Poema Arcanvs - Interview
Truly blasting open the metal doors with their 2nd album, "Iconoclast", Poema Arcanvs have created quite a stir around the metal world. "Iconoclast" released earlier this years has received very high acclaim from many underground magazines and webzines all in favor of the unique vision and musical skill that Poema Arcanvs injects into the metal scene. It is records like "Iconoclast" that truly open new horizons for metal and the world music scenes in general. If you haven’t sampled the mythical world of Poema Arcanvs, then do so! Check out a few mp3s from their website at www.poemaarcanus.cl, in the meantime sit back and relax, while reading these thoughtful answers provided by vocalist Claudio and guitarist Igor.
"Iconoclast" is your new album and a superb one at that. Rating 9/10 at Metalbite.com and receiving many high scores on well-known metal platforms around the world, this was really an album that has enabled you to reach through to new areas, right?
Igor Levia (I): Of course, and I think this interview is proof of that. The sole fact that our music has crossed the whole Pacific Ocean is something that amazes me. We have also been interviewed from other countries such as Greece, Poland, Turkey, and others, and it’s always amazing. Anyway it is hard to measure how much real interest there is in the worldwide scene for our music nowadays. Only time will tell.
You are relatively unknown band in terms of the world metal scene. How did Poema Arcanvs come together? Also do any of your members have any side projects that they are involved with musically?
Claudio Carrasco (C): Yes, we are an unknown band, this is something we are very aware of, and we are trying to change that through worldwide promotion and this kind of interview, for example. We began in 1992 when Igor and I were still in high school. I wanted to form an extreme metal band, and I used to record some grunts on tapes singing as guttural as I could, over instrumental songs of other metal bands. One day I showed them to Igor (I knew he played guitar very well in “gay metal” bands, [laughs]) and he liked it; then it was a simple and natural “let’s form a brutal band”. Anyway we didn’t start to work seriously until 1995, due to the lack of proper members for the band. Before that it was just something for fun. So, as you see, we weren’t members of other bands before forming ours. We have several side projects but usually only for fun, some Grindcore, Thrash and Punk freak bands as: Foetal Maceration, Mugre, Nonoxinol 9, Atomic Noise Machine.
There are also a couple of more serious side projects as a solo one of Igor in the vein of Nevermore / Voivod, plus the other band of Michel (keyboard player) called Aganice on which he sings (they are recording a demo right now). Anyway Poema Arcanvs is always the prime band.
When did Aftermath Music get in contact with you? Had you started writing any of this new material for "Iconoclast" before Aftermath Music approached you or only after Aftermath approached you guys? Also what is the album contract for Aftermath Music like, how many albums can we expect you to release under them?
C: I have "or had?" a magazine called 'Nubila'. I knew Aftermath and Haavard by reviewing some of their releases in the zine. We recorded the album independently before contacting any label, so after that, we just started sending promos to foreign labels, as we thought this record was good enough to get their attention. Aftermath was very enthusiastic about "Iconoclast", and as we knew about the quality of Aftermath's work we decided to accept their deal. It is only a deal for this album, Haavard (the owner) offers this kind of deal to the bands to let them free after the release; both him and us think it is the best way to work for an underground band and also for an independent label.
Now, if both parties are satisfied about how things came out, we can agree to something for a next record, and if not we are free to look for another label. So in other words, we are almost an unsigned band and we have at least 5 new killer tracks!! [Laughs].
The word 'iconoclast' means something along the lines of a renegade, or a rebel, someone or something that is non-conformist. The music on "Iconoclast" is certainly against the grain of standard dark metal (if you can call it that), is the general idea behind the name of the album, "Iconoclast", because I would have to say it is one of the most aptly titled albums I have ever heard...
I: I guess you are the first guy who notices that intention in our music. When we started thinking about the concept for the album we were kind of tired of the whole gothic metal trend. I mean, there were a lot of cliches being used and re-used, and there were a lot of bands that seemed to be more concerned about their gothic look that about the music. So we wanted to escape as far as we could away from all those cliches. Don’t get me wrong, though, we like a lot of dark and melancholic music, but I think our attitude towards the whole music – image subject is more related with some 80’s – early 90’s bands. Emotional and interesting music has always to be our prime goal. That’s how on "Iconoclast" we didn’t mind on putting some Voivod influences here and there or even some kind of weird death metal song ('Iconoclast'), because that’s the music we love: from Fields of the Nephilim to Napalm Death. We didn’t want to "fit" into the gothic metal thing, so we didn’t care about how the songs came out. We’re just musicians and metal guys.
