CVLT Nation Interviews: DROWNED
Having released an excellent debut album, Idola Specus, Drowned established their place in the extreme metal scene. Tlmnn, guitarist for the band, was able to shed some light on the history of the band, their new full-length and on what the future holds for this great death metal act.
CVLT Nation: Hey Tlmnn! First of all, thanks for finding the time to do this interview, it is much appreciated! So, would you like to introduce the band?
Tlmnn: Drowned originally came to be in the early 90s, when myself and a few other adolescents felt the need to kick out some heavy death metal. Along the way, a few demos, a 7” and a mini album were released.
CVLT Nation: As far as I know, Drowned was established back in 1992. So what took so long for the debut album to come out?
Tlmnn: Drowned hasn’t exactly been an active band during all those years. We never had a complete line-up that would have lasted long enough to prepare and record a full-length album. There were long intervals during which the band was basically dormant. But fortunately things have changed.
CVLT Nation: How did the decision come to resurrect Drowned and not create a new band instead?
Tlmnn: Because I still wanted to play death metal, and I didn’t feel it was a different band. After all, it was still me writing music with the same old approach.
CVLT Nation: You have also been a member of the legendary death metal band Necros Christos until 2013. How did you come to the decision to leave that band? Did you want to focus more on Drowned?
Tlmnn: Indeed. After years of stagnation things were finally going well with Drowned. The new line-up was gaining momentum, and since I just cannot do two bands and a job it was better to call it quits in late 2012 and focus on the creation of Idola Specus.
CVLT Nation: Your style of playing has changed quite a bit from your earlier days. How would you describe the evolution of the band?
Tlmnn: As you say: it evolved, which I take as a natural progression. It would be a bit strange if nothing had changed in 20 years, wouldn’t it … Nevertheless, there are some elements and traits from the old days which I think are still present today. Also, when we experimented with clear vocals on the 1995 demo and the Aerth EP, that demanded a bit of a change in songwriting. But when we wrote the songs for Viscera Terrae it was clear from the start that it would be a shift in brutality and complexity. A lot of stuff went into there that I hadn’t been able to realize with previous incarnations of the band.
CVLT Nation: What has been the impact that the guys from Essenz had on the new album and on the band in general?
Tlmnn: The impact is tremendous. It’s definitely the most effective line-up that the band has ever had. We’re constantly rehearsing and working on stuff. It’s just a great atmosphere.
CVLT Nation: How did the songs for Idola Specus came to be. Were those ideas that you were working on your own, or did all band members contributed at the same level?
Tlmnn: All of the music was written by me and often arranged by the whole band. Some songs date back to 2006–2010, some others are more recent. The lyrics were shared between me and G, the two of us even wrote some of them together. Some songs come together quickly and don’t need a lot of fine-tuning. With some others, arranging and working them out with the other guys can be quite important. “Gnomon” for instance was one of the last songs that we put together for the album. We worked quite hard on that one. It contains a rather old part in the beginning which I found hard to combine with newer ones, so we had to try a number of possibilities until we found the right riffs and the proper arrangement. This is also something that I really enjoy about this new constellation: being able to try ideas immediately, see if they work, move on. Usual business of course, but for most of the band’s existence, such working conditions just haven’t been possible.
CVLT Nation: The album was released by Sepulchral Voice Records. How has it been working with these guys? Are you happy with the relationship between the band and the label?
Tlmnn: It couldn’t be better as far as dedication and vision are concerned. The reason that Sepulchral Voice Records was established is pure appreciation for music, something that we can absolutely relate to.
CVLT Nation: It has been about two months since Idola Specus was released. Looking back are you satisfied with the end result and are you happy with its reception from the fans?
Tlmnn: I’m slowly coming out of this phase where all your hear is details, single instruments and mistakes, hehe. You know, I’m only now starting to lay back and hear the whole thing. Generally speaking, the album is being received very well, and from the folks whose opinions we care for we’ve only heard favourable feedback. So I guess we’ve done something right.
CVLT Nation: Your album is filled with diverse parts, from fast moments to mid tempo grooves. Do you find it difficult balancing between the two and transitioning from one part to the next, or does that come naturally?
Tlmnn: That’s an integral element of Drowned and very important. I just write like that. Even though utterly heavy, the music is never too static, always moving and evolving. One big transition.
