In this year hungarian atmospheric black metal band Sear Bliss celebrates it's twientieth anniversary. That was a good opportunity to contact their leader, Andras Nagy, and make the interview with him. Read what he has to say about their last amazing album - "Eternal Recurrence", his inspirations, ancient shamanism and few more things.
1. Hello Andras! First of all I'd like to ask you how's everything going? What are the reactions on your latest album "Eternal Recurrence"?
Hi there! Everything is going well. We have a short summer break at the moment. Enjoying holidays, etc..
As for the reactions for Eternal Recurrence, well, it’s a bit diverse. Without doubt it is our most difficult and heaviest album and it has met with a warm response only among those who are open to unusual and surprising musical experiences. As I see it, many people did not understand what these songs are about and I know most people enjoy music which is a bit more simple and easier to dig into it. These songs are not for entertainment but for diving into the very depths of human soul, to the depths which most people are still struggling to face. Eternal Recurrence was born under very hard circumstances, it is the result of a very heavy period on some personal levels, thus it is a truly honest reflection of what we went through at that time. I can understand that those who prefer our previous albums with more epic, melodic and monumental songs don’t really like this new album but on the other hand I believe there are many people who would enjoy Eternal Recurrence but they are not really familiar with our band or they don’t really like our previous albums or they just focus on other genres, so they didn’t have a chance to listen to this album. So, this is a weird situation, however I don’t care at all, as it was more important than anything for me to write, record and put this album out. It was truly a personal revelation for me. Anyway, we got really positive reactions too, so that’s great.
2. Between "Eternal..." and previus album, "The Arcane Odysey" is a vast amount of time. Why it took you so long to make this album? I know that you're working in Amsterdam, and the rest of the band still live in Hungary. Is this a reason?
There are several reasons for the long break but actually we have never stopped for a moment. After releasing The Arcance Odyssey we worked real hard on our second DVD material which is still not released due to some unforeseen difficulties with the label which was supposed to release it. Then I moved to Amsterdam which made things a bit more difficult, plus we have written and recorded the first album of Nefarious at that time, so I was totally busy and not only me but the others too. You know, families to take care of, jobs, etc… On top of that, we had an almost complete line up change and it also took some time to get back to normal because of that, plus some personal difficulties too which made things even more difficult for us. So, all these things together resulted in that delay.
3. By the away, if it's not a secret - what's your job here in Amsterdam?
I have already returned to Hungary. My job was electrical engineering. It was an important change in my life to move there, so I accepted the opportunity when it was given to me. Now I’m back and I can focus on the band and other important things again.
4. When I saw a cover art of your new album I knew that something is going on haha. It is very different from others, more frugal. Can you say me something about it - what was an idea behind it and why did you choose Benjamin Konig as an illustrator?
Benjamin did the cover artwork for the Nefarious album and we really liked what he did, that’s why we chose him to do the artwork for the new Sear Bliss album too. He is one of the few artists who still believe less is more. I got totally sick of the so many vivid, colourful, sharp photoshop artworks which you can see everywhere for a few years. I wanted the opposite of it, something totally different, something more simple but still impressive. We used mostly grey instead of the vivid colours because it fits perfectly the atmosphere of the whole album. I know many people don’t like this artwork but I believe Benjamin did a great job.
5. What I like about the new album, is that you didn't change your style, but simply put some new elements into music. I appreciate it much, it sounds really fantastic! Did "it still have to sounds like Sear Bliss" attitude accompanied you while you were composing the new material?
It is an interesting approach you described but the only thing I had on my mind while composing the songs for the new album was to be as far as possible from the normal schemes and clichés. Similar attitude I described regarding the cover artwork. On the other hand, we wanted to accomplish this new approach with keeping the trademarks of Sear Bliss. The implementation of new elements into our music went smoothly. Each single note has its own place on this album. However, only a small portion of this change was conscious, the greater part of it came from our subconscious.
7. "Eternal Recurrence" is full of slow, proggressive tunes. I remember how you said in one interview that you don't like prog music. I see that some things change haha! What inspired you to put this new element into Sear Bliss' world?
Hm, I don’t know when and what exactly I said. Maybe I referred to bands like Dream Theater, etc. I still don’t like bands like that. On the other hand, I have always been a fan of innovative music. Most of the music I listen to are innovative in some ways. Even the bands of the early black metal era were all innovative and this is what I miss nowadays. So, the striving for innovation might be one of the inspirations, I guess.
8. Another novelty are some jazzy patents, starting with trombone tune in the first track and appearing in small dose until the end. I like them very much, thanks to them the music is more original. That was the intention?
