It is another winter – sad, cold and lonely. Freezing times, hurt souls, expiring lives. No hope, no love, no warm. It’s snowing. The silence is so deep, that the only thing that can be heard is the passing of the time. Silence. Loneliness. Grey. The ground swallows the flakes, the graves are getting wet and muddy. The trees are drowning in tears, bending over by the burden of the eternal sorrow. Pain is tearing the body, the discouraged soul is seeking for salvation. It is the Décemebre noir – the time when the heart beats for the last time, the tears are painful for the last time and all the life ends. Everything ends.
We invited Décembre Noir for a friendly talk in order to share with us more about the band, themselves, and their brand new album “Autumn Kings”. In his review on the record, Emil wrote: “Autumn Kings is crushing. Persistent. Grinding the listener’s senses. Emptying his or her soul. Relentlessly dicing emotions with a surgical precision. A musical opus well captured and effectively delivering very intense feelings”. This is why our meeting with Décembre Noir is so important!
– Welcome to Blessed Altar Zine, Décembre Noir! It’s December, so what a better time to catch with you! How are you, especially now when you have just released new album?
– Greetings to the Blessed Altar Zine, it’s Kevin, Décembre Noir drummer, answering you. We’re fine, thanks, and we’re really happy to have finished all the demanding work and to feel musically that it is a remarkable step forward for us.
– Why Décembre Noir, why in French and how winter and noir is actually Décembre Noir?
– There was no specific reason for this name. In the beginning, 2008, there were some ideas on paper and somehow we had a feeling of how it should support the music. At the end we chose the name that transports an idea of the music without listening to it, accompanied with a slight touch of poetry and tasteful language.
– We at Blessed Altar Zine believe that 2018 is the best year for metal in almost three decades. How do you feel about that? Also, 2018 marks your band’s ten years anniversary. How does it feel to release your third full-length effort in this kind of conjuncture?
– Three decades (and more) of metal contain a massive treasury of beautiful art, from underground to the highest ranks of the music industry. It’s an unbelievable honour to be tiny part of it. I can’t say what’s the best year. Ride The Lightning, Demanufacture, Demigod, Watershed, etc. Furthermore I’m amazed about the never ending creativity that’s out there in every city’s countless rehearsal rooms.
Actually, our feeling in terms of anniversary is a bit divided. There was the time before the studio and releases, 2008 – 2013, and the time since then. We had some hard lessons to learn in the studio to reach the point of the first release. It was an intense time and we stood together to go to the next level. On the other hand, we all had music projects since our teenage times, sometimes together, sometimes in different band. So, the conjuncture of being 5 guys in 2018, standing together for years to work united with confidence, fun and the good feeling of being friends makes us happy the most.
– Was it a tough start for you back then? Why did you go in this direction stylistically in times when the heavy music had been overtaken by nu- and core- bands?
– The start in 2008 wasn’t tough at all. It was a music project with friends jamming and creating something together to have fun. The first tough part was to try to climb up on some professional steps, in terms of studio recording, record label, bigger shows, more professional equipment, financial decisions and so on. Often, it felt like stepping on thin ice, but we realized, if we put all our heart, brain and will into it, fortunately doom is unavoidable. *death-doom smiley*
I would say, to get some appreciation for what you do doesn’t depend that much on musical style, especially in metal. If you do the best you can either it works or not. If not, try to find improvement. Of course, with Death-Doom Metal most likely we are not about to become the next big pop-metal phenomenon, but that was never our aim. In the beginning, it was our intention to create something heavy and dark with emotion and to start it with what we have in common in terms of music taste.
In addition, we aren’t trend focussed, but personally I like a lot “nu” and “core”. With Korn, Fear Factory, Hatebreed, etc. I found my way to metal and the start of playing drums. But, I think 2008 the trends those bands set were already in the decay phase for some years.
– Seasons were always a great subject of inspiration in musical compositions, before Vivaldi and into present times. What was the motivation to join the ranks of such privileged company, and dedicate an entire album to Autumn?
– Decay. If there’s something that everything that exist has in common it is decay. In the very moment something is created, time and energy are consuming it. Our bodies, a painting, trees, society, etc. Even the impact of our music is decaying in the presence of other acoustical impressions over the years, which can be, for example, other music and trends or changing technology (“The medium is the message”, Marshall McLuhan).
– So, how is to be the Autumn King, the last human being?
– On one hand, it can be seen as an art figure to try to express man’s search for explanation of decay and death, on the other hand, it may be seen as symbol for our arrogance to believe we can control nature with artificial things like economy, power and ideology or believe. Or even worse with a mix of it. But at the end, every listener and reader will have her/his own interpretation.
– The compositions on your new release are a step forward in complexity and depth from the previous albums. The black metal influences are more evident, and so is the more refined sound. Is this part of the natural evolution for Décembre Noir?
