(Comrade Aleks delves into atmospheric black metal with this interview of Vyacheslav Oboskalov, founder of the Russian band Elderwind, whose latest album is 2021’s Fires.)
You can’t avoid atmospheric black metal nowadays. It’s sort of a cultural phenomenon, a friendly offspring of the most scandalous and extreme metal genre (as it was in ‘90s) which nevertheless doesn’t lose its connection to what came before it. Most of these bands prefer to channel different aspects of Nature through their music, some declare “a celebration for the death of man” and it seems to be a logical development of the genre. The growing popularity of atmospheric black metal, its connection with ambient and post music, just proves a suggestion that the scene lives and grows on its own.
The Russian atmospheric black metal act Elderwind was started by Vyacheslav Oboskalov twelve years ago. His home city Yekaterinburg is located on the Iset River between the Volga-Ural region and Siberia. A good place to play black metal. Elderwind’s albums’ titles Volshebstvo Jivoy Prirody (“The Magic of Nature”) and Chem Holodnee Noch (“The Colder the Night”) demonstrate the band’s ideology, and Elderwind built a good reputation with those releases — good enough to release a new album, 2021’s Fires, DIY and continue to get new listeners despite a lack of big labels behind them. It may be early to tell about the new album’s success, but if it is a success, then it’s well-deserved. Vyacheslav is here tonight to tell Elderwind’s story.
Hi Vyacheslav! Let’s start with introducing the band. Elderwind was founded 12 years ago, what did you want to express through it back then?
Hi! I’ve never set myself the tasks of expressing anything conceptually through Elderwind. All music composed and written back then was based only on my personal feelings and experiences. It’s hard to recall all the details now.
How did it happen that you meet Alexander and Andrey from Samara? It’s another city, and I bet you could find some kindred black metal souls in Yekaterinburg.
When it was high time to record vocals I started looking for someone who could do it. The easiest way to find the right person was through the Internet, some social networks and music forums. The process of finding the vocalist turned out to be quite long. Lots of people were about to make demo recordings, but that was never implemented. At one point Alexander Sinyugin responded, he approached the recording of the vocals quickly, and with responsibility. The work was progressing briskly and well. He also suggested inviting Andrey to participate as a drummer; they were playing in the same band back then.
What kind of requirements did you have for new members? Did you search for like-minded people? Was there any ideology behind Elderwind?
The main requirement was that they should be treating the project in good faith and handling responsibilities; yet they’d be comfortable to work with, and of course that they would be just nice guys in their own right.
What kind of bands formed your perception of this genre? Can you name some bands which influenced you in those early years?
My perception hadn’t been shaped by true black metal bands. I approached the genre by listening to bands such as Bathory, Moonsorrow, Falkenbach, Windir, Thyrfing, Lustre, Summoning, Walknut, Woods of Desolation. And a whole galaxy of neoclassical and dark folk projects also had an influence on me.
Did you record The Magic of Nature with the guys in a studio? And well, do you see it as result of your own or rather common efforts?
The studio was used only for recording vocals. The rest of the work was done in a home studio. It’s very important for me to capture the mood and desire while preparing the recording. That’s why I still don’t rent a recording studio. In the final recording process I can afford to make adjustments to musical compositions on the go; unfortunately this can’t be done in a studio. The final product was the result of common efforts and collaborative work. Alexander worked on vocals and the lyrics; Andrey wrote drum parts.
The album received really good feedback after release. Do you see it as result of high-quality material or did promotion work as well?
I think it’s mostly a piece of luck and the fact that the album came out at the right time. We didn’t promote the album in any way; even now we hardly do it at all. Perhaps some work was done by the label which released the album, but I don’t know for sure. For a couple of years after the debut record I had absolutely zero information if it was listened to or what kind of feedback it was getting. Lots of people got acquainted with my music on YouTube. That platform was good at promoting new uploads and recommending them to people at that time.
Do you mean that there was no feedback from the label and you didn’t get anything from listeners? Were you disappointed with such reaction, or rather with the lack of any?
That’s right. It was difficult to even vaguely imagine what kind of people tended to listen to us. Due to lack of any feedback we didn’t have the necessary mindsets at the initial stage so as not to delay the release of the second album for such a long time.
And what do you mean when you say that the album was released at “the right time”? Was it a situation in the scene at that specific moment or something else?
