Nov 222023

(Not long ago the former Belarusian band Woe Unto Me, now relocated to Poland, finished a  tour of Europe in support of their exceptional 2023 album released by M-Theory Audio. At a break in the tour Comrade Aleks conducted an extensive interview of the band’s co-founder Artyom Serdyuk, and at last we present that today.)

Woe Unto Me (Grodno, Belarus) crossed the borders of funeral doom metal some time ago, but we label them now as a funeral band almost by inertia. Both the EP Spiral-Shaped Hopewreck that we discussed two years ago here with one of the band’s founders Artyom Serdyuk (guitars, vocals, keyboards) and the new, third album Along the Meandering Ordeals, Reshape the Pivot of Harmony carry us further to the territories of the progressive genre with the deep atmospheric feeling.

The band just returned from a mini-tour and now the guys prepare to start another one, so I’ve tried to catch up with Artyom again and to talk about the new album and the situation around the band.


Hi Artyom! How are you? What’s going on in Woe Unto Me?

Hi Aleks! Always happy to talk to you. Well, as usual it could be better, but so far, so good. Woe Unto Me is now in the middle of the European tour promoting the new album Along the Meandering Ordeals, Reshape the Pivot of Harmony. We’re having a break now for a couple of weeks and then are going to continue its second leg.


Your third album Along the Meandering Ordeals, Reshape the Pivot of Harmony was released in March. How would you sum up the feedback from fans and critics? Did the album reach your audience?

I think it’s still in the process of reaching the audience it’s supposed to reach. The band and the label are still working on the promotion, so it’s a bit early to sum everything up. But the feedback is really very good, the album is very well received and is highly rated by most reviewers.



You said during our last interview that the new material may be interesting to more than only doom fans. Did your assumption become justified? And did you lose some of the band’s die-hard fans?

I hope we didn’t lose our die-hard fans. We got many positive feedbacks from the people who were really into our debut album and they totally dig the new release. But probably there are some listeners that who not very satisfied with the path the band has chosen. Nothing we can do about it. It’s inevitable. As a band we cannot stay in the same place, we are constantly developing and moving somewhere.

Musically the new record is the continuation of our movement into more progressive realms of doom metal. This is not typical funeral doom or death-doom, but it contains the elements of all kinds of doom metal sub-genres. Personally I perceive this album as the most atmospheric, eclectic and mature in our discography so far. I’m pretty much sure that we’ve found new fans with this release, who never listened to our music before.


Speaking about the die-hard/old fans: You started in 2007, and the first album A Step into the Waters of Forgetfulness was released in 2014. How radically changed is the situation around the band and “the scene” (if there was any)?

Personally I don’t feel any radical changes around the band. Or better to say that I just don’t perceive it that way. In my opinion the band should just do what they want to do, what they feel is best for them at the moment; the inspiration will show you the way. ‘Cause it just doesn’t make sense to make yourself follow the changes in the scene or trying to satisfy each and every listener or reviewer.

When we released our debut album there were many positive comments but there was also a lot of criticism and people who didn’t like some elements. As always there were “connoisseurs” of what is “true” and “not true”. With the second record the band picked a different turn in doom metal and some of the people who were saying that the first album wasn’t good enough for them, suddenly started to say that the debut was great while the second album is not that good. And vice-versa. There were people who really liked A Step Into The Waters Of Forgetfulness but then said the second album is better and that we have outdone ourselves with it. And there were new fans of course.

And that’s why I perceive it as a kind of cyclic process. With each release there are people who are saying “bring me back the 2014” and there are people saying that the new record is the next level. There are also a lot of really die-hard fans who admire the whole discography. We appreciate each and every opinion and impression but I don’t think that we are going to follow any of that. We follow the path of our own vision and we never know in advance where it will take us.



This time you worked with a new label – M-Theory Audio, USA. How did you get on this label? I think ahat Russian Solitude Productions wasn’t an option any more, right?