The intention was to create something unusual, something we haven’t done before. However, we didn’t create an exact plan of how the album should sound and we didn’t care how we should combine different genres. We added something extra where we felt it would work. For example, in the first song, which you mention too, that jazzy part has its own place. It’s an unexpected turn yet it works well and flows smoothly into the song. It carries the song to a different dimension, thus it becomes really exciting.
9. And of course, I have to ask do you like jazz music and listen to it often?
I like some jazz music but I’m not a fan of it, so I don’t listen to it often. On the other hand, I love the sound of the fretless bass. This is why I played fretless bass on the entire album. It has such an amazing, special sound. It is mostly used in jazz music, therefore it was a great challenge for me to implement it into our music. Anyway, Oliver, who played the drums on the album, is a great fan of jazz music and he is involved in some jazz bands too. You can hear those influences in his playing without doubt.
10. As the time goes, you reduce the usage of keyboard. On your first albums, especially "The Haunting" they were ubiquitous. Now they are more frugal, and more ominous. Your style of playing is quite original, hard to describe. You create some kind of cosmic, and sometimes even onirique atmosphere. Am I correct?
I agree that the presence of the keyboard became less and less prominent during the years. We found out that it’s no use playing it during all songs. However, keyboards play an important role in Sear Bliss’ music and we use it to add an extra atmosphere to our songs where it is needed, to create a special vibe.
10. Also the new elements are these longing choirs, present here and there on the whole album. My first association was Enslaved. I mean, they don't sound similar dot to dot, but they create a bit close atmosphere. What do you think about it? And do you like the music of these Norwegians?
Yes, I like Enslaved but they are not an influence for us. I already wanted to have clean vocals on our previous albums but somehow we didn’t succeed in working it out at that time. The new songs were written the way that clean vocals and choirs fit into them much better. We are able to express a lot more with the help of clean vocals. It’s a lot more interesting and exciting than just growling and screaming all the time.
11. From the beginning your trademark was the usage of brass instruments, like trombone. I think that now they appear more often, displacing the usage of keyboards. What I like is that contrary to other bands, you use them not only to bring some monumental epic sound, but also in many other ways. So I guess that there will be no Sear Bliss without brass section?
That’s right. I can’t imagine Sear Bliss without brass. It became sort of a trademark of the band since the very beginning. It has its special place in our music and it is even a fundamental part of our song-writing method too. I believe brass instruments fit perfectly to metal music because of their loud, harsh and powerful sound.
12. You said that in some way this is your heaviest album so far. I think I can agree with that, inter alia thanks to production. It was hard to create such a powerfull sound?
Oh yes, it was definitely our most challenging production and studio work. We worked incredibly hard to create this sound and album. We spent almost two months in the studio. We tried several equipment and instruments to get the sound we imagined and our producer worked really hard and did a great job to accomplish it. I’m really satisfied with the result.
13. In the last track, "Entering the Seventh Gate" appears a guest - Alba Hyseni. Please tell me who is she and why did you cooperate with her? Those schizophrenic vocals makes a big impression... Also, can I know who is responsible for this haunted male singing?
Alba is an outstanding and highly talented vocalist in the Hungarian underground music scene. She is well known of his unique and special voice. By the way, she has Albanian origin but she was raised in Serbia and she lives in Hungary for 15 years now. I wanted a special voice for the finishing track of the album ’Entering the Seventh Gate’ and our producer Viktor recommended Alba because she has this witch-like voice which would fit to the song. He already worked with her previously. I was totally amazed in the studio because she made such unbelievable voices. She is very professional and a really nice person too. As for the male singing, it was done by me. By the way, we plan to perform this song together with Alba on our 20th anniversary show in Budapest at the end of this year. I’m looking forward to it.
14. Due to all those original elements, you moved away from typical black metal sound. There is only little of that kind of playing. But Sear Bliss was always more like around a black metal scene, than a part of it, so I guess it's not a big problem for you? Or maybe I am wrong?
That is absolutely right. We have never been a pure black metal band. We have always combined a lot of different genres and ideas in our music. This comes from the different personalities in the band and also our striving for exploring new paths. Our music is dark and there are some black metal elements too but we carry a wider musical spectrum.
15. Last thing about newest album that I'd like to ask are lyrics. Your style of writting is much deeper and different than all other metal bands'. Can you tell me about a concept that you've created on "Eternal Recurrence"? What is hidden behind this intriguing title?
