Interview: Grave Miasma (2021) | From The Bowels Of Perdition

Conversation with

Grave Miasma

Which particular divinities have been addressed with the title of your new album and why did you feel it was important to focus your attention on them this time around, considering that your previous releases had been predominantly leaning towards more abstract, metaphysical matters?

Y: The title is an allusion to the encounters during the stages of Bardo, which are considered as projections. To fall into the abyss of wrathful deities is to not understand the liberating force of the deities, whose fearful appearance is one of guardianship and protection, if the deceased has reached a point of training for this recognition during earthly existence ˗ or even a series of earthly existences. The title itself is more direct than abstract ˗ perhaps mirroring the musical content itself ˗ although still indicating a broader concept to focus upon a sense of reality beyond the physical world and immediate senses.

Did you have a clear vision of how the album should sound like before you actually started working on it, or did you let the music unfold the way the music wanted, at its own pace, according to its own will, with you being merely the channel through which it manifested itself?

Y: Musically, it is our most dynamic record. The overall intention was for the tracks to sequentially progress into stranger territory, with the first songs primarily unchaining the more barbaric elements of our influences. From my perspective this maintains cohesion rather than presenting as a collection of songs arbitrarily placed together.

Compared to the almost unbearable density of Endless Pilgrimage and, to a certain extent, all your other previous releases, the lush sound of the new album seems to be providing much more breathing space. Was this new sound a result of a conscious effort to build upon your old sound, that you were perhaps slightly unsatisfied with, or would you say that every Grave Miasma release, including this one, sounds precisely how it should sound, regardless of their mutual differences in that regard?

Y: There is no dissatisfaction with the previous recordings at all, however it was clear that the majority of the material written for Abyss Of Wrathful Deities would not be suited to the more layered elements employed on the previous two releases especially. There are fewer riffs that have the dirge-like quality which the more reverb-soaked production embellishes, with sharper subdivisions and more abrupt tempo changes utilised. That does not mean to say that the mixing stage was bereft of experimentation in this regard, a process which a listener to the album would be unaware of. From a technical point of view, Orgone Studios is now based in a different location with a much larger live room, with the natural reverb more analogous to the overall sound being sought.

The footage of vultures feasting on the decomposing human body is the recurring scene in the Rogyapa video, its underlying narrative one might say. Where exactly lies the correlation between the theme of the song and that disturbing visual?

Y: The track is an ode to the practice of Sky Burial (Bya Gtor) and the practitioner (Rogyapa), based on the descriptions of Heinrich Harrer and other sources. Aside from the unparalleled imagery of this ceremony, the dichotomy is striking ˗ the act of dismembering and offering a body out of benevolence, the holy act performed by individuals classed as social untouchables, the corporeal form being seen as an impermanent husk whilst providing nourishment.

Would it be a valid metaphor if we were to say that you, metaphorically speaking, represent Rogyapas, your songs the decomposing corpses, with listeners being the scavenging vultures?

Y: What we attempt to convey and channel through the music is as metaphorical as we seek to be. Anything beyond this feels convoluted.

There is a thought that science is in the permanent search of the truth, while art is in the permanent search of beauty, at least the conventional art. Does Grave Miasma fit into any of these two categories and, if not, is there anything else that you’d say the band is in the permanent search of?

Y: Equally science is the search for beauty, if experimenting without an intended result, and art a search for truth. Truth in musical form is often fleeting, and a product of its time that is immortalised and perhaps misunderstood by its own creator in retrospect.

Grave Miasma Interview

Presuming that significant gaps between Grave Miasma releases are a consequence of everyday life getting in the way, would it be fair to say that all those mundane daily tasks are basically only the means to provide the necessary logistics to keep the band going? Then again, if you wouldn’t subscribe to this notion, what else that you do in life fills you with an equal, if not stronger sense of purpose?

Y: We all have a number of commitments, with everything arranged in as much as possible to form a completed puzzle. All of us continue to make personal sacrifices to maintain the continuity needed to satisfy our hunger, albeit with the acceptance that there will be periods of inactivity as a result.

Would it be inaccurate to say that Grave Miasma’s music is only music, a way to temporarily escape reality through basic aural satisfaction, or is its purpose to transcend and penetrate the senses and reach the listeners on a deeper intellectual and spiritual level?

Y: Music ceases to be impactful if analysed, and certainly does not hold the answers to all levels of primal connection and satisfaction. I hold many records in dear value that have a spiritual quality ˗ a particular vocal pattern could strike the deepest core of my being as some prophetic call of truth, a certain riff or chord sequence might stir the unconscious towards an unknown, archaic relation. That is only music.

Could you see value in music that is merely an aesthetical category, the form without substance, or with insignificant traces of it, even when that form is impeccable in its execution?

Y: Any form of music has a purpose, even if promoting vacuity.

If you were to be in charge of what listeners should feel while listening to Grave Miasma, would you prefer them to be overwhelmed by the sense of empowerment, entitlement, confusion, satisfaction, melancholy, or misery?

Y: This is a great question. You once remarked in our private correspondence that serenity, calmness, and focus are brought about when listening to Odori Sepulcrorum, which is probably the opposite effect we were seeking! All metal should bring about feelings of power, frightful abandon, and strength, which is why I hold great disdain for depressive black metal. Empowerment is a fairly loaded term, and not one that I would link with the vision of the band as it is commensurate with the individualism that is lost with the oppressive liberation through death.

