Interview: Phenocryst (2022) | From The Bowels Of Perdition

Conversation with

Phenocryst

Considering that some of the song titles on this EP feature scientific terms seldom to be found in a regular person’s vocabulary, with phenocryst easily being the most obscure of them all, should we assume that some of you are volcanologists, or at the very least geologists? If so, is the band a means of finding the common ground between music and science?

D.S.: It’s true that I’m a geologist and therefore exploring these topics isn’t a real challenge for me. I do feel comfortable talking about several aspects of geology, and volcanology is somehow a specific area that allows me to explore the relationship between dynamic geology and life as a whole, and more specifically on the impacts that these natural phenomena can cause on human life and environment. Basically we look to blend the darker side of volcanology with our music and kind of develop a certain identity within death metal boundaries.

Do you find the darker side of nature and its moodiness to be the narratives worthy of deeper exploration due to their significance on a more global scale, for humankind as a whole?

D.S.: Volcanic phenomena aren’t something new that just happens now. It’s been around since always, long before any form of life has ever existed. The narratives for these songs are only ephemeral episodes of wrathful forces and processes that collide with the existence of any sort of life form. We naturally focused our attention on the impacts that aggressive events can provoke in the flesh and soul of several victims unavoidably affected. It is certain though that these violent geological processes will prevail much after the extinction of humankind, and probably furthering global changes and catastrophic events, such as the massive activation of several earth’s mantle activity in the form of magma ejaculations and gases to the atmosphere. One much known example is one of the greatest mass extinctions of the plant and animal species on Earth caused by the impact of an asteroid approximately 66 million years ago. And for us, any event of that scale is certainly a worthy theme of deeper exploration.

Would it be fair to say that your lyrics aren’t merely a depiction of catastrophic natural events from the perspective of an indifferent spectator, but also a warning? Do your lyrics have an altruistic component to them and is mankind’s destiny and the relationship we have with nature something that generally concerns you?

D.S.: I never thought in those terms, to be honest. I haven’t really thought that our lyrical content could actually aid some minds to take precautions on these kinds of events, but yeah, I believe it’s some sort of secondary effect. Even if reading these lyrics and searching for a meaning, or understanding the dimensions of these events would eventually make someone to stop and think of profound topic as mankind’s destiny.

Phenocryst Interview 2022 (Explosions)

Neil DeGrasse Tyson, the famous US astrophysicist and scientist, says that everything he ever learned about space and nature leads him to believe that our world, and the entire universe for that matter, is a hostile place, that works against us and is designed to eventually destroy us. Would you subscribe to that notion and do you find it disturbing?

D.S.: I’m not sure if I totally agree with those statements because I could never possibly think that the universe exists for our sake, first of all. The universe, or whatever you can call the immense unimaginable physics of this dynamic space, existed for infinite time and the balance was never a nice thing. Life forms are only a complex process of evolution and survival in this ever-existing hostile environment. Life happened only because a number of improbable processes followed one another. I guess, in an infinite time scale, it’s like playing the lottery forever until one day the number is suddenly correct. Therefore, I can’t really agree that anything is designed to destroy what was basically a long and complex process of improvement and dynamic adaptation. What really happens is that nothing is static and therefore the environments also change causing naturally an instant impact on established aesthetics and balances.

Explosions, for the most part, is a mid-tempo, sustained intensity kind of music, that’s neither overly fast nor aggressive, but still capable of retaining a dark and heavy edge at all times. As restrained and low-key as it may appear at first, the EP still feels much more sinister than most of the contemporary death metal. What would you credit that to? Is it a matter of maturity, or conviction?

D.S.: I’m glad you feel our music that way. In a sense, that’s what we wanted to achieve, a permanent sense of unsafety and fear, despair, panic, and the sense of death. Death is always around us, but in natural phenomena such as this one the feeling and the real chance to get diminished to dust is quite an atrocity.

Do you see yourselves as a group of musicians with strong individual traits who just happen to create music together, or are you primarily bound by the shared vision and the feeling of belonging together as a band? Do you believe that having that shared vision is the strongest foundation a band can possibly have?

D.S.: I can only speak for myself, but I don’t really think we have a feeling of anything. The belonging feeling to an ideology, religion, or football team is just a primal sociological behaviour of mankind. Do we really need to feel we all know a lot about volcanology to get along and play death metal? I don’t think so.

Phenocryst Interview 2022 (Band)

Presuming that, besides music, there’s a certain deeper purpose that makes Phenocryst the band that it is, would you care to explain what that deeper purpose is? Or would you say that Phenocryst is intrinsically and exclusively a musical statement?

D.S.: There’s no point in making it bigger than what really is. We do have a message and we will stick to it. The cult around what can eventually become a sort of religion, a kind of pessimist religion by the way, and therefore evil, is something that most probably already existed. Actually, that is one of the topics I wanted to make some research about. Is there any socio-religion cult related to volcanism? I don’t know, but actually, I should know and will soon, as it is something I really wanted to learn. For now, I can only tell that we got attracted by the physical and sociological impacts of these massive events. The music is the orchestra of destruction triggered by those forces, in other words, flooding of incandescent sounds of death.

Would it be fair to say that, in order to understand the music of Phenocryst, one needs to have a keen ear that’s capable of diving deeper and focusing on the nuances? In other words, do you feel that, when it comes to your sound, the devil hides in the details? What are those subtle differences that give Phenocryst a slightly different angle compared to any other band around?

