The man known simply as D has been at the front of Australian black metal for a number of years and has taken his project Woods of Desolation into different realms with each record. New album As The Stars is another step in its evolution. Now, D discusses the new record and how he got to this point musically.
First of all, tell us a little bit about how As The Stars came to be. It’s been about three years since your last record, Torn Beyond Reason. What happened in that time?
Well, during this period there was always some sort of musical activity going on, if not necessarily related to Woods of Desolation – as well as, of course, focus outside of music all together. There was quite a lot of material written during the interim, so when it came time to commence what became As The Stars there was already plenty to work with.
As The Stars has a much more different feel to it than Torn Beyond Reason. You’ve maintained the core sound of Woods of Desolation but As The Stars feels a little more vibrant and warmer. Could you explain the themes and general feelings behind the album?
Musically, the album is simply a natural progression of my writing style over the past few years, but this time round I allowed myself the possibility to try any guitar part I wanted with the aim of having the guitar melodies carry the songs. This is something I’ve always wanted to do, but generally had to leave out to make room for other elements in the music. Nothing at all was held back in recording this time, so I guess you could say this is an album I’ve wanted to make for a while. To use a generic metaphor; I allowed myself greater freedom to use all colours on my palette to paint the picture I wanted.
There are a lot of different influences to be heard on the album, like early Alcest and Panopticon. Could you explain what influenced you musically when writing this album and what had a profound effect on your approach?
The new material was just a natural progression of my writing style, so I can’t really say any particular bands have had any influence on my approach. To be honest, I don’t really listen to much music at all these days, so it’s hard to pin point what bands could have had an effect on my music even sub-consciously. Most assumed musical influences I’ve seen listed are quite off the mark though, but I understand it’s very subjective.
You also played in Grey Waters, a band that stands quite firmly away from black metal playing a more alt. rock oriented style. The band has since broken up; do you find that their influences found their way into Woods of Desolation at all?
The track ‘Anamnesis’ on the new album was one I originally wrote for Grey Waters in 2007. This track was re-recorded so many fucking times between 2007-2011 that I thought it was time to just do it myself and feature it on As The Stars. Given the fact the musical side of things in Grey Waters was primarily all written by me, I’m sure the guitar styling may have naturally found its way into the new album somewhere. Songs I wrote from the ill-fated Grey Waters full-length most likely won’t ever be used in Woods of Desolation though; simply because they’re quite uninteresting to me now.
Vlad from Drudkh plays drums on this record. How did he come to be involved?
I had been in contact with Roman Sayenko [Drudkh] for some time already, so when it came time to record again with Woods of Desolation, I asked Roman to propose to Vlad the idea of performing drums on the new album; and thankfully Vlad unhesitatingly agreed. Despite being at opposite ends of the world, the whole process ran very smoothly and efficiently; which is testament to Vlad’s professionalism, commitment and talent.
This album has Old from Drohtnung on vocals, which really makes the album stand apart from Tim Yatras’ vocals on Torn Beyond Reason. How do you feel the change in vocals affected the overall style of As The Stars?
When I was writing material for As The Stars I knew the style of vocals on Torn Beyond Reason wouldn’t fit at all, I wanted something different and I already had an idea who I could approach to perform vocals. I have been in contact with Old for almost a decade now and have always thought he was the best live vocalist I’ve ever witnessed on stage – furthermore, we had also worked together a few times previously, so Old was the clear choice for the vocalist position. I think his vocals complement my music very well, and I have offered him the position of guest vocalist again if he wants it.
What can you tell us about the album’s lyrics?
The lyrical direction has seen a definite shift though. In a metaphorical and at times literal sense, the album theme generally centres around the idea of separation of body and spirit and the question of any possibility of the soul’s immortality. The lyrics were essentially a creative means to gather my thoughts on the subject at the time and come to terms with what could be possible.
Do you control the entire writing process or do you allow any of your guest musicians and collaborators to contribute?
All main guitar parts are usually written well before entering the studio, along with the general idea of song structure. With As The Stars I allowed the guest musicians creative freedom in performing their parts as well as the removal of any deadlines, ultimately resulting in a less stressful recording process overall.
The artwork for As The Stars is quite striking. It paints another very different picture opposed to the cold blue and grey of Torn Beyond Reason. What can you tell us about its meaning?
The general idea behind the cover artwork was something I came up with – as well as the idea to move away from the usual photographically-orientated artwork used previously. I wanted something to reflect the general album themes, as well as the ambiguity behind the album name. The artwork was done by Lucas Ruggieri, and done quite well in my opinion.
The album is officially released through Northern Silence on February 14th. What does the rest of the year hold for you, both with Woods of Desolation and elsewhere?
There are no specific plans for Woods of Desolation for this year; I’m just going to let inspiration take me whenever it comes. I do have some general plans and goals outside of music entirely, but it is far too early to comment on these just yet.