(Comrade Aleks brings us this interview with Anton Avramov, guitarist/vocalist of the Bulgarian doom band Obsidian Sea, whose new album Dreams, Illusions, Obsessions was released earlier this year.)
The geography of the doom metal scene is very wide; you can find interesting outfits all around the globe — in Iceland, in Tasmania, in Russian Siberia, and even on the Azores Islands in the middle of Atlantic Ocean. Some countries, such as the UK, are overwhelmed by doom bands while other countries are dark corners.
Obsidian Sea is a power trio from Bulgaria. Their first record Between Two Deserts was filled with good traditional doom and was released three years ago by Solitude Productions. When time came to do a sequel release, the men decided to do it by their own hands.
Here’s a record of our interview with Anton Avramov (guitars, vocals), so you have a chance to hear a story of Dreams, Illusions, Obsessions’ origin and Obsidian Sea’s perspectives.
Salute Anton! How are you? What’s new in Sofia?
Hello Aleks, glad to speak to you again! Nothing is really new, some years have passed, we’re still alive, that’s not too bad, is it?
It’s a good result, but I know that you have some news. I see that your new album “Dreams, Illusions, Obsessions” was recorded and mastered in April-August 2014, and yet only released it in April 2015 in a DIY way. Did you spend all this time searching for labels?
No, not really. Basically it was all DIY, not only the release, but also the recording. We did it in our own rehearsal space as we didn’t have the budget for a real “pro” studio, but we also wanted to capture a more natural, rawer sound, closer to the band’s true nature, which I think was missing in the first album.
Fortunately we had the pleasure to work with people who really knew their thing: Kiril Petrushev – Bus-t, and Simeon Panov (from another good Bulgarian band Center). They helped us immensely, but naturally things took a bit longer to do, especially the mixing stage.
So back to the question – that was one of the reasons, but we also wanted to do the release by ourselves this time as it had taken a lot of time already. It’s quite limited at only 500 copies, so we were always open to a re-release later if any label would be interested.
And speaking of this – there might be some news on that front pretty soon. I don’t want to give anything out still, as nothing is official yet, but as soon as everything is sorted, you’ll all know about it.
Anton, you recorded Obsidian Sea’s first album “Between Two Deserts” as a duet alongside Bozhidar Parvanov, and now you have new member in your crew — Ivalyo. How did you find one more doomhead in Bulgaria?
Well, we are not THAT few, you know. It seems people are opening up to this music around here in the last couple of years. But anyway, we can hardly say Ivaylo is a “new” member anymore because we’ve been good friends for a long time now, and this is his fourth year in the band, since our very first live gig in 2012, so it feels like we’ve always been a trio.
Frankly, I think this addition is what really “started” the band, as it doesn’t feel like a “studio project” anymore, and he also brought his own style of playing and influences pretty different from ours.
It took two years to record the second album. What are the key differences between both albums for you?
Everything was different – the line-up, the recording, the sound… This time we composed all the songs as a band with a lot of jamming in the rehearsal room, so they feel much more natural to me. Musically, the album is more varied and concise this time (it’s shorter on purpose) and much less straightforward than the first – there are traces of old rock and blues, horror movie scores, and even some psychedelic touches, so at least to me, it’s not just “metal” anymore. I honestly think it’s better on every level than the first and we’ll probably delve deeper into that more atmospheric direction in the future.
I know some people might not actually like that it might sound less heavy than the first, but this was a conscious decision and we never wanted to be the heaviest band in the world anyway.
Obsidian Sea – Child In The Tower
What did you achieve with your previous album “Between Two Deserts”? Can you say that being on a label really helped with promotion?
Well, obviously it did help. And I consider it a necessary starting point for us, but we were really green at that time, so we could have done a lot more to promote it ourselves. I don’t really know how many people we reached with the debut. As far as I know it hasn’t sold too well, but there were some nice reviews and a couple of interviews we did too, but it remains a really underground affair.
The main thing for me, speaking about “Solitude prod.”, is the fact that they showed faith in the band and wanted to release it in the first place; this was definitely a boost for us back then.
What attracted your attention to the story of Herostratus? How did you interpret his actions in “The Trial of Herastratus”?
I simply think it’s a very modern topic, however ancient the actual legend is. Our culture has this obsession with fame, where being famous is not a result of some value or merit, but is an actual value in itself, so Herostratus is alive and well among us.
But I also interpret this story as a kind of tragic one – of a man who, in his own eyes, is without any virtue or talent, so he feels doomed to mediocrity and subsequently oblivion. Feeling robbed, he devises this plan to be immortalized with an act of unwarranted destruction. This is what the lyrics are all about – his “revenge” and “triumph” over his judges.
You have a song named “Mulkulur” on this record, and I really searched what it means on the internet, but don’t have any answers still. Can you help me with this riddle?
It’s “Mulkurul” and it comes from a Peter Weir movie called The Last Wave that deals a lot with dreams, premonitions, and with native Aboriginese myths. That word (in the movie) stands for a kind of entity, a spirit in a human form. I don’t want to go into extensive explanations, you should watch it, haha. But the film impressed me a lot and I think the word and the concept of an alternate dream-reality really fit into the overall theme of the album.
