For: The Negationist
Label: Black Lion Records
Produced for: Blessed Altar Zine
Interviewer: KMaN (Referred to as K)
Interviewee: Raul Moran & Loeben Conoy
Discovering new Metal bands has always been a true joy! From the first time I heard Iron Maiden back in the 80s to being floored by Emperor in the 90s, the need to hear new bands has always been in my DNA. In 2018, I discovered Spanish Melodic Death Metal act Aeolian. I reviewed and interviewed them around their ‘Silent Witness’ debut. Their style, whilst familiar around the said genre’s blueprint, has something else that appeals to me. A meshing of classic metal and their own take on extreme & Melodic Death has them standing out from the countless others working similar territory. Their environmental stance is central to their lyrical themes and for me it is their absolute point of difference. While others can sing about escapist/fantasy/esoteric based topics, Aeolian deal with the real. The survival of Humanity. Scary shit real. Naturally with the release their second album ‘The Negationist’ I was keen to chat about the album and progression of the band since the debut. What follows is an epic back and forth with band founder/guitarist Raul Moran and bassist Leoben Conoy. Hope you enjoy the conversation!
Welcome Raul, great to chat to you again. I’m representing that sweet new Aeolian print T-shirt as I put this interview together!
Raul: Hello K, it’s a pleasure to chat with you, and nice that you like our new T-shirt design!
It’s a beauty and a great fit! So, we first met back in 2018 when I reviewed and interviewed you for the ‘Silent Witness’ debut. Pretty much 2 years on, things seem to have gone well with the bands progress and now album no.2 ‘The Negationist’ being recently released. How has the response been so far?
Raul: The truth is that I didn’t expect such a good response from people as we had. And we received a lot of requests for a vinyl version so who knows. Until now, we are very grateful for that response taking into account that the album just came out.
Ok, so before dive into the new one, let’s head back to 2018 and the debut. I think it’s most important that we do, as it sets the scene for what has now come to fruition in the new album. Can you paint a picture of what your expectations were with ‘Silent Witness’ and what was the response was like to the debut?
Raul: When we released ‘Silent Witness’ we didn’t have huge expectations. As you know, Aeolian began as a solo project of mine and until the moment we became into a band and we released the album with Snow wave Records, we didn’t know if our music would even be liked by anyone. At least our first record label liked the album! Thanks to Tomi Toivonen from Snow Wave, we received a lot of good reviews from different media around the globe. It was a sweet moment for the band even though our music didn’t reach many people.
Speaking of reach, I know you are not a band that does large tours, but on the back of the debut did you find yourself invited to and reaching places you’d never thought possible?
Raul: We were invited for a whole tour with a great black metal band from Hamburg called ‘Herbstschatten’ but finally we only joined them for one show in Leipzig. Also, it was amazing to play in the Full Metal Holiday festival in 2019 due to the cancelation of ‘Serenity’. Apart from several shows around our home Island (Majorca) and Ibiza, we had some opportunities for touring with big bands too… but it was impossible to deal with it as we could do now.
And the band itself has been through a bassist line up change since the debut with Leoben Conoy replacing Santi Gil – what happened there? Leoben is also credited with writing all lyrics on the new album, too? I assume he brings a new found perspective?
Raul: Well, Santi Gil was the session bassist who recorded our debut album. Then Toni Mainez joined the band as an official bassist. We played different shows with him and he had to leave the band for personal reasons. Leoben is the composer, singer, and guitarist of the black metal band ‘Inferitvm’ where our drummer Alberto also plays so it seemed natural asking him to play bass with us because he was around us helping from the very beginning in the recording process or with some lyrics. When Leoben joined Aeolian as a bass player, I had a meeting with him to talk about lyrics and topics. Most parts of the music were composed but we only had some lyrics written. So in that series of meetings, we decided on the theme of each song and he developed the writing process meanwhile Dani and I were finishing the main writing of the songs.
What a fantastic addition to the band he is! Further to a change of bass player, you’ve also had a label change! As stated, Snow Wave were responsible for the release of the debut, but you have moved on to Sweden based label, Black Lion Records. Was this just a matter of looking for a wider reaching label?