The lyrics are quite different on this new album compared to the previous ones. The idea or concept behind the title is about the eternal cycle of rebirth, the eternal return of all in nature, earth and cosmos. All these thoughts and concept are expressed in a more philosophical way this time.
16. Hungary have no seacoast, so as Amsterdam. So I simply have to ask - what inspired you to write a track called "Ballad of the Shipwrecked"?
I use the word ’shipwrecked’ in a figurative sense, allegorically. In this sense, shipwrecked means forsaken. I tried to express the feeling of loneliness, as if shipwrecked on the eternal sea of sorrow. The whole song has this wavering feel, as if sailing on a restless sea. But in this case the sea represents the soul.
17. Yeah, and about your fatherland's history - it was always a part of Sear Bliss' music. Hungary has unique language, traditions and complicated history. I simply ask - are you proud of being Hungarian?
Absolutely. In some ways, being Hungarian is kind of showing resistance, fighting for justice and against oppression and we are proud of it! Our cultural heritage plays an important role in our lives and yes, it was always part of Sear Bliss’ music.
18. An important element of magyar tribes's culture was shamanism. Do you have an interrest in that subject? Maybe you will use some "shamanistic" musical patents in the future?
I am absolutely interested in the ancient history of Hungary, especially the pre-Christian era. The Hungarian „shamanism” is very unique and different. I study it and it is very inspiring. Fortunately, it becomes more and more famous in Hungary now and people start to realize how important it is to explore the wisdom of this ancient belief of ours and how we can save and use it in our modern society. A few weeks ago I went to see a group performing ritualistic music based on our ancient beliefs and I was totally amazed. By the way, last winter I had the chance to travel to the far north, the northern part of Lapland and get a glimpse of the ancient Sami culture which was very interesting too, a bit similar to some of our ancient beliefs. I had the chance to listen to some shamanic music there and it was really inspiring and I thought it would be an interesting and exciting experiment to incorporate some features of it in our music.
19. On your previuos album "The Arcane Odyssey" there is a track called "Path to the Motherland". It contains an usage of traditional folk instruments. What was an impulse to do such a thing? And did you ever considered to write lyrics in hungarian, to highlight this folkish element?
There is always a hint of our history on each of our albums and Path to the Motherland was inspired by our cultural heritage. A friend of ours was a member of a group using special folk instruments and we invited them to add something extra to the song Path to the Motherland.
By the way, the cover artwork of The Arcane Odyssey is based on an ancient Hungarian mythological tale. I have a plan to create a special song with Hungarian lyrics and maybe we will do it on our next record.
20. This year you celebrate your 20th anniversary. That's a vast amount of time, so do you consider yourself as a metal veteran? And are you happy with everything what you have achieved during those years?
No, I don’t think we are a metal veteran band. The average age of the band members is only 32 years and we still have a lot to write about. 20 years is a long time and I know we made some mistakes, some bad decisions but there is nothing to be ashamed of and I’m happy with what we have achieved.
21. What can we expect from Sear Bliss in the future? Are you already composing material for the new album?
Yes, we are in the composing process right now and we have already written some material for the next album. It will be a bit different again but it’s not surprising as we have never repeated ourselves. The new album will be a bit more atmospheric. At least this is how it looks at the moment. It’s too early to tell more about it now. On the other hand we are preparing for our anniversary show which will be held in Budapest in November. We plan to invite many guests and we will perform a special set. Plus there is a plan for a short European tour for the end of the year.
22. OK, two last questions. You also play in a black metal band called Nefarious. Can you tell me what are plans of this camp for the future?
Well, there are no exact plans regarding Nefarious for the near future. A few months ago our debut album was released on vinyl which is great. Right now we are rather focusing on our other project Forest Silence with Winter (former Sear Bliss keyboard player). We are writing new material and hopefully there will be some fresh releases in the near future.
23. And at the end, please recommend some good music and good literature that made on you big impression lately.
Well, for me it’s a bit hard to find interesting music in this mass. There are too many releases and it is really difficult to find the ones which really deserve attention. The last album which made a big impression on me lately was Childhood’s End from Ulver. Fantastic album. Regarding literature, I haven’t discovered anything new lately but maybe it is because I didn’t have enough time to read in the last few months. By the way, I went to see The Wall performed by Roger Waters last week in Budapest and it made a big impression on me.
24. OK, that's everything from my side. Thank you very much for the interview, and I wish you another lucky 20 years with Sear Bliss. Cheers!
Thank you very much and thanks a lot for your support! Cheers!
Photos: band's archive.
Interview by Vladyka 2013. Please do not copy this interview without HA'Z permission. Respect the copyrights!