Monday, January 4, 2010

Ophidian Forest Interview

Occult Black Metal Zine interview
1. Can you update us on what is going on with the band these days?
Otrebor: We’re currently wrapping up tracking for our third album. We released the official version of Redbad, our first album, a few weeks ago.
Amalgamoth: The official release is a re-issue of our 2007 album, which came out as an extremely limited edition CD-R. This re-issue is on a beautiful pro-printed CD and the artwork got a serious overhaul. It was hard work and took a very long wait, but we now have something that we can be proud of. Last summer also saw a cassette version of "Redbad", because I expected there would be an interest for this old school medium. Turned out to be correct. At this moment we are working on promoting this 'oldie'.

Zaragil: I'm in charge of the MySpace page and I'm trying to let people know that Redbad is finally released. There are some problems, though, as the copies meant for Europe haven't reached our label yet, but I hope they will, so that we can all finally start advertising the album properly. It's a bit annoying knowing that a lot of people already have it, but I'm still waiting to see what it looks like.

2. What is the meaning behind the band's name?
Otrebor: When I came up with the name years ago, the combination of words conjuring up images of a forest whose branches were so dense and tangled — like a den of snakes — that no light could penetrate, inspired my imagination. Seemed like a great name for a black metal band. The words might have different meaning for the other members, and they can tell you themselves.

Amalgamoth: We are all aware of the oft-used "Forest" word, but it's obviously the "Ophidian" part of the name by which we like to distinguish ourselves. Aspects of our music may adhere to old-school BM idiom, but we all have a progressive stance towards the use of exotic words or neologisms.

Zaragil: It creates an intense mental image, and sometimes gives me inspiration. Of course, after a few years of living and breathing it, telling people about it, looking at the name every time I turn on my computer, it's sometimes simply two words, like a part of me I don't really think about, just use it. A bit like a body part, I guess. I'm still not bored from hearing it, and I still think it's a damn good name for a band, so I guess that's the best thing about it.

3. How would you describe your musical progress over the years and what direction do you see the material heading into on the third album?
Otrebor: Since the third record is basically recorded, it’s only going to get weirder, with WTF segues and time signatures, more fucked keyboards, more convoluted arrangements, more catchy songs, and more intensity, all mired in a sonic concept that we’re going to keep secret for now, but I think I can say that it will be our “in the forest album,” which, although it’s been done before, I can pretty much guarantee hasn’t been done quite like we plan to do it.
From there, I’d expect our albums to be different again, while still sounding like the same people played on them. The last two albums’ starting point was my drum recordings, as opposed to Redbad starting with Zaragil’s guitar compositions. The different approaches have yielded unique results, and I look forward to creating subsequent albums with different approaches in the future.

Amalgamoth: The 3rd album will sound quite different in terms of composition. The foundation of "Redbad" was formed by Zaragil's harsh killer riffs and his unique "Croat tone". The keyboards on that album are sparse and less prominent then we have now. On the album we are currently working on I mostly composed the melodies on top of the drum tracks, which were followed by the guitars, thus essentially being a process in a different order.
The result of this is that the merciless rage and anger from "Redbad" has evolved towards something moodier. The melodies of today are more progressive and there is more room for subtle ambient elements. It's like we've enhanced our skills in black metal origami, heh heh. You'll see.

Zaragil: I'm not sure if I have actually progressed - I've been playing the guitar for ages now, my playing isn't any better or worse now than it was during the recording of Redbad, and I still don't think I have used everything I have. I can still just start playing guitar and come up with a number of riffs, but, granted, now I make more demanding music than it was in the beginning. We have learned how to work better and make different things come to life. Our methods of work have also progressed in that now we actually discuss things before giving them a green light. The music became more complex in some aspects, less complex in some others, but we never make two similar songs, so there is sometimes a big difference in approach between songs on one and the same album. And we make them sound as if they were all parts of a bigger whole. The good thing about all this is that there are no rules, all albums have straightforward as well as complex songs.

