Quintessence Mystica are a very special project formed in Kharkov (Ukraine) in 2008 by the multi-talented musician, composer and arranger Master Alafern and singer Dromos Aniliagos. The band’s stated aim is to musically and lyrically “express all that goes beyond the borders of common sense” a concept that Dromos expands upon in this interview – the first ever given to a UK journal.
For SonicAbuse what sets Quintessence Mystica apart from their peers is twofold – firstly the utterly uncompromising nature of the project (something made only possible by the limiting of the project to a duo) and secondly the range and depth of the compositions which, while markedly different from Master Alafern’s other projects, have benefitted from their creator’s vast wealth of experience and time spent working in the studio. The result is a symphonic, epic, black metal masterpiece that covers huge tracts of philosophical ground and similarly large swathes of musical territory. When you consider the attention that was also invested in the magnificent artwork then you have a complete package that should prove alluring to anyone with a taste for left-field, intelligent music that bears deeper exploration and contemplation.
More remarkable still, despite the fact that ‘the 5th Harmonic of death’ is the band’s debut effort, a second disc is, as you shall learn, nearly complete with much of the work already done and the duo excited about its continuation of the remarkable theme touched upon in its predecessor. Clearly Quintessence Mystica are making the most of the time available to them to develop their craft. Only one thing about the band is disappointing – the lack of a live presence and while this is understandable (the band only want to play live if they can truly represent the monumental act of creation that their first disc demanded) it is still galling that we may have to wait years for, or even never may see Quintessence Mystica in the flesh.
However, for now we are content to celebrate the dark work of genius that is ‘the 5th Harmonic of death’ and for that purpose we are proud to be able to present to you this interview with Dromos who discusses the recording process, art work and lyrical themes of one of 2011’s most enigmatic releases.
Interview with Dromos Aniliagos (24.01.2011).
How and when did the Quintessence Mystica project come into being?
The idea to create this project came to us in summer 2008. We had a feeling that still there are topics which were not discussed enough in our previous works/other bands. Furthermore, many of the musical themes which were used in Q.M. were not possible to fit into the concepts of other works. That’s why we with Alafern, not thinking too much, decided to engrave our fantasies in the musical plane founding this project. During the first few track-working sets we have realized that we had never done something like that with the music. I don’t mean the final product, but the way to work on material. For us that was an absolutely new, novel approach to creative work. The whole process of creation and composition of the skeleton for the future tracks took place “on one single breath”. After this short time we realized that the project definitely should exist.
What does the name of the album ‘the fifth harmonic of death’ signify and why did you choose that title for the album?
As it was mentioned in the press release, in this project we wanted to look behind the Grand Edge, the edge of life and common (human) sense, the edge of science and religion. And of course the edge of death… The name of the album symbolizes our constructive way to understand death using the Fourier series approach from mathematics – to expand this complicated phenomenon into certain finite-dimensional logical space.
There’s a strong soundtrack feel to a lot of the music – would you say that’s accurate?
Well, what can I say? Everybody should have their own opinion on music in general and on our album in particular. We were simply doing what was in resonance with our souls at that particular point in space-time. The result you have in your hands and you are, as the Listener, the only person in this universe who would have your own unique opinion which is not polluted by the opinion of others.
What bands did you find inspired you musically?
Both of us have our own musical preferences which are in fact quite different. Master Alafern prefers Death Metal, Industrial and of course Classical Music (his biggest inspirations are Richard Wagner, Johann Sebastian Bach, Niccolo Paganini, Antonio Vivaldi, Modest Mussorgsky, Johannes Brahms, Alexander Borodin, Sergei Rachmaninoff, Edvard Grieg and Giuseppe Tartini to name a few given in arbitrary order). I prefer Pagan, Black, Folk and Heavy/Speed Metal. I think it is useless to name any particular bands – simply too many great ones!
And what inspires the lyrics for the album?
Life inspires them, Life in its universal sense. Too many things are not clear in Life and that’s why it is one of the strongest inspirations. Our lyrical themes are Mystics, Cosmology, Occultism and War (as one of the oldest and strongest factors in Life).
Was it a difficult album to record?
Surely it was not easy because Master Alafern had to record practically all the instruments alone on the album. But in general he still thinks that that is the way to go and to keep this project as duet – it gives more freedom and leaves out a lot of useless discussions compared to the work of bands with a full line-up.
