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donderdag 04 juni 2020
OLD CORPSE ROAD: Dark folkloristic view on British black metal!

Interview with The Dreamer of Old Corpse Road by Vera in May 2020

We always like to shine a light on exceptional bands and UK black metallers Old Corpse Road happen to be one of the May releases that stands out this year. Releasing their third full length disc ‘On Ghastly Shores Lays The Wreckage Of Our Lore’, we were grandly intrigued by their musical and lyrical approach. Black metal with haunting atmosphere and lore about dark and mystic myths and legends of the UK. Percussionist The Dreamer took the time to lead us through the realms of Northumbria and Old Corpse Road…

Thanks for having us. I hope that everybody in the band is doing well in these strenuous days… how are you doing?
We are as good as we can be in these times. We have managed to release our album under a lot of difficult circumstances which was fantastic. However, it is really tough having the band on hold, but we are coping and making the most of time with our families. Promoting the band live is obviously not achievable so we have put more effort into online working.

Old Corpse Road is a band name that leaps to the eye, with a grim atmosphere, but it has a significant origin. Please tell us about the affinity with English heritage and rural landscapes, the reason for choosing this name…
The name comes from an old track-way in the Lake district of the UK. It was used to transport corpses over a large hill to a town with consecrated ground. Tracks such as these are littered all over the UK and are filled with folklore and legends which make them mystical and interesting places. We chose the name for this reasons. However our name comes from a specific walk we like to visit regularly when having black metal camping trips. A very barren and isolated place full of natural beauty and great views.

How did it come into being, what were the initial intentions in music style and what happened in the first years?
The band was founded in 2007. At the time of our forming we were already seeking to form a black metal band as this was our love, so it was inevitable we would play this style. We knew black metal was the right vessel for the tales we wanted to tell, a very natural combination for us, but never exploited enough by the scene. We were all fans of early 90's black metal and worshipped a lot of the UK bands, so we aimed to simply have fun playing with that style, but somewhere along the journey we found our own niche.

Two albums (and few other issues) were released before the current achievement. How do you look back on those two albums and their reception?
We have always had a great response to our releases from the media which has been fantastic. The albums have very different atmospheres for us and were reactionary to each other. ‘Tis Witching Hour’ being very dark and gothic, whereas ‘Campfires’ swung more to a warm and atmospheric vibe. We are still proud of these albums and feel they are strong in their own ways.

What happened before on the live front? Did you play enough live to support those earlier discs?
We have always been very busy live in the UK; however we have not yet managed to escape these shores! We have played most of the UK's main festivals and venues. As a band the live aspect is very important and allows us to bring the songs to life. We aim to provide very atmospheric shows with a focus on the music over aesthetics.

I can image that a writing process is a long and meticulous work. What can you tell about the creation of ‘On Ghastly Shores Lays The Wreckage Of Our Lore’? Is everyone involved? Is there a main composer?
In terms of writing, we do continually write as a band, here is no individual person. Often songs begin as small ideas, riffs and melodies and then we will record these individual parts, this enables us to have a collection of ideas which we can listen back and piece together. The final arrangements always come from repeated playing together and ensuring that the atmosphere for the song is right. This is often done once we have lyrics written as the subject matter will influence the feel of the music. As more of the songs came together there was a collective sense that the songs felt more ethereal and atmospheric which felt a natural match with the water based folk tales which we were reading at that time. Once we had an idea of the overall album concept, we had a better sense of what we wanted the album to sound like. Then the rest is simply recording it!

As you mentioned the main theme appears to be the sea and folklore/legends. Is it a concept album? Can you go deeper into the things that inspired you lyrically?
Our new album ‘On Ghastly Shores Lays the Wreckage of our Lore’ has an overall concept based on folk tales from the shores of the UK. Most of the songs on this album focus on folklore from Northumbria near our home town. Although it was not intended as a concept album, when we began writing we found a number of stories that fit with the music and they all happened to share a common theme of water lore. We had not previously focused on legends from the shores of the UK, and we were surprised by the number of different stories which we were not familiar with despite knowing the area. The North East of England is steeped in history and legends, especially places such as Dunstanburgh Castle and Lindisfarne, so it was fantastic to still be able to focus on tales from our region.

One salient feature is the large variation in vocals. Every band member adds a zest to it, I guess? And the narrative parts seem very important to me. How do you see this diversity in vocal brilliance?
We have always had a love of all metal style vocals and as all our members are capable of doing these, it’s always been very natural to make use of the varying styles. We can maybe trace this back to a few bands who have utilized this kind of technique namely Cradle Of Filth, Bal Sagoth and surprisingly Carcass (Jeff Walker / Bill Steer). It works nicely with folk stories in that we can utilize different vocal styles and patterns to evoke different atmospheres and feelings. In some ways we can enhance the way a riff works by the vocal technique attached to it. Spoken word is underutilized we think, so we like to fully explore this approach.