There are some moments that are really hard to explain. I’m not talking about the general situation in the music scene. Apparently, when the debut album came out it was the kind of music that was needed and in demand. I doubt it would be noticed if it had been released a year before or later.
Then you had two split albums. How do you see these works now? Wasn’t it more effective to gather your new songs in another full-length? Or does the format of such a collaboration make you feel this underground aesthetic?
Releasing split albums gives you an opportunity to find out about yourself and how quickly you are able to write new songs. I never use ready-made songs or developments. I just sit down and compose music from a blank slate. Therefore, such tracks are not a pity at all to release in splits.
You recorded the next album The Colder the Night with new vocalist Alexander, Andrey’s colleague from the Gherzen band. I was surprised with the fact that he wrote lyrics for this album. Don’t you feel that the lyrics of your band are something more personal? Something what you’d prefer to do yourself?
The process of writing lyrics typically starts when I set topics for the songs. It usually happens at the stage of making a demo when the first images come to my mind. Sometimes I manage to contribute a few lines to the lyrics. I don’t have the necessary talent for writing lyrics, but Alexander is really great at it. Everyone should do what they can do best.
As I understand, Elderwind quite often plays live. Was it your aim from the start to play as often as you can?
On October 21, 22, and 24 our first-ever live performances took place in Yekaterinburg, St Petersburg, and Moscow. In my view the concerts turned out to be successful given the current epidemiological situation in our country. The very next day after our gig in Moscow, new restrictions were introduced and most live shows had to be postponed. We were lucky to play just in the nick of time. Elderwind hadn’t played live before that. However, each band member has a large background in playing live which allowed us to be as confident on stage as it can be.
What are your most disappointing and euphoric experiences of playing live?
It’s disappointing when an artist can’t make a connection with the audience but it’s euphoric when you can create this connection and turn it into some kind of symbiosis which enables you to exchange energy. That’s an awesome state of mind that invigorates you but at the same time you’re fully engaged in the moment, doing your best on stage so that the performance can be as honest and lively as possible.
You released the new album Fires DIY in May 2021. Why this time did you do it on your own without any label behind you? Is it more effective today?
The simple reason why an album is released independently is that there are no offers from interested labels which would be eager not just to release an album, but could also take on some responsibilities for further promotion. We had some offers when The Colder the Night was ready for release but the terms on which it was offered didn’t suit me. Elderwind receives great support from fans, and thanks to them I can release an album independently. Thus, over time, I can recoup all the costs which were necessary for recording, mixing, mastering, artwork, and album releases on a physical medium, and save a little money for the next album. I would like to take this opportunity and thank everyone who supports us and buys our music. You’re amazing!
The Fires artwork reminds of forest fires which devoured hectares of woods this summer as well as previously I guess… Was it something you wanted to draw listeners’ attention to or did it inspire you in some poetic way?
The album Fires is my long-standing reflection on the cataclysms that are happening all over the world, from the Amazon rainforests to bushfires in Australia. Forest fires are a global problem which gets worse every year and people facing this problem lose their homes and their dearest ones, their native places. In this album I’m not drawing attention to this issue because those who listen to Fires are well aware of this problem and understand that it’s really scary.
How do you see a concept for your next album from this perspective? Will you follow this realistic pattern further?
I never plan the concept of an album ahead. For a year or two, while I’m working on an album, my ideas and thoughts can change drastically. That’s why the concept comprehension comes to me during the song-writing process. There is something, some thoughts that I would like to voice, but it’s not always possible to implement every idea, so I have to wait.
Atmospheric black metal today stays aside from its “true” black metal brother. How do you see this situation from your own position? Do you feel a border between atmospheric and post-black metal and old school satanic or nihilistic stuff?
Nowadays the lines separating music genres are getting so blurred that sometimes it’s hard to tell what genre this or that band is playing. Atmospheric black metal has already become a rather mainstream subgenre; so many artists are trying to go flirting with this trend. The difference between atmospheric black metal and old school Satanic or nihilistic ones certainly exists, and it’s huge. It manifests itself not only in music but in the people as well. For lots of people, true black metal is their life, worldview, and religion of a sort.
Thanks for the interview Vyacheslav! How would you like to sum up it?
It’s you who should be thanked for the interview! Stay strong and listen to good music!