While I don’t claim to have an encyclopedic knowledge on the subject, I think it’s a generally accepted fact that the UK didn’t get swept up in the second wave of black metal like many European countries. During the period between 1992-94 when Darkthrone was working on their genre-defining unholy trilogy, for example, the Peaceville Three bands were busy creating the style now known as gothic doom. Honestly, the only British black metal album I’m aware of from that period is Cradle of Filth’s 1994 debut The Principle of Evil Made Flesh, though Dani & co. were a little more goth than the average Scandinavian band even back then. Now when I think of British black metal, it’s bands like Fen, Winterfylleth, and Forefather: bands that skew more towards atmospheric/pagan/folk end of the black metal spectrum.
So thank fuck and Hail Sathans for Crimson Throne. Even though they’re far from a purely second wave-inspired band–back in August when we premiered the static video for “Sightless Remnants,” I wrote that it might be tempting to call their dynamic style either ‘post’ or ‘progressive’ black metal–but in its most aggressive moments, their music possesses the same feral rage and blood-stained teeth as the best of those second wave bands. However, there’s much more to Of Void & Solitude, their forthcoming debut full-length, than mere Gorgoroth worship (even though the vocals do remind me a bit of Pest). In fact, Crimson Throne deftly mixes elements from so many different styles of metal, black or otherwise, that any kind of attempt to list them would be exhausting for both writer and reader, so let me sum it up thusly: there may be some familiar touchstones in their sound, but the resulting musical mélange is quite unlike any black metal album I’ve heard before.
Normally a low-key sort of band that eschews interviews, I was fortunate enough to have an opportunity recently to chat with Crimson Throne bassist/vocalist TH. Despite his warning that he likely wouldn’t answer anything too direct in the interest of preserving the band’s anonymity, he proved to be an engaging and more forthcoming interview than I was expecting, as we touch on the band’s brief history, lyrical themes, and overall aesthetic. Check it out, along with the recently released video for “Indignant Slumber” below. Then go preorder a copy of Of Void & Solitude on CD/LP from Apocalyptic Witchcraft here, and on cassette from Red River Family Records here.
Indy Metal Vault: Hey – thanks for the interview. Near as I can tell, you’re not a band that’s done many (or any, at least that I can find online) interviews, so I appreciate your willingness to answer some questions. I want to start by asking about the band’s name. I more or less assumed that Crimson Throne was some sort of gothic or vampyric reference, but as I was search online for other articles about the band I kept getting results for a module from the Pathfinder tabletop RPG series called Curse of the Crimson Throne. Is that just a coincidence, or was that the origin of the name?
TH: Hello. This is actually our first full interview. The name is a coincidence, although some of us do indulge in RPGs and the like. The name stems from the theme of our first EP, where we heavily reference the view of human history being akin to a slaughter bench. ‘Crimson Throne’ as a name is just another way of painting this picture.
IMV: In some ways, Of Void & Solitude feels like a huge step forward from the self-titled EP you released last year. I’d describe your sound as being fairly dynamic – I can hear second wave Scandinavian elements, some distinctly British death/doom elements, and even elements of that very riff-centric Brooklyn style of a band like Woe. All of that was present to some degree on Crimson Throne, but compared to Of Void & Solitude that EP almost sounds restrained. Since only about eighteen months separate the two releases, I’m curious as to how many of the songs on the new album were written after the EP was recorded. Did you approach the songwriting for Of Void &Solitude with the confidence to take a few more risks (like adding piano), or did you hold back on the EP for some reason?
TH: The band was initially more of a concept than an active band. At the time of writing the EP, we were unclear on how far down the path we would tread, let alone if we would ever take to the stage and perform live. Sadly, the original co-founding member had to step away from the project after the EP due to commitments abroad. The song “Dalit Lineage” was written just after the EP was released, as not only a representative transition marking this departure, but also to enable us to have enough material to play in a live environment. As the band developed post-EP, we have been joined by different vessels who channel and bring different energy and ideas to the fray. As a result, our musical material has taken on new forms and ideas, and has grown in its scope of how we would like to present our messages.
IMV: As a follow-up to that, given how dynamic your songs tend to be, what’s your writing process like? I’d expect it’s fairly deliberate on some level, considering how cohesive Of Void & Solitude feels with all its stylistic shifts and the way that no two songs really sound alike. Where does it start, though? Do you write collaboratively in the rehearsal room? Do individual members tend to bring in nearly completed songs? Is it a bit of both?
TH: In short, our writing is very deliberate. After deciding what the message would be behind the latest album and its various topics, we then worked collaboratively in creating the correct sounds to further the context of each song. We do not write music in a room together. Rather, it is pre-thought and planned – each song went through various stages of development and growth whilst feeding off its surrounding tracks. Of Void & Solitude was written as a piece to be listened to primarily on vinyl. The tracks and transitions of the vinyl’s sides reflect the varying stages and aspects of humanity’s abhorrent nature and past. To fully understand the album, it should be listened to in full on vinyl.
