Ever since I managed to grab one of the 100 tape copies of “Journey To The Unknown”, released by Felipe of Procession on his Burn Records last summer, I’ve been looking forward to the debut album of the Chilean quartet. The album was meant to be released towards the end of 2012, but after some delays, “Eternal Flame Of Deception” is finally out. We got in touch with bass player Christoper Falk and singer/guitarist Bastian Velásquez to get to know the band a bit better. They answered all the questions, apart from the one regarding the vocals, together.
METAL GRAVE was formed after you had played thrash metal in the band Sacrilegio for a while. Why did you suddenly decide to form a more traditional heavy metal-band?
– Sacrilegio was the kind of band that you make when you are 15 years old to have some fun and spit in the world’s face. It helped us a lot to work on stage and to perceive metal, but it was always a band only for our “entertainment”. This doesn’t mean that we don’t enjoy it with METAL GRAVE as well. There was a moment when, as a band, we felt limited by Sacrilegio, we didn’t quite know what limited us, but we couldn’t go forward from there. In the beginning, METAL GRAVE started as a band parallel to Sacrilegio, with Bastián and Diego (Castro, guitar) working on riffs with the obvious and notorious influences like King Diamond, Mercyful Fate and Running Wild. The idea worked, and little by little we realized that this new band had the potential to evoke these obscure rituals from the eighties, rituals that we worshipped. All our energy was placed in this new band, leaving Sacrilegio behind.
Does Sacrilegio still exist side by side with METAL GRAVE?
– I don’t think we know know that ourselves, but what do we know is that METAL GRAVE is above all our others priorities.
From the outside, the band name doesn’t make a lot of sense. Does it have some kind of meaning for you, or have you just placed to words “Metal” and “Grave” together?
– We wanted to create a name, a literal name, that people didn’t need to digest for a long time, that they didn’t need to ask more than what they read, and it was conceived in joining the power of metal – heavy, doom, speed, thrash, black, death, whatever you want to – with the darkness of the shadow world, with the underworld and with the stench of the grave. The idea is for the public to see a funeral when we come in, a sacrifice when we begin to play, and finally a ritual when they hear our songs.
I guess it’s safe to say that the image of METAL GRAVE is inspired by dark metal masters, Mercyful Fate, but so are a lot of other new bands like Sweden’s Portrait and In Solitude as well as Germany’s Attic. Would you say that the similarity in image is stronger than those in the music, or do you rate Mercyful Fate as a big musical influence as well?
– Mercyful Fate has always been a great inspiration and influence on METAL GRAVE, perhaps the most notorious one. Obviously on the image, it’s all an ensemble of things: scenery, music, clothing, etc. We’ve never wanted to be a copy of anything, but the influences stay in your mind, whether you want it or not. In the beginning of the band we proposed influences, but then the riffs, the singing, just flowed naturally. The idea is that nothing should be forced. The lookalike with bands such as Portrait, Attic or In Solitude in image and scenery is obvious, because they have, mostly, the same influences. The beings of different bands have a different interaction with the world. Maybe the image can be similar, but the final taste will never be the same.
Listening to your album, I was reminded a bit of one of my fave bands Running Wild (see the header of this page), around “Gates To Purgatory” and “Branded And Exiled”. What is your relationship to Running Wild in general? Would you name them as an influence for METAL GRAVE?
– Of course Running Wild is an influence for METAL GRAVE! Even before we formed the band they have played a great influence on us, and it would not surprise me if that is being shown in the music. As I’ve said before, we don’t want to sound or look like something, but the influences remains. This resemblance may have something to do with the fact that Pablo, who produced, mixed and mastered our album, is a big Running Wild fan, especially of those albums you mention.
Personally I can’t believe how deep the Rolf and his pirate ship has sunken, but that is a completely different story. “Heavy metal influenced by classic bands and literature” says the advertisement for “Eternal Flame Of Deception”. Is your interest in literature reflected only in the lyrics, or would you say that literature also put a stamp on your musical expression?
– You could say so. The appreciation of “La Divina Commedia” helps you approach the afterlife in a different way, an approach different to the usual, which affects your way of seeing and understanding things, and, by that way, it affects the way you compose as well. The lyrics, as it is known, are inspired by the first part of La Divina Commedia: “Inferno”, and they form a fictitious conceptual story created by us, who develops through the seven songs of the album, and these occurs between hell, his earthly life and the psyche of our character.
“La Divina commedia” is one of the most famous works in literature and has inspired countless artists to write and paint and also quite a few heavy metal-bands to write songs and albums through the years. How do you approach a magnificent piece of art like this? Are the songs based around other people’s interpretation of Dante’s work, or have you made your own interpretation?
