VESANIA – A Polish Triumph
Vesania (l-r): Marcin ‘Valeo’ Walenczykowski, Dariusz ‘Daray’ Brzozowski, Tomasz ‘Orion’ Wróblewski, Krzysztof ‘Siegmar’ Oloś and Filip ‘Heinrich’ Hałucha
Following the issue of November 2007 studio full-length Distractive Killusions and resultant touring commitments, Polish symphonic black metal band Vesania embarked upon a lengthy hiatus – the hiatus in question caused by unhappiness among all concerned at the time. Fourth studio affair Deus Ex Machina didn’t arrive until almost seven years later in October 2014, activity within the Vesania camp resuming during 2012.
“We did some touring for Distractive Killusions, but all the tours that we did back then were somehow unlucky for us,” remembers Tomasz ‘Orion’ Wróblewski, vocalist and guitarist for Vesania. “We had to cancel half of a European tour and go back home, which just made us unhappy enough to put the band aside for some time – we had like a four-year break. Then we started writing, and the way we were writing is each of us writing and recording the ideas – constantly actually, all the time. Whenever we decide we have enough material to start working with, we do it.
“It’s always me and Daray (Dariusz Brzozowski) the drummer taking all of the ideas first, and making them into song structures. It usually takes about a month or two of rehearsing, between the two of us only. We then record demos and show them to all of the other band members, and start arranging songs. It’s a long process, because the music is multi-layered and kind of complex – at least that’s how I see it. It took us a long time to write this album and to record it, but we’re really happy with the results.”
Although cancelling half of a European caused unhappiness within the Vesania camp, the assortment’s resurfacing was inevitable. “Vesania is like our child, because that’s the band we started with,” the frontman notes. “Also, most of us – me, Daray, and Heinrich (Filip Hałucha) the bass player – we’ve known each other… Oh, that’s gonna sound a little scary… For almost 30 years, because we got to know each other back then when we were kids. We started the band when we were 17, and actually from Vesania, we joined all of the other bands that we’re in today, or used to be. It’s like our child, and you can never truly abandon your child. You can have a quarrel with them; sometimes you don’t talk to your kid for some time, but then you just get back together.
“We put the band aside for several years, because we had other commitments. During this time, there were a lot of other things happening in our private lives, but we just felt this need come back again. We started speaking about new things, and we were all very enthusiastic. When you see this sort of fire in guys, and you see that everyone wants this idea to be back, you just do it. We felt that this was the time for it, and here it is. The new album’s out.”
Many metal fanatics are arguably aware of Vesania’s existence through Tomasz’ association with Behemoth, for whom he occupies the bass position. “Well yeah, probably,” he concedes. “There are a lot of people who know Vesania through Behemoth, and that’s understandable. Still there are a lot of people who treat Vesania as my side project or something, and that’s understandable as well. That’s people’s perspective. Behemoth is the bigger band; that’s their way of seeing things, and I do really argue with that.”
In light of Vesania’s seven-year absence, Deus Ex Machina could potentially serve as an introduction to the group for Behemoth fans – particularly fans Behemoth have garnered in recent years. “Perhaps you’re right,” the singer responds. “I’m in both bands, and I don’t really pay that much attention to how things work. If there’s anyone getting to know Vesania through this or that, I’m happy to see there being fans of this band. Behemoth is a way for them to find out about Vesania, but it’s a good thing as well. It’s all my life, and I’m a part of both things.”
As the man referenced earlier, Tomasz is keen to discard the label ‘project’ for Vesania. “This is the band that I started with; it’s always been very precious to me,” he explains. “Whatever I do with this band is the vision of mine and my bandmates, and it has never really been influenced by any other band that we’re in. We started with being heavily influenced by the Norwegian black metal scene from the 90s. That made me who I am today and made me do what I’m doing for a lifetime, but today, we’re just living in the times where everything is attacking you from everywhere. We’ve got to that. We have social media, tons of everything coming from all around us. There are thousands of bands, just so many different factors that influence you either this way or that way. It’s really hard to pick the particular names of things that are a stronger influence than the others. If I think about it today, I’ll just say that we’re influenced by anything that makes us think or act. I wouldn’t name any particular things.
