When it comes to brutal oldschool Death Metal you not necessarily think of a country like France due to the simple fact that not too many killer acts of that kind have materialized overthere throughout the last couple of years… but BLOODY SIGN is definitely an act you should be familiar with by now as these guys have built up a quite solid foundation based on a shitload of very strong releases ever since their origin in 1995… and their most ambitious and matured album "Chaos Echos" is yet to come… Ralf found out more when he contacted guitarist Kalevi Uibo for the following interview…
Hey Kalevi my French buddy, how is life in Strassbourg? Hope you are stoned enough to have some bad ass answers for us, haha!
"Hey Ralf, not a lot of time here to get stoned “enough”… just as always, haha!"
In spring 2009 you’ve already finished the recordings of the third BLOODY SIGN full length album entitled “Chaos Echos”. How do you reflect the recordings and songwriting process? Does the new material set in where the 2006 album “Explosion Of Elements” left off or do you feel more comfortable with the rough and unpolished sound and direction of “The 3rd Escape” 7” EP material from 2008?
"Yeah, our third album has been recorded two months ago now and it’s somewhere between “The 3rd Escape” and now… nowhere. We are really proud of it. I deeply think we achieved something great. I mean we always evolve and music is a quest, we found new keys and I am very excited to listen to the new album mixed and mastered. It will be done hopefully in mid July at Rape Of Harmonies Studios by Patrick W. Engl (“Angel of Disease” from HATESPAWN – Ralf) and I am almost sure we did the best choice. The new album will be far more weird and darker, less compromises, there will be a lot of specific elements you rarely find in extreme Metal. It’s really rooted in the tradition of dark Death Metal. All the songs are also linked by a lyrical theme about music: music and magik, music and primal elements, music through human body, music and cosmos, chaos, ageless rituals, music initiation, music and alcohol… It should be released in autumn through Blood Harvest in Europe and Ibex Moon for the US territories."
In generally I think that BLOODY SIGN got a lot more complex in the songwriting throughout the years. I mean on one hand it’s obvious that you’re a massive MORBID ANGEL fan in terms of the riffings , but I also hear INCANTATION, IMMOLATION, old BELPHEGOR and a few classical European Death / Thrash influences as well… But most of all I think that BLOODY SIGN really managed to give this breed a really obscure atmosphere and those doom and even psychedelic elements within the whole inferno add a lot individuality to your style and let me say black magic, or what’s your recept, ha!?! I mean BLOODY SIGN doesn’t deliver a direct earworm feeling to the listener. It takes time to get behind the lines, don’t you think?
"He! He! I think I can’t add a lot more to your comment and thank you for writing such a good summary of our band. I will use it in the future. In fact things come quite naturally in the songwriting. What is important is the attitude towards the creation of the music and the dedication. I mean, we really love music. We work a lot on different musical ideas, shapes and colours. When you’re deeply into music or literature or paintings, you listen to, see, or do a lot of different things that are all gathered in your body. If you do things consciously then you just need to be open to the spells and then spread them naturally. Your body do the melting unconsciously, so… We are lot more into “instinct” than years ago, so it’s funny if you feel our music is more complex. I guess we gained some maturity. We listen to a lot of different music, but we never wanted to do the fusion with extreme Metal, but in the end, things happen unconsciously. More than that we really do what we want. We don’t really feel boundaries. Death Metal is our quest! We know where we go, but we also put “danger” into music, also we try to never be closed by a typical system. There’s no system, and our music takes it shapes from / through improvisations, written riffs, specific rhythms, harmonies, melodies, colours or soundscapes. About the influences you mentioned, I really wonder how people couldn’t be influenced by MORBID ANGEL!?! This band is “my” god and Trey Azagthoth is for me one of the best guitar players / composers of all in the XXth century!!! I even dreamt of him giving me some advices on how the guitar should sound and some of his strange skills, haha! INCANTATION is also deeply inside me. Their obscurity shows me the way. Almost the same with IMMOLATION, but I don’t really know BELPHEGOR that well. Death Metal wise, you can add POSSESSED, PESTILENCE and AUTOPSY and you will find the basic atmosphere we took our shape from. Plus tons of other bands, too."
BLOODY SIGN is also a band that carries more the classical old Death Metal feeling, but I still think that you’re not a sort of retro band. I mean it’s obvious that 90s styled Death Metal is getting a really high reputation these days and tons of new, even bloody young bands are rising out of nowhere… Kalevi, I know that you’re not the biggest fan of this old Swedish Death Metal style, but I wonder how you feel generally about this evolution and how you see the role of BLOODY SIGN?
