In my mind at least, Eisenwald is synonymous with black metal. However, there’s more than just black metal on the venerable German label’s roster. Case in point: Werian. You’d do well to remember that name, because I guarantee you’re going to be hearing a lot about their debut album Animist in the month ahead.
At the moment, though, I’m going to cut to the chase: today we’re giving you the chance to hear Animist in its entirety for the first time, ahead of its February 22 release date (preorder here). We also had the chance to talk to one of the members of the band who simply goes by D, so you can read his thoughts on the album and a few other topics while soaking in the ritual that is Animist for the first time. My advice? Light some incense, get dim the lights, and play it fucking loud.
Indy Metal Vault: First off, thanks for the interview. Animist is really an incredible album – one of those rare records that get more mysterious instead of less with every listen. It’s been a long time coming as well, a decade into the band’s existence. There’s a lot I want to ask about the record, so why not start at the top with the concept behind it. If I understand it correctly, Animism is the belief that all things are possessed of a spiritual essence. What drew you to that particular belief system for the album?
D: The term “Animist” unites the lyrical, musical and visual content. It developed during the whole genesis of the record that we hold in our hands now.
The lyrics speak for themselves if you see them in relation to our denial against human-created, especially monotheistic, religions that flout themselves above the spirit of nature and earth.
Musically, it´s a return to the essence of making and recording music. We tried to present this as animatedly and organically as it was possible for us. Music is an expression of feelings, it´s alive and spiritual.
IMV: There’s something very shamanic/ritualistic about Werian’s sound, which makes perfect sense given the meaning of the band’s name. In fact, it sounds an awful lot like “Hex” opens the album with an invocation. If that’s indeed the case, does that mean the album as a whole would best be approached as a ritualistic experience, ideally meant to be heard in its entirety while in a certain frame of mind?
D: Definitely, this record should be listened to as a whole. The songs are connected to each other and the album doesn´t unfold if you only listen to one song or parts of it. We never did make songs for easy listening. You have to get involved if you are in the right mood. I would prefer headphones, in a relaxed, darkened atmosphere or one of our live shows. It will become a ritualistic experience if your mind is open.
IMV: The album notes mention that Animist was recorded in a ‘live setting’ at Tonstudio Katzer in Nürnberg. Even if that hadn’t been mentioned, I think that comes through pretty clearly in the recording. There’s a certain kind of energy that only comes from playing in a room together, and there’s a ritualistic aspect to it as well. How much of what’s on the final version of Animist was recorded live? Did you do vocals separately or any overdubs?
D: The only things we overdubbed were the vocals, the solo-guitar in “March Through Ruins,” and some drone-effects created by the bass. Everything else you hear is what we recorded live. To catch the special energy of playing together was the main idea behind the recording process. For us, it´s the only way to record ourselves and has been since the beginning.
IMV: Werian’s sound draws from a wide spectrum of influences. How does that influence your songwriting process? Given that you also tend to write 10+ minute songs, that leaves a lot of room to introduce and develop ideas from all across that spectrum. Are you the sort of band who meticulously pieces together those epic songs one riff at a time, or do you tend to jam things out together in the rehearsal room instead?
D: Having a wide spectrum of influences is the base from where we start songwriting. That´s one reason why it takes us a very long time to write them. We try to put some surprising moments into each song, no matter which genre it comes from.
Having long songs always carries the danger of becoming boring. There has to be a flow from the beginning to the end. It´s like a journey for the band and the listener.
For us, the writing process is a mix of both methods. We jam things out in the rehearsal room and we record these long and intense sessions. After that, we start to work out single parts, adding bridges etc. It´s a long process and a song isn´t finished until every one of us is satisfied with every single part.
IMV: Since the album notes also mention that the record was recorded using only analog devices, can you talk us through what your recording setups looked like? How close are they to what you use when you play live?
D: We recorded with the same setups we use live and in the rehearsal room. We only added a vintage 70´s tube-amp from the studio to the guitar setting to have some more possibilities for the analog mixing process.
IMV: Chadwick St. John’s cover art is really unique and totally striking. How closely did you work with him on the cover concept? Did you give him lyrics or any other ideas, or did you leave him to his own devices?
D: We´ve been in constant contact over the whole year. I sent him the rehearsal versions of the songs and the lyrics. After that, we talked a lot and shared our ideas. We’ve known each other since the beginning of Werian (nearly 10 years), so our collaboration works very good. He sent us a raw sketch in August and we were totally excited. After that, he started drawing and inking without any time pressure. The result is still overwhelming and it was also a great honor for us that he did the intros to ”Blade of Heresy” and “March Through Ruins.”
IMV: What are your plans once Animist is released? I see a couple of live dates on your Facebook page – do you plan to do any touring behind the album?
D: What can we expect, now that the threads of fate are woven? We don´t have a real plan or high expectations. We hope that our album will find its listeners and that they will understand what we are trying to express with our music.
There will be no touring behind the album. We are always available for well-organized shows, but being on tour is nothing we can imagine, nor would it fit for our music.
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: Thank you for your interest in our band and music. We really appreciate that!