PROCESSION: No spelling error

procession-photoPROCESSION is definitely one of the finest new doom metal bands out there. The heavy riffs, the majestic voice of singer Felipe, the beautiful solos, everything about this band is perfect. Especially the way the band sounds on the new album “To Reap Heavens Apart”. Taking nothing away from “Destroyers Of The Faith” which was an excellent album, but this new one is simply amazing. This long feature is made up of two separate interviews. The first part was done around the release of “Destroyers Of The Faith”, covering the formation of the band, the recording of the demo, the EP called “The Cult Of Disease” and of course the debut, while the second part focuses on the happenings after “Destroyers Of The Faith” was released with an extra eye of course on the brand new album. Get yourself a beer, this one will take some time to get through! Singer and guitarist Felipe is of course the one answering our questions.

Please start by giving us a little insight in the history of the band.

– Well, PROCESSION was formed and forged somewhere in 2006, after the first and only Candlemass gig ever in our homeland, organized by ourselves and a few friends.  Then I and Daniel (former bass player) started composing heavy/doom metal tunes for fun at the bar we used to work in Valparaiso a the coast of Chile. Due to metal/drunk circumstances, I got fired in 2008, so I was just about to move back to the capital, Santiago, when I thought about recording a demo tape, called “Burn”, just to immortalize the songs for ourselves and friends that could be interested in it. The concept behind it was pretty simple and straight: burning Christians! We didn’t have a drummer, as the ones we tried during that year were awful, so I played drums on it myself, as I knew the songs and where and how to direct them. But I’m not a drummer, so the result was poor to say the least. Haha. Anyway, we did everything in two drunken days, then I moved to the city and started spreading some CD-R’s among friends. When Gabriel Gatica (Brutal Passion/Compilation Of Death Zine) gave one of these to Carlos from Kuravilu Records, he proposed a 200 copies tape deal and the rest was magic. He started spreading them around the world, we started getting some feedback, one of those tapes reached Iron Kodex Records from Germany and they offered us an EP release. Somehow we knew we had to make one last effort and put a real band together, so we found a proper drummer for recording  “The Cult Of Disease”. We had our first gig in August 2008 and the machine started crushing to never stop again.

You also play in Capilla Ardiente, with Claudio.  What is the main difference between this band and PROCESSION? Perhaps that PROCESSION is more pure doom, while Capilla Ardiente also has other influences?

– Let´s put it simple…we both like a good barbecue, but when he goes to my place, I prepare it myself and vice-versa.  Capilla Ardiente is Claudio’s influences, view and way of composing. I compose and direct the music and concepts for PROCESSION. It’s my inspiration and view of how a doom metal band, that I would like and support, should sound and behave.  Both have differences when it comes to melodies, vocal tone and of course the tuning (Ca: C# / Pr: Eb). Claudio is a great old friend and a doom metal addict, he likes PROCESSION, so he was the first choice on the list when we needed a new bass player. Of course things can get little delayed with one or another because we have to split ourselves based on the priority of the band in a specific moment…but there´s a lot of material written for a Capilla Ardiente full lenght now, as we started with it even before PROCESSION. But you´re right there too, Capilla Ardiente is supposed to be a good mixture of old heavy,thrash and doom metal.

Let’s talk a little about “Destroyers Of The Faith”. You have rerecorded one song “The Road To The Gravegarden” which was also on your demo as well as on the EP “The Cult Of Disease”. Since you are recording the song again, it must mean that you either think it’s one of your best ones, or that you weren’t fully satisfied with the earlier version?

– It is indeed one of our favourites. It works really good on stage and we’ve received comments from bangers saying it´s like a PROCESSION hymn or something. Well as I mentioned, the demo tape was pretty unserious, with poor drumming and even my vocals…Hell, I don´t even remember recording them haha. We needed to give it another chance, with a heavier sound, a few more elements, proper pounding drumming and that´s it. I think it´s a monster now!

After the EP, PROCESSION changed a couple of members. First off, the bass player Daniel left and was replaced by the already mentioned Claudio. Then a new guy behind the drumkit, Francisco Aguirre arrived, replacing Francisco Vera who performed on the newer songs on “The Cult of Disease”. Felipe fills us in …

– I won´t go into details about Daniel, but when I got back in Chile after the 2009 tour I couldn´t trust him anymore, not either share responsibilities nor see real compromise with the band. With Francisco Vera, is just that he´s 100% busy with his other band Battlerage, as well as job and family. So, I had 80% of the album demoed at home, Claudio liked the new tunes and our studio engineer proposed Francisco Aguirre. We locked ourselves in the rehearsal room for five months to build the songs and did a couple of gigs.