Do you like to think that there is something elitist about your music, in a sense that it isn’t meant to be understood and appreciated by those unwilling to put the time and effort to get initiated into all its little secrets and nuances?

Y: There are several absolute metal essentials that I have listened to countless times which will always reveal a new nuance, Seven Churches or Hell Awaits being great examples, which are full of complexity whilst retaining the immediate play-button pleasure. I have read some wildly contrasting viewpoints about Abyss Of Wrathful Deities in many of the reviews, not in terms of opinion of quality, but with reference to what influences are found or effect sought. Both of which are far more preferable to being simply another assimilable OSDM band.

Considering that you are a seasoned musician and that Grave Miasma has been around for almost twenty years, in one incarnation or another, would it be fair to say that riffs come to you more easily these days, and that age and experience inevitably contribute to more relaxed, natural, and organic songwriting?

Y: Riffs do come easily. I can write a number in a sitting, play them in a loop for a long period of time, and return to the recordings a few days later wondering what I was thinking. The ones that I do not doubt over are of course utilised, however an isolated riff is meaningless without some sequential intention. A paragraph is not a chapter.

Would it be fair to say that songwriting is intrinsically a foggy, unconscious process, through which a musician navigates without any self-imposed guidelines, with a mandatory period of futile wandering before finding that desired creative curve to which he or she then surrenders? Have you ever felt, after finishing some of your songs, as if you were listening to something you were completely unfamiliar with, that seemed like something that was written by someone else?

Y: I agree with this thought, and often find that some of our material arrives at a blockage being solved by thinking ˗ rather than playing ˗ of how I envisage the unwritten parts to sound. In most cases I am too emotionally and cognitively tied with the material we record. There are some occasions when listening to tracks we do not rehearse or perform live that a sensation of unfamiliarity does come about.

Being responsible for pretty much the entire Grave Miasma’s body of work, do you more often find yourself drifting into deep contemplation or into thoughtless meditation when listening to some of the band’s music?

Y: In actuality, neither. As we rehearse and play live regularly, this ensures that the majority of the tracks we have recorded are not buried with time and still have their own dynamic.

Grave Miasma Interview

Do you find Grave Miasma’s music to be more emotionally or intellectually stimulating?

Y: To paraphrase a term from one of your previous questions ˗ almost unbearable intensity ˗ is how I consider metal to be, this being the submission to an unnameable force. The urgency of being immersed within a composition, whether this is purely from a musical perspective in appreciation and awe of the feeling and craftsmanship, or through the entrancement of what is being conveyed. Better yet if this involves something signature ˗ a Blackie Lawless gravelly wail, a Fernan Nebiros solo, etc. As a metal fan first and foremost, I have always wanted my musical endeavours to mirror this ideal getting under one’s skin, or within arteries, in omnipotent pulsation as if under the spell of an unfamiliar drug. I have never considered the listening experience of metal to be a pabulum, and have always reserved any intellectual stimulation behind musical content to come through glancing at lyrics or reading interviews where applicable. Moreover, an ’80s metal song about motorcycles will always bring about a greater surge of powerful energy within me than the task of having to audibly dissect metal that is a more layered and complex listen.

It seems that you didn’t further develop your sound on this album by moving forward, but by intentionally moving backward in time and adding the more traditional metal vocabulary into your otherwise quite contemporary sonic palette. Would you say that’s a fair assessment?

Y: Yes, absolutely. Whether intentional or not, the album is a fairer reflection of our collective listening habits without transgressing from what preceded this record.

People usually get more conservative as they grow older. That said, Abyss Of Wrathful Deities sounds like the most conservative Grave Miasma release yet. Would you say that these two observations are accurate and, if so, are they in direct correlation?

Y: In most cases there is very little sonic territory that has not been covered through death metal, and we have never sought to deviate from the stylistic pillars that characterise the genre. There is some truth to your observation. We have incorporated more blatant influences from other metal subgenres with this release, rather than looking outwards, and we have no issue whatsoever with the band being seen as purists, which is a preferable term to conservative.

Was the acoustic interlude before the last two songs on the album written purposely to round up the structural context that you had in mind even before you started writing the album?

Y: The interlude was written and performed by R, who despite formally leaving the band at the end of 2019, joined us in the studio for a day to record it in addition to leads found on Exhumation Rites and Erudite Decomposition, the tracks that he had been performing live. The interlude was written later, to correspond with some of the riffs in Exhumation Rites that were also written by R.

What kingdoms are you referring to in the song Kingdoms Beyond Kaliash?

Y: On visiting the Alchi Buddhist monastery in Ladakh, Kashmir I couldn’t help but notice the Byzantine influence found in some of the architecture and fresco art, unlike anything I had seen in the region. On looking into the reasons for this, I had found that Nestorians ˗ a Christian sect branded as heretical ˗ had travelled and spread towards the fringes of Eastern Tibet whilst aiming to synergise their teaching of Christ with Buddhist iconography. Religious syncretisms found all over the world through different civilisations interacting has always been a great fascination for me. The structure of the track itself is meant to symbolise a journey, but not beyond Kailash itself. I have taken the liberty of incorporating another narrative, that of the mythic kingdom of Shambhala, as an allegory that the search and fulfilment of lost mysteries can never be done. Much would have been lost through syncretisms, conquests, and vanquishments of civilisations over time. Kailash, the holy Mount Meru in three religions, being the pinnacle of this in symbology and one that cannot be surpassed.

 

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