Over the past few days, I spoke with Kat from Salome about her day job as a massage therapist, premiered a song from Alcest, and posted on Dillinger Escape Plan’s forthcoming Option Paralysis via “Farewell, Mona Lisa.” I also listened to Negur? Bunget’s Maiestrit more times than I can count. As mentioned in a previous Haunting The Chapel, the Romanian transcendental black metal icons recently re-recorded and re-interpreted their decade-old Maiastru Sfetnic and renamed it Maiestrit. It’s the final recording of the band’s “classic lineup” lineup — vocalist/guitarist Hupogrammos, drummer Negru, and guitarist Sol Faur — pictured in the above press photo. At this point, the only remaining original member is Negru (far right): The other guys have gone on to form Dordeduh, not without a little controversy. (See, for instance, this interview with Hupogrammos. It’s like the recent Gorgorgoth soap opera reset in Eastern Europe and featuring fewer lawyers.) I spoke with Negru, the last man standing, about the band’s future and recently revised past.
STEREOGUM: Why did you decide to re-rerecord M?iastru Sfetnic?
NEGRU: Actually we always had this in mind, since the moment we left the studio from the original recording. I never thought it would take so long to actually do it though.
STEREOGUM: Were you unsatisfied with the original’s recording or playing? Was this a “do over”?
NEGRU: We were totally unhappy with the way this material turned out on the original version. Not only the production, but also the interpretation should have been much better. So yes, we always saw this as major “do over.”
STEREOGUM: What was the experience like? Playing those old parts again, etc? Revisiting memories of the initial sessions?
NEGRU: It was a complex and consuming experience. Some of the tracks we played quite a lot since then, so were quite familiar, while some we never played before. But all in all we had a very good idea on how we wanted things to shape this time, so we just had to make sure everything was in the right place. That goes both for the production and also for the actual music. We made quite a lot of small changes, some more important ones, changed parts, removed ones, but mostly added new layers.
STEREOGUM: I’m curious about the process. Can you discuss this a bit? How did you approach the original compositions? How much improv did you allow yourselves? (Was it supposed to be a note-for-note remake? Like the updated Psycho?) It’s pretty heady listening to the two together. There are shifts, but a ton of overlaps. It’s bigger sounding … I see in places you’ve called it a “passionate reinterpretation.”
NEGRU: When we started to play again some of the original songs, it was pretty much like approaching new tracks. So we treated them like that. We tried to take everything to a higher level, adding and cutting parts that we felt were not right, but mostly adding new layers above what was already there. On the other hand we played live some of the tracks all the time, so we were really familiar with those. Playing them for years also meant doing small changes in time, so they were already prepared for the recordings. In the end we just wanted to make this album sound the way it was always in our minds.
STEREOGUM: How did you decide to add the acoustic bonus tracks?
NEGRU: We always felt the tracks from M?iastru Sfetnic are easy to change into acoustic … so we were sometimes considering making the whole album like an acoustic one. But then it wouldn’t have the same impact, so in the end we settled on doing just those two tracks, which were also the most appropriate for this approach. They somehow bring you closer to the present, rather than to the original atmosphere of the album.
STEREOGUM: M?iastru Sfetnic was/is a concept album. Can you discuss the ideas behind it?
NEGRU: The whole album can be seen as a universal concept poem-legend envisioning our personal vision upon the prophetical side of the territory known as Transylvania, upon the connection between the Black Metal ideology and the natural spiritual impulse of these lands. All this disclosure is presented through the eyes of a central character, a potential leader of such a world, whose evolution is parallel with the one of the whole world. His defined structure is shaped [and] consecrated by sacrificial endeavor, by battles fought within (the mystery), by the ceremonial blood of the overwhelming unknown … until all fades into the blackness.
STEREOGUM: How did the concept change and/or stay the same with the re-recording?
NEGRU: The overall concept of the album is pretty much the same. The music that brings it to life should be a bit more intense though, which by itself changes the concept reception, although on a different layer.
STEREOGUM: It turned out to be the final recording of the band’s “classic lineup,” which seems very fitting, all things considered … it feels very circular/but like a suitable finale. Going into the project, did you know you’d be parting ways with Hupogrammos and Sol Faur?