The playing time of the “Destroyers Of The Faith” is around 46 minutes, which is more or less the same as “The Cult of Disease” which was released as an EP. A bit strange, but also understandable I guess, as “The Cult Of Disease” was made up of two different recordings.

The EP was just supposed to be released on vinyl, so we wanted to have it on side A and give the demo on Side B just as bonus tracks. The label was not precisely clear about it and even worse, on the lately released CD version there’s no separation nor specific info about it. It shows a full tracklist on the back, which probably created all this confusion. You never stop learning…

A lot of doom metal bands are starting their albums with a faster song,  and very often this one turns out to be one of the best on the album. This is also the case with the title song on “Destroyers Of The Faith”. Why are doom metal-bands so good at creating faster songs? It all seems a bit ironic, right?

– Ha! Good question and theory…I can´t answer for the rest, but my idea was always to start high up and end down in the abyss, if you know what I mean.  And I’m talking about speed and melodies. It´s an album that goes on the way down, with this bombastic intro, the fast aggressive song, the mid tempo pounding one, the dark and heavy doom metal tunes and then ending up with a solemn choir. The higher you fall from, the deeper you reach…Also, I always like having one or two up-tempo songs on our gigs as I still consider PROCESSION as a heavy metal band playing doom metal. We like head banging and this dark energy on stage!

destroyers-of-the-faith-processionMy fave song on the album is probably “Chants Of The Nameless” which at times reminds me a little bit of Warning. The clean melodic part from 3.30 till just over 4 minutes is incredible and the guitarsolo is just wonderful. I ask Felipe to tell us a little bit more on how this impressive piece of music came together, and it appears, the song is also his favourite track from the album.

– I think we really managed to create this slow and obscure nebula which seems to be slowly crawling down and down. Melodically I had the riffs from before, the guitars are purely Maiden/Priest inspired. The vocals and the solo were born at rehearsals, wich is also kinda magical, you know, ending up keeping and immortalizing something strong that in the beginning was pure improvisation. As most of the songs on “Destroyers Of The Faith” it has a pretty classical structure, you know, chorus, bridge, etc… We ´ve already played it once live and it´s pretty intense. Also the lyrics are good, as the concept for it is “prayer” and “salvation”, but in a really negative and personal way…I remember finishing it at the studio and discussing that feeling with Claudio, who contributed with some of the lines too.

The doom metal-scene is very active these days, what has been the best release of the past two or three years, and is there one or two new band that have really caught your attention?

– I would say the Funeral Circle EP is really good, also the latest The Wizar´d album, the Age Of Taurus demo, the Dark Covenant demo, Lord Vicar LP, new Forsaken, new Count Raven, all Griftegård, new While Heaven Wept, new Atlantean Kodex, all The Lamp Of Thoth, Semlah…and well, this new version of Candlemass, noone can deny it: both albums are pure all star doom metal! It really hurts in the pocket with so many releases coming out!

The trio format seems to be quite effective for doom metal bands, since many great bands (Count Raven, Revelation, PROCESSION and more) have worked or are still working like that). Why is that, you think? Less members, less fighting, or does it suit the genre to work as a three piece?

– Well, less people equals less trouble, definitely haha. For PROCESSION, it also means a really closed circle of friends and people who perfectly understand each other musically, with specific roles. And one of those roles for example is a really “present” bass line, with constant arrangements and licks, etc. which I dunno if it would sound and feel the same with an extra guitarist. We feel comfortable with it and even if we´ve been considering adding an extra guitar on stage in the future, is not “extremely” necessary right now.

Fast forward from October 2010 till March 2013. Since we spoke last time, things have happened. Felipe’s old comrade Claudio is still in PROCESSION, but the band has expanded from a trio to a quartet, and the two other musicians, the drummer Uno Bruniusson and the guitarist Jonas Pedersen, are both Swedish.