D.S.: You do really have a sophisticated way to present your questions. Phenocryst is death metal. But also doom, and black maybe, I don’t know, and I don’t really care to be honest. What I really do care is if that sounds interesting enough to me, and the other members too, of course, and if it carries the visions and the landscapes we wanted to describe. We do have the notion that we want to play death metal but we also don’t establish any boundary to our creativity, as long as it serves what we search. Another point is that we probably create an atmosphere that goes beyond the usual death metal riffs, but most likely I’m just being a nerd. Summarizing all this verbiage, our priorities are the atmosphere, feeling, and running away from basic structures.

Phenocryst Interview 2022 (Imprint)

Do you find comparisons with bands like Incantation, Immolation, or Autopsy to be lazy, counterproductive, or even harmful, considering that they arguably conceal more than they reveal?

D.S.: We all listen to Incantation and Autopsy, and so on, but to be honest I kind of much prefer what has been done more recently. I would say bands like Bölzer, Cruciamentum, Spectral Voice, or Grave Miasma play a much more important influence in my way of playing nowadays. But you know, we’re all music fanatics and we do listen to a lot of other genres or styles. I find that quite mind-opening and healthy to stimulate creativity. So, for me at least, it is quite hard to judge what other bands we might sound like because I believe that Phenocryst is a blend of many spectrums.

Presuming that Igneous Fluids aims to convey an eerie atmosphere of a barren and scorched landscape and deliberately end Explosions on a gloom, desperate note, what kind of visual should ideally be evoked by Fumarole Emanations, as the EP’s opener?

D.S.: You can imagine the fields of Fumarole Emanations a bit like a no man’s land in a battlefield of the twentieth century. The difference is that you have natural fumaroles releasing toxic and acid gases in smoke streams coming from the non-vegetated ground. The soils are of different colours representing the various chemical compositions of these gases. The sediments are muddy, the environment is inhospitable. Life is hanging by a thread, and the closest visible signs of life are the molten corpses with holes strewn across the fields, waiting to finally turn into filthy viscous masses.

Speaking of visualization, almost all of your riffs feel like molten lava slowly sliding down, they roll steady and with authority. Would it be too pretentious to say that, with its aural and visual component, your music has a multi-perceptible quality to it, that you purposely made it that way?

D.S.: I would be lying if I’d say I wanted to recreate these landscapes musically. To be honest, the music came first and the visualizations came after. But it is true that I studied their atmosphere and tried to apply different scenarios that would be better represented by the music. The lyrics and vocals help a lot in turning the atmosphere into something more visual.

That deep, resonating bass sound over the opening guitar line in Pyroclastic Flows, before the first riff, is certainly one of the EP’s more memorable moments. What are some of the sequences of music you feel particularly strongly about, that aren’t necessarily the entire songs but rather their fragments?

D.S.: That’s kind of hard to answer because we try to make the best out of every moment, be it slow or fast, light or heavy, tense or suffocating. In my opinion every song carries its own character, a personality, and a story board that is described by words. Allow me to say that the vocals play a major role here because I believe we achieved the level of despair, hopelessness, and suffering the music and lyrical content should have represented.

Phenocryst Interview 2022 (Promo)

As an almost forty years old genre, death metal provides material galore for young bands to take inspiration from, but at the same time it hinders them from bringing anything new to the table, with an abundance of previously recorded music setting firm guidelines and limitations as it pertains to what’s acceptable and what’s not. Is finding a compromise between the two something that was difficult in your case?

D.S.: We were not limited or restrained by any guidelines. Nevertheless, we wanted to play death metal. But, just like you mentioned, forty years of a genre didn’t only set the stones of the classic way to play but also brought new and innovative approaches to the genre that, most of the time, blend several styles and bring something new and fresh. The production, recording processes, and mixings are also evolving and sometimes it’s enough to get away from the usual producers to have your own sound. Quite honestly, we never wanted to be a copy of Morbid Angel or Deicide, and that’s why we searched for an uncommon landscape.

Is providing consistency and faithful devotion to a certain style inherently a more honourable way of making music than taking risks, experimenting, and constantly striving to reinvent oneself? Or do you think that there’s nothing intrinsically wrong with any of these approaches, as a sufficient amount of creativity can easily justify bands on both sides of the fence, that can be either worthless or worthy of high praise?

D.S.: I get your point, but once again, it’s not easy to answer this. From my point of view, you have great examples in both directions. Some copycat bands are better than the originals and, on the other hand, being original and creative does not mean that the output is going to be great. Musicality has to be present always, and playing senseless shit with over-layered lines won’t guarantee that the songs are going to be amazing. Also, the goal of the band can also say something. Why would anyone really want to recreate the wheel when it is already perfectly developed? Or, let’s rock this shit out of here and shake the milestones and push the boundaries further?

How do you feel about the latest Onirik album The Fire Cult Beyond Eternity?

D.S.: I do enjoy this Onirik album and I praise Gonius Rex’s creativity and ability to bring to earth a unique act like this one. But my favourite Onirik album is Casket Dream Veneration because it is just fucking amazing. There are not so many minds who can put an album like that together and unfortunately, in Portugal, the band is quite ignored.

What is the thing about Lisbon one needs to know in order to feel the pulse and understand the true essence of the city? What are some of the darkest sides that living in it entails, that the band actually thrives on?

D.S.: Lisbon is a city with many faces. I dare say, Lisbon is a city of the world, but simultaneously, a city with a character of its own. It represents freedom, but also slavery. Its joy and happiness, but its people always carry a deep sense of loneliness and melancholy. The paradigm is real and embodies the old feelings of the country at the moment of departure and arrival through a certain frustration of the unwanted necessity of discerning the world. Celebration might be a sense of sadness. Silence can carry the satisfaction of a broken heart. Like one genius once told we are just postponed corpses that breed.

 

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