"Hey, I am fucking burnt by oldschool Swedish Death and Black Metal, I just don’t like it too melodic!!! We are not a retro band that’s obvious, but we’re walking the same paths and we try to evolve within a part of the codes written by the old gods. I don’t think we sound Swedish at all… that’s almost sure, it’s such a specific style, it’s really closed, it’s hard to make it evolve into something else. But I think we’re in a way really influenced by a band like GROTESQUE, which by the way is absolutely not the typical Swedish sound. I love the twisted guitar parts, the tempo changes and time signatures, the dark energy and feeling. It’s really more than just Swedish!!! But I grew with all the classics and NIHILIST / ENTOMBED, DISMEMBER, GRAVE, UNLEASHED and lot of others really have / had this groove for darkness. And recently bands like KAAMOS or REPUGNANT were needed in the Death Metal scene, followed now by countless young bands I just think that now it’s really trendy to play this necro horror Death Metal with blood and cadaveric outlook, too much bands for the same sound!!! But it’s really important to look for your own identity, it’s deeply hidden in your soul, and you have to work it a lot to show you have something specific or unique, mostly nowadays. Years ago I was speaking with a good oldschool Metalhead and he told me something which is still haunting me: If you want to evolve you have to come back to the roots of music… listen to POSSESSED again and again and again and so on… and I realized the keys for modernity are to be found inside those bands, which were fresh and so new at their time, yet rooted in their previous tradition – fuck!!! What does modern means exactly? It’s not not the same meaning for me. In general I think it’s important to have a look to all the past tradition, Metal and non Metal, 70s Prog Rock, Classical contemporary stuff, Blues, Jazz, Free Music, Folk Music from all around the earth, and you also have to be aware of what’s going on nowadays, because we’re still living a crazy period of time, even if everything is degenerating."
Bigger French labels like Osmose or Listenable always had a few French bands on their roster, but in some way I wonder why never a real French Death Metal band made it, spoken in the common sense, since the highly acclaimed 90s releases of MASSACRA, AGGRESSOR, LOUDBLAST or MERCYLESS… I mean there are growing underground bands like DROWNING, VORKREIST and some more left, but the successful ones like GOJIRA or SCARVE are far away from being labeled as Death Metal. What do you think about that situation?
"In our country it’s even hard to find Metalheads who really know about MASSACRA. MERCYLESS have been totally forgotten, but their two first albums are awesome, really sick guitar riffs, crazy vocals!!! I think in France not that much people are “able” to feel the aura of Death Metal, and are more impressed by technical skills… maybe I am wrong, but there are a lot of technical brutal Death Metal core blah, blah. I will not spread all my vomit on the shitty countless and useless bands in this country, whatever it is Death, Black Metal… French people don’t really like oldschool Death Metal in the dark way. The only French Death Metal band I really recommand nowadays is RITUALIZATION, which is a fucking great band, with real maniacs. Even if I don’t like GOJIRA, I know they’re hard workers and really dedicated guys. They’re really into music… about SCRAVE, I don’t know if they still exist!?!"
Talking about INCANTATION. I remember that your brother and BLOODY SIGN drummer Ilmar helped out in some Europen touring line–up of John McEntee’s INCANTATION. You even did two full length albums for his label Ibex Moon Records (USA) with BLOODY SIGN, but the new album is scheduled for a European release under the banner of Blood Harvest Records. What’s your today’s point of view on the co–operation with Ibex Moon? How much did it help BLOODY SIGN and what’s the critical view behind the scenery? I mean did it in some way help you to spread the bandname within the US?
"Yeah, it was really good for him touring with such a legendary band for us. I remember I called my brother, he was in Estonia, and I told him McEntee asked if he was able and wanted to play the tour. So, he learned all the setlist in five days, haha! He has this feeling to play this kind of Death Metal and as we used to cover INCANTATION’s songs, it was quite natural. This band had a really huge impact on us when we were kids, it was really frightening. And yeah our two first albums have been released by Ibex Moon Records, John McEntee’s label. It was really a huge honour for us, as I just sent him our first album to have his point of view about our sounds, just as a musician in one of my fave bands, and he told me he wanted to release it! Fuck yeah!!! I think what became more and more a problem is the lack of promo in Europe, which is not easy for an American label, considering the fact McEntee plays in INCANTATION (they toured a lot all last three years) and FUNERUS, I guess he might need free – time as well. Of course we did a part of the promo and distribution here, but it’s not easy and it takes a lot of time, and time is often missing. Blood Harvest recently released our “Explosion Of Elements” on LP and a 7” EP from us last year. They will take care of the next album on CD and LP at least for Europe. I am really happy about that, because I think this is the best label (at least in Europe) when it comes to real dark Death Metal. I really like a lot of bands from their label and to know he trusts us for the third album is really good!!! I think McEntee did quite ok promo in USA, it’s quite well distributed it seems, we had few features in well known magazines and stuff, but we should really try to go there and play! I hope things will be more clear for the next steps, ha!"
