(We present Comrade Aleks‘ extensive and extremely interesting interview of Oliver Verron (founder of Temple of Baal) about the French traditional doom band Conviction that he also founded, whose self-titled debut album was released by Argonauta Records in January of this year.)
Once upon a time men from bands like Temple of Baal, Ataraxie, Mourning Dawn and Corrosive Elements gathered together and… it all ended with a traditional doom metal album!
A long story short, but the French Conviction was founded by one of Temple of Baal’s founders, Oliver Verron, back in 2013 and it took some time before he found proper companions who shared his taste for good old doom. What’s Conviction about? How did they avoid all of their extreme metal backgrounds in this band? And what’s the story with the French doom scene?
You’ll find answers to these questions and more in the interview with Oliver. I’ve enjoyed reading this, and I hope you’ll like it too.
Hail Oliver! How do you spend your lockdown? What’s going on in your camp?
Hail Aleksey! Semi-lockdown here, but I am “lucky” enough to stay and work from home, which is fine. Life consists of working for my job, getting pissed-off cause my pupils don’t send their homework back (I’m a teacher), playing a lot of music, reading, and answering interviews for Conviction. Could be worse. I would not mind keeping it this way while having the possibility to move freely and play live, actually.
As I understand, Conviction was founded by you in around 2013, and the same year you recorded a first demo. That demo made the basis for your debut full-length album released a ew weeks ago by Argonauta Records. So it seems like you had a plan from the very beginning. What was your vision of Conviction back then?
My vision of Conviction was pretty much what Conviction is at this stage : A Doom Metal band formed in the 2000s, but very respectful of the traditions of the genre. Actually I still really like the demo songs after all these years, and thought it would really be a shame not to put them on a full-length, re-recorded with all the band.
As you can see, the cover of the album and demo depict the same statue, which means something. I had this vision of forming a Doom Metal band in the pure tradition of Saint Vitus, Pentagram, etc, and moving to the place where I live now, I stumbled upon this statue in the church of the town. It seemed to be talking to me and the text above it read “fay maintenant ce que vouldras avoir fait quand tu te mourras” (translation: “Do right now what you will have wished to have done when you die”.) Having had this vision of a band since the 90s, seeing the face of this statue, in this church, in this otherwise rural region and its sceneries, reminding of novels by the Brontë sisters, everything was here for inspiration.
One day, I took my guitar and composed and recorded the demo right away, knowing that I had the basics for a strong full-length. I barely had to touch anything to transform it into what it is today… And the next one is already in the pipes, another big slab of Old School Traditional Doom Metal.
You did play in a bunch of bands since the ’90s and all of them are quite extreme. Temple of Baal is a better example. What turned your attention to doom metal in its traditional form?
Actually I had this plan even before Temple of Baal. I discovered Doom Metal with Cathedral back in the ’90s and then went through Saint Vitus, Pentagram, Hellhound Records bands, the Peaceville three, Holy Records etc,, you get the picture, and I wanted to put up a Traditional Doom band, but at this time, no one in my surroundings was into this kind of music.
Since I also was extremely into Black Metal and everything surrounding it, I created Temple of Baal, knowing that one day, my Doom Metal project would see the light. It was just a question of patience, but I’ve always been a big Doom Metal addict, especially in its traditional form.
Conviction – Voices of the Dead
How much of your black metal background is in Conviction, concept-wise?
Not much actually. Those are two different aspects and I don’t see them having interactions. They’re pretty opposite somehow, but maybe the common ground would be my love for raw sounds without much artificial aspects, and of course, catchy riffs and not very cheerful atmospheres haha… But I really separate them a lot. Having Black Metal bits in Conviction’s songs, like blast beats etc, is absolutely out of the question.
There are titles like ‘Voices of the Dead’ and ‘Curse of the Witch’ in the album. Do you follow the genre’s rule or are such topics quite satisfying for your taste?
Those are two different things. The “Voices Of The Dead” lyrics came to my mind while I was wandering in the countryside next to where I live, on a thick foggy day. It really looked like being in those horror movies, or novels, of walking on a haunted land, and that “something” would take me away forever in the fog. I had the picture in my mind of an old lady, sitting next to a fire in a small house, with children around her, and telling them stories and legends about a haunted moor. It’s funny, I can actually see it in my brain while talking to you. If I could only draw it, I would. Well this vision made me write those lyrics.
“Curse Of The Witch” is a different story and indeed it’s a wink to the Doom Metal tradition of singing about witches and inquisitors. It’s a way of saying, we respect the tradition of the genre and we’re happy with this. But I would not base all the concept of Conviction upon this. I really don’t want to be categorized into this “occult horror doom” bullshit category, most of it is phony and it’s so overdone… Most of Conviction’s lyrics deal with real, human subjects, mostly emotions, feelings, going through hard times of loss, failures and accepting the passing of time and the ravages it creates on you as a human being.