Raul: First of all, we will always be very grateful to Snow Wave Records and their help. As you say, we changed from our former label for greater opportunities. We wanted to join a label with more bands like us and more releases so, in consequence, we were reaching for more visibility and projection. And after a while, we were very lucky and Black Lion Records offered a contract for this album and here we are!
Which brings us to the present. I want to talk about the general theme around the new album and then dive into some track specifics shortly so we can, hopefully, set the scene for any of our readers. Silent Witness was thematically about ‘Mother Nature’ giving off signs/signals that things are not going well. ‘The Negationist’ though – a negationist being essentially, someone who is in denial about such matters – Who is the negationist you are talking about here? Clearly we are suggesting the whole of Humanity?
Leoben: Perhaps not the whole of humanity, but an important part that above all belongs to a high status and that usually lives in a carefree way of the great problems that we face as a species. On one side you are right, we are all responsible to a greater or lesser extent for what is happening with the climate, global warming or the disappearance of animal species, some of us are due to inaction and others due to ignorance or even actions that endanger the ecosystem. After a while we begin to see that some of the changes we have made are not reversible and we as a group are concerned that there are more important changes that come to endanger our survival, hence the use of the figure of the deniers who in the end are in charge of throwing dirt on all the warning signs that the planet gives us.
Right, so with ‘Silent Witness’ being nature’s cry for help, on initial appearances -without exploring deeper – it could be read that The Negationist seems to be about a push back, a suggestion that environmental concerns are an over-reaction. But it’s far from the truth. There’s a different angle here, but much like the debut, there is PAIN that runs a red line through the whole album’s thematic presentation. Would you agree with this?
Leoben: Of course there are several ideas that we have developed and taken a bit to the extreme from a lyrical and creative point of view, and as you say we ironically use the term negationist trying to put a mirror in front of people who can understand what is happening on a global scale. Regarding pain, it is quite evident in some of the songs and we have tried to use it with moderation since, even though it is a darker album, we have also tried to show light and hope behind so much disappointment and anxiety. In part, we are grateful to have been able to release all that ballast in the music and lyrics and hope that the message goes as far as possible.
Yes, understood! And this is not just lip service either, Leoben – your lyrical stance has always been about causing a human ‘awakening’ – a social/environmental consciousness around the state of the earth. Absolutely admirable of course, but without political grandstanding. This is all about ‘surviving’ and making sure there is actually a livable place/environment for our grandchildren?
Leoben: We believe that to approach the environmental problem is to talk about survival as you say, but it is certainly not a problem that we can pose in a simplistic way. We have never tried to take it to the political arena, but of course, our movements and decisions as a species are changing everything very quickly. Survival was not something that concerned us and then came COVID’19 for example, and the scale of values with which we measured the passage of time, the important things, the material, suddenly changed and made us change. In part, we try to make people see a change in the same way but with the environment as a central point. The survival of billions of people I suppose is important, but we believe that the quality of that survival is just as important, and certainly not surviving in solitude but in the company of other creatures of the animal world who have come this far with us and who deserve a sustainable planet that does not go down the path of mass extinction as it has been doing for the last few thousand years.
So well answered, and the message is clear! If we could chat about the music now, Raul. For me, there is just a big wow factor about the whole album. The debut was majestic, and I knew I was hearing something special – but you’d have to agree that from the melodies constructed here, through to the growth of everyone in the band, that ‘The Negatonist’ represents the perfect progression of the band’s sound? Did you have a vision around what you wanted to achieve, musically?
Raul: I don’t know if it’s the perfect progression of the band, but we created songs we would like to listen to. This is our objective, sometimes is not easy because we are five members and I want everybody to be comfortable and happy playing in the band. It’s true that the new album has something different than the debut one, but in my opinion, each song has its own personality and they speak for themselves. Along the composition process we discarded several sketches because we thought we could do it better, so maybe this process further enriched the diversity of the album.
Ok, so I want to dive into some specific tracks here, Leoben – because a deeper investigation is absolutely warranted. I don’t want to just gloss over what you have constructed here. So, from the outset, track one ‘Momentum’ doesn’t mess around – ZERO introduction – just wham – a fast pounding opener than really sets the scene. Pretty much kicks of where ‘Silent Witness’ left off I think – Mother Nature hasn’t found any solace over the past two years and the forces at play are in full swing…Judgement Day is nigh?