Anton, you sang in Bulgarian on your black metal project Nenavist. Why haven’t you wanted to try the same with Obsidian Sea?
Oh, well… it’s not like anyone could decipher those lyrics anyway. I don’t know. That “band” has been long inactive (even before it ended officially), but one of the reasons was that it was supposed to sound distant and ugly in accordance to those states of mind I was in back then, and the Bulgarian lyrics I think were more suited to that.
I haven’t thought of writing something in Bulgarian for Obsidian Sea. To be honest, it sounds a bit strange to me when I sing, and I find English easier to put into an actual vocal line. But if I get a good idea for a Bulgarian lyric someday, why not?
Anton, I have a standard question: what was your favorite book in school?
Hahaha, now that was unexpected… I’m ashamed to say I wasn’t the most avid reader in my school years, but I remember I was always fascinated by mythologies and fantastic subjects, so I used to read books with Ancient Greek, Nordic, Egyptian, etc., myths, and of course Bulgarian folklore tales from a very young age. I remember my grandmother having the edition of Dante’s Inferno containing those fantastic engravings by Doré and I used to go through it even without reading it just to look at them.
I also discovered Lovecraft with this little book containing three of his stories when I was 10 (and had a lot of sleepless nights as a result) at a time when he was pretty much completely unknown here.
All in all, I still mostly have a taste for the fantastic and imaginative when it comes to books, not really a fan of the “fantasy” genre, but more of authors such as Borges and Cortazar.
Anyway, probably the most important and seriously personal reading from my later years was Dostoevsky’s The Brothers Karamazov, which was something I could never get into when I was at school.
Well, I hope that answers the question somewhat…
Can you name any local features in Obsidian Sea’s songs? Or is it totally “western-oriented” music from your point of view?
That’s a nice question! I don’t think musically there is a lot of “local” influence. It’s more the “mood” of our local culture that inspires us – the nature, the myths, the overall sense of sorrow and a kind of “stoic resignation” I feel is a part of the tradition here…
The thing is, we’ve all grown up listening to “western” rock music, so it’s only natural to us to take that direction in our playing. We do have an interest in our folklore and some of us even study it professionally, but basically, speaking for myself, the music that really inspired me was always rock in some form.
Perhaps there are people who see our origins as “exotic” in some way and expect to hear bagpipes and folklore singing, but I see no point in that. That’s not us, and besides, there are a lot of traditional ensembles that do that and do it well, there’s no need to use it as a gimmick just for the sake of some misguided “originality”. I’d rather stick to doing my music the way I feel it, the best I can.
In the end, I wouldn’t call it “western-oriented”. It’s oriented towards everyone who might find something in it.
Mate, I see that Obsidian Sea already have a new song – you’ve uploaded its live version on YouTube, a catchy track indeed. When do you plan to record it? Can we suppose it is a teaser for the next record?
Thanks! It’s a fan video from one of our last shows and we’ve played this track live a couple of times already. It was finished just after the album was completed, so we decided to keep it for the next recording, be it a full-length or a shorter release. So, yes – I guess it is kind of a “teaser”, and we also have a couple of other ideas we’re working on, but it’s still too early to say when we can come up with something complete in order to record it.
Obsidian Sea — New song live
How often do you play gigs with Obsidian Sea? Have you already played abroad?
Not as often as I would like, that’s for sure… Here in Bulgaria it’s pretty tough outside of our hometown – the Capitol — there are not too many places to play and the audience for this music is pretty much concentrated in Sofia, so naturally we have to bide our time.
We are looking for opportunities, of course: We did our first gig abroad two months ago at the Stonerizer Puljp fest in Rtanj, Serbia (link) – a very underground and DIY thing held in a quite unique setting. It was a nice adventure for us, we met some friendly people and we had a good time, that’s what counts.
There are also plans for a small tour across the neighboring countries that should materialize sometime around October hopefully, but we still have a fair bit of organizing to do for that one. So things are happening even though the pace is quite slow.
Of course, I understand we are yet to make a name for ourselves, and coming from Bulgaria doesn’t exactly make things easier, plus we also have our day jobs to take care of, but I sincerely believe things will happen in time.
What are your best impressions from one of Obsidian Sea’s gigs?
That’s hard for me to say. I have many good memories because we are basically playing in front of an audience we know, so we feel right at home. We’ve had the chance to play with some great bands from abroad through the years, like Ufomammut, 1000mods, Nauseahtake, but also with strong local ones such as Upyr, Sativa, Brond, etc., so it’s always been a pleasure at the end.
I’m happy to say that our recent shows have been in my opinion our best, and people seem to notice that, so I’m hopeful for the future as I feel we are developing and feeling stronger as a live band.
Thank you for an interesting interview Anton! That’s all for today. I wish you and Obsidian Sea prolific work and good luck! Do you have a few more words for our readers?
Thank you for the questions and for supporting the band, it was a pleasure. Keep your eyes open and don’t grow old. Take care.
Band photos are by Boryana Uzunova
Llive photos are by Bozhidar Petkov