Sear Bliss - Interview


Ever since I traversed in the Inner Grey with the new Sear Bliss album "Heavenly Down", I can't recall the last time when I came across something so amazing that left me without words and made me feel so different when I returned from this long spiritual journey. I don't ever recall experiencing something so magical and atmospheric, but it sure as hell was like a blessing from the great divines, and I can safely say that they did the incredible task of providing a contemporary black metal masterpiece. It's very difficult to provide a work of art in a subgenre such as this, but in the case of a band such as Sear Bliss, it's really a matter of putting a lot of energy, blood and sweat, but most importantly hitting the right spot. On June 6th, I had the wonderful opportunity to chat with the band's bassist and vocalist András Nagy, regarding their long and challenging journey with the making of "Heavenly Down", discussing about the aura and the background surrounding the new album and their music in general, as well as their future plans regarding the tour of supporting "Heavenly Down". I hope you will enjoy this conversation, because I really had a wonderful time chatting with András about their successfully master-crafted result.

Vladimir

How are you doing Andras?

A little bit tired, but I am doing fine, thanks. How are you?

Doing great, thank you. What can I say? It's been a busy week, a lot of scheduled interviews lately and constantly doing new album reviews, of course recently the "Heavenly Down" was reviewed and published on MetalBite, which is why I invited you here to talk about it. The new album is just three weeks away from being officially released, and I have to say congratulations to you guys for delivering such a masterpiece, because this album surprised the heck out of me. On my first listening, I was so mind blown to the point where I felt like I had an out of body experience while listening to it. How was the band's overall journey with the new album?

Well first of all, thank you for the compliment, I really appreciate your words. We are as you said three weeks before the official release, this is probably the second or the third interview I had, and yours was the second or third review I read, and it's so good to know that people enjoy this on such a high level, so that's great. For us, it was a very long journey, at some point it was very exhausting, maybe you can hear that we put our soul into this record and it's not always easy, because it's such an honest thing to do that sometimes it takes a lot from you, but on the other hand we enjoyed it very much. It was long but I think it was worth it because we had such an enormous amount of energy and it's weird because we are more than 30 years old as a band and we felt the same enthusiasm as in the beginning. It's really difficult to put into words but somehow, I felt during the writing process that something was taking shape, because if I have to compare it to the previous releases, they were okay more or less, but something was missing. This time, I may say that I felt some kind of magic, it's difficult to explain, especially when we came together and the whole band rehearsed, it was something special and that was very cool. Maybe as we are older, we can express better what we feel inside, but for some reason it was the easiest and also the most difficult album to create.

Basically, like you said, you put like a 100% of yourselves, or maybe a 110%, considering just how intense the performance of the band is on the album. Were you facing any difficulties or challenges during the songwriting or recording process?

Yeah, many times. Firstly, there was a breaking point, because the guitar player Attila left the band during the writing process, and he was heavily involved, especially from the last album "Letters From The Edge". He was one of the main songwriters and it was the same with this album. He wrote at least six songs and suddenly he left. I had one or two songs all ready, but 80% of the album was written by him, and when he left of course he took the songs with him, and we were left alone, and I think it gave us such a push, because I was pretty confident with what I wanted to express, but right after that we dived into the writing process and it was difficult because we are very busy on a personal level, and unfortunately we can't afford that much time to this process but I think we were very eager to show what we feel and even the producer Viktor, he didn't really believe in the songs when he first heard it. We made some demos, because we have a rehearsal space where we can record, so we had a demo phase during the writing process and actually he didn't like it, and he said it's not going to be good, it's not really polished, and I was really surprised because we felt we are on the right track, but for some reason he didn't feel it. It was just later in the studio when things started to develop, and like you said, there is a lot of energy, and it was a lot of energy during the recording process. I remember the drummer Gyula recorded everything in two days, which is quite amazing. We didn't have too much time because the studio was expensive, but he did such a great job, and I remember that he was very focused, and the same goes for the whole band, and then I think we convinced the producer that it's going to be something. Yeah, it was difficult, you can hear that the songs are pretty layered, there are a lot of things happening. It was very difficult, but I believed that good things are difficult to make, so there is a lot of sweat, sacrifices and everything, but somehow, we managed to capture the right atmosphere and this is what the result is.

I am very glad it worked out so well in the end. It's basically like this, when you don't put blood and sweat into your work, it's not guaranteed that you are going to come out with something as great. But in comparison to your previous album "Letters From The Edge" from 2018, this one opened a new door, or should I say a new dimension in regards to the songwriting and the musical experimentation of Sear Bliss, expanding even further with the layers of incredible ideas that make the band's sound even more rich. While working on "Heavenly Down", were you looking to improve or change anything that you had done on your previous album or all your albums in general?

