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zaterdag 10 oktober 2015
EÏS: Icecold, Innovative & Stunning

Interview with mastermind Alboin of Eïs by Vera in September 2015

More than ten years ago, Geïst crossed our path as seminal band in the innovative black metal scène; since they were open to explore new challenges. They found their way, inking a deal with Prophecy Productions/Lupus Lounge for their statement ‘Galeere’. In the meantime they operate under the moniker Eïs (due to circumstances) but the music has remained amazing all the time. Now that the fifth album ‘Bannstein’ is about to come out early October we surely wanted to have our next conversation with mastermind Alboin. This debonair chat has been summarized in the heartfelt interview you can read here in order to make open-minded black metal fans aware of ‘Bannstein’ and Eïs. This is an album that will go into history as exclusive and eclectic, thus an epoch-making release!





So… in 2010 you changed the band name from Geïst to Eïs. It is the same band that continues under another moniker, let us put that straight for the readers first. What was the reason you changed your name? What happened?
Wow, that was five years and a half ago. Amazing how quick time flies by. To be honest, that doesn't play a role for us anymore, we're Eïs I don't care too much how we called us back then. What happened. There's an alternative rock band from Cologne called Geist. They asked us to change our name a couple of years earlier already, I guess after ‘Kainsmal’, in 2007 or something. We refused to do so, we were a small band with a small deal (or no deal actually) and didn't see us in any kind of competition with these guys. Two years later we had signed to Prophecy, grew as a band and in the eyes of the public, and probably these guys felt threatened by our pure market power (ehemm) seeing us having more MySpace followers and a Geïst album sold in their local Media Markt or something. They threatened to sue us in case we won't change our name. Well, we could've invested some money to go to court and fight for the name. Instead, we thought “fuck them, let's give them the first and the last letter and invest the money to re-release the first two albums”. That's the story. Our fans laughed at the Cologne guys for this cheesy action, we didn't care too much actually.

In 2012 ‘Wetterkreuz’ came out and we saw that the members from the previous line-up, also singer Cypher was gone. What happened after the release of ‘Galeere’ and before the creation of ‘Wetterkreuz’?
Basically I felt that I was not able to continue with especially Cypher, for a couple of personal reasons. The rest of the band left voluntarily and formed VYRE afterwards, which was a vyse, ehm, wise decision for all of us. I guess that's something I could and should have foreseen earlier. And after all, it was something that freed my mind and made the creation of ‘Wetterkreuz’ possible.

You do the vocals again now. Was it a difficult decision to switch to vocals as well (because you do already so much) and why not another extern singer? (PS don’t get me wrong, your vocals are very well)
I don't get you wrong, don't worry hehe. Of course it was an option to search for a new extern vocalist. In the end I decided to do it myself, for two reasons. First, there was nobody obviously fitting into the band and available to do it, we would've been forced to search for many months more, and we wanted to keep the band running. The second reason was that – as you mentioned – I was doing so much myself already, including the lyrics, that it seemed natural to me to sing them as well. There's nobody understanding your lyrics as you yourself, I guess. Of course I needed some practice, but felt very comfortable after a couple of gigs.





How do you look back on that album (‘Wetterkreuz’) now musically? Did it come up to your expectations in reception by press and crowds? Where can we see it in your ongoing musical development?
It was the first Eïs album, and a little like a debut album to me. I played and sung everything except for the drums on that album, and I've never before felt so connected to the songs. Looking back at it, it seems to be a mixture of ‘Patina’ (with that liberating atmosphere of doing something for the first time) and ‘Kainsmal’ (with the cutting, compact Nordic sound), connected with a strong influence of my own musical roots in mid-nineties Scandinavian black metal. It's an extremely honest and authentic album, not pretending to be something it is not, not trying to get buddy-buddy with the current black metal scene. Probably listeners and journalists both sensed that – ‘Wetterkreuz’ is by far and by all means the most successful of our first four albums and I'm incredibly proud of it. Still, ‘Bannstein’ is different, I guess you will have noticed that.

What can we see as important gigs or things that happened in the last three years, after the release of ‘Wetterkreuz’?
We're not the kind of band doing spectacular things (for the public), like walking by feet to the next gig, 500 kms away. Instead, we're constantly working to improve in all facets, play better gigs, record better albums, produce better looking merchandising, answer interviews more entertainingly, hehe. No, honestly, we did our first tour one and a half year ago (self-organized that is), we signed our first satisfactory deal with a booking agency after ten years of existence, we've been invited to play a lot of nice festivals, like Wave Gotik Treffen or Wolfszeit Festival, and finally, we re-started our own predecessor band, Eismalsott, besides Eïs. And, promised, we're not going to stop now!