– Yes, absolutely. There are several influences on our evolution. Personally for me, the first time I entered the studio I got kicked out with the words, “come back after some months of practice”, and I did, and then for the recording of album no. 1 and 2 my knees were shaking when I entered the studio, but for album no. 3 I was much more confident. It’s similar for all of us. Furthermore, over the years we shaped also our feeling for song writing and arrangement, though it depends also a bit on the current taste and subliminal music influences. Luckily, we are far away from the point of just writing songs referring to standard patterns which worked on the previous album. We just do and create what feels good in that moment. Gut feeling and artistic development helps us the most.
– How do you feel that this more evolved sound and production, versus the rawer sound of the previous releases, is being welcomed by your fans?
– That seems to be strongly a matter of taste. For me “Autumn Kings” is much rawer in terms of edgy individual sounds, whereas the first album, “A Discouraged Believer” sounds more polished and clean to me.
In terms of sound we found with Alexander Dietz and Eike Freese strong partners with great visions to support our ideas. Also, I think song writing and sound quality need to complement one another. One is useless without the other. We are more focussed on pushing the quality level in general and improve ourselves and our music, instead of worrying about the acceptance of details by our fans. That doesn’t mean we are disengaged from any sound critics or wishes, but we just enjoy our current freedom to develop the way we feel it’s the best.
– Clocking at very close to 70 minutes in length, “Autumn Kings” is clearly lengthier that an average album. However, the rich song-writing avoids any sign of repetitions and/or fillers. What was the album’s writing process like? Was this a collective effort?
– Here, it’s also mainly about our feeling. For example, for the second album “Forsaken Earth” there was one song appearing really weak and strange to perform in the studio, so we kicked it from the record. For the “Autumn Kings” songs we were really confident with all the songs and it was a pleasure to work on it in the writing sessions, rehearsals and in the studio. It just felt right to keep the 70 minutes.
The writing process evolved over the years and had been adapted to our private situation. In the early time of the band, everyone lived close-by, but over the years work and beloved people caused some alteration. So step by step we discovered a good way to work on the distance together. “Autumn Kings” started with song writing and arrangement on guitars and some synth elements by Sebastian and Martin at Sebastian’s cosy place in the gloomy depths of the Thuringian Forest. Later, in Belgium I took care about the final arrangement, bass- and drum demo recording and rough mixing to get an idea of the impact of the parts and songs and to enable Lars to get in the right mood to finalize and develop the lyrics.
– Also, how hard is it to avoid falling into clichés when writing an album of this calibre, and length?
– I think cliché is a different thing for everyone. Of course, we have some ideas in mind of things we don’t like and things we like, but it depends always on the individual sound, element, part or arrangement we create. We don’t intentionally involve influences in the writing process and try to keep as much freedom as possible. If an idea feels wrong, strange or it appears too much “cliché” we drop it and go on.
– The early 1990s doom influences of the likes of My Dying Bride, Anathema and Paradise Lost are clearly palpable on this release. What other past and contemporary artist have an influence on your band’s music?
– Actually, we are always reading those names in reviews of our albums and of course we know about those bands and their sound, but we don’t feel particularly influenced by them directly. *British doom sorry smiley* If we were about to name some influences, it would be spread across the whole spectrum and decades of metal. Doom, Death, Heavy, Nu, Black, Prog, Gothic, etc.
– And what does inspire you about the lyrics?
– I asked the singer for the answer. Lars: “The biggest part of it reflects my own life and the life of my beloved ones and friends. Autumn itself played also a role. It’s all about decay, evanescence and the struggle with inner demons. The loss and sickness of beloved people is influencing me a lot and makes me ask about my existence. In my mind I’m surrounded with waterfalls made of tears.”
– What is your recipe to write good heavy dark emotional and slow song? Vast darkness for sure and sadness, I guess?
– To be honest once again, we don’t have a recipe. I think schematics and fulfilment of expectations are poison for the musical expressiveness. Freedom and confidence in the own feeling is our recipe. After two albums, it felt good to anticipate the final version and sound of a song during the writing process and to gain even more inspiration and passion by that.
– Without a doubt in mind, “Autumn Kings” is one of the best albums of 2018. From your perspective, is this a fair assessment? Also, what are some of the albums you enjoyed this year, now that we are close to the end of it?
Wow, those are big words. Thanks for that. I don’t know if it’s fair. Life isn’t fair, neither are people with each other. Everyone’s taste, opinion and feedback is highly appreciated. We just try to give a deeper meaning to our lives by expressing ourselves musically. And to get such great feedback is amazing and we feel really honoured.