Well, the thing is as you can see, there is a huge time gap between each of our albums, so it's for this reason it's natural that they differ from each other, because we are in different moods and we are in completely different situations. This is the reason why the albums are pretty different, but I don't know if it's development but we are in a different phase of our lives and I remember that on the "Letters From The Edge", and even more on the "Eternal Recurrence" album, I didn't have a good period in my life. There were a lot of difficulties which made those albums a lot heavier to listen to, because the energy was not right on a spiritual level, that's what I feel. But this time, somehow everything was in the right place and I think we had a lot more energy, that's what I can explain what happened now. For me, each album represents a certain time or certain moment in my life, but this time it worked much better compared to the previous years.

The interesting thing is that there is a lot of progression throughout the entire album, and it successfully manages to keep your constant attention without losing track of what is going on. It's got a very strong mesmerizing quality to it, basically like some sort of magic that possesses your mind and soul from the very first song and it never lets you go. Was this psychological effect something that you wanted to achieve or was it all done naturally as you were working on the album?

No, nothing was intentional actually. We didn't really have a clue on which direction we'll go, and that's a good thing. It's interesting to hear that you are talking about progression, because to be honest, in the last six years, we didn't really have any new songs, so we were not prepared to write an album. Like I said, the previous guitar player, he brought most of the songs, of course we had a lot of live shows so maybe that helps, but I believe that it was more on a spiritual level, and I think it comes with age. As you grow older, if you are a musician, you can express much better what you want to express. If there was any progression, I would say this was it, that we knew better how to express certain emotions or certain moods. We were more confident when we had a vision, because of course we had visions about the songs, but it was natural and sometimes even when writing the lyrics, at some moment I don't know what happens in the next moment when I write a song or write the lyrics. So, I would say that it's more like a spiritual thing, it was really deep, and that's good to hear that you can sense this, because it truly came from the inside. I would say that that is the case with "Heavenly Down".

One of the greatest highlights of this album is that it's like a very vast spiritual journey, where you can truly feel these immense emotions that were cemented into its musical essence. Was there any given moment in time where you listened to the entire thing and couldn't believe that you actually made this album, or that you were perhaps astonished that it turned out the way it did?

That's a very good question, and yeah, it happened. It's really difficult to describe what I felt when the album was finished and finally had a chance to listen to it as a whole. It's a long process, because here and there you want to change something so we want to go back to mixing something and the mastering was not right, but there is a certain moment which I remember was very emotional, it's' the song 'Heavenly Down' which is very personal. When I listened to that song, which was fully mixed and mastered, I can tell you it's really no lie because for me there is a message in that song. It was actually the lyrics and the song that was written for someone who passed away, a very close friend of mine. It's a very sad thing, he died during the writing process of this album, and I had a very strong connection with him because he was a very spiritual kind of person. I truly believed that I had some kind of connection with him when I listened to the finished version of the song, but it was really touching. To answer your question, this is how I can describe what I felt, so it was a very heavy but also very relieving moment when I had the chance to listen to this album as a whole and now as we got the physical copies of the record it's even better because it's always the coolest thing to hold the actual record in your hand, so I think it looks amazing. Like I said, it was a very long process, sometimes very difficult, so I can imagine that it would be not so easy to perform live, because it means so much deep inside. Some of the songs are very personal like I said, but I think the true art should be like this. I believe in this.

Like I said in the review, this album is really like a work of art in black metal, which is rarely achieved these days but you managed to do it so successfully. A significant factor to the work of Sear Bliss is that you are a black metal band that uses brass instruments in your music, like trombones and trumpets, whereas many other black metal bands would mostly include synths and that's as far as it goes. In your case it really gives you a whole different atmosphere with such a grand cinematic feeling, and it definitely dominates throughout the entire "Heavenly Down" album as well. What is exactly the story of you guys including trumpets and trombones in your music? Was it something that you envisioned from the beginning of the band?

Yeah, exactly. What happened was that when I formed the band in late 1993, it was a much different musical climate, because it was not long after the Iron Curtain fell down, and it was a very optimistic period in the whole Eastern Europe. We were metalheads since childhood, and the good thing was when I formed the band, almost every member lived in the same street so we always came together and listened to metal music, and we were dreaming about forming a band. One of the guys, who was a friend of mine since kindergarten, was a metalhead, but at the same time a trumpet player in a local orchestra and I asked him if he would be interested in joining the band on the trumpet, and he said "yeah of course, let's try it". We had a very strong bond because we were friends from childhood, and the funny thing is that it worked from the very beginning, because we knew each other so well and we had the same musical taste. I am so happy that we tried it out and he came to the first and the second rehearsal, so we really incorporated this instrument from the first day when we didn't even have any songs at that time, but we went to the rehearsal room and jammed, and he made some cool trumpet parts and it worked. The funny thing is when he left the band after the second album "The Haunting", we thought it would be impossible to replace him, and the funny thing was that we had found Zoltán, and we knew that he is a metalhead, that he loves Sear Bliss and we found out that he is a trombone player in the same local orchestra where the other guy was. We asked him to join and I am very glad we did it, because the trombone is even more powerful than the trumpet, on stage it sounds much better, it's louder and more powerful, and to play the trumpet parts on the trombone sounds even better. It was in 2000 and he has been with us since that time and he became a very important part of the band. Actually, most of the songs on "Heavenly Down" were written together with him. The guitar players live in Budapest, so we didn't have the chance all the time to jam together, but with Zoltán we went to the rehearsal bunker almost every day. During the nights, I created the songs on the keyboard or the guitar, and he immediately joined on the trombone and he had very good visions on how to build the songs, most of the songs were built together with him, the two of us.

