When I run into veteran bangers, I’m always keen to throw up underground bands during discussions. The name ‘Sear Bliss’ often gets a questioning look or some sort of vague recollection from most I talk too. It’s a travesty! 25 years since forming, this stellar Hungarian Atmospheric Black Metal act has always been on rotation in my house. When I got word that after some 6 years in the wilderness, they would be releasing a new album (Letters from the Edge – read my review here!) I was obviously beyond excited. To chat to founder/Vocalist/Bass player Andras Nagy had always been a wish of mine, so what better time to do that than now….
– Welcome Andras, thank you for taking the time to chat with us here at Blessed Altar.
– Thank you for your interest and support K!
– I’m a long-time fan, Andras! I must admit I am thrilled with the opportunity to chat, having followed Sear Bliss since hearing the ’96 Phantoms debut. Having formed in 93, this is your 25th year Andras. Did you ever envisage this happening when you first formed the band?
– Well, to be honest, ever since my childhood I wanted to play music and be in a band, so it wasn’t a fling when I formed Sear Bliss and I knew that it might last longer. We had, of course, some ups and downs during the years but I always believed in the band and my enthusiasm never faded. So, we are still here, maybe a bit older but still eager.
– Great to hear! Andras, I was a little worried that we’d seen the last of Sear Bliss as it’s been six years of silence since 2012’s ‘Eternal Recurrence’. Where the hell have you been? Why the long break?
– Actually, I put the band on hiatus because the chemistry in that line-up was missing. I decided to focus on my other band Arkhē which started as a solo project. I was planning it for many years and finally it was the right time to do it. After finishing the album for this project I started to rebuild Sear Bliss. Of course, it took some time. 2015 saw the ‘new’ band ready for shows and we are unstoppable since then.
– In fact, only 3 albums in the last 14 years, Andras? Each of them absolutely worth the wait of course, but you do like to keep us Bliss heads waiting hey??
– Let me correct you K: 3 albums in the last 11 years or 4 in the last 14 years 🙂 It still doesn’t seem too productive though. Nevertheless, it wasn’t intended. Things are a bit slower at this age. We are busy with our other commitments like job, family, etc. However, I’m pretty sure the next album will come out sooner and you don’t have to wait ages this time. We are on the right track now, the chemistry have never been better in the band. It’s like a new beginning and we have a lot to tell. Wait and see.
– That is great news! Of course, we are here to chat about the bands 8th album – the stunning ‘Letters From The Edge’. You know what I thought of it, but how has the response been world-wide?
– Surprisingly good. Most reviews are brilliant and people seem to dig it. Actually, reviews have never been so enthusiastic before. This is pretty cool, glad to hear these opinions, especially in case of an album which requires time and many listening. It’s not an easy one.
– Not sure about other listeners, but I was hooked from the first moment of ‘Forbidden Doors’! Can you give the readers an idea of where these tracks came from – I did read elsewhere that you were looking to use tracks written around ‘Phantoms’ era? Are these tracks that old or did they form in a more recent time?
– These songs are completely new. No old material was used. We had a lot of old and unused ideas (yes, from Phantoms era too) but we decided to start from zero, so we went to an old abandoned castle and rented it, filled it up with booze, closed the doors, hardly slept and wrote the bases of the songs and polished those which were written at home. This way each of us contributed to the album in some ways. This is a pretty old school way of writing and it was exciting endlessly. After recording the demo versions I went on a long trip to Australia where I wrote most of the lyrics for the songs. This is how the album was born.
– Man, you come to Australia without telling me?? – I wrote in my review that I felt like ‘Letters’ was Sear Bliss dipping their toes in everything from their past and conjuring another way to slay the listener…I mean, this album sounds like Sear Bliss, but you have once again been able to demonstrate great diversity in your song writing. Would you agree with this?
– Yes, and this probably comes with age, I guess. Plus our inspirations come from different angles and we are also pretty different personalities in the band, so in the end this results in the diversity of our music. We like to expand our boundaries, exploring new paths, you know.
– Can you explain the significance of the album title? What exactly are these Letters from the Edge?
– Like I said, these songs and lyrics were written in a really tough period. Writing these lyrics for each song on my lonesome journey from the distance seemed like writing letters. This is our most personal album to date. A very heavy one actually. This is what the album title refers to.
– I’m going to have to take a closer look at those lyrics now! Can you comment on the production? Who was responsible? To me, I thought it had a slightly cleaner sound, but totally dark in atmospherics.
– The producer once again was our long-time friend and former bandmate Viktor Scheer. He is professional and he kicked our ass all the time to get the best possible result. After finishing a seemingly endless recording and mixing procedure, we asked Mr. Dan Swanö to do the mastering. We spent several months on this production. I think we found the right balance between atmosphere and sound. It’s never easy.
– Oh, brilliant – the magic hand of Dan Swanö was involved! Superb! And that artwork, Andras – Can you give us some more background on its origins?