The albums we enjoyed in 2018 are mostly not from 2018. For sure there’s a lot of new and great music out there, but in terms of music we live a bit in melancholic dreams about the past. Personally I have some special all-time favourites, I discover every year in my big all-time-favorites-CD-collection: Demanufacture (Fear Factory), Night Is The New Day (Katatonia), Rusted Angel (Darkane), Death Cult Armageddon (Dimmu Borgir), Selling England By The Pound (Genesis), Demigod (Behemoth), Polaris (Tesseract), Misplaced Childhood (Marillion), Watershed (Opeth), Soulless (Grave), Hope (Swallow The Sun) and countless more.
– Sebastian and Martin bring out a very well captured in the mix, “wall of sound” with their guitar interplay. Could you please share with our readers some of the technical details of the recording process?
– It’s all about the physical source of the sound. Every detail counts. The guitar itself, strings, tuning, pick, speaker, amps, how you play, details of multiple tracking, sound creation with analog effects, effect combination, amp settings and of course our vision of the final sound. Then we start thinking about capturing. Microphone selection, preamps, place selection in the live room to get some support of the room acoustics, fine tuning of the setting from the previous step, etc. Preparation is endless, but it’s worth the effort. Later, the treatment in the mix is bringing everything to its place and size. You’re right, this time it’s quite a wall of sound on the guitars that stays in front most of the time. I remember our producer saying in the planning stage, “let’s do a heavy guitar album!”. So did we.
– With what you cannot make compromise – in your music and in your life?
– Life and human relationship requires compromises every day. We can’t make compromise with not being able to make compromises. Narrow-minded view, imposed conceptions, dishonesty and so on are the worst things for us. We accept our feelings which undergoes alteration and influences constantly and with it our music and expression will change.
– Are you discouraged believers and is the Earth forsaken really?
– Yes and yes! On one hand, we know there’s nothing to hope for. Neither for ourselves, nor for man. Forsaken Earth is just a metaphor for forsaken mankind. Earth, nature and chaos existed, and will exist, for an unimaginable time span. The earth doesn’t need us. “Man is obsolete!” But, on the other hand, that leads to inner peace and to the idea of living a good live with fun, joy and support of things that supports us. Hate, war and imposition of conception are a waste of precious life time for everyone involved. For centuries, religions told us that there’s no fun in doom, but we think, that’s the wrong approach.
– If you must recommend one Décembre Noir song to somebody in order to show him the band’s potential, which one will it be and why?
– To name only one song is really hard, because it often depends on my mood on the day you would ask me. One day I’d say “Hymn Of Sorrow”, on another day it would be “Waves Of Insomnia” or “A Weeping Sunrise”. At the end I’d say it’s “Barricades”, because there’s everything Décembre Noir stands for. I like especially the contrast and dynamics. From soft elements to extreme parts and an epic ending.
– Is the music your main occupation? What do you do in the time when you are not in the studio or on stage?
– Mentally, the music is our main business, because 24/7 our minds are focussed on that thing and we are constantly connected and ready to share ideas, plans or tasks. But on the side, all of us have normal jobs in health care, technical work or in gastronomy. It’s not always easy to combine the boss’ or client’s schedule with the band business, but when we arrive in the rehearsal room after a stressful day, we know why we do all of this.
– What are your plans now after the release of the album? Are you touring? What can we expect from you guys in the near future?
– We establish new contacts frequently and we have an open eye on opportunities. A tour is definitely one of the next steps for us. There are already some ideas for next year. Confirmed events will be posted. Different tour structures and routes are on paper and if it comes to something confirmed, it would be a pleasure to stop by in Bulgaria.
– How do you want Décembre Noir to be recognised and remembered?
– Bernardo Bertolucci once said something like, “I don’t want to be remembered in person. I made those movies to be remembered.”
Recently, after a show a thought crossed my mind. What if we already reached the point we, some years ago, still dreamed of? Now, after the shows, bands and fans come to us to express their appreciation, we receive a lot of great feedback via Facebook, Youtube and email and so on. For us now this is already a high level of recognition that drives our passion even more.
– Is there anything else you would like to share with us and did we miss something important to mention?
– Thanks a lot for your support and all the positive feedback that reaches us. Please stay strong for democracy and for yourself. Don’t believe in the bullshit that is rising in the world that is about to lead us to the past. Support what supports you. Keep culture appreciated. Keep friendly and open-minded communication as a standard, even if it is not a standard for too many people out there. Be different. Be good. Be metal.
– Thank you very much for your time for this interview! It’s been a great pleasure for us Décembre Noir to be our guest! We wish you lots of success with Autumn Kings and in 2019, and looking forward to hearing from you soon!
– Thank you for being interested in what we do. Good luck for you as well.
Interview by Emil/UHF and Count Vlad.
**Please support the underground! It’s vital to the future of our genre.
Used by permission. © 2018 by Emil Chiru / UHF