Our loyal Vault Hunters are already well aware of this, but I’ll mention this up front for anyone just joining the party: I am a huge fan of Portuguese black metal. I know to a lot of people it sounds like primitive, poorly produced noise, but that’s actually why I like it – there’s something both ritualistic and visceral about the current crop of bands on the Iberian Peninsula. And when it comes to the Portuguese scene, it doesn’t get any better than the Aldebaran Circle: Occelensbrigg, Trono Além Morte, Ordem Satânica, and Voëmmr. Unbeknownst to me – and likely anyone else following the clandestine collective, since I like to think I do a pretty good job of keeping tabs on what they’re up to – there’s actually a fifth band in the Circle: Degredo.
The duo of Velha and Lagrisome have been perfecting their mystical, telluric arts since 2010, releasing four demos along the way. Their long-awaited debut full-length A Noite dos Tempos Volume 1 & 2 will be released On November 30 by Harvest of Death (preorder here), and they’re definitely rewarding people’s patience. A mind-defiling 75-minute descent into aural hell spread out over a pair of two song albums, A Noite dos Tempos almost has more in common with ritualistic drone or dark ambient than it does with black metal, especially across the two songs on Volume 2.
Ultimately, I think A Noite dos Tempos is music that’s meant to be experienced, and not necessarily enjoyed. Open yourself up to it, though, and it’s the sort of album with the potential to change the listener on some fundamental level. As such, we’re honored to not only be streaming A Noite dos Tempos in its entirety here today at the Vault, but I also had the rare opportunity to chat with Degredo. I’ve been wanting to interview an Aldebaran Circle band for a while, so I’m particularly thrilled to be able to present that alongside our stream of A Noite dos Tempos.
Indy Metal Vault: First off here, thank you for the interview. I’ve been an admirer of the Aldebaran Circle’s output for a while now, but considering how mysterious the Circle is, I never thought I’d get a chance to chat with any of the bands. I want to start by asking the origin of the collective’s name: Aldebaran, which comes from Arabic and translates as ‘foremost’ or ‘leading star,’ is the brightest star in the zodiac constellation of Taurus. With the possible exception of Occelensbrigg, none of the bands in the Circle seem to make use of cosmic or astral themes in their music – how was ‘Aldebaran Circle’ decided on as a name?
Degredo: Most of all, it is a symbol and a myth, deeply related to an iconic place to us in the mountain regions. In ancient times, Aldebaran was the rising star upon the summit of the most majestic mountain of Portugal, Serra da Estrela (which was named after it and translates as “mountain of the star”). Mountains have always been sacred, magickal places, and Estrela is surrounded by megalithic ritual sites that face towards Aldebaran. Villages with ancient tales, folklore, entities, creatures, and mysteries surround this mountain range where some of us have roots, or know and travel to in order to contemplate. There is no overall connection to cosmic themes exclusively, so it might be more accurate if you consider “leading star” and all the mystical aspects of it, enhanced by its rising over our highest mountain – the dark and powerful symbolism that it holds.
IMV: Even though I’ve been following the Circle’s output fairly closely, Degredo isn’t a name I’ve heard associated with them previous to A Noite dos Tempos. When did you join their ranks? Have you been there in the background since the start, or did it happen more recently?
D: It was the other way around. Degredo had been lurking in the shadows for years before the collective of entities that became known as Aldebaran. Degredo members were part of the genesis of some of the bands that gathered afterward, and then the concept of Aldebaran Circle was created.
IMV: A Noite dos Tempos is really a remarkable album. It’s also damn near overwhelming: four songs, nearly seventy-five minutes, all of them virtually impenetrable. Even though they’re all stylistically similar, none of the four demos Degredo released previous to A Noite dos Tempos come anywhere close to matching it in terms of scope or size. What made you decide to do something so epic for your first full-length?
D: It was not a completely a priori decision per se to bring a more atmospheric conception to the sound or make longer songs. However, we have always been fond of enthralling, long songs where the atmosphere stands out and takes us on long, sinister journeys. There was some composition before in the shape of tones and melodies, fragments that were brought into the session place. Then it all started to bond together, morphing and flowing like a trance, through the sessions where A Noite dos Tempos was recorded. It was not predicted as an album. We simply created something that long and with a more atmospheric-ritual ambient sound because that is how we felt to do at the time. It just unfolded naturally that way.
