Interview with Ofnus

Interview with Ofnus

- in Written interviews

Hi! Your debut album, “Time Held Me Grey And Dying,” creates expansive soundscapes in the realm of emotive black metal. What inspired you to explore this particular landscape and delve into the themes of melancholy and sorrow?
We’re not sure we always intended for this to be our direction. Originally, the drummer approached our guitarist with the intention of creating a more straight-forward atmospheric black metal band, partly to scratch an itch and partly to do something different to what both musicians were doing in their other bands. Once the song-writing began though, we quickly found the trajectory of the music heading towards the more sombre and melancholic, but infused with a majestic or sometimes even bombastic touch, particularly once the synths were written. Our vocalist added his parts afterwards, so approached the themes conceptually around the music. In a lot of ways, it was the instrumentation which guided the chosen themes rather than vice-versa.

For us, it works on a few different levels – the humanising of the music through relatable themes and the associated additional gravity and weight attached to the music through listeners connecting their own experiences to the soundtracks. You can make heavy music simply with heavy chords and modern production with relative ease these days, but to evoke an actual intensity and gravitas requires a more thoughtful approach, and of all to try and achieve this, Black Metal is the genre we felt most fitting through it’s malleability and interaction with other genres.

The album’s title evokes a sense of introspection and mortality. Can you elaborate on the significance of this title and how it relates to the overall concept of the album?
So the title is a play on words from a notable Welsh poet named Dylan Thomas. Originally, the line is “Time held me green and dying”, which could be interpreted in a number of different ways, however a common view shared across these interpretations is that death is an inevitability of time, no matter which point you realise that fact. ‘Green’ being the inference of youth through a positive descriptive.

Our spin for this record is that life is not always so positive. Changing ‘Green’ to ‘Grey’ is our representation of that, in that sometimes you are born into despondency. This is a theme that continues throughout the record, echoed within tracks such as “The Endless Grey” and “A Thousand Lifetimes”, whilst other tracks explore other areas of reflection such as “Exulansis” and “Echoes”.

How did the band come together, and what drove you to create music that intertwines searing emotion, towering drama, and thunderous soundscapes?
A number of us wanted to do something different, however we also had a keen desire to also give ourselves the best chance of making something work out from the outset. Originally, our drummer Ethan reached out to our guitarist/composer Alyn following a show where they shared a stage with their other bands. An idea was discussed, and then as often happens, delayed for any number of different reasons. Fast forward a few years and the same question was asked, but this time both Alyn & Ethan were ready, so the song-writing began.

The other instrumentalists, James, Richard and William were all recruited based on ability, motivation, and their other potential contributions. It helps that to a certain extent, we were all connected, and shared the vision despite having different backgrounds in music. A shared love of all things grandiose and epic, combined with Alyn’s classical music background & orchestration probably put the sound on a particular path – but most importantly we all resonated with the idea that this was the direction we wanted to go in. It is likely that these aspects will become even more significant facets of our sound in future as we write new material.

Each track on the album offers a unique musical experience, from delicate intimacy to thunderous pomp and circumstance. How do you approach crafting such dynamic compositions, and what elements are crucial in maintaining a balance between the different musical elements?
Our composer, Alyn, creates an idea bank of various ideas to work from, although that’s somewhat underselling the volume that are produced. For the first record, we probably had about two records worth of material to pick from, and the same looks to be true ahead of our next endeavour. From this bank of ideas, different combinations and progressions are tested and themes are identified that allow for the creation of a sonic identity – but this is done entirely on a “feel” rather than theory basis as a pre-meditated and clinical approach to writing will often result in a clinical-feeling output.

“Time Held Me Grey And Dying” explores themes of grief, solitude, and introspection. How do these concepts resonate with you personally, and how do you aim to connect with listeners on an emotional level through your music?
In some ways this is a tough one to answer. Everyone has their demons, but we are under no illusion that we are haunted any more than anybody else. Most people are familiar with the various concepts of grief, isolation, introspection, melancholy etc… and most choose to suppress those. People also have a particular attachment to those sensations as they are uniquely their own, no matter what the context. In a way, what we are trying to say is that there’s no particular sob-story or personal derivation behind our song-writing that motivates us on these fronts, moreover our interpretation of the memories of those sensations are the drivers, and our goal is to tap into those feelings within the listener.