“At first you could easily hear that we were playing symphonic black metal, and this just stayed with us for a long time. Now though, we’re trying to take this music to a little different level and make it way more theatrical and just different. We’ve taken a step sideways from the genre, because there hasn’t been really much interesting happening within the symphonic black metal genre recently. I guess, at least that’s how I see it.”
What constitutes black metal is often debated within the metal community. “That’s a very hard question, and there’ve been disputes and conversations about it for years,” the axeman ponders. “I don’t really like to take any kind of position, other than saying this is what made me who I am at the moment. I knew what it was back then when I was a teenager and I understood what it was all about, looking through the eyes of someone who was under 20 years old back then. Today, if you’re looking at black metal, you have several kinds of bands. Some of them go more true and show this religious part which black metal has always been about, while some of them take it to some sort of entertainment level and have not too much to do with the origins. I don’t really wanna stand on either one side or another. As I said before, black metal for me is what made me do what I’m doing today.”
Although black metal is a primary influence, other genre elements surface within Vesania’s material. “I’ve worked with music for 15 years, at least,” Tomasz cites. “I work with bands, I tour with bands, I record with bands, I work in the studio, I do music production. I just listen to all kinds of music – closing myself to metal or black metal exclusively would make no sense to me. I’m trying to keep my head open to all of these other things as well.”
Returning to the subject of Deus Ex Machina, ‘theatrical’ is a term which continually resurfaces with respect to the platter. “It’s definitely more theatrical, and it’s definitely way more rocky sounding than before,” the mainman contends. “We didn’t want to record another straightforward metal album; we didn’t want to have kick-drums right in your face, and super-high gain guitars. We’re growing older, and we’re gaining just a different approach. There are different things that we wanna hear in the music, there are dynamics that we wanna have, and there’s some air that we need within the tunes. Compared to the previous records, this one just comes from way more awareness of what’s happening around us. We’re getting more and more mature, and so we just hear things differently today. It’s not about being strictly symphonic black metal now.”
Certain quarters might equate the term ‘theatrical’ with movie soundtracks, but such comparisons might be inaccurate. “This is just not really the way I think about things,” Tomasz submits. “You’re seeing some motive, and it reminds you of something. Then you compare it to some other images you’ve seen – a movie or something – but that’s just not how things work here. Vesania has always been very theatrical, and has always been about us playing roles onstage. We’ve had theatrical motives since the very beginning of the band. Now, we’re just taking it a step farther.
“I don’t know if you’ve seen the photo shoots for this, but one of them was taken in a theatre onstage, and what you see in the photos is actually mostly what we do onstage during the live shows. A Vesania show today looks more like the theatre than a regular metal show. Each of us have been working with music and playing shows for ten to 15 years, separately and as a band as well. After so many years of banging your head onstage for one hour, it just doesn’t make too much sense any more. We started to look for different solutions for it. We wanted to get people interested, and I just feel it’s happening with what we’re doing now. Again, to name direct influences I think is just impossible. These are just the ideas that we’re coming up with.”
Within the hard rock and metal realm, perhaps the best known theatrical live performer is Alice Cooper. “Yeah,” the axe-slinger agrees. “I’ve seen probably way more than a thousand shows in my life, and I remember the outstanding ones – the interesting ones – and not the others. There are a lot of great live bands. One of the very best I’ve ever seen is Rammstein, and I think I’ve seen tons of Rammstein shows already. They’re just amazing. On the other hand, I think what was very interesting for me was seeing Emperor do the In The Nightside Eclipse (February 1994) anniversary tour this year during the summer. That was quite an experience for me; I had never expected to see this entire album played live again. Even if they weren’t regular live and weren’t as experienced as a live band, still seeing this was very interesting to me.