– As I said, the album is inspired by the first part of La Divina Commedia: “Inferno”. It’s a conceptual album about a crusader knight, under the lead of Richard Lionheart. He, also our character, dies in combat, and, contrary to all his beliefs, he wakes up facing the Gates of Hell. We approach Dante’s work through his description of Hell: the entrance, the Acheron River, Limbo, King Minos Court, The Nine Circles. Since I was young, I’ve had some knowledge on the subject of Hell as described by Dante, and I’ve always been attracted to it: A hell for every kind of sinner. Another way that we approach this piece of art is through the eyes of another artist, a unique one: Gustave Doré. His spectacular works in the “Divine Comedy” have always helped me to comprehend in a most accurate way how Hell was depicted by Dante, in which our character dives throughout the album.
The original version of the song “Journey Into The Unknown” included the part “Face The Gates” which is now a track on its own. Why have you decided to do it this way on the album?
– We thought the history of our character should have a beginning, that his feelings should be transmitted to every one of the listeners, to shout directly at the audience and, that way, turning them into a victim of this deception, of this pain. The introduction on the single didn’t quite manage to do this, it was in an early and basic expressive phase, but still, it had the notes, the music to keep working on it. We never thought of making a new introduction, we thought “Face the Gates” was the correct one to lead us into the story, and that’s why on the album the music on the track is still the same, but arranged in a different way, with a different feeling, something that stops being musical and starts being visceral.
The vocals on the album are very unique, and probably not everyone’s cup of tea. What kind of emotions does Bastian try to evoke with his singing?
Bastián: – The truth is that I do not try to “evoke” anything; to try it is to overthink or force something. When I sing or we play, it’s the band’s soul that being heard, it’s the feeling of every being expressing themselves. That being said, if you hear gloom and darkness in the music, that’s what we’re feeling, or what the character in story feels, he have a life of his own, I am but a mere messenger.
People have been able to listen to the whole new album for free for almost half a year through Bandcamp, something that Christopher has learned to accept:
– At first we weren’t quite convinced that the entire album should be online. We thought only the two tracks uploaded previously would be available, and thus, we released those two tracks independently as the “Abandon Every Hope” Promo. So when the label uploaded the entire album, we were quite surprised, but eventually it helped a lot. I guess that, due to all the factors that delayed the album, it ended up helping us more than the expected.
Judging from the music on Bandcamp, since my preordered copy hasn’t arrived yet, I really like the sound, very heavy and dark and not too polished. What kind of production did you want?
– The album was recorded in DM6 Studios, and we own Pablo Clares, the owner of the studio, the sound that we achieved. When we entered the studio, we didn’t exactly know how the album was going to sound, but instead figured it out whilst recording. This process, due to some misfortunes, also was lengthened: It began in March and ended in August last year. Then, during September/October the album was mixed and mastered. It was going to be released by the end of 2012, but we weren’t satisfied at all with the artwork that was being done. That said, we decided to drop it and make a new one that was done by Bastián.
Is there one particular album that you used as a reference for how you wanted “The Eternal Flame Of Deception” to sound?
– At the beginning we thought of some influences for the production, for example, King Diamond’s “Abigail”, an obscure sound with a lot of presence, but when we entered the recording process with Pablo, we just focused on it and let Pablo take care of the sound while we were progressing. He knew our influences very well, and because of that we achieved the obtained sound, which was exactly what we were looking for: Obscure and raw.
You seem to have a relationship with another Chilean band, Procession, as the tape version of “Journey Into The Unknown” was released on Felipes Burn label. Are you from the same city, or do you know him for another reason?
– To be honest, I do not remember exactly how the relationship between METAL GRAVE and Felipe began. Possibly it was by watching the YouTube videos of our first presentations. By the time we released our single “Journey Into the Unknown” in August 2011, Felipe offered us to release it on tape in Sweden under his own label, Burn Records, and it was a great idea since it would help us to have some distribution over there. Then, when Procession came to Chile in October 2011, we played with them on two shows in Valparaíso and Santiago. Soon, the same single will be released on tape again, but this time in the United States, through Arcane Metal Arts.
Most traditional heavy metal bands from South America have a sound that is different from the sound of bands hailing from Europe or the States. In your own opinion, is it possible to hear that METAL GRAVE is a South American band?
– I totally agree with you, South American bands of the old times sounded really different than the European ones: Resistencia, V8, Gillman, Arkangel, etc., but I don’t think we have much resemblance, musically, to those bands. Maybe in that aspect, we could be considered more as a European-sounding band, but, maybe you can feel the “South American vibe” due to our more raw and aggressive sound and presence that most of other bands of the same style.