I recently did a review of “To Reap Heavens Apart” for Scream magazine, and awarded it with a perfect score,  6 out of 6 points. I think it’s like the third record that receives that kind of score from me during the last five years or so, so it’s indeed a special album.

– Haha! That’s nice. Thank you!

Is this the perfect PROCESSION-album?

– We think so. Otherwise there wouldn’t be a point in releasing it. This time, we have been working more like PROCESSION, more like a band. It’s not just me anymore making all the music, anymore. We have a second guitarist and we all participated in the process. We all come from different places, but most importantly, we want to go in the same direction. We were also lucky to be able to work without any pressure this time.

Even though Felipe thinks it might be close to perfect, he believes it is possible to top it in the future.

– Yes. Or at least to create something that is at least as good. We listen to doom metal all the time, and what we try to do is something that differs a bit from what all the other bands are trying to achieve. I call it slow heavy metal, because we never forget that we’re a heavy metal band, influenced by bands like Iron Maiden and Judas Priest. We try to pour some of that into slow music. It’s pretty much an old man’s taste. Haha!

Is it important for you to give the listener a different experience with this album compared to “Destroyers Of The Faith”?

– Yeah, because they’re different stories, you know. Another difference, regarding what you asked before is that I wouldn’t call PROCESSION a depressive band. The other day I was listening to some people describing doom metal, and they were all saying: “They’re all introspective, and sing about how society or mankind are fucked”. We know about these things, but in our opinion, you can still pull some strength out of it. We always try to focus on how you can be a stronger being. “Destroyers Of The Faith” was about oppressive forces trying to pull you down, and that you must never surrender, as Saxon says. Right now it’s about what you can do inside yourself to become a more powerful being. The skies we talk about are pretty much like the skies we have inside ourselves.

It seems like the lyrics are quite personal. Did you learn something about yourself when you wrote them?

– It’s pretty much related to certain things that happened last year. The day after I finished recording the album, I made some big changes in my life. I don’t know if it’s related, but the four of us were living in a house in the woods of Sweden for a month and recorded the album there. So it’s personal, but not only for myself, it’s personal for the band. It really worked as a catharsis for the four of us. We all had a really hard time getting back on track after spending a month just thinking and breathing this record. We brought Claudio over from Chile, he recorded the record, then went back to Chile. It was a lot of work, and it consumes a part of you, so you’re not the same anymore when it’s finished. That’s pretty much in the lyrics as well, the process, taking a jump into the void and surrendering to these large skies.

You’ve said that this album is the next logical step, but without moving away from your influences. That sounds almost like a paradox.procession-cover

– Haha, it’s because of what I was saying about the different concepts. “Destroyers Of The Fate” was about anger and aggression to the outside, now it’s time to speak to yourself. So, I meant it conceptually, not musically. The influences are still the same, it’s all heavy metal, we speak of death and dying in some ways, and of course there is doom metal since we play slow and take influence from our favourites, old Trouble and Candlemass. The concept is the next step in this chain of self-development, that’s what I meant.

When you sit down to make a new album, do you start with an overview of what you want to create before you start writing the individual songs? I am asking because the album as whole seem important to you?

– Not really. But for this record, we did two songs in like two days. A long time before recording, we came up with “Conjurer” and “Death & Judgement”. Then for like two years, we didn’t make anything. When there were two weeks left until the recording should start, we just had a bunch of loose riffs. For the riffs I make, I make them based on vocal lines I come up with while I am taking a walk or whatever. So yeah, the music comes first, but it’s based on vocal lines. To be able to do the lyrics, I need to have the base of the song.  

I read somewhere that you claim to know early in the process where the songs you are writing will end up on the album. How can you be so sure?

– I don’t know. We got some favourite tracks from before, one of them is “Chants Of The Nameless” from the first album. When we came up with the last song of the new album, “Far From Light”, I started realizing that I felt the same thing: A big fucking, slow march onwards. I would have liked to end the last album with “Chants Of The Nameless”, to end up on a high, on a fucking mountain ready to roll down. Instead, that’s how we did it now. The title track, I realized is probably the most complex thing we have done so far, with a lot of riffs, different parts and a lot of guitar stuff going on. This had to be the first climax of the record. We build up with the first two or three songs, then it explodes with the title track. It’s also represents the album by being the promotional track. We put emphasis on how the songs function together. While the title track is a fast and explosive song, it’s followed by “The Death Minstrel” which is almost funeral doom and then we go up again with this slow, marching to the burial-song, in the form of “Far From Light” I studied narratives and stuff in university, so I have a really hard time not seeing stories in everything I listen to. Stories need to have a first climax, before things calm down, and then the second climax, which has to be even bigger than the first. In fact, it’s a bit like a movie.

