Germany may not necessarily be known for its black metal – you hear far more about Scorpions, Teutonic thrash, or that distinctive Helloween-influenced style of power metal – but in Infestus, Deutschland can say they have one of the genre’s truly elite bands. Originally a trio when they formed in 2003, Infestus has been the solo project of Andras since the project’s third album, 2011’s Ex | Ist. The solo format clearly suits him: each successive Infestus album has been larger in scale and more challenging than the last, and they’ve also been increasingly more brilliant. His latest effort Thrypsis, which was released recently by Debemur Morti Productions (order here), is easily his grandest achievement yet.
I had the opportunity to chat recently with Andras about the new album, and he proved to be quite the engaging interview subject. Check out our conversation below.
Indy Metal Vault: Hey – thanks for the interview. I first became aware of Infestus with your 2011 album Ex| Ist– which, if I’m not mistaken, was the first Infestus album you recorded completely solo. It’s been fascinating to hear the evolution in your sound from that album to 2014’s The Reflecting Void and then now to Thrypsis. With Ex| Ist, you were already one of the elite practitioners of what I’ve long though of as that distinctly austere style of German black metal, but you seem to have gotten more ambitious with each successive release, to the point where Thrypsis almost sounds more like blackened progressive than black metal. Since you write, play, and mix all your music, how do you sustain the motivation to keep outdoing yourself with each new release?
Andras: Thanks for your words. Yes, there is always some kind of change with every album. I implement new elements or styles that suit my taste. The evolvement you hear in my music is a fundamental element of my will to create. I don’t want to repeat. Life is about striving for evolvement, drowning in your deepest fears, overcoming your pain, just to fall into your abyss again. There is a constant change happening. Why shouldn’t that be pictured in the music one creates? It is art if you do so. I struggle with the inconsistency of my mood. My creations are one way to deal with it. I never understood how bands could do the same over and over again with every release just to be on the safe side. Those bands degenerate to a nameless product in my eyes.
IMV: As I alluded to in the last question, Infestus wasn’t always a solo project – for a while, the band was a three piece. You didn’t take over guitars until 2008’s Chroniken des Ablebens, and then vocals with Ex| Ist. Since you do have a full version of the band that you use for live performances, what made you decide not to replace either of your former members and keep Infestus a solo project in the studio?
A: Before Chroniken des Ablebens I already contributed a lot of guitar tracks to the earlier outputs, but held back the riffs I deemed as being too personal. Already back then I had the vision that I had to start a solo project in which I am not disturbed by other members. The natural decrease in members paved the way for the INFESTUS you people know nowadays. This project became so insanely intense and personal that I couldn’t, and still cannot, imagine having musicians as creative parts in INFESTUS. INFESTUS is the symbolization of the war inside of me. My live musicians are there to make it possible to present this art on stage, and I am thankful for their dedication. But I could never let anybody enter INFESTUS as a creative force in terms of music.
IMV: So before we get to talking about Thrypsis, I’m always curious about the backgrounds of multi-instrumentalists. What was your first instrument, and how did you get from that first instrument to being able to carry on with Infestus as a solo project? Also, I notice that you’ve primarily been a drummer in your non-Infestus musical activities. Would you consider drums your primary instrument?
A: I was born in a very traditional region in the Bavarian Alps. So my first instrument in childhood was a traditional instrument called the Zither. I stopped playing after three years, when I was nine I think. At 16 I started with drums and guitar. I found out that it is possible to find alleviation to some degree by using my inner darkness for creating something greater instead of destroying things and people.
Naturally, there are fewer good drummers than there are good guitarists because drums are simply not that easy to learn. Most often, bands are looking for a drummer. That’s perfect in my situation because I need to keep my level up in drumming for INFESTUS recordings. I only play guitar when I am writing music for INFESTUS. So you can call drums my primary instrument, yes.
IMV: Every time I listen to Thrypsis—which has to be close to twenty times by now—I feel like I pick up on something new within the songwriting and arrangements. One thing I noticed right away, though, is that there is a lot of piano on the album. I don’t recall that being much a part of the Infestus sound at all prior to Thrypsis. Was there anything in particular that made you decide to feature it so prominently this time?
A: I always loved the piano, especially in a solo situation. It is one of the most expressive instruments in this world and for ThrypsisI wanted it to become a part of my art, to add another aspect to it. I wish I had the time to get to know this instrument better, but my life is so packed with things…I have to change something about that…
IMV: To sort of follow up on that last question, the piano seems to play a large part in what strikes me as an increased emphasis on melody on Thrypsis. There’s still plenty of aggression, but with the exception of the vocals (more on those in a minute), the aggression seems far more controlled. I especially appreciate the twin guitar harmonies that you occasionally incorporate, like in ‘Seed of Agony.” Were you intending to write a more melodic, more progressive-sounding album this time, or was it more of a natural evolution from The Reflecting Void.
A: Actually, right after The Reflecting Void I wanted to get back to making more dissonant and less catchy music. And I actually did that in my pre-productions. But then I felt that I missed an important element of my music and went back to the song structure and rebuilt certain parts of the songs. This was an important step, which contributed a lot in my opinion. I sometimes feel Thrypsis to be some kind of combination between The Reflecting Void and Ex | Ist,,but also adding its own character in terms of atmosphere and melody. I am quite satisfied with the outcome.
