2022, Interviews

#KatharosXIII 🇷🇴 #Interview

Romania’s Katharos XIII are an extreme metal band that incorporate atmospheric, doom and black metal and dark, noirish jazz elements into one distinctive and powerful sound. I discovered the band last through their current label Loud Rage Music and was an instant convert.

The band’s current line-up is Manuela Marchis-Blînda – vocals, keyboards, Emilian Matlak – guitars, keyboards, vocals, Alexandru Iovan – tenor saxophone, alto saxophone, vocals, Gabriel Both – drums, Péter Hanos-Puskai – bass.

With the band having recently released their latest album, Chthonian Transmissions, I caught up with guitarist, keyboardist and vocalist Emilian Matlak to learn more about the band, their history and their latest release.

Thanks for agreeing to this interview for Blessed Altar Zine. Your latest album Chthonian Transmissions has just beenreleased. How happy are you with the album and how has the reception been so far?

Emilian:Hello, thanks for having us! We are content with how it was received and also how it turned out in the end. It was a process for around 3 years, we worked now and then, with some breaks to have this outside feeling, to be able to have an understanding if what we wanted to express is coherent.

What is the meaning behind the album’s title and what themes are you exploring on this record?

Emilian:The concept is about a group of dead cosmonauts from the future. They still float through the cosmos and send signals with life experiences, hopes, tragedies as a part of a chthonian collective conscience.

The album features six different dreams delivered from the times when the itinerant cosmonauts had a telluric existence. We like the words of Kurt Vonnegut and the imagery of Andrei Tarkovski, so we tried to embed this in our aesthetics and in every word or expression to resonate with our own personal philosophy.

It’s been three years since the band’s last album — Palindrome — what’s been happening for the band members in the time between these releases?

Emilian: I think the line-up became more aware and more accustomed with one-another, on Palindrome it was more a project-driven album with specific tasks; on the latter one, everyone was more relaxed and dared more into experimenting and bringing on the table own influences and ideas to the general concept, so the result was richer and the horizons opened more into new territories.

Chthonian Transmissions is the band’s third album on Loud Rage Music. How did that partnership come about and how has it been working with the label?

Emilian: I know Adrian from the nineties Romanian underground, it is a rather small environment so we are a few persons left in this and we try to support and help one another with what we do.

When we finished “Negativity” (our second album), after a very turbulent period for the band, we kinda lost track and didn’t had any motivation to continue, the old line-up somehow due to external/personal problems didn’t worked out anymore, so after a discussion with the drummer (Gabriel Both), we decided we won’t live the things “in the middle of the road”, so I discussed with Adrian, and he offered to help and released that album. After that it was natural to continue our collaboration.

The first Katharos XIII demo was in 2009, then there was the debut album — Dead Emotions – in 2011, then there seems to have been a big break. Can you speak a bit about the origins of the band and what happened between Dead Emotions and the follow up — Negativity — in 2017?

Emilian: The break was on a discographical part, but in the general activity, I think it was our most dense period, having a lot of rehearsals and composing and playing live.

In fact in those times playing live was our main focus, we were more like a traditional band, doing everything together in the rehearsal room, and this takes times when you also have other things around. You have to align the schedules and other responsibilities to work out; after we decided to do the things differently, the whole work progressed better, because everyone could work relaxed in their home studio whenever they had the time, and only meet in the rehearsal room for specific things.

Nowadays this is the key in almost every mature band, it is very hard to align the schedule of 5 different individuals, with jobs, kids, other musical projects and that even do not live in the same city anymore.

The band’s sound has evolved a lot from Dead Emotions, but even back then there was great creativity and musicality in your music. What were the band’s earliest musical influences and how have those changed over the years?

Emilian: In the beginning the early members were more into DSBM…Shining, Silencer, Bethlehem, Lifelover…the difficult part was that in many cases we also acted like that bands, and this lead to numerous problems in developing in coherent musical journey, rehearsals were a mess…luckily on the stage managed to play quite good, but the line-ups from the demo and Dead Emotions were full with hate, depression and all kind of personal problems that lead to very dark corners.

The change we did with Palindrome and the help of our producer, Attila Lukinich, was a blessing in bands history, the new members that joined in recording that album, changed the mindset of the band completely.

Musical influences nowadays are very diverse, but we have some bands we all like: Cocteau Twins, Sigur Ros, Oranssi Pazuzu, Bjork, Dead Can Dance, Year of No Light.

What’s the story behind the name Katharos XIII?

Emilian: It expresses our fascination for Cathars and their weird doctrine about this world, a heretic behaviour in the eyes of the orthodox church.

Also their major development was in the XIII century, so this is the link between the two entities of our name; “katharoi” means in Greek “the pure ones” so it has this complex approach to find the truth for yourself and inner self, and this represent very well the whole idea behind the band.

How was growing up in Timișoara, Romania and what influence do you think this environment has had on the band?

Emilian: It is a multicultural place and until the nineties was the most westerner city of Romania, not only from a geographic point of view but also on a cultural level.

We had access to western culture since like always and here were developed the very first rock and later metal bands from our country in almost every sub genre, starting from Phoenix (prog/folk rock) and later Afis Intunecat (dark wave), Arc Gotic (goth rock), Wiccan Rede (black metal), Damnat (death metal) or Implant Pentru Refuz (hardcore) so as a youngster I had access to this music, I knew the persons involved, and this lead of course to an influence on a personal style of expression in art and how to organize a band.

Are there any bands you feel a closeness in spirit to that you’d like to draw people’s attention to?

Emilian: I really like and listened in the last years to a Greek band called: Villagers of Ioannina City.

What’s one book that you would recommend to our readers to check out?

Emilian: Representative for our music: Kurt Vonnegut – The Sirens of Titan.

It would be great to see the band on stage. Are there plans to tour the new album?

Emilian: We also want to do it, but it is a complex task and we are afraid that this will draw too much energy in band’s development. We have to see if it’s worth it in the end.

Finally, is there anything else you’d like to mention or promote?

Emilian: Thank you for this nice interview, no supplementary statements from me, readers that have found this will also know were to check our music.

Take care!

interview by Tom Osman

Thanks to Emilian Matlak for his time. Chthonian Transmissions is out now on Loud Rage Music. Check out the album on the links below and grab yourself a copy – the label currently also has special deals on the band’s back catalogue. Support the underground.

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