IMV: The more I listen to A Noite dos Tempos, the more I get the sense that Volume I and Volume II are each actually a single track split into two parts in order to fit onto a double-LP. The way the album flows from “Parte Um” to “Parte Quatro” really is perfectly suited for the vinyl format as well – “Parte Um” is probably the closest in style to the raw black metal played by your Aldebaran Circle compatriots Ordem Satânica, but the music gets progressively less structured from there, with most of “Parte Quatro” falling somewhere between dark ambient and blackened noise. Did you specifically have vinyl in mind when you were conceiving of A Noite dos Tempos, or did it just conveniently work out that way?
D: When we conceived A Noite dos Tempos, we didn’t consider time. We just let it flow in the haunting darkness of the moment, like a ritual. When the idea came from Harvest of Death to release an album, the songs were split to fit due to their lengths. The way it was done, even split, allows a perfect way to enter and absorb the cryptic, somber atmosphere that one can experience from the album. To inhale the scent of haunted nights of old.
IMV: I used ‘conceiving’ instead of ‘composing’ in the previous question because there’s something very spontaneous-sounding about A Noite dos Tempos. It’s very easy to imagine the majority of the music being improvised in a ritualistic setting. How much of the music was actually written, as opposed to being created spontaneously?
D: That is right, because not everything, as I said, was composed previously in detail. Some ideas started to unfold and take form as a concept; there was some composition, but most of all thoughts and inspirations. So the way it came to materialize was as if those compositions, thoughts, and inspirations had an energy that we let flow – merged and entwined, so a lot came improvised, yet was led by the feeling and state of the moment – and revealed then, through music, fitting perfectly into the aura of what came to be A Noite dos Tempos.
IMV: There are a couple of things that are mentioned in the promotional materials that I want to ask about. The first is that you create your music via “unorthodox means, mostly using acoustic and rural artifacts for precision and sound ambiance.” In the photo that accompanies the promo, one of you is standing in what seems like some sort of shed with an assortment of pickaxes and a bear trap on the wall, holding what looks like a bow made from a felled tree limb. Are those the sort of ‘rural artifacts’ you used on A Noite dos Tempos? Did you use very many traditional instruments on it at all?
D: We have made experiments using some real rural artifacts to produce sound, adding (sometimes) effects, voices, and more traditional instruments as flutes, drumming, and what that we can add at the moment to deepen and enhance a specific atmosphere, as we feel these artifacts (often very old, passed from one generation to another) have this energy and aura which only comes from rural tools and materials. It draws us back to the times of old when they were used in the fields and villages. Sounds that bring a kind of obscure time-travel. Within this album, that’s what happens throughout the stages of the experience, like we had when conceiving it. The Night of Times, a ritual and a dream, so dark and so long ago, yet here in the blood, in the black earth. All of this is very meaningful to us. Not only a journey through the dark and dust of time but also beyond, to reconnect with the earth and origins, to recall ancient mysteries and tales, to enter the haunted deep memories, the presence of local entities and spirits, to feel, to pay reverence to the essence of the old night.
IMV: The other thing the PR materials mention is that your “lyrics are based on rural and ancestral essays, tales from the Serra Da Estrela Mountain and its surrounding areas, extracted from old sayings of their grandfathers and grand grandfathers.” I’ve only seen one set of Degredo’s lyrics, for the song “Aos Que Caminham Na Noite” (“To Those Who Walk at Night”) from the demo of the same name, and lines about how ‘the blood of the wolf has united with yours’ make me think it deals with some sort of werewolf legend. Are you willing to talk specifically about the lyrics on A Noite dos Tempos? What tales or sayings did you draw from this time?
D: Most of Degredo’s inspiration comes from the darkest essence of ancestral, local beliefs, rural themes, old folklore and how it was experienced and lived through in ancient times (even up to the first half of the 20th century), and how we still feel its allure and fascination – and how we feel connected to these places of our ancestors, to the bare and mysterious soil. “Aos Que Caminham na Noite” recalls local tales of werewolves, when fear, belief, natural and supernatural walked together hand by hand. The perception and experience of nature and its overwhelming vastness. The night, mother of all mysteries. The winters were colder and darker in those remote mountains and valleys. The lyrics on A Noite dos Tempos are an ode to this. The Night, the timeless Night, which crosses ages, it always comes back with its entities, spirits, ghosts…there, alone in the vast mountains, you can still feel the weight and tenebrous beauty of it, and feel the presence. It is still there, in the night of times…
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?
D: Most that could be summed up through words has been said in the aforementioned answers, so in essence what can be furthermore experienced can only be done so through A Noite dos Tempos.
Thank you. Regards.