By the way, did you get any kind of tour support from Ibex Moon for the European tour you’ve played with VITAL REMAINS in 2007 and the Balkan tour you’ve did with labelmates ESTUARY later on?
"All the tours we did were almost “do it yourself”… not on purposes, but we realized that if we don’t do it ourselves, nobody will do it for us!!! It’s really hard and sometimes you really loose your motivation to push people supporting you, but it’s this inner feeling, this will of power, this will to survive. The European tour with ESTUARY was also really insane. We mostly plaid south Europe, France, Spain and Portugal. We toured twice the Balkanic area and it was always also really extreme. We even played Algeria two years ago!!! What is important is that Metal maniacs in those countries are / were not bored! I hate this attitude in “old European” countries where people are no more curious, don’t drive hundreds km if needed to support a band. They feel like they know everything “which has been done”, they always praise a so called oldschool time when everything was shining and bands were all killers and people dedicated – fuck them!!! They live in the past and can die!!! But hopefully we should tour with ANAL VOMIT in October if everything goes well and will play in more “common” places in Germany, Belgium, France, Denmark, Spain or Italy."
I mean it’s hard to believe, but BLOODY SIGN also already did shows in Latin America (Peru and Equador), too. So how did it work out? It seems in some way that you’ve invested a lot of own money, right!?!
"We really like to play everywhere and meet other Metal maniacs. To play live is something we really look for, to spread music in a live situation and makes it living is really exciting. We never really had extra money after our tours, but we rarely lost too much money. We are not afraid of anything, and we want to spread our sounds in all countries in the world, it’s a natural feeling, hard to explain why or what, we just feel inside us we have to do it!!! We also now try to do something more specific during our gigs adding improvised moments, noises, instruments without others, we try lot of things, and I really believe it keeps your music fresh and living. About latin America, as I love Metal from down of this earth, I always had a specific addiction to Peru. MORTEM is one of my all time fave Death Metal bands since 10 years and I totally worship bands like HADEZ, ANAL VOMIT, GOAT SEMEN etc. which all have this pestilential feeling to play savage Metal. I like the Inca culture and myths, and all the things to taste in this country. So I was in contact with a guy who uses to organise gigs, and it began like that. It’s the craziest experience in my life, we had some problems there which made the trip even more extreme, haha! I really hope we will go back there and play also in other countries such as Chile (fucking great active Death Metal scene! Saludos a mi amigos de GODLESS!!!), Brazil, Bolivia and so on."
What some Death Metal heads might not expect is that you and Ilmar (drums) also play in an medieval band entitled ENSAMPLE TORMIS. I mean if got it right you both are of Estian origin, which doesn’t reflect the music, right!?! How did you discover your interest in this middle age based kind of music, issues, cultural aspects and how much traditional elements are there enclosed in terms of instruments?
"We love music, music took our soul many years ago. Ilmar is my brother and we grew in a family were music is everywhere. My father listens to a fucking wide variety of music, lot of Jazz, Blues, Classical stuff, Folk etc. so we always loved to listen to those music styles “at the same time”. The ENSAMBLE TORMIS was created seven or eight years ago. We are often four members, but it can change. We are really into the middle age, music wise, but also poetry, philosophy, history, but this has nothing to do with things like CORVUS CORAX, please – Ok!!! Lot of people say “dark ages”, but it’s absolutely not. We play several different instruments (guitern, cistres, oud, many percussions, bagpipes, flutes, lot of vocal stuff sung by my brother) and mostly play compositions from the XIIth / XIIIth century (from Spain, France, Italy or Germany) taken from ancient manuscripts or scores. Check www.myspace.com/tormis, our album has just been released!!!"
You play a massive amount of shows throughout the year with ENSAMBLE TORMIS, too. I remember that you’ve told me that you can almost make a living out of it. Somehow hard to imagine but how does it work?
"Why is it so hard to imagine? To make it work… you have to work really hard and keep the flame alive everyday!!!"
OK Kalevi, thanx a lot for giving us the possibility for that short trip into the world of BLOODY SIGN. Keep it deadly and feel free to add some final words, ok!?!
"Hell Ralf, thanks a lot for the interview, it was quite stressful but we managed to do it on time, hehe! Next steps are the release of “Chaos Echoes” our third album and this tour with ANAL VOMIT which I hope will become true in autumn. Also Terror From Hell (Italy) will release a kind of limited BLOODY SIGN t-shirt with some new stuff in the forthcoming days / weeks!!!"
(this interview was originally published in Mystical Music Zine # 14)
Interview: Ralf Hauber
Livepics by Doreen & Grasseck