A couple of weeks ago I got to see a young band open for Lantlôs and Falloch (review). That band was Drawn Into Descent and I was very much impressed by their show, which you can read about over here. I contacted the band, consisting of vocalist/guitarist B., guitarist J., drummer V. and bassplayer G. After careful planning and missed appointments (my head is like a sieve at times and I count myself lucky I manage to remember how to tie my shoelaces..) we finally managed to get together and I had this conversation with J., with B. and V. occasionally joining in for some answers.
Without further ado, I will start with the standard question, since you guys are relatively new to the metal landscape. Can you tell us something about the origin of Drawn Into Descent?
J: B. and V. used to have a band called 'Galgenveld' en decided to start 'jamming' again some time last year. Around June 2013 they asked me if I would like to come along and play some of their old songs. After a week or four of jamsessions I brought along some music that I wrote myself. Music-wise, our first two songs were already written before the band started. We started playing thoese songs and afterward decided to start a new band. So just before the summer of 2013 Drawn Into Descent was born, although we didn't have a name at that time.
And from what kind of background do you come music-wise? You're not that old yet so I imagine there were lots of bands in your teenage years?
B: From the moment I started listening to metal I began focussing on black metal relatively quick. More specific the DSBM (ed: Depressive Suicidal Black Metal) side of things with bands like Austere, Lyrinx, Sterbend, Shining. The last few years I started discovering sludge and post-rock as well.
J: Some of the bands from my teenage years are Agalloh, Windir, In Flames, Led Zeppelin, Thyrfing, Falkenbach, Swallow The Sun, Anathema, Amon Amarth.. I used to listen to more melodic bands and doom metal. But bands influenced by black metal have always been among them.
Was there a kind of 'Eureka!' moment when you said 'Okay we're going to do this' and what makes black metal for you guys an interesting form of metal to play?
B: For me there was. When J. started, like he said, playing his riffs at the jam sessions we really had the feeling, and I think I can speak for V. as well, of 'hitting the nail on the head'.
J: Like B. says, the first two songs that were written we played on the first rehearsals and they sounded really good. Then our drummer took his lyrics and B. fitted them on the music. When we completed those first two songs we became really enthusiastic. Black metal felt the most natural to us all. The post rock influences probably came because I was listening to a lot of post rock at that time and those were the kind of lead guitar parts I wrote.
In general, I think black metal is the best place for a broad spectrum of playing styles, influences and emotions. What is your view on this?
J: Well, I believe that there is a place for a broad spectrum in every genre, we just knew how to handle it in the black metal genre. Just don't ask me to write a brutal death metal song. Black metal was a genre where all of us had a clear idea of what we wanted to hear.
B: I think every genre is flexible in this aspect, this is just what we all wanted.
In what way is it important for you to stick to the 'foundations' of black metal? Or do you take black metal solely as a sort of 'framework' with which to completely do your own thing?
J: We have a broad view of this. We put lots of influences in it but overall black metal is the most prominent. The doom and post rock we put in the 'atmospheric' part. Depending on what you mean by 'foundations': if we decided to make something that isn't black metal it would feel very unnatural to us I think. So in that way I think it is important for us to stick to that. But like I said we have a very broad view of black metal.
I feel black metal is the best metal style to incorporate different influences but there's always the purists. I think Drawn Into Descent finds a good middle ground there.
J: Indeed, we try to appeal to people from different genres. People who listen to black metal as well as people who are into post rock, doom or genres like that.
B. already told us about the DSBM influences. 'Drawn Into Descent' as a name has a little bit of that ring to it. Is it something that finds its similarities lyric-wise as well?
J: Certainly. Our lyrics are written by my brother V. and he's a big DSBM fan. His influences will most likely come from that genre, although I'd have to pass that question to him. I'm no hero when it comes to lyrics, so really that's something my brother occupies himself with.
V: Absolutely, pretty much all the lyrics could be placed under the moniker of DSBM.
I listen to quite a bit of DSBM myself but I often have mixed emotions about it (finding satisfaction from what, in essence, is something deeply sad). Is that tristesse something that has to be inside you to write DSBM lyrics?
V: The basis of the lyrics reflect the emotions of the time they were written in. That basis later gets reworked into a lyric. I think everyone has a certain amount of tristesse. And everyone needs to find a way to vent their emotions. For a long time now, for me that is writing lyrics..
Something else now. You decided to take things seriously from the beginning. A Christophe Szpajdel logo, lots of live shows. How do you see Drawn Into Descent evolving?
J: That is something we decided from the very beginning. To take things seriously and not run in the same spot or do things nonchalantly or sloppy. I'm not sure how things will evolve, but I'm hoping to record a cd somehere early 2015, maybe play some shows abroad in the summer.. Our goal is to open for Agalloch some day. But we will start with the cd. Once that is recorded we'll send out promo packages to labels and we will see how it goes from there. But we are all enthusiastic about the future.
And rightly so I think. Where would you ideally end up? And by that I mean which label?
J: That is something we haven't really decided on and it's something we don't occupy ourselves with at the moment. Our main focus for now is the live shows and the recording of our songs. But I do think No Colours Records is somewhere at the top of our list..
No problems with the dubious background of No Colours (ed: in the past, No Colours was subject to a police raid on the suspicion of neo-nazi activities. Mostly due to the fact they had bands Absurd and Thor's Hammer on their release roster. Nowadays they have quite a lot of a-political bands under their banner)? I mean, people draw conclusions pretty quick. If there's anything you must never underestimate it's society's narrowmindedness...
J: I've already heard that they have a bad reputation in that aspect but it's only a vague list at the moment.. Once we've thoroughly checked out every label's background I'm sure we will work out what is best for us. We certainly don't have anything to do with this kind of thinking, but you're right, people draw conclusions very quickly. If it would happen to put the band in a bad light it is obviously something we wouldn't choose.