“I’ve seen a lot of mainstream bands as well, and one of the most outstanding shows within the non-metal scene was the Muse show that I saw a few years ago. That was quite something. Production wise it costs a lot of money obviously, but it just gives you impression that you’re not simply listening to the record played live. You’re just watching the full show, which is outstanding and amazing. I wanna be doing something like that that is interesting to people, and not just repeat the same thing over and over.”
A Latin phrase, Deus Ex Machina’s title translates to ‘god from the machine’. “That’s a term from ancient Greek tragedy,” Tomasz augments. “The authors used this term for whenever they had no solution to the plots, to the things happening within the story. They would just send a god onstage to solve all of the problems. ‘God from the machine’ was literally because of the way they were doing it onstage during the play; they were just using some sort of machine, some kind of a crane to lower an actor onstage to play God, and that’s why the term ‘god fro the machine’ came about.
“Lyrically, Vesania has always been about some sort of psychological or philosophical analysis, some sort of pocketbook of philosophy – mine or something. In this one, you can see the subject of the lyrics, the human being in a truly bad condition, hopeless and powerless. ‘God from the machine’ is more like calling for help with this, because he just needs an intervention – maybe divine, or whatever. That’s mostly the theme for all of the songs, but there’s nothing like one strong concept being developed in all of the songs. Each of them is concentrated on mostly one word and analysing it through the lyrics of the song, but it’s not a concept album. Yeah, the title is calling for any kind of help.”
Lyrical responsibilities for Vesania solely fall onto the shoulders of the vocalist. “The lyrical part of Vesania is always on me – I do it myself,” he shares. “I consult things with my bandmates, but it’s me writing everything, yeah.”
Authoring lyrics, Tomasz doesn’t seek assistance with respect to perhaps better translating his words into English. “I don’t like that,” he discloses. “It’s like with recording clean vocals on albums; I’m used to recording them with no autotuning, and the same goes for the language and the lyrics. Whenever I write something and I write it in English, I want it to stay this way. Even if my English is not the best at all, I never let anyone correct it. That’s how I wrote it and that’s how I want it to stay, even if it’s not correct from a language point of view. Probably I do a lot of mistakes within the lyrics, but it is what it is. I don’t care. It’s just a different approach that we have with Behemoth, because with Behemoth everything gets corrected by a native speaker, but that isn’t what we wanted with this band. With Vesania, I want to keep it as it was created. That’s just my idea for it.”
Recording sessions concluded at Sound Division Studio in Warsaw, Poland, with Scott Hull undertaking mastering at Visceral Sound Studios in Bethesda, Maryland, United States. “It took us a long time,” the guitarist observes. “The way we normally work is we enter the studio, recording drums, and then guitars and bass. Then we have a big break for all of the samples, rearranging and recording all of the keyboards, and recording all of the additional tracks. That takes a lot of time, because in the case of this band arranging is the most important part overall. We have breaks in the recording sessions, and these are sometimes quite long breaks. First of all we need time for things, but the other thing is that we wanna have an opportunity to keep some distance between what we’re doing, and eventually come up with some other ideas to make things happen better.
“The recording process was a month for drums, guitars, and bass, and then there was a four to five month break for all of the keyboards and samples. Then there was coming back to the studio for recording vocals and additional tracks, and then mixing it, which is also a long process in the case of this band (laughs). It’s so multi-layered and so complex, so that takes another two to three weeks or something. The entire process of recording, mixing, and mastering took something close to a year, but still during this time, we were doing other things and we had other commitments with our other bands. That’s why it was so extended.”
