– Hello, thanks for answering to our questions. What are you guys currently up to?
In late December we started working on the production of Dark Pantheons and it has been non-stop ever since! We just finished getting all of the artwork and photography wrapped up for the albums publication in February. Since then, exactly one year to the date from when we regrouped, we played our first live performance since 2007. We played at the Rochester Metal Fest (RMF) in Western New York and it was an awesome show. The energy and enthusiasm from the crowd was fantastic and it felt great to be on stage as AGIEL once again. No rest for the wicked though, we’ve been hard at work since the beginning of the New Year. We wanted to be able to share the first performance of the new release, so we invited a film crew down to capture the whole set. The footage is amazing and we are working on the production for live videos of all of the songs on the new release. We’re aiming to have these ready shortly after the album is released on the 18th of February. We put a lot energy and intensity into our stage performances which we wanted to share with everyone interested in our music. There is also a live CD of that set that we are in the process of putting together now. We played a few songs that were not included on the new release and they will be part of that release. The crowd at the RMF erupted into a pit for these songs, so I can’t wait to finish the mix for release later this year. Additionally we’ve been getting some really good material together for our website houseofagiel.com which will be released continuously throughout the year. There will be articles, videos and artwork produced by each of AGEIL’s members and it’s our goal to give everyone a better idea of what AGIEL is all about. It’s been a lot of work, but we are all extremely enthusiastic about being involved in this. And of course we are starting to put together the material for the next AGIEL release.
– First off, could you make some history of the band?
The beginning of AGIEL is rooted in the beginning of my study of the occult. I’ve always been a spiritual person; having a sense of the hidden nature of reality. I think that all artists are like this to one degree or another and I have always been immersed in an obsession with creating art. I also went to a catholic grade school that placed a heavy emphasis on theology. I think that may have helped fuel my desire to find out more about the mysteries of the spirit. I had questions that could not be answered by the priests and nuns instructing us in the ways of Catholicism. I also disliked the disempowering nature of religion. It seemed to take away the thing that was unique to my being and place it in the hands of an institution; that being my will and my spiritual destiny. It’s interesting how adversity makes you grow as a human being. Once I left grade school I went to the local public high school which was a complete nightmare. The place resembled a prison more than a school and I become bored with it pretty quickly. I started skipping school and going to the public library every day. That place was a wonder compared to my high school; a beautiful turn of the century, art deco building with vaulted ceilings, intricate stained glass windows and marble floors. It also had an enormous collection of occult and philosophical literature which I availed myself to every day. I read about the great occult scientists of ancient Europe and an idea began to grow in my mind that I too could lift the veil that covers the true nature of reality. For a year or more I studied as many esoteric texts as I could find and along with a friend we started to develop my own sense of this discipline of the occult sciences. What we experienced was so profound and so inspiring that it naturally spilled over and began to influence us as a musicians. We were already creating music together and it seemed very natural to combine the two. That’s when AGIEL was created and we quickly began writing songs about all of the strange, terrifying and wondrous experiences we had as a result. Around 1999 we released our first full length CD entitled The Works of War. It had a really distinct sound; mixing black metal and death metal to achieve this really enigmatic atmosphere. We poured a lot of energy into those songs, some of which would ended up being adapted into material of later releases. We were genuinely inspired by our experiences and wanted to express that and share this incredible energy with the world. We started playing out regularly; making a lot of great friendships and acquaintances as we got to know the people in the local scene. Around 2001 we started working on a demo titled Hymnos ex Maledicus Gemini, which would later become the 2002 release Dark Pantheons Again Will Reign. We did a lot of performances in support of that release and also started working on new material that would evolve the musical direction of AGIEL. We had about half an album of this new material done before heading out for a month long tour through Canada in support of DPAWR. We had a great time on tour and got to meet a lot of interesting people along the way. It was definitely an influential experience and really inspired us to move forward. Empowered by that experience we came back and finished a completely new album entitled Kuthula, which was not widely published, but was the start of a more complex and engaging sound for AGIEL. We started to really push ourselves musically and the songs benefited greatly from this. Being around so many talented musicians on the DPAWR tour really opened our eyes to the level of craftsmanship in the death metal community. Seeing that first hand inspired us to ask more of ourselves and push our boundaries as musicians even harder. In 2003 we adapted some of that material along with a collection of new songs and released Aeon, which we performed in support of for the next year or more. We were starting to incorporate greater complexity in the arrangements and begin to mature the new sound we were after. Then in 2005 we published a small collection of songs with the title Vessatu, which was a kind of reprise to the Kuthula material. We incorporated more orchestral elements and began experimenting with dense layers of vocals and synths. That was the last release we composed before deciding to let AGIEL rest for an extended period in 2007. In December of 2012 AGIEL assembled under the current line-up and we started work on this latest release, Dark Pantheons. There were a number of circumstances that came together perfectly to allow this to happen, but needless to say things worked out for the best and as a band we are stronger than ever. We’ve been hard at work evolving AGIEL’s sound into something that we are all very happy with. I think that we’ve achieved that in this release.
