Mavradoxa Interview with 'Another Metal Review Blog' [May 26, 2017]

Posted by Nick Skog on Saturday, May 27, 2017 Under: Interviews
Mavradoxa Interview with Another Metal Review Blog
May 26, 2017

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As a native Montanan, an inherent reverence for nature and open wilderness will always be in my constitution, regardless of my urban transplanting. So much so, that despite my life-long appreciation for heavy music, the genre of black metal never held much sway with me before discovering the more nature-inclined and introspective avenues being explored by atmospheric and post-black bands like Agalloch, Borknagar, and Panopticon. One new entity that has grabbed my attention lately is Rochester NY-based band Mavradoxa. Beginning with last year’s debut, Sojourners, the duo of Nival (guitars, bass, and vocals) and Lux (percussion and vocals) have taken their cues from the burgeoning atmospheric BM scene and crafted their own flowing blend of emotional catharsis and nature-worship.
With their next album, Lethean Lament on the horizon through Hypnotic Dirge Records next month, front-man Nival sat down for an interview about the band, the new record, and the philosophy behind their unique music.

Mavradoxa is a very new band, tell us the story of how the project between the two of you came together.

I resolved to form a project where I could focus my creative energies towards composing. Playing in bands as a bass player for many years, I had never really had the opportunity to contribute anything meaningful to the writing process; and so, over time, I noticed an increasingly present desire to find an outlet for my own ideas. I am greatly inspired by bands like Woods of Ypres and Agalloch. I remember thinking to myself that I wanted to begin a project like that, a project that basically said “fuck you,” when it came time to conform to genre conventions. I wanted to have something unbridled, something that could dare to be whatever it wanted to be, something that might one day be inimitable.
I had known Lux for many years, but we had never truly crossed paths in the world of music. We had been friends and fellow members of the Rochester music scene for some time, so there was already a certain level of fellowship between us. Lux and I came together through the internet; I had been seeking a drummer through social media and other online outlets. I already had quite a bit of material for Sojourners written at this point, so we immediately dove into the writing process. Our first few jams seemed to have an inexplicable ease. Right away, I felt that we really clicked.

Coming from the last album, what was the intent for Lethean Lament? What were you trying to achieve?

First and foremost, Lethean Lament was meant to raise the bar for what we were capable of as musicians. This album is stylistically similar to Sojourners; however, we both invested more effort in developing the song structures, and not imposing any sort of limits on ourselves. The result is something sprawling (and far less succinct), yet genuine and passionate. In many ways, Lethean Lament is a direct follow-up to its predecessor, but it’s also an evolution of our sound. Recording this album was an act of pure catharsis.

In terms of what it tries to achieve, I’m not entirely sure, haha. I like to hope that it might be unique. I like to think that other people will sense it, and that it will make an impact on their lives. To me, there is nothing more meaningful than self-expression; but, I recognize that expecting to have any sort of real “legacy” is ultimately pointless. Music for me is like pushing the boulder up the mountain. I must imagine myself happy.
I notice a greater emphasis on extra instrumentation on the new record, with some fairly prominent violin on a few tracks. Was that something you knew you wanted to explore after Sojourners to expand the sound and pallete?

I’d wanted to experiment with strings and other acoustic instrumentation for years, but this was the first time that it became a reality. For years I’ve been enamored with Agalloch’s “The Mantle,” so I’ve long had a lurking desire to push our music towards those expansive elements, which I find so utterly unique and captivating. I mean, how many songs have you heard wherein a deer skull is used for percussion?

There is certainly something haunting about the violin parts. Andy did a tremendous job, and I am extremely grateful that he was able to join us in the studio. I find that the addition of violin to the instrumentation brings an entirely additional layer of depth and texture, especially during those climactic sections. I think the album would be significantly less compelling without those violin parts.

Had Sojourners been a learning experience? And what did you apply from that experience on this album?

Oh yes, it has been a constant learning experience. We have continually evolved as musicians and close friends, and this shows in the newest recordings. Regarding the Sojourners sessions, it was definitely not my first time in a studio, but it was my first time recording guitars. I am a self-taught guitar player. It was an interesting experience, but also a frustrating one! If I remember correctly, it was Lux’s first “true” studio session. It ended up being incredibly rewarding to jump right into making an album, even though we had only been playing together for a such a short period of time. Back during the Sojourners sessions, I also learned that sleep is the lifeblood of a successful recording situation. Or maybe it’s Tim Horton’s coffee?

This time around, we felt much more comfortable—more confident in our abilities. Working with Joe Leising at Rotten Metal for a second time was also a contributing factor to the ease of it all. He is very great to work with, a passionate engineer and producer.

Do you approach an album as a whole when you’re writing, or do you just collect songs until you have a record’s worth? Lethean certainly feels like a cohesive single movement when listened to front to back.

Yes, absolutely. The order of the songs is vital to the listening experience. As with Sojourners, Lux and I spent quite a bit of time hashing out the perfect order. We have always had a focus on movement—for example, Lethean Lament makes use of the acoustic guitar passages to divide the album into sections, to enhance the experience using dynamic shifts. Thematically speaking, I like to think that “Crimson Waves of Autumnal Flame” is a sort of sequel to “Enshrouded in Dawn.” If you get a chance to read the lyrics for Lethean Lament, you might notice that there are several motifs that are weaved throughout. At times, it also marks a turn towards some darker subject matter.

