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

Conversation with

Ataraxy

Now that almost fifteen years of your lives have been committed to Ataraxy, would you say that the band has lived up to its name, in the sense that it brought you tranquility of mind, attained by freeing yourselves from emotional concerns and anxiety, which is basically what the word ataraxy means?

Edu: It’s been a long journey and, at many different times in my life, rehearsing and hanging out at our rehearsal place has been basically the only way to escape from everyday struggle and to blow off steam. So, I guess in that way, it has served that purpose.

One could argue that all your full-lengths, The Last Mirror included, were an exercise in revealing the ethereal, starting off with your debut whose title was pretty self-explanatory in that regard. Do you feel that the word ethereal captures the essence of your sound and vision better than any other, almost as some kind of artistic credo?

Edu: It’s hard to capture that essence with just one word, but it’s interesting to see how the atmosphere of the albums somehow became more ethereal after that one. We’ll keep on trying to reveal it.

Do the album title and front cover of The Last Mirror need each other in order to explain each other, and is their joint purpose to accentuate the juxtaposition between life and death, which seems to be the focal point of the album’s narrative that all songs revolve around in one way or another?

Edu: I wouldn’t say they need each other, as music should always be the most important thing on an album, and it should be able to stand on its own without any visual support. But I guess they do complement each other, in a way that introduces you to the dark world we try to evoke through this last mirror.

Does that last mirror stand for the actual moment of death where life and death meet for a split second, or do you feel that death never ceases to reflect life in the mirror, from the very moment of birth? Is that perhaps one of the meanings behind the album title?

Edu: The album title is usually one of the last things we decide. What we usually do is, we sit down and read the lyrics and throw out some ideas and potential titles for a few days. I picked One Last Mirror from the line One last mirror reflects our fate off the song A Mirror Reflects Our Fate. Our drummer David suggested changing that to The Last Mirror and that was it. Javi, our vocalist and main lyricist, told us later about how that particular line was inspired by an old poem by Leopoldo María Panero titled El Último Espejo, which also translates as The Last Mirror, so it was a fun coincidence how we ended up rephrasing that sentence into the actual poem title without knowing about it. I think your interpretation of the title is as valid as any other, and it’s actually quite similar to mine, considering I didn’t write the lyrics. I think of that last mirror as the realization of life’s finitude. Maybe at the moment of your own demise, maybe during the course of life. A haunting reflection.

What is the significance of the song title The Bell That Constantly Sounds?

Edu: Bells can make us think about both the passing of time and death itself. Church bells in small villages and towns still ring their slow death knells as soon as the priest becomes aware of a fellow neighbor that’s passed away. Tocar a Muerto is what we call it here.

Why did you decide to open the album with that song and to end it with A Mirror Reflects Our Fate?

Edu: The tracklist is always the last thing we work on. It’s hard to explain since there’s no perfect science around it, we just choose the order that in our opinion makes the album flow better.

Would it be fair to say that the last two full-lengths have much more in common than the first two in terms of the overall mood and atmosphere, and that The Last Mirror was built upon the foundation of Where All Hope Fades as a more elaborate, improved version of that album, whereas Revelations Of The Ethereal had provided that foundation for Where All Hope Fades only moderately?

Edu: These last two albums share some very important elements the first two may be lacking, namely a more atmospheric edge, slower and suffocating funereal tempos, and an overall darker vibe. That’s quite obvious and part of the evolution of the band. On the other hand, I find The Last Mirror more aggressive than Where All Hope Fades, through both the songwriting and the sound of the album. So that may bring back some of the violence of Revelations Of The Ethereal and the earlier stuff.

Ataraxy Interview 2022 (The Last Mirror)

Where All Hope Fades dealt with the problem of time. Time keeps going forward, our battle is lost, a brief existence, and there is no more, to quote one of the verses from that album. Given its tricky promise that it will always be there, which is why we waste it so much while we’re young, and the fact it slowly guides us towards our inevitable demise, without mercy or sympathy, do you feel that time is actually one of the earthly manifestations of the Devil itself?

Edu: Time hurts. Of course, it’s fine to be positive about the future and, for most of us, there are always good things to come in one way or another. But let’s be honest, time deteriorates and undermines most things we are attached to and makes them perish. So it’s easy to let yourself be drawn into nostalgia for all things past.

Where All Hope Fades is the only Ataraxy album that features clean vocals. The fact that you didn’t feel compelled to replicate that blueprint on The Last Mirror, was it a matter of the lyrics dictating otherwise or your dissatisfaction, in retrospect, with how that turned out on Where All Hope Fades?

Edu: As far as I know, Javi just didn’t feel like these new songs were asking for any clean parts, the same way he didn’t find the need to write a song in any language that wasn’t English, unlike As Uembras d’o Hibierno from our previous album. So I don’t think it was a matter of dissatisfaction. He may do it again in the future, who knows?

Speaking of Javi, given the remarkable vigour and potency of his vocals, which are surely one of the band’s main assets, would you say that they contribute to the emotional and sonic scope of your music just as much as any other instrument, regardless of the impact of the actual lyrics?