I had an interesting experience, because the first times I listened to the album, my impression was that the last two songs were a bit weaker than the rest, but looking back, I think it must have been because I absolutely loved the title track. It certainly was the climax, you’re talking about.

– Yeah, and in a way, it should be like that, cause it certainly goes all the way down after the title track. But for me, it’s a different climax in the last song, a bit of a goodbye climax. The title track is the “heavy metal-song” on the album, so we kind of expected a lot of people to like that song the most, but that’s why it’s the title track as well. Also, all the moods of PROCESSION are there, there are fast parts, mid tempo and slow parts as well as solos. Everything is there. I don’t know if we can make a new song like that again, but I like the fact that all the moods of the record are gathered in one song, the title track. 

In these times where many people are listening only to single tracks on YouTube or Spotify, “To Reap Heavens Apart” is a perfect example of how listening to an album is a different experience compared to listening to a bunch of single tracks.

– I think it’s a generational thing. I am almost thirty years old, but by circumstance I got a chance to start listening to music on cassettes in Chile when I was young, back in 1994-95. Listen to the whole thing or listen to nothing at all, that’s the way I learned listening to music. If I wanted to listen only to ones single song, that one could for instance be located at the last five minutes of side A or something, and then it would be better to listen to the whole tape. I prefer people to listen to our music in a similar manner. I mentioned it has to do with different generations. Old people are used to vinyl and cassettes, but young people grew up with fucking YouTube and Winamp. If you don’t like song, you just move to next. Right now it’s seems the interest for the album format goes hand in hand with the revival of physical products. Of course there will always be people who buy records to pretend and show them around, but I like to think people are spending money on music because they’re gonna listen to it and then come up with opinions. I hope people take their time to build their own opinion these days.

Talking about tapes, is this a format you have a sentimental relationship to since you also put out some cassette only-releases through your own label, Burn Records?

– It’s more that I see the practical side of things. Vinyl is not too handy to carry around, but if you go to gigs or something like that, it’s really easy to put a tape in your pocket, and  most probably, you will not loose it, even if you get drunk. It’s a handy format. And for only two songs, you’re not always gonna go for a vinyl release. 

Felipe tells me that two weeks before this interview was done, he visited Chile and borrowed a bunch of records he wanted to listen to, only to discover that his turntable was broken. Then it’s nice to have some tapes lying around. Felipe laughs before he starts to talk about his label, Burn.

– The first time I heard Oath Of Woe, was like “fuck, this is the kind of doom I like”. People I know wouldn’t like to own only a CD-R of something that good. That’s why I decided to do release those songs on tape. Metal Grave was a different story. With one or two exceptions, there’s never been a band like them in Chile before. I painted the cover for myself and made the tapes. I don’t know what’s next with Burn, but I wanna keep on doing it and maybe release another 7” inch this year. It’s fun!

I wanna ask you about the “Death And Judgement”-EP from last year. What was the intention with that release? 

– There were two intentions. First, like bands used to do before, to record demo versions of songs. Both Iron Maiden and Candlemass for instance, did that in the past. It was also the first song we did with two guitars. The other intention was to mark the death of the Scald-singer with our version of the song “Nightsky”. We wanted to pay tribute to one of the greatest underground doom metal acts in recent times. It was the first time we recorded ourselves, and I also decided to put it out myself. It was the second vinyl release of Burn. I would like do something similar to that cover version again. There are so many bands coming out and because people’s perception of what doom is, is changing, we need to remind them once in a while.

Sometime ago read on your Facebook-page that you were a bit angry on people cashing in on this release, selling it for a very high price, while you still had copies in the Burn-distro. Isn’t releasing a vinyl in limited quantities like asking for people to buy and resell for a higher price?