The part where you said about the trombone being more powerful than the trumpet, at this moment I remembered that my late father-in-law, who was also Hungarian, when he was in the military, I think he was also a trombone player. I don't know if he was in a military orchestra, but I heard stories, and of course my wife told me that he was very good at diving because he could hold his breath very long, because he was a very good trombone player so he had a good lung capacity. I really have to compliment Zoltán on that as well, because he is fantastic and what he does is just incredible. I am surprised that he is not in Hollywood right now working with famous composers at this moment.

Haha, that's cool to hear. Yeah, we are happy to be where we are now, so we are really the kind of small-town boys. We are still living in the same city where we grew up, and we are satisfied with what we have achieved so far, and that's good, because we don't want to be the biggest act or band. We have a very good chemistry with him, we are happy to play shows and write music, and that's what really matters, so nothing else.

That's a very nice thing to hear. Around October last year, I was fortunate to have seen you guys play here in my hometown of Újvidék (Novi Sad) at the Festival of Serbian Underground in club Fabrika, and I recall being absolutely blown away from the experience. When you guys were playing, I didn't feel like I was attending a regular concert, but more like I was becoming a part of a deep cosmic ritual. What are your recollections of that show? How did you find the whole experience of you playing there in front of all the Serbian and Hungarian fans?

That was really cool. Actually, it was the second time we played in Serbia, because we played at the Exit Festival in 2016. It was 2016 and we played right before Paradise Lost, so it was a great experience because I like Paradise Lost very much and it was such an honor to play the show right before them. This show was also very special because the organizer Milan Rakić, he is a very cool guy and a great friend of ours. We were so happy that he invited us to play a club show in Serbia, and it was very cool. We spent two days there actually, we had a huge party after the show and it was very memorable. It's cool to hear what you said and also onstage we felt that the atmosphere was there, and the club was perfect actually, we enjoyed it very much. I think we were in the right mood to play that show and that was a good one. I think around that time we had many shows in Europe, so we had a great experience in that period of playing live, because usually we don't play too many shows a year. For example, I think after Novi Sad, we played a show in Germany or maybe two shows in Germany and that was all. We didn't have any gigs for six months, mostly because of the recording of the new album and also because we wanted to focus on the preparation of the release. It was just a few weeks ago when we had a show in Vienna, and then the second show in Hungary. The first one was a little bit rusty, because we didn't play for six months, but the second one was very cool. So yeah, we have very good memories from the show in Újvidék (Novi Sad), that was a cool one and it is a very nice venue as well, so that was great.

The funny thing is, my band Pannox played the very next day.

Really? 

Yeah, my band was actually the last band at that festival, and we were basically closing the festival. Though there weren't as many people on the second day as there were on the first day. A lot of people that I haven't seen ever live, all the local Hungarian metalheads that live in other cities, they came here and I was so happy to see them. Even Khargash told me that he met you guys and that he had a very nice chat with you, saying that you guys really got along. It was really a nice thing to hear, and I can't recall when I saw something as magical as this, like people coming together and people enjoying the local festival.

That was cool, very cool, I hope we will return there again. Actually, we were talking about this with Milan, because we will have a tour in October to support the new album, but there was a plan to have an East and South European leg of the tour, including Greece, Romania and Serbia, but for some reason the shows in Greece were canceled, actually postponed, therefore we had to skip this leg of the tour so it would be a rather Western European tour, but there is a plan to return, hopefully early next year because we have an invitation to Greece to play two shows, so hopefully we can include Serbia and Romania. It would be very cool to return to Fabrika, that was great.

I am really looking forward to it. Alright, Andras, thank you so much for doing this interview. I am really looking forward to the release of "Heavenly Down" and I am hoping to see you perform again in the near future. Once again, congratulations on the new album, because this is yet another great entry to the band's flawless discography. Are there any final words you'd like to say?

I just want to tell you that it was truly the best review ever about the band. I am 46 years old and I couldn't believe my eyes when I read it. You really made my day yesterday when I saw that. Even the label and the promoter sent me this review today telling "Wow, read this, this is incredible!". So, thank you very much, I am really happy that we made something which captured your mind and imagination, so it's a really cool thing. So, thank you so much for this, that's all I can tell, we really appreciate this and I hope to return to Serbia again to play there. The next step for the band in the near future is to play shows with this new album in the coming months, because we played only two songs. We had a 30th anniversary show in Budapest last year, and we played only two songs from this new album, so nobody knew these songs, so finally we can show it. Like I said, most of the songs were written in the rehearsal room, so it's not like sitting in your living room writing songs, it can be good but it's much different when you try that in a rehearsal room, therefore I feel that these songs can be powerful onstage as well, and I can't wait to perform those songs live, so it will be important, that's all.

Entered: 6/13/2024 2:17:57 PM

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