(This time Comrade Aleks has shared with us an interview of one of the guitarists from the German band Ascian, who released an excellent debut album last year and, as you shall see, are hard at work on the next one.)
Another promo album which I almost lost in the maelstrom of 2021 is Ascian’s Elysion, released on October 2nd, 2020. The time has come, I’ve opened the necessary folder, and was fascinated with their very first song ‘Misery Seeds’, which offers to listeners a flawless, solemn, doom death mass with emotional delivery of combined clean and growling vocals.
The entire album grants pure pleasure, with a slow dive into the melancholic void this German quartet easily create with their instruments. And then I found the official video for Ascian’s ‘Dead Will Carry the Dead’… Who could expect that such a young band pays so much attention to visual aspects as well?
Now that you’ve got an idea what Ascian is about, I believe I can hand it over to the band’s guitarist P.
Hi P.! How are you? One year has passed since Elysion‘s release, so what’s the band’s status nowadays?
Hi Aleks, first of all, thank you for taking the time to talk to us. Over the last year we could not play as many shows as we would have liked. Right before the pandemic hit we were able to play some good shows though, with bands like Moonspell and Rotting Christ, Fvneral Fvkk and Khemmis. We took those experiences to refine our shows. We worked on the stage set and lighting to make future shows are even more atmospheric and unique. And of course we are always working on new music. The second album is almost finished in terms of songwriting and we hope to begin pre-production in December or January.
How did you manage to get in such good company? Did you take part in some festival? And do you really see the point of working harder with stage sest and lighting? I’m just wondering because a lot of bands seem to not give a damn about such attributes.
We have some friends that work for a venue for example. Or friends that manage a local metal association. And that got us some cool gigs for sure.
In terms of live shows and visuals – from the start we wanted to do it this way. You see a lot of young bands that don’t do it. And for me it was always sad to see a great new band that was crippled by the lack of good lighting and therefore the atmosphere to support the music. We think of our live shows as more than just the music. We want them to feel like a ritual where sounds and visuals come together to pull you in. Where you can get lost in this moment with us.
All of Ascian’s members played in different kinds of bands but none of them previously dealt with the mix of doom or post metal you have in Ascian. How did you come to this formula? Who was its initiator?
We all played or still play in different bands in Germany but we all shared the love for doom and black metal. T. and S. played together in a doom band – Vigilia Septima – about 10 or 15 years ago.
They initiated all this. A. had been playing music with T. and me in different bands for 10 years as well, so we were all connected and it fell into place naturally. While T. and S. come from a more pure doom background, A. and I brought Post Metal and Black Metal into the mix.
So we combined our favorite parts from those genres to create – what we think is – pretty unique music. It is doom at its heart and always will be, but we infuse it with blast beats and tremolo picking as well as almost post-rock influenced clean and atmospheric parts.
Vigilia Septima hasn’t released anything for ages, are they really alive?
V.S. has not been active for a long time and most likely will not get back together. But it is a part of our identity as S. and T. started making music together and explored their love for doom metal.
By the way, as doom seems to predominate in your sound, which bands formed your vision of doom metal?
There are a couple. My Dying Bride come to mind first. But we also like the more extreme forms like Funeral Doom. Slow is a big one as well. Ahab and Swallow The Sun round off the Doom influences. But we also listen to a lot of Post Black Metal like Der Weg Einer Freiheit or Gaerea.
We were even more happy when we got the chance to record the album with Déhà (Slow, Cult of Erinyes and many more).
How tightly did you work with Déhà at the studio? And did you have enough time at the studio to try everything you wanted to?
We recorded all the instruments at our own studios and sent him over all the files. We worked with Déhà for the vocal production and recordings as well as all mixing and mastering. Working with him was so effortless, as he understood our music and ambitions in an instant. Sure we would have loved to have more time but it just made us work harder and be more focused.
As I understand, Elysion is a concept album. What’s the story behind these five songs?
“Elysion” means “The blessed (land)” in the ancient Greek language. It is basically another word for paradise, and Elysion as an album is a short, alternative story of mankind and the cycle of birth, life, death and all the lies in between.
What kind of alternative story do you offer to listeners? What inspired you to write it?
That is something we leave up to the listener on how they want to interpret the songs or the story as a whole. We give you a rough guideline and everyone can take what they want or need from it.
What’s the origin of the samples you use in ‘Misery Seeds’? Do they set the start of your story?
The sample is an excerpt from the King James Bible. Specifically – 1:26 Genesis. This quote kind of sets the tone for the story to come. It describes how mankind is created to have dominion over nature, and that it is in its nature.
There’s a video for ‘Dead Will Carry the Dead’ where you perform the song blindfolded. Have you played it live the same way or was it shot only for the video?
We always perform blindfolded. It helps us focus on the music and atmosphere. It is part of our live shows and our identity in a way. We have to stay focused to play this way but also can get lost in the music. We believe this way of playing and focusing on the music translates to the audience and they can get lost, too.
We wanted to do some form of masking but wearing hoods that cover the face was done by a bunch of other bands. It was our drummer A. who came up with the idea of these masks and we liked it. Our whole presentation is a little more on the sophisticated side with the all-black clothes and button up shirts. So this form of mask worked great with this look.
How much time did it take to compose the Elysion album? Did you take into account its storyline in composing the tracks? And how do you share duties among each other in the band?
The overall process of writing and recording took about 2 years. S. was writing the concept and all the lyrics. The music is written by A., T. and me together. Most times one of us comes in with a song and we refine it together and see if and where it fits the concept.
Is it true that Elysion was released with just a 50-copy run? Don’t you aim to launch an extra run after that?
With our label MDD Records we did a run of 500 DigiPacks that are available through mail orders, our label’s shop, and our shop or at our shows. The first 50 of those were hand-signed and numbered.
Were you disappointed with the size of the run? What were your actual expectations regarding the band?
The run of 500 CDs was more than big enough for us. We aim to just release a couple of quality items and put our focus and time into the music instead of designing more merchandise items.
So you perform a combination of doom metal with some post- and other elements. Do you see a chance that Ascian may totally slip off into post territory?
Doom Metal will always be the heart of what we do. We just take the liberty to infuse it with our influences and create a unique style of doom metal music.
Do you already have an idea where to turn to with the next album?
We are in the last stages of writing the new album and we think we refined our sound. The Doom Metal – Black Metal parts are even better put together. We put an even greater emphasis on melodies and atmosphere.
We are writing in concepts again, and this time the thread that is connecting the songs will be clearer. Writing concept albums is always hard and takes more time. Trying to connect all the songs – not just lyrically, but through the music as well. Creating a constant flow that weaves through the songs and takes you on a journey that makes you want to listen to the next song and rewards you for taking the time and really listening to the record as a whole.
Those are the records we enjoy the most as well. Records that demand attention and reward additional listens. Records that take your hand and let you venture down a path to explore stories and emotions.
Thanks for the interview P.! I hope you and Ascian will record another killer album soon, and it’ll help to draw more attention to the band! Good luck man!
Thank you again for your time to talk with us and listen to our music.