A lot of cultural events has been planned in the course of the past 5 years to commemorate the First World War. A conceptual funeral doom album that tackles this topic, however, we did not yet see. That is until American doom masters, Evoken released “Hypnagogia” (for my review of the album go here). Long standing drummer Vince Verkay takes us through the nightmarish world that shaped their latest record.
Atra Mors was a very well received milestone for doom. How did you go from there to the next album?
That’s a difficult question to answer. I know this sounds strange or may come off as being evasive. I could easily embellish the writing process for this album, but it would undermine the album and the honesty behind the songs.
There’s nothing “special” or unique when writing for Hypnagogia. The writing process changed very little, so it’s still organic.
You have used the First World War as a theme before. I remember, for instance, the footage you had as a backdrop on your Roadburn performance a few years back. What fascinates you about this particular part of history?
The footage you’re referring to is a 1993 film titled ‘Begotten’. Although it can interpreted in many ways, war being one of them, this doesn’t tie in with WW1. We used the footage to represent our music in a visual context. It’s a film that stays with you.
You are not the only band to try their hand at a part of man’s times of war. Contrary to what Iron Maiden or Sabaton would do, you do not really focus on the actual historic events but rather the experience of the people in it and then expand it to the stuff that nightmares are made of?
History to me is a window into our past and our future. Throughout the history of human beings, humanity was at the cusp of collapse because of ignorance. One event was WW1. It was the first time doctors acknowledged the psychological impact of warfare. Physical wounds heal with time. A scar may develop, but scars are also a sign of healing. Mental wounds are hidden and suffer a far heavier result. These men, just as those who followed, tend to suffer in silence. Today there’s various ways to find help. It’s not stigmatized like it was during and after WW1. I find it far more interesting than the cold & droning narration of those pulling the strings to begin a world war or any war.
The album title ‘Hypnagogia’ also refers to that shady world between dreaming and waking ?
Going from the sleep state to a wake stake is Hypnopompic. Going from a wake state to a sleep state is Hypnagogia.
A concept album in this genre is not so common. How did it come about?
Anytime I need to clear my mind or come up with ideas I enjoy going for a walk. Once we decided we had enough material for a new album, I started listening night after night trying to get a sense of atmosphere for lyrics. That’s when I went back to reading the journals of foot soldiers during WW1. I write lyrics metaphorically, so they needed to make sense when reading them to describe the past few years of my life along with this back story. These journals did exactly that.
Could you tell a litte bit more about the story?
It’s a story of betrayal, jealousy and rage. A typical foot soldier sent to the frontline, realizing everything was a lie. Wounded and alone on a single hilltop that’s unscathed by war and overlooking the battlefield. Accepting his mortality, he’s crushed with grief he’ll never see those he cared about again. The rage of being lied to, minimizing his sacrifice and pride. All leading to his only option in making sure his memory is everlasting. Seeking punishment for anyone living in happiness.
The artwork is quite unusual also. Especially the color pallet with these warm, autumn hues is a stark contract to the nightmarish sound contained within.
It can represent anything you wish. It allows a degree of imagination. Yes, it shows serenity, yet underneath that serene landscape hides a dark past. I can feel a cold wind change into the distant cries of hundreds begging to bring them home. Again, it obscures a deeper suffering..
Any plans for a tour on this side of the pond?
We will be coming back over. We have a couple of ideas, but they’re in the very early stage of planning. In the past, majority of our focus centered around playing overseas with a couple of dates here & there in the US. This wasn’t a choice, but playing this style of extreme doom had its limitations. This has slowly changed which is allowing us to plan more shows inside the US & Canada.
Seeing this is a concept album, it would be cool idea to perform the album as a whole.
I’m sure it would be fantastic, but it wouldn’t be fair to those who are seeing us for the 1st time. Which means it’s their first experience in hearing older songs.
Is there anything you want to share still that you feel we have not covered yet?
There are a few updates. Antithesis of Light is available on vinyl via Peaceville Records (also Quietus on vinyl). I Hate Records released a double CD digipak of “A Caress of the Void” which includes songs originally released as a split with Beneath the Frozen Soil. Hammerheart Records, is releasing Hypnagogia on cassette. Keep checking our Facebook & Instagram sites. We’ll see everyone on tour.