HAIL SPIRIT NOIR is one of the bands that captivate you from the very first time you listen to their songs. That’s exactly what happened with me as I fell in love with their unique and unexpected music. I had the honor to caught up with Theoharis, the vocalist/guitarist of the band and chat about all the things that puzzled me and probably most of their fans out there. Keep reading to learn everything about progressive black, the bands recording process and of course their future plans.
How did you decide, which instruments you are going to use, in your latest album Mayhem in Blue?
There’s nothing predetermined to be honest. We might come across an instrument, the humdrum for example, and it might click with a part of a track. It might not. Nothing on any of our albums has ever been forced just for the sake of being there. Hopefully, they serve the purpose we use them for. On the other hand we had a melody that we thought would sound awesome if we used a laterna. We had a hell of job trying to find one! Plus we are always on the lookout for interesting sounds . Keeps things fresh sor us, too.
How is the recording process for you generally? How do you come up with the sounds and put them down to paper combining all the elements together?
It all starts with Haris and the backbones of the songs and then we chisel them away. Sounds are usually a product of experimentation during rehearsals and flat out goofying around with Demian’s pedal board. It’s always exciting because you never know what sounds you might come up with so it’s really rewarding when we get one we like. Improv is also important and that’s nothing can be predetermined when it comes to the sounds. Usually when we are done with the basic guitar and bass tracks the fun part begins because it’s time for improvisation, experimenting and of course we then decide what type of vocals we need for each song or part. But everything is subject to change and that’s the beauty of it. It’s only really painful though, because we try to use analogue equipment and setting it up is not an easy task.
Your album cover is featuring three figures coming out of the sea, in an Island-like place. Many people all over the internet mention that it is a reference to the refugee issue that many countries, and especially Greece, are struggling with. Is that true or is there a deeper meaning?
Although it would be a pretty accurate description, sadly it’s only coincidence. Obviously, on a subconscious level, the whole refugee crisis has affected us. How could it not? I wish we lived in a vacuum where nothing can get to you but we don’t. It’s a humanitarian crisis but it’s not easy for a country that’s already hanging by a thread to deal with such a massive amount of people. On the other hand, we can’t just leave them to the dogs (or sharks whichever you prefer). There is a meaning that goes a bit deeper. It’s a bit abstract as it it’s kind of like a warning or a presentation of how close to extinction our race has come. The figures from the sea are like the plague doctors of old, ready to toll oyr final bell. When we first saw the artwork we were speechless. It’s eerie and almost terrifying.
What does progressive black metal mean to you? For someone that has no idea what we are talking about, what are the key elements that could define a song or a sound as Progressive Black Metal?
Usually, progressive is associated with forward thinking bands and concepts that are willing to push the envelope further. Extreme music in general has proven the perfect vehicle for all sorts of risks. Some work, others don’t. Black Metal in particular has proven to be the most versatile. As a result we have bands such as Solefald, latter day Mayhem. But really I can’t tell you what makes a good progressive black metal song. Mainly because I think progressive has become overused. We’ve reached a point where technicality is favoured over quality and real artistic passion. I mean, playing scales extremely fast is nothing but means to end. The recent Zeal And Ardor album might not be to everyone’s liking, it is a bit trendy to be honest, but it does introduce new elements. The Emperor records are masterpieces because at the time they were doing something different. Ved Buens Ende are really important. But you know, we must never forget that to remain black metal there must be a luciferian spirit at work. Some sort of darkness needs to exist.
Where does your inspiration come from? Lyrically and musically. Any band that inspired you to reach this result?
The source for inspiration lyrically is pretty much everything. Lyrics are usually our observations of the human fallacy. With the world being in the state of disarray it now is, the darkness of man is really coming to the fore, uglier than ever before. So it’s interesting to watch and really unsettling. We are showing our true colours and the Devil couldn’t be happier. Our musical influences have been the great black metal bands and prog rock bands of the 70s. Bands such as Abigor, Thorns, Dodheimsgard , ELP, Can, Pink Floyd and Marillion. Obvisouly Goblin are a really big influence. More avant-garde stuff as well. Popol Vuh for example. The Cardiacs too. Hadjidakis is always there for us as well.
What was the meaning behind the song “The Cannibal Tribe Came from the Sea?”
There are two ways you could read these lyrics. It’s little horror story about a tribe of cannibals that in order to survive the eldest members hold rituals where newborns are fed to them and members of their tribe eat each other as sacrifice to them. It’s pretty gruesome. But on the other hand, what started in the water is that little thing called life. You and your grandmother. So I guess with that little clue it’s easy to draw the parallels with our failing race. Happy little campers, aren’t we?
You are a three piece, as a band? How do you perform during your live performances, isn’t that a struggle? Do you have in mind a live with extra musicians? Like an orchestra or something like that?
We finally have a live-line up. Sakis Bandis (of the legendary Horizn’s End) will be handling the keyboards, Cons Marg of Until Rain and Dustynation will take care of all vocal parts and Foivos of Agnes Vein and a fellow member of Haris in Katavasia will be our live drummer. Our first two shows together supporting Virus went really well and things will only get better. I hope so anyway, heh. AN orchestra? No, we wouldn’t know what to with it. They’d probably kick us offstage and go straight into Hungarian Dance or something
Your sound in “Mayhem in Blue” was in general terms more professional than your previous albums. However it was more progressive than black metal. Was that intentional?
Well, we get better at this. That’s the point isn’t it? We used different equipment and so Dimitris Douvras (Lunatech Studios) who did the handled the mix had some new equipment of his own and stepped up our game. Alan Douches did an incredibly good job as well. Songs come out the way they do because they are a timestamp of the moment. So while it was nt intentional it reflects where we are at our lives. So if the songs came out more progressive then so be it. Next time who knows what we’ll come up with? If you are honest with what you create, usually it shows.
Your success in an international level is getting bigger and bigger. When you started creating music, did you ever had in mind that you would go that far?
Everyone wants it but no one knows what to expect. I don’t mean to burst our own little bubble or to downplay whatever success we might have so far but we have a really long and daunting road ahead to consider ourselves successful. We are now on our third album, I believe we have our own sound and I must be honest with you. It was strange after being in bands for such a long time to have people sort of demanding things of us. When we announced Mayhem In Blue was ready, we realized people wanted different things. That was both awesome and a bit weird, you know? Kinda like “Whoa, hold on a minute, these guys expect things from us?” We are grateful for our fans because we know our style is truly a love/hate affair. And to know that people appreciate our efforts is satisfying to say the least. Hopefully now that we are entering the live circuit we’ll get more exposure and continue the uphill battle to make our name known.
How is your fan base outside of Greece?
When Pneuma was released back in 2012 reaction largely came from abroad, it kinda fell through the cracks here in Greece. We are to blame partly for this. No live shows, no nothing. But word of mouth helped spread the name. I guess we are slowly building a fan base which we hope to expand.
What are your plans now, as a band?
We are now promoting the new record and this is all there is right now. It’s too soon to be talking about new music and we are focusing on Mayhem In Blue and how we will present it to the audiences. Plus, more grueling rehearsals to get more songs into the playlist so at some point we can do a headline show.
Any scheduled tours for the future in Greece Europe?
We are scheduled to play the Inferno Fest in Norway and we are really pleased with that. Plus there a couple more things lined up but we can’t announce anything right now because we aren’t 100% certain. There will most definitely be more live shows in Greece as we really want to take our music to the stage.