– Hi Ed, thanks once more for dedicating part of your time to Queens of Steel and happy new year! First of all, what’s currently keeping you busy in relation with THE 11TH HOUR? Much promo going on lately?
Hi Tania, happy new year to you too! I’ve been doing quite a bit of interviews lately, but fortunately I’ve also had some time to recover from 8 months of working non-stop on the album.
– You will soon unleashed the second album by THE 11TH HOUR, has already hit the press though so; how are the first reviews being?
Very good so far, there’s only been a handful but they all seem to agree it’s a much better album than the debut and I’m especially glad they notice the improvement in the vocals which I paid a lot of attention to.
Not really, the main goal is still to make an album that pleases me, if other people like it that’s wonderful but it’s not the reason for doing this. There were certain things on the first album I wanted to improve upon and I think I did, so that goal has definitely been met and now I’ll have to wait and see how people feel about it.
– To start getting a bit into this new piece; why such title?
The songs are all about mourning and loss, so I started thinking of a title that would reflect that. By accident I stumbled upon an article about the Lacrima Mortis, the tear of death, which is an actual phenomenon that sometimes occurs at the point of dying where a single tear will roll from the right eye… I thought that was such a powerful idea and it would also make a good album cover, so I put aside my general dislike for Latin titles and went with it.
– Once more, this new “Lacrima Mortis” has amazing really heavy riffs blended with gloomy piano arrangements. What did you want to express with the overall instrumentation? As I think you have created in one single album different feelings so easily, without loosing the general dark and sad vibe.
I wanted to create music that overwhelms you in both heaviness and beauty, which is why I alternate between really brutal, pummelling riffs and more delicate, fragile pieces. The vocal arrangements are also done that way. The overall mood is indeed very dark, but I hope there’s some different shades of darkness at least.
– I could say this time, still heavy and dark, is more easy-listening so to speak. I mean, I’m sure this new opus will like more than just Doom Metal fans, moreover I think it has more different dynamics as well. Was this something you were looking for?
Not consciously, but I do agree with you. Now I am not at all trying to break away from the doom scene, I love doom metal and I enjoy extreme doom as much as I do the more classic/epic stuff, but I wouldn’t mind reaching a broader audience this time. I think it’s very possible to enjoy the album if you’re not a hardcore doom fan, although it is of course still a pure doom metal opus.
– Anyway, how could you describe “Lacrima Mortis” in just 3 words?
Mourning in music.
– As I said, I found this time more different dynamics, though I think is an album that needs to be listened with special attention to really perceive all the details that lay on it. Do you see this as a handicap? I mean, nowadays, with so many music, bands and free downloads, most people use to hear music as just background music. Moreover I found “Lacrima Mortis” is a really instrospective work.
I hope people will sit down with a pair of good headphones and play the CD all the way through as that’s how it’s intended. There’s lots of details in the mix and arrangements and I don’t think it works well as background music while you’re cleaning the house or something. It really hurts to think of someone putting the album on an mp3 player, hitting “shuffle” and hearing 1 or 2 songs every once in a while mixed with other stuff. I prefer listening to a full album, getting the booklet out to read the lyrics, looking at the artwork, etc.
– This time you had Pim Blankenstein (OFFICIUM TRISTE) at growls, who already was part of the band at some live shows if I’m not mistaken. How did everything start? I mean having him instead of Rogga again.
Rogga was supposed to do growls for the album and he actually recorded his parts but he wasn’t feeling well at the time and we both agreed it wasn’t up to par, so I asked Pim to step in. He’d been doing a terrific job as live vocalist for 2 years and I was sure he could handle it, but he really blew me away with his performance.
– This time the cover artwork really caught my attention; it has a really different style to the artwork for “Burden of Grief” but its just great and I think it reflects quite good the mood in your music. Would you please mind to shed some light on this? Who was the artist? As it doesn’t seem to be really Mick Koopman’s style.
I’m glad you like it! When I came up with the idea I thought it might be too melodramatic but as soon as Mick showed me a mock-up I knew it would work. The beautiful photo was made by Hannah Anthonysz who also did the deathbed and cemetery pictures for Burden Of Grief, she used a special lens to capture as much detail as possible and it turned out gorgeous. Mick did do the overall artwork and lay-out again.
– In fact, if I’m not wrong, this is not a conceptual album, though you are still covering themes related with death, etc. and even there are some fictional lyrics. Could you please elaborate a bit on some of the lyrical ideas covered on “Lacrima Mortis” as well as what influenced you to write them?
The lyrics deal mostly with death and bereavement, what happens when a loved one dies and you’re left behind. Some songs like The Death Of Life are clearly inspired by the death of my parents, others are a little more fantastic but the core is almost always my personal experiences, sometimes overtly so, sometimes more hidden in small details. Death has made a huge impact on my life and my personality, so it’s a subject that will always hold a certain fascination for me.
– Once more, you played all the instruments, composed all the music, provided clean vocals and even took production duties. Is this hard process getting easier for you? What have been the main differences between the songwriting and production process compared to “Burden of Grief”? How did everything go?
I thought it would be easier this time but I was very wrong. I never really stopped writing after Burden Of Grief was released so the songwriting process has stayed pretty much the same, I still start with one strong idea and let the song evolve from there. The demos I make are usually very elaborate with all details already worked out as much as possible. The actual recording/production is just a matter of making them sound as good as possible, but there was a lot of trial and error again this time. The biggest headache was the fact that I decided to do 2 songs in A tuning, a full step down from the already low B tuning. I used a 7-string guitar for this but finding the right strings was quite difficult and I wasted a lot of time redoing those songs several times with different strings until I finally found the right ones. A more experienced guitar player probably would have picked those right away, but I’m still learning every day, haha! I also had a lot of bad luck with the vocals, just as I was in the middle of recording them my neighbours started working on their house, making so much noise I couldn’t continue. When they were finished I got sick so that delayed things even more, in the end I finished the album 3 months later than I had planned.
– When I interviewed you when your debut album came out you told me this process didn’t make things easier and slow down everything a lot, moreover you said you can’t be objective with something you have been working on for so many time. Do you think, with some more experience, you are now more objective with your own stuff? Or maybe are you more pleased with the final result?
I’m definitely not more objective, the 11th Hour material is so personal that it’s almost impossible for me to look at it from an outsiders point of view. I guess that’s true for everything you do as a musician, but even more so when you do it all by yourself. There were days when I was over the moon with what I was making, but just as many days where I thought it wasn’t good enough and I should just delete everything and start again (and yes, I have actually done that with a few songs). But now that it’s done I am able to take at least a small step back and appreciate what I’ve made, which is nice.
– Finally, what are your future plans for all your bands? Does 2012 look like a good year for you musically?
I’ve given myself a few months off from writing/recording but in april we’ll start working on the next Hail Of Bullets album, and Rogga’s already breathing down my neck for a new Demiurg outing so I won’t be bored for sure. I hope we get to do some more cool shows with The 11th Hour, the ones we’ve done so far were awesome but there’s not many opportunities for a doom metal band to play. And of course we’ll be playing more gigs with Hail Of Bullets, although we’ll be taking it easy compared to last year where we did almost every major festival you can think of.
– That has been all from my side, thanks once again for answering to our questions. And as always: if you want to add some final words; last lines are all yours.
Thanks for the interview and until next time!