Leoben: More than an imminent day of judgment, I think the issue is trying to signal that we have reached that point where the action is needed, or perhaps it is too late to reverse the consequences of what we are doing. We take some time off from writing, but above all, we try to do it in a way that can be transferred to any part of the world, to any subject, and that anyone can identify with the ideas and feelings behind the problems we are trying to make visible. We are not an essentially catastrophic band, but it is difficult to communicate certain ideas if reality is not shown through the eyes of science, scientists, naturalists, people concerned about the long-term effects of climate change, and we believe that the new generations that populate this planet will have to be more attentive to the signals we are receiving in the form of extreme weather events, mass extinctions, fires, tsunamis, hurricanes… the clues are right there.
Track 5: Blackout – firstly – Daniel’s vocals – straight up Rob Halford painkiller vibe with his opening line. The Judas Priest like chorus riff. And from 3.20 – 4.58 – the epic symphonic ending is just so emotionally theatrical – sheer goosebump moment. And you added some brilliantly conceived Violin to this part for added effect via guest musician Mika Posen. Care to comment on the construction of this track and her contribution?
Raul: This track was one of the last compositions we did for the album. We wanted to create a more direct and heavier song. About Dani’s vocals, I have to say the first time we added vocals to this song it wasn’t with the final version. After several listenings, we decided to change it. Dani is a big fan of some of the great singers of heavy metal bands so we tried to add that influence into this song and here you have the result. We were a bit concern about the audience’s opinion but we thought it wouldn’t be a big problem due to it was only one track and not a big deal. Dani is guilty of having the violins of Mika Posen at the end of the song and trying to get a more diverse vibe. He told me to he was in love with her music and feeling and I sent her an email asking for collaboration.
Such an inspired choice! Took the whole end of that track to another level. Now, Track 8: The Flood: Probably my favorite track – lyrically focuses on one of the most important topics – Polar Ice Melt. It opens with “Cities Under the water, the ocean cemetery, they have melted the eternal ice”. And the chorus cry “Our Future…buried under the sea” – As usual with what you write about, this is not fictional. This shit is frighteningly real, Leoben?
Leoben: We have always had the threat of sea level rise, it was just a matter of knowing when it was going to happen so that we could do something with a little time to save lives. Amsterdam, Venice, Calcutta, …. many cities have problems today with this rise, and that certainly challenges not only science but also the governments that dictate the rules that regulate emissions from industries, traffic, forest fire protection In the end you find a heritage that belongs to all mankind in danger because of not being able to take action before the misfortunes occur and from our point of view it is important to “change the approach” in our way of looking at things in order to have more efficient use of resources.
And Musically – an astounding track of three parts. Firstly, the punishing driving riff that covers the first two verses, then secondly, at 1.49 it seamlessly drops into some superb twin lead work between you and Gabi. But then, thirdly, at 2.34 to 2.57- your most epic goosebump moment for me – the solitary melodic refrain that eventually flows into the next verse where Dani, at the end, delivers one his most powerful spine-tingling vocal lines. You have no idea how many times I have repeatedly played that section! Incredible track! Raul, are you aware of how fucking awesome that song is??
Raul: Hehehe, well, I’m happy you like this song. Personally, it’s one of my favorite songs of the album but that depends on your taste.
Track 10: Ghost Anthem – this track, like some before, shows off some subtle, but effective use of new instruments to augment your sound (whilst sticking to your steadfast refusal to use keyboards) – the Brass Orchestra section involving yourself on Trombone with some other guests? Great way to end the album, Raul?
Raul: Yes indeed. We thought it would be a great way to end the album. The main trombone melody is based on the guitar melody at the beginning of the song. I thought it would be nice to add some orchestral parts at the end of this song and I talked to my good friend Josevi who is a professional musician and an awesome composer. I went to his house and he wrote this amazing part that crystallized in the version you can hear in the album. We met each other along with our musical studies at the Conservatorium of Balearic Islands, he was studying tuba and I trombone.