While you have chosen a great name for the title of your album, I can’t think of a more controversial name for your band. Poema Arcanvs I have seen spelled as 'Poema Arcanvs' and I have also seen it spelled equally as 'Poema Arcanus'. Personally, speaking I spell it as 'Poema Arcanvs', but just to set the record straight could you fill us in?
C: The correct spelling in Latin is Poema Arcanvs, but the majority of people spells 'Poema Arcanus'... but it isn’t a great problem for us. Besides the new web site URL of the band will be www.poemaarcanus.cl with "u", because it is the most popular way to spell the name of the band. About the meaning, it would be something like arcane poetry, a hidden, internal, secret and forgotten poem. This concept fits very well with the kind of atmosphere we put on the lyrics and the way on which we express them, usually through metaphors and some kind of poetical language... at least this is what we intend to do.
Have you (Claudio Carrasco) had any formal, professional singing training? Because with a bit of work you could well expand into opera or something of that nature... not that I want you to leave Poema Arcanvs because that would really be a tragedy.
C: Ohhhh, thanks very much for your words! Well, I took some lessons in the past in my University for 6 months and then with a particular female teacher for almost 3 months; besides when I was a child I sang in the school’s choir... that’s all my "serious" training. When at University my teacher advised me to take serious lessons with a bass opera male singer, but I didn’t have the money and the time. Anyway I’d like to learn more about techniques and it would be great if I could take more formal lessons to sing in an opera and stuff like that (I’m joking)... I think it would allow me to experience a lot more in the band.
Having not heard any material from your last effort "Arcane XIII", I would like to ask whether "Iconoclast" differs much from the previous Poema Arcanvs record?
C: Sure it does, but not in the mood of the music and the dark atmospheres, in other words the essence of the band is the same. The differences are mainly in the instrumental performance, superb production (both sonic and graphical) and the dynamism of the songs. On "Iconoclast" there is a more professional way to compose the music, a major game of contrasts and more identity as a band... "Arcane XIII" is a great album, but only a great doom metal album, as opposed to "Iconoclast", which is the result of a lot of experimentation, a deeper musical quest and the influences from the new members.
Track number three, titled 'Elegía' isn’t an English song. What is this song about?
I: 'Elegía' simply means "Elegy". I could say it is a song taken from real life, although the language could make it not so easy to understand (and that’s even if you speak Spanish).
The song is about how you build your own artificial paradises to forget loneliness: how you can dive into seas of semi unconsciousness, toxicity, different kinds of dirt, etc. That way you pretend you can get friendship, love, etc. At the end of the trip you remain as lonely as before (if not more lonely). It seems like it would be better to live without all that, but somehow you need that "dirt". I have to make it clear that there are no morals involved in the song, we’re not saying whether it is a good or a bad thing, we are just describing a feeling we have had sometimes.
I haven’t seen a copy of the lyrics for "Iconoclast", what is the album about? From looking at the song titles my guess would be a lot of conceptual sort of topics, I mean there are certainly a lot of interesting titles...
I: The album is kind of a semi-conceptual one, I mean, there is a basic background subject which is focused in very different ways for each song. It isn’t a sort of story or something like that, but just different views of the same subject.
This whole thing was born when I traveled to Macchu Picchu, in Perú (the ruins of a lost city that was part of the Inca Empire). Being there I was very impressed, because I kind of comprehended the wisdom which underlies the Inca beliefs. Everything was based on a strong and deep knowledge of nature (they were great astronomers and had a very accurate calendar, to name a few examples), so religion, science and art were a single and indivisible thing. Then the focus moves to contemporary western culture, where we "artificially create" our world. That’s how finally this "human" world is constructed only by fake images, which work as substitutes for real and essential things. Not only religion, but also many times things such as love, friendship, success and others often become just inventions we desperately embrace to avoid the fear of loneliness, infinite and void. The album is about the destruction of those icons, hence the title "Iconoclast".
"Iconoclast" being such a phenomenal album, and you guys being the weavers of the tapestry I hope you have been doing some touring around the world to support it, is this the case? Perhaps Australia may be on your overseas touring destination?
