Would you mind to introduce you and your band a bit?
Michal: Voluptas is a relatively old band which went through a lot of line-up changes which impacted the sound of our music a lot. We spoke about our history during our previous interview, so let’s not repeat ourselves too much. But I can say the line-up has been relatively stable since the release of our debut recording Ved Rums Ende. We just got a new drummer – Petr. This also means our music became closer to a form we want to focus on and is less disordered. We like to say we play black metal with some eccentric rock elements. But you can probably hear some psychedelia, jazz or even noise elements in our music. All the band members have been more or less active in other projects as well. From the currently active ones we can name for example Jan's participation in the psychedelic band Olaf Olafsonn and the Big Bad Trip or my new death metal band Můra and experimental grindcore project Brauncholda.
Why do you play this particular kind of music?
Michal: Because we like it, of course. And since all the members are interested in similar kinds of music more than just average listeners, we try to create something that corresponds to our taste. Something at least partially original and not yet another copy of a copy. A need to compose music based on a musician's expectations is quite natural, I would say. None of us would play something they don't like. And the time spent in the rehearsal room with a fridge filled with beer or on stage is mostly satisfying and fun, even though it can be difficult sometimes.
Martin: As a listener I don’t have any substantial genre preference, I love ABBA the same as old Anaal Nathrakh, but as a musician I think black metal is my bread and butter. When I joined Voluptas, they sounded quite different and I liked that, but Štěpán and I were interested in something perhaps darker or more extreme. As other members came and went, this interest was becoming more pronounced. We ended up doing something that is actually pretty close to the music I wanted to create since I was a teenager who loved more experimental (predominantly Norwegian) bands like Solefald, DHG or Ved Buens Ende.
Since four years have passed between your first two releases, what has been the most challenging aspect in this regard?
Martin: The first record was something that needed to happen. It was far from perfect and each song is almost a different genre… I think that when you hear the record you can tell we were searching for something that would unify us. I view it more as a compilation than an album. The current record is much more compact, one of the reasons might’ve been that these are songs we composed over a shorter period. We also got a new drummer, Petr, who helped to stabilize our style as well. I think we are gradually becoming surer about what we want to do. In summary, these four years were about stabilization. We never were a punk band, but our approach used to be pretty punk in the past.
Considering how elements from Egyptian as well as Hellenic elements are dealt with on your recent release, it may be interesting to know how you perceive these aspects, what modern relevance you attribute to these and what your source for these are? Do you have books that inspire you in this regard?
Martin: There is not much to say, we simply use mythology to express what we want, as a medium. The relevance of the past is overwhelming, because people are still the same animals they were three thousand years ago. Human things are, at their core, very simple and you need to cover your statements in metaphors and names to add some artistic value to them – and, what is more, leave readers/listeners a certain encyclopedia to play around with. The question of why we prefer certain mythologies over others has to do more with our own upbringing and education. To use some parts of mythology or history to convey feelings in art is pretty common, and it is both effective and easy. But that doesn’t mean we create art, I wouldn’t dare to put our stuff in the same bracket as Parsifal by Wagner or Prometheus by Emperor, hehe… it belongs in the same bracket as John Wayne Gacy’s pictures of clowns.
What is the initial when it comes to compose a track. Is it an idea that is expressed in a sound or is it a riff? How is the song-writing shared in the band?
Martin: The process used to be pretty chaotic, but it has stabilized substantially. I usually bring the basics – a lo-fi recording of my guitar, sometimes just some riffs to play with, sometimes the whole structure of the song. We dissect it at rehearsals and create the basic structure with drums. Then everyone else composes their own parts. Lyrics are written after everything else is done to the point when the song has some feeling.
Desert Twilight offers a strange way in terms of ending a release. The white noise like aspect is something of a stark counterpoint to what had been presented earlier. Could you elaborate on the function and conception behind this track? Is the aspect of white noise a play on the title of the release?
Michal: Let's say we wanted to experiment a bit with something else than metal/rock elements this time and create an adequate ending for our record. Our sax player Ondrax, when present at rehearsals, likes to play with these weird sounds and we like it a lot. So, we (Ondrax and I) locked ourselves in the studio and recorded a semi-improvised track which combines saxophone lines, vocals and a bit of magical effects. All the band members have been very satisfied with the result, since its feeling perfectly matches the rest of the record (we believe that noise aesthetics works in a similar way as black metal) and, as you said, also represents the title of the release. A sound of snowstorm which is not just ordinary harsh noise but in which you can find, if you tune in, a lot of other sounds that could hopefully remind you of various things. We prefer not to divulge and dissect all the inspirations reflected in this track but a careful listener will surely be able to track some down.
It may be too far-fetched, but the title of the release also reminded me on Witcher 3 and the aspect of the White Frost. Did this have an impact on you by chance?
Martin: The title is taken from lyrics of Between Terror and Erebus, so it should remind you mainly of that, haha. I didn’t play or read Witcher and I am not exactly familiar with that universe, so I guess the resemblance is just a mere accident… but then again, everybody is entitled to their interpretation so if you see The Witcher in it, it is there!