Again, some subtle elements that have been added to your sound that work so well! Something we see again on the CD version with Track 11: Reborn, the bonus track. You added Valentin Moldovan with a superb piano intro – Dark, sombre and epic. Despite the lyrical stance and some depressive themes, this track comes off like an anthem of hope. Emotionally powerful with some outstanding leads that drive the song underneath the main riff. Why is it a bonus track?
Raul: Yeah, the intro it’s superb. I asked Valentin for a prelude of this song and he sent me four different versions. We chose the most emotive. The main reason because this song ended up being a bonus track is the length of the standard albums. With our mind on a future vinyl edition, we decided not to exceed the length of 45 min. The truth was we weren’t able to decide on a song to take out and I thought it would be great to include all of them in the CD version. Why was ‘Reborn’ the chosen one? That depended on the order of the CD, another difficult decision.
Ok, that makes perfect sense! And you have pricked my ears with the mention of a future vinyl release. Before we talk about that can I focus on the production – You seem to have really nailed your sound using Miquel A. Riutort and the legendary Dan Swano in the mastering. What do these two bring to the table in terms of what you are looking for sound wise?
Raul: We are very happy with the final result. It’s always nice to work with Miquel Angel Riutort. His studio is around 30 km from our home and he’s an awesome guy and an amazing professional. Well, Dan Swäno doesn’t need a presentation as the legend he is on his own. The sound we were looking for was something between the present and the ’90s. We wanted a powerful sound but organic at the same time. We don’t like to sound the same way as every band out there. I think the combination of Miquel and Dan was just right.
And what about the process in getting the job done? I believe you had the whole album written before Covid interrupted things? Was it lock down affected? How long did it take?
Raul: Everything was doing fine even though we had to stop the vocals recording when the lockdown began in our country. Thanks to technology and “cloud storage”, we were able to begin the mix from home talking to our producer Miquel A. Riutort (Mega). In the beginning, it was a bit strange, but that permitted us to go ahead with the production nevertheless. Once the lockdown was over we continued the vocals recording process until the last take and then we went to the studio to finalize the mix with our producer. Everything took approximately four months long. Finally, we mastered the album with Dan Swanö and we were absolutely amazed by his work.
Anything with the name Swanö in it is mandatory in my opinion! So, in terms of promotion, Black Lion have got behind some pre-release work for you with 4 singles lifted prior to the album – and a video for the fourth – ‘Golden Cage’ – tell us about that experience of putting that video together. Still, such an important medium for promotion, even more so without the luxury of playing live?
Raul: Of course, music videos were always an important part of the promotion of a band. As you say, even more without the possibility of gigging. Black Lion made 3 lyric videos for the songs ‘Momentum’, ‘We Humans’ and ‘Bleeding Garbage’ before the release of the album but we thought we needed a music video. We and the label chose ‘Golden Cage’ for the video and we talked to Martín Araya about it. We are proud of the video result.
And on the album track itself – Miguel, your producer plays some Spanish guitar? How did that come about?
Raul: That was a bit improvised. We had a similar intro for this song with clean guitars but Miquel Angel didn’t like it too much. This song was his favorite and we thought it would be nice if he was the one who recorded the intro with a Spanish guitar. He is a good multi instrumentalist and musician apart from a great engineer and producer.
Speaking of playing live to an audience – clearly that’s on hold right now, but I have watched your streamed gig from late September gig on YouTube. Loved it. Nice, tight powerful performance, Raul. A lot of bands are now moving towards using this visual platform – not as personal as the real thing of course, but better than nothing I would suggest? Did you enjoy that experience?
Raul: Yes, it is better than nothing. It’s difficult playing without the audience in front of you, but people could see us on YouTube from their homes and enjoy something similar to a live experience. That was enough for us in those strange times and preparing it also kept us focused on something.
We also need to mention the fantastic artwork for ‘The Negationist’. Designed by Juanjo Castellano Rosado, who’s outstanding work has been featured on new albums from the likes of The Black Dahlia Murder, Carnation and Trident this year! This is something of a ‘Death Metal’ departure for him – how did this come about? Did you give him artist freedom with it? I mean, he’s nailed it – complements the whole theme of the album.