Since we notice that there are two new members on guitar and keyboards, I guess the new album ‘Bannstein’ must have been written mainly by you only? Although that’s not an exception, how do you look back at the early ideas for ‘Bannstein’ and the writing process in general? When did you start with new material?
Actually, both Abarus and S.atyrus.S are not exactly new members, but have been live members since Spring of 2012 already, we just chose to implement them fully into the band this year. Well, the early days of writing ‘Bannstein’ have been fall and winter of last year actually. I usually compose best being under pressure, and this time was no exception. There was a plan of composing a different album first, but I had to realize it was not the right time to do so, so I changed my mind and started working intensively on ‘Bannstein’ around January or February this year. So, to be honest... I'm a little like a steam locomotive when I've started working on an album. Slow but steady, powerful and focussed. I remember that I wrote and arranged the songs in a couple of days each, already including 99% of the details, and the songs remained pretty much like this when we recorded them in early July this year.





The theme of the album seems to be inspired by this pre-apocalyptic world we are living in… Please tell us about the themes in the lyrics of ‘Bannstein’ dealing with man’s fateful nature?
Are we really living in a pre-apocalyptic world? I guess it's easy to call something apocalyptic in retrospective, but much harder to acknowledge to ourselves that we might not only be in the heart of the apocalypse, but contributing to it. We. Every single day. ‘Bannstein’ is an album about trying to escape from your fate, escaping from a ruinous, oppressive environment into a blissful, calm and peaceful future, and it's telling a metaphoric story of its protagonists fleeing from a dark, expressionistic moloch. Of course it's not as easy as this – that's why ‘Bannstein’ is not a Disney production, but a black metal album.

So it is a kind of completely pessimistic album, or not? Is there a kind of hope in the end, a light at the end of the tunnel?
Good question. I'm not sure. Indeed, I am a veeery pessimistic character, but hidden somewhere in the depths of my mind there's a glimpse of hope I suppose. Hard to keep in a world where people are quartered and hung for working on Sundays or for believing in a different version of a religious fairytale, cats are killed with liver sausages filled with razors, cultural goods existing for thousands of years are blown up and [insert example of human degeneracy of your choice]. So, yes, ‘Bannstein’ is pessimistic, and I fear it's not ending with a light showing up at the end of the tunnel. Except you're lighting one yourself.

Eïs has a blackened foundation, but there’s a lot more going on in your wealthy epic music. So this is the opportunity to illustrate – with one of the songs as example, preferably ‘Im Schoss Der Welken Blätter’ – which kind of influences are also important… especially on this new album?
It might sound silly, but I'm not listening to much other music than black metal, at least not music that influences me in composing (there's probably no reference to Buena Vista Social Club or early Rainbow or DAF to be found in my songs). When being creative, I fully rely on my feelings and my taste. It's like feeling home when I've done a touching riff or melody, I'm not even able to memorize any riffs other than that. That's why I never ever use a filler on an album, just because I'm not recording something I'm not 100% proud of and touched by. This time, my feeling told me to write more gloomy, lurking riffs on one side, and more catchy, easy to grasp and keep melodies on the other side. Seems to sound different from last time, yes.

As you said the previous time: ‘It is not about writing a black metal song, it is about writing a GOOD song’, isn’t it?
That's it, exactly. There's no sense in trying to be as evil or fast or brutal as possible, that leads you nowhere, except into a dead end in exceeding yourself in extremes each time. I'm more into listening to myself, and following my emotions.

I think the album is more diverse than ever and melancholy remains an important feature in the music. Do you agree with that?
Absolutely. The songs are indeed more diverse, there's everything from nearly industrial stamped dark, mechanical black metal to pure epicness, slow parts, speedy parts, groove, complexity, melodies milling themselves into your brain, acoustic guitars... but there's always a subliminal melancholic feeling in it. I guess that's the result if I'm consequently doing what I told you before – listening to myself while writing music.

You put a lot of effort into the bonus CD for the special edition and of course Prophecy Productions is the perfect label to put up such a release. Well, can you tell something about that bonus CD and the guests… It must have been a huge work… did you also do other arrangements for the songs for the other singers?
No, the bonus album includes exactly the same arrangements and songs as the actual album – except for the vocals, the mix and the mastering. We asked some of the best black metal vocalists I know to interpret my lyrics over the rough mixes of the studio recordings, without knowing how I would do the vocals. Pretty experimental, but that's how art should be in my eyes. But look and listen to these guys, they did unbelievably fantastic versions of these songs! If you need some name dropping: Bjørnar Erevik Nilsen of Norwegian VULTURE INDUSTRIES, Manuel Karakas (he was doing the alternative mixing and mastering as well, damn nice guy!), Norax of LUX DIVINA, Fiar of FOSCOR (both from Spain), Fjalar of ISTAPP/NIVLHEL and Erik Gärdefors of GRIFT (both from Sweden), Skaldir of HEL (one of the best German Pagan [!] metal bands) and finally Schwadorf and Konstanz of THE VISION BLEAK.





In 2014 you did the ‘Aufbruch zum Abgrund’ tour. What about this experience? What are your memories on that, positive as well as negative?
A lot of experiences and memories! Well, it was the first tour we ever did, we did it all on ourselves, and of course we made a lot of mistakes. For example, playing Tetris by packing the van hasn't been too cool, next time in October we're going to rent a bigger car. Also, we've to take care that our guitarist is not caching a dead Mackerel under the seats this time. Stuff like that. Still, it was a very successful tour, with marvellous shows and overwhelming crowd response and nice chats, and some extremely obscure places, like in that cellar “club” in Czech Republic with all the blood on the bathroom walls. We did some shows with LUX DIVINA, and these guys are so damn great, both personally and musically. Listen to them if you haven't done so.

