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Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Interview: Across The Burning Sky


In a few days Across The Burning Sky will release The End Is Near. DutchMetalManiac’s Julia Obenauer already reviewed it here a few days ago. Now she asks some questions and vocalist Aki answers, read it below.

Hey guys! Thank you for doing this interview with DutchMetalManiac. Could you briefly introduce your band?

Hi Julia and DutchMetalManiac. I think we are the ones who have to thank you for doing this interview with us.

To introduce our band is a short story: We are just guys which hang out together - haha. Okay, there is maybe a little bit more to say: Although Across The Burning Sky has only existed for about 2 years, and "The End Is Near" is our debut, we are no newbies in this sense. We played in different bands, had some album releases and played a lot of shows in the last 20 years. Sometimes successful, sometimes less. With Across The Burning Sky we just wanted to do what we love. We grown up with this kind of music, we have done our first own steps with this genre in the scene, so you can name it a kind of „personal back-to-the-roots“. We want to play music, just as we live and feel it. Far from thoughts of success, failure, business and other shit that a musician's life sometimes brings with. We originally wanted to do it just for us.

How did you come up with the band name?

We have searched for an phrase that reflects our thoughts, our feelings. A phrase that is powerful and dignified. Energetic, epic and at the same time like a primordial force. A phrase that describes the feeling we associate with our music. And that's what "Across The Burning Sky" does.

Sky as a symbol for expansion and freedom. fire as a symbol for intensity, roughness, wildness - a threatening force of nature. Just imagine the feeling of a burning sky - and you are right in the middle of it. Across the burning sky, as a master of the elements. That’s our music. Intense, rough, unconquered, unruly but also majestic, extensive and free. Sounds kitschy, I know, but we like it.

Well, there’s a bit of a mystery around who is actually playing in the band. As I read on your Facebook page, your intention is rather to focus on the music. That’s a great concept in my opinion. Has this always been your intention, or was it rather something that evolved as you proceeded playing together?

You can say it was from the beginning. As already mentioned, we have done the whole thing for ourselves. We just wanted it. Far from any constraints. And from the moment we thought "Hey, that feels good, maybe we should let some people participate in it," was clear that we wanted to do it exactly the same way we wanted to feel it ourselves. Only the music should be the one that counts. If people like it, great. If they do not like it? It doesn’t matter because WE love it. Music will not be better or worse just because the musicians are „known“ or „unknown“. We do not want that it affect the listening of music. Really good albums are not noticed because there are no known names on it. And a lot of shit is hyped in the sky just because a member of a trendy band has left a burp on it. That’s not the kind we want that people listen to our music.

Let’s talk about your debut album, “The End Is Near”. It’s got great reviews so far, and I personally loved it as well. How did you guys approach the songwriting and the recording?

Well, it all started with a small guitar session. I (Aki) sat in my hobby cellar, took after a few years of inactivity the guitar out of the case and played around. A riff, a melody. Then two, then three. A song. Two Songs. I just could not stop. Finally, I played the whole a couple of old companions. And we thought: whow, that sounds and feels good. And so one thing led to another. As I mentioned earlier, I was not active in music for some time. There were some changes in my life, good as bad ones. What burst out of me, while write these songs, was probably a sum of emotions that had accumulated in this time and now found their valve in melodies and riffs. We then improved the one or the other arrangement together, but the most of the album comes from my pen. At the beginning we had no plans to record a whole album. We only want to collect and retain our ideas. So there was no intentional approach to the songwriting and recording of this album. It can be said: it just happened.

To me, the sound was rather raw, and I couldn’t really perceive any post-production here. While this took a bit of time, at least for me, to get accustomed to, I thought that it worked perfectly to bring back that 90s Gothenburg sound. Did you intentionally use that as a tool for bringing more vitality to the record?