Raul: As you say, I know Juanjo for his amazing works with awesome bands. He is well-known for his old school death metal artworks. I contacted him for the cover of The Negationist when the album was almost recorded. I told him our idea of the cover and sent him the audio sketches. We wanted an under-the-ocean landscape after the human extinction, showing how nature will regenerate itself after that happens. After several sketches, Juanjo began drawing and he sent us almost the final version. Only a few changes were needed to arrive at the perfect cover for the album we wanted.
It is so cool! I’ve also read some positive review of the album, Raul. One thing that keeps getting mentioned is the ‘In Flames’ comparison or that Aeolian sound like ‘old’ In Flames. Or that this is what In Flames should still sound like. There’s ‘some’ merit I suppose, but there’s also a bit more going on than straight up emulation. Now i know you don’t like comparisons – but I’ll ask anyway (haha) – what’s your feeling about this?
Raul: Hehehe… Ok, first of all, I don’t think we play something similar to In Flames even though we like their first albums. Of course, we are happy to hear something like that due to the compliment it is by itself. But as you said, I prefer not to compare our music with other bands, much less with the big ones. In any case, I would accept to talk about the many influences we have when we compose our songs.
Speaking of other influences Raul, What’s on your play list right now? What have you discovered this year? What classics you listen to?
Raul: I like the new albums of Kvaen, Mork Gryning, Mors Principium Est, Countless Skies, and Night in Gales to name a few. Difficult to name some classics I like to listen to. For example, I love the classic albums of Opeth, Morningrise is amazing. Talking about death metal, Symbolic from Death it’s absolutely perfect. The last two albums of Kreator. Nexus Polaris from Covenant. Dimmu Borgir, Dissection, Dark Tranquillity, A Canorous Quintet, Amorphis, Cradle of Filth… and many more. Classic albums from Iron Maiden or Judas Priest are always welcome.
Oh, brilliant name drops there! Symbolic is also one of my favourite albums ever! And what about your own Spanish scene – appears to me to be super strong – bands like Angelus Apatrida, Crisix, Avulsed, Unbounded Terror and Eternal Storm just to name a few. Great scene happening, Raul?
Raul: Sure. We have always been under the shade of the bands of other countries. But the truth is there are a lot of amazing metal bands in Spain. We have to be proud of our scene and to prove our value by working hard.
And what are the plans moving forward – more live stream gigs? Video? Other than actually playing live to an audience, what else is going to keep you busy?
Raul: We are working in the rehearsal room to be prepared when live shows are permitted. We would like to upload some videos on our YouTube channel, some playthrough videos of guitars, drums or bass. We will try to make another music video. And of course, we will try to be inspired for new music.
Finally Raul, before we wrap it up – going back to the vinyl tease you mentioned earlier – as a vinyl fan, I’m keen for Black Lion to drop ‘The Negationist’ on a vinyl pressing – preferably in a wicked green variant like the album cover. I know it will be all about how the CD sells, but this deserves to be etched in wax! If Snow Wave can get the debut on a vinyl run, then surely we can get Black Lion to back it for this album? 😊
Raul: Yeah, I’m still a vinyl lover. Black Lion told me the CD version is almost sold out. That means we will have our vinyl. When? it’s difficult to say. I guess it will be in the second part of 2021.
Brilliant, I’ll be locking that in when it happens! Ok Raul and Loeben, we’ve reached the end – what a pleasure it has been chatting with you again. I know we have been back and forth with each other regarding ongoing Covid mailing issues from Spain to Australia, and the promotion lead up to this new album – it’s been great to finally get this done. Anything else you would like to add to finish?
Raul: It has been a pleasure to chat with you. I’m looking forward to being able to send orders to Australia. Covid changed our way of life but I’m sure we will come back to normality. I would like to see a change in humanity’s direction when all this mess is over even though it’s difficult to see right now. I would like to encourage everybody to be strong until the pandemic is over. For those who are interested in knowing about us, follow us on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter or YouTube. Listen to us on Spotify and all the streaming services. And follow us on Bandcamp where we are going to announce new merchandise soon.
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