Doom Discovery: Suffer Yourself

It takes a special band to spend twelve-and-a-half minutes slogging through a freaky-heavy doom bum-out called simply “Darkness,” then decide there’s just more to say on the issue and tuck in for another 14 minutes and call the result “Darkness, Part 2.”  It’s like being lost in a menacing forest devoid of all large predators but seething with terrifying nuance and insatiable subtlety, then happening upon an abandoned house and running inside, slamming and locking the doors, clenching shut your eyes and hoping like hell none of those self-editing intangibles finds a way in.
Or, you know, not like that.

Suffer Yourself are a Ukrainian trio who flew their crawling horror show to the UK so they could record with Esoteric funeral director Greg Chandler, resulting in an album called Inner Sanctum released this spring by Cimmerian Shade Recordings.  For a debut record by a relatively new act, Inner Sanctum has a remarkable depth, assisted by well-crafted melodies that include the use of keyboards and a live violin.  On first listen, we were quite taken with the band’s undeniable strengths.  We hope you enjoy (or become utterly depressed by)  SY’s brand of downtrodden damnation while you find out what maestro Stanislav Govorukha told us about the project and his approach to it.

Can you talk about how Suffer Yourself grew from a solo project to a full band?  How did this group of guys find each other?

When I started Suffer Yourself in 2011 in Poland, I began to compose and record my fresh ideas.  It was the first step forward since my previous band Auto da Fe split-up. As a result, a 5-track album appeared. I have to say that material for this album appeared very quickly – I wrote all songs in a period of 2 months. Then I titled the album Inner Sanctum and put all recorded demos on Bandcamp for free, shared it with friends, spread through P2P network, etc. And, after a while, I found that people downloaded Inner Sanctum lots of times and some are even re-hosted it on several mp3-sharing websites.

I’ve got some reviews in independent underground zines and received couple of requests to see the project live.

In 2012 I moved back to the Ukraine and settled in Kiev. And there I began my “headhunting” for live members. Sure, for live shows session-players are also suitable, but playing this unusual kind of music, no one can actually substitute real doom-metal lovers, people who can transmit their inner feelings through music and release their energy on the stage in right form.  So, one-by-one, I found proper guys using local web-sites for musicians, and some were suggested me by friends. I have to admit that it’s a great pleasure for me to play with them. Stanislav Kuksa is a bassist who assisted me a lot, experimenting with different bass guitars. And Eugene Dmitriev who’s passion in self-exploring and esoteric experience not only made a great base for discussions and inspirational search, but also fit Suffer Yourself’s own character perfectly. It’s not only about music – we’re greatly spending our time together after rehearsals, diving deeply in philosophical disputes, sound searching and surely, listening to favorite music.

Did the expanded membership affect the sound of the music?  Did any of the compositions change based on new member input?  Were there changes to the music between the demo and the recording of the album?

Not really. I have to say that Suffer Yourself is still a “one-man’s-project” in a concept – I will compose all further music by myself. Of course, [each of the] guys brought something special from himself to music – his own expression and some playing hints during the performance.

None of the compositions were change [because the] guys joined the project, but I made few significant changes on the album version. For example, some fast parts in “Darkness 1” and “Darkness 2” were played slower than in demo version and couple of riffs were completely replaced there.

What do you enjoy about writing and playing this very slow form of metal?

Since I’ve entered the endless and overwhelming world of doom metal, I’ve became absolutely addicted to this genre. Year to year I’m discovering something new in related sub-genres and I see that this music lives its own life and is progressing nevertheless, even being so underground. Watching my own progress and tastes I discovered that I’m going darker and darker in course of time. Heavy, minimalistic riffs and grim atmosphere mixed with raw sound became my faves for the last time.

Have to admit that doom metal, especially in funeral condition, has its special touch. For listeners who are really deep in the genre, it contains uncompromising emotional stream, atmosphere and even state of mind. Slow tempo and grinding riffs consolidated with lifeless (in most dark forms) or bright and melancholic (sometimes with dark romantic scents – for more mild bands) melodies able to throw the listener (as well as the performer) to the endless depth of thoughts and experiences, bringing some kind of trance or meditation.

You list the band members who performed vocals, bass and guitar… who played drums?  Who plays the violin and keyboard parts?

What you can hear on the recording – is the well-crafted programming. The same with keyboards. For the album I invited my friend, Alisa Kryvoshey to perform live violin parts. Results exceeded my expectations!  Currently we have troubles with permanent drummer, so we are dealing with a guest member on our concerts, but I hope we’ll find worthy candidate soon.

How did you decide to include violin and keyboard on a couple sections?  Did you know the players already and just ask them to contribute, or did you have to seek out players to achieve the sounds you wanted?

It’s all came [with the] composing, inspiration. When I wrote songs I added synth, effects, violin and lots of other stuff here and there, making music in some cases complicated like layered cake. As I mentioned above, I asked my friend violinist to participate in recording. No guest keyboardists were involved, I was satisfied with my own performance.  And of course, I have to mention the huge value of Greg Chandler’s contribution made on the last track, “Eternity.” I asked him to perform all the growls over the song with combination of my clean voice. Greg also played one brilliant solo on the track.

Your Bandcamp page references Twin Peaks.  Do you think that show relates to the themes/style of your music, or is it just something you like to identify with?

Exploring David Lynch’s creativity I found it quite impressive and mysterious. His movies are majestic and they contain lots of the hidden sense. I remember Twin Peaks from my childhood and watched the whole series again few years ago. I like overall atmosphere and cold breezing feeling of something dark, hiding behind the scene. I think that the quote you found on SY’s Bandcamp serves well to describe fluent unearthly grim and mystic spirit breathed into the music. This particular quote been used in the new track from second LP, [which] I’m currently working on.

How did the recording sessions go for the album?  Was it difficult, easy, longer than expected?  Any strange or fun stories from those sessions?

Recording was the tough part. Trying to be in time, we worked in studio for long hours without breaks. Exhausting.  At the end of guitar recordings I felt myself mad and very tired. Vocals were recorded few months later and it was also quite hard – I recorded all vocals in one studio day and felt thick next day.  I have to say that the studio we’re recorded into is quite nice and comfortable (Phantom Records, Kiev, UA) and the owner, Alex is a kind person. His studio cat seem to be very calm about any metal music booming around.

Technically, we played all guitars in the “old-school” traditions, I mean by hands, without re-amping. We used trusted, traditional valve warheads Mesa Triple Rectifier and Peavey 5150.

Work with Greg Chandler was very productive – making mixes, he added a special touch to SY’s music. We spent lots of time, discussing sound of the album and clarifying every small detail.  That’s why Inner Sanctum [has] such a refined sound.

We spent half an hour, hunting two flies in recording room – their buzz [was] being captured on sensitive mics during acoustic guitar recording. Only after all flies were eliminated we continued our work. But maybe, we had to leave that buzz in mix, who knows?

Is Inner Sanctum feel like a complete statement about Suffer Yourself, or do you feel like you want to take this sound further?

I guess, this statement is a very good description of Suffer Yourself’s stuff. At the same time, I can say that I’m moving forward with composition and further releases will not just stay in the same place with Inner Sanctum, but will go to a deeper, more uncompromising dimension.

Any upcoming plans for the band?

I’m working on new material right now. Definitely, the project will continue with new songs, which, I believe will find recognition among listeners. One [thing] I can say for sure: Suffer Yourself will keep playing funeral doom in its most creepy and heavy conditions. My only point [is] to keep atmosphere grim, riffs heavy and melodies sick.  Step only forward, not backward.