Yes and no. To be honest, one has to say, since at the beginning it was not foreseeable that the material appears as an album, we naturally did not visit an extra studio. We wanted to make it just for us. Possibly with a release on Bandcamp or via YouTube and Facebook. That’s the reason that the recordings are maybe not on these high level which one is maybe accustomed to from current productions. As far as the production is concerned: We have recorded a lot of albums as musicians in the past, but never made such a production itself. It was really the first time that we have been sitting in front and behind the controls. Our experience from former album recordings helped us a little bit, but it is a difference to play only instruments, or still made it sound good. We have done our best and you should have heard the mix before Pluto from MegaWimpSound mastered the whole thing - haha.

On the other hand, we have fallen in love with this sound during the recordings. Surely at the end there are always things that could be done better, and we would make better in retrospect. But, we quickly realized that this raw sound very authentic reflects our feelings. On the one hand there is a certain live-feeling. Plug in, rock on, kick asses. On the other hand, it is developing its own dynamics. You could say the songs are brought to life in this way. It just seems more tangible, more honest, more intense. Therefore, at the crucial stage of production, we decided not to change the basic character of the original recordings. Of course, we finally have cut, cleaned, filtered frequencies, raised and optimized. We did of course a few things in post-production. But not in the sense of "cut all corners and edges" to get a smoothly produced and bombast-blown album. We grown up in a time where each band had its own special sound, that made it exciting to listen different bands even of the same genre, they could still be distinguished. Today, to be honest, the most albums sounds same. Smoothly produced, with a huge soundboost. Without corners and edges, and in many cases also without independent charm. Sure, we also like bands and albums with this sound, but many can hardly be distinguished when you hear them in random loop mode.

How long did it take it to get the whole album done?

We record the first tune in summer 2014 and we pushed the last controller in August 2016, before the final mix went to mastering in beginning of September. But you have to say that this period really covers everything. From the beginning of the first note to the last song. Nothing existed before. We recorded every melody, every riff already during the songwriting. In the summer of 2015, at a time when the songs were already written and all guitars, drums and bass recordings were ready, we had to interrupt our work for a few months for personal reasons. It was not until the beginning of this year that things really went on. We wrote then the missing lyrics and started with the vocal recordings. With all wanted and unwanted pauses, we took 2 years. If all the non-productive phases were removed, it was perhaps 15 to 18 months. At the beginning, however, we were not in a hurry. Only in the beginning of 2016, when MDD offered us that they want to release the album, we also had to keep a schedule.

I also find your artwork very cool – who designed your cover?

Oh, we are very pleased to hear that, because for us it is not just a decorative accessory. For us the artwork, and of course especially the front cover, is an equal part of the album, like a song, or the lyrics. The whole artwork was made by German airbrush artist Lies Maria at „Brush’n Roll“. We get in touch with her via Kai from MDD. The background was, we love these hand-painted covers of the 80s and 90s. Many of them tell their own story, or a story that fits the plot of the album. We wanted something like that too. When we talked first time with Maria about a cover design, she was thrilled. We told her roughly what was going on in some lyrics, but do not want to gave her any guidelines. We just meant it could be something gloomy, threatening, maybe something apocalyptic, something with death, destruction, warlike, something that also fits to death metal and as well to the album title - haha.

A few weeks later she surprised us with that. Kali, according to the album title, awaits the approaching end as the goddess of death, destruction, but also of renewal. A second proposal for the front cover was the Skull, which is also used on our Merchandise and on the inside of the CD Tray. Since we couldn’t decide between the two motifs, we have used both in this way. Although the album is not about such Hindu mythology, the artwork fits perfect to the atmosphere we wanted to create. The front cover has its own „life“ and offers the viewer different interpretative possibilities. It is related to "The End" and symbolizes a "beginning" at the same time. In retrospect, we can’t imagine a cover that would have been more appropriate.

Your record is clearly influenced by the 90s Gothenburg death metal sound. Any bands that you particularly love from this era?

Since we have experienced this time in our late teens, we love them all :-) It was mainly the first albums of bands such as Dark Tranquility, Unanimated or At The Gates, from which we could not get enough of. At that time a huge wave was launched, which also captured us. Soon you could hardly count the bands and albums of this genre, but I think we have taken them all - haha.

