Formed as a duo in 2012, two more years had to go by for SPECTRAL VOICE to release their first proper recordings. Meanwhile, they completed a full line-up with shared members from ABYSMAL DIMENSIONS and BLOOD INCANTATION. Their debut album "Eroded Corridors Of Unbeing" made it to the Voices From The Darkside Best Of 2017 list as the runner up. A well deserved place, since their brand of Death / Doom Metal oozes an oppressive atmosphere perfectly mixed with insane outbursts of brutality. If you have not heard this band, you are missing out on some great Metal. Drummer and one of the founders, E. Wendler, was kind enough to answer some questions (although they were in the middle of a tour) for us…
Well, let’s get this started with the stock question: how was the band formed? The members of SPECTRAL VOICE also play (or played) in ABYSMAL DIMENSIONS and BLOOD INCANTATION (both formed in 2011) and NEKROFILTH (formed in 2008) which are well-known bands in the underground, so you are not newcomers. Did you get together by chance or did you want to have a side project to explore a style that differs to the other bands you play with?
"The band was started as a full time commitment by Paul and myself to create sounds molded in the vein of true Death / Doom. We both knew each other from music, and working together and decided to start working on ideas. The full line-up wasn’t created until a few years later when Morris then shortly after, Jeff joined (both from BLOOD INCANTATION)."
How long did it take the band to find its identity? Were you looking for a specific sound from the start or did it come naturally at rehearsals?
"We had specific sounds and approaches in mind, as we both bonded early on through bands like ETERNAL DARKNESS, ABHORRENCE, ROTTREVORE, THERGOTHON, etc. We’ve never approached it as a pure worship or clone band, but in the beginning we had clearer parameters that we wanted to work in."
Your first demo was released in 2014, but the band was formed back in 2012. Were you gathering up ideas to shape up the band?
"It doesn’t seem that long to me, but we take our time writing each song, making sure we have time to reflect and adjust each part into something we’re proud of. In the beginning of the band our intention was to record with a full line-up, but that ended up taking quite a long time. We had a couple different line-ups that never worked out after taking the time to teach people parts, arrange time to rehearse, etc. and the earliest recordings are still a part of that stage, since we didn’t even have a bass player for the first (and I believe second) tape. When we recorded "Necrotic Doom", we decided to do it as a two piece just to keep the process streamlined and to finally give the songs a proper release!"
How good were your demo tapes received in the underground? Would you say your style has evolved since your first recording or have you tried not to change it too much?
"People seemed to like the demo, and we received a lot of positive feedback from our friends and people we respected, so it felt good to hear that our peers were respecting what we were doing. I’m sure some people hated us, but who cares? Our sound has expanded for sure, and we’ve let some new influences enter the band, but at the core it’s still coming from the same place, in part from our own approach to the music and sonic influence, and also due to the fact that we wrote our full length as a full band, with ideas from everyone rather than the demo which was just Paul and I. We don’t actively try to keep it the same or different, it’s just a natural expression of what we’re listening to and what we’re trying to convey at a certain time."
After your 3 demos, you released two splits: one with BLOOD INCANTATION and one with PHRENELITH. I assume the first one was a logical step, since both bands share members. For the second split, did you contact PHRENELITH or was it the other way round? How was it put together?
"David and I have known each other for some years and always talked about trying to work together. Since both bands started around the same time, and had a similar approach to Death Metal, we decided it would be cool to do a split. I don’t remember exactly how it was brought up, but it was pretty casual and seemed so natural that it just happened! I happened to be visiting Copenhagen when they had booked time to record their side, so that was extra special for me to be a part of. They’re one of my favorite contemporary bands and I’m completely honored we got to share a record with them."
Death Metal has always been a very wide and prominent sub-genre of extreme music, so to speak. On the other hand, it seems that throughout the years, Doom Metal has always been an "acquired taste" and not as popular as one would think. Would you say that Doom Metal (and Doom / Death in this case) has been overlooked?
"I wouldn’t say “overlooked” is the right word, because at least here in the States, the Stoner Doom and Sludge were extremely popular a few years ago. On the other hand, the extreme and morbid side of Doom seems to have a very small interest. I think a lot of casual listeners enjoy music from a more social angle, which extreme Doom does not cater to. It’s rare that you’ll see a group of people slamming beers and headbanging to WORSHIP or THERGOTHON. Personally I view SPECTRAL VOICE as primarily a Death Metal band, so I can’t say for sure what pure Doom fans think, but underground Doom doesn’t seem as oversaturated as the modern Death Metal scene."
I have always been a fan of Doom Metal since I heard CANDLEMASS, PENTAGRAM and then some of the first Doom / Death hybrids such as THERGOTHON’s "Fhtagn-Nagh Yog-Sothoth", MY DYING BRIDE’s "Symphonaire Infernus Et Spera Empyrium"and PARADISE LOST’s "Gothic". Are any of these bands direct influences to your sound? If not, which bands would you say were the pioneers for Doom and Doom / Death styles?