CVLT Nation: The production on the album sounds great! It has that old-school vibe and a dirty sound, but no element of the mix is lost. Can you tell us where Idola Specus was recorded? Which engineer(s) did you use for the mixing and mastering of the album?
Tlmnn: Thanks, Spyros! The album was in fact recorded at our rehearsal place. We have a small recording booth next to the actual rehearsal room where we can put a mixing desk, preamps and stuff like that. Our drummer T2, who is an audio engineer, and our live sound guy Nikos recorded and mixed the album, while the mastering was marvelously executed by Matias Ahonen at Audiamond, Finland. I think it’s also important that we didn’t edit stuff to death. You need to know where to stop, because otherwise you will lose the lively character and ambience of the whole recording. After all it’s us playing the songs.
CVLT Nation: If I am not mistaken, Idola Specus loosely translates to “Idols of the cave”. How did you decide on such a title for your album and how does that tie in with your lyrical themes?
Tlmnn: I came across the expression when reading up about Renaissance philosopher Francis Bacon. It describes “false notions which are in possession of the human understanding” which I found quite fitting as some of the lyrics I had written deal with darkness on a mental level. Individuals dwelling in a world of distorted sensual perception.
CVLT Nation: Can you tell us a few things about the cover artwork of the album? What does it symbolize and how does it tie in with the music of the band?
Tlmnn: A symbol would suggest an idea, but the cover art is pretty much the contrary of that, it’s essentially hazy, like a cold shiver. An uncanny premonition, a threat from obscurity. It sets an atmosphere but also requires a response from the beholder.
CVLT Nation: Although many people will call you an old-school death metal band, you do have quite a few interesting twists, such as the sudden changes in “Viscera Terrae” and some more atmospheric/majestic moments (for example “Black Projection”). Would you consider yourselves old-school or would you say that you are taking the old-school sound a step further?
Tlmnn: All the relevant old-school bands (or however you want to call them) were actually innovators. Just because they come out of this particular timeframe it doesn’t mean they’re all the same. The contrary is true – the mid-80s to early 90s scene is unmatched in creativity. I’m not saying that we’re as original as for instance, Celtic Frost, because obviously we’ve borrowed a bit or two from them, but you can still do a lot with that classic death metal sound if you push the right buttons. You can still create an individual sound and travel routes that others haven’t already taken. To me, that’s the whole point of doing a band, anyway.
CVLT Nation: Idola Specus was released just on CD so far. Are there any plans for it to be released on vinyl as well?
Tlmnn: Yes, definitely. The vinyl version should be out by the end of October. Vinyl takes several months to make these days, but we wanted at least the CD to be ready for our show at Hell’s Pleasure, that’s why the release dates are so far apart. It will have the best possible pressing quality and the album will sound even better on vinyl because that’s what the mastering was focused on in the first place. We just received the test pressings and they sound amazing.
CVLT Nation: So what does the future hold for Drowned? I know it is a bit early to ask, but do you have plans for another album? Do you have plans for any future gigs?
Tlmnn: We’ll start to work on new songs very soon, there are plenty of ideas. Currently, we’re also preparing a central European tour for March 2015. Up until then, there will possibly be a few single shows.
CVLT Nation: You guys hail from Berlin. Apart from Drowned, Essenz and Necros Christos, of course, are there any other great death metal bands from your city or Germany in general that have not caught our eyes yet?
Tlmnn: The Alchemyst album cannot be recommended enough. Excellent atmospheric death metal with an individual touch. Then we have the mighty Evil Spirit from Berlin who are about to release an album via Horror Records which I’m very curious to hear. Venenum of course, but they and their predecessor Excoriate may already be known to most of your readers, and deservedly so. Ascension and The Ruins of Beverast will also be known I guess, excellent bands though and always worth a mention. Charon and Hatespawn should be checked out, two more great releases on Sepulchral Voice Records. Last of the more obscure bands that comes to mind for now are Hellish Crossfire, more on the thrashy side of things but definitely worth digging up, and pretty impressive live as we just witnessed. I’ve never been too aware of them myself before we recently played with them, shame on me!
CVLT Nation: Alright guys! Thanks again very much for finding the time to do this interview! Wish you all the best and hopefully I will see you playing live soon!