Nornír - Interview
Umbra is a death/black/doom project started by Grindor under a different name around 2014. With couple of tracks to be found on two different compilations and the project becoming a duo in 2020 MetalBite wanted to find out more about the music, the band, the story and the man himself. The new album that's been in the works for a while now is nearly finished but to find out more you gotta read what Grindor had to say.
Thanks for taking time to do this, how is everything going?
It's alright I guess, going through with some stuff but nothing I can't handle. Planning to move onto a new place soon. Making time for your own when you have too much to do can be difficult. Still, it's all for the better.
There is very little info about the band on the net, can you make a quick introduction?
Umbra is a death/black/doom project. Originally made under the name Coprófago, sometime after releasing the EP "Flesh" the band name was changed to mark a new musical direction (and to prevent confusion with another band of the same name from the Capital of Chile). While I have spearheaded the project since the beginning, as of August 2020 I have added a new vocalist; Mysroth.
How did you and Mysroth got together for this? Did you knew each other previously?
We did. She is a good friend of mine, but moved to another city due to some personal stuff she went through. She comes back every summer however and we get in touch regularly. In 2019, she sent me a couple tracks from a project called Abyssmor in which she provided vocals. I was surprised, complimented her performance and toyed with the idea of inviting her for a guest appearance. However, as the lyrics and concept for the full-length came to be, I realized that I needed another vocalist to add more variety, as well as to symbolize the "We" stated in the lyrics. Aside from her vocal work, she also runs a small shop where she make sculptures and portraits (and sometimes guitar picks) with bones of deceased animals, so she fits the theme of the band as a whole as well.
When I asked her if she was interested to join, she didn't even thought about it. She accepted instantly.
Being the only member writing the music in the beginning, what was the most difficult obstacle to get through when composing and recording?
Not being sure whether it would spark some interest. I haven't seen that many death metal bands in my city, as thrash is more favored in these corners. So I just made the music for fun, trying to make something slightly catchy and lyrically gross at the same time. In its current incarnation, however, it's more difficult, as I try to make sure that the music reflects the exact state of mind that I'm into, and turning emotions into music can be cathartic, yet painful. I no longer care to make something for others, but for myself.
What made you decide to go with a one man show?
I wanted this to be a full band when I decided to create it, back in 2012 (when I actually wanted to make Goregrind haha). However everyone that I asked help for was busy, so I said "Fuck it, I'll do it myself". Having listened to bands like Putrid Pile, Insidious Decrepancy and similar solo artists I realized that it could work. And when the debut EP was released, lo and behold; many people (friends included) wanted to help bring this to a live stage. That's no longer of my interest, however. There are (and will be) other projects to do that.
What inspired the name of the band?
The first name was pretty much the first thing that came to my mind. Current name was what clicked the most when searching for a new name. In fact, the current logo has the previous logo as the roots from where "Umbra" is birthed.
What does it mean to you? What pops in your mind when you say Umbra?
Death. Darkness. The Void.
What was the spark that got you into metal and how did it start?
In school, when some friends were making a band and I was interested in joining, but had zero experience in music and instruments. In fact, it wasn't until high-school that, after listening to a lot of metal styles, death metal clicked the most and I haven't looked back since then. Of course, nowadays I listen to plenty of bands but death metal is my favorite style among all of them, as well as the core of my music.
Aside from musical inspirations what is the biggest reason that pushes you to create your own sounds, what other aspects of life or art give you the strongest impulses to write music?
Catharsis. In the last half-year I've been through a lot, and the best coping mechanism was to make music. At first I was worried that the result would be too different and raw, but I realized that to completely purge these feelings, it had to be done without compromising what I wanted to express. In the end, whether people like it or not, they will feel what I feel.
What are the stages of your creating process, how do you work on new songs?
It all pretty much depends if I'm in the right mood to do so, or if there's something that I need to purge from myself. Sometimes I can progress a lot in one day, other times it take me weeks to even write down a single riff. I can never be certain when will something be finished, but I try to make sure it is done in the best way. Not just putting two riffs together without any context or cohesion whatsoever, but rather make everything fit correctly.
Are you actually playing the instruments?
I do all vocals and play every instrument, except drums which are programmed. With Mysroth added to the band, however, I aim to achieve a balance between her vocals and mine, delivered in equal measure. I hope that she can use her voice to the maximum potential, and deliver the performance that I demand for this record.
Are lyrics important in metal?
Some would agree, some others would disagree. I believe that music and lyrics are complementary to each other and both, done correctly, can make one intense experience. Take for example J.R. Hayes: His prose is unique yet quite disturbing and without it, Pig Destroyer wouldn't work at all. Not like some other bands who just pen their lyrics at the last moment and come up with some "br00tal" shit fit for an edgy 13-year old.
Could you tell us about the lyrics / concepts you focus on or plan to focus on?
I intended to make lyrics that were more focused on horror. However, after what I've been through in the last half-year, and at the bottom of the pit of depression, I wrote a long, exhaustive mass prayer (not literally) to Death, inspired by many religious figures based on Death (Nuestra Señora de la Santa Muerte being the strongest influence).
