1) After ‘The Umbersun’ album you made us wait five long years before coming back on the scene, otherwise this time you’re been very fast in releasing a new opus… Why? Have you been much inspired this time?
R. Tschirner: It is not a question of inspiration. It doesn’t take much time to write an Elend album, you know. The gap after the release of The Umbersun was not spent searching for ideas, but working for other projects we chose not to publish under the given circumstances. Composing Sunwar the Dead took us only a couple of weeks, just like Winds Devouring Men. Complications occasionally arise out of external circumstances, especially when working with many instrumentalists: this is why the production of the album took us nearly half a year.
Actually, also the Officium was done in quite a short span of time; between the winter of 93/94 and the summer of 97. When we elaborate a cycle of albums, the time schedule for the recording sessions and the production has to be carefully planned in advance, but regarding the release dates we are mainly dependent on our record labels. Unfortunately it doesn’t make sense in the music market to release albums more frequently than once a year. The Umbersun was released nearly a year after the completion of its production, Winds Devouring Men and Sunwar the Dead were luckily released more quickly.
2) Which are the main differences between the composition process for Winds devouring men and Sunwar the Dead?
Our writing method itself hasn’t changed. The end result should not be mistaken for the elaboration.
3) Why Sunwar the Dead as a title? What does it mean for you this title?
The metaphor is by Iskandar Hasnawi, and I am afraid I will not be able to answer this in a satisfying manner: the reason he chose this very image is that he must have felt that no other rendering could express his vision more adequately. However, I think that the connotations of destructive violence are obvious.
4) I noticed that the new album is more essential and direct – more simple - than the previous ones. Less desperate than Winds devouring men, but at the same time even more full of emotions…
We are exploring various paths in this new cycle. What we are trying to achieve, among several goals, is musical violence, and in particular, the most adequate expression of disruption. The end is an inhuman music by means of abstraction, tension between contrasting elements, and blows of intensity. So far, none of the pieces published have expressed that fully… The audience needs to be gently but continuously forced to push back the barriers of what it believes to be bearable.
5) I know you used an orchestra for the recording session of the album…
We had planned to use a line-up similar to that of Winds Devouring Men at first, that is, only a few session musicians. But for an adequate rendering the music of the new album called for a much bigger ensemble. So we partly fell back on the constellation initially planned for another project of ours: a complete orchestra. The access to professional instrumentalists has become a lot easier since we met our solo violinist David Kempf a few years ago. He is familiar with recordings of serious music and knows many other open-minded young professional musicians. It is also through him that we became acquainted with Esteri Rémond. This privileged situation enabled us to complete the recordings with less money than would normally be needed, but it was a severe effort, nevertheless. Beside budget problems such an enterprise involves a very careful planning of the recording schedule. But excepting these restrictions, working with professional musicians is simpler than trying to master all by oneself.
Since our studios are limited in size we recorded the ensemble work at the Studio des Moines, owned by friends. But not the entire album was recorded with the full personnel. Some pieces were done with all instrumentalists, others section by section, depending on the precision of instrumental tones we needed to obtain in view of the final mix. For certain parts we had all the strings play the same line when we needed very harsh and powerful rhythmic effect. All the solo instrumental parts, the choirs and the solo voices were recorded separately at the Fall studios.
6) I really appreciate the choice of using more the solo male vocal than the choirs. This choice, in my view, contributes in giving a more intimate approach to your sound…
I agree and I am very glad you see it that way. This is the main difference to the albums we released in the nineties.
7) Find just few words to describe each album of yours, just few words describing the feeling of each album. And tell me something about the leading feeling which permeate the new one.
Leçons de Ténèbres: revolution
Les Ténèbres du Dehors: fury
Weeping Night: retrospection
The Umbersun: suffocation
Winds Devouring Men: eruption
Sunwar the Dead: devastation
8) I noticed the use of our common ancient Greek language in the lyrics of the album and in some songs titles. Why this choice and what do the Greek words you spell mean?
We treasure this language for its sound and for its literature. The quotes used in the text are taken from eminent pieces of ancient Greek literature.
The phrases on the centre panel on the digisleeve edition of Winds Devouring Men and Sunwar the Dead, respectively: “Anemôn pneontôn tèn èchô proskunei” (“When the winds blow, worship their sound”), a Pythagorean counsel according to Jamblichus; “Toutô gar Arès bosketai, phonô brotôn” (“For Ares ravins upon human flesh”), from Seven against Thebes by Aeschylus.
There are three Greek titles on Sunwar the Dead: “Chaomphalos”, compound of “Chaos” and “Omphalos”. “Poliorketika”, the art of siege. “Threnos”, threnody.
9) I found Sunwar the Dead a dramatic album, in the strict sense of a drama translated in music. It is full of theatral atmospheres, it seems an opera, a dark opera.
Well, I don’t think the term “opera” fits, but the listener is free to form his own opinion. Nevertheless, dramatic tension has indeed been one of the fundamental constituents of the project since the beginning.
10) What inspires you in composing? Things, happenings, music…
Almost anything can trigger a mechanism of associations and generate the idea of a piece of music.
11) Introduce me to the lyrics, I presume they have a big importance in your music…
The lyrics on the albums of the new cycle are all based on a poem by Iskandar Hasnawi originally not intended to be set to music. This unifying thread is the reason for recurrent lyrical leitmotifs strewn across this sequence of albums; certain fragments of the basic text are used again, but diverted from their original significance in a particular context by juxtaposition with others. This is very similar to our use of musical leitmotifs on the albums of the Officium Tenebrarum.
The Cycle of the Winds tells the tale of an errancy in a chaotic, tragic world. The narrative structure is rather loose – I don’t think that it should be understood as a course of events with a linear kind of plot –, but nevertheless quite comprehensible: of the albums released so far Winds Devouring Men was an intimate album about waiting and dreaming, an inner odyssey opposed to the external unbridling of elemental forces. Sunwar the Dead is an epic album about a world dominated by violence, where chaos is an attractive, not yet a structuring force.
12) What do you think of the fact you are still appreciated from a metal audience? Don’t you find this strange? You know, for example, that this interview is for an extreme metal magazine (Grind zone)…
When we started the project, there were elements in our music that obviously appealed to the metal scene much more than to other communities. There seems to have been a certain curiosity for innovation in the domain of dark and violent music, which made music eluding the instrumental norms of metal no hindrance to the listener, as long as it carried elements this particular public was familiar with. In our more recent albums the affinity to metal is still noticeable on the level of intention, I would say, even if the connection is less obvious for the neophyte. But the crucial point is that Elend’s main concern has always been violence in music, and although most audiences do not appreciate that, the extreme metal scene should be predestined to acknowledge our work. I believe that this is the reason why this audience is still partly drawn to what we are doing.