4. How has the feedback been to your music by the pagan/black metal community so far?

Amalgamoth: Somehow a lot of people already noticed us before this official release, and most can really dig what we're doing and standing for. I don't know why, but for some reason we are particulary appreciated by Americans and Australians.
Last summer someone in Queensland even ordered 3 cassettes of "Redbad" at once! Despite the interest from outside Europe, we've also had the pleasure of doing interviews for zines in Sweden and Finland last year (Funeral March and Behest, both printed zines). And back in 2008 we even got a very positive review of the original "Redbad" promo in Metal Maniacs, which totally made our day.
The few less positive comments mainly concerned technical aspects, like the shortcomings of our operating method by exchanging digital files. And a few have had comments about the album mix, but those judgements were most likely based on hearing soundcuts in a low bitrate ratio. So far, no one has complained that we try to imitate someone, which is a compliment by itself!

Zaragil: I think that most Pagans expect trendy folk metal stuff, and become surprised when they hear us because we're quite aggressive. Most black metal fans are either used to hearing expensive sound (not us) or bands with no riffs, concept, lyrics, atmosphere, conviction (again, not us) and we might be a slight shock to their systems. The hardest part of it all is to make people listen, as we can't force anyone to sit down, concentrate and just bloody listen to the music. It's the MySpace thing, they just hear a few song beginnings and think they have heard it all, but by doing that they miss the whole thing. But I'm not complaining, it took a while before we started getting noticed, but now... a month ago one person actually said "you're everywhere, so I came here to see what it's all about". We had excellent feedback from some people I respect, members of the bands I like, or liked even before I had a band, and some of them also bought Redbad. There are some great people around, as serious about their music and views as we are, and we help each other. And then again there are those who are jealous but I'm not wasting my time on thinking about that.

5.Do any of the band members have any other projects going on besides Ophidian Forest?
Otrebor: I’m currently solidly involved in two projects, Ophidian Forest and Botanist, my solo project, whose debut album will be released on tUMULt sometime in 2010. I’ve recorded records for a prog metal project called Rubicon, and a grindy/thrashy EP by a band called Hellnaut. Those last two can be sampled on Myspace. In terms of actual, performing bands, I used to be in a grind band called Utter Bastard. With me, we recorded an album (never released) and a split record with Japanese band Gesewa that coincided with a Japanese tour.
There’s also high possibility that I’ll be doing session drums for a known San Francisco area one-man black metal project, but it’s still too early to really confirm that.

Amalgamoth: I have been invited to play drums on a Zaragil project. I also want to make a solo album with long keyboard pieces and electronic percussion. I'm working on that one when I have spare time left. No idea when it'll be finished though.

Zaragil: Yes, I have gathered some ideas, waiting to be recorded properly, and asked Amalgamoth to join the project on drums because, for what I have in mind, Otrebor would be overqualified, haha. And Amalgamoth has never played on a whole album before, so this will be a nice, spontaneous, refreshing thing to do - just for our own pleasure. Apart from that I have recorded a solo album last year - the project is called Vovlieh and the album name is "The Halt" - it was released two months ago as a digital-only album and can be purchased on all major digital music stores. You can also hear the whole album on - and, as usual, try to hear all songs as they are all different. It's a black metal ambient minimalist concept (s)avantgarde archeofuturistic thing... more simple explanation would be "A man in a forest, playing to the trees." Did it just for myself, and some people who discovered it, and actually listened to it, liked it. It's not music for everyone but it seems that people who would be into it somehow find it.

6. What are some of the bands or music styles that have influenced the musical sound of Ophidian Forest?
Otrebor: Personally, just about any and every album I’ve ever heard with drums. I do a bit of melodic instrumentation on upcoming album #3, which I suppose is influenced in my mind by classical music.

Amalgamoth: Vocal wise, I'm down with demonic hateful screeches in the style of Horna.
But because I don't want to do that all the time, I also like a bit of heroic viking cleans now and then, like at the beginning of "Pagan Pride In Hell". Currently I'm exploring the extremes of my low range.
I now also sing in a super low guttural voice like Tibetan monks can do.

Zaragil: We're all huge music fans, and I'd say that everything we hear influences us in a good way or in a "this sucks, so I won't do it with MY music" way. Personally I like, listen to, think and live black metal, but anything from black to power, or ambient or classically influenced, can do. Things I don't like are overproduced or jazzy music - if I had to draw a line I'd say that I'm more influenced by the music genres that originated in Europe, but it's not a general rule.

7. What are you listening to nowadays?
Otrebor: The three Debemur Morti Arckanum re-issues. Pestilential Shadows “In Memoriam, Ill Omen.” Botanist’s first two albums (I’m still recording the second one and just finished the first).