Edu: Absolutely, Javi’s vocals are in my opinion a very important part of the Ataraxy sound, so to speak. They add a lot both musically and emotionally, they help the songs reach the discouraging feeling we’re looking for. I think they do contribute to the music as much as any other instrument. That said, many of nowadays death metal bands tend to go back to a competition that I thought was over, to see who has the most low-tuned guitar sound and the most brutal growls, and most of them end up being just plain and boring.

The keyboards have had a delicate presence in your music ever since the Revelation Of The Ethereal days. Considering that you use them as a thin sonic carpet beneath the music rather than a regular instrument with its own share of intricate melody lines, what exactly is their purpose?

Edu: During the gap between Revelations Of The Ethereal and Where All Hope Fades, Javi got more and more interested in keyboards, got himself a MIDI keyboard and started working with it. We took advantage of this during the recording of Where All Hope Fades and I think that’s the most keyboard-heavy mixing we’ve done so far on any recording. The purpose has always been to enhance the atmosphere already created by the rest of the instruments, as we never use keyboards live or at rehearsals.

Is your decision to use them in such a fundamentally basic manner influenced by some particular musician or a band?

Edu: There are lots of bands with influential keyboards, but if I had to choose one for us, it would be Skepticism. Eero Pöyry is the ultimate funeral keyboard master.

A keen pair of ears could probably notice a steady, gradual emotional decline in your riffs that, once almost exclusively gutsy and empowering, have become significantly more gloomy as years have gone by. Is that transition from powerful to mournful a reflection of your inner personal turbulences, and do you believe that mournful and powerful aren’t mutually exclusive, that one can often find strength in sorrow?

Edu: I’d say it’s mostly part of our evolution as a band and as songwriters. We try to find that balance between mournful, doomy parts, and the good old violent death metal maelstrom. It is in that contrast that we find ourselves more comfortable, musically speaking. You sure can find strength in sorrow and pain, comfort and stability can often lead to weakness, as we can easily see in nowadays society.

Given the immensely evocative atmosphere of your music, one would think that you are probably prone to similar emotions as individuals, in your private lives. Are you?

Edu: As much as anyone else I guess, I stopped feeling special and misunderstood after high school.

Is it possible to write genuinely sad or angry music without feeling sadness and anger yourself?

Edu: I’d say you need a particular state of mind, or at least some inspiration, to write good music. I wouldn’t say that feeling anger or sadness at that same moment is particularly necessary though. I’m guessing it goes beyond that.

Ataraxy Interview 2022 (Promo)

What do you feel are the strongest and the least satisfying songs from each of your official releases, including The Last Mirror?

Edu: This may be a predictable answer, but I can’t choose an unsatisfying song, otherwise I don’t think it would have made it to the album. Nowadays we’re rehearsing different old and new songs for our upcoming shows and I’m having great fun playing all of them.

Would you subscribe to the notion that Revelations Of The Ethereal still to this day features some of the most memorable riffs the band has ever written?

Edu: I guess the songs on Revelations Of The Ethereal are, in their more basic approach, catchier and more riff-ridden, I’ll buy that. If it’s still the favorite album for some people, I’m fine with that. It represents a very special period of our lives, both as a band and as individuals, so we hold it close to our blackened hearts.

Were The Tomb and The Festival excluded from Revelation Of The Ethereal because you felt they weren’t quite on par with the songs that eventually ended up on the album or because they didn’t fit the album’s storyline?

Edu: We don’t like long albums, at least not for Ataraxy. The classic 40 to 45 minute mark seems enough. We spent a lot of time writing and rehearsing new songs during those early years, so we entered the studio with nine songs. We chose the songs we liked the best for the album, or the ones we thought would work better with the full-length dynamics. Looking back now, I don’t think the EP songs were better or worse than the ones that made it to the full-length, but we had to discard a couple of them anyway. I like how those two songs work together now, the song titles and lyrics make it look like a concept release, even if that was not the intention. The Alexander Brown artwork is really good too. They ended up as some cool deep cuts for the die-hard listeners. We even played The Festival at the shows we did to support Where All Hope Fades, and it’s been the only t-shirt we have been printing and selling for a few years, until The Last Mirror was released.

Do you still listen to Curse Of The Requiem Mass sometimes and how do you feel about it these days?

Edu: I rarely listen to any Ataraxy at home, unless it’s for reference purposes, to prepare for gigs or something like that. As far as playing the songs with the band, we aren’t rehearsing any Curse Of The Requiem Mass right now, but maybe in the future we’ll bring back something from it. We played The Last Stare in the shows we did after the release of Where All Hope Fades. I have fond memories of those times, it was my first recording ever since I didn’t record the demo with the band, and it brings back memories of endless nights at our rehearsal place and the frustrating local pubs, with lots of fun mixed with teenage angst. I feel old now!

How important is the question of identity for Ataraxy, and is your fairly distinctive sound something completely spontaneous and unpremeditated, or an outcome of your conscious efforts to avoid sounding like any other band, past or present?

Edu: I’d say it was spontaneous, we just kept writing songs and we achieved what I consider our own sound naturally. Last month a good friend told me that he could have played the new album blindfolded, and he’d have guessed it was Ataraxy as soon as the melody of the instrumental intro kicked in. I think that’s one of the best compliments we have received for this new album.