– How could you describe your sound?
If I were to describe our sound it would have to be through the different contrasting elements that we’ve incorporated into our style. Our sound is a synthesis of death metal, black metal, orchestral and synthetic elements to create a sound that is both enigmatic and frantically intense. Throughout our music we’ll shift between unsettling tonalities; using unconventional and extremely dense arrangements to provide as much tension as possible. We use an extreme, death metal drumming style with frequent blast beats, double kick, long drum fills and aggressive use of the cymbals. The death metal influence continues with a deep, gritty bass tone that has a lot of low end power. From there you’ll start to hear a wider variety of musical influences. The guitar playing fuses together a number of different styles to create something distinct. In the course of a song there might be heavy palm muted riffs and pinch harmonics more common to death metal, complex chord arrangements usually found in black metal, as well as strong harmonic and tonal parts more akin to melodic death metal. Layered over this mix of death, black and melodic metal is a complex arrangement of orchestral instruments as well as lush synth pads. These keyboard elements are not isolated to the background of the music. Instead they take a prominent place in the overall sound; interacting continuously with the guitar to produce unexpected harmonies. The keyboard are much more aggressive than might be expected and are treated as rhythm section in their own right. In this way they differ from a typical black metal element and add much more to the sound and style of the music. The vocals are a synthesis of several styles as well. The core vocal sound is low and guttural, but also has more tension and clarity than something purely death metal. Some higher black metal tones are used as well, but only sparingly to bring added impact to specific parts of the songs. There is also a distinct clean vocal sound similar to that
heard in black metal which is used throughout the songs. The clean vocals differ from typical black metal in that they are less operatic; usually with a much harder edge and more intense projection. Occasionally the vocals are intoned to add a foreboding, other worldly atmosphere to the music.
– What are the band’s main musical influences?
That’s a tough question because we draw on so many different influences for inspiration during the writing process. In regards to musical influences I’d say that a big source of inspiration for AGIEL is the atonal orchestral music of the early twentieth century. The term atonality in this context is referring to music that does not have a tonal center or key. Instead of sticking to the rigid structure of traditional classical music, atonal compositions are free to use chords with an ambiguous key center, unexpected harmonic structures and unusual melodies. This style of composition actually lends itself pretty well to back metal and death metal; continuing a long tradition of influence by classical music on all genres of metal. Other strong musical influences come from the second wave of European black metal. This is the music that we grew up on, so it is woven into the fabric of who we are as musicians. Perhaps not so much in terms of what we write, but that early black metal attitude is definitely part of our DNA as a band. We also draw inspiration from other diverse forms of music like Sufi trance, EBM and industrial. Really we gravitate towards anything that’s extreme. We try to keep an open mind and not close ourselves off to new sources of inspiration. It’s pretty easy to fall into the trap of listening to the same group of bands over and over again. After a while though the inspiration dries up because you’re not allowing yourself to let new musical ideas in. There have been countless times when I’ll hear two or three seconds of a song and get inspired to write new AGIEL material. That song could be anything and I think that’s the point I’m driving at. Inspiration is everywhere.
