(This new interview by Comrade Aleks takes us through an extended discussion with vocalist/lyricist Clode Tethra and guitarist Federico Monti , members of the Italian death-doom band Tethra, whose new album will soon be released by Black Lion Records.)
Tethra are a death doom band from Italian Novara, Tethra spend their twelfth year on the scene, and there are two full-lengths plus one EP in itheir discography. Oh, correction – their third album Empire Of The Void is planned to be released by Black Lion Records on the 20th of March.
The album sounds both familiar and refreshingly new. Familiar because it radiates that warm melancholic vibe of classic mid-tempo melodic doom death. Refreshing because of its potent sound and its richness. It’s interesting how Tethra survive – and not just survive but succeed, as the only original member is Clode Tethra, who has provided both deep growling vocals and amazing clean singing in the band since 2008. Other members are relatively new, including guitarist Federico Monti who just left the thrash death band Total Death in order to join Tethra in 2017. Clode and Federico tell Tethra’s story tonight.
Hi Clode! Empire Of The Void is (almost) released now, so we may congratulate Tethra and you on the new album. What happens now? Will you support it with touring or a release party?
Clode: Of course, we’ll play a release party for the new album in a venue in our area and, in parallel, we’re contacting some promoters to be able to bring, once again, our music to as many people as possible. In this case the web comes to our help, but, we always prefer to be able to look our fans in the eyes and sing with them. It is a very cathartic thing that we need to be able to recharge the batteries and fill up our hearts with emotions before thinking about the composition of new music. All the people we have met and the places we have visited have a particular place on each of our albums.
Clode, you remain the band’s only constant member since its foundation in 2008 — how did you keep Tethra from falling apart over these twelve years?
Clode: The thing that has always kept the band together is the passion for our music and the firm will to reach new horizons, this is what united all the members of the group, without exception, unfortunately we have to deal with the needs of our families and the obligations of our jobs and this was the main reason for the abandonment of most of the previous musicians who have played in the band so far.
Being a vocalist, do you take part in the songs’ writing? How did you manage to keep the albums’ integral development from Drown Into The Sea Of Life until Empire Of The Void?
Clode: As a singer I always try to participate in songwriting. I spent months at Federico’s home to make sure that the new songs played 100% Tethra, but that, at the same time, they continued the evolution of the sound started from the first album. I am a staunch supporter of the “less is more” philosophy and I find, in the musical genre we play, it is the best example applied to music because our songs are meant to reach people’s hearts, and to do this you don’t need too many notes.
Federico: I can confirm that I had Clode at my place many, many evenings to work on the new songs. The writing process has been very natural, because as I began composing some material I was all alone, but only two songs took form before I joined Tethra (in the second half of 2017); but I am very “baroque” when it comes to composing. So Clode helped a lot in the shaping of the songs, either for the structure or the way to complete a part or a riff.
How do you see Tethra’s central philosophy? You are the vocalist, and you’ve been the band’s core for all these years, and I believe that the lyrics mean a lot for you.
Clode: It’s true, the lyrics are very important to me because they have the task of transforming music into images. Every time I have to write a text I try to choose the best words to use to get the listener the sensations that I want to convey regardless of the lyrics. This process is very similar to painting, which manages to convey the painter’s message not only with the drawing itself but, above all, for the use it makes of colors. I am convinced that there are sounds that have the power to go beyond the literal meaning of words and reach the soul of people better than others.
Tethra – Cold Blue Nebula
Can you name the bands whose lyrics have inspired you through the years? Or do you have some poets whose lyrics resonate with Tethra’s music?
Clode: The lyrics that have marked me most over the years are the dark and decadent ones with that particular vein of romance that only bands like My Dying Bride or early Anathema can reach. Instead, for my lyrics I am inspired by facts that really happened to me or to people close to me, but as regards Empire of the Void my personal experiences are reduced to a minimum. This album is a kind of astral journey through planets and galaxies but the lyrics also have a second reading key that wants to shed light on the most tearing feelings that a man can experience: senses of inadequacy, regret, disappointment, for example, are part of the infinite and complex galaxy of feelings that, for me, are between the most interesting mysteries to have access to, and each of our new albums adds a new piece to this vast mosaic.
The main local language in Novara (in the Piedmont Region) is Piemontese. Have you thought about including some lyrics written with it in your songs?
