Thursday, May 11, 2017

interview: Isenordal (part 1)

Alright, friends, here we have a very special interview with Seattle’s own Isenordal, who this year have revealed an ambitious and creative album of particular interest to audiences that are searching for bands that are different, that stand out, that have their own thing going. Here’s the deal. Usually metal people want to know the genre right away, but that’s kind of the problemy-problem here. Isenordal does not fit very nicely into a particular genre. Listen to the album at the link below, but just take your time with it. It’s not fast food for the mind. It takes a while for the brain to put together the pieces of the epic metal of Isenordal. Kind of think of it, if you would like a real good introduction to the band, this whole interview is basically that. This publication sent the band these questions and the musicians actually took the questions seriously (gasp!) and the result is a great read about the band, the new album Shores of Mourning, and the roads that have converged for the formation of Isenordal. Let’s not even waste any more precious time, friends. Let’s get ready to rumble!
Congratulations on your new album Shores of Mourning! What type of musical background do all of you have before Isenordal? Are y'all in other bands active in Washington state? Does everyone in the band live in Seattle or do you have members scattered across the country?
SAM: Hails MMB, cheers for the interview! Our current lineup is as follows: this is the same lineup we recorded the new album with, excepting that Kerry recorded some of the piano parts in the studio.
Kerry Hall - guitars, vocals
Marisa Janke - viola, vocals
Brian Spenser - drums
Lieu Wolfe - keyboards
Jeff King - bass
Sam Smallidge - guitars
Most of our members have other projects they work with. I play drums under the name EXHUMER in a black-thrash band from Washington called KOMMAND. I also run Sentinel Magazine, which is a paper zine about extreme metal and punk in the Northwest. Everyone lives in Seattle, except Lieu, who lives in Pittsburgh, but she's moving to Seattle soon!
KERRY: Currently I sing in a powerviolence band Endorphins Lost, and Brian and I were in a crust band Asymmetric Warfare. I've played piano since I was five, and dabbled a bit in violin as well.
JEFF: Besides this band I also play cello in dark folk band Thunder Grey Pilgrim. I was also the lead guitarist and vocalist Morose, which disbanded with the death of Adrian Guerra, who was the former drummer of Bell Witch. I also was one of the founding members of Mercy Ties. I no longer play in that project, but they are still active.
LIEU: I've played piano on and off for 20 years; it is my main love and what I'm currently using to write all my music. My side squeeze is the accordion, which I've been playing for my solo depressive/apocalyptic singer-songwriter project for the last 4 years. I also played trumpet for 6 years when I was younger and did every kind of school band possible; concert band, jazz, swing, orchestra, marching band, etc. About 5 years ago, I got intensely back into playing music after not having regular access to instruments for some time; this is when I starting writing my own music, which was a whole new world after predominately playing sheet music and classic pieces most of my life. I've jammed with a lot of different folks and been in a few random projects since then, but nothing remotely serious, Isenordal is my first legitimate band, and I'm excited to have this directed outlet to write music for.
MARISA: I began studying classical viola at nine years old and play regularly as my primary passion and hobby but have not been involved in orchestral performance since 2011. I sought to incorporate my knowledge and appreciation of orchestral composition into the contemporary heavy music realm with my involvement in Isenordal. While this is my main project, I also perform and record as a session musician and play guitar in a two piece post-rock band. Isenordal had specific interest in executing a baroque style ensemble upon their formation which was impressively executed in the first release Imbolc MMXIV, and I feel as though my efforts in Shores of Mourning have interestingly showcased our ability to also present a neoclassical sounding piece.
Who are the people that played an instrument and did vocals on the album in the studio? Who of the current members of the band participated in the recording of the album and who are guests or former members?
KERRY: Everyone that recorded on Shores is in the band currently. No guest performances on this album, but I would absolutely love to do some collaborations in the future.
MARISA: Though some of the vocal tracks are doubled or multi-tracked, all of the male vocals were performed by Kerry and female vocals by myself.
The album follows up on the EP from 2014, Imbolc MMXIV. Are all the songs on Shores of Mourning new tracks? How much time did you spend recording the new album? How much do you record at home and how much did you record in a studio? Do you remember what parts of the recording process were a pain in the neck and which ones were fun?
