As a debut full-length that took more than ten years of the band’s existence to materialize, would you say that Sombre Opulence is a monument of accumulated knowledge, power, and maturity, that showcases a band that’s at the peak of its power rather than a group of newcomers carefully dipping their toes in the water?
Jeroen: That’s pretty accurate. It’s the result of a long and deliberate process. We know what we want and we take our time to achieve it. And we feel we delivered exactly what we wanted to.
With your music becoming exponentially more substantial with each new release, do you feel that peaking too early in your career could be an issue due to the pressure of having to live up to your own standards, which is usually just as hard as setting those standards, if not harder?
Viktor: The concept of peaking is not a thing for us. We are going to create the best release we can, each time. What a release is and what it sounds like will always depend on our frame of mind when we are making it. As shown in the past, we will never make the same exact release twice. Some people still have our demo as their favourite Bones release. That is fine by us. The demo represents perfectly who we were as a band then. We are now a different band, and will be a different band again when the next release comes round. The core is the same, but we will never be a recycling act, though we are not consciously trying to reinvent the wheel either. We will follow the path that calls to us at the moment and see where that brings us sonically.
Jeroen: And while it is certainly true that we hold ourselves to a high standard, at the same time I feel we are entirely equipped to meet it, or go beyond it. For the moment I do not feel pressured by what we have achieved with this album. Quite the contrary, more than anything else, it creates thirst and eagerness to push forward with relentless fury.
So, you wouldn’t say that this is actually the first time your idea and vision of what Bones should sound like has been fully accomplished?
Viktor: Our vision of Bones is not a set in stone thing, but more of a fluid concept. This concept evolves each time we finish a release and start work on a new one. As stated before, each release so far has been a testament to who we were as a band at that time, and in that fact each stands on its own as a representation of the concept of Bones. We never decided the end result of this band will be this, so let’s start taking small steps to reach that goal. That sounds defeatist and limiting, setting yourself an expiration date before you have begun. We always had an idea in mind that we wanted to realize at that specific time, which is witnessed by every release that we put out. I think the death knell for Bones will be the moment this constant evolution stops, and may that day never come.
Jeroen: There’s indeed no end goal, and each release was quite representative of what we were looking for at that point. Having said that, for me personally we have gotten closer with each release to what I think is our ultimate personal sound and would agree the album is the most complete realization of that, so far. I expect our future output to be another step closer to that objective, which is probably impossible to achieve, and maybe should be.
One could argue that not using the overwhelming sound of Sombre Opulence as a sonic blueprint for future releases would be a waste.
Viktor: Sombre Opulence is definitely a milestone for us. The sound we have achieved both in production and musically is almost exactly what we had envisioned beforehand. Though the shifting and evolving essence of the band precludes us from just taking this sound as a carbon copy for releases in the future, it will definitely inform the way we go about recording and crafting our next release. Perhaps more in the process of it than the actual sound, which will be determined by the music and not a pre-formulated concept of what we have done before.
Jeroen: We don’t think in terms of blueprints, but the result of the album is certainly even greater confidence in our musical vision. We will push forward, potentially into ever darker territories. But always total death metal.
Even though Sombre Opulence doesn’t seem to be a concept album, all of the song titles have something mythological, ancient-sounding about them that might suggest a common narrative after all. Is that the case, and if so, where do the artwork and album title fit into the whole picture?
Jeroen: While there is indeed no overarching concept, there is a red thread running throughout the lyrics and themes, forming a cohesive whole. Many of our lyrical concepts explore the ancient Near East religion, ritual, and magic. We are fascinated by the ancients both in terms of the mystical, mysterious, unknowable, and esoteric, as well as the gruesome and the cruel. The spiritual as well as the violent, and the many places where they meet. The album title refers to the immense efforts in dark and ancient times, both material and spiritual, to defeat forces that cannot be defeated. It is about acquiring weaponry for the hereafter, and the silent fear that none of it might suffice. The album cover itself reproduces obscure ancient magic to destroy enemies. Multiple powerful divine entities are bound to servitude through threat and sheer arrogance. The resulting composite deities bring total death to all opposition and thus properly represent the music contained within.
Withering divides the album right down the middle, with four songs on each side of it. Would it be fair to say that there’s a set of traits that makes the songs on each of those sides complementary, that they are by no means interchangeable?
Viktor: I felt strongly that the album needed to start without any preamble. We could have opened with Withering and gone into a song, but I felt it was appropriate for the listeners to be immediately introduced to what they could expect. The pummeling Execration Rites fills this role perfectly. I believe that in conjunction with Deserts Of Eternity before it and Primordial Idolatry after it, Withering in the middle made perfect sense as a sharp intake of breath before the second plunge.
