One of the most interesting releases of this year belongs to United Kingdom’s Formicarius. The band released its debut full length album, entitled “Black Mass Ritual”, which was actually the reason behind this interview. The band answered our questions and gave an insight for the band’s general existence, letting us to know them better.
Hello and welcome to Metal Invader; nice to have you with us. Hope everything’s flowing well for you. What are you up these days?
Flowing is one way of putting it. All I can say is if there was any doubt, there is definitely no rest for the wicked. Which is exactly how we like it.
Cutting to the chase, Formicarius is consisted of members that have already been part of other projects. In a way, you are veterans, hehe. What led you to the formation of this band? How did you all come together and to what end? What were your initial goals?
Correct – as well as being seasoned players on the scene we are all excolleagues. With experience comes hindsight, and we each wanted to start a band from the ground up with the wisdom gained from that. Further to this we make excellent music together – we simply wished to make more and do our partnership justice. In my opinion that’s how a band should be; an alliance of people who get together to make music because they want to. There is a calling to do so and that has been our only goal from the start – to do our creation proud.
A few months back, your debut album “Black Mass Ritual” was released. In fact a review will be soon posted on our site. In my mind, with your debut you managed to properly introduce yourselves to the extreme metal crowd. How has been the crowd’s response so far? Are you satisfied with the feedback you are getting?
As an artist you will always get a mixed bag of people who like it and people who don’t. I’m satisfied to have caused enough of a ruckus to merit being noticed, and certainly we have established an audience who love what we’re putting out. ‘Black Mass Ritual’ has certainly achieved a big splash as a debut album, but our mind is always to the future. There is so much more music to be written and put out, and whilst feedback gives some food for thought we will inevitably always do what we want to do. That’s one of the key elements of doing any kind of metal music after all.
“Black Mass Ritual” is a peculiar record, in terms of inspiration and overall performance. It presents your own perception of Black Metal with the incorporation of symphonic elements. First of all, could you give us a bit of an insight concerning the album’s composing and execution process? Was it a team work, focusing on expanding individual ideas or were there main ideas upon which you based the rest?
I wouldn’t say it’s to do with our perception – we perceive everything as is and fully acknowledge what our forefathers and peers do. It’s not that we don’t like what other more chaotic artists are doing, it’s that that’s not how we like to work. Throwing all the possible ingredients into the pot doesn’t really work forus, and certainly with ‘Black Mass Ritual’ we followed a more controlled Apollonian approach to writing. It’s a team effort with input from everyone, with myself heading the ship as the producer. Countless hours sunk into writing scores, arranging music and recording demos. We are constantly talking to each other about what we’re trying to say with a piece, how that can be reflected throughout a song. Every decision is deliberated upon at great length before making its way onto the final record. It goes without saying then that we have some main ideas at the foundation of the entire collection of tracks, and that the diversity of songs on ‘Black Mass Ritual’ is in itself a conscious decision. This is the way we need to work to be the best artists we can be and stretch ourselves evermore.
This incorporation of different elements that resulted into your debut’s final form was something planned from the start (to follow this path i mean) or did it happen naturally?
Again, I find people are often confuse ‘chaos’ with ‘natural’. Our process of writing is what comes naturally to us, I can’t imagine being a person who writes a record without having a plan. That idea is abhorrent to me and breaks my brain. We wrote the pieces for ‘Black Mass Ritual’ intending for them to end up as an album together, a collection of our combined efforts at that place and time. As that collection developed it of course naturally evolved into our debut album as you hear today.
What are, would you say, your main influences, musically speaking?
Between us we have quite eclectic music tastes. As you have probably come to expect from us we direct those tastes quite strictly. In Formicarius we take a lot of influence from Baroque and Romantic periods of classical music, as well as of course the last half a century of what can be considered metal music. Big influences for us include Emperor, Satyricon, Dissection, Sigh, Cradle of Filth, as well as a diverse range of metal acts; Iron Maiden, Morbid Angel, Death, Children of Bodom, etc. Everything is relevant with the right directing, but we are first and foremost a Black Metal band with enormous, ambitious soundscapes and dense harmonies inspired by the best in the genre and from olden classical music.
As far as i have understood, your songs are brief stories that combine mythology, fantasy and horror, under a veil of darkness. Who writes the lyrics? Are they based on ‘real’, already existing stories or are just products of your own imagination? Could be both?
There are three authors to the lyrics on ‘Black Mass Ritual’: myself, Morath and one Elliot Beaver of Repulsive (ex Hecate Enthroned and Phyrexia among others). They are indeed both based on existing material and entirely new imagination. For example, Morath wrote the lyrics for our acclaimed single ‘Lake of the Dead’ as a twist on Egyptian mythology. There’s a lyric video online for that one. A huge contrast is Elliot’s poetic lyrics for ‘Where the Gods Go to Die’, which are definitely worth investigating yourselves. Many of my stories are based on other fiction; in the case of ‘May the Rats Eat Your Eyes’ those ideas where directly inspired from Lovecraft’s unique style of horror. Ultimately what’s important isn’t so much the surface value content of a story and the characters, but what that story expresses and tells us of the nature of life. The album ends with an extremely emotional passage in ‘Master of Past and Present’. I assume the role of any protagonist in our lyrics earnestly when singing, the lyrics are there to make you feel something.
When i received my copy of the album, i was amazed by the cover art and general design. Care to give us some more info about the album’s art?
We commissioned Gary Ronaldson of Bit Radius design (Napalm Death, Benighted, Kreator, etc) to do the cover piece and album design. We are equally amazed with the end product – we gave Gary a very specific brief to work with, along with a mood board, and he perfectly captured what we were looking for in the scene depicted in the lyrics of ‘Abhorrent Feast of Minds’. He has since said it’s been one of if not the most challenging pieces he’s done, and you can see why with the shocking amount of detail he included. It really is a fantastic piece of artwork and absolutely matches the bleak, European middle ages tone of the album.
“Black Mass Ritual” was released via Schwarzdorn Productions. How did this cooperation come to life and how has your collaboration been so far?
We were on the lookout for a label to release ‘Black Mass Ritual’ for some time, and even delayed the process whilst Sony and Music for Nations put out our single ‘Lake of the Dead’ onto the Speed Kills VII compilation. We were in touch with many labels about the release, and simply speaking Schwarzdorn Production rose above the rest for this one. They negotiated a deal which works with us and gave us the push we were looking for to create a splash with the record. There was a certain amount of intuition from speaking with Patrick that he wouldn’t sell us short, that this was a real collaboration. It’s great to be able to say that in the year 2017 – you always hear about how even the biggest bands in decades past were screwed over signing their rights away to labels. It’s the opposite here, and with this underground kind of music where your artists really are artists doing their own music and playing their own instruments, that pays off massively in how much control you maintain. A great alliance and collaboration for sure.
Have you booked any tour or specific dates? Any chance to see you perform in Greece or at least somewhere near us?
We are always it seems going back and forth in discussions with various parties about tour dates. Unfortunately nothing is set in stone yet. I can say that we are looking towards February for some solid UK shows, but at this stage anything is possible. We long to bring our darkness to Europe and specifically to Greece. We’re doing what we can, but definitely let your promoters and festival organisers know that you want to see Formicarius! You only need a pebble to start an avalanche.
Seal this interview anyway you want. Thanks for taking the time to answer my questions. Would you like to send a message to our readers?
It’s a great time to be a music fan. ‘Black Mass Ritual’ is available to listen to and buy from all the usual music platforms (amazon, itunes, spotify, etc). If you’re intrigued then get listening, spread the word and let us convert you to the cult of Formicarius.