It’s good to hear such a healthy point of view on the genre, as the number of bands combining words like “witch”, “goat, ”bong”, etc., only grow with time. People seem to be happy with the fact that the scene grows on, but it’s overcrowded and it’s hard to pick proper bands from this mass. How were you focused on quality when you worked over Conviction’s songs?
I will never understand this “witchbong goatwizard” trend. I mean come on, who needs another band like this. There are already too many of them, and also, this focus on drugs is so boring. I don’t want to sound like a lesson-giver, if you wanna do drugs alright it’s your choice, I’ve no problem with that, but singing about it again and again on several albums in a row… I find it boring, myself. But it’s the difference between Doom and Stoner. We’re not stoner, we’re Doom. We really draw the line. I’ve no problem with Stoner as long as it’s well done, but just trying to rip off Sleep or buying a Boss FZ2 just to sound like the thousands of other FZ2 bands that clone Electric Wizard: What’s the point?
My intention with Conviction was to bring back real Doom Metal, without any Stoner, or without too-modern, “post” elements. I draw my influences from Saint Vitus and early Cathedral more than anything else… And when it comes to quality, well, most of the riffs come up suddenly out of the blue, then sometimes the arrangements give the song a different direction. But the most important when laying down the basics of the songs is that the riffs stay catchy, and memorizable. You have all those bands whom I call the amp-worshipping scene, who have an enormous sound, alright, but I’m literally incapable of memorizing a riff. That’s a no no, for me.
Of course the sound is important. We use Orange and Laney amps, we use Two Notes gear, because they give us the sound we want. But basically, the songs should be playable on an acoustic guitar, you know? That’s where you recognize true songs. Catchy riffs, memorizable melodies, etc. If you strip the song totally off its “sonic clothes”, I mean distortion, etc, if you play it in the most simple way with an acoustic guitar, it has to stay interesting. Otherwise, well, it’s not for Conviction.
Argonauta is a fair and active label. Did you promote Conviction on your own as well or did they do all of this work?
They do a good job, helped by All Noir Promotions. But we do our part of it as well. I share our music on social medias, I contact different actors of the scene, playlist editors, etc, I also have contacts from all my years of experience in the Underground. Musicians who only write and never do anything themselves to promote their bands miss something, I think. Sure, having a label and a promo agent is really cool and helpful, and I have to salute the work of Mona and All Noir here, but of course we also do things ourselves, I wouldn’t imagine it otherwise, I’ve always functioned like this. Booking concerts was also something we did. I hope the pandemic stops and we’ll be able to do it again.
Year by year you’ve gathered a full lineup, quite a strong one. How did you manage to lure guys into the band?
I told them we would all be billionaires and they believed me! Haha ! Don’t tell them the truth!
No, actually they were long-time friends and they knew for quite a long time that I had this plan of creating a Traditional Doom Metal band. It was only natural for me to call them when I was ready to. They know what Doom Metal is about, playing in Ataraxie, Mourning Dawn, Moonskin, and being fans of the old traditional form of Doom, so I knew they would fit. And as I said, they’ve been friends for quite a long time. We know each other pretty well, so it makes things even more easy and natural.
There were almost eight years between the first demo and your self-titled debut. You know, from the outside it looks like Conviction was inactive. How did you spend this period?
I was still pretty much focused on Temple of Baal, recording albums, making concerts, etc. But I also composed a lot for Conviction through the years. At this time we have material for at least two more albums, nearly three. Nothing is finished though, so we have to dig out those song skeletons, which exist today as I had recorded them in the form of pre-demos, and we have to work on them. But there is a lot of material, and also I still compose as the inspiration comes, so there’s like a cauldron of songs always ready for the next albums! So Conviction was inactive yes as a band, but it’s been very active creation-wise.
So. as you did already have finished songs for an album and a complete band, did others take part in polishing the songs?
The songs of the demo were finished. We just had to re-record them, and also Fred brought a bit of supplementary arrangements doing overdubs. Then “Castles Made Of Shame” and “My Sanctuary” were among these pre-demos I had. “Castles” was nearly finished so we pretty much re-recorded it as it was. “My Sanctuary” was another story as there were just the basic riffs put together in a song structure. No melodies, a few vocal ideas which were discarded and totally re-composed from scratch… In fact all of this song, except the basic riffs, was re-written in the studio, with lots of guitar arrangements done by Fred, and those choirs that just suddenly came to my mind one day at home, and that I quickly recorded to show to the band. So it’s much more of a band effort on that song, and it’s a pretty interesting starting point for the next albums.