The album was actually recorded in 2008/09 I believe – why the long wait till the release?
Oh yes, it really took a lot of time between when the recording was finished and released, around 1 year. Most of this time was spent trying to find a release label and to find the artist who should create the artwork. But the final solution I think was correct – we are happy with both choices: the label (Schwarzdorn Productions from Germany) does a great job and the artist (Mstibog from Russian Federation) created some really great artwork. Now that the cooperation is set up thus I hope that everything will work much faster for the new album!
To what extent did your work on other projects (Thunderkraft, Triglav etc) influence the way you recorded this album?
I think that there is almost no overlap between QUINTESSENCE MYSTICA and other projects of Master Alafern like THUNDERKRAFT, SVYATOGOR, TRIGLAV and CON SPIRITO. All these projects both musically and ideologically are very diverse; each of them has its own “blend”.
Is it liberating to record all the music yourself or were there times when it would have been easier to have a full band backing you up?
To record the album (especially the studio album) with many people, one has to teach all these people what to play. Q.M. is a studio project which means that there were no rehearsals – it would be way to complicated in fact to manage all that. In our case everything is much easier: self-created, self-recorded. That’s the best recipe we think. But that does not mean that we will not have any guest musicians appearing on our albums in the future.
Can we expect you to perform this live at any point?
Q.M. is not just a musical band/project, it is a philosophic formation of the esoteric character, the subject of investigation of which is the Reality from a somehow different perspective. That’s why performances of this project have to be done very specially, definitely unusually; not just a few guys on the stage shouting loud and playing fast. To create such a special show with a special atmosphere substantial funding is needed, which at the current stage is not even foreseen (we were, we are and probably always will be part of the underground). Thus in the nearest future – no gigs.
You’re already planning a new album – ‘duality’ can you tell us anything about its themes and development?
We are not just planning it, we already have recorded 95% of this album (as usually at MHStudio/Kharkov). I hope in 1-2 months we will have a master-CD in our hands. Definitely the new album is a continuation of the first one. But in general we would like to hit other targets as well, thus the new album will surely be a bit different. The music will sometimes be even faster than before, but stylistically it is still the same stuff, and we are still continuing to use the same broad symphonic arrangements, harsh guitars and combined vocals. Duality will be reflected in the dual structure of our project, in our music, lyrics, attitude to vocals. It’s a continuation of our creative path and our musical experiment.
The artwork for ‘the fifth harmonic of death’ is very special – how did that come to be produced?
As I mentioned before it took a long time for us (a year practically) to prepare this CD for release. A lot of this time we spent trying to find an appropriate artist to create the artwork, and just accidently we got into contact with Mstibog. I really liked his full CG-approach to artwork, his creativity and, of course, his deep understanding of Black Metal. He took the “job” to create the artwork and the result (that’s my personal opinion!) is great! That’s exactly what we were searching for. Furthermore if for the pictures inside of the booklet (each track has the picture symbolizing the idea behind each song) we gave him some ideas, for the front cover he had his own idea which in the end we really appreciated.
What are your ambitions for the future?
Very humble in fact – just to finish the recording of “Duality” album and to release it in time. That’s all from my side. Alafern has many more things to do – he has to finish the recordings of 3rd album of SVYATOGOR, 2nd album of THUNDERKRAFT and the debut album of CON SPIRITO project.
Would you say there is a strong metal scene in the Ukraine? For a newcomer to Ukrainian metal what bands would you recommend?
Oh yeah! In my opinion it’s the strongest scene in Eastern Europe, mostly the Black Metal one. We have such a great bands like NOKTURNAL MORTUM, DRUDKH, ASTROFAES, HATE FOREST, DUB BUK, LUCIFUGUM (old albums), KRODA and of course projects and bands made by our “gang” hehe.
One of the best Ukrainian Speed Metal bands is CONQUEST who are also worth listening to.
Any final words?
Thanks for the interview! It is our first interview for British journal and I really hope not the last one.
By the way, one of my dreams is to visit in the UK the Lakeland as a place of inspiration for the great school of Lake Poets (like W. Wordsworth and S. T. Coleridge). If I’ll manage someday to make this trip definitely one the songs would be dedicated to it (like the last song on debut album is dedicated to my trip to Frankenwald in Germany)!