As the release date for the second, stunning album of Spain’s TOTENGOTT draws nearer and nearer, I’ll take the opportunity to have a few words with the band about „The Abyss“, wich will be opened on April 16th, 2019 via Xtreem Music.
First off, thank you for your time to answer a few questions and congratulations to your new, extremly strong album! It is impressive, how you shifted from your beginnings in 2014 as a Celtic Frost tribut, to an outstanding act in extreme metal. I think, not only I am interested in that question: Was that a natural development or a planned decision, to get away from the comparisons with the swiss legend?
Hey, first of all, thanks for your interest in the band! It was totally a natural development. We are very eclectic music listeners, and it was clear to us, that all the different influences we have would end up appearing in our music sooner or later. Even with the first album, nothing was planned when writing our songs. I guess that the tribute days were a bit more evident in “Doppelgänger” than in “The Abyss”, as you mention, but as commented, nothing is planned and we don’t set any goals or expectations when writing our music. We simply let the creativity flow.
As you released your debut two years ago, it felt like it had a small impact to many fans of the old Celtic Frost-sound, especially their „Monotheist“-era. Many of those people told me, that Triptykon should sound more like this and that „Doppelgänger“ was the real continuation to the „true“ sound. Have you earned similiar opinions and if, how were your feelings about them?
We had a lot of reviews of “Doppelgänger” and gladly most of them were very positive. Most of the people understood our approach and sound in the album, and well, for us it is a huge honor that people may consider our music and path as good as Triptykon’s one (or even better as you mention) as we admired Tom’s work since our childhood. We can simply feel grateful and honored with the comparison.
Let’s switch now over to „The abyss“: The first impression, that hits people like me right into the eyes, is the stunning cover artwork. For those, who have no clue or no desire to read the credits: Who was the artist and what was the decision for that very special painting? And in which relation stands the picture to the lyrics?
The album artwork was done by the Mexican artist Néstor Avalos. This super talented guy has already worked for bands like Bloodbath, Necrophobic, Dark Funeral or Moonspell, and we knew about him in the “Heavy metal artwork” book in which the best metal artworks of 2017 were selected and the cover of our first album was included. We investigated a bit and found in him the perfect match for the sound we had in “The Abyss”. After contacting him, he showed us some material he had available, being a primitive version of the album artwork one of these drafts, and we knew in that same moment, that that piece of art was a perfect fit for the music we were working on in that moment. After some touches and colour changes, we finally got exactly what we wanted. We feel like the artwork is once more an essential part to the concept for “The Abyss”.
Speaking of the lyrics: Would you please tell us something about them? To me it felt, that there’s a loose concept, which links the tracks among themselfs. And how important are the lyrics for the overall concept of Totengott?
“The Abyss” is not a concept album in the sense of having a story being told through chapters, but all the lyrics have a common point, which is exactly “The Abyss”. It’s named in every song except “Ceremony I” and to us, “The Abyss” is that dark and personal place in which a person may lose his reason and turn into someone completely different, or either turning into someone completely different and falling into that abyss to go back to be the former person he was. There is also some sort of a concept with the number two in the album, being “duality” another common point in the album. “Ceremony II: The way of sin” talks about resurrection (life / death), “The Spell” about heartbreaking (love / hate) and finally “The Abyss” talks about that dark and personal place where all our dualities live. It is also the second part of the “Doppelgänger” suite, included in our first album. The lyrics in the songs are also important for us, we try to avoid the cliché stuff about hell, death and satan. We want them to have a blurry meaning, so anyone who listens to them can make his own meaning, but we also don’t want them to be so cryptic that nothing can be understood. We usually write lyrics right after the music is complete and some of them may take us more even time than finishing the music part.
So, let’s talk now about the music: The album consists of four tracks; three shorter and one long track. I‘m interested (and I’m sure, my readers as well) how your writing process proceeds?
Most of the material that we write starts with a home demo made by Chou Saavedra in his home studio. Some of them are very basic, primary versions of what later may become one of our songs, while in others the approach and sound of the song is already pretty focused and defined. We use to listen to them carefully, take the material and parts that we consider to be the best ones and arrange them and give them their final form in the rehearsal space between the three of us. Some small details in the material of “The Abyss” were even changed or arranged last minute in the studio.
After listening to „The abyss“ for several times now, I’m still impressed of the many stiles, which work so naturally good together. The shifting from death/thrashing moments to doom and also some slightly black metal influences is as stunning as ever in your small, but intense discography. In my opinion, the more dominant thrashing parts work fantastic. At this point the question appears, what are your main influences, beside the obviously, before mentioned?
We have a lot of influences and we really believe that this open-mindedness can be perceived in “The Abyss”. From Voivod to Sisters of Mercy, from Hellhammer to Pink Floyd, from Conan to Penderecki… You will hear echoes from many sources in the album (probably some of them we are not even aware that they are present, as they are there unconsciously), as we try to approach the writing process without setting up any limitations. The best thing about it is that each song in the album has a different vibe and feeling: “Ceremony I: Sic Transit Gloria Mundi” has a strong primitive / viking feeling, while “Ceremony II: The Way of Sin” is the kind of thrash-death metal song that the old school headbangers would love. “The Spell” is somewhere in between the doomest doom and some sort of dark ambient. Finally, “Doppelgänger II: The Abyss” is, from our point of view, the masterpiece in the album. 22 minutes of epicness, morbidity, darkness and heavy riffs of which we are extremely proud of. Basically this album sums some of our best parts and ideas as a band, and we are pretty sure it will remain as one of our favourites for a while.
Another exciting fact are the guest vocals: How did you get in touch with Kam Lee, Marija and Balc? Was it planned or a spontaneous idea?
They were pretty spontaneous, to be honest. About Marija, who is a close person to the band, we didn’t have any doubt about bringing her in when we decided that we wanted to add some female vocal arrangements in the album. She made a superb job and added exactly what the songs needed with her parts. About Balc, we shared stage with some of his projects a few times and we had a great connection with him at a personal and musical level from the first moment. We wanted to add some harsh vocals in the screamy part of “Ceremony I: Sic Transit Gloria Mundi” so we thought about him for that part. The story with Kam Lee is ver yinteresting, as he discovered Totengott with our first album “Doppelgänger” and he really loved our music. He ordered a copy of the album via bandcamp, and we were pretty surprised, as we obviously knew who he was and his background. We wrote him to thank him for the support and he offered himself to add some vocals in our next album, which makes us feel extremely honored and happy. Who would have imagined that we would have him in one of our records when we listened to Massacre’s “From Beyond” years and years ago? Epic!
What can we expect in the near future? Aka live activities, releases, etc.?
We are now booking shows in order to promote and present “The Abyss” to as many audiences as possible. We already have a few Spanish gigs set up that will be announced these weeks, and we are trying to arrange something in order to make a small euro tour to support the album. That is our main focus at the moment. Stay tuned!
I would leave the final words to the artists. If there is anything else, you wish to mention, than that’s your turn now. I say thank you for your time again and wish you all the best!
Thanks very much for your words and your interest about the band and our brand new album. We really think that the record is very good, so… if you are reading this and didn’t hear us… Give it a try! UGH!!
TOTENGOTT – The abyss
Doom / Black / Thrash Metal from Spain
Xtreem Music / Burning World Records
Running time: 46:57 minutes
Release date: April 16th, 2019 (all formats)
Interview © 2019 Beatrice Sophia von Siedler / Black Salvation