Do you think that our taste in music is something that we have no control over, our predestined disposition, and if so, what about the way you are wired makes you revel in music that sounds offensive, disgusting, and disturbing to the majority of normal people?

Edu: I’ve thought about this quite often. For many people, myself included, there’s always this older individual who’s cooler than you and into all that stuff and gets you to discover this new awesome music. It’s almost like an archetype at this point, most of my friends got into heavy metal through something similar. In my case, it was my best friend’s older brother when I was around ten. So I often think, would I be where I’m now, if I had simply hung out with other kids in school? Having this music as my main passion has strongly shaped my life in many different ways. Even with the easier access to all the information that was to come a few years later with the widespread use of the Internet, there’s no way to know if I’d have shown an interest in this music without that first, innocent boost. Maybe this conception of fate and predestined disposition is more mundane than what you had in mind, but anyway. Regarding how one can get into what should be a disgusting and extreme form of art, in most cases I’d say it’s initially driven by morbid curiosity and the plain teenage angst I mentioned earlier.

Ataraxy Interview 2022 (Band)

Do you believe that worthwhile death metal cannot be just plain ugly, that there must be something symptomatic about its ugliness, something that draws one to it regardless? If so, how would you define what that something is?

Edu: I think death metal can be quite a versatile genre. It can be truly dark and unnerving in its very own ugliness, with bands like Autopsy or Nuclear Death instantly coming to mind, or it can aim to be something bigger, like Morbid Angel. Celtic Frost masterpiece To Mega Therion is probably the best example of that. It may sound ugly to the uninitiated with that gritty guitar tone, raw drumming, and raspy vocals, yet it conveys something way more profound once you have the proper background. Nowadays I see it as a very complex work of art, full of details. I often think it’s my favourite album ever recorded.

Do you still feel that extreme metal is old music for old farts, that has no future, as you boldly stressed in one of your earlier interviews?

Edu: Hah, I always love to drop one or two bold, cocky sentences in interviews, I think it’s part of the fanzine idiosyncrasies and tradition. I also do it on my own fanzine all the time, and more often than not it should be taken with a pick of salt, as a rejection to nowadays tendency to measure every single word. Anyway, I still think extreme metal has become old music for old farts, its heyday was left behind many years ago. I’m 32 now, so obviously I wasn’t into it when all the classic stuff came out, so go figure how most 16 or 18 year olds would see it nowadays. It’s music their parents may be into. Of course, there are still kids getting into it and that’s cool, but go to a show and think about the average age of most attendees. There’s more people growing their prostates than growing their hair.

Two questions about the Spanish death metal scene. Whatever happened to your countrymen Domains and would you agree that Sinister Ceremonies is one of the finest Spanish death metal records of the last decade?

Edu: As far as I know, David is now focused on his new band Horripilant, which is great too, and I don’t know what Fran is doing nowadays, as I was always in touch with David who has been a good friend of mine since the early days of Domains. I think they never said the project was over so maybe they will do something in the future, it would be great. Meanwhile, check out Horripilant, totally recommended. I agree, Sinister Ceremonies and both Oniricous albums are my top Spanish death metal albums of recent times.

Given their considerable body of work, would you say that Graveyard from Barcelona are overrated or underrated?

Edu: They are a hard-working band, I don’t think they are neither overrated nor underrated. We are good friends and we have played together several times. On that note, Javi Félez from Graveyard has been behind every Ataraxy recording at his Moontower Studios.

Do you feel that deeming something underrated is inherently contradictory, as it directly implies the recognition of that something’s value and importance by one who makes such a claim? Sharing your music with the world, do you sometimes feel that having only one person admiring what you do is all it takes?

Edu: I think the term is quite overused now with all those reissues and stuff. Everything’s getting unearthed and re-released, every old band is coming back, and everything’s supposed to be a hidden jewel and an underrated band. If everything’s underrated, then nothing’s underrated. If you are talking about Ataraxy, yes, we are aware of different reviews of the new album that use the term underrated for the band, even best kept secret or fancy stuff like that. I guess it’s mostly because we are not as exposed or as popular as other death metal bands with a similar career, even some label mates, but that’s fine. We always do things our way, and it has worked for us so far.

How deeply is the pace at which you live your lives intertwined with the pulse of your hometown of Zaragoza? What are the most rewarding and irritating things about living in it?

Edu: It’s a nice city and it’s big enough without the stress of huge cities like Madrid or Barcelona. It has a lot of history, it’s relatively well connected and there’s always something to do. I love my city, I was born and raised here, and I can’t think of anything particularly bad, at least nothing I’d avoid if I lived in a different city. I guess the weather can be a pain in the ass, both in summer and winter.

How often do you remind yourself that you must die, and does the awareness and consciousness of your own mortality help you stay grounded?

Edu: I get this existential vertigo and nausea when I think too deeply about death. I first became aware of it when I was a kid, so I try not to think about it because it’s a disgusting feeling that leads to nowhere.

 

Copyright © 2022 by From The Bowels Of Perdition. All rights reserved.