Reputation aside, No Colours has obviously given us a few enormous classics...
J: Yes it did produce quite a bit of classics, of which two were by Falkenbach.
Yep, and Graveland, Forgotten Woods, Urgehal.. I've seen much worse company..
J: Indeed, they have quite a few well-known bands on their roster. It will take some figuring out of all aspects of which label to choose, but we will certainly not be discouraged by the 'public opinion'. That is influenced by factors that in many ways have nothing to do with it in the first place. Our target audience isn't the kind that doesn't look past their own noses. But yeah you can have endless discussions about that obviously.
I mostly choose to not discuss the backgrounds of black metal whatsoever with people but that's a different story.. Regarding the many live shows: do you think that is essential for a band to build a solid base?
J: For us it definitely is. We got the jitters from the very beginning when we thought about doing live shows. I hadn't had any podium experience before our first show last June. There are lots of bands that can produce albums without doing live shows but for us it keeps our motivation at level. We view the live shows as some sort of deadline. Like for our upcoming show in Antwerp we would like to play our new song. So we have to make sure that it is finished by then. For us it definitely provides a solid base as a band.
Will the new songs continue in the same vein with the post-rock influenced sound?
Which brings me to the next question. We here at Merchants Of Air are not averse to a big portion of post-rock, but where do you guys get your inspiration from?
J: I think from various places. For starters, bands like Heretoir in the black metal genre, but for my personal guitarplaying Long Distance Calling has had quite a big influence. It's not that easy to hear in the finished songs but it is certainly something that plays a part in the writing process at the starting phase of a song. In our case the songs are pretty different from eachother so the influences for each song are different as well.
What is the process of writing songs like for you guys? You already told us about the jamsessions, or is it more clearly defined?
J: The process stays reasonably uniform. I collect some riffs over a certain amount of time and if the inspiration is there, I commit myself to putting some riffs together with some leads. I write out as much as I can in Guitar Pro, like the drums I feel best suit the part, the second guitar line etc.. I am not a drummer or a bassist, so those lines remain free and almost always get adapted at a later stage. Then I take my ideas to the rehearsal and we decide on the drums etc.. Afterwards we put the vocals on, when musically it's as good as finished.
But is there already an idea at the composing stage where the song will go lyric-wise, or does V. take guidance from the feelings that the music recalls?
J: The lyrics are all written seperately from the music. When my brother finds a moment of inspiration he writes lyrics, which we later use for one of the songs.
Until it fits together like a puzzle?
We already spoke about the role of everyone, except that of your bassplayer G.
J: He came to us at a later stage but he brings a huge added value to the band. In the writing process he takes his basslines and really puts his own mark on it even though he is originally a guitar player. He is also very adept with recording material so he's the main reason our current recordings are of a good quality.
Are you, besides Drawn Into Descent, active in other bands or is the focus completely on Drawn Into Descent at the moment?
J: Me and my brother also play in a band called Perthalgiz, which is more of an oldschool black metal band and we're doing a show next month as well. B. plays in a rockband called White Lightning. G. doesn't have another band at the moment. I used to have a doom project with him but that didn't really take off. My focus definitely lies with Drawn Into Descent, because this is really where I can vent myself musically and I'm not involved with the writing proces with the other band.
Perthalgiz is a name that I've seen before but I must admit I'm not familiar with the music (that will change the 14th of November). Is Mechelen a place where there is lot's to experience metal-wise? Are there any other bands that deserve our attention within the 'scene'?
J: Definitely come see us! In Mechelen there's quite a bit to do every now and then. Not every week but I feel that's not really necessary. For me personally most of the time Club Kamikaze is the place to be. At the moment, besides us and Perthalgiz there's not a lot in the way of black metal. The Belgian doomscene on the other hand is strongly supported by the work of Marche Funebre. They have had quite a lot of national and international gigs in their pocket and there are some upcoming shows ahead. Those guys rehearse in my street haha.
Is there a sense of connection within the Belgian scene? Or is it too divided?
J: That's a difficult question. We know we are a part of the Belgian scene, but on the other hand I can't imagine how a typical band from that scene should sound. Or maybe I misunderstood the guestion?
Not really, but I have to admit that I haven't payed a lot of attention to the rise of young Belgian bands.. And that's what I meant, is there a sense of connection within that scene?
J: To really get to know Belgian bands you have to start looking out for them. The Belgian bands on the rise only get to be well-known after a certain amount of years. After that they get to be noticed without you having to search for them.
In that case, I feel the 14th of November will prove to be an interesting day for me..
J: Yeah, Ars Veneficium is playing as well and they're very much worth checking out. An up-and-coming Belgian band.
Do you think a typical Belgian scene is something for the future? Like the typical French and US scenes that are now well-established within black metal? In the old days it used to be Norway, Sweden and Greece, now there are a lot more 'typical' regions.
J: That's right, I feel especially the US has developed a unique sound of its own. Maybe in Belgium as well, but I guess that is in its infant stage at the moment. If we look at the ratio in population numbers I think it will be some time before we get to hear a Belgian black metal sound. In any way, bands like Saille, Thurisaz, Herfst and March Funebre will be bands to take into account regarding that.
Which is something we will most certainly do! To round things up I'm going for another classic: the famous 'last words'!
J: Hmm last words.. That's a more difficult question than all of the previous ones haha..
Drawn Into Descent will play a show together with Opium Lord, Hessian, Wiegedood and Terzij De Horde at the 'Nights of Desecration' on the 22nd of November in the Dominicanenkerk in Antwerp. The week before (14th of November) Perthalgiz and Ars Veneficium will play together with Myrkvid and Waldschrat in Club Kamikaze in Mechelen.