You recently joined the Hypnotic Dirge Records family, how did that come about? Did you submit any demos, or did Nicolas reach out to you himself?

I first stumbled across Hypnotic Dirge Records after seeing Obsidian Tongue, who had then just released A Nest of Ravens in the Throat of Time (which is one of the greatest contemporary black metal albums). They played several shows with Agalloch during the “Serpens in Cvlmination” tour, which I believe was in 2014. I had the pleasure of watching them play at Beachland Ballroom in Ohio; I was just blown away by their performance and their style. Anyway, after that HDR was on my radar.

During our initial digital self-release of Sojourners, I had taken a shot in the dark and sent the album over to Nicolas. It wasn’t until after the time of our physical release of Sojourners that Nicolas first responded to our initial submission. It was then that we began talks of working together for the release of Lethean Lament. I cannot fully convey the gratitude I have for him and for the label. Working with him has been nothing short of excellent, and the entire process thus far has been incredibly easy and productive. Truly a great human!

Atmospheric black metal is always an interesting journey because it seems like a contradiction; BM is defined by its harsh intensity and atmospheric/ambient music is at the opposite end of the spectrum. How do you approach those dynamics when writing?

At the risk of sounding short-sighted, I think I disagree with the notion that BM is defined by harshness. I think that all metal music is somewhat amorphous. This becomes especially noticeable when you really begin to analyze what it is that separates the sub-genres (the boundaries are rather tenuous!) If a song is emotive and well-crafted and moving, then it’s worth your appreciation simply by virtue of that.

For me, atmospheric black metal is a genuine outlet, and much of it conveys an aesthetic sensibility. It requires patience to explore, especially when the song length is considerable. Often the second wave—especially bands such as Mayhem, Burzum, Gorgoroth, etc.—seems to stick in people’s minds as the archetypal black metal sound. Pity. Perhaps that credit is due. However, if you look at the way that those bands have catalyzed the evolution of the genre, it becomes almost ironic that they had a very raw and minimalist approach to their music. I think that atmospheric elements have been present in black metal for far longer than a lot of people tend to consider. Burzum is commonly cited as one of the pioneers—it makes sense. I remember that Filosfem makes heavy use of ambient elements. As another random example, by 1990 Bathory had released Hammerheart, which in fact used many of the same elements that contemporary atmospheric BM does: acoustic passages, choir vocals, dynamic shifts, nature sound clips, etc. I know I will catch some heat for this. Someone will want to yell at me about how it’s not atmospheric BM.

“It’s called ‘Viking metal,’ dumbass!”
Whatever. The elements are still there, and it came out almost two decades ago.

In regard to your question, writing music for me is very meditative. If it’s a journey, I try to keep the movements fluid, so the current of the song can envelop the listener. Some people look at music like sculpture or painting or whatever. I think that “irrigating” perfectly exemplifies my own approach. I think if you allow the emotions to flow, the dynamics will naturally come with them. In a sense, I write intuitively, or even “automatically.” I don’t prefer to get bogged down in writing out song structures, nor by thinking too hard about transitions—I seek a natural feel. Typically, the atmosphere comes from dynamics; but, for Mav, it also comes from pedals. Going back to the painting metaphor, each pedal is a different paint brush offering texture, or effecting subtle qualities in the overall tonality. My Eterna Stained Glass reverb is probably my favorite, and it’s consistently at the forefront of my sound.

It’s impossible not to notice the reverence for nature in Mavradoxa’s music; I get the same vibes as with a Fall of Rauros or even Panopticon album. What’s the significance of wilderness to you when writing music?

For me, this reverence seems to be intrinsically linked to misanthropy. It is the wilderness that provides solitude and escape. There’s something mesmerizing that occurs when wandering through the deep forest, or standing barefoot in a rushing stream. It might sound idyllic, but these are the things that inspire me most. Sometimes I hike out into the woods alone, searching for a fallen tree to sit on and play my acoustic.

The wilderness is metaphorical. The characteristics of the wild can be used to perfectly embody the various aspects of the human experience. Take, for example, the lake in constant flux, or a steadfast mountain that casts a great shadow over the town. When writing, I find myself imbuing the landscapes with my own emotion. In this way, to write about a landscape is to personify it—to become it.

An escape to wildness temporarily relieves us of our anesthetized society. I look around me every day at banal existence, at futility and greed. We are too commonly paralyzed by our fears, we are too commonly sedated. All the while, we collectively drive ourselves farther and farther away from our true home. In the words of Thoreau, “Fools stand on their island of opportunities and look toward another land. There is no other land; there is no other life but this.”
Mavradoxa’s new album, Lethean Lament, will be released through Hypnotic Dirge Records June 22nd. Find the band on Facebook and Bandcamp.

In : Interviews 

Tags: mavradoxa  another metal review blog  interview  black metal interview  post black metal  atmospheric black metal  nature reverance black metal  rochester black metal  laurentian black metal