You recorded the album at Frédéric Patte-Brasseur’s studio. How was this session organized? Did you record during lockdown?
Most of the album was recorded before October 2018. Then, Fred fell sick, and we had to delay the rest of the album, but we recorded from time to time, and that was it. Actually the record should have been released much sooner, but fate decided otherwise. But it enabled us to have a more distant eye on our production, a more critical look, and finally we re-did a lot of things ’cause we were not satisfied, after a few months, with what we had done. We might have fallen into the trap of re-doing things over and over again a bit, but that’s I think a classic trap when you do everything at home and don’t have an engineer to pay! But it finally worked. It was also the first time we recorded an album by ourselves, with Fred handling the mix for the first time also, so there were a lot of things to learn. But we’ve learnt, and the next album should go a lot easier.
What were the most difficult parts during this recording session?
Aside from the typical stress problem that occurs when you press record, which makes you fuck up the most simple stuff that you play without even thinking about it in normal times (I’m sure most musicians out there know what I’m talking about), for me the hardest part was the vocals. I erased them and re-recorded them totally two times, ’cause I was not fully satisfied, and I did not want to use anything like a pitch correcter.
There are a few flaws in my voice, I know it, but I am human, not a motherfucking robot, and I intend it to stay this way. Nowadays too many bands use this, vocoder, autotune etc… Fuck that. You don’t correct Scott Reagers’ voice, you don’t correct Wino’s voice. We live in an age when too many records that are released are not human records, because everything is corrected, drums are quantized like drum machines and their acoustic sound replaced by samples, singers have their voice corrected by this and that… It’s all nonsense to me.
Ray Charles’ choristers had better sing the bloody notes right away ’cause most of the recording in the ’50s was live, right? There was a life before autotune! And remember the early ’90s Black Metal? Nothing was perfect and it was magic! Give the tracks to an engineer nowadays and the first thing he’ll do will be to quantize all the drums and trigger them, ruining the magic! FUCKING LAZY IDIOTS!!! GET YOUR EYES OFF THAT BLOODY GRID ON YOUR BLOODY SCREEN, AND USE YOUR GODDAMN EARS!!! Hahahha!
Sorry for that rant, man! I’m not against technology at all, mind you, but I hate cheating. You’re a musician, with your good points and your flaws: Show yourself as you are, because anyway when you come up live on stage, if you sing out of key, you’re fucked. If you can’t bloody sing, get lessons, or find a fucking singer! Right? So that was a big part of the work for me, and a challenge, because I had never recorded a full-clean vocal album. There still are flaws, of course, but it’s me, without cheating.
The mix was another difficult part. You have a sound in your mind, but there’s always something that prevents you from reaching it, because of frequencies, etc., stuff you hadn’t thought about, so you experiment otherwise and finally find a satisfactory sound, but it wasn’t exactly what you had in mind at first… And since I’m stubborn, we re-did the mix, I don’t know, at least ten times. A nightmare, but a very interesting one that enabled us to learn a lot.
Oliver, I’ve forgotten to mention your part in a Cathedral tribute. It’s really strange that an album like this has happened in France. Who was the author of this idea and how did you choose a song for this tribute?
The idea for this tribute was from Stéphane LeSaux, manager for Barabbas, and Laurent Lignon, famous doom-oriented journalist for French Metallian, among others. They started prospecting the French Doom scene and of course I was very excited about it. Sleeping Church Records released it and they did a wonderful job I think. In fact this tribute lead to the birth of Conviction as a band, because I didn’t imagine recording a Cathedral cover without real drums, so Rachid told me he was interested, and after a few weeks we ended up forming the full band to play gigs, and here we were.
I chose “Stained Glass Horizon” because it didn’t seem like an obvious choice actually. I knew most would focus on Forest of Equilibrium or maybe The Carnival Bizarre, and that Supernatural Birth Machine would be less obvious. To be honest, I’m surprised no one chose a song from Carnival Bizarre! Hopkins would maybe have been too obvious, but songs like “Utopian Blaster” or “Night Of The Seagulls” would have been killer to cover. For a potential volume II maybe? Hahahaha!
The goal for me with “Stained Glass Horizon” was to re-doom an otherwise much more mid-tempo song, and I think we succeeded, considering it was the first real recording of Conviction as a band, formed like three weeks before the sessions. The choice of that song might raise a few eyebrows in the Doom Metal fundamentalist crowd, who sometimes tend to disregard this era of Cathedral which, sounds a bit less Doom and much more up-tempo, not to say Stoner (I know Lee Dorrian didn’t like people saying this about Cathedral!) but I like it a lot myself.
