(Our Russian comrade Aleks presents this interview with members of the Belarusian doom band Woe Unto Me, with musical accompaniment of course.)
What do you know about Belarus? Okay, besides that it’s a post-USSR country and it’s ruled by the “last European dictator” as some impressionable ladies say… I think that Woe Unto Me is a good occasion to take a look at this corner of the metal scene and discover there some new names.
As for Woe Unto Me – the band plays solid and mournful funeral doom. They shared the stage with Shape of Despair in Saint-Petersburg a few months ago and I witnessed this great performance. We found some time to discuss Woe Unto Me‘s creative ways with Artyom Serdyuk (vocals, guitars) and Dzmitry Shchyhlinski (guitars). By the way, I also asked a couple of questions about Disloyal, a death metal band with Artyom on guitars.
Salute! Woe Unto Me released its first album A Step Into Waters of Forgetfulness in February 2014. I have read somewhere that material for this album was being written for several years. What is its history?
Artyom: Greetings! Since the very inception of the band, we have focused on quality, striving to release a really well-thought-out, high-quality product at a decent level. Each of us had some guitar riffs and raw ideas, and we worked very carefully and meticulously on the arrangements. The last thing we cared about at that moment was time. We were not in a hurry; we wanted every idea to be thoroughly hatched in our heads, and to come to our minds naturally, through inspiration. Therefore, we decided to start the recording process when we had felt the integrity of each composition.
Did some unrealized tracks remain after this record or was the entire material in one way or another included in the album?
Dzmitry: We had initially prepared the material for a full-length debut album, so as soon as the length of the written stuff had reached the required minimum, we decided not to waste time and immediately start recording. But, of course, there are some unused or unfinished parts, and I think maybe we will try to implement them in the next album.
What technical difficulties did you experience during the recording process?
Artyom: I think that the main technical difficulties that we faced were during the mixing of the album. Since this process was held remotely, it was extremely important that the person, who is mixing the album, clearly understands and realizes the sound picture, which is supposed to appear as a result. There are a lot of details in this music. Due to the long process of working on material for our debut, all these details have borne in our minds so hard, that we heard every little thing that a person who is not so well acquainted with these songs could just have missed.
For example, we especially wanted to highlight and emphasize some of the instruments and parts, so, as I’ve mentioned, a person who was mixing it should have thoroughly felt all of that, or roughly speaking, just listened to it with our ears. For that reason, a lot of time was spent on all sorts of small elements, corrections, and attempts to explain to the person what exactly we wanted to hear, because in most cases he was feeling it in a different way. I think if we had been in the studio and could have talked directly to each other, supervising this whole process, everything would have been easier and faster.
How much are the musicians of Woe Unto Me inclined to experiment in music? For instance, are there any musical techniques that would help you reveal your ideas more widely in the future?
Dzmitry: If we are talking about our future material, then there is no doubt, we will continue to realize ourselves in different directions, styles, and genres that we could not fit into our debut album. And that is why Woe Unto Me in the future in some way will differ from Woe Unto Me as you witness it right now. We will continue to discover ourselves, take the best of what is already written, and try new things of course.
Artyom: Proceeding from what is already emerging for the new album, there will be plenty of experiments.
But at least it will still be funeral? Why is this genre so attractive for you?
Dzmitry: To be honest, our debut album only partially can be attributed to funeral, and even we ourselves can’t exactly formulate the name of the genre of A Step Into The Waters Of Forgetfulness, as we did not try to stick to any particular style of music. And we are going to stay the same in that sense in the future. I think our listeners should expect a fairly wide range of qualities inherent to doom metal, the qualities for which we all love this genre. I have spoken many times about these qualities, and one of my definitions so successfully and laconically described doom metal that it spread across the network in the form of quotes: “Doom metal is an opportunity to get pleasure from experiences and emotions that should not bring pleasure by default”. Well, and when the ideas to create something in this musical style initially appeared, this genre was, in general, still a rarity in the post-Soviet space. All these factors taken together beckoned us with unexplored mysteriousness.
What rules and canons do you follow when writing music? How much is this process free and artistic? Or maybe a more technical and academic approach prevails?
Artyom: I don’t think that we adhere to any rules and canons, if only unconsciously. Everything comes from within, exactly the way we feel, so the process of writing music is absolutely free and is not driven into any academic and technical frameworks. We just express the emotions inside us through our music.
Artyom, in addition to a number of Belarusian bands you also play in the Polish death metal crew Disloyal. How is your cooperation with them?
