Hi! How has the band evolved and grown throughout its history, and what has contributed to its longevity in the music scene?
Hello there, Stanley. As for your question, we always wanted to play death metal and not any death metal but we wanted to do it like the Americans were doing it back in the 90’s and even at the end of the 80’s. It was obvious that when we started we weren’t as skilled as we are today, so our first attempts were poor and we were aware of that but with time, we were becoming better and better and when we came to a conclusion that we were good enough, we recorded our first demo tape called „Awareness”, which, by the way, we are still very proud of. As a matter of fact, up to a couple of years ago we had been playing the title track during our shows. The demo itself was recorded in the year 2000 and a year and a half later, we were ready with our next demo „Introduction to the slaughter of your gods”, where our music was much more complex. Three years ago we released our demo „V-666” on which our style was defined, I would say. Then we had a short break and in 2012 we recorded our full-length debut „Anachoreo”, in 2016 „Touching the Void” and now we have our third album called „Vandari”. Although on every release you can hear death metal, each of them is different. You have songs which are both brutal, and catchy, and after a couple of listening you are able to remember the songs, it’s not a wall of sound where one track sounds exactly like any other one.
How do you feel your sound and musical direction has evolved over time, especially considering the classic and old school death metal influences present in “Vandari”?
As I said, about 2004 we defined our style which we have been developing since then. We are trying to find something new in the genre which seems to be drained out of ideas, but that is not true. We believe that death metal played in the 90’s can still be interesting and it can sound fresh. This style has still a lot to offer. As for the influences, I mentioned already the American school, but it would not be fair to say that this is our only source of inspiration. We all are in the late forties in the band so you can imagine that there are a lot of music which inspires us and it is not only metal. Giving the band’s name here is pointless because we do not copy anyone’s music but if you listen carefully you will find a lot of things which must sound familiar. It is obvious that when you like music, listen to music you must be soaked with it, so to say.
“Vandari” was recorded, mixed, and mastered at MAQ Records with the assistance of Jarosław Toifl, known for his work with bands like Crystal Viper and Darzamat. How did this collaboration come about, and how did it enhance the creative process and final outcome of the album?
We’ve worked with Jarek before. He mixed our previous album. As a matter of fact, our cooperation could have started even earlier, when we recorded „Anachoreo” but that time we picked someone else to produce our debut album. What is interesting, somewhere we have one song mixed by Jarek from that album as an example, how he wanted to do that. Jarek is a nice and talented guy. He produces a great deal of records and he is quite known here in Poland. I think we needed someone who had a different perspective. Until we met Jarek we had worked only with people who were mainly into metal and we thought, we might try something different. It doesn’t mean that we recorded our music and went home, leaving everything to him because we don’t work this way. Before we enter a studio, we have a certain vision how the material should sound. Jarek is a producer who helps with this vision to come true. Of course, we are open for suggestions and experiments out of which some work for us and some don’t but we try them. Besides, Jarek not only is a great producer but also he is an outgoing person with whom we befriended very quickly and this made our recording sessions go smoothly. I’d say that „Vandari” would be a different album if we worked with someone else.
Can you provide some insights into the concept behind the artwork and how it aligns with the album’s themes and music?
Well, I came across the word „Vandari”, while reading the book Not Without My Sister, in which authors described their lives in a cult called Children of God, and how they got out of it. That was a sex cult where abusing children was a daily practice. The followers were brainwashed and those who wanted to leave were supposed to be possessed by Vandari, a sort of evil demons, as the leaders claimed. The name was derived from „vandals”, that is VAN, „darkness”, that is DAR, an I, meaning myself. As you can see it’s a similar kind of crap you can find in many religious systems, to keep their followers in line. Same old story: you’re very welcome when they want you in but when you want out you somehow became the lowest form of life. As for the artwork, it is Vandari as is seen by our drummer Kamil who is the author of the original painting.
Can you elaborate on the musical influences and inspirations that shaped the sound and atmosphere of “Vandari”?
As I said earlier, we pick inspiration everywhere we can but it should be acceptable within the borders of the genre, death metal in our case, and the borders are not so narrow as one could think and we believe that there is a lot to discover. We still like the old school death metal but we’re also aware that there are new bands that try to explore the genre. In a way everything we like inspires us. Sometimes it doesn’t even have to be music but a book, a movie which could show us new directions both musically and
What drew you to collaborate with ADG Records, and how do you feel they understand and support your artistic vision as a band?
Funny thing, because first we were signed by a Norwegian label Whispering Voice Records but they just put our music on the streaming services, and co-financed our first video promoting the album, namely „Filth” and we never got our part of CD’s, only a couple of CDR’s with a black and white printing. We had two reviews and two interviews. Even in one of the magazines where they were talking about albums released in 2022 they noticed that the label hadn’t done much to promote Vandari. We tried to get any answers from the label, what was going on, but they started sort of avoiding us and finally we didn’t have any response so we decided the conditions of the deal hadn’t been fulfilled and we terminated it. Luckily, Solid Rock PR, which is a firm helping to promote this kind of music helped us find AGD. If I remember well, the wheel started moving in March and in June they released a beautiful digipack containing our new CD and as for the digital version, we decided to do it ourselves. We also started cooperation with Death Metal Promotion who took care of Youtube and stuff. A lot of people is helping us now and we really appreciate it.