Jeroen: Thinking about the track order and flow was 100% based on the vinyl format from the start. We wanted both sides to make sense on their own, and to connect to each other in a logical way. This is why Deserts Of Eternity fades out at the end of side A, and Withering fades in at the start of side B. The balance between the tracks on each side was also carefully considered. There’s more subtle small connections such as the exhalation at the end of Funerary Magic that was done by me, and the inhalation at the start of the next track Twilight Divination, done by Stef, which also holds relevance on the lyrical level.
Is songwriting in your case a meticulous, painstaking process that involves a lot of work, time, and effort, with absolutely no tolerance for mediocrity of any kind? Do you hesitate to get rid of riffs or even the entire songs and to start over if something doesn’t sound right or if you get stuck in a dead end?
Viktor: We are merciless in our evaluation of our own material. Some of the songs on this album have been torn apart countless times, rearranged, and reshaped over several years until finally the ideas clicked. On the other hand, other songs on the album have been written with ferocious speed and fallen into place as if destined to be this way.
Jeroen: Quite well put. Death to mediocrity for sure, that’s a very big one for me. There’s more than enough generic stuff out there. But also a lot of high-level death metal, so it is natural to us to be demanding to ourselves. We want to feel the power and possession of every single riff as we play them. And as Viktor points out, this is reflected in our writing process, which is very thorough.
One cannot possibly overstate the importance of the leads and solos on this album. Were they written separately, outside of any context, or purposely with the intention of mirroring the feeling and intensity of the riffs in each individual song?
Jeroen: All the leads and solos were tailored to the context of the individual tracks. The leads were all constructed quite carefully in particular. For the solos I knew 90% beforehand where everything would go and how to approach them. Some of them were mostly written out, others were planned to be completely improvised on the spot during recording, and the rest was a mix between a few phrase ideas and the volcanic inspiration of the moment. In particular the sound is of extreme importance to me. The correct combination of settings and effects generates enormous inspiration and allows me to disappear into the moment and channel furious destruction and ancient mystery. All the solos were performed as you hear them, with all effects present at the time of recording, nothing was added afterwards. Our mixer Chris Common no doubt had a lot of fun blending the very different tones and fx across the solos into the tracks. I’m very pleased with how they turned out.
Would you say that the contrast between the furious, chaotic leads and riffs that are often slow and monolithic predominantly fuels the dynamics of the songs on the album?
Jeroen: There is no greater joy than a screaming lead or solo over a slow and crushing riff. The lead and solo work in general channels the required complete possession. No peace here. Their placement and feel were very deliberate in terms of what the riff or track needed. Dynamics, pacing, building up, and a sense of climax are all things we think about and they certainly contribute to that.
Influence-wise, is Sombre Opulence a conscious Morbid Angel tribute or merely a collection of unplanned and coincidental references to that legendary band?
Jeroen: Tribute, absolutely not, we are our own band. The influence is of course undeniable and I have zero problem with that. There is a reason they are gods and have inspired countless others. They are so important and foundational, a huge part of the death metal vocabulary comes from them, it’s inevitable. It’s something to be embraced. But beyond that they are certainly not the only band influencing us. Concerning references to them, none are conscious, although some have indeed been pointed out to us. That’s fine.
Please list Morbid Angel albums in order, with your favourite first and least favourite last.
Viktor: I’m not the biggest Morbid Angel fan in the band by a long shot, I can only give my three definite favorites, which are Covenant, Altars, and Formulas. The least favorite is Illud, come on.
Jeroen: As I said, Altars, Covenant, Formulas, and Heretic are my favorites. Illud of course last. Second last is Kingdoms Disdained. Domination has both amazing and mediocre moments, with an underwhelming vocal performance by David Vincent, who would never again sound as incredible as he had before. Abominations is a cult classic. Gateways is good but not as good as Formulas. Blessed Are The Sick is overall very good but unbalanced and of course horrible production, but this is also part of its charm.
Do you think that Trey still has it in him to write another decent Morbid Angel album?
Jeroen: I have no idea. I can’t look into his head. We listened to Kingdoms Disdained for the first time together but were extremely disappointed. Horrifying drum performance, sound, and production. Totally mechanic and soulless. Barely any solos. I read he went completely unprepared into the studio to see what would happen, which is fine, but the result is truly subpar if you know what he can do, or could have done to lift these very mediocre compositions to another level. There are a few decent riffs buried in there but we actually just turned it off halfway, it was that bad. It’s a shame because Formulas is perhaps my third favourite Morbid Angel album, Tucker and Trey did some great stuff on that one.
