There’s a reason we gave Appalling Ascension, the debut LP from Portuguese death metal crew The Ominous Circle, a glowing 8/10 review recently, calling it “frighteningly good”: it’s an incredible slab of tar-drenched death metal, the band really mining the depths of Incantation’s and Immolation’s heaviest material but not going to a place where it all blurs together. The Ominous Circle have some songwriting smarts as well as an ability to honour death metal’s storied history while pushing it to new places. So, yeah, safe to say the album is pretty Decibel approved (please listen to “Poison Fumes” and get back to us if you have any doubts whatsoever).
We caught up with guitarist A.C. to find out what they get out of playing this particular strain of death metal, what’s going on lyrically on the album, and what the deal is with the anonymity.
The album is a dense, difficult, intense listen. For listeners, the music conjures up a lot of heavy feelings, the way good death metal should. What do you get out of playing the songs on the album?
It is a hard task to define what we get out of playing the songs of this album. I personally think this album should not evoke any specific mood, and I say this because from our experience as listeners it can be perceived in the most different states of mind, and through each one you can assimilate it in various new ways. Although being a simple album composition-wise, through each spin you can find a whole new dimension that you didn’t capture before. It is an album that should be experienced, rather than just listened to.
At 52 minutes, there’s risk of listener burnout; was having the album be too long ever a concern to you?
Not at all. The writing process was very smooth, as the songs flowed quite naturally and such details were never directives of any kind. We wanted to write songs that materialized our vision of how death metal should be conceived: heavy, deep, obscure, through ceremonial trance and sinister atmospheres. The length of the album was something we just realized in the end, and it was never a problem; it is exactly how it should be. I guess when you let yourself be embraced by the music you will not realize the album is so long in duration. But, then again, we couldn’t imagine doing this in any other way, since mutilating the songs in order to fit some ideal length would kill the whole aura of this work.
You guys remain pretty anonymous, and you keep your faces obscured. What’s the purpose behind this?
The purpose was, still is, and always will be to try and separate the music from the people who create and play it. An absolute anonymity is obviously impossible to achieve, and that’s not what we’re aiming for, but we want to make our best efforts in order to make sure that the music comes first. The Circle is a superior identity from the servants who summon it, diametrically opposed wills that come together in harmony in what is the recorded result. That is the reason we chose to present the Circle like this, since in order to fully experience the music you must detach yourself from every material aspect and let yourself be possessed by the trance it creates.
What can you tell us about the lyrical content of the album?
This album leads with Death in a spiritual perspective. Death cannot only be perceived as the end of life, but as a gate to numerous dimensions that exist from the moment you take your first breath to the moment you’re swallowed by worms. The concept of Death can lead you to achieve notions and experiences that life itself isn’t able to. So, lyrically, we chose to approach Death based in alchemical notions as a search for one’s own spiritual path, which, once found, ultimately elevates one to freedom.
You aligned yourselves with two established labels, 20 Buck Spin and Osmose, for your debut. How did your partnerships with those two labels come about?
When the time came to search for possible partners we selected a few labels with whom we share the same vision and principles in music, that we admire for their commitment to the underground and to the scene. 20 Buck Spin and Osmose are such labels. Dave [Adelson] from 20 Buck Spin was one of very first to answer us with a proposal and a some weeks later we received a call from Hervé [Herbaut] from Osmose saying he wanted to sign us. Everything was processed very fast and all details regarding this release were aligned easily.
I asked what you get out of playing the material on the album earlier, but taking that back even further, what do you get out of playing the style of death metal that you do? It evokes a lot more feeling than a lot of death metal; what sort of feelings are put into the music?
It’s not easy to describe what feelings are put into our music without entering the fields of the obvious. Hate and despair are the major driving forces in this kind of music. The difference here resides in the way those feelings are perceived.
What’s next for the band? Any North American touring on the horizon?
At the moment there is nothing planned, but whenever the Circle is summoned, it will appear.
To check out, and purchase, Appalling Ascension, head on over here.