digital art, creating texture pieces and the manipulation of photographs and things like that which as you mention became part of creating album artwork. I have created album covers for a US ethereal ambient project called Melankolia, Thaumiel Sonozaki and I collaborated on artwork with Priapus23 for the Akousik Timbre Frekuency album Ritualistik Kuttings. I have also done some of the artwork for my own projects. I try to do the best with whatever I am working with and what my focus is on.
How is the process of creating new Plaguewielder-material like? Where do you draw the inspiration for it?
Azrael > It all depends on the inspiration as to how a Plaguewielder track is composed and structured. First thing I do is think about what I want the subject of the song to be and how I want to express it. Then it comes down to composing the music. Sometimes a bass line or a melody would set the idea off for a track or sometimes it could be a particular rhythm, a feeling or a particular sound also. I will then build on that idea for one section of the song. I then think where the song is going and decide what the next sections could and will be. After this I oversee the structure, dynamics and flow and make sure everything is exactly as I want it to be. At this point the song is handed over to Priapus23 for his vocals parts, mixing and mastering.
When I was a young child I had a great fear of death and dying once I had a full comprehensible understanding of it. My fear was so great that I used to have terrible nightmares which occured night after night. Then there was one particular evening when all this changed. I was staying with relatives and the time had come to retire and go to sleep, which was relatively late for a small child. In my slumber I had a dream, but it wasn't like a normal dream as in visions and such but more of a feeling. A terrible feeling. Everything was closing in and darkness was washing over me like a deathlike sensation. I had no history of sleepwalking prior to this dream yet I was woken at the back door of my relatives house trying to get out and escape this fate I had felt. I had apparently ran out of my bedroom and through the whole house screaming in sheer terror. After this incident I never had a nightmare about death ever since and my fears dissapeared. I have no fear of dying at all now, but find it interesting and a natural part of the life cycle. I would say that experience would be the basic foundational inspiration as it is something that I have never forgotten. Other inspirational sources would be from my interest in books and literature, movies and things like that.
Your debut EP (which I reviewed a while earlier) "World Funeral Requiem" was released digitally through Sombre Soniks Studios. Was it originally your intention to make this EP a download-release, and how did you end up in Sombre Soniks' roster? Have you been satisfied with their input so far?
Azrael > It was originally my intention to release the Plaguewielder material in a physical format but I require it to be a particular quality and standard. When I was putting together some of the earliest Plaguewielder tracks I sent them to several labels I thought could be a good home for the project. I was also approached by some labels who had taken some interest in what I was doing. Some of the labels I had sent tracks to was very polite, saying they appreciated the sounds but had no room on their already fully loaded rosters. A couple of labels that wanted to keep me on ice so they could see how Plaguewielder developed as I continued working on tracks. There was also other labels that refused to answer my questions regarding the quality of their materials used for releases.
I was approached by Priapus23 and Sombre Soniks with the idea of Plaguewielder appearing on the second volume in a series of compilations that was dark ambient based. Priapus23 is a good friend and had helped me a few times with certain Hoyland tracks in the remixing and mastering department. He had also given me some label ideas for Plaguewielder. I relished the chance to appear on the compilation. It was discussed that Priapus23 would mix and master the track to really bring it to the next level from the demo tracks I had made previous. It was during these conversations that we thought about adding vocal textures to the track. This really did put the track in a place I really wanted it to be, adding further dimension and increasing the atmosphere to a catastrophic level. A few months later I had begun to write more tracks and kept Priapus23 in the picture regarding everything that was going on. He had some ideas about mixing and mastering and I had the craving for him to perform more vocals. He understood fully in regards to what I wanted the Plaguewielder sound to be, plus we worked so well together within this whole entity that it wasn't long before he became a fully fledged member. We both agreed that Sombre Soniks was the best home for Plaguewielder as then we would have full control of the output. I couldn't be any happier in regards to Sombre Soniks and the way Plaguewielder has been handled.