IMV: Crimson Throne takes a fairly thoughtful approach to writing lyrics as well, which I can definitely appreciate – especially when that approach includes Hegel as it did on Crimson Throne. The PR notes for Of Void & Solitude mention that this time the thematic focus is ‘on human suffering, pain & oppression, spanning across the ages of various cultures and their people.’ I’ve been able to glean some of your references to India’s untouchable caste (“Dalit Lineage”), the Sumerian equivalent of Mt. Olympus (“Ekur Calls”) and either Oliver Cromwell (my guess, since history more or less remembers him as a dictator) or the HMS Britannia (“Ironsides”). How did you arrive on that theme for the album? Where did your interest in history originate?
TH: This is a very lengthy and potentially tedious topic for most readers, so I will try to summarize.
Since before the writing of “Dalit Lineage,” we have known what we wanted this album to represent.
Each song is lyrically and musically aimed at an example in our past where fellow humans have undergone, endured, and survived varying extremes. “Ironsides,” for example, is based on English poet Andrew Marvell’s poem about Oliver Cromwell’s return from Ireland and the misery caused by his will. Whereas, although without vocals, “Blackened Sun” is about The Rape of Nanking, which I personally feel is a topic which sadly is not anywhere near commonly known enough about as it should be.
More generally, akin to every sentient being (to varying degrees), I know pain and suffering. Both personally and professionally, I am fascinated by it. Combined with my passion for history and cultures you have the theme and lyrics for Of Void & Solitude.
IMV: You recorded Of Void & Solitude with Misha Hering at Holy Mountain, an all-analogue studio, which I’m assuming means you actually recorded to tape. What made you decide to go old school like that? What was that process like? I’m going to guess that you couldn’t really go in and fix any little fuckups with Pro Tools.
TH: Misha mixed the album & we recorded parts of the album with him at his stunning studio, the rest we recorded ourselves. Misha’s passion for sound & tone perfectly married with our drive and vision for what we wanted this record to sound like. We are very happy with his involvement in making this record come to light.
IMV: I’d be remiss if I didn’t bring up the vocals, since just listening to Of Void & Solitude makes me feel like I need a throat lozenge. Are those high-pitched rasps as painful as they sound? I keep picturing flecks of blood on the pop filter at the end of your vocal takes.
TH: I do go through a fair amount of throat lozenges, but I’ve been fortunate enough to work with Vocalzone for sometime now. I’m pleased that you can hear the pain in my vocals. It does hurt, but I think it’s important that it does, as it is representative of the nature of our work.
IMV: In contrast to your dynamic approach to the music, your visual aesthetic seems to be pretty minimalistic. The cover for Crimson Throne is just your white logo on a grey background, and the video for “Indignant Slumber” is mostly either shadows or indistinct images. Even the cover for Of Void & Solitude, which has a fair amount of detail to it, is still a black-and-white ink drawing. Italian artist Altar of Sorrow, who also did the art for The Clearing Path’s most recent album, did the cover. How closely did you work with him on the concept for the art? Is the figure on the cover a representation of Britannia?
TH: We don’t feel our artwork or aesthetic should be particularly ‘showy’ or ‘grabbing.’ It’s more important that it is cohesive within its context. For example, the artwork on the EP included a wheel encircling our logo. This wheel, with figures in it, is originally from antiquity and was meant to subtly represent the circular nature of life.
We worked closely with Altar of Sorrow. We feel his illustrations have a subtle majesty to them that we hope to achieve sonically. The centre figure doesn’t represent anyone; it represents everyone. Everyone is at least sometime in their life close to their own ‘void,’ whether knowingly or not.
IMV: Like with the Crimson Throne EP, American label Red River Family Records will be handling Of Void and Solitude’s cassette release. How did Apocalyptic Witchcraft ad Red River Family first connect? If I’m not mistaken, one of the mysterious members Ninhursag contributed cello to the EP. Is that how the initial co-release came about, or does the relationship go back further than that?
TH: Regrettably, we didn’t manage to work with anyone from Ninhursag musically on the new album. Our connection with the label goes back a few years and stems from an overlap in interests and passions. We respect RRF and are glad they are once again releasing our music.
IMV: What are your plans after Of Void and Solitude is released? I saw you already did a brief run of UK dates with labelmates From the Bogs of Aughiska. Is there more touring in your future? Is there any chance of some US dates at any point?
TH: Despite not always being the plan, we have to date been a fairly active touring band. We’re enjoying playing live and intend to play as much as is suitable in 2019. We are yet to play outside the UK, so we relish the opportunity to play abroad. You will see.
IMV: Thanks again for being willing to answer a few questions. I like to leave the final word to the artists – anything else you want to add?
TH: Thank you for your time.