– I didn’t really think that way, but maybe I was a bit naïve. It was a specific situation, that got me a bit frustrated. A person brought ten or fifteen copies to bring to Chile, and these were sold way too expensive for a 10 inch, something which I thought was fucking unfair. Because I used to live there, and always wondered why the fuck vinyl was so expensive there.  I have nothing against people who are trying to earn a little bit by selling records, but this guy was charging way too much. Remember, the vinyl only had two songs. People down there were asking for this release, and to exploit them is pretty unfair and really a nasty thing to do. I now there are dedicated people down there that wants doom metal.

You mentioned the cover version of Scald, which indeed is an underground band, but you also did a cover of Ozzys “Crazy Train”, which must be said to be quite the opposite. 

– That was definitely a try out, we hadn’t played with a drummer before. As I mentioned earlier, I play drums on the demo tape, shitty drums. We got this drummer and were rehearsing for the EP, we thought we would see what  it was like to record with a drummer. We got one day in a really shitty studio in Chile to do the whole thing. It’s kind of a happy song, but we decided to doomify it. At first, it wasn’t supposed to be released, but a friend was wanted to release a CD-R of the demo, and needed something extra for it. We made a t-shirt with the demo on a CD-R with an extra song, for our first concert. “Crazy Train” is a song that we all knew and everything, and we certainly made our own version, but I don’t think we will ever do that again. I have at least three or four other coversongs of really unknown doom metal-band that I think people who like doom should know about. That’s our mission, you know. 

What kind of bands are we talking about here?

– Icefall from the states. Their demo tape has one or two songs that are perfect to cover, but we’ll have to do it before anyone else does. It’s something I have in my mind, but we haven’t talked too much about it. With Scald, the mission was accomplished, because some people got interested in the band, and started writing me about them. I hope it’s because they enjoyed the music, because it’s a little bit trendy as well to like stuff that no one else knows. I only see the positive side of things, and this was our way to pay tribute to a band that had no ambition and no chance at all. PROCESSION have a little bit more of both.

skullslogoI have to add that the version of the Ozzy-song is also available on a split single brought out by Sarlacc Productions. It has a song by Mountain Throne on the B-side, by the way.  “To Reap Heavens Apart” is the name of the newborn. I’ve seen some people talking about the title, claiming it must have been spelled wrong. Can you explain the title for us?

– It’s perfect! I speak English and it’s a word game with rip as in “ripping” or “breaking something apart”, and reaping like “harvesting”. The record is pretty much about breaking into yourself and taking something out. Like a harvest through ripping yourself apart. That’s the word game. I hope people stop wondering about it when they read the lyrics.

What’s the reason for you living in Sweden these days? Personal or musical?  

– In 2009 when we did the first tour, I basically closed the book on my life in Chile. I quit my job and my apartment, and stayed with the label, Iron Kodex, in Germany for a while. I met my Swedish girlfriend and found a lineup to keep on playing in Sweden. One thing took the other.  Right now it’s basically the band keeping me here in Sweden, I live with Uno, the drummer now. I don’t have a stable job, and I have a hard time paying the rent every month, but as long as I have the band, that’s the most important thing.

 For a while, PROCESSION had two different lineups, a “Swedish” and a “Chilean” one, but at the moment there is only one Possession, with Felipe, Uno and Jonas in Sweden and Claudio in Chile.

– The only way we have to work with Claudio, is to bring him over every time. We use the band money, and try to keep the costs down. Right now were checking in flights for some summer stuff, hopefully some touring.

What’s the status of the other bands you are involved with, Capilla Ardiente and Vein?

– Vein is a bit complicated. It’s Jonas’ music. He has a shitload of music coming, but we decided to take a break as long as we’re doing music for PROCESSION together. The two songs that were proper songs, were released on the 7” inch. We knew the comparisons with PROCESSION would come. Some were able to hear that the two bands are different, some not. We didn’t care too much, we just wanted those songs to be released for ourselves. It was the first time we did music together, and we thought the idea of releasing it on Burn was good as well. As I said, at the moment, Vein is resting, but I don’t really know for how long. After we have finished all the promotion for “To Reap…”, next year, we’ll see. Jonas is making some really good music. With Capilla Ardiente, it’s a bit different, because Claudio isn’t really with PROCESSION when he’s in Chile. He’s had time to build the first full length. When I went to Chile, last time, I recorded it. It will be mixed and mastered in May, and hopefully it will be out in July or August. It’s called “Bravery, Truth, And Endless Darkness”.

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