"World Funeral Requiem" is quite a name for a record. Is it a theme-album of some sort?
Azrael > Although the tracks on World Funeral Requiem are not related to each other directly in my own mind, they are part of the theme and Plaguewielder way. It all comes down to the listener who can decide how much or how little the tracks relate to each other. I always wanted to leave it open for people to decide for themselves.
At least some of your songs feature vocals (well, moreso gurgles, snarls and what-not), but do any of them feature lyrics? If not, is it something you've considered adding?
Azrael > Everything regarding vocals I have left in the hands of Priapus23. That is his department and I just leave him to do what he feels serves the songs best. Like I said before, we are usually on the same page regarding everything ideas and soundscape wise. I respect the ideas and creativeness he brings to the table and I feel what he does vocally on the tracks suits the atmospheres and sounds perfectly. To me it truely sounds evil and decayed. The idea of having lyrics or even subliminals in the tracks is a big possibility for the future.
While on topic, the vocals have been handled by P23, the man behind Sombre Soniks Studios and Akoustik Timbre Frekuency, a musical project I have great respect for. He also mixed and mastered your first EP. How did you two come to work together on this project?
Azrael > When I was working on the debut Hoyland album "Dance of the Twilight Stars" I had started listening to Akoustik Timbre Frekuency and so I was aware of Priapus23. I really admired how different the project sounded and how Priapus23 worked. In early 2010 the debut Hoyland album was released on the German label Quartier23 of which Akoustik Timbre Frekuency had released albums on also. Later I received a message from Priapus23 asking me if I would like to partake in an experimental compilation idea he had which was called "Do What Thou Will". As you can imagine I was extremely suprised he had contacted me as I had an admiration for his art. After the compilation was completed we kept in contact on a constant basis. Later when I was demoing tracks for Plaguewielder I revealed to him my ideas and he seemed genuinely intrigued. I mentioned I was looking for labels which he helped with, giving me the names of a few labels that he thought could be interested. As I mentioned earlier I created a track for a dark ambient compilation album that was to be released through Sombre Soniks. That was the beginning of us working together with Plaguewielder.
The tracks for the first release "World Funeral Requiem" were progressing very nicely, the vocals from Priapus23 were sounding really great and in a moment of pure clarity it was decided that Sombre Soniks would be the best home for Plaguewielder. I really can't express enough what it means to work with Priapus23 within Plaguewielder. His skills with the vocals, mixing and mastering have made a huge difference and brought the project closer to my original vision. He is as crucial to the project as myself in my eyes.
Plaguewielder has been featured on (at least) four different compilations with exclusive tracks. How have you come to take part on these, and are you generally a fan of compilation-releases - with exclusive material or not?
Azrael > The first time Plaguewielder appeared on a compilation album it was advised by Sombre Soniks that I get in touch with the guy that was putting it together. I did so and that was the entrance of Plaguewielder into the dark ambient and experimental music arena. All of the compilation appearances, with the exception of the Dark Ambient Volume 2 compilation by Sombre Soniks was set up in a similar fashion. I have always tried to submit exclusive tracks with both projects to compilation albums. I like to do that.
What are your future plans for Plaguewielder? Do you already have some new releases, compilation-partakes or even live-performances in mind?
Azrael > The next step will be a full length album. I wish to delve deeper into the chaos and darkness. Explore where we can go with the sound and really develop everything. At the moment it is only in the planning and sketch phase but I have some ideas. Compilation appearences will begin again when we have the material to do so. I have also had plans to shoot a real promo video for a track for quite some time now. That is something I would really like to do and I think would add more dimension to what we are doing, especially with the vision and image part.
Priapus23 and myself have discussed doing something live. It is something we have and are still considering. I would relish the prospect of performing our death ritual live.
Plaguewielder isn't your only musical project, as you currently work under the name Hoyland as well. Would you like to tell us something about this project and its newest album "Upon The Mountain Vastlands"? Are you currently a part of some other projects as well?
