Veterans of the Greek death metal scene, Soulskinner released their third full-length album Crypts of Ancient Wisdom last October. In this interview, I am catching up with Bill (guitarist) to discuss their newest album, its inception and production, as well as the current activities in the Greek extreme metal scene and the future plans of the band.
Hey guys! First of all, thanks for finding the time to do this interview, it is much appreciated! Would you like to introduce the band and give us a brief overview of your history?
We are a Greek death metal band that was essentially created in 1997, but we’ve played under the name Soulskinner since 2000. Since the beginning of our creation, our goal is to play the music that we like, because for us, the personal pleasure we derive from music is foremost, as well as channeling our emotions through our music.
As Soulskinner, we have released 3 full-length albums, one split 7 ” and one 4-way split 12 ”, while as Terra Tenebrae (our previous name) we had released one demo and one full album.
Your newest album, Crypts of Ancient Wisdom, came seven years after the release of your previous full-length Non Stop Killing. How long have you been working on the material?
We had to think of a few things about the essence of what we do. As we grow, we see things from a different perspective. Playing music is something that pleases us so much that only someone who has experience in this can understand. However, there is also a different perspective, according to which there is not only pleasure, but also what is presented as a whole. So we thought that by following what we always did, we could pass our maturity into our music and our lyrics. There was no reason to laugh at ourselves and the people who listen to us for playing in the style that we liked ten years ago, or by writing lyrics about issues we had a liking for ten years ago. It is not bad, to be honest, and this appears in all our releases. We do what we like and we want to be proud of it. We still like gore and splatter movies and books, but we do not feel that we can write something about them because our need to express the beauty of ancient knowledge is great. And the way in which we tie our music with lyrics is something that excites us and fills us with completeness. If you think that all these ideas were a part of the progress of the album, then maybe we have been working on it for seven years. But as far as the net time for the composition and recording of the songs, it took a few months.
Crypts of Ancient Wisdom was released through Xtreem Music. How is your relationship with the label? What made you decide to go with them for this release?
This album marks a new era for us, released by a company that in my opinion is one of the most serious and dedicated to the underground. Our relationship with Xtreem is great. We deal with people who see music as we see it. Dave is a great guy, who knows exactly what he does. We feel comfortable with Xtreem and that is very important for us.
The sound of the album is great! Congrats on that! Can you give any details on where you recorded the album and which engineers you used for each part of the production (recording, mixing, mastering)?
Thank you very much. Yes, we’re satisfied too with the final result. Nothing special happened. We’re a band without a budget, so we always try to find the best result with low costs. All that we wanted to have, as a result, we chose to do ourselves. The production process took place in my personal studio, which certainly is not professional and does not provide the comfort maybe we would have if we went to a big studio, but there was unlimited time and direct knowledge of what we wanted. The whole process – including recording, mixing and mastering – took place at my home studio “The Red 7” and everything was done by myself.
How would you compare Crypts of Ancient Wisdom with your previous works, Breeding The Grotesque and Non Stop Killing?
Certainly, it is totally different. Its atmosphere is clearly darker and it is more structured. I believe that all these years, we have gained an experience about how we can perform in the right way and in the right sound that we hear in our minds, so this has helped us enormously with the new album. Crypts of Ancient Wisdom, in
comparison with Breeding the Grotesque and Non-stop killing, is darker, heavier, and more in the old-school vein of the early ‘90s, with better production and better matching between music and lyrics.
How does the creative process work for Soulskinner? Is it a collaborative process or does each member bring a basic structure for a new song, and then you all work on that together?
Things are very clear. I compose the music and Gothmog deals with the lyrics. For the first time, the evolution process of the album was made by first having lyrics and then creating the musical part. I mean that I did not write three or four good riffs and match between them so that we liked what we heard as music only. First, there were the lyrics, then for each song, I studied Gothmog’s verses for a certain time to get in the right mood and understand the proper meaning, and then I let the lyrics create the musical background.
You have quite an amount of references to Greek history and mythology within Crypts of Ancient Wisdom; for example, “The Captive Trojan Maiden” and “The Furies’ Hymn.” What is it that attracted you to the subject? What other themes do you explore with your lyrics?
The lyrics are based on ancient texts (mainly by ancient Greek authors), or are excerpts from major works of ancient poets. Inside the booklet of the CD, there are references to any source for the lyrics. Gothmog is the one who had the idea, worked on the selection and implemented the transfer that had to be made in order to attain a proportional matching with the music that would arise.
Every song deals with a different subject, but all have the same basic theme: which is suffering, death and humanity’s vision that can not gaze a further from its own microcosm. I believe that the human thought is a very powerful weapon, which if used in the right way can lead to progress, prosperity and the creation of conditions that can lead man to Divinity. I do not think this is easy, but we should start from somewhere. This “somewhere” is within each one of us. We should be spiritually cultivated, to face ourselves and reconcile with our fears. In other words, we have to be better people.
