First of All: Congratulations to your album. “Timeline Symmetry” is again a fantastic Piece of Doom Death Metal. Are you satisfied with the Album in all the Detail, and what are your expectations for this Album?
Yes, I can say we are satisfied with the result … specially considering that the album was self-produced…
It was such a challenge and also a risk for us to make things sound right without any external assistance, but I think we did a pretty good job at the end. The other challenge was to work without a keyboard player this time and hence with really few keyboard lines; but still being able to make dynamic music with a sense of depth and atmosphere …
I mean, music with different layers and different readings. Our only expectation with the album was to make an album we could enjoy playing live and hopefully that our audience could enjoy. Anything besides that is just a bonus for us.
Do you agree with this “Doom Death” term, or do you prefer the, let’s say more mystical sounding, term “Arcane Doom” which you should explain to the Readers here
I don’t know … for me it’s OK either way. The “Arcane Doom” refers to the fact that we have plenty of other influences that go beyond doom metal or death metal. Many times we have been told that our music is kinda hard to label, so we just stuck our own label to it. Anyway I don’t think music labels have any “scientific value”, so I don’t take them so seriously.
Actually it makes me laugh when I read some forums with kids discussing if a certain band is doom or not … or whatever… you can read some really bold and funny pseudo-scientific statements on those arguments.
How would you describe your music to somebody, who never heard about you? Which are your main influences?
I think I would call it Doom-Death-Prog-Metal. Take My Dying Bride, Candlemass, In the Woods, Voivod, Queensryche and Autopsy, put them on a blender and that’s more or less us.
Given that we are not kids exactly, it’s easy to see that all of our influences come from the late 80’s, early 90’s metal. First and foremost we have the dark-doomish influences such as Candlemass, Solitude Aeturnus, Paradise Lost (early albums), My Dying Bride, In the Woods and even Fields of the Nephilim… The death metal influences come from Autopsy, Death, Carcass, Napalm Death and more. I think what gives a hard time for reviewers at labeling our music is our progressive side, with influences from Voivod, old Queensryche, Rush, King Crimson, etc. Take a note that when we speak of progressive music, we are not talking about the self-indulgent-virtuosos, but more of an experimental kind of progressive music, where the atmosphere and the song is the main value, as opposed to just showing-off performance skills.
With "Iconoclast Chapter XIII" and the follow up release "Telluric Manifesto" you released two outstanding Masterpieces of Doom Death. Let’s have a closer look to your NEW Album “Timeline Symmetry” now. Tell us about the new Songs in general…
I think this time we managed to make a bunch of quite different songs, with different moods, but at the same time with our signature sound. It always happens to us that the albums end up being a bit conceptual because you tend to write about similar subjects, or at least from the same perspective, in a certain period of your life. There are some very personal songs such as “The Average man’s Odyssey” and “Alter”, and also some more “angry” songs such as “Mars Lullaby” and “Raven Humankind”.
The common element this time, I think, is deception or disappointment … you know … as you get older the world just goes on disappointing you, and that determinates your focus when speaking about such different subjects as war or loneliness … the common element is that hopeless, disappointed point of view, you know, it’s not like a big, dramatic crying thing, but it’s more like the silent and bitter thoughts of someone who doesn’t expect anything from life or the world.
Take our Readers through the Album in your own Words and give a short Statement to each Song, please.
Well, here it goes:
It all begins with an instrumental track called “Timeline Symmetry” … starting with a subtle intro of an ensemble of ebowed guitars in harmony … actually it sounds like an accordion, as somebody pointed out. The track is some kind of “overture” with a growing intensity.
Then you have a headbanging song like “Raven Humankind” with some old school doom elements, crunchy riffs and a heavy groove. The lyrical concept of this song is about humanity as the only illness of the earth.
After that “The Average Man’s Odyssey” follows with soft, atmospheric passages at the beginning and then some twisted death metal riffs to end with a highly intense melodic part. Then there’s this interlude that tells a little story … like a movie scene you have to picture in your head.
All of a sudden you are into “Mars Lullaby” … a song about war, or better said, about the violent nature of the human being. This might be the most aggressive song of the album with an evil riff and pounding drums … there is a little weird, progressive part in the middle and it all ends with a classic melodic death doom passage.
“By the Cliff” is an intimate song which starts with a stripped down minimalist vocal and acoustic guitar part; then it develops as one of our “big songs”, with various changes, a death metal part and some sort of funeral doom ending part. Lyrics are quite personal, as they speak of a certain place Claudio and I used to visit since we were kids… we were both linked to this small beach town because our families, and this town had a beautiful and lonely cliff where you could feel the fury of the sea and the wind... it was such an inspiring place we kept on visiting for many years… we tried to describe the thoughts and feelings we had in that place, you know … as there our lives seemed to be so insignificant compared to the ancient and powerful forces of nature.