You seem to be a regular guest, playing at Ragnarök… Please tell us about your affinity with that (excellent) festival?
It's one of the best festivals for our style of music! The crowd there is always overwhelming, we had freaking much fun playing there, each time (except for the gig where one guitar amp was not distorted and nobody noticed, ehemm). Seriously, it's the kind of festival I like – always good music, nice people, not too big but with a lot of great visitors. There should be more festivals like this. Next year we're playing as well by the way – two shows! There will be a nice exclusive surprise for the Ragnarök crowd, a “thank you” for their continuous support.

There used to be a chance that your two first albums would be re-recorded with Markus and re-released. What came true from this plan? Did you have time for that in the meantime?
Well, actually we did so, four years ago, hehe. We did not re-record them fully, but restored the original tracks and recorded the guitars again, mixing the albums from the ground afterwards. I guess we managed to keep the original feeling and improved the recordings at the same time. We're not interested to do plastic versions of such great albums, like a lot of bands use to do.

Now you have been working for a long time with Markus Stock as producer, when we had our previous talk, you just started to get to know him. So please tell us what has changed when you compare the recording of ‘Galeere’ with those for ‘Bannstein’?
Yeah, that was some time before we married and adopted children. Haha, indeed, ‘Bannstein’ is already the third complete production we've done together, and hopefully there will be many more to follow. Markus is an absolute pro, he perfectly knows what I'm about with my music, he is unbelievably skilled, quick and relaxed. Besides, he does marvellous barbecues by the way. It's a pity we're only doing records every three years, we really became an experienced team and I wish we could work together more often.

You are into retro video gaming… aha, please explain hehe…
Retro video gaming is playing video games from 2000 or earlier. Just like a lot of (black) metal musicians I know personally, I do have other aspects of my personality than only listening to ‘Panzerfaust’ and pretending to read Nietzsche. I grew up with video game systems like the Master System, Super Nintendo, Mega Drive, Saturn, N64 and the first Playstation generation, and computers like C64 and Amiga 500. Before I discovered black metal, that was around 1994/1995, I was into gaming a lot, just like today's youth is as well. Of course, like almost everybody, I sold all that old shit when I became too “true” to spend my time with his stuff (means when I dived deep into the black metal scene), and bought everything and much more again when I re-discovered gaming a couple of years ago. Now, I have a nice collection of around 20 consoles and 300 or something games... and no time to play them, hehe. That's the curse when you're becoming older, working fulltime and all that stuff on one side and have managed to stay a child somehow on the other one.

Did you work with Lukasz Jaszak again for the artwork? Is that a Cannabis leaf or was that a joke on Facebook?
Of course that's a joke. It's a maple leaf. And no, we've been working with Lukasz last time for the cover artwork of ‘Wetterkreuz’. The complete booklet work for ‘Wetterkreuz’ and everything for ‘Bannstein’ has been done by our keyboarder S.atyrus.S, only the maple leaf has been drawn by Norax, the vocalist of LUX DIVINA. I guess it's best to keep all artistic work within the band, we know best what we're up to.

Soon you will start touring again (unfortunately only in German speaking area), so please tell us about the upcoming Lex Talionis tour, also something about your bond with the other bands that support you…
Yes, it's a ten day tour, again done by ourselves and by Nachtgarm, the vocalist of the other band we're touring with, Negator. Unfortunately we don't have the opportunity to tour more, it's an organisational problem. We would like to play more, but we're all employed and have other bands, a private life and all that annoying stuff that hinders you from being a rock star. For five dates, we have GRIFT with us, friends from Sweden you should definitely check out. They're playing a very melancholic, bleak version of black metal and have just released their debut album ‘Syner’. These gigs will be their first public appearances and you shouldn't miss that! For all the details, please have a look at and subscribe to our Facebook event page, which is https://www.facebook.com/eis.official/events

I can only remember a gig in Mechelen in 2010, but I can imagine there was not so much crowd. But is there a chance you will play in the Netherlands or Belgium to support ‘Bannstein’?
If there's somebody interested to invite us, of course! We had a gig in Dendermonde on Chaos Fest two years ago, but I don't have the best memories on that to be honest. Strange crowd and even more strange food (there was some vegan meat loaf looking and tasting like a kitchen sponge, haha!). But still, we're open for another try and will be as convincing as ever, so... come on, let's crush some Belgium scum. Of fuck, that was a Nargaroth quote, hopefully we won't get problems now.

If there are other plans for the near future (video etc) or something you want to add, feel free to do so…
Plans as always, but not sufficient time to realize them. A video is planned indeed, for the end of the year. Afterwards we'll concentrate on playing as much as possible, and who knows, maybe I'll see Markus before 2018...





Geplaatst door Vera op zaterdag 10 oktober 2015 - 12:19:29
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