If you are able to close your eyes and have the music transport you to a memory, then that’s our desired outcome.

The album was recorded at Woodcraft Audio and Necroshroud Studios. How did these studio environments contribute to the rich and enveloping sound of the album, and what was your creative process like during the recording sessions?
Our drums were recorded at Woodcroft Audio – we have a good working relationship with Timothy Vincent who is the business owner, and a very talented engineer. He has some good compositional ideas from various different genres. Necroshroud studios is run by our vocalist William, so we were keeping things in-house which has a number of benefits, keeping costs down definitely being one of those, and being able to continuously tweak the output with less concern about time constraints being another.

This also meant that mixing could take place remotely with constant updates and idea testing. Every band member could try something new and integrate it with the track, whether that be changing up a bass-line, adding an additional guitar lead, or removing an unnecessary synth layer.

This isn’t to say that we 100% perfected it this time, there will always be things we would approach differently and lessons have been learned for our next recording, but that’s part of the process.

How did a collaboration with Naturmacht Productions come about, and what drew you to work with this particular label?
In short, we did our research. We curated a list of labels who would be both sympathetic to our chosen sub-genre, looked into their approaches and their other artists, even going as far as to read interviews with the label owners to ensure that our visions would be aligned – then we sent out some emails to ascertain interest. We were fortunate to get a number of offers and responses, but the one that really stuck out for a number of reasons was Naturmacht, who being high up on our list anyway was an exciting prospect.

We held a meeting with Rob where we asked some questions, and he asked some of us – discussing the specifics of what an agreement would look like, and it was decided shortly afterwards that we would accept. Rob is every part the consummate professional – he knows his business well, engages with the genre, and understands the plight of the musician having been there himself. His label is widely renowned and respected for quality releases, and we are honoured to be a part of that now.

Your music combines elements of different genres, from black metal to atmospheric influences. How do you ensure a cohesive and seamless integration of these diverse elements while maintaining your distinct sound?
A lot of this just comes naturally from within the writing process. As mentioned previously, we are guided more by a ‘feel’ rather than ‘theory’ approach to writing, so whilst black metal underpins a large portion of our sound, we don’t want to ever feel too anchored to the tropes associated with the genre, and instead treat it more as a strong base medium to channel our ideas through. If that means that we’ll then traverse doom or progressive territories, then so be it. When we start to write in the more symphonic elements, that’s where we start characterise the riffs and melodies more as our own.

How do you approach the songwriting process to weave these elements together and create a cohesive musical journey?
So building on the last answer, and trying not to overcomplicate a process that to us feels fairly simplistic and comes naturally, this is best answered based on how we have approached our next record.

We would ideally first deliberate a theme for the track, then compose a series of brief riffs that would embody that theme, often plenty more than is necessary. After identifying some complimentary themes and ideas, we would try and create a journey between these melodies based on what would feel right. Again, no real strict theory approach, more just what feels right by asking the right questions and trying different ideas… do we need a slow section, do we need to add some intensity etc. Once we have put together a track that holds weight by itself, that’s when we’d look at add the detail with additional leads, and of course the orchestration which is a key transformative aspect of the process. Thoughtful application of orchestration can enhance certain characteristics of the sound, make the epic parts really sing out, make the heavier sections weightier, or just add a touch of majesty or atmosphere that you don’t have the limbs for otherwise.

Again, we often add too much orchestration first, and then strip back layers to suit. It’s almost a “More is More until you identify that More is Less” approach, but it’s an approach that suits us given our penchant for bombast.

Can you share any specific challenges or obstacles you faced during the creation of “Time Held Me Grey And Dying,” and how did you overcome them to achieve the final result?
In a strange way we didn’t have too many obstacles for this record. Part of that came down to experience with other bands and also a good measure of planning before embarking on the journey. If anything, as with most bands the biggest single issue facing us from the outset was ensuring that we could be taken seriously as a brand new un-published band, and then the costings of each step required to take the record from inception to fruition.

The element of experience and “newness” was partly mitigated by the band having a level of experience through other projects which we were able to draw on anecdotally. The financial constraints were somewhat muted through a level of both planning, and taking on board a number of the more expensive elements ourselves in-house such as the recording and mixing. All of these things were discussed in depth at the start of the project and agreed on by all members, so they never became challenges as such, moreover just points that we chose to deal with in a certain way.

