Interview by Martin Lukac (Spring 2001)

The mighty Pagan Metal from the MIGHTY MUSIC

Thalarion - logo

This interview is pretty long and the answers are so exhaustive, that there's no reason to write any introduction. Enjoy!

Thalarion has celebrated its 10th anniversary in 2000, but there were the bands Bastard and Fatal Infection before that. Speaking not of the members playing in both bands, what have had these bands in common and what kinds of styles they played to?
Bastard and Fatal Infection were only the previous names of Thalarion. Because our new songs, I think the songs on "Towards....", stopped corresponding with the old creation, we had changed our band's name, because the title Fatal Infection haven't fitted to the music we created. It's been the same on the change from Bastard to Fatal Infection. All in all, this is the one and the same band that worked just under the different monikers in the past. In regards to the music, Bastard was playing thrash/death metal, the songs were faster against our present repertoire, the lyrics were sung in Slovak. I joined the band in 1994 then we changed the name into Fatal Infection... We were moving in thrash/death waters, but all the lyrical concept was changed and we started using English lyrics.
You used to sing in a band called Nailed Nazarene before joining Fatal Infection. I remember "Hosanna Tibi De Profundis" demo. Please, tell something closer to the music and spiritual concept on this release.
Yes, we released two demo tapes under the moniker of Nailed Nazarene, "Blood Colours My Thoughts" '92 and "Hosanna Tibi De Profundis" '94. I can describe the music like death metal with doom metal touch. The lyrics were concentrated on so called the Ancient Ones of Cosmos, ´coz I was under the influence of a Lovecraft´s work to a certain degree. I liked his stories and still like, because they are absolutely atmospheric, crazy, horror, prosaic and genial at once, so it's my deepest inspiration when writing lyrics for Nailed Nazarene. I was fascinated by that what mysterious things can leave a mind of one man. Hail to Ancient Ones of Cosmos...I´a Yog Sothoth!!! That is why I used the name of Thalarion for our band, it's the name from Lovecraft´s story "White Ship".
The debut of Thalarion was a kind of revolutionary stuff, according to those-days Slovakian scene. You were the first band here, using the elements of death, thrash, black and doom metal together with female vocals and lyrical themes varying from Lovecrafts' darkness to the history of ancient Slavs. Do you remember, how much tapes were spread through the world? And where did the most of reactions come from?
Great to hear you consider MC album as a revolutionary work, though in the Slovak conditions only. It's surely gratifying.
old line-up There's still somebody who claims that "Towards..." is the best stuff of ours, although we can't agree with that. We still like it, that's a fact. We still keep the styles´ combinations in our music which were created at that time. The band was producing thrash/death and I brought the elements of doom and black metal into the music and contrast and uniqueness of that work were set. We started using a female vocals and keyboards, we just wanted to diversify our music and separate ourselves from the mass of death metal bands playing here. We were noticed by far more people, because we were getting out of so called well-rounded death metal norms. Right on "Towards..." I used to write about the Old Slavs for the first time though the most of texts had concerned the phenomena of death. I think you cannot find anything from Lovecraft on "Towards...". I don't know, I have surely had in my mind absolutely different things. Around 500 tapes were sold and it could be more, but Hallelujah Prod. made an end to its activity and we didn't make any another print-run, though many people ask for it to nowadays. We received a response from all over the world - from Japan through South-Eastern Asia, South-Western Asia, the whole Europe, North Africa to the North and Central America. We were very satisfied with the response and noticed only a few negative reactions, from Czech of course, but it was aimed to death metal in general.
Then there was a mini-album "Dominion Unfound", a sort of "lost album of Thalarion", officially never released. Wild Rags Records also didn't return your master tape. How it was from lyrical and musical side?
It's really the lost album for us. We stupidly took the hook Wild Rags like a lot of the other bands, too. It's beyond us to lament or bitch around the matter now. We forgot it long ago and have our clear-cut opinion on that label. Thematically, I returned to Lovecraft on "Dominion Unfound" from one clear reason, nothing else didn't occurred on me. I just read some of his horror tales and it was a good idea for me to write the lyrics. Who is a bit slow to catch on, there wasn't anything copied, it had just an influence on me as I used only a few names of those tales, the rest was created by my fantasy. Musically, it was a bit different against "Towards....." and our present style. We worked with a slow atmospheric riffs and folk melodies moreover. All the material matched a doom metal mood. One song from that unreleased stuff is situated on our first CD "Tales Of The Woods...".