"THERGOTHON is the only “direct” influence in this list, but we’re all into those bands. CANDLEMASS is a shared favorite for all of us, but “Gothic” and “Symphonaire…” both tend to be a bit too dramatic for my taste. Some of the other guys love those records, but “Lost Paradise” is the PARADISE LOST record closest to my heart, and I reside in the cliched camp of “the demo was heavier!” for MY DYING BRIDE. The early English Death / Doom had some of the BEST bands but they all seemed to get soft pretty quickly. I’d add DISEMBOWELMENT, fusing Grindcore and Death Metal with glacial Doom and incredible atmospheres. RIPPIKOULU, ETERNAL DARKNESS, GOATLORD, WINTER and MOURNFUL CONGREGATION all deserve a spot on that list as well. Going back into the 80s, BLACK HOLE (IT), PAUL CHAIN, ST. VITUS, PAGAN ALTAR all left their mark and took Metal into slower and slower territories, so heavy!"
What is the inspiration behind your lyrics? To what extent is the lyrical concept an integral part of the music? Do you come up with the music first and then the lyrics or vice versa?
"The music is always written first, and then I try to use the lyrics to build a narrative of the sound. We try to capture what we hear in the music and what it evokes inside the lyrics. In the beginning it was loose and not based on any one thing or concept, more or less dealing with the supernatural and existential horror. The full length was the first time I wrote all the lyrics (before then it was split pretty evenly between Paul and I). The process is still the same, but I apply the sounds to a more personal ideation of the unconscious and the acausal terrors / negative auras that exist within and throughout the mind."
How about new music? Is it a band effort or is there somebody who comes up with some ideas and then you all start putting them together?
"Overall it’s very much a group effort. Sometimes a new idea comes from a spark of spontaneity at practice, and other times someone has an idea at home and we all work on it and put it together."
Has it been hard to compose new songs for SPECTRAL VOICE and keep them apart from the other bands you guys play with?
"Not really. Part of the reason we have multiple bands is to express different things. If we sat down to write for a certain band, it’s intentional and no other band is in our minds for that time. Usually for SPECTRAL VOICE, the mood and atmosphere has to be right, so it’s easy to get in the mindset."
Eli, you started as the drummer and also vocalist of the band. Playing drums is already a demanding part, so how hard is it to keep up with both things? Also, at one point you had Casey Hogan as your vocalist. Was he up to the task or did you think that your vocals were more suiting for the band’s style?
"Casey was our original vocalist and played live with the band up until after our first tour. His leaving was mutual, and there were no hard feelings, or firing / quitting involved. He is an incredible vocalist with a WIDE range of possibilities and since we had a more strict approach, I think we held some of those possibilities back from him. Paul and I still handled the vocal arrangements anyways, so after he left it was just easier to take over than to try and find a whole new person and bring them up to speed. He still goes on tour with us and performs live every once in a while."
Is there a concept behind "Eroded Corridors Of Unbeing"? I noticed that only two of your previous songs made it into the album: ‘Thresholds Beyond’ and ‘Visions Of Psychic Dismemberment’. Did you want all new material for your debut or was there a reason to keep those two songs for the album?
"They were all written for the album, and those two songs just appeared on a tour promo so we had some new music to show people what we had been working on. The album’s sequence is the order in which we wrote the songs, so the flow of it is a bit conceptual on its own, but the lyrics themselves don’t have a concrete story or message, more so a unified theme."
What can one expect from an SPECTRAL VOICE gig? How do you manage to keep up the intensity of your show since SPECTRAL VOICE’s music mixes a lot of atmosphere and dynamics? Also, do you have a favorite show and crowd so far? Have you had any memorable gigs so far, local or international? Are there any aspects of touring that you don’t like?
"We try to create an enveloping and oppressive atmosphere. Sometimes we use candles, fog, incense, other times we play in complete darkness; always some combination of those. We try to put the emphasis on sound, removing the emphasis on the humans on stage emitting them. We still have a lot of energy into the playing, so that from any way, the show remains intense. We’ve played a lot of great shows, but a few years ago we played in Denver at a place called Rhinoceropolis. People were going so insane that they knocked the lights out of the room and continued to rage so hard that a guitar amp was knocked over (it didn’t hit the ground though, thanks to the sheer density of people), people were flying into the drums, unknown liquids flying all over, it was complete madness and totally violent. Some other memorable gigs would be Helsinki with KRYPTS, Slovenia with MORBID CREATION, and the Dark Descent Showcase in 2017, which was also our record release."
What can we expect from SPETRAL VOICE in a near future? Do you see the band evolving in its sound and concept? What are your upcoming plans?
"We have a West Coast tour planned for June with SUPERSTITION and MORTIFERUM. After that we are playing Beyond The Gates, Killtown, with a European tour to follow supporting DEMILICH. We will continue to write music and tour, but nothing more is concrete as of now."
Well, thank you very much Eli for all your time. I hope these questions were interesting enough for you to answer. A huge Hail to SPECTRAL VOICE. The final words are yours…
"Thanks to you! It’s quite an honor to be a part of the legendary timeline of this (web)zine! Hail to Frank Stöver and Hail to Voices From The Darkside!"
Interview: Alfonso Perez
Live pics: SickenDesigns