Gaz Jennings is a wonderful guitar player and a true riff master. Cathedral was an adventurous and daring band, a precursor for many things, a huge personal influence, and they still don’t get the credit they deserve today in my opinion. So recording a Cathedral tribute album was something I was honored to do, and to be honest I’m surprised we French were the first to do it. Every Doom & Stoner band of today owes treasures to Cathedral. I miss the band a lot, I would really like to see them getting back together, but will it ever happen…
Conviction – Stained Glass Horizon
I’d say that France is rather better-known for its black metal scene, as doom has been a rare beast there for a long time. How do you think which factors formed this situation?
There are Doom Death bands, mostly Ataraxie and Mourning Dawn; there is Funeralium, which is a mix of Funeral Doom Death with black elements; and a few Trad acts, but not many real Trad Doom bands, you’re right. There was Dark White in the ’90s, Rising Dust, Northwinds… Rising Dust is still active and preparing their return, with Vincent on bass actually, but it takes time. Other than that, Barabbas is in studio for their next album, Carcolh is just releasing theirs, so there are bands actually, but it’s true that they are much more rare than Black Metal bands.
Reasons… Black Metal rising in the ’90s with such strong music and image, the fact that Black Metal made it easy for a band to record even with a very raw and lo fi sound… Also Doom Metal was seen through very strong stereotypes by Metalheads: either as a hippie thing (mainly because of a Cathedral interview that most French couldn’t read with enough humor and second degree), or as a depressed romantic thing with My Dying Bride. Most people in their twenties couldn’t identify themselves with that, and were not interested in digging into the foundations of the genre to see that there was much more to Doom than this. I was seen as a fucking martian in the ’90s when I told my friends how Pentagram, Vitus, or The Obsessed were great hahaha !
Is it like a kind of social factor? You know, like the boiling pot of the South American underground, which leaves almost no place for such reflections as doom demands. Or the USA, which is quite a “young” country – they never were in traditional doom besides those three big bands and some other rare but precious examples (Iron Man, Penance and more). As the Old World has its own traditions, it’s a relatively calm place where you have time to reflect on your inner “slower part”. Or is it just a question of different metabolisms? Hah, the question is blurred, but I suppose you see the point.
I think there’s a social factor. Lots of people in the Metal crowd in France are really concerned about the way they look and what people will think about them. There’s a kind of resulting uniformization. Doom Metal shows parts of beings that are often hidden — flaws, imperfections, sadness, and inner struggles. It doesn’t fit the agenda of a true Metal warrior hahaha! Also, here most Metalheads I know like fast and aggressive music, so Doom… There’s not much place for it.
And Doom in France, as I said, has a kind of “hippie” tag, which is wrong of course, but that makes Metal people allergic to it haha… So you might think maybe hippies would try to illustrate themselved in the Doom scene, but I guess a real big fat guitar sound is not their trip, and the true face of Doom (not Stoner) is indeed not hippie at all once you start digging! So Doom has never really worked here. But when you’re able to take a step back, and analyze, Doom Metal is so much more than the stereotypes that people have in their minds. I hope we can show them!
Oliver, what are your plans for the next Conviction recording?
As I said, we have plenty of pre-demos. I have to work on them, write lyrics and melodies, and then we’ll arrange them with lots of guitars, choirs etc… There’s a lot of work to be done, but there’s also a lot of songs to choose from. Anyway, at this stage there are at least 2 or 3 albums potentially in the making. So there’s definitely a future for Conviction!
Do you aim to hold to the same direction as with Conviction’s first album?
I think so yes, but you know, in the early Temple of Baal stages we wanted to stay a Raw Black Metal band and ended up blending many things and sounding more Black/Death, so I’ve learnt to be careful with what I say, especially with staying true to this or that, “we’ll never change a bit” etc. We will see how it evolves. But we will not force it into one way or the other, and it is true that the core of the band can only be True Doom Metal. I don’t think it will evolve THAT much anyway because I’ve had this band in my mind for such a long time, more than 25 years. If there had had to be an evolution, it would already have shown on our album I guess. And as I told you, the basics for the next albums are already here, and they only consist of plain Doom Metal, just like the first one. There will of course be work on the vocals, on the vocal harmonies particularly, ’cause I love them and want them to be a big part of our style, and of course there will be guitar stuff, solos, and weird sounds, ’cause we’re guitar freaks and can’t help it. But what is Doom will stay Doom. Definitely.
Okay, that’s all for today. Thanks for the interview Oliver! I hope we’ll have an opportunity to talk more about Conviction soon.
Thank you very much Aleksey, it’s been a real pleasure!
I hope readers are curious and will enjoy our music.
See you on stage when it’s possible, and in the meantime you can find us on our website, Facebook, Instagram & Twitter so see you there!
Doom is the Law – Doom or be Doomed !