In 1998 you've released your debut CD "Tales Of The Woods... Thus Was Written". How big was its success, and how much copies were sold so far? And how do you see it nowadays, speaking about its musical, technical and lyrical aspects?
I don't want to boast myself, but this CD had such success we have never before met with. We were shocked by that like the fans accepted the album. We have never been heaped on interviews and responses like after the releasing of this album. A great responses still go to us and we are thankful for each one of them, because it makes us stronger. I can't tell you the exact number of the sale, ´coz I've lost the sale statement from Mighty Music. I think it was around 3000 pieces after the first half of the year when the album was released. Now, the sale number is higher without doubt since the album was released two years before. Rating the lyrics, I have to confirm, they are the best ones I have ever written. I've never before nor after used so much metaphors, comparisons and allegories. Musically, I rate this album very positive, there were good songs full of mystery and darkness where the painful atmosphere alternated with aggression and energetic attacks. Also, the album was technically very good mastered with a heap of a well-thought-out riffs and guitar solos. A keyboards were tastefully harmonizing with guitars, rhythmical section was on high standard, according to me and I could continue on and on, but it could be looking like self-praise. Who has listened to it, he must agree with me.
This album is a kind of conceptual story of Zordrak, an ancient Slavic warrior. When exactly the themes of Slavic history became more essential than themes from Lovecrafts' myths?
As I remembered above, I used the Old Slavic themes for the first time on MC "Towards..." and since I haven't leave these themes, because it's stronger than me. I have studied a big heap of bibliography and literature about the life and culture of our ancestors and I am still hunting for a new resources to strengthen my knowledge regarding the Old Slavs. I am proud of my origin and historical legacy (not in the last 1000 years... thanks to the Hungarians) of our ancestors, awareness of self-identity and harmonious animal conformity with the nature. All these aspects were stronger than the fantastic unreal themes of Lovecraft, though, his works still fascinate me. That's why I prefer using the Ancient Slavic themes in my lyrics and will ever be even if not so comprehensive since Nela writes a lyrics, too.
The Slavic theme has became quite popular especially on pagan and black scene of Slavic countries. How do you feel it personally?
I know it and that's a good idea to strengthen a national consciousness and awareness of natural roots. There are the archetypes of collective subconsciousness hidden deep within our minds, a symbolic memories of universal memory that not so many humans can awake in today's frantic way of life. From this grey mass meaninglessly running ahead only a few ones remember their origin and hearken to their inner voice. But there is a question, is it a real interest of those bands in that matter or it is just a pose and trend? Exactly, when any bands sing about their ancestors or magnificent nature and had a success on a scene, then we will be playing and singing about the same themes, we'll be successful too. Everybody ought to think about that and take into consideration an another aspects of those themes. Simply, he must know what the knowledge of his great-origin offers him, he must know his national history, disclosure of self-knowledge and fusion with a heritage of ancestors whose traditions dwells in human hearts and they have to appear on surface. Personally, I've never listened to any Slavic pagan band, though I've read about them in a few magazines. I can say, there's a lot of the pagan/black metal bands in Poland, Russia or Yugoslavia in comparison with Slovakia. I don't know where the problem is.
Don't you feel sometimes that themes of national consciousness, feeling of being a part of nation with certain historical and cultural roots, or themes of heathenism are too often abused in political, or, frankly said, nationalistic-chauvinistic contexts?
It's stupidity! If I love my home country and my origin I have to hate the other country, God forbid, race. It's meaningless. I think that's in the people themselves if they hide themselves behind some nationalistic standpoint and they unite it with a real feeling of cognition of their own history. I feel sorry for them all. From times immemorial the Slavs were a hospitable nation which preferred hospitality and stood in awe of foreigners, not to hate and kill them at first sight. I can tell you one matter, the men at one unnamed German printing house didn't want to print the booklet of "Four Elements..." CD as they pretended that they don't want to be associated with nationalistic right-wing oriented bands. I don't know they had deduced it from, but it's absolute bullshit. As a matter of fact, we and Mighty Music made it clear to the printing house. According to me, they are just a dull fascists who didn't want to be associated with a Slavic band like the wearing moustache rightist from SA who wanted to rule the Slavic nations and the whole world, so they made a subterfuge on right-wing orientation of Thalarion, I can only laugh over that. Generally, let everyone whatever he likes, we have our own conviction and still keep it.