Amalgamoth: I listen to various stuff, not just metal. Today I have listened to a beautiful gloomy CD with Bach cello pieces, but also to "Black & White" from the Stranglers, as well as "Mysterious Semblance" from Striborg. My latest CD purchase was "Holnijimnjok" from Tjolgtjar, who mixes 70s blues with lo-fi black metal and lots of occult insanity about extra-terrestrial entities who want to take over our minds.

Zaragil: All the Moonblood recordings, one by one, and also a lot of Greek black metal. A while ago I told myself I'll pay closer attention to the Greek scene some day, and the day came last year - now I'm making up for all that I have missed. There's just so much to discover, whereas, for example, when talking about the Scandinavian black metal scene, it's all about just a handful of bands which maybe recorded one or two good albums each and should have retired a decade ago but the money keeps them alive. And it seems that the Greeks were doing great albums all this time and no one was noticing.

8. When I read your lyrics they seem to be very well written about Norse Paganism, what are some pagan philosophers that have influenced the song writing?

Amalgamoth: Norse paganism is based on the Edda. An age-old scripture that was our Bible of the Norse and Germanic lands. The Christian religion has tried to destroy and corrupt our precious mythology, but now that the church is losing ground there is a renewed interest in stories based on our culture, not some compilation from the Middle East. I can recommend the books from Loren Auerbach, Miranda J. Green and Raymond Buckland. These authors have written important books about Druids, the Celts, Wicca and Witchcraft and those are just a few of many interesting people. I also support the World Pantheist Movement and the principles of Naturalistic Paganism. I can also very much recommend the underrated Viking films from the Icelandic film director Hrafn Gunnlaugsson. People should snap out of their infatuation with the "13th Warrior", because there are much better Viking films out there. Gunnlaugsson had a keen eye for authenticity and a genuine understanding of Viking culture, without wanting to make a Hollywood puppet show out of it.

9. What are some of the other things you find interesting in life besides music?

Otrebor: Nature and animals, languages, exercise, massage therapy, nutrition, video games, and women.

Amalgamoth: I can't live without music, it's a component of my blood. But what I also find interesting is how to make a living. I've had many jobs throughout my life. I'm now beginning to earn some money by working as a guide for mentally and physically challenged people. The interesting thing is how I'm trying to help people while being a misanthrope at the same time. The thing is that many people afflicted with severe mental disorders or defficiencies are far less likely to exploit, deceive or betray you, because they just are how they are. They don't try to be someone they are not.
I'm also interested in languages, I've been studying Russian for a few years now. It's still hard as hell, but I'm growing more familiar with it.

Zaragil: For me, music is connected to everything else - it's not a separate part of my life. So whatever I do, there are some of my worldviews and attitudes involved in doing it. That's the best thing about Paganism - it can be applied to all the other aspects of life. But to answer your question - right now, today, I'm taking a bunch of photos of small things - to cut the long story short, even though the camera on my cell phone doesn't have autofocus I realized that I can use the videocall camera for pretty outstanding macro shots. Anyone with the same problem reading this - try it. But generally, I try to read a lot, mostly alternative science - I say "alternative" because it's still not generally accepted, but it's amazing to notice how the ancient Pagans and today's quantum field scientists are saying basically the same things. Also, animals, Nature, long walks with my dog, and whatever I find worth studying. There's always something, and then somthing else. And almost everything is better than wasting time around ordinary humans.

10. When can we expect the next album?
Otrebor: By next, we’re talking about album #2, Plains. One can hope within three to four months.
11. For those that are not familiar with your band what are some of the links they can reach you at, so they can hear your music, or learn more about the band?

Amalgamoth: Visit our myspace page ( and our dedicated website at

12. Any final words or thoughts?

Otrebor: Thanks for the time and opportunity.

Amalgamoth: Thank you for your interest. We are grateful for genuine interest from zines that can be bothered to give a damn.

Zaragil: I'm thankful for any exposure we can get. We're obviously not a live band, so things like this interview, and our MySpace page, are the best exposure we have right now. And we're not one of those bands looking to sell 5 DIY copies on eBay and remain obscure - we have things to say, and we'll keep on saying them for as long as it takes. Heathen hails!

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