NEGRU: No, we didn’t have any idea about this when we started working on Maiestrit. We were in the middle when everything happened, and it was quite a challenge to find the right way to finish it.
STEREOGUM: You’re working on a new collection, Vîrstele Pamîntului, with the new lineup. Can you tell me a bit about the album? The translation of the title’s “The Ages of the Land/Earth”? What’s the idea behind it? What’s the album like musically?
NEGRU: The album’s done already, and will be released around the end of March, but on code666 Records. Vîrstele P?mîntului is an album about places of the earth and places of the spirit, about bounds transcending worlds. The earth is where we came from and where go back into, the one from above and beyond us. Understanding and respecting it means to understand yourself, your purpose and destiny. Vîrstele P?mîntului is an album about embracing your destiny, about choosing and consciously assuming a way of life. Musically I’d say the album is a continuation of [2006’s] OM with some older elements present as well. But that’s always for the listener to decide.
STEREOGUM: I read at your site that it’ll be released “in a special limited edition – handmade woodbox, roped and filled with the very earth of the place is comes from.” How many are you making? Will there be a straight-up/non-boxed version too?
NEGRU: We’ll make only a couple of hundreds boxes. It’s really a big challenge to make them by hand. There will be a normal digipak version as well.
STEREOGUM: Corb is handling vocals? Anything you can tell me about the new lineup?
NEGRU: Corb and Ageru are both handling the vocals on the new album. Corb is also doing guitars and dulcimer, while Ageru also does the xylophone, pipe, and percussions. Beside them there’s Spin on guitar, Gadinet on bass and panpipe, Inia Dinia on keyboards and me on drums and percussion.
STEREOGUM: And… you’re also working on a live DVD? What can you tell me about that?
NEGRU: I think technically this will be the last release of the original line-up. It’s a gig we recorded back in 2008, and now it’s almost ready to be released. Was a massive project for us, as we pretty much did in on our own, setting the whole gig so that we could record it and film it properly. It will be a full 90-minute concert, with some extra materials as well, but all focused around this concert.
STEREOGUM: You’ve been touring. How’s that going? Any plans to come to the US?
NEGRU: It’s going well actually. We are preparing a full European tour for March/April/May, and then if all goes well, I hope we will finally make it to the US as well before the end of the year.
STEREOGUM: Have you been working on Negura Magazine? I haven’t seen an update in a while. Can you talk a bit about it for folks who aren’t familiar? The ideology behind it?
NEGRU: I can’t say I did much work on the magazine lately. Negura Magazine is intended to be an ideological magazine … presenting the ideas, spiritualities, and philosophies that shape the music the way it is. Obviously we were always focused on bands that have a lot beneath their music, and on doing rather different approaches on the interviews, explore beyond the appearances. We also had different articles on each issue of the magazine, focused on history, spirituality, folklore, religion … all written by people with a great deal of knowledge and experience on their fields. You can check some of the stuff online.
STEREOGUM: Are you Drudkh fans? I think of Negura and them in tandem, for whatever reason.
NEGRU: I know Drudkh, but I can’t say we are big fans. I noticed people thinking we’re close … but to tell you the truth I don’t see it like this. That’s just my opinion of course.
STEREOGUM: Who are some Romanian bands we should check out?
STEREOGUM: Finally, I should also ask: Why did you shift the title for the new recording of M?iastru Sfetnic?
NEGRU: Maiestrit would be in Romanian something like “crafted, enriched” … which is quite literally what we did with the material.
Maiestrit is out 4/6 via Prophecy. Take a listen to the gorgeously explosive second track “In-Zvicnirea Apusului” to get an idea of where it goes:
And, if you haven’t heard OM, you should … If you don’t trust me (bitch), Terrorizer recently included it on their list of the top 40 black metal albums of all time (#22). Listen to it in tandem with Blut Aus Nord’s Memoria Vetusta II: Dialogue With The Stars, if you’re looking for a good time.
Haunting The Chapel’s teamed up with the Blackened Music Series to bring Alcest to NYC as part of Neige’s first American tour. Dates here. There’s a bunch of metal at SXSW this year (BV, 20 Buck Spin/Profound Lore, Prosthetic, etc). I’ll be down there writing about it. (Tip: Don’t miss Coffinworm, