Making music is an important part of life. It's exciting to be able to express your own thoughts and feelings by turning them into audible notes. The music should always change a little bit, because also the life from which it originates should always be in change.
Adapting any work is always a risk, but there’s no denying that when it works the results can be stunning, presenting a reinterpretation viewed from an angle and perspective that will never have been attempted before. It’s exactly that challenge that Swiss atmospheric black metal band Aara attempted with their Triade trilogy, an epic take on Melmoth The Wanderer, Charles Maturin’s 19th century indictment of Catholic doctrine and espousal of his own Protestant views. With Triade III: Nyx, they have brought this experiment to a close and so we felt it was the right time to catch up with Berg (guitar, bass, keyboards) and Fluss (vocals) to discuss Triade, Maturin, their unique sound and what lies next for the trio.
E&D: Thank you both for giving me your time, and of course for the music. You’ve finally completed the Triade trilogy; taken together with the other parts, it really does feel like a complete work. At what point did you decide that a trilogy was necessary for what you wanted to achieve with this?
Berg: We saw it as an exciting challenge to tell a concept over a longer period of time and thus also more music, instead of making a short outline and squeezing everything onto one album. At the same time, of course, the literary model Melmoth the Wanderer is quite complex and therefore difficult to summarise in a nutshell. It has actually been more exhausting than expected to deal with the same topic for years, but we are satisfied with the overall work and are happy that it can now continue with something new.
E&D: How do you feel the compositions stand, and sound, in comparison to the first two parts?
Berg: It was important that we try to make the three albums coherent, which is not so easy, especially if you do a by on your own like we do. With Triade I: Eos we had the most freedom, because here we could interact completely open. Triade II and III should then follow this «base», but of course not being a copy of it. The second part is more chaotic and wilder than the other two. Triade III: Nyx was meant to combine aspects of the first two parts while incorporating a sense of closure. The last part is probably the most calm and harmonious part of all three and also strikes a few parallels back to En Ergô Einai.
E&D: The work is based on Charles Maturin’s’ Melmoth The Wanderer. Why choose to adapt this work, or to adapt any work at all? Do Maturin’s themes or philosophy reflect your attitudes towards life/art in any way?
Fluss: We came across Melmoth the Wanderer in a bookshop randomly, and at that time we were already looking for subject to base a concept album on. After reading it, we thought that it would be fitting to make it a three-part concept album. The Gothic novel is full of dark atmosphere and strong images, which are wonderfully suited to capture them in literary as well as musical form. In Melmoth many big themes like death, betrayal, faith, and love were united. Maturin criticises Catholicism and various religions, as well as the unbeliever in the person of Melmoth, who has made a pact with the devil. In the novel Maturin places his own Protestant-Anglican view as the only truth above everything else, following the aspects he himself condemns in other views. With the album trilogy we try to illuminate this field of tension from today’s perspective and to revive it through the telling of the story. This is not to glorify Maturin’s work, however, as his condemnatory attitude and rather primitive criticism of Catholicism and all faiths outside of the Protestantism he preached are very evident. This was not a reason for us to select this work, rather it was interesting for us to deal with the book as a contemporary witness of the 19th century zeitgeist. This, the different aspects of the development of man and cultural history, is in the foreground for Aara. We see all the different religions as a fascinating and formative part of human history. We simply enjoy taking a closer look at certain themes and, by incorporating them into the music and the design concept, creating our own and new work of art.
E&D: How closely do the lyrics reflect Maturin’s work and how much is coming from your own perspective?
Fluss: I worked very closely to the book during writing the lyrics of the Triade series and followed the storyline, as does the music. In the lyrics, I adapted some lines of text from the German translation of Melmoth the Wanderer by Friedrich Polakovics. I also worked with small dialogues and word exchanges, which gives the lyrics and the singing on this album a new dimension. Basically, however, Melmoth cannot be read through our lyrics, as they are very abstract, following the narrative thread indirectly but not literally. Some texts are completely freely written and are rather meant to capture certain images and the atmosphere described in certain scenes. When writing the texts, it was always more important to create something poetic than to express a view or opinion from Aara.
E&D: Your approach to songwriting feels complex. It has a strong melodic basis but it’s very densely layered. Can you say a little about your approach to song construction, and how this evolved throughout your time working together?
Berg: The songwriting happens very spontaneously and intuitively. I always record demo versions of the albums first and then pass the songs on to the drum recording. As soon as that is ready everything is recorded again more professionally. That’s how we’ve been doing it since the second album and so far it’s working pretty well.
E&D: Beyond your metal roots, there are strong strains of classical music woven through your compositions. What composers influenced you? Do you feel that there is something in classical and opera that pairs particularly well with black metal?
Berg: Oh, there are many – I’m particularly fond of Renaissance, German and Italian Baroque, Wiener Klassik and a few Romantic composers. Favourites change all the time, but Carl Phillip Emanuel Bach has a special place. I don’t know if Black Metal has many parallels to classical music. For me, both have a dense atmosphere, which can range from dark, dramatic, airy, festive, and energetic. Although, from a purely musical point of view, it is probably presumptuous to try to compare black metal with something timeless.
E&D: One thing I love throughout your recent works has been your use of choral elements. They’re used sparingly but are always highly effective. How are these sections constructed and recorded? Do they play a different role to the melodies and harsher vocals, particularly regarding the atmosphere of the songs?
Berg: The choirs add certain climaxes to the music, which work more effectively if they are not present all the time. The choirs are sampled; similar to what is done in other genres, I cut parts out of existing choral pieces, reassemble them differently and pitch them if necessary. I don’t try to match the guitars to the samples but the samples have to fit the already existing guitars, then something unpredictable usually happens.
E&D: It seems like you have kept a constant momentum right since the band formed. What has been the key to staying prolific while avoiding repetition?
Berg: Making music is an important part of life. It’s exciting to be able to express your own thoughts and feelings by turning them into audible notes. The music should always change a little bit, because also the life from which it originates should always be in change. In the case of Triade, we had to be careful not to deviate too far from what the previous parts contained, because it should give a coherent picture. Therefore, we are curious how the next album will develop.
E&D: With En Ergô Einai, Jöschu Käser came on board as your drummer and third member. Beyond his technical ability, what do you feel has been his most important contribution to the band and to your music?
Berg: It is his demand to and knowledge of music, which is very beneficial to us. In addition, he took care of the complete production of the music of En Ergô Einai and was thus responsible for the sound.
E&D: From the beginning, you have worked exclusively with Debemur Morti Productions. How did this relationship begin and why do you feel the partnership has worked so well up to now?
Berg: Not quite exclusively. The first album was released on Naturmacht Productions, which is also an excellent label. We were contacted by Phil (DMP) and asked what we already have for future material. I think both parties are very happy with each other, we both try to work together as professionals and as closely as possible, which has been very fruitful so far. The team at DMP are great people so Aara will remain a part of DMP.
E&D: Given that Triade has ended, what do you see as the next step for Aara?
Berg: The next album is already in an advanced state and I hope that it can be released at the beginning of 2024. Conceptually, we are going down completely new paths again.
E&D: Finally, I just wanted to say thank you for everything once again. If you have any final words, we’d love to hear them.
Berg: Thank you for your interest in Aara.