However, while it is based on many of these figures and "saints", it represents none of them. It is my own vision of Death as the embracer of the ones in most despair.
How did the ideas come about, and how do they influence the writing process?
When I reached the bottom of the pit, I just started writing and writing and writing. After a week or so, pretty much all the lyrics were finished, with minor additions and corrections. From then on, it was an ordeal to make the music as I tried my best to make everything reflect the emotions poured in the lyrics.
When it comes to the lyrics of the previous incarnation, however, I was just inspired by old school death metal and the kinda stuff that Cannibal Corpse writes about. For these tracks in particular I aimed for something simpler in terms of music.
Are you the one writing the lyrics?
Indeed. And while I have shown the lyrics to some close friends of mine and asked for their thoughts, no one else is involved in the writing process. Not even Mysroth.
If you ever would meet the right people to join the band would you ask them to join?
No. There are no plans to take Umbra to the stage.
Is there any new music in the works or completed?
The debut full-length album is still being worked on. The hard part is programming the drums, as I do so beat by beat. Aside from that, there is 'Savior of Worms', the track featured in the 5-way split Sulphur Desert Blood-Ritual and 'She of Many Voices'; a track made exclusively for a compilation named Forbidding Meeting, released by Dark Art Lugubrem Prod. that will be remastered with re-recorded vocals by me and Mysroth (her first official appearance in Umbra material) for a possible release that will be kept secret for the moment. The original recording can be found in Umbra's Bandcamp page.
Where do you see yourself and the band in the next 5-7 years, is there a plan in motion?
There are no foreseeable plans for Umbra in the future once the album's released. Once it's done, I will put Umbra to rest. All this I've made has been draining, exhaustive and dangerous to myself. This catharsis, this purge of mind and soul has taken a lot from me. When it's done, I shall just focus on my other projects, as I also do vocals for another band in my city; Begotten Suffering. And being their vocalist and lyricist means that I have to save something for them as well. If, however, I was to continue with Umbra, I will go for a funeral doom style.
Tell us about the split and the bands on it, who came up with the idea?
It was pretty much a collaborative effort. It was intended to have 6 bands, but then we were only 5. We got together and decided that it would be 1 track for each band, to save costs when the CD release came to be, until the pandemic came.
Regarding the other bands, here's a brief segment of each:
Begotten Suffering: death/black metal, a project that has been around for 3 years. I joined them around 2019 (I was asked to be joined twice, actually). We've only been rehearsing however, but the time will come to be on the stage.
SoulHunter: old school death metal and my favorite band from my city. Have been a fan of them for many years. They also participated in the Forbidding Meeting compilation (their first official material, actually) and I asked them to join this split. The drummer owns the studio where tracks 1, 2 & 5 were recorded. They also have a demo available on their YouTube channel, which I recommend entirely.
Cainian Legion: one-man pagan black metal, and pretty much the only guy in the scene that makes black metal in the old fashioned way. He does, however, have a line-up for live shows. Aside from the split he also released a demo (in 2010) and a full-length (in 2014). He was in charge of designing the cover art and booklet of the split and owns the studio were tracks 3 & 4 were recorded.
Vlæw: raw black metal. Also, one man. He is the vocalist of a well-known band in the city. Released a demo that features the same track that's in the split, but the mixing is different in both releases.
What do you listen to lately?
It's ambivalent and bipolar. Sometimes I listen to Teitanblood, then switch to Opeth, then to Nuclear Death, then to Elvis Presley, then The Body and so on.
With services like Spotify, YouTube and others some people seem to prefer individual tracks rather than full albums. When you are listening to the music do you listen to your favorite tracks or full album?
G- When I'm at work, for example, I listen to specific tracks of certain records. But when I get home, I listen to the entire album. Nowadays more bands have made it more common to create albums that are one cohesive experience, and such craft cannot be spoiled, for such shall be my work as well.
Most people think that metalheads only listen to metal. What is your opinion about this statement and how open are you yourself to different kinds of music?
I can tell you, from my own personal experience, that most people that call themselves "true" metalheads here begin their parties with Manowar at full volume and end up dancing tropical music while shouting the lyrics by heart. So no, metalheads listen to much more than just metal, but they choose not to say so. I have a very simple statement when it comes to music; if I like it, I'll listen to it, no matter the style. I even listen to some Christian death/black metal bands once in a while, as I like some tracks from certain bands. Hell, I can say without shame that one of my favorite solo musicians (and one of my musical inspirations) is, in fact, a Christian man who created 2 projects called Encryptor & SorrowStorm.
What are you other talents and what is the one you wish you had?
I'm not really good at anything save for listening to music. I wish I could be more focused on my guitar skills instead of being distracted by everything.
Thanks a lot for taking time to answer all the questions, last word is yours.
To those who were there when I fell, thank you, for I wouldn't be here if not for you.
To those who weren't there when I fell, thank you as well, for you showed your true colors.
And fear Her not, for She is the End that befalls our Beginning.
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