– How is the feedback for your new album being?
So far the feedback has been overwhelmingly positive. People are really responding to the direction that we are taking the band in a very enthusiastic way. We were confident that if we followed our instincts that the new album would be well received.
– And are you personally satisfied with the final outcome?
Yes, we are all absolutely ecstatic with how the album turned out. Each song ended up being more than we ever imagined it could be. We wanted to create something that was completely new from a tonal standpoint and yet retain the core AGIEL sound. I think that we definitely achieved that.
– How could you describe this opus in just 3 words?
Bold. Iconic. Evolution.
– How has the production process for your new release been?
This whole process would definitely not have worked if the band wasn’t as comfortable as we are to work together of extremely long distances. There are four members of the band and we all live in different cities. I don’t think we could have achieved the end result we came to without the insane dedication everyone has shown to this project. There’s a level of trust that we had to build between ourselves that each person would pull their share of the weight and know exactly what they were bringing to each song. Typically what we did was trade demos of the songs back and forth while keeping in touch through frequent calls and emails. We’d developed a strong mutual respected respect for each over and made sure that everyone’s feedback was heard equally. It was important that any criticisms we had come from a place of wanting to bring the music to a higher standard. There was no negativity and that was immeasurably helpful with the process. Since we live so far apart we knew that every face-to-face meeting we would have needed to be insanely productive. We met for a two day session early in the year to rehears and then record the drum tracks. A few months later we met for another three day session to lay down the instrumentation and the vocals. I knew that everyone would be prepared, but what surprised everyone was how easy it was to start playing together as a group. Both the guitarist and the drummer are new to this release, but we had an instant synergy during the rehearsals. Once everything was tracked I brought everything back to the House of AGIEL studio for the editing mixing and mastering. All of the post production was done in-house. It was a lot of work, but it allowed us to make sure that we came to the exact result we wanted.
– And how do you use to work on the songwriting?
It might seem unusual, but our song writing generally starts with a keyboard track demo. I’ll write an arrangement and try to establish an atmosphere for the song. I compose almost exclusively in digital audio workstation program called Reaper. It’s quick and gets the job done quickly. The only exception to that is if I create some sort of synth pad in FL Studio or export a part from Reaper so that I can mangle it in some other program. When I’m done, that demo gets passed back and forth so that everyone can start working on their own individual parts. We’ll listen back to it regularly to figure out what is or isn’t working. It’s an iterative process for sure, but it’s been working well for us.
– Finally, what are you near-future plans?
We’ve got a few projects that we are working on in the short-term. At this time we are editing the video of a live performance of Dark Pantheons which we hope to make available this quarter. We wanted to make sure that everyone could get to see the intensity that we bring to these songs through our live performance. We recently played a really great show in Western NY called the Rochester Metal Fest and were able to get it captured on video. The crowd was amazing and really responded to the new album. We can’t wait to share it. There’s also a few songs that we played in that set that were not part of the Dark Pantheons release. Those will be mixed, mastered and released in the second half of 2014. Lastly, we are starting to get the material together for the next full length release and are aiming for an early 2015 release date.
– That’s all from our side, thanks again for taking your time to answer our questions. If you now want to add some final words; feel free to do it.
I just wanted to say thank you for taking the time to speak with us and that we all appreciate your interest in AGIEL’s music. It’s our passion and we love to share it with anyone who’d like to listen. We’ll be making regular updates about our progress on creating new material and also sharing some of the things that inspire us to make this music through our website houseofagiel.com as well as our Facebook profile facebook.com/houseofagiel. This is a really exciting time for AGIEL and we can’t wait to bring out more material as the year progresses!