Three long years have passed since the great GRAVEN debut full length "Perished And Forgotten", so that most people probably considered the band as dead and gone forever. Well, you better expect the unexpected, cause most recently Vronth, the only remaining original member, has returned to the scene with another highly impressive new album ("The Shadows Eternal Call") and completely new line-up. Next to him (on drums), GRAVEN anno 2006 consists of a guitarist named Mardar and NAGELFAR / GRAUPEL vocalist Zingultus. Needless to say that all this was reason enough for Mr. Hauber to hook up with the man in order to get some first-hand information...
Hail Vronth and welcome to the realms of VOICES FROM THE DARKSIDE. Before we rush into the GRAVEN issue I like to figure out more about your musical backround, so what a lot of readers might not know it that you’ve been already been active during the mid 90s with playing drums on the demos of NORDWIND that later switched their name to NOCTI VAGUS. I mean you’ve played several shows back then with EMINENZ, SECRETS OF THE MOON and a few others, so what do you remember about those times? When have you listened the last time to the NOCTI VAGUS album “Venture In Sombre Passion” and what have you learned for yourself most about that time?
"All horns up to you, my friend. It's good to be back in VOICES FROM THE DARKSIDE. So, what can I say about the “early days”? It was a great experience with some bad and also good times. Yes, we did a couple of shows with Nordwind / Nocti Vagus between 1997-1999, including the worst show ever... hahahaha. We had two different characters within the band and after all the split was predetermined. The last time I listened to the Nocti Vagus CD was about 2 or 3 years ago. You know what, it's not really my cup of tea. It's maybe a good album, but definitly not that kind of music what I really like. A couple of years ago I talked to the guitar player and we thought about a “new recording” without any keyboard shit. But I'm also not sure if someone really need this..."
After your departure from NOCTI VAGUS you’ve had a project named TOTENREICH, which was basically only consisting of you and Orkist. Did this project basically lead to GRAVEN after a change of name?
"Yes. Orkrist (Vargsang) founded Totenreich around 1995 as a solo project. And he released the first demo called “Requiem Aeternam” in the same year. I joined the band in 1998 and we created the second demo “Peststurm” together . In 1999 we put out a third one, simple titled “Demo '99” and after this we changed our band name into GRAVEN. The reason for that name changing was simple. The songs were too different to the past ones and so we had to start a “new band”."
By the way there are basically 3 demo tapes unleashed under the banner TOTENREICH. Personally I just know the simple titled “Demo 1999”, so what kind of importance do these recordings have to you in terms of finding the own musical path and promotion?
"Of course, it was an important way for us. We grew up from demo to demo. Vargsang as a songwriter and myself as a drummer. And so we find the right way to represent Black Metal in the old way, you know."
As far as I know you’ve only had one official gig in the GRAVEN history back in 1999 so far, but actually since the “...Of Misanthrophic Spirit” demo there’s a general interest from organizers to bring GRAVEN on stage. You’ve told me that you even had to turn down severval offers from the the US, so don’t you think it’s finally time to shred the stages? I mean it’s not a secret that a band has to play live to sell some stuff these days...
"The only GRAVEN gig was in June 2000, however... I know that a lot of people want to see GRAVEN live on stage. But I'm really not interested in it. I don't care if it's important nowadays to play live just to sell more CDs or whatever. Zingultus and Mardar think the same. Both have families and they're on the first position. Maybe, maybe we'll play some single shows in the future. We will see..."
I guess you already hate that issue, but why did your co–operation with GRAVEN founding member Vargsang end, who has also been repsonible for most of the old GRAVEN material? Are you totally out of contact? I mean it’s not a secret that he has got a kind of cult status with continued releases under the monicker VARGSANG...
"I don't hate that question, there's just nothing more to talk about it. Yes, we're totally out of contact. It was his decision to leave the band and I really have no idea what more could I talk about it... He is still a great musician and for me there's nothing more to say."
A lot of people expected that after the quitting of Vargsang GRAVEN was literally put to the grave, so I guess this was quite a hard time and task for you to find people that share a same kind of dedication to work out further material, or how do you feel about looking back? How did you actually meet with Mardar and how much freedom in terms of creativity have you given him?
"Of course, it was a really hard time. Vargsang left the band without any clear reason and myself was there with a couple of session musicians. After all I found out that they were not that kind of “artists” to create a new GRAVEN album. So it took around two and a half years to find someone, who's more than a match for Vargsang: Mardar. I stayed in contact with Mardar since early 2004. He has written me, if I need a new guitar player, that's it. But it took one year til the first meeting. In 2003 / 2004 I was working with another guy. But he lives around 300 km away and so nobody was satisfied with the situation. After all in early 2005 Mardar joined me and what can I say: we needed 3 months for creating “The Shadows Eternal Call”. There was never a question about how much freedom he could have in the process of songwriting. He's an amazing songwriter and guitar player as you can hear on the new album... nothing more to say."