Clode: As I said in the previous question, I believe that every word and every sound convey a particular emotion and evoke an image that goes beyond the intrinsic meaning of the word itself, and my mother tongue is not an exception. I have often thought, in recent years, to insert some lyrics in Italian, but for one reason or another I have never found the right opportunity and the most appropriate words to describe Tethra’s musical landscapes. But in the future who can say it won’t happen?
Can you tell that there’s the spirit of your region in some Tethra songs? Do you feel what you may keep an authentic feeling of the band through local culture?
Clode: With Tethra I always try to have an international spirit so that everyone can better understand what I want to convey with my lyrics. We are so immersed every day in our local culture that we no longer even realize it, it’s like a cloak or a pair of gloves that we wear every day with pride, in the end all the behaviors and ways of doing typical of our culture are noticed more by those who don’t know us and, therefore, are not used to it, compared to the people we know but they are now inextricably part of us, surely, these roots of ours are transmitted in our songs.
I’ve seen what you pay a lot of attention to the album’s artwork. What kind of meaning do you put into it?
Clode: It’s true, the artwork is the first business card of the album and must reflect its atmosphere and the lyrics enclosed inside. For this new album we relied on a truly extraordinary painter called Korvo. We appreciated his work with the artwork of our friends Esogenesi and we said that his absolutely personal and over-the-top style that also embraces metaphysics was absolutely perfect for the spatial themes covered in this new album.
Federico: I can say that he has the ability of delivering his ideas in words, so after composing the lyrics he has been very clear in explaining it to the artist. And I believe that Korvo made a very good job, interpreting our music and our lyrics.
Tethra’s second work, Like Crows For The Earth, was released in 2017, so it seems that you finished Empire Of The Void quite fast, though you and Salva Duca were the only members remaining from the previous recording session. Who offered most of the ideas for new songs?
Clode: Empire of the Void has had a decidedly different genesis from the previous Like Crows for the Earth. While the previous album was composed in the rehearsal room with the contribution of the whole band, the new album was composed almost exclusively by Federico (who has been with us for almost three years), and subsequently each of the members of the band made the variations they deemed most appropriate. This was probably the reason why the album had a shorter gestation period.
Federico: As I said before, only two songs were born (as ideas) before I joined Tethra. Then I realized that this was the moment to put all of myself in the composition of a death/doom album. My previous experiences in other bands took place in genres very far from what Tethra plays, but doom is my business! I’m very happy that none of the ideas for this album was recycled from previous experiences or bands, but it has been a very natural process. I was finally free to write doom songs without someone saying, “No, this is not good for this genre”.
Having said that, I’m also a person who thinks that a song (an entire album) must be a choral work, so I always expect help, ideas, and criticism from my bandmates. Because more heads, more ideas, more arrangements, more riffs. And it’s always better…
Tethra – Sense Of The Night
Federico, does your experience of playing in Total Death help you in Tethra? Both bands obtain opposite… spirits… how naturally was it for you to switch onto the death doom train?
Federico: Total Death was a completely different band. When I joined them, the big part of the album had already been written by Azzi — he is the mastermind and the soul of the band — and I just tried to bring in my taste in arranging the songs. I also had the possibility to write two songs (just one ended up on the record), but I felt like caged in some stylistic walls. It’s not a criticism, but I feel music must be the representation of one person’s soul and feelings, and narrowing ideas is never good.
The truth is also that death/thrash is not really what I mostly listened to in my life. I always felt more connected with the Swedish death scene more than thrash, a genre that is more encased by stylistic canons. That’s why, at the end of the day, after one and a half years, I decided to step back and try something different. Tethra, finally, gave me the possibility to express myself when writing music.
Clode had to confine me only because a song has some borders and, with me, the risk is to go very far from the starting point (if not regulated). But, as I said before, doom and Swedish death metal have always been the main inspirations, musically. So the switch has been very easy and natural. Plus Tethra has a more spiritual approach to music and lyrics, a thing that is very near to my feelings.
Clode, how did you work with new members at the studio? Did you need more time to organize everything?
Clode: We had no particular problems in the studio thanks to the experience that Matt Stancioiu made available to us, advising us from time to time what was best to do to get the sound we had in mind. I think having a good producer is essential to be able to record an important record, as we believe this Empire of the Void is, and Matt has now become like a member of the band because his participation in each of our albums is the same as all of us.