As I have several bands I’m always observing the situation on the market, the formation and activity of different labels. So I knew about M-Theory and that it was formed and managed by Marco Barbieri, who is well known for his work in Century Media, Nuclear Blast, and Metal Blade. When we started looking for a new record deal I was sending mails to many different labels and I decided to try M-Theory too. I knew that my good friends from Voices of Ruin are signed to M-Theory and I asked them to help me to get in touch with Marco, and that’s how the story began.

We got several offers from different labels but from my point of view the M-Theory offer was the most interesting and advantageous for the band. Marco is a real professional with vast experience, he worked with some of my favorite bands, so I’m really happy to work with him and the whole team in M-Theory.

One more thing that was important is that we wanted to try something new and expand our audience, we didn’t want to be on a label that is narrowly focused only on doom metal. Don’t get me wrong, I have nothing against labels that are concentrated on a certain genre, but I felt that we as a band were starting to move beyond the boundaries of just doom metal and we could lose some potential listeners if we would stick to narrowly focused labels. So I think that’s why M-Theory is a very good option for us, as it releases all kinds of metal.

I expect only positive things from this collaboration, forward movement, good promotion, many interviews and reviews, shows and tours, just a great teamwork. We will do our best and I expect the same from the label of course. Everything looks very promising so far and at the moment I’m sure we did the right choice. I hope Marco feels the same. Haha.



Artyom, you have a vision behind every one of your albums, and even the EP Spiral-Shaped Hopewreck has a kind of concept behind it. Can you tell if there’s a story which unites all the songs on Along the Meandering Ordeals, Reshape the Pivot of Harmony?

Absolutely. First of all, we decided to move away from the typical plots for this kind of music and refused to just describe depressive or destructive conditions of a human being. We focused on the investigation of the nature of these feelings and tried to analyze them from the philosophical point of view. The plot of the entire album is based on the internal psychological conflict of a human-being. This conflict has been repeatedly raised in the works of the eminent philosophers and psychologists. Sigmund Freud and Erich Fromm described it quite clearly in their works.

We took the main idea of the conflict and placed the main character in it in order to lead him along the path of internal transformation. We decided to test his moral and ethical values along the way. We tried to analyze how he could behave in certain situations and tried to answer a simple question: “What makes us human?” The protagonist collects himself piece by piece as he progresses through the entire album. He explores asceticism, the nature of human destructiveness, nihilism, his own powerlessness in front of a constantly changing world, in order to accept himself at the end of the path.

Finally, he becomes a person who can act thoughtfully, but he’s exhausted and not able to fight against the surrounding world anymore and goes through the process of sublimation and self-sacrifice. Our character merges into the world that surrounds him and becomes a part of it, a part of commonness. The environment – the society devours him but his facial features – his personality, are still visible behind this monstrous creation. Eventually he will manage to start the whole cycle again with the hope to find the solution and the meaning of being next time.

Conceptually, we have not departed from the classic themes revealed in the doom metal genre. However, despite the gloomy and heavy message, we left a hope of the necessity and expediency of the chosen path of the protagonist in each song.

The title of the album Along the Meandering Ordeals, Reshape the Pivot of Harmony reflects the whole path of our main character, all the obstacles he needs to overcome to try to change this endless cycle of transformation. Capital letters of the main words in the album title form a word MORPH which also emphasizes the whole sequence of transformations. The names of the songs with the selection of certain letters in them, also form a word MORPH; you will see it in our artwork if you will explore it in its entirety.

We tried to depict the process of inner metamorphosis in an allegoric way, using dark phantasmagoric imagery and showing each state of our protagonist as a life stage of a certain being: egg, larva, pupa, imago and the new fictional final stage where our character merges into the world that surrounds him and becomes a part of something bigger. The pivot of harmony is reshaped, but is it reshaped in a way he wanted to? His body and limbs are corrupted changing into vast forest, trees, branches, soil. He still thinks, he is still dreaming and analyzing and he is going to start the whole process all over again.