Artyom: I visit Poland very often. I have to go there anyway, because I am also a member of the Polish industrial groove metal band Thy Disease, and moreover more than half of the line-up of my band Deathbringer also consists of Polish musicians. Well, and add Disloyal to that. So I don’t have a choice, heheh.
In Disloyal there is only one member left from the first line-up, the drummer – Jaro. We are old friends. For some time I was playing in the previous line-up as a bassist, and later, when it split-up, we decided to continue with the band, and if I may say so, to start with a clean slate. I started writing material for a new album; we have found new musicians and continued our activity. So our collaboration runs just fine.
I heard that Disloyal is going to release an album this year. Have you already signed a contract with a label? What can we expect from this release?
Artyom: Yes, exactly. We have signed a deal with Japanese label Ghastly Music (a division of Amputated Vein Records), and our album called Godless will be officially released on June 9, 2015. This CD will contain 10 brand new compositions. It will no longer be quite the same Disloyal which can be heard on the previous albums. The new material is really heavy as elephant balls, very fast, very technical, but at the same time quite atmospheric, with a lot of experimental elements. To make a long story short – it’s the real death metal. 🙂
Disloyal — Godless
Do you have enough inspiration to work on a new Woe Unto Me album?
Dzmitry: Inspiration? In doom metal? What for? Just play two notes, slow down the tempo as much as you can – and here’s the new album. Heheh 🙂 But seriously, first of all we have the desire, and of course we are not going to rest on our laurels.
Artyom: Personally, I feel that we are full of ideas. During the period when we were looking for a label and until the album was released, and also during the concerts and tours promoting the debut record, we’ve accumulated a lot of new, completely different ideas, riffs, sketches. In the nearest future we plan to come to grips with new material. We are really looking forward to the moment when we will start working on something new.
Wow! Did you deliberately promote the album with the help of gigs and tours? Did you manage to play a lot of them and where did you play?
Artyom: Concerning the number of gigs and tours – we played not as many as we would like to. :)) And you are right, from the very beginning we planned everything that way, not to waste time, and immediately after the release of the album we started touring to promote it. So we went on our first tour in March 2014 together with our good friends from Latvia – Frailty. During this voyage we visited 5 countries: Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, Russia, and Belarus. These gigs were very successful. We received an incredibly warm welcome from the audience in literally every city. We were so pleasantly surprised.
We also took part in the largest Belarusian metal festival – Metal Crowd — where we shared the stage with bands like Hate, Аrkona, Susperia, Mors Principium Est, Thy Disease, and a couple of dozen other great bands. We performed at Shadow Doom Festival in Moscow – really cool thematic event with some really strong representatives of the Russian doom metal scene: Mare Infinitum, Revelations of Rain, Di Mortales, and Autumn Lethargy. And we are absolutely proud and happy that in the beginning of 2015 in Russia we managed to play with the real masters of funeral doom from Finland — Shape Of Despair, and some more awesome Russian bands: Comatose Vigil and Who Dies In Siberian Slush. There were some local gigs as well with smaller but still very warm audiences.
Speaking about our concert activity, we are not going to stop either. We will try to perform as often as possible. Right now we’re thinking of doing our next tour, so there are a lot of plans and we’re acting in full swing on all fronts.
With the release of the album on Solitude Productions did your attitude to yourselves and your own creativity change somehow? Was there a sense of solidity and relevance of what you do?
Dzmitry: Well, undoubtedly we’re not ashamed of our music, of what we’ve created, and this is our minimum, our first work, which we are proud of. We believe that all our efforts helped us to jump up a couple of steps higher than we initially expected. And now we are just looking forward and getting ready for the next bar, and we’ll try to jump even higher. The most important thing is not to slip back, because now we have responsibility not only to ourselves but also to the people who are watching us and listening to our music.
Woe Unto Me – Angels To Dies
Artyom: In fact our touring line-up consists of 6 people. After recording the album, taking into consideration many factors, including travel expenses, technical and catering riders, etc., we have jointly decided that it would be more expedient to play in the line-up of six of us, and therefore we have female backing vocals as a playback, because basically they appear just a few times in the entire album. Absolutely all of our performances are held in such a way.
By the way, the Belarusian doom-scene is barely familiar to our readers. What band names would you mention speaking about it? The only musical projects around the doom metal genre that come to my mind are Re123+ and Re1ikt.
Artyom: Unfortunately, the Belarusian doom metal scene is not very strong, and there are not so many names in fact. I would note a rather old and experienced band called Revelation, existing since 1999, and of course our friends Reido, who released two very interesting albums and are preparing the third release.