SAM: All the tracks on Shores are new ones, yes. After Isenordal toured in support of Imbolc, there were a bunch of major lineup changes that went on continuously until around the time we went into the studio. Kerry had been sitting on a lot of great material that was all composed through the past iterations of the band, and in a way, we recorded the album as fast as we could so those songs could finally see the light of day. Everything was recorded at Soundhouse in Seattle, I believe we spent 5 or 6 days in the studio in total. Everything went smoothly enough! “A Gallows Prayer” was a difficult one to track though, haha! Jeff Lynn did an awesome job mixing it once we were done and we were stoked to have Greg Wilkinson from Brainoil and Earhammer studios master it.
KERRY: I wish we had more time in the studio to experiment, but of course we had to deal with time and budget constraints.
MARISA: I got really fed up with my personal string performances on “Pyres at Nightfall” and requested time in our re-do session to tighten it up. It ended up being some of my favorite contributions in the album entirely. It is the only song I did not write string parts for; Kerry had written all of them before I joined the band, so it took me a few tries to feel like I had done an appropriate performance of his composition. The first half of “To Tear the Veil of Dreams” also took me a great deal of time and required incredible patience from everyone in the studio; stylistically it involves a lot of glissandos (slides from one note to another) that has high potential for intonation issues. Tracking that one successfully was a real victory!
So far, the way that I have been listening to Shores of Mourning is as a whole. I let the thing play on and on and when it ends we go around once again. The music covers a lot ground, from melancholic death doom to blasting black metal. Here’s an annoying question for you: For you all, did you have an idea that this would out come as a mammoth album of epic metal? When you were recording, were you aware that the end result would sound like this or are you surprised at the creature to which you gave birth? Do you feel satisfaction, a sense of relief and pride now that it is done?
SAM: Thanks so much for the kind words. It was pretty fulfilling to hear the album come out the way it did. I had heard some reference tracks and demos for the new songs before I joined the band, but once all the new members started expressing themselves musically it really morphed into something different. I think we're all pretty relieved that the record is done. The process going into it was really arduous and emotionally trying, for a lot of reasons, and I think that emotion comes through in the songs. Now that we've finally released these older songs, like I touched on earlier, we've really got a wide open agenda.
KERRY: I have a bunch of other material I have been sitting on for awhile. When considering the songs that were going to go on Shores, I wanted the songs to be cohesive, yet at the same time emphasize contrast. I'm pretty happy with the songs we chose to go on this album, and more than anything, I am proud to be in a band with such talented and kind people.
They say that music listeners nowadays listen to a new song for a few seconds and decide whether they like it or not. If you had one wish for a new listener when she or he hears your music, what would you wish for them to do with your music? Does it concern you at all that you have gone off the deep end with songs that are too long?! What a nightmare your band is for anyone looking for a genre to call your music!
SAM: Haha, yeah, we've got quite the array of genre influences on the album. Black Doom/ Neofolk maybe? More than anything I want someone to be able to sense the grief, the sorrowful energy that we were trying to put forth and explore within these songs. Even if our style isn’t someone’s cup of tea! I’d hope that they’re able to see the depression and hardship that the songs evoke. That’s more important to me, in a way. We’ve got some long songs on the album for sure, and most of them are structured in a pretty cathartic way! I like to think that all the feel changes keep things from falling apart too much.
KERRY: If the listener is starting off with the title track, I would only suggest they listen for more than a few seconds! It takes a little while to build, haha. In terms of a genre, I always felt like we were pulling from four genres, neofolk, black metal, funeral doom, and viking metal. On the viking metal side of things, specifically mid and late era BATHORY. It’s pretty interesting how much ground BATHORY covers, from black metal to viking, and even some neofolk thrown in. Certainly my biggest influence by far.
LIEU: I feel that our music does take patience to fully grasp, but the reward for that patience is the telling of stories and reaching deeper emotional connection. The variation and contrasts of the musical styles we are blending helps us to carve out dynamic sound structures and diverse emotions that can’t be created by sticking to one style. We want to create a distinct sound, while still paying homage to our myriad traditional musical muses and idols. I think that the length of the songs and the transitions that bind the album into unity are a refreshing reprieve from the spastic infophilic consumption of many folk’s daily modern lives.
[Part 2 of this interview is coming up! In the meantime, begin your adventure with Isenordal at the link below.]
isenordal.bandcamp.com
facebook.com/isenordal.metal

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