Mark Hensch chats with Gwynbleidd, Brooklyn's moody, dark, progressive death/black metal act, whose "Amarathine" EP is still blowing him away.
HHH: Both Gwynbleidd and Amarathine are unusual, even exotic, sounding names. Could you tell us how both the band and the EP were christened?
Michal: Well, Gwynbleidd is a name of a character from a book.
Maciej: As for the name of the EP, it had to do with the fact that the material on the EP is actually from two separate future releases.. two different themes. We wanted something that would convey duality of separate themes on a time scale.. then we finally wound up with more of a "everlasting" concept rather than trying to nail down the duality idea. "Amaranthine" can mean a specific color, but it can also mean "everlasting beauty".. well, the "everlasting" part appealed to us..
HHH: A lot of forces are at work within your music, almost a push-and-pull between the modern way of aggression, speed, and dominance with the older, more traditional methods of peace, patience, and laid-back content. How difficult is it balancing the "fury" with the "folk" so to speak musically?
Michal: It's hard for me to answer this question. I don't really think about the balance between the "fury" and the "folk" when I am working on a piece of music. I think both Maciej and I just let the parts come naturally to us. It's more about the flow I guess.
Maciej: I think it has to do with unconsciously finding an equilibrium when working with a piece of music.. it doesn't mean that that there has to be a balance of equal portions of course.. but if you're working with a movement and have a general feel for the song, as you keep writing it the final idea of it's form starts to crystalize. Its hard to tell, we usually just write what comes and works, and we don't stop until somehow on the unconscious level we know that we're done with a piece of music.
HHH: There is a very intense feeling of nostalgia, not just in the song of the same name but the album itself, which permeates almost all of your music. What exactly in the past is maintaining such a deep grip on the band's musical focus? Do you just like to dwell on things that cannot be changed, or is it something more?
Maciej: your question floored me. The very theme you are describing here is the concept behind our first full length. To dwell on things that cannot be changed. Or can they? What if you were to be there, back in time to see yourself walk the fields that nurtured and protected you as a child? Ahh I won't go into detail, maybe it has to do with the fact that we all grew up far away from here... but to find the answer to this, or rather maybe to find some trace of an answer.. a hint.. you'd have to refer to the first album.. once we finish it of course :)
HHH: I can imagine the songs on Amarathine being a difficult venture in the live setting. How do you recreate the intimacy and stark reflection of the EP without boring the crowd or yourselves? Let's face it, there is lots of interesting things happening on the disc, and it must be very difficult transferring that to a gig!
Michal: We haven't really had a hard time recreating the songs in a live situation. Evidently it is impossible to play every note which has been recorded on the EP, but somehow we managed to create almost full versions of the songs without loosing the message we are trying to communicate to the audience.
HHH: Folk music in the last decade or so has become extremely popular in metal, with bands as diverse as Korpiklaani, Finntroll, Skyclad, and the like gaining more and more popularity. Though not an outright folk band, Gwynbleidd has a lot of these elements. To what heritage and history are these elements owed?
Michal: Well out of the bands you mentioned above I've only heard Finntroll and that experience was pretty recent. I don't think this kind of metal folk is up our alley at all. I mean, its nice to listen to but it kind of sounds like metal polka. Some of the folk elements in our music come from the interpretation of actual early medieval folk. Bands like Fidelius or Garmana, to mention few, do a really good job at it, but that's just folk, without metal.
Maciej: The concepts behind The Awakening and Lure of the Land started with Michal giving me a disc with 6 one minute pieces he wrote that sounded just like medieval folk to me. I heard it and saw how much more authentic it sounded to me over the majority of "folk metal" out there, and I immediately knew this was something we wanted to build on for our second album.
HHH: I've heard also that Gwynbleidd is planning on featuring the songs off this EP on some future releases. What kind of plans do all of you have for upcoming sessions and how will the EP figure into those?
Maciej: The first two songs on this EP are going to appear on our first full length album. The second two will appear on the second.. if it ever comes to that!
Amaranthine EP was not a proper release in a sense.. it does not have a conceptual integrity, something that we look forward to sticking to from now on. Also, Amaranthine will never be re-released. I hope that some years from now it will be just one of those things we did in the past, and some people who heard us in the beginning know about, but it won't be re-printed, etc. once the first two full lengths are out.
HHH: One of the bands you remind me of is Enslaved, and one of my favorite split albums of all time is the notorious split Enslaved did with Satyricon (The Forest is my Throne/Yggdrasil) back in the early 1990's. Has Gwynbleidd ever thought of going this route (in my opinon, your music is well-suited to it) and if so, who would you like to be on a split album with in a perfect world?
Michal: Ooh no, no split albums for us, I am fairly sure of that. Well, maybe with Fidelius!!! Just joking. This idea hasn't occurred to me at all.
Maciej: We've never talked about it but it looks like we're both on the same page.. I couldn't imagine us on a split album with another band.
HHH: The band started in 2002, yet Amarathine is just being shopped as of July 2006. With that much time inbetween, should one assume that these complex songs were that difficult to write, or did you take things slow for the sake of relaxing and building up more musical chemistry as a band? Whatever you did, it surely worked as you are one of the most cohesive and well-meshed unsigned bands I've heard in ages!
Michal: We had the songs for the first, upcoming, album written a fairly long time ago, but we didn't have a drummer until 2004 I think. That's really the only reason why it took so long for us to release anything. However we do not rush things when writing, yet when Maciej and I sit down together things tend to develop fairly quickly.
Maciej: we have most definitely not rushed anything, it was a rather relaxed process of writing whatever came to us. And things came to us rather easily, so it's not exactly a case of us having worked hard, haha!
HHH: How has it been living in an area as diverse, historic, and varied as Brooklyn? Has that ever contributed to who Gwynbleidd is as a collective unit?
Maciej: I guess where we come from the history part of things is way more historic than anything Brooklyn has to offer. True, there is some diversity, something I have grown accustomed to, but overall it just happened to be Brooklyn.. I can't say that I personally have any sentimental values connecting me to this place. Gwynbleidd music certainly does not sound like anything that could have come out of this place, in my opinion. As to the collectivity of the unit...
Michal: You know, even though we live in the same city we still manage to live pretty damn far from each other. We do hang out together all the time though. I mean we are all pretty good friends by this time.
Maciej: there's plenty of decent places to grab a pint!
HHH: Last question! Basically, wrap it up folks. Is there anything you'd like to share with our readers out there, anything at all? Mission statements, upcoming tour/recording plans, closing thoughts? Now's your chance!
Maciej: Mission statement? To walk our own path and dig out whatever sound was meant for us as a collective. To never look back, and to never look sideways. To keep dreaming what sparked in us a couple years ago, and to never lose that ability to dream. As to plans going forward, we're in preproduction mode for our first album, and most likely it will come out some time in 2007. Touring? we're working on something.. actually we'll pay a visit to Ohio and Chicago in January, on our way to Heathen Crusade festival in Minnesota. See you there, or elsewhere!
Be sure to check out last week's review of the EP by clicking here