C: I would like your words to turn into reality, but unfortunately a world tour is only a dream for us so far. The band is still unknown and it is very difficult to pull our asses out of our country... we receive a lot of invitations to play in foreign places, but we can’t pay the tickets for ourselves at the moment (they are quite expensive). Maybe we could likely visit South American countries, but the scenes in this part of the world are kind of closed; there’s not a real interest to see a Chilean band in Argentina, for example; except for the ones doing European tours like Krisiun or Criminal for example. If we could choose a country to play, Australia would be likely in our priorities, I want to ride a kangaroo and drink with some metalheads, especially your local wine!!
I: Maybe we should go swimming to Australia! (yeah, right! [laughs])
I think 'Distances' is your most accomplished song on the album. The somber introduction with gentle keyboards/guitars and a sort of eerie atmosphere atop some jazzy bass lines really paves the way for the rest of the song. A wonderful track. Tell me about this track, the idea behind it, the song-writing process... everything to do with 'Distances'. I am truly in awe of this song. This has been one of the best songs I have had the pleasure of listening to this year.
I: Uhhhh thanks! I guess you’ve already said it all!. Well, 'Distances' is a song about how life’s circumstances can freeze a relationship, in this case a friendship, to a point on which the only remaining things are memories. It’s about how a person who was once a close friend starts slowly becoming a stranger, and how useless it is trying to bring those memories back to life. It is something that always happens with people that for different reasons have to take a different path than yours in life.
As you can see it’s a very melancholic and intimate subject, and at the same time it is subtle as it doesn’t involve tragedy, death or something like that; that’s why the music has the atmosphere you described. In this song we did a lot of sonic experimentation and we wanted it to have the "sophistication", we wanted to draw landscapes through sounds. The song is all about the details, arrangements, etc.
One thing I have noticed from listening to "Iconoclast" is that while keyboards feature strongly on the record, they are used very subtly which is a nice change from other dark metal bands who have a tendency to go over the top with bombastic samples and interludes during songs. Was this always in the back of your mind when recording "Iconoclast", to not go overboard?
I: First of all, we’re a metal band, and we don’t want to lose heaviness by over-using keyboards. You can see very often that when a band puts tons of keyboard layers and arrangements, the other instruments are doing just basic lines, just like an accompanying riffing, you know, not interesting arrangements. I think they do so (to put a lot of keyboards) to hide how poor are their compositions for the other instruments. We just try to give enough room for every instrument, you know, to keep a balance, as I think every guy in the band has some nice chops to play.
Another reason could be the fact that we are essentially a live band, I mean, we don’t like to rely too much on sequencers and stuff, we actually like to play our music, and as Michel only has two hands, he cannot try to sound like a full orchestra. Besides, he’s not the typical "I wanna make a lot of fast solos and show how good I play" kind of keyboard player. He likes a lot of minimalist music, and he likes heavy and brutal stuff a lot, so he just tries to make the right arrangement at the right time.
Has it ever crossed your mind to move to Europe or maybe the USA for Poema Arcanvs as it would prove more effective for live shows and promotions and the like? Is there much of a metal scene in Chile?
C: It is an idea that always has been in our minds, but it's a hard decision because we have several compromises in our country; jobs, family, girlfriends, etc... Anyway we are waiting for a bigger worldwide feedback, and it would be a good reason to think seriously in moving our asses there.
I: There’s also the whole visa issue too, you know, it’s not so easy for a South American person to move to those countries, even being all of us professionals and stuff. Anyway we have been considering that possibility quite seriously, because even having a nice metal scene Chile is not the best place to be if you make this kind of music.
Could you tell me how you would describe Poema Arcanvs and "Iconoclast"? I have mentioned to a lot of friends about "Iconoclast", and they ask me 'Ok, man. I'll check 'em out, but what style of metal are they?' As you well know you guys are pretty hard to categorise.
C: Well, I would categorize us like some kind of Arcane Metal [laughs]. Would it be ok for your friends?
I: I think you’re asking the wrong guys, you know, we're so much into our music that we could not even try to label it. The trees don't let us see the forest.
Thanks for answering these questions for me and for the viewers at Metalbite. I am very grateful for your time. Stay dark and metal!
C: We are extremely thankful for your support and interest in the band, we hope to drink something with you one day in Australia. For the headbangers that didn't know us, try to download some mp3s from our site and listen to them without prejudice.
I: Thanks for the cool interview and cheers!!! (www.poemaarcanus.cl) Arcane Dark Cheers!
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