IMV: The vocals on Thrypsis are far more emotive than on your previous two albums. You mostly used a sort of growl on Ex| Ist,which you started to move away from on The Reflecting Void.I’m not quite sure what to call your approach on Thrypsis. They’re not clean vocals, but they’re not really growls, either. They are, however, incredibly effecting at conveying the rage and pain of the lyrics. Since as near as I can tell, there isn’t a huge difference in the lyrical themes on Thrypsis, how much of the vocal approach on the album is a result of the shift in musical direction on the album, and how much stems from you getting more confident as a vocalist from one album to the next?
A: Thanks. Of course I gathered some experience as a vocalist with the last albums. And as with every other instrument, I expected the vocals to convey the extreme emotions I put into my music as well as possible. So it was never a question of style or musical direction, but a question of increasing skill and emotional authenticity. The confrontation with the lyrical content in the vocal recording sessions was again intense. The lyrics as well as the music I write are of very personal nature. It was as if I would re-infuse all the poison I have arduously removed from my mind during the last years. In the end, catharsis is an illusion anyway.
IMV: Based on the recording notes that were included in the press kit, it seems like you started work on Thrypsis practically from the minute The Reflecting Void was released, and you spent considerably longer on it than previous albums: it was written between 2014-16, and recorded in various stages between February 2017 and May 2018. By contrast, Ex | Istwas written between September 2008 and December 2009 and recorded between February and July 2010. How much of that four-year span would you estimate that you actually spent working on the album? Are you more the sort of songwriter who likes to let things sit for a while and then return to them, or are you more of the perfectionist type who will keep wrestling with a song until its in the exact shape you want?
A: I can’t give you a number for that. There are phases when there is an inner urge to create that I give in to, and there are phases when it is not possible to create music. During these phases of creativity I’d say I’m something in between the two personality traits you mentioned. Every early creation has a reason why it was created. I don’t let go on songs easily just because they do not meet my expectations in the beginning. I work on them, struggle with them, hate them, love them, and finally complete them. There are times where I have to let go of them for a while in order to get back and continue shaping them until finally they have become an entity on their own. With Thrypsis it took longer because of two injuries I had that first delayed drum recordings for several months and then guitar recordings for a long time. But that’s another story…
IMV: According to those same notes, you recorded Thrypsis in three different studios: drums at SMT Studio in Slovakia, guitars at SubSoundStation Studio in Austria, and then bass and vocals in “Infestus’ torture chambers,” which I’m going to guess is your home studio. Is that your usual way of recording, or did you approach that process differently this time around as well?
A: SMT studio, where I recorded drums, is also located in Austria. This was the first time that I did not record drums in my hometown. I know the owner of the studio. And since he has decent hardware and a good old Tama set already in the studio I thought: “Why not”? Concerning the guitars, I wanted to try out some special microphone combinations. I didn’t do that with the last albums, which I kind of regretted. That’s why I chose the other studio. For bass and vocal recordings it was clear where it would go. The torture chambers…I leave it to your imagination. Generally speaking, when compared to the other albums, I took more time to find the right set-up for the different instruments.
IMV: To follow up on that last question, I’m always curious about the gear that musicians use in the studio. Considering the care with which the songs seems to have been constructed, and the clarity and precision of the mix, I’m guessing you’re particular about your setup. How did you achieve your guitar and bass tones in the studio? Were the piano parts actually recorded on a piano, or is that a really good synth sound?
A: Yes, I was pretty clear about how the guitars had to sound, which amps and which cabinet(s) I would use. The only variables were microphones and their positions. I spend a whole weekend with the engineer of SubSoundStation trying out many different combinations. I ended up with different cabinets and microphones for acoustic and overdrive lead/rhythm guitars. For bass recordings I already had a good setup in the infamous torture chamber. The piano parts were not recorded on a piano, no. I used two different piano libraries on the album and played it on a midi synth.
IMV: I tend to ask about cover art, but since the image that adorns Thrypsis seems fairly self-explanatory once you’ve heard the album, let me ask about the title instead. Apparenlty ‘thrypsis’ is a medical term that refers to a fracture in which the bone has been either splintered or crushed (which makes a hell of a lot more sense than Google Translate telling me that it’s Greek for ‘thickness’). It definitely looks like bone fragments flying out of the man’s mouth on the cover. At what point did you decide on Thrypsisfor the title of the album? Was it a concept that in any way influenced your songwriting, or did you choose it after the album was finished?
A: “Thickness,” haha! Right, the etymology of Thrypsis describes the event of something being smashed to pieces. It is used in different medical fields for different processes. With this album I tried not to see the big picture already before or during the process of creation, but to let it grow with every song’s deeper meaning. When all the songs were finished, I tried to find an all-embracing term that best described the thematic content of this album – or rather my life. And then I read about “chromothripsis.” Chromothripsis is a single catastrophic event of complex chromosomal destruction in cells which either leads to death of the living cell or chaotic changes that can cause disease. I thought that this mechanism could also be applied to the mental level. This was the moment where I felt how everything melted together underneath the term Thrypsis. It was just the perfect title for the album. And so I see life itself as an act of thrypsis of the individual in a causal relation of psyche, biochemical effects, neuronal network and society. You can interpret those shards as bone fragments or fragments of a biological system or as the result of mental thrypsis. It doesn’t matter; it all is connected with each other.
IMV: So what’s next for Infestus after the album comes out? Do you plan to do much touring in support of it?
A: I put quality before quantity. There will be some shows in the nearer future, but no extensive touring planned. I am open for booking inquiries though, because I just re-established a live line-up. And as life is a constant inflictor of traumatic events fueling the postulated mental thrypsis, my creative well is unlikely to run dry.
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?
A: I want to express my respect to those people who are willing to dive into my pain.
Thank you for the well thought-out questions.