Can you tell a bit more about the longest composition ‘The Ghosts Of The Ruinous Dunstanburgh Castle’ (lyric and music wise)?
The song was a sheer fluke in its length, we never intended it to be 16 minutes, but it flowed very well and evolved from a typical OCR track in the epic it became. We love to explore riffs and ideas to their full extent and in this case this took a little longer than expected! For this reason we sought a very particular and expansive concept we could really get involved in. We have always found that folktales jump out to us, as if preordained. It’s a strange experience, but things turn up just when we need them, and this poem by Matthew Lewis about Guy the Seeker and an amazing castle down the coast from us worked perfectly.

Pardon me for looking for comparisons, your complex music is obviously one of a kind, but if I have to drop names it would be any similarities with Bal Sagoth and A Forest Of Stars. How far can you agree with that?
Bal Sagoth are undoubtedly a huge inspiration for us and we can't deny the effect they have had on the spirit of our music in bringing the undeniably British quirkiness to our song structures. Our music is similar in a few ways, but the approach to song writing and structure is key. A Forest Of Stars are good friends of ours and we adore their music, they are inspirational in atmosphere, however musically they have forged a very different path to us.

Of course the music demands a bit investigation of the listener to do justice to it. Do people still take the time to fathom lengthy, intricate music? (personally I think that every music has its listeners, post metal and sludge isn’t easy stuff either, isn’t it? haha) What do you, as creators, experience in that respect?
I think we are more and more entering a time of short and quick media consumption. I think it's sad to say that the days of appreciating a full album and taking the time to absorb it are slowly ebbing away. You can weirdly see it in the listens on an album, each song has fewer listens than the track preceding as people loose attention. There will always be those that love a full album work, but our experience with the younger generation is the focus on songs over albums.

It is your first album on Trollzorn. Please tell us a bit more how this cont®act came into being?
Yes this is our first album on Trollzorn. We had previously been on Cacophonous Records who were responsible for releasing some of the best black metal the UK had to offer. However the owner vanished from the face of the earth, so we were left contractless! Normally we seek our own deals but we decided to try a different route and hired a well know UK team Imperative PR who were responsible for introducing us and helping negotiate our deal with Trollzon. We have since forged a great relationship with Trollzorn.

Where did the recording process take place? Did you use an extern producer? Same process as former albums or differences?
We worked slightly differently to normal, but recorded in the same places which was basically a mix of our houses and our rehearsal space. Normally The Seer (our sixth member) has been responsible for recording, mixing and producing our albums, however this time we decided to record and produce the album ourselves before sending it to him for mixing. This meant we could work in our own time and get everything as we wanted before handing it to a third party.

Are there additional musicians on the album?
There are indeed. Our good friend and member of Heathen Deity Marc Hoyland worked on the central ambient piece ‘As Waves Devour Their Carcasses’. We wanted to work with Marc on an ambient piece for some time and after catching up with him at a 13 Candles in the Coastal town of Whitby (well known for Dracula and its Abbey), the idea of a collaboration was born. The Seer was also involved in one of the motifs in the first song, written when he was a full time member of the band.

It leaps to the eye that one can find few line-up changes through the years. So I guess that Old Corpse Road has always been a bunch of friends, in addition to that musical bond?
You are correct that we are all friends and have played in bands together for many years. We have never actually changed our line-up and just had a couple of stand-ins due to illness. We have a sixth member the Seer who is not a full time member, but has been on the journey from the beginning either playing live or recording with us.

What can you tell about the artwork?
We have always created artwork of our own as we have several designers in the band, however in this case we could not capture the intensity of the album as we wanted, so we began a search for an outside artist to collaborate with. We have a painting on our lounge wall by local artist Kate Van Suddese of Durham Cathedral that is beautiful and in fitting with our aesthetic, so we reached out to her. She paints stunning seascapes of our local area so was perfect for the job and offered one of her painting we chose for the album ‘Flight of the Wyld Swan’.

With lengthy compositions it is not easy to make video clips I guess, but are you planning to support some songs with visual additions?
We have done a lyric video for the song ‘Demons Of The Farne’. Having little to no budget we have done the best we can in house using the cheapest options. The length of our songs does make it an onerous job hehe…

In these corona times, I stopped asking for tour plans, but well eh… what are the plans for the near future?
Haha as it stands we are booking a few gigs for next year as we hope by then travel and social distancing rules will have eased back. The other plans are continuing production of our next album which is mostly written musically but requires some detailed research for the grim topic matter. But I can't tell you much more than that (chuckles).

If there is something you’d like to add, please feel free to do it here…
Thanks for taking the time to talk with us and for the support!

Geplaatst door Vera op donderdag 04 juni 2020 - 14:34:35
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