How do you approach translating the intense emotions and atmosphere captured in your recordings to the live stage? What elements are crucial in delivering a powerful and immersive live performance?
For us, not pulling too many studio tricks to give a false representation on the record is a key thing. We want to be able to replicate as best as possible our studio sound in a live environment. Our full-bodied backing orchestration, combined with a well-rehearsed live band creates a weighty and sometimes quite suffocating full experience, and we are quite happy to just encourage you to close your eyes and let your brain fill in the gaps. We aren’t ones for too much in the way of theatrics, we wish to portray ourselves as professional performers who are putting on a show rather than falling back on trick or gimmick. What we look like live is a distant second place to what we sound like live.

We are also exploring our options for bespoke lighting shows for shows in future to assist with the experience and atmosphere, as it is often true that stimulating multiple senses is always a more thorough approach to performance.

As a relatively new band, what are your aspirations and goals for the future? Are there any specific musical directions or collaborations you hope to explore in your upcoming projects?
We have a fairly simplistic idea of what we want to achieve at the heart and that’s to have our music heard and appreciated. If the numbers grow, then that’s a testament to the quality of the product and performance. There’s almost a low-expectation aspect to our approach where if we do in fact do well, we’ll consider it a resounding success, but ultimately we just want to enjoy what we’re doing and make some good music and good memories – whether that be performing on larger stages or travelling abroad, or having our music acclaimed in different publications, if people are talking about us – that’s something we would always be happy about.

As a matter of fact, we are currently writing a second record which is exploring some of the more uniquely identifying traits of our music in further detail, as well as exploring a more dedicated concept-album approach. Part of what we aspire to carve out is our own particular niche and unique sound as far as that is possible, and focusing more on the cinematic aspects of our sound is one particular direction we are considering. As far as collaborations go, we believe that we have work left to do before we can seriously entertain that sort of avenue.

Your music contains a rich tapestry of textures and layers. How do you balance the intricacy of your compositions with maintaining a sense of rawness and aggression in your sound?
One of our “must-haves” during the creative process is to ensure that all our music is capable of carrying itself purely by the live instruments alone. By that we mean that if you strip back the synth layers and the orchestration, that what is left with the guitars, bass, drums and vocals will still carry itself as a strong piece of music. That’s important for a number of practical reasons as well as influencing the overall finished product. If we experience technical difficulties live and aren’t able to continue with our click-track, then we aren’t purveying a lesser version of ourselves for one, and secondly the rawness and aggression aspect is best conveyed through those instruments.

The added layers provide that added texture and intricacy, with numerous counter-melodies, swells, textures and nuances building the sound into a whole. In some ways, we are ensuring that we’ve got two separate albums worth of music composed – the orchestration and the band, and both can operate independently of one another, but combined it creates a symphony.

“Time Held Me Grey And Dying” delves into the deep places of the heart and explores unimaginable sorrow. How do you manage to connect with these emotionally challenging themes while maintaining your own well-being as an artist?
Quite a thought-provoking question, we believe the key is to distance oneself from the subject matter and almost approach in a way that’s more akin to reminiscing the themes, or considering them from a more descriptive angle – almost surgically. Whilst some reflection is a healthy well to draw inspiration from, dwelling there in perpetuity isn’t, and recognising that from the outset is important. Lots of breaks and focusing on other areas helps, but ultimately acknowledging that what we’re looking to create is a musical composition helps keep us balanced.

Somewhat ironically, we’re quite a jolly bunch, but that’s perhaps testament to us being able to find a level of distinction between what we want to pull from for inspiration and how we actively feel.

What do you hope listeners will ultimately take away from the experience of immersing themselves in “Time Held Me Grey And Dying,” and how do you envision the impact of your music on the broader metal scene? Thank you for your time!
It’s a peculiar ambition, but we’d quite like for some to find some comfort in their own world-weariness and melancholy. Not necessarily to wallow in despair, moreover to embrace their more negative emotions as a vital piece of their character puzzle.

Harking back to our previous simplistic hopes for the project, ultimately we are happy if our music is being heard. Whilst we don’t necessarily see ourselves as visionaries or genre-revolutionists, we’d definitely like to join the spearhead of blurring the lines between genres, and expanding the horizon of what can be achieved. Whether we’ll accomplish that in any way shouldn’t be a measure of our success against our objective, but it’s something we’d like to be a part of, even if we are just another group of dreaming men.

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