What are some of those other metal bands whose sound and legacy are also deeply rooted in the very foundations of what you represent as a band and as musicians?
Viktor: As a band we don’t have any influences in that regard. We never want to consciously mimic or replicate what anyone else has done before us. As musicians, however, we all have extremely varied backgrounds, but with a lot of overlap as well. I can say that, as a musician, I am more inspired and influenced by black metal, ambient, and ’70s psych rock than death metal. Within Bones, even though that background is there, I don’t draw influence from that in any influential way. Bones is Bones.
Jeroen: We don’t take any band’s sound as a blueprint but I certainly have some particular influences, both on what I do within Bones and what kind of guitarist I am. A non-complete list would comprise the aforementioned albums by Morbid Angel, the first two Immolation records, Darkthrone’s Soulside Journey, Vader’s Morbid Reich, the first Massacra record, the demo and first album by Sinister, The Awakening by Merciless, Sepultura’s Morbid Visions, Protector’s Misanthropy, Mortem from Peru, Damnation from Poland, etc.
Is it more important to you to transcend your influences by channeling their spirit rather than their sound through your own music?
Jeroen: That’s an interesting way to put it. I guess it has to do with evoking a certain shared spirit, although it’s also about shared attitude and, let’s say, taste in metal. Maybe all of that is the same though.
To which traits of your music or even your personalities would you attribute the fact that, as a relatively young entity with a fairly modest body of work, you exhibit the finesse and expertise of veterans?
Jeroen: Flattering words, appreciate it a lot. The fact that we have been active for a long time and are deeply accustomed to working and playing with each other goes a long way. We have strong opinions about what we do and don’t like in death metal, and apply that to our own music, with great attention to detail.
Do you sometimes feel that there’s hardly anything more difficult than putting a fresh and personal spin on an almost forty years old genre like death metal? Do you even consider doing so as mandatory?
Jeroen: To me it’s more about understanding the language of death metal correctly, and then using it in our own way, which then transmits personality and character, along with performance and passionate delivery. And this language is more than broad enough to evoke the ancients, while not sounding like a copy of them and being your own band. I’m not concerned with pushing the boundaries of the genre, more with finding our own expression within it and turning everything to eleven.
Did you find it important to fully preserve the organic feel of a band playing together when you were in the studio, recording, or did you see the studio work as an opportunity to slightly tighten up each of your individual performances?
Viktor: To us, this was paramount. We have experimented in the past, on pre-productions, with recording everything separate. This does not work for us the way playing and recording together does. It creates the atmosphere of four entities creating magic. Of course, layers of additional craft were added afterward, but the essence and foundation of the songs was put down by all four of us together.
Speaking of entities, does Bones feel like a pack, a depersonalised entity that transcends all four of you as individuals?
Viktor: Both yes and no. When we create music together, we are four individuals who each approach the songs in their own way, from their own background, and we find ways to bring these different perspectives together. When we present our music however, live or otherwise, we are one entity.
Jeroen: Together we create something that is more than the sum of its parts. The result transcends us as individuals, and this is always the most important.
Does the music on this album fit your attention span or did you seek to expand and stretch it as much as possible in that regard?
Jeroen: The music and tracklisting are not so much tailored to any specific attention span as they are simply the result of our writing process, which is then arranged for optimal overall flow and impact. But I personally think a runtime of roughly 40 minutes is ideal for an album like this.
Do you perhaps see your music as self-imposed psychotherapy, with you being both the therapist and a client, with the end goal of traversing and exploring your dark subconscious?
Jeroen: That’s probably taking things a bit too far. I know from the lyrical perspective in what way my personality is connected to these themes and why it manifests in this way, and there’s certainly detailed exploration of all kinds there. But I would not call the band itself a form of psychotherapy. Certainly we aren’t doing this I think to explore our subconscious. Rather the point is to express and experience a very conscious and all-consuming passion for death metal. By the way, this question instantly reminded me of Morbid’s My Dark Subconscious, which you might have consciously or unconsciously referenced. See what I did there? I’ll get my coat (laughs).
Is keeping the band going a mission, in the sense that your will to create is far stronger than the mundane temptations of doing anything else, or worse yet doing nothing at all, which most people succumb to every day?
Jeroen: I think that is actually very well put, yes. For sure we are absolutely on a mission, totally. We are obsessed with achieving the ultimate expression of what death metal should be for us as a band. And for me as an individual, it aligns very much with my values and passions in life.
Would it be fair to say that your music has a strong ego presence, that there’s nothing passive, modest, or considerate about it? In general, do you see ego as a prerequisite or hindrance to living life to the fullest?
