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Saturday, January 7, 2017

Interview: Ithilien

In February (for USA: March), Belgian Folkcore band Ithilien will release their album called Shaping The Soul. DutchMetalManiac’s Henric van Essen reviewed Shaping The Soul already (here) and now he interviews vocalist/guitarist/bouzouki-player Pierre. Read it below!

Hello, how are you doing?

This is Pierre from Ithilien (vocals, guitar and bouzouki) and I’m really glad meeting you!
2017 seems very promising for us, so … Very good, thank you!

Thanks for allowing us the opportunity to get to know you a little better. Ithilien is the name of a fiefdom in Gondor, from Tolkien’s ‘The Lord Of The Rings’. How, if at all, is Ithilien the band connected to that famous work?

You’re welcome, it’s a real pleasure for us. Indeed, the name Ithilien comes for Tolkien’s work but to be honest, the content of our songs, the concepts and themes of our albums, are not really related to ‘The Lord Of The Rings’. It’s not an easy task for a starting band to choose a name. It has to be original (meaning no other band using the same name) and somehow, it has to reflect what that band is going to become in the future. We searched for a long time and when we came across “Ithilien“, we knew we found it.

Can you tell us a little bit about Ithilien and its history?

Sure! It all started about 10 years ago when I tried putting a band together. This is when the name was chosen, and to be honest, that’s the only thing left from that period. Unfortunately the first difficulty that you encounter when creating a band is finding the right musicians, those with, not only talent, but also the same goals, expectations, perseverance and professionalism. With time I met those people and since 2011 things started to get serious ... and I'm so grateful we met each other. You won't reach far as a band if you don't have the right team. So, to me Ithilien really started in 2011. Before that it was more a garage band that was searching for its own identity. Since 2011 there has been some evolution on a musical and personal level thanks to the great musicians in the band themselves. In fact, I think this evolution is best expressed as maturity. And since then, we’ve signed with Mighty Music (DK) for our first album (From Ashes to the Frozen Land) and now with Wormholedeath for our upcoming album SHAPING THE SOUL, we’ve been several times on tour in Europe and Japan with, among others, Eluveitie and Skalmold.

Finding a suitable, capable and competent guitarist or drummer can be a daunting task, let alone finding a suitable, capable and competent hurdy gurdy or bagpipes player. Where did you find and/or met such specialized musicians?

It’s all a matter of patience, perseverance, and a little bit of luck. And when the time’s right, you’ll find the right people. To be honest, the band started as a regular metal band. We weren’t using any folk instruments. To be more precise, we didn’t even search for it. And someday, a young and very talented bagpipe player that saw us on stage, wanted to join the band. And we said ‘Why not?’. So we tried and we liked it a lot! And you know the world of folk musicians is like some sort of community. People know each other (especially in a small country as Belgium). So once you enter that community, you start meeting other people, and eventually Ithilien ended up with a hurdy gurdy, a bagpipe and a violin. All a perfect match!

You play a combination of styles that is hard to combine due to their respective characteristics, roughly folk and metal. What made you decide to combine these two quite different styles?

I’ve personally always liked both folk and metal. But, as you say, its combination is not that trivial. So from a musical perspective, I have always liked their respective sounds and rhythms, and from an intellectual point of view, combining both was a very appealing challenge. But of course, when writing music, all members are involved and all members bring their own personality in some way.

Congratulations with ‘Shaping The Soul’, it turned out really great in my opinion. Compared to its predecessor there’s a distinct stronger emphasis on the folk relative to the death- and core metal. I personally like this shift, it adds more depth to the sound. What, if anything, is/are the reason(s) behind it?

Well, you have to know that when we wrote FROM ASHES TO THE FROZEN LAND (2012, Mighty Music (DK)), there was nobody playing folk instruments in Ithilien. It’s only short after releasing that album that we have met Sabrina (Hurdy Gurdy) and Hugo (Bagpipe). When writing SHAPING THE SOUL (2017, Wormholedeath (IT)), the situation was totally different simply because those folk instruments were present. Somehow I also think that maturity plays an important role.
Anyway, I totally agree when you say it adds more depth to the sound. We tried to use each instrument as they are meant to be used. And we’re all very proud of the end result.

The vocals are all harsh, which strongly contrasts with the at times sweet tunes. Is that a deliberate choice?

I'm personally used to listening to bands with harsh vocals. Now of course, those which are not used to this kind of vocals, will have some difficulties to appreciate it. You definitely need some time to get used to it and feel the feelings behind. Anyway, this is the way I sing and the way I can express the most my feelings with my vocal cords. All instruments and lyrics work together towards one same goal, the overall harmony to express certain emotions.

You state that your goal with ‘Shaping The Soul’ is to share your experience of grief with the listeners. Despite this it never sounds very grievous. Can you explain that a bit more and can you tell us how that has been translated into the songs? And where does that grief originate from?

Of course, I’m really glad you ask! Before writing the album, we had to decide its concept, its main theme... And our absolute goal was to write about something that applies to everyone, yet could be interpreted in a very personal way. But what’s important, is that we didn’t want to write about drinking or battles which at that point felt a little childish for us, but we wanted to talk about something that really matters to people. Something that touched people. Something in which people could place their own story, their own feelings. I personally was in a very bad period of my life, undergoing an important loss, and that’s how the idea of using ‘grief’ as concept arose. It’s often said that music can be stronger than a therapy. I couldn’t agree more on this as composing SHAPING THE SOUL really helped me move forward.

We’ve done our research and we found out that grief could be theorized (called the Kubler-Ross Model) in 5 important stages: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. I won’t go into the details but basically anyone that undergoes an important loss in its life will go through these 5 stages. It’s important to understand that we’re talking about ‘loss’ in general. It can be losing a parent or child, the end of a relationship, unemployement, ill health, death... or any other loss that matters to you! And here comes the answer to your question concerning how it is translated into the songs. The album SHAPING THE SOUL is constructed with that Kubler-Ross model as skeleton and every song of the album has its corresponding stage. The first song BLINDFOLDED represents denial (it seems more obvious now, isn’t it?). LIES AFTER LIES and SHAPING THE SOUL are a manifestation of anger while IF ONLY obviously represents the bargaining stage. EDELWEISS feels depressing while THE BEAR DANCE represents acceptance.
I think knowing this, our readers should listen to the album while carefully reading the lyrics and trying to analyse which stages are represented in each song. To me, I think it all makes so much more sense when you know this, and without this analysis, you can’t fully appreciate the album. You’re just missing something...

Do you have touring plans in the near future?

There’s a few tourdates that we will be announcing in the beginning of January. Besides that, we have touring plans for a near future, but nothing that we can talk about yet.

Thanks for allowing us to question you. Is there anything left you would like to share with our readers?

Thank you for your time and support. Of course we invite everybody to join us on our social media and as we get a lot of questions from people, we’re actually planning to answer them with videos in the near future. So if anyone has questions for us, just click on the link here under and ask us anything you want.

Thanks again!


Ithilien Official Website
Ithilien Facebook
Ithilien Twitter

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