Within the text selection process we studied, we clearly saw something which we did not understand the essence of, although it was right before our eyes. There is a wealth within the ancient texts, life experiences of people who lived thousands of years before us, and had the gift of decoding the proper way for those observing. Of course, back then there was no TV, theories or religions that result in various ….- isms, but there was obviously a knowledge and acceptance of a global Natural causality.
I found “Why Shrink From Death” one of the most interesting moments of the album, reaching, in my mind at least, an almost experimental quality. Can you tell us what you were aiming for with that song?
It is a personal taste, and I like to deal with the synthesis of other types of music for personal pleasure. Thanks to technology, we created these sounds with a keyboard and many samples. I wrote the basic piano melody three years ago, when I composed the album of Thou Art Lord, and by reading the verses of “Why Shrink from Death,” that melody came to mind. While the original form of the song was a classic dark track with classic instruments, it turned into death metal by adding drums, guitars, bass, and by changing some background parts. It was really cool and it is for sure an unexpected choice as the last track of the album.
In recent years, you had a number of splits with other great acts such as Vorkreist and Obsecration along with a four way split with Kawir, Embrace of Thorns and Nergal. Are there any plans for any more split releases? Or maybe of a future EP release?
We already have agreed on a new split 7” with an excellent underground death metal band from U.S.A, but we do not want to announce anything before the label releasing the split makes an announcement. We are lovers of releases in physical form, and especially vinyl and cassettes. Whenever we get a chance, we want to support such releases because of our immeasurable satisfaction of the moment when we get a vinyl in our hands upon which we imprinted our own musical stamp.
You guys are quite active in the Greek metal scene and you participate in a number of other bands/projects, including Thou Art Lord. What other projects do you have on the side and do you feel they might be taking time away from Soulskinner, or is that something you feel comfortable balancing?
In each project, there is a need for expression through different musical tastes and this is the reason for our participation in different projects. With Thou Art Lord, there is a different situation as we talk about a project that marks the black metal era of the ‘90s with its music, and we’re proud of it. But in life, everything moves on, and if we only speak about the past, this would mean that we do not have something new to offer or that we are afraid to face the present. Besides, we proved with The Regal Pulse Of Lucifer that this project is a living organism that strikes unannounced and is solely driven by of our personal pleasure and nothing else.
Speaking of the Greek metal scene, are there any other bands from there that we should check out?
Classically this is very difficult to answer, because I will surely forget some, but I’ll tell you the first bands that come to mind, just from the death / grind scene: Resurgency, Cerebrum, Abyssus, Terrordrome, Mortal Torment, Wreckage, Alter Self, Dead Congregation, Head Cleaner, Mallediction, Vulnus, DreamLongDead, Necrovorous, Embrace Of Thorns, Incineration, Progress of Inhumanity, Slavebreed, Mass Infection, Birth Through Gore, Abnormal Inhumane and many others may not immediately come to my mind. However, it is worth it for anyone who likes extreme sound to look for domestic acts, because you will find high level bands. Right now, I believe that most Greek death metal and grind bands are among some of the best and most active in the world, and it is a pity there is no support from within Greece.
Since Crypts of Ancient Wisdom was released in 2014, I was wondering whether you guys are working on any new material for an upcoming album, or is it too soon?
The pre-production for the next album has been recently finished! We want to work on custom execution and to have plenty of time to present an even more comprehensive album that will continue from where we left off with Crypts of Ancient Wisdom. I believe that in a couple of month – until the end of 2015 – we’ll have recorded the new album and from there we will talk with Dave in Xtreem for the release plan.
As far as I am aware, you guys until recently did not perform live, but that has changed. Can you tell us what signaled that change? Do you have any more plans for future gigs?
About the past – first, we did not feel the need to play live; secondly, we did not have a fixed line-up; and thirdly, we were more committed to what we do in the studio. Now, thanks to the addition of new members, we are open to playing gigs, but still will not reach the other end. We want to play when we feel that we will enjoy it. Do not imagine that we would play everywhere and with everyone to promote the album, etc. A few appearances are substantial and that is something we prefer. We played with Avulsed, Entombed AD, Craniotomy, Varathron, and many other bands, and we liked it because we enjoy the whole show. That is what we want. To have great time and share the stage with bands that we want to see performing live.
OK guys! Thanks again very much for finding the time to answer my questions! All the best to you!
Thanks for the opportunity you gave us to introduce ourselves to fans over there.
Listen to our new album, buy it if you like and if you want to support Soulskinner. Via Xtreem music you can buy the CD HERE
Also if you want you can listen full CD and buy it on digital format HERE
We’re waiting for your comments and your feedback on our Facebook page.
Stay true and remember: In a world of black and white only death is real!