Jeroen: Concerning the music itself, it must be completely dominating, confident, merciless, and ruthless, both on record and live, absolutely. That is what Bones as an entity must be, or it cannot be. We very much believe in our vision and it would be wrong not to. That’s not the same as our attitude as individuals, of course, which is and should be very down to earth. We don’t present ourselves with different personas or have a rock star attitude. We’re not more important than anyone else, and if you think you are, that might be a hindrance to living your life to the fullest indeed. Speaking for myself, I can be both proud and confident about the work we have done, and be humble about the reception it gets and the reactions of people. It’s been great and I’m very thankful for that.
Sombre Opulence was dedicated to the great late Timo Ketola, whose sudden death prevented your cooperation for this album from coming to fruition. What are some of his finest works in your opinion, that you will remember him by?
Viktor: Teitanblood’s Seven Chalices is his work that stands out the most to me and the first one that I knew of him. After seeing this, I think we all knew that we wanted to work with him at some point, no matter what.
Jeroen: Same album for me. Sick cover, and even more incredible booklet work, mixing drawings with typography. I was also particularly impressed with the painting for Deathspell Omega’s Paracletus, and the amazing woodwork he made for the first Funereal Presence album cover. He was truly a man of many talents. He could summon or be in touch with an air of mystery like no other.
Are there any classic death metal albums that you didn’t like initially but have won you over eventually?
Jeroen: Ironically, my favourite death metal album of all time, Soulside Journey by Darkthrone. I was very young and, at the beginning of my metal journey, couldn’t differentiate the genres. Darkthrone was pointed out to me as the example of black metal. Imagine my ultimate confusion upon spinning Soulside Journey (laughs). I didn’t get it and hated the fact that the drum kept going all over the place at the time, which is hilarious since I love it to death now, and I just wanted it to go. But I was instantly intrigued for life anyway. I never stopped listening to it throughout the years and slowly but surely it became one of my favorite albums ever. Total magic, together with the Goatlord album.
What are some of the bands in the underground today that in your opinion do everything right?
Viktor: Siege Column, (DOLCH).
Jeroen: Venefixion, Sépulcre, Ritualization, Blasphematory, Siege Column, Occulsed, Funeral Chant, Ignivomous, Deathwards, Abhorration, Funereal Presence, Oath Of Cruelty, Krolok, etc. Above all, Ascended Dead is mental and possibly the best death metal band of the last ten years for me. Completely insane, out of control metal madness. Their performance at Kill Town Death Fest a few years back was amazing.
Was Morbus Chron a special band in your opinion and were you disappointed when they disbanded after Sweven? What other bands and albums scratch that particular proggy itch that their and Tribulation’s sophomores do so well?
Viktor: Though this album holds a special place for me as a work of art, I think they quit at exactly the right time. Evidenced by the lack of magic that the Sweven project afterward managed to evoke in me.
Jeroen: Me and Stef met being enthusiastic about their demo, but that’s about it for me concerning Morbus Chron. The other guys are much more into them. Less into proggy stuff too myself, with some exceptions like Stargazer.
When unbelievers become believers, like Morbid Angel’s Pete Sandoval for example, they often explain the transformation by saying that they have found god, or seen god, or something along those lines. Have you ever found, seen, or interacted in any other way with your own interpretation of higher power?
Jeroen: Perhaps these conversions happen out of fear, conscious or not. Like a coping mechanism. All past and present meaning has disappeared, and the mind is in crisis. It’s a way to find meaning that is immediately attainable through God because there might not be the means or time left to create a new, personal one. Especially later in life. I’m certainly fascinated by it and a large part of my book collection deals with it, but I do not hold a rational belief in forces outside of myself that can produce some form of encounter with the divine, otherworldly, or magical. I have been to places, for example, that I would describe as having a certain magic to them but this has everything to do with how my mind reacts to them rather than them to me. This has come up before in some other interviews and I once said that music might be the closest thing to actual magic to me. I think I still stand by that. A part of the answer may be in the question as well. Everyone seems to have their own interpretation, if any at all. There’s no unifying external truth. Certainly various faiths throughout the ages can’t seem to agree on it. The only common thread is the human mind and maybe how it connects to others. Maybe that’s mysterious enough.
Generally, in life, do you regret more things that you did or things that you didn’t do, and why?
Jeroen: I have my share of both regrets and victories like everyone else, but without having my life planned I know very well what is important to me right now. And a lot of that is to be found within music.
Copyright © 2022 by From The Bowels Of Perdition. All rights reserved.