Our EP Spiral-Shaped Hopewreck is conceptually connected with the whole album and basically is a part of it. And now having both these releases one could get together the artworks, names of the songs, build the whole concept, and see the whole picture of this puzzle.



Do you feel it important to transfer the album’s lyrical message to Woe Unto Me listeners? Let’s put it this way: do you have expectations that others will understand you?

I do feel that the message and lyrics in general are important. I’m the kind of person that loves to read lyrics and tries to solve the riddle and build a picture of what the band was trying to deliver, that’s why I pay a lot of attention to lyrics in all my bands. But if we’re talking about understanding, frankly speaking I don’t have expectations that a listener must understand the lyrics exactly the way we wrote them. I’m always happy when a person has his/her own vision and his/her own understanding of the concept or certain lyrics. It’s the most beautiful thing when music in combination with the lyrics gives you the possibility to think and imagine, like reading a book.

Of course I’m aware of the fact that there are people who don’t care about the lyrics at all and I’m ok with that, but I really appreciate when someone reads and listens carefully and dives as deeply as possible into the results of our creativity.


I didn’t find online the information about the lineup which recorded the album. As far as I see, there are you (guitars, harsh vocals), Dzmitry Shchyhlinski (guitars), Ivan Skrundevskiy (bass), Olga Apisheva (keyboards), Pavel Shmyga (drums), and Konstantin Kolesnikov (clean vocals). Igor Kovalyov left the band and was replaced with Konstantin Kolesnikov literally in 2023 — what lead to this replacement? Did Konstantin take part in the recording of the album?

Alright, I will need to give some explanations here. Hahah. So, the lineup you mentioned is actually almost the same one that recorded the album. Everything is right except the vocalist. Igor Kovalyov is the main vocalist on the record; he has recorded all the clean vocals and some additional harsh vocals too. He was replaced by Konstantin just recently, a couple of months ago. So Konstantin made his debut in Woe Unto Me at the recent shows we performed. Another nuance is that Dzmitry didn’t take part in the recording process due to some personal issues, so all the guitars were recorded by me.

And now we’re heading to the most difficult part. Recently we had to make major changes in the lineup. Igor is continuing to live with his family in Moscow and has obvious problems with travelling out of the country, getting a visa, etc. So we were forced to make a mutual decision that the band needs to move forward without him, at least in the present situation. And we were really lucky to find a quick replacement in the face of Konstantin.

The similar situation is with Olga. She’s still in the band, but due to the problems with visa and travels to Europe she’s not taking part in the live shows and we have all her parts in the playback. Dzmitry also has some problems of the same kind so we had to take a session guitarist for the tour. And right after the recording of the new album our drummer Pavel decided to stop his musical career and left the band. Though due to the same problems mentioned above he wouldn’t be able to tour anyway.

So on our live shows at the moment we have only two musicians from the recording lineup: me and Ivan; we have a completely new vocalist Konstantin and two session musicians: Yahor Liatkouski on guitar, who also plays in Deathbringer and Disloyal, and Łukasz Śmigiel on the drums, who also plays in the band Source Of Mary. As a result, practically the whole band is now based in Poland.



Your new songs last from 12 to 14 minutes, nothing new for Woe Unto Me though… But how often do you rehearse before the tour and gigs? It looks like a difficult endeavour regarding the songs’ epic scale.

Our rehearsals usually last about four hours. And I don’t think that the length of the songs really matters. Now, as the band has recently moved to Poland we’re struggling a little bit, as we don’t have a permanent place for the rehearsals at the moment, but we have a lot of friends who help us out. Before this tour we had the possibility to make only four rehearsals with the new drummer and second guitarist, but these guys were very well prepared and did a great job, so we had nothing to worry about. But in the nearest future we’re planning to find our own practice room of course just like we had in Belarus.


Last time we spoke with you (April 2021), the situation in Belarus was quite stressful, and since February 2022 things only got worse. How do you manage to keep the band active in this situation?