Tomasz cut the majority of vocal parts on Deus Ex Machina. “I recorded 99% of the vocals, but there were some clean parts sung by our keyboard player, and there were some little things that our drummer Daray did in the vocals,” he credits. “With the guitars, it’s mostly me playing all of the rhythmic guitars, but the other guitarist is playing some of the riffs, and he’s doing all of the solos. I’m not a solo guitarist at all – I just can’t do it – but he’s typically a solo guitarist, and he’s got great ideas about that.
“It never really mattered to us who recorded what, as long as it’s fulfilling the vision and it sounds as we want it to sound. It doesn’t really matter who did each move on the record, so it was sometimes me recording some little bass parts if I had an idea for it, and it was sometimes our bass player recording some guitar parts on it. We’re just sharing everything between each other in the band. That’s how we did it, but most of the guitar parts and almost all of the vocals are my takes on the album.”
Providing vocal as well as guitar parts, a specific direction wasn’t sought. “It’s not like I’m looking up to any particular thing, or an artist,” the frontman cautions. “I think we’re mature enough to have our own vision and our way that we want to go that you can hear on the album, and that’s exactly what we want to do. Our vision, we’re still talking about it. The vision contains the lyrics for the album, the sound, the song structures, the arrangements – it’s everything. Describing it all in a few minutes within an interview is rather impossible, because it took us months to talk about it. I wouldn’t pick any particular name we looked up to here, though.”
Listening to Deus Ex Machina itself would perhaps be best. “That’s always the best thing they can do,” Tomasz laughs.
To co-ordinate Deus Ex Machina’s issue, Vesania inked an album contract with Metal Blade Records. “I’m truly happy about it, because it’s one of the biggest record labels and has a long history,” the singer enthuses. “They’re just good people to work with. We actually know each other which makes things better, because it’s always better to speak and work with real human beings as opposed to speaking through a computer only. Yeah, we’re really happy about the contract.”
At the time of writing, a music video to promote Deus Ex Machina’s release is hopeful. “We’ve never had a music video, so that has always been a challenge for us,” Tomasz admits. “We’re currently talking about a screenplay for one of the songs, so probably we’re gonna shoot it. I’m not really sure if it’s gonna happen this year, though – maybe in the beginning of next year.”
A 2015 European tour for Vesania is firmly in the pipeline. “News should be online pretty soon about that,” the axeman predicts. “That will be early spring next year, and we’re also booking some summer festivals. The next thing for us is a US tour; hopefully that is gonna happen for us finally, because we’ve never made it to North America. Yeah, that’s pretty much it at the moment. We’re just getting ready for the tours, and in the meantime doing all of the other things.”
Additional musical endeavour Black River happens to be defunct. “The vocalist (Maciej Taff) is done with singing,” Tomasz divulges. “He’s not coming back to singing.”
Vocalist Maciej Taff’s retirement from handling microphone duties isn’t the result of ongoing health issues however, as has been erroneously reported. “He went through some serious sickness, but he’s okay now,” the Vesania mainman reveals. “He’s just not coming back to singing though, so I’m not planning anything with that band. I don’t really even have any time for it at the moment, because whenever I have a break from Behemoth I’m busy with Vesania.”
Behemoth’s immediate plans, meanwhile, are to continue touring in support of February 2014 studio record The Satanist, the band’s tenth. “This album has big potential,” Tomasz reckons. “We’re not planning to record another album in 2015 – we’re just gonna do all the tours. We’re leaving for South America within a week, and we’re staying there for a few weeks. We’re going to South Africa to play two shows there, we’re going to England for a short tour, we’re doing a BBC Radio 1 live show, and then we’re coming back for a few shows in France, and that’s it for 2014. Then, in 2015 we’re doing a big tour with Cannibal Corpse. In the US, we’re doing 70000 Tons Of Metal, then we’re coming back for a European tour, and then we’re doing some festivals. We have a lot of things planned, and we’ll probably be shooting at least two more videos for The Satanist.”
Deus Ex Machina was released on October 27th, 2014 in Europe and subsequently on the 28th in North America, all via Metal Blade Records.
Interview published in October 2014.
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