Štěpán: I quite like that White Frost interpretation because I was (and I still am) a big fan of Sapkowski's books from the 90s, but I never played any of the Witcher games and like Martin who wrote the lyrics said, it's just a coincidence.
Why did you pick Thargelia as a track title? Judging from the Wikipedia entry it appears to be a rather gruesome event.
Martin: Thargelia is the second single from this record and I think it was chosen mainly because it is, similar to our first single Crystalline Key, a pretty consistent song. Lyrics were inspired by a number of things. Thargelia, which was an Athenian festival that involved the stoning and burning of people designated as pharmakoi, is only one of the metaphors used. There is also a Freudian concept of totemism, God of the gaps argument and some Nietzsche thrown into the mix… quite a handful of topics for about a hundred words, hehe. Maybe too much. It should convey an image of somebody who is in a situation of both victim and perpetrator, the abused who is abusing the abuser, even transcendentally, and the cosmological consequences (or perhaps foundations) of it. Gestell, a word used here, is a heideggerian concept of the essence of technology and its violence which has the purpose in itself. Lyrics to this song are pretty old and I must say that I would’ve written something else if I were to write it now.
The cover artwork is confusing. Death appears to be an nearly all engulfing aspect and maybe it is even enclosing this person more and more, until all life has been wiped out. Yet the prospect to venture into this lifeless whiteness looks hardly a promising at all, as death lures there at every corner. Somehow it also reminds on the catacombs under Paris with their endless rows of skulls. What is it then? How can someone live in proximity and immediateness of death? Is there some kind of hope?
Martin: That is a very interesting interpretation! I view it more in terms of this person being able to embrace death and look around and perhaps even wander… well… towards the great white nothing. But I might be mistaken, the author's incentives are their own, and I didn’t draw it or, for that matter, even consult it that much. Other members discussed it and there were some changes, but I was not that involved in the process, mainly because I am pretty bad with visual art overall and I prefer to stick to words and music.
Who had been responsible for the cover artwork?
Michal: It was drawn by Štěpán's wife Týna who is also responsible for illustrations for each song. All the drawings are combinations of her interpretations of the song titles/lyrics and our ideas hidden behind them. For example, the front cover has been amended and discussed together many times until the final version that perfectly represents the name of the record was created. But overall, we are very satisfied with Týna's work, so it is very likely she will create some more art for Voluptas someday in the future as well.
How would you describe your music?
Michal: As partially mentioned in the first answers, we like to think we play a bit of a non-standard form of black metal these days. And even though we would not call ourselves an avant-garde band, our main inspirations are Norwegian avant-garde records of the 1990s. It’s primarily black metal, but relatively eclectic and very personal – in a way that it reflects our own music tastes and interests in various musical genres without any need to follow some current trends or pushing ourselves into forced experiments.
What made you change direction in terms of style and sound? Some of the elements from your debut have vanished. Is there a chance that these will make a reappearance?
Michal: Of course, actually some of the new songs we are working on at the moment are more similar to Ved Rums Ende than Towards the Great White Nothing, but in a bit different way, of course. We're trying to keep moving forward and not repeat ourselves too much. It's still primarily black metal but with some eccentric rock elements. The change between our debut and second album is caused by the fact that it was composed by different people. Before the recording of Ved Rums Ende, the band had a very unstable lineup. Almost all songs from Towards the Great White Nothing have been composed by the current members, we just have a new drummer who replaced Pepa after the Crystalline Key was composed.
How has Covid-19 affected you? How have you experienced the time since it has left its impact on the world?
Michal: The biggest impact was on our possible live gigs. Even though we have never been a very active band with tons of gigs per year, we had some plans to promote the latest record now. For example, a release party was planned to happen and we'd been thinking about at least a small local tour. Of course, none of it happened, and we're happy that we could at least play one gig in a small church called Soulkostel after the release of Towards the Great White Nothing. On the other hand, the impossibility of live gigs allowed us to focus on the composition of new music. We have not rehearsed the old songs almost at all and started writing a new album instead. At the moment we can say we have completed 4 songs and more are in progress. If we will continue at the current tempo, maybe someday during next year we will be able to record it. But since we tend to approach everything rather slowly than fast, it would be a miracle if the new album happened sooner than in 2023.
What would be your preferences in terms of the arts? Music, books, paintings. How do these effect your music?
Michal: If I should speak for everyone, we all like black metal, of course. Mainly it's avant-garde or progressive subgenres. From the bands who more or less affected our music, we can mention probably Ved Buens Ende, Dødheimsgard, Emperor, older Negură Bunget and others who combine bm with different music genres. On the other hand, we are not hiding our interest in certain old school records as old Ulver which have a certain impact on our music. When it comes to books, we all worship Lovecraft even though neither Yog-Sothoth or Cthulhu appear in our lyrics. Not sure if any specific paintings inspired our music but the Twin Peaks TV series did (which you surely remember from our previous interview). There are also a lot of current personal obsessions which tend to change a lot.
Voluptas: Thank you very much for your continued support!
For anyone interested in Voluptas: follow either our Bandcamp or Facebook profile where you can find all our records and sooner or later there will be information about new stuff as well!