Well, back to your debut album. There were also some shows outside of Slovakia and Czech planned. How did it work in real?
It was preparing at the first place, but it failed on a human factor. Perhaps, any tour will be prepared and arranged in the foreseeable future. Only time will tell!
Your second album was released on Mighty Music in 2000. For how much albums is the contract you've signed, and how are you satisfied so far? cover
We signed a deal for two albums and both of them are released already. In regards to Mighty Music, in general we are very satisfied with them. They are doing a good job. The promotional and distribution side of Mighty Music is satisfying for Thalarion, so on that point we can't complain, even though things of course always can get better. Mighty Music is very good medium-sized record label and we are proud of belonging to them with regard to the fact that they prefer releasing brutal death metal bands in the presence, but they still respect us, otherwise they wouldn't offer a new contract for Thalarion.
Is "Four Elements Mysterium" also the conceptual story? Maybe something about four elements, or is there something else behind the concept?
No, "Four...." is not the conceptual story, because of the lyrics being written by me and Nela. Concerning the Slavic themes, there are only two texts: "Cold Waters Of Turbulent Torrents" and "Almost Forgotten Empire" on the album. The others are just an expression of our inner emotions, thoughts and moods prevailing in the states of loneliness and sorrow, harmonizing with melancholy, where the chief mean of expression is metaphor. Anyway, everything in the world has to do with the four basic elements, because they are the basic elements of the nature the world wouldn't exist without. Because of that our lyrics are focused on this natural unit, ´coz there's really everything associated with the nature like an emotions included in our lyrics. Ground, water, air and fire... inevitable elements for existence on the Earth. We try to discover the mystery of those elements in our songs. Anyhow, those elements were worshipped with all the nations of the Earth from times immemorial. They submitted to them, they saw their gods in them, their essence. It was their life bearing their culture, belief, religion and the being itself.
Maybe it's a paradox, but without any regards to fact, that vocals of Nela, keyboards and also elements of progressive rock have a real wide space there, the new album sounds harder, more straightforward and complex to me, maybe because of more natural variations between death/black and eerie/melancholic parts. What's your opinion?
I absolutely agree with you. It also seems to me that the new album is harder and more natural against the previous works and it is not shambolic so much, though a few of people see it differently, but it's the conviction of each one individual that we can't take it away. It went entirely spontaneous that Nela has gotten a bigger space there as it was on "Tales Of The Woods...", practically, Nela was only a guest at the recording of "Tales....." and we had no time to experiment or change too much things in the studio, for we hadn't too much financial means. She's been a full-length member of Thalarion on "Four...", so she has worked much more with the band. She is very agile person for creating her own vocal lines, melodies, two-vocals arrangements etc. We've ever given her a tape with new songs without vocals and she did her voice into the music at her home. We like the new CD very much as everything we've created to this time.
I see the new album as really good, how are the reactions so far? Personally I saw only one, a guy from Sweden, Whodan or something (Whodan isn't North German name, just German, Saxon maybe, so he better would call himself "Odin") said that you play something like "emotional crap music", probably because of using keyboards and female vox. What's your opinion on his "critical" view? He told also some other funny things about "untalented" bands like Damnable, so... nothing to tear the hair off.
At first, Wodan was really the Old German pagan god. although his name sounds very Slavic. As I've remembered above, everyone is entitled to render his own opinion and I don't ever intend to demur at that. It can't hurt my feelings at all. Perhaps the guy reads too much interviews from Bill Zebub. Nevermind!
What do you think about that Nela's vocals are probably the best I've heard within more than last year? Maybe she occasionally sounds a little bit like Anneke on "Mandylion", but it isn't handicap anyway. nela-photo