How do you approach crafting your songs, and what elements are crucial in capturing the classic death metal essence while infusing your own unique touch?
It is hard to describe with words. I mentioned before that Artur brings new ideas, then with Kamil they perfecting them, we play them together a lot, and when the composition is mostly finished I add the lyrics and vocals. If you mention it, I would say that we do not think of the album as a whole from the beginnig. We try to give each song a unique character. The fact that they are prepared more or less in the same time, makes them kind of similar, like brothers and sisters, and that is why, they fit to each other on an album. Maybe it’s something which happens subconsciously, or spiritually, I don’t know. It’s a natural process.
“Vandari” follows a period of almost two years of work in the studio. Can you discuss the challenges and rewards of this extensive creative process, and how it has shaped the final product?
It is not that we were recording the album for two years, we had sessions, first drums, later bass, then guitars, vocals, and finally solos. We never did it for so long before but, when we were ready to record our new album, our guitarist decided to leave, then we had Covid and the studios were closed, and many other obstacles we had to overcome to finish the album. If it weren’t enough we had problems with our label and we lost other months. This is definitely an album which cost us lots of work and time. If I believed in such things I would say that someone or something was testing our patience and perseverance because it was unbelievable how many things could go wrong. But we survived.
How do you strike a balance between delivering intense and brutal death metal while maintaining a level of complexity and musical depth in your compositions?
My wife says it is our catchiest and simplest album and there is something in it. Obviously, you won’t find here dancing tracks but I believe there are a couple of songs which could be called catchy but I am not objective it’s up to listeners. I don’t know about the simple and I don’t look at it this way. We do not try to make the music complex to impress anyone. This is how we do it
How do you feel your earlier recordings have influenced your music and overall artistic direction up to this point?
It is nothing new to say that every album was another step up. We grow up as musicians, composers, lyric writers. Personally, I do not listen much to our previous releases. First of all, I have them printed in my mind because I spent long hours practicing them, and second of all when I listen to the albums I mostly hear things that could have been done better, it’s a little bit frustrating. I believe that when the album is released for me it is a closed chapter and I focus on new challenges.
What messages or concepts do you aim to convey through your lyrics, and how do they align with the atmosphere and landscape of the album?
I told you about Vandari earlier but as for the lyrics in general I like to describe things. I avoid preaching sermons, like I knew everything. I know it is a cliche but this is what I try to do. In the past, religion was the main theme I wrote about but later I decided to widen the are of my interests. If you look closely on the lyrical content you will find topics which are not so obvious for a death metal band but I don’t care, if something is worth mentioning I sing about it.
The underground metal scene has its own unique challenges and rewards. How do you navigate this environment as a band, and what impact do you feel the underground label and community have had on your journey as musicians?
Yes, death metal is not the kind of music which will help you to be rich and famous. We treat it as a hobby, a special kind of hobby because you do it on regular basis I mean rehearsals every week, gigs, recording sessions. Usually all you get in return is the awareness that you will leave something when you’re gone, that you can meet new people during gigs, that you do things most people don’t do and I must say it is quite satisfying. As for the scene, in the past we felt more a part of it, nowadays I see that most bands don’t care if there is a scene or not. I don’t think it’s bad. I remember tape trading, writing regular letters. People knew each other, bands gigged together more regularly. Today I don’t know any other band from the city I live in but I know they exist. Times changed and talking about how it was twenty, thirty years ago makes me feel old… but happy that I could experience that.
CORTEGE hails from Poland, a country with a rich history in the extreme metal genre. How has your geographical location influenced your music and artistic approach, and what connections do you feel to the wider Polish metal scene?
We are talking about extreme music so we take into consideration forty, maybe fifty years. Take, for example, punk rock or more generally rock bands in Poland. In the PRL period where we were in the so called Eastern Block under the strong of influence of the USSR some bands rebelled against the government or the omnipresent lack of hope. But they couldn’t do it openly because there was censorship that time in our country, so they sang about one thing while their listeners knew they meant another. It’s typical when you can express yourself freely because you could end up in prison if you did. There is an interesting film about music in Poland in those Times, called Beats of Freedom, I suggest you watch it. Later on, after 1989 we finally had our freedom, but with time some people noticed that the Church, that was in opposition to the government earlier became more and more influential. More or less that was the time when metal was born. It doesn’t mean that there was no such music before but after 1989 the scene started to flourish. At that time the blade of rebellion was aimed at the Church, or religion in general. That is pretty fascinating history, I tell you. We, as CORTEGE, joined the scene at the end of the 90’s.
Looking ahead, what are your future aspirations and goals for CORTEGE? Are there any specific directions or collaborations you hope to explore in your upcoming projects? Thank you for your time!
The goals are pretty clear and simple, to play death metal as long as it is possible, which means as long as we enjoy it. Here I would like to thank you for your support and I hope we can see one day in person, during our gig and have a beer. Stay strong and support metal!
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