That’s the reason why the band got relocated. It’s too difficult, stressful and risky to keep the band active while living in Belarus. You can have problems with visas or with crossing the border or with anything else. And you are always under suspicion from the local authorities. So somewhere around 2021 we decided that if we want to move forward and evolve as a band, play shows, go on tours, release albums, the only way out is to move to another country. And that’s what we did basically. Some of us still have issues with settling down but it’s just a matter of time.


How nervous was the entire relocation? And how did you manage to record the album despite all of these things?

Actually the album was recorded long before the idea of relocation. Both Along the Meandering Ordeals, Reshape the Pivot of Harmony and the Spiral-Shaped Hopewreck EP were recorded at the same time, in the times of the pandemic, during 2020. Throughout the mixing process in 2021, looking at the whole situation around us and analyzing everything, the first thoughts about relocation appeared. And then it was getting worse and worse and this idea becoming more and more real.

So during the recording only things connected with Covid affected us, like lockdowns, problems with getting a visa, etc. We couldn’t go to a studio and finish the recording for quite a while, or to have rehearsals with a complete line-up. Then the political situation was preventing us from proceeding with our music activity. But the worst things started when the war was unleashed. That’s when everybody realized that there’s no other way out.

I think that such a thing as relocation is always a very stressful process, but of course in this situation it was even more nervous because basically we were forced to do it. One cannot stop thinking about all the risks, and the worst thing is that these risks have not been overcome even after the relocation. All of us still have families in Belarus. And as I mentioned before, some of us are still in the process of moving to Poland. So this tension continues for us.



The band finished The Pivot of Darkness Tour a few weeks ago. Can you tell how you managed to organize it, taking in account the current situation? What kind of new obstacles did you meet on your way this time?

We got an offer to perform at Metal Gates Festival and Doom Over Vienna in the very beginning of 2023. And of course we decided to make some shows on the way there and back, so later it evolved into a tour. And that was the driving reason that pushed us to set the record straight with all the lineup changes and moving to another country as a band. Before that everyone was thinking that there’s still time, nobody was in a hurry, and probably were a bit afraid of getting to the point when you will have to make crucial decisions. And now there was no way out. So on the one hand it’s obviously not a big tour for us, just nine shows, but on the other hand this tour is very essential for the band ’cause it made us to make a huge step forward and determined the future path for Woe Unto Me.

Of course we faced many new problems and obstacles like finding the proper transport as we were travelling with our own van before, which belonged to Dzmitry, and now without him we needed to find another vehicle, renting the backline, finding a new place for rehearsals, bringing our equipment and merch to Poland, etc. But psychologically it was already easier to overcome all these obstacles after making the main decisions and clearing the things up which bothered us the most.


How many gigs did you play? What were the highlights of this tour? Metal Gates Festival, isn’t it?

We played only four gigs on our first part of The Pivot of Darkness Tour so far. One in Slovakia and three in Romania including Metal Gates Festival. And yeah, absolutely, Metal Gates was the biggest highlight of the tour. Amazing festival, very professional organization, great hospitality, huge crowd. It was an honor to perform there and share the stage with Katatonia, Antimatter, Shores of Null, Remina, Ocean of Grief and Drown the Sea, as well as to meet so many great bands and friends on the other days of the festival too.


Right now you’re going to start another tour, where do you head this time?

This is the second leg of The Pivot of Darkness Tour and it’s going to cover two cities in Poland, Warsaw on November 4th, and Krakow on November 8th, Szeged in Hungary on November 9th, Doom Over Vienna Festival in Austria, where we are going to perform on November 10th and we are finishing the tour on November 12th with the show in Prague, Czech Republic.


Then I wish you all the best on your road! I hope that you’ll have a chance to enjoy both the trip and your gigs. And thanks for the interview. Would you like to add a few more words?

Thanks once again for this interview Aleks! As always it was a pleasure talking to you! Huge thanks to everyone who supported and keeps supporting us. Hope to see all of you some day at our shows. We will do our best to expand our touring plans and bring our “Woe” to you! Let the doom flow!

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