Azrael > I began Hoyland in 2006 as a means of escaping frustrations with bands and to try something new. I had worked on something similar before in the late 1990s with my good friend Kev Thacker. A project called Ilmarin which made two albums. Hoyland was me stepping out alone for the first time musically. Compared to Plaguewielder Hoyland is more "ethereal ambient" with pagan themes, but also influences from liturature.
Hoyland has had four releases so far: "Dance of the Twilight Stars" and "Upon the Mountain Vastlands" both of which was released on the Quartier23 label, "The Trinity of Painted Symphonies" which was a triple split album with Melankolia and Tamerlan and "Dreams Within a Dream" which was a digital release but is being released on CD very soon.
Azrael > "Upon The Mountain Vastlands" is the second full length album that was released at the begining of 2012 on Quartier23. Like the first album it contains nine tracks but I feel with a progressed and developed sound, touching on neo- classical in different parts of the album. I also utilised some retro electronic sounds alongside the orchestral sounds as I am a big fan of 1980s movie soundtracks such as the Tangerine Dream version of Legend. The album was mastered by Priapus23 at Sombre Soniks. I spent a whole year creating the album and I am very pleased with the final result.
Along with Plaguewielder and Hoyland I also operate in an ethereal ambient/neo- classical Tolkien based project called Gil-Galad which was formed with Mike O'Brien of Melankolia. This project honors and celebrates the writings of J.R.R.Tolkien and Middle Earth. Another project I am involved with is called Thornland that was formed with vocalist Dagon with whome I am in a black metal band with called Heathen Deity. Thornland is a dark folk/ambient project. Currently the only output so far on CD is a track we did for a compilation album on the U.K. label Cold Spring but we have a full length album sketched out and planned. I also play in a few other bands.
This one's just for the sake of not forgetting your past. Your earlier band- projects include names such as 13 Candles, Wither and Ethereal Forest. What were they about, and are they dead and gone now?
Azrael > 13 Candles is a goth band I joined in the early to mid 1990s. It was the first band I ever played with and to this date is the most successful venture into music. We released three albums and was very much a touring band, playing with the likes of Cradle of Filth, The Damned, Christian Death and many others. This band ended in 2000 but by 2005 we had started to do the odd show here and there. Now we are fully functional as a band again and have some shows planned for 2013 in the U.K. and are planning a new album. Ethereal Forest is a black metal band with some folk metal tendencies. This band is currently recording it's debut album. Wither is a Norwegian symphonic black metal project that never really got past the demo stage, which was a shame. I would have liked to explore Wither more.
This one's quite irrelevant, but I'll bring it up anyway. I originally wondered why your EP's cover artwork looks so familiar to me, until I later realized that the same image has been used by Anaal Nathrakh on their 2009 album "In the Constellation of the Black Widow". Did you know of this prior to releasing the EP, and are you familiar with the works of Anaal Nathrakh?
Azrael > Gustave Doré's paintings and artwork are very renowned so it comes to no suprise that the image has been used before. The Grim Reaper piece is my favorite by him and I wanted to incorporate it into my artwork for World Funeral Requiem, but heavily altered. In the original the reaper is sitting on the moon whereas I wanted him to sit upon earth. I had problems making that image look good so I decided to take another of Doré's pieces that depicted people that were suffering and dying and placed them under the reaper. This is to represent the world and of course humanity. After this I engulfed the whole image in flame rather than have a starlit sky as in the original piece.
I am very aware of Anaal Nathrakh but I had never seen the "In the Constellation of the Black Widow" cover before. I like their earlier work like "The Codex Necro" and "When Fire Rains Down from the Sky, Mankind Will Reap as It Has Sown". After "Domine Non Es Dignus" in 2004 I had lost track of the band and didn't follow them so much.
Anything else you'd like to add or discuss further?
Azrael > I'd just like to say thank you all at Damned By Light for having me, it has been a true pleasure.
Thank you for your time! I'll be looking forward to Plaguewielder's next release.
Azrael > Thank you!