Man, that's a great compliment for Nela that you consider her vocals as the best one in last year. I will inform her about that. She'll be surely pleased. Regarding the comparison of Nela to Anneke, you are a thousandth man who is hinting to that. Firstly it's gratifying, but if you still have to read about that, you can think that you haven't any personal style of singing what is not true with respect to Nela. I personally very like the Anneke´s expression, but it's wearisome the permanent comparison of Thalarion to The Gathering. I don't agree with that, because The Gathering have never used folk or black metal riffs not talking about shrieking vocals. I don't know, everybody can assess it alone.
You've said somewhere, that your music is, so to say, not too traditional also because of that some of your members are over 30 and they prefer other style more than metal. I think some progressive rock bands would ring a bell, so could you tell something more about your age and musical preferences?
Yeah, you hit it exactly. The guitarist Juraj is 35 years old and his biggest influences are surely Pink Floyd, Rush, Yes, Sting, U2, all in all, art rock bands. He also listen to metal, of course, but he prefers the rock scene and it's possible to hear in his guitar style and way of soloing. It's concern, because he is the main composer of black metal riffs in our music. Bass player Peter is 33 years old. He started listening to Iron Maiden, Judas Priest, AC/DC and so on. He prefers listening to Cannibal Corpse, Iniquity, Deicide etc. in the present time. He composes all the melodic and technical songs in Thalarion. I am 29 years old and though I grew up on the thrash metal of the 80´s, I love the atmospheric black metal and melodic death metal á la Withering Surface, In Flames, Legenda, Aurora, Antichrisis and a lot of others. By the way, I like to listen to the commercial things as Enigma, Era, Enya, John Doan etc. Anyway, my best one album ever is Overkill "Feel The Fire". I write all the slow and most atmospheric riffs. The drummer Peter is 28 and he spends his free time at Van Halen, Toto, Yes or Slayer, Sepultura etc. Nela will be 21 years old soon, but I don't know what she listens to.
You also have played on several festivals, how are your experiences from there? How are the reactions of fans, your music isn't particularly created for stage diving, although... And what do you prefer, open-air fests or clubs?
We are satisfied with the concert situation around the band and we are not bored. We play some gigs or festivals almost each one week. Those are three gigs in a month on average and I think it's okay. Except for Slovakia we played a lot of gigs in Czech Republic only so far. I can remember that we played with Septic Flesh, Mortician, Macabre, Ancient Ceremony, Mangled, Inhume, Krabathor, Hypnos, Monolith and many more interesting bands on the festivals. I would say it's not difficult to organize or play some live shows here in Slovakia, but one must want to do it. A lot of the gigs are totally underground with 50 to 100 people watching, but mostly the number of audience is around 200 or more. Best ones were last summer on Nuclear Storm Fest and Brutal Assault in Czech in front of 2000 people, cooooool!!! Both festivals will still remain in our minds!
Your next release is planned for this year, as we can see on your label's website. Is it real? And what you could say to your new songs?
We have completed all the new material for new album. We will record it in September 2001 at Exponent Studio. It's planned to be released on January 2002 through Mighty Music again. Only thing I can say about the new stuff is, that the new songs are faster, heavier and more atmospheric than ever before. My vocals will be dominated again and Nela´s voice will fulfil the mysterious atmosphere of the album.
Did you ever met some negative sides of playing metal during all that years? And what do you like or, on the other hand, dislike on the present scene?
I wish I changed an attitude among the bands in Slovakia and stop being jovial when one lords it over the other. I would like to add more tolerance and relationship among the bands.
Well, that's it. I mean, please, end this interview. I thank you for the time you spent on the questions, and wish you all the best.
Well, we are at the end. Huge thanks goes to you Martin for this interview. I hope you will live long in the way of the underground. For all those atmospheric music lovers the time of sadness has come. All real life starts from there both figurative and in exact senses. Keep the pagan Slavic fires burning!!! Let the grandsons of the windy god Stribog lead your steps through the obscure hills of the Carpathians. If you are interested in something regarding THALARION, don't hesitate to write at thalarion@ba.telecom.sk or info@mightymusic.dk. You can also visit http://thalarion.cjb.net (only for Spain and Central America) or www.mightymusic.dk. Stay dark and metal forever!!!!!

DISCOGRAPHY:
"Towards The Obscure Slumberland" CASS. LP 1996 (Hallelujah)
"Tales Of The Woods..." CD 1998 (Mighty Music)
"Four Elements Mysterium" CD 2000 (Mighty Music)
"Tunes Of Despondency" CD 2002 (Mighty Music)

LINE-UP:
Nela Horvathova - vocals
Juraj Grezdo - vocals/keyboards
Juraj Schlosser - guitars
Peter Bartakovic - bass
Peter Schlosser - drums

line-up


You can find some THALARION's MP3 files on: www.mightymusic.dk/audio.html

c/o Juraj Grezdo, Stredanska 1530/6, 95501 Topolcany, Slovakia


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