Interview: Ophidian I
We spent a considerable amount of time and effort on the album and can’t wait to get it out in the open. It will be almost cathartic to get it released.
Ophidian I play death metal augmented with the right amount of melody and sheer technicality. Their second album Desolate (The band’s long awaited follow up to debut album Solvet Saeclum from 2012) is just about to be released. Gavin Brown caught up with Ophidian I guitarist Daníel Máni Konráðsson to hear all about Desolate as well as the return of the band and the evolution of their sound, the music scene in their native Iceland, memorable gigs and their favourite technical death metal albums.
E&D: Your new album Desolate is out soon. How excited are you to be getting the album out there?
Daniel: We are very excited! We spent a considerable amount of time and effort on the album and can’t wait to get it out in the open. It will be almost cathartic to get it released; especially while being partnered with Season of Mist as we couldn’t be happier to be working with them.
E&D: This is the first new Ophidian I album since your debut Solvet Saeclum in 2012. How excited are you for the band to be back?
Daniel: It’s awesome to be back and especially to be way stronger than the band was in the past. We definitely consider the band to have now been founded anew and we view the band effectively as a new one.
E&D: What is the reason behind the long gap between the two albums?
Daniel: After the release of the previous album the band essentially went on hiatus (apart from a few select shows here and there). The members of the band went on to work on other projects and continued to develop their respective traits and abilities while working on other music. The spark and interest in technical music was always prevalent and after a few years had past the idea came about to start the band up again – and this time totally reinvent everything about the band. Therefore we went ahead with a new line-up, material and concept. After getting together and feeling that we were all on the same page we went full-force into the making of the band and album. We spent our days in the rehearsal space and studio working on the sound, interplay and songs and worked tirelessly until we felt we had gotten to a point where we’d taken the songs and sounds as far as we could. Then we went into the studio and recorded the album that was then to be Desolate.
E&D: How do you feel that your sound has evolved in that time?
Daniel: It has changed considerably. We ourselves find little in common with the previous iteration of the band although we care for our roots and all of our experiences that made us into the people and musicians we are today. When we went into the making of this album we had a very specific and clear goal of what we wanted to accomplish. We wanted to make a very technical album, but really focus on making the songs and arrangements as good as we could. We wanted to implement hooks and melodies in the way they are done traditionally, but utilise our technical abilities to even further those attributes. Make the hooks even catchier and the drops even heavier. We went back and forth from the studio and rehearsal space for a long time in order to get everything exactly to where we wanted and didn’t settle for anything. No compromises. This resulted in an album that feels and sounds way more mature, bigger, heavier, soulful, melodic, catchy – withholds all the features we set out to implement.
E&D: Do you feel that you are all more proficient musicians today and your music represents that?
Daniel: Yeah for sure. The years we spent working on other music, as well as ourselves, definitely shows. We’ve all made accomplishments with other acts and deepened our knowledge of our instruments and music to the point where we almost feel like different people compared to before. As the music relies on proficiency for most of its delivery, our capabilities are in the foreground for almost all of the album. So much of the album could almost be defined as a showcase of those qualities.
E&D: How did the creation and recording process of Desolate go?
Daniel: It went very well. It took time to develop the sound and feel, but it was very fun and engaging to work on. Everybody was on the same page and we all were aspiring to get to the same place. Having a collective that’s all building in the same direction is very inspiring and promotes a healthy and positive work environment. We went about writing the album by starting out with a chord structure or a hook of some sort. We then approached the song as a whole from the start and decided what we wanted to do with the song and how we wanted it to be built. Then we went on and effectively created an initial demo. Afterwards we went into the rehearsal space to play the song together and figure out all the quirks in the room together. We then went back to the studio and made a new demo referencing those changes. We went back and forth a number of times until we were satisfied and sure we had taken the song as far as we could.
E&D: What has been the biggest influence both musically and lyrically on the songs on Desolate?
Daniel: There weren’t really any specific influences for the album as a whole. We had such a specific goal and sound in mind that we were mainly looking to that idea as inspiration. That being said, all our knowledge and all we do is of course originally built on our favourite bands and artists. These range from all over the musical spectrum, from Necrophagist and Spawn of Possession to The Smashing Pumpkins, Sigrid and Bill Frisell. Definitely from all over. Lyrically we sought inspiration from our own experiences. Most of the lyrics are of personal nature and derived from our experiences. Many of them are allegorically set in a world somewhat parallel to the highlands and glaciers of Iceland. Places that are harsh and difficult to manoeuvre. These trials and hardships are mirrored in those we know and recognise personally.
E&D: Can you tell us about the striking artwork for Desolate and what it represents?
Daniel: The artwork for the album is essentially a snapshot of the world we visualised with the lyrics. It is harsh and unrelenting but still very beautiful and surreal. We feel this applies to the music as well, as although being very dense it is still harmonically rich and should have something for everyone. Eliran Kantor did a great job bringing this world to life. He is an incredible artist that was a pleasure to work with. Truly one of a kind.
E&D: You’ve released the album tracks ‘Spiral To Oblivion’ and ‘Diamonds’ so far. Do you feel that these two tracks are the perfect introduction to the sound of the new album?
Daniel: Every track on the album has its particular vibe so we’d be happy to bring any one of them out and be representative of the album! Those two are songs that we ourselves are extremely happy with and both aptly portray the sound and different facets of Ophidian I and the music we now make. Yes, they absolutely are expressive of Desolate and illustrate well what’s to be expected from the album.
E&D: What has the reaction to the new music been like so far?
Daniel: It has been very positive. Of course we can now only rely on social media for feedback so we haven’t really had much of it, but that we’ve seen has been very positive. Hopefully once we are able to be in physical vicinity of listeners we’ll hear more from those that are intrigued and into the band. We are very much looking forward to that.
E&D: The way you combine the technicality and melody is immense. Do you feel that the two compliment your music perfectly?
Daniel: That was a huge deal for us, to implement many of the traditional manners of songwriting, including the melodies. That was a bit tricky to get down at first, but once we got the hang of it, it felt like we had found ‘our sound’ as it then almost poured out of us. Sort of like finding a muscle you didn’t know you had. As we were now able to have the melody play an integral part and we’re laser focused on the songs and their structure it still felt very liberating, even though we were working within somewhat confined methods of writing (traditionally). Being able to seek inspiration from all over the musical spectrum and be able to directly apply it to our music felt incredibly good and was sort of like coming full circle and tying every aspect and influence we know together. We are very happy with how those two features work together and they will continue to be a very important part of our sound going forward.
E&D: What are some of your favourite technical metal albums of all time?
Daniel: Necrophagist – Epitaph is of course a hugely influential one. Spawn of Possession – Cabinet and Psycroptic – Ob(Servant) were very important to us all at one point or another. Albums that definitely shaped us all.
E&D: The members of Ophidian I have been in Icelandic bands Helfró, Beneath, Une Misère and Atrum. Did the time in those bands act as a breeding ground for the music of Ophidian I?
Daniel: Yes, that time was hugely important in making the sound of Ophidian I possible. We were able to bring in all we had learned from being in those bands and combine the best we could find from all of them. Playing music, whatever genre, and bringing together multiple different tastes and talents has been very important for us in creating the melting pot of Desolate and the sound and feel of Ophidian I as a collective.
E&D: How much does Iceland as a country, the history and nature of the country, influence the bands music?
Daniel: Not so much consciously, but everything about our country is prevalent in ourselves so the influence is all-consuming within our music. When listening back to the album it is very easy to find the ‘Icelandic’ part of the sound. The grandiose harmony and melancholy, as well as the ‘cold’ feel some of them have, are almost visually inducing our country so even though we don’t really try to apply an influence from here, it finds its way there regardless. We don’t shy away from it either, it is part of us so we’re happy to embrace it.
E&D: Who are some of your favourite Icelandic artists and bands of all time and who are some of your current favourites?
Daniel: Personally one of my favourite bands is Sigur Rós. Recording Desolate in their studio was therefore a really awesome experience for me. The sound and world they’ve built has a very special place in my heart and I believe they are an extremely important band both in a domestic and global context. Truly an exceptional band. One I will always look up to. Our friends in Cult Of Lilith released an awesome album last year that has been doing really well for them. Same goes for our friends in Sinmara whom have been producing quality black metal for years that’s long become renowned within the genre.
E&D: Have you got any live plans yet or is it still too soon to tell?
Daniel: At this time we don’t have anything planned. We are hoping to get out there as soon as possible, but we’ll wait until it is possible before putting anything in motion.
E&D: Are you looking forward to playing the new material on the live stage as soon as you can?
Daniel: Yes, very. This is definitely music that has to be experienced live as the ferocity and speed is most aptly translated in that setting. We can’t wait to get out on the stage once the time is right.
E&D: What have been some of the most memorable gigs that Ophidian I have ever played? The ones that stick out most in your mind
Daniel: We did a very memorable gig with Darkest Hour a few years back that had lots of complications and quirks that are fun to look back on. We also played Eistnaflug in Neskaupstaður with Defeated Sanity as well as a number of other bigger bands. That was an awesome show as well.
E&D: What have been some of the highlights of your time with Ophidian I so far?
Daniel: Looking back on the band, the time hasn’t really been that expansive as these are only a few years where the band was consistently active. The highlight so far is absolutely signing to Season Of Mist and to be now releasing Desolate with them. The highlight is now, and continuously so!