Evoken are one of the most prominent forces in doom metal, especially in the realm of death-influenced funeral doom. It’s been six long years since the band put out their highly acclaimed album Atra Mors. They’ve remained active however, playing at this year’s edition of Decibel Metal and Beer Fest in Philadelphia back in April and working on their followup release, Hypnagogia, due out on November 9 on Profound Lore Records.
I have to admit I’m new to the band’s style. But having recently gotten into Disembowelment, I made the jump into Evoken’s vast panoply of foreboding darkness. Their new record, Hypnagogia, uses the dying thoughts of a soldier in the trenches of the First World War as its artistic motif, thus making it Evoken’s first official concept album. It’s a fantastic addition to their already storied catalog (Embrace the Emptiness being my favorite so far), so I was excited to talk to Vince Verkay, the band’s drummer and lyricist, to find out a bit more. Check out our Q&A below, along with a stream of “Valorous Consternation.”
Congrats on the new album! What made you decide to use the First World War as a metaphor?
Thank you, we’re excited about what could be on the horizon for us. Of course, there are the obvious reasons. The dreadful conditions soldiers were exposed to. The intense stress of watching friends die. The range of emotions that swung wild moment to moment. Outside of that, I wanted to read about their experience in a direct manner rather than a historian. That’s when I realized every journal written by these men shared one common bond. The anguish of being disconnected from those they cared about the most. Even though they witnessed the most horrific of sight and sound. It was being away from those they loved. The fear of never seeing them again coupled with the possibility of suicide just to silence the sounds of civilians caught in the crossfire. Some of them being infants left for dead, screaming from hunger.
How do you see this album in terms of your entire discography? Did you feel any pressure from the acclaim your previous album received?
We absolutely felt pressure. That pressure is always there when writing a new album. It’s pressure that’s self-imposed, but we welcome it. I would be VERY alarmed if that concern melted away. There are new ideas on this record. To me, it feels like a natural progression. Yet, at the end of the day, it’s still Evoken. Throughout our existence we made it clear, no compromise. If we released Atra Mors Part 2 or Quietus Part 2, that would be a huge compromise.
When I saw you guys on stage at Decibel Metal and Beer Fest in Philadelphia, you had the 1990 fantasy horror film, Begotten, playing in the background. What made you decide on such a disturbing visual display?
Back in 2010, we were invited by Roadburn Fest & Tom G. Warrior, who was a guest curator for a day. Each stage had a projection screen and we could use it for our logo or if we wanted to use video. I wanted us to stand out & avoid the most generic idea of only using our logo. I started looking around for ideas, then I remembered a movie named Begotten from the early ’90s. I found video of the movie online, then once it started playing, I realized it fit. As if our paths intersected. The other guys were into it, so Dave Wagner worked his magic and lined things up perfectly.
Are there any newer bands that have come out recently, whether in your stylistic realm or not, that you’ve been really excited about?
There are, but it’s so frustrating in finding them because the internet is so saturated. Two bands come to mind immediately. Bell Witch are very interesting because I enjoy how effective they use the space between notes.
The second isn’t a new band, if you call one person a “band,” but it’s new for me and that is Author and Punisher.
You’ve created a lot of songs over the years, and that means a lot of riffs. How do you keep coming up with new ways to arrange those notes and snare hits?
Good question, because I have no idea. Trial & error, I guess. We enjoy music of all genres. We enjoy the same music as a band, but we each have our own unique musical tastes that bring an added dimension.
Finally, with your new album out, what are your touring plans for the near future?
Right now we have a few shows lined up. November 3rd in Montreal, November 16th at Brooklyn Bazaar. We have three other shows upcoming that we haven’t announced yet. We’re looking to tour Europe in spring or summer 2019. We’re hoping to play on the West Coast since we have yet to play there, which is odd after 26 years as a band. There are so many places we are hoping to play. We definitely need to play Russia. Doom has a large fanbase there. Of course, in order to perform in these locations, there needs to be a demand.