– Oh yeah K, I like that very much too. It was made by our guitar player Attila. He is totally obsessed by painting and unique forms of art. This artwork is actually a so called body print, meaning that he put different carefully selected colours on his body and then rolled about on a canvas. Not a typical way of painting, right? I have the original version hanging on the wall of my music room. Together with my handwriting and the personal nature of the songs, it adds to the private atmosphere of the album.
– Stunning and extremely artistic, of course! Musically, there are some simply beautiful passages of music on Letters, Andras. I think it’s the bands most emotionally powerful album since 04’s Glory & Perdition. Would you agree?
– Emotions always played in important role in Sear Bliss’ music but yes, I agree, this time it is a lot more prominent. The message behind music and lyrics has never been deeper. Writing these personal things worked as a therapy in many ways. This is the reason for the emotionally powerful vibes.
– Utterly brilliant, again! Sear Bliss are completely unique in the Atmospheric Black Metal genre, but even after 25 years and 8 superb albums, I get a little annoyed with the lack of ‘exposure’ you have gained. 6 years away doesn’t help, but gee I feel like you don’t get the respect you deserve. Does it feel like that to you?
– I don’t know K. In the past we struggled a lot with poor promotion and support but on the other hand, we are pretty introverted persons, meaning we don’t thirst for fame and success as much as other bands might. We are satisfied where we are and having an album like this last one shows perfectly what we want to achieve. It’s good to hear there are people into our music but we don’t look for everyone’s attention. This attitude is probably the key to our long existence.
– Of course, Sear Bliss have a massive point of difference to their sound. Zoltan Pal’s trombone! He has returned to your line up for this new album. I was blown away in ’96 and 22 years later, his work on ‘Letters’ is still sublime. The guy is a true metal head I believe, but here he is adding colour and emotional depth to your compositions like no other band. You must be thrilled with his contribution and the ‘unique’ brand he brings to Sear Bliss?
– Yeah, Zoltan is definitely a fundamental part of Sear Bliss. I can’t imagine our music without his contribution. It’s really rare to find a metal head who can play brass. He is not a guest musician, his role and personality is as important as any other’s in the band. During the years we learned to incorporate the brass into our music and this fusion became the trademark of our sound.
– Zoltan did not play on 2012’s Eternal Recurrence. So this is his first Sear Bliss album in 11 years. What happened there? You used Balázs Bruszel on Trumpet for the ER album.
– We had a complete line-up change in 2010. Things didn’t work well in the band and there was no chemistry at all, plus I had a troublesome period in my life, so we took a brake and when things became a bit quiet, I started writing some new material (Eternal Recurrence) which was almost sort of a solo album. It wasn’t really a band effort. However, I asked some friends to take part in it. I felt I need some change, I was a bit fed up with what was going on. I don’t think Eternal Recurrence is our best album but it shows what was inside of us at that time.
– Letters is released on your new label Hammerheart after previous being with Candlelight for the last 3 albums. How did this new partnership come about?
– When Candlelight ceased to exist, we started looking for a new label for the band. Hammerheart always represented value in the scene and we like their bands and fanatic attitude. So, they were one of the very few labels I contacted and their response was really positive. They already wanted to sign us in the Phantoms era, so they knew us. I’m absolutely satisfied how they handle us. They are totally dedicated to their bands and their promotion is really good. This is really a new chapter in the life of the band.
– How’s the voice holding up Andras? Still sounds in fine form to me…scathing and emotive in your own distinctive fashion.
– It’s doing fine, thanks for asking K 🙂 During the years I found out how to use my voice in a comfortable way. It’s easy to screw your voice up with extreme vocal style. Mine was really sensitive in the past. Now I can easily combine it with singing too. I try to add as much colour and feeling to my vocal style as possible. On Letters I worked extremely hard to find the right vocal part for every single line.
– Your style is truly distinctive! What is the plan in terms of playing live and touring? Where have been to date and what’s coming up?
– 2018 has been pretty quiet in terms of touring. We focused strictly on the release of Letters. 2019 will be quite the opposite. We already have a lot of invitations for shows and festivals all over Europe. Can’t wait for them. A bigger tour would be nice too. We will see what the future holds.”
– I’ve been coming across a few new Hungarian Metal acts of late – are you familiar with the current Metal scene in Hungary?
– We have good friendship with a few other bands from our country, though we are pretty isolated. There are some very promising acts from Hungary, even though it’s a small scene.”
– Ok Andras, I will be far too old if I have to wait another 6 years for the next Sear Bliss album. Is it in your plans, because to these ancient ears, it seems like you have plenty of ideas left?
– Haha, I will be far too old too if I have to wait another 6 years for our next album. I can assure you it won’t take so long this time. That’s right, we have plenty of new ideas and the chemistry has never been better in the band, so our plan is to start putting together new songs from January. Though we are still pretty busy, we don’t want to wait years this time. We want to record the new album next summer, so I’m pretty sure the waiting time will be reduced. With this line-up we are stronger than ever and eager to make new albums.
– Wow! That is awesome news!! Ok, in wrapping up, on behalf of the entire crew at Blessed Altar I want to thank you once again for chatting with us– is there anything else you would like to add before we close?
– I would like to thank you for the interview and support K. I appreciate it a lot.
Interview by KMan