Tethra — A Light Year Breath
Can you imagine how the album would sound without Matt’s presence there?
Clode: We have recorded at Matt’s Elnor studio since the time of our first album. We grew up as a band with him and we learned a lot because he’s a very outspoken person who, if you let him, can give you the right advice not only on sounds in general but also on the structure of songs and vocal harmonizations, and he also always puts us in the best conditions to be able to make the most of our potential. Often we choose to follow his advice, other times not, it’s the atmosphere of absolute relaxation that you breathe in his studio, and his great competence to convince us every time to return to him, so I can say that we consider him just like the sixth member of the band and we absolutely do not feel the need to go elsewhere.
Federico: I have to admit that many little things have changed, in terms of arrangements, because rehearsals are a thing, recording demos is another, and recording the final version of the album is THE thing. I believe that Matt added many important contributions and production tips that come from experience and taste. And all these made the record better than was in my ideas.
The new songs sound heavier and more bitter in comparison with the more melancholic stuff on Like Crows For The Earth. Was it a conscious choice or is it a result of lineup changes?
Clode: Like Crows For The Earth was composed in a particularly fatal period for us because some members of the band experienced mourning in their families. On that album feelings of loss and abandonment were conveyed and, looking back, I am not surprised that the sound came out so melancholy. In any case, each of our albums is different from the previous one because it’s the result of the experiences and emotions that we live in that period. With our previous album we explored our most melancholy side, so for Empire Of The Void we preferred to thicken the sound and experiment with a different approach, always melancholic but decidedly heavier.
Federico: This is probably related to my influences also. I love doom, but I’m also a son of the more melodic death metal scene. So I always like to be transversal and try to put many things in my music. So the overall sound is heavier because I always try to balance between the souls that harbor in me: melancholy, anger, darkness. I loved Like Crows For The Earth (and that’s one of the reasons I accepted to join the band), but it’s also something that would be difficult for me compose, due to the different background I have, as a man and as a guitarist, compared to Luca or Gab.
How often do you play live with Tethra? What are Tethra’s highlights as a live band?
Clode: The band tries to play live as much as possible, both in our country and abroad, but I must admit that it is increasingly difficult to find locals and promoters who want to invest in a band that has not yet achieved success. In addition, there are a multitude of excellent bands around, many more than ten years ago, and all have the opportunity to record excellent music even from the living room of their house. This means that there are a large number of bands who want to play, but these desires clash with the period of great economic uncertainty in which we live, with the consequent closure of our favorite live clubs. Each of our concerts brings with it an emotional charge that we like to share with the public, and often I find myself singing with my eyes closed to get better into the mood of our songs, but, I must say, that once back it’s fantastic to be able to see that people are experiencing our own emotions. It’s a continuous exchange that we can no longer do without.
Tethra – Solitude
There aren’t many doom death bands in Italy, so with whom do you usually play live?
Clode: Unfortunately you are right. In our country the doom death metal bands are very few, but for us it’s not a problem. Seeing an entire doom death concert is an emotionally demanding experience, so we’re always looking for groups with whom to share the stage that, while playing slow, passionate, and dark music, can give to the audience different emotions. So from doom with black veins to the post-doom/shoegaze passing through the sludge and the occult rock, all these subgenres come from the same musical genre and together they help us to bring live a rainbow of dark colors and strong emotions.
Have you had a chance to play outside Italy? Black Lion Records are based in Sweden — did they give you an opportunity to play abroad?
Clode: Yes, we do. In this period we are making contacts with various promoters around Europe to be able to organize a series of concerts after the summer. We’d like to be able to play on stages that we have not yet visited and to know personally who loves our musical proposal. I think traveling and bringing our music with us is one of the most satisfying things for a musician, we deal with other groups and new cultures on a daily basis, I find this very stimulating.
Thank you for the interview gents! I wish you all the best with promoting the new Tethra work. What’s your ultimate message for today?
Clode: First of all I wanted to thank you for this long and interesting interview. Our new album Empire of the Void is the result of great work and a remarkable emotional effort, so I hope you like it and that it will arouse the same intense emotions that have arisen in us throughout the compositional process — give it a chance. See you during one of our concerts, we can’t wait to continue the ritual together with all of you.