You’ve always quoted the German NAGELFAR (R.I.P.) as a really special band to you, so how much discussion have been needed to convince Zingultus to perform his vocals on the new GRAVEN tracks? His voice fits absolutely like a fist in the face to that material, so how was it to work with him in the studio? By the way do you enjoy GRAUPEL his follow up band?
"First there was someone else planned for the position on vocals. But a couple of weeks before the studio date, he cancelled his co-operation. He was / is a student and had some tests to do in that time. Anyway, after all I have to say it was a lucky chance for us. If he didn't cancel, I would never had that possibility to ask Zingultus. I stayed in contact with him since a long time before. It was no big deal: I sent a mail to him, if he was interested to sing on the new GRAVEN record and you know his answer. We never met before. He came to the studio, and did an absolute awesome job. He's one of the most loyal persons I have ever met. His band GRAUPEL also did great releases. I like them, of course."
I think that you can be absolutely satisfied with the new GRAVEN album “The Shadws Eternal Call” cause from all recordings I’ve heard from your previous projects you’ve had the best drum sound on that recording. Generally it’s still a pure oldschool vibe, but the sound is far away from sounding necro. They're kind of natural sounding, which is getting rare these days, or what would you say?
"You're right. “The Shadows Eternal Call” has the best sound (not only drum sound) from all past works, who I had a share in. It was important for me this time, to create a natural drum sound without any trigger stuff. We tried to create an “oldschool production”, which still represents GRAVEN in the purest way. You know, it's really a small path to create a sound between good / to clear and raw / grim. But I think we found the right sound for GRAVEN."
Stylewise in my opinion GRAVEN has always been really inspired by the early and mid 90s classical Norwegian Black Metal releases, but in some way this new album sounds a bit more balanced between epical tracks like the titletrack or even more oldschool BATHORY like the rocking Metal attack with 'The Presence Of Death' next to Norge influences, or what would you say? At least there are some real bangers on that album and I think the music has grown through the new sound and guitarwork...
"Yes, the music has grown through the new sound and guitarwork. That's absolutly the right words for it. We're still inspiried by the early scene from Scandivavia. But we also try to put some typical GRAVEN style in our music. There is no big space for experiments in that kind of extreme music, I think. From my point of view the new material sounds more compact, heavier, it's just more “Metal inside”, you know."
You’re active in the Black Metal scene since the middle of the 90s already and you’ve already seen quite a lot of bands, hypes and trends come and go. Do you still feel yourself as a scene person and do you still care about new bands rising? I mean it’s not a secret that especially the extremest forms of Black Metal are still attractive also sellingwise to the scene although the bigger media ignores that scene totally...
"I'm really no part of that so called “scene” since a couple of years, anymore. I don't care about it. The only thing I'm interested in Black Metal is GRAVEN and nothing else."
What’s your opinion about Undercover Records, especially when you look back at the first album “Perished And Forgotten”? GRAVEN definitely seems to be a good selling act on his rooster, but how much do you care about the way the image of this label develops or what the other bands on the rooster like to present?
"Undercover Records is a small label and did a good work for GRAVEN in the past and now. They pay all shit and make / made some annoucements. What else could I expect!? I don't care about the other bands on the rooster or any image of the label. We're in good contact and that's it."
GRAVEN represents in a lot of ways (lyrically, artworkwise etc.) let me say the pure Black Metal way. Do you think that certain kind of relicts like corpsepaint etc. simply belong to it, especially in the oldschool way? By the way when did you actually change your artist name from Andras to Vronth and why?
"For GRAVEN it simply belongs to it. Any character in GRAVEN shows his thinking, meaning and view to represent the music and lyrics in that GRAVEN style. Raw, grim and hateful, you know. GRAVEN is like a valve for us to scream out all hate and aggression in form of lyrics and music. I have no idea when I changed my name into Vronth. I think it was before or after the recording session from our “Of Misanthropic Spirit” demo CD-R in 2000. The reason was simple. A new band, a new name."
a) The growing amount of extreme US Black Metal acts:
"I don't care."
b) The term political correctness in Metal:
"I give a shit. The biggest hypocrites in the scene are talking 'bout “political correctness”. Ridiculous!"
"What's nowadays a provocation? I think nothing. That time is over."
"The most overated band in the Black Metal scene at the moment."
e) Death Metal:
Thanx Vronth for taking some time to answer this request for VOICES FROM THE DARKSIDE. Feel free to find some final words or to add something we might have forgotten!!! Keep up the good work...
"Thanks for your support. Thanks to everybody out there, who's still believes in our work. Check out GRAVENs' website at www.graven-horde.de
Interview: Ralf Hauber
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