Are you planning any tours or festival appearances to promote your album?

Originally we had not planned to play tours and concerts, but we also had not thought that it would become a regular album release at a label. Never say never. And although we would be no longer "anonymous", we would definitely think about interesting festival offers. Let us see first how the whole develops. The album release is in this week, until now no CD was sold yet, and who knows whether a larger number of people want to listen at all or even want to see us :-)

To me, the only pity was that your album was “only” half an hour long. Do you guys have more material in stock, and can we anticipate on another record soon? Do you have any plans in that direction?

"The End Is Near" contains all songs that exist at this time. There was the moment we thought "Nine songs are enough" and since we were dealing with the completion of the album from this point on, there was no songwriting, and so no more songs. We wrote this 9 songs while we doing the recordings. During the production process it was not foreseeable how long the songs and album would ultimately be. We have also shortened the arrangements during the production of some songs, because we felt some refrain repetitions as too "boring". Here and there a minute - and we would have had 40 minutes :-) There are still a few ideas and rough melodies that were not used, but these are at best fragments. I admit, we thought about recording somehow another song for the album, but all the songs so far gave a coherent whole. Each song in itself was something special and yet part of the overall atmosphere. We did not want to destroy these atmosphere by recording a song that would only be a gap filler. And so we decided to leave it at that.

Plans for another record? On the day when "The End Is Near" was in the CD pressing plant, we have in fact for the first time thought about whether there will be a succession album. It is still much too early to say something about it. "The End is Near" is just being released. We can already imagine to continue to write new songs and to publish a new album in 1-2 years. Concrete plans are not yet available, but we love what we do - so why not?

I’m always curious on the view of others on the current metal scene. What do you guys think about it? As said before, your focus is clearly on the music. Do you think that metal music is getting too commercial these days?

Well, it is always quickly said „everything was better in the good old days“. But I'm not sure. Perhaps the memory is deceptive? There has always been a big commercial mainstream in the metal scene. Today, Metal is perhaps something more recognized. You're not gagged any more when you're a Metalhead. But in the scene itself, many things were similar. There were already so-called and hyped all-star bands and they exist today. There were already media and magazines that did not perceive anything outside the mainstream - and they exist today too. The "problem" is, nowadays there is much more of everything. More bands, more media, more releases. This makes it a little more difficult to orientate. Perhaps, therefore, many prefer to stick to known names. But if you are really interested, you can still find them. The treasures. The albums with great feelings. We do not want to join the general tenor about the commercial in the metal scene. There has always been and always will be. The only thing we really find that was much more family in the past. Bands had sending flyers of other bands with letters. Bands sold CDs of other bands at concerts. They supported each other more, there was not such a big competition-, and ego thinking. Okay, the scene was also smaller and probably this is also a very subjective way of looking at things. We liked it sooner and we still like it. You can find good and bad in everything. But we also do not have to be in the middle of it. We enjoy the opportunity to focus on the music at the end of our days ^^

Any bands or records you are currently really into, or are looking forward to?

To be honest, mostly we are still into bands and releases from our youth. Sure, we know that we live in the year 2016, but a big part in us has remained well hang in the nineties. We have, of course, got an insight into the current roster of our label and we like many releases of MDD such as Dementia, Thormesis or the upcoming Ctulu album. We also have notice that Dark Millenium has a new album released after 23 years. This one I like very much. Otherwise, I like to discover on Spotify or YouTube one album and band after another. If you are not looking for something special, you can often discover great things.

Is there anything you would like to say to our readers?

First, thank you for the opportunity to doing this interview.

To your readers: keep continuing to support zines and blogs like this one. Sites like these are the ones who are constantly digging new and keeping this scene alive. And don’t forget to check out our album. I’m sure you can listen it on Spotify or anything similar. If you like it, feel free to buy a physical copy, to support our work and of course the work of our label, which always had believed in us. Support the underground and finally:

KEEP THE FIRE BURNING!

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