“This Once Long Road” is the most old school, straight-forward Doom Metal song of the bunch, with some headbanging moments, obscure melodies and a catchy chorus.
“Alter”, in the other hand, is the most atmospheric song of the album, with some synth soundscapes and clean sounds plus an interesting drum pattern … we have certainly borrowed a couple things from Fields of the Nephilim for this song, like the cold atmosphere and minimalist approach. Sung in Spanish, by the way.
“Zoom to the Void” starts with heavy riffing, all-over-the-place drums and some brutal death metal grunts … the verse develops over a guitar-bass melodic sequence that goes evolving and ends with a heavy and powerful doom-death chorus. This song is basically about a man who is doomed to madness and solitude from the very beginning of his life.
Finally “Epilogo” comes, as the continuation of “Zoom…” Quite simple, with a distorted and hypnotic bass pulse which is the background for some small guitar melodies, and then a heavy, massive riff with Spanish sung lyrics … few words, lots of meaning.
Is “Timeline Symmetry” the next logical step in the History of Poema Arcanus according to the previous two Albums? Or a hint, what the Fans can expect in future from Poema Arcanus after all the Line-Up Changes?
I’m not sure … I guess people might have expected something even more experimental and less metal than “Telluric Manifesto” … maybe that would have been a logical progression, but, as you said, given the line-up changes we had, and the vision of metal music the new line up has, our logical step was to strip things down a little bit, focus more on heaviness and make music we can simply enjoy playing. So it was at least the next logical Step, yes.
Are there any anecdotes about “Timeline Symmetry” and its production you can share with the readers?
I don’t know … maybe the fact that always when writing an album we end up dumping almost a whole other album worth of songs …and then after a while you stumble across some old rehearsal recording and wonder “Why did we dump that one? … it wasn’t bad at all!” It’s been like that since “Iconoclast”, our 2nd album.
On this album in particular, well… as I already told you we decided to take a DIY approach, as we had realized that, at least here in Chile, there are no producers that could understand our vision of how an album should sound … first of all we wanted a natural drum sound as opposed to the way it’s done nowadays in metal production, that is, sound-replacing the drums making it sound huge, awesome, etc. but quite artificial and lifeless at the same time, as if a machine was playing. We thought that for the music we do we need to have that human touch on drums, plus Luis is a very accomplished drummer and “erasing his face” with over-produced tracks would have been a big mistake. The same DIY approach gave us a lot of time to work with no pressure on our performances and of course also in the mix, and that’s something priceless when making an album.
My personal favorites on the Album are the Title track and ’The Average Man’s Odyssey’. From your point of view: Which is your personal favorite and reflects the present Sound of Poema Arcanus in the best way and why?
“The Average Man’s Odyssey” is one of my favorites too and, in my opinion, it also reflects what Poema Arcanvs is all about. It has the atmosphere, it has the melody and it has the aggression. It comps most of the moods of our music into one song, and I like the fact that the song flows naturally, regardless of how many changes it has. The lyrics are about ordinary people, living ordinary lives anonymously, and that’s also something I like about it …
The Songwriting seems to be more focused “on the spot” than on the Albums mentioned above. The Resulting Songs sounds by far catchier than on your previous Releases, although they are far away from being simple or unspectacular. How does the Songwriting proceed in general in Poema Arcanus? – Do you write all the Songs together as Band, or wrote each member for itself?
In the past Michel (keyboards) came with 50% of the basic riffs and I came with the other 50%. Then we proceeded to arrange them into songs at the rehearsal room. Michel had a lot of weird, avant-garde influences, and thus is how “Telluric Manifesto” became our most experimental and intricate album to this day. Nowadays, not having Michel in the band, the music has become more guitar-oriented, and also the song structures are more straight forward … I mean, straight forward for a Poema Arcanus song …haha.
About songwriting… this time I came with all the basic riffs and structures from home, and then we started jamming those at the rehearsal space and gave shape to the songs, defining structures, making arrangements and changing stuff here and there. This is the most fun part of the process, as we all propose changes, turn things upside down, swap arrangements, etc.
This is also when all the bandmembers take their parts and write their own lines, and that’s when the music really takes off. It is crucial to have good, well thought basic riffs to work on, but the real blooming of the songs is once all the bandmembers have put their blueprint on them.
The Lyrics are always of interest: Is there a lyrical Concept or what do the Lyrics Deal with this time?
As I said before, there’s a concept behind the album title, and somehow the songs are more or less related to it. The album title deals with time and the way it is perceived as you get older, you know, time going faster each day, with death being closer and closer. I prefer lyrics that come from real life, and many times Doom metal lyrics fail to deal with reality, either having a bombastic/epic approach or being too melodramatic. I like lyrics that focus on real life, with some bitter poetry, but not making a big deal out of it, you know, most of us don’t live on Shakespeare plays or on Greek Tragedies… real sadness and melancholy flow really deep into our thoughts during our ordinary daily life, and to represent that subtle sadness-melancholy-disappointment is something I’d like to accomplish with our lyrics.
Switching to more common Topics. In the very beginning Poema Arcanus was Garbage , than changed name to Garbage Breed before it was named Poema Arcanus . Tell our readers about the History of Poema Arcanus.
That’s a long story. To make it short (and bearable): We started when Claudio (vocals) and I were high school mates, around ’91. We wanted to do a grindcore band, but soon after that we started including influences from basically everything that was coming from the early 90’s UK scene, as we were blown away by those bands. Only in 1995 we recorded our first demo, which was a compendium of styles, from grindcore to doom-death. In 1999 we recorded our first album “Arcane XIII”, and by then the style of the band had clearly leaned towards the Doom-Death territory, then we did “Iconoclast” in 2001, “Telluric Manifesto” in 2005 and recently, during late 2009, we released “Timeline Symmetry”. Claudio and I are the original founder members. Luis, our drummer, has been in the band since 1999, and Juan Pablo (bassist) joined us in 2006.
Nowadays, when asking about the most influential Doom Death Bands from Chile and South America in general, Poema Arcanus is named first by far most often. Do you agree? If yes: What is your influence on the scene, especially in Chile? If not: Which Band should be considered as most influential, and why?
In terms of being influential … I think that maybe the fact that we were one of the first bands playing Doom-Death metal in Chile influenced some guys to play similar music, but I couldn’t tell much more than that. I remember having met some veeery young Mar de Grises members at our shows when there was no MDG yet. At least I know they liked our music and attended our shows back then. We have some really good doom bands in here, such as the aforementioned MDG and Procession, ElectroZombies, Bitterdusk, etc. There’s plenty more, but speaking of influential … I don’t know … I see every band going on quite a different path style-wise, so it’s hard to see one being influential to another.
South America is not the first place Europeans think about when talking about Doom, although the scene is not that small as far as I can judge from here. ‘Procession’, where Luis is also playing the Drums come in mind Tell us about the Doom scene in Chile and South America in general.
There’s got to be something in the water … I don’t know. The Doom Metal scene here is not so big… not at all; but somehow we have managed to have really good bands. Maybe the fact that we are isolated at the end of the world, on a thin land strip, between the mountains and the sea. Maybe the fact that in the place we were supposed to have a tropical weather we happened to have the driest desert in the world; and of course our recent history with a dictatorship as a very bitter and sorrowful episode that cannot be forgotten… all of that might have an impact on our character, and that could also have an impact on our ability to make miserable music. The only thing that in my opinion is still lacking here is to have better productions in terms of sound… many times we can listen to great music ruined by sub par production, but that is slowly getting better.
Are there any (Doom) Bands from Chile which should be checked out by the European Doom heads? Which Bands impressed you during the last months?
Of course Mar de Grises, which are my personal favorites. We also have some traditional doom in here with bands such as Procession and Capilla Ardiente (the band of our ex-bassplayer, Claudio Botarro); Mourner’s Lament, which is the death-doom band from Procession’s frontman Felipe… Bitterdusk has been around for as long as we have, and they make a more Sabbath oriented doom … they are great. Electrozombies is a more crusty, sludge doom band, noisy and brutal as hell to see live. You also have Uaral… they mix our countryside folk music with a doomish dark atmosphere. There are plenty more, but as I told you, many times their recordings don’t do justice to them, unfortunately.
You are on Aftermath-Music, a Norwegian Label. Are you glad being on an European Label? What are the Advantages for you, and isn’t it difficult to coordinate the work over such a long distance?
In part, having this interview is a consequence of us being on a European label… for us it’s really important in terms of having our album available abroad, I mean, that would be extremely difficult if we were just on a local label. Obviously sometimes everything is more difficult and slower because of the distance, but with the internet everything can eventually be sorted out.
Before we come to the End of this Interview: What can we expect from Poema Arcanus in 2010? – Any Plans for Touring in Europe for example?
The touring plans are something we have been trying to materialize for too long … right now we are totally willing to go over there, you know, like we almost have our baggage and instruments ready at the door, but somehow the booking agencies we have spoke with haven’t been able to book anything for us, and of course making the huge trip for a couple of weekend gigs wouldn’t be worth it … it’s been really disappointing for us so far, but we will keep on trying, you know, it’s a long overdue issue for the band. Seems like deception even gives us inspiration to continue in the path of what we like to do…
Thank you for answering our questions. Some finishing words to everyone who read this Interview, and your Fans out there?
Thanks a lot to you for the cool interview and for your support to Poema Arcanvs… we hope the bangers out there enjoy our album, as it’s just honest metal music with no bullshit attached. For the people who enjoy our music over there … hopefully soon we will cross the pond and promote “Timeline Symmetry” playing live. If we happen to play near from your home, go and check us out … you won’t be disappointed!