One of the most innovative Black Metal projects DARKESTRAH has just released a noteworthy new album: “Chong-Aryk”. After four years of absence, DARKESTRAH returns with a complex material that transcends the spheres of Black Metal. We talked to Asbath, drummer & founding member of DARKESTRAH, about their newest material and many more in an enchanting interview.
CVLT: Hi! “Chong-Aryk” presents itself as a material with one hell of a sound. Tell us a bit about it!
Asbath: “Chong-Aryk” is the first Darkestrah record that was not recorded in a “real” studio. With time we have accumulated enough experience and equipment to handle our recordings ourselves. “Chong-Aryk” was recorded by Resurgemus, our guitarist and keyboarder, and Cerritus, our bassist, in our rehearsal room. Being independent of the studio schedule, we had all the time we need, to experiment and achieve the sound we really wanted, even despite Corona-related limitations. Also, since now we have Magus on board, we did not have to rely on session musicians to handle acoustic instruments which brought a lot of new possibilities.
The album was mixed and mastered by Andy Schmidt of the band Disillusion. The choice was practically a no-brainer for us, we’ve worked with him since the “Epos” album, always to mutual satisfaction.
When you start a Black Metal band, it has to be more or less clear to you that you won’t grow into a stadium-level band without making some major compromises.
Where the inspiration to use these specific traditional instruments does come from?
The specific instrument hast to have the sound, that underlines and strengthens the atmosphere of the song, not underplays it. And Magus, being a real connoisseur of traditional sounds has selected just the right instruments for each part.
Do you think it’s difficult nowadays to come up with something original that sets you apart from other bands?
I guess coming up with something interesting and unusual has always been equally hard. The difference nowadays is rather that because the scene is overcrowded (every scene), and the attention span of the audience has shortened, it has become harder to get to the listener, even with modern promotion techniques. But that is a different story altogether. The creative process is as hard or as easy as your skills, goals, mood makes it.
You are now back after a four-year break. What happened in the last years and what were the hardest moments?
We played gigs in Germany, Belgium, Switzerland, and France, had several line-up changes. With the arrival of Magus and new singer Charuk, we’ve become a six-piece band. I can’t say that we had any specific hardships, most of the developments were more or less natural.
What is the hardest thing a band has to overcome when starting to play? Can one think of success when we refer to such a niche?
The hardest thing is to keep playing. Skip things, because you have to rehearse or have a gig. In other words, not losing the commitment.
As for success, well when you start a Black Metal band, it has to be more or less clear to you that you won’t grow into a stadium-level band without making some major compromises. But becoming appreciated and recognizable is absolutely possible.
There are many descriptions of the ideal state of mind for being creative. What is it like for you? What supports this ideal state of mind and what are distractions? Are there strategies to enter into this state more easily?
There is no THE state of mind perfect for creation. Judging from my experience, the trick is to channel your mood, state, conditions into the creative process, make it work for you, not against you, not lose focus and inspiration.
Let’s get back to the new material “Chong-Aryk”. If you were to advertise it, as a TV commercial, let’s say, what would you start with and what would it look like?
Chong-Aryk (meaning “Great Pit”), is a cemetery near Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan, my and Darkestrah’s city of origin. A rather nightmarish place, I would say. So such a TV commercial would start with the footage of Chong-Aryk and the album’s intro. If one won’t turn it off, then he is our potential listener.
Do you think metal music, namely yours, can be educational at some level?
Sure. If you handle some uncommon topics, and I dare say that at least some of our topics are not common knowledge outside of Central Asia, and if your music is captivating, it is very much possible to interest someone in deeper studying of these topics. If you use some uncommon sounds or lean onto some lesser-known musical tradition it is the same.
And I am very proud to say that I have been contacted by people from all around the world who told me that Darkestrah has sparked their interest in Central Asian culture and history.
How do you feel Darkestrah has grown in the time since your previous album, both personally and musically?
We have a stronger, more reliable line-up, the teamwork has improved. We have a better understanding and command of the acoustic, traditionally instrumented part of our music now, and of how to arrange it together with the metal part. The new album is darker, more “funerary” than “Turan”, which is exactly the atmosphere we wanted it to have.
In a world increasingly affected by selfishness and indifference, is there any more passion for art?
I have it, other Darkestrah members have it, people I know have it. Maybe it is not that trist after all?
If your music travels the world, where do you think it will find its fulfillment and inner peace?
As I said, Chong-Aryk is a name of a real place. So, I think, exactly there.
When listeners make their way through your music and hear all the songs, what do you want them to feel? What kind of situation do you see your music accompanying?
It is a hard question. The album is dark and brooding, but I’ve been making music long enough and been a fan for an even longer time to know that more often than not the listener’s reaction to a piece of music is the polar opposite of the feelings the author channeled into it. It is all very individual. So I really do not try to force this or that specific emotion onto people. As long as the music doesn’t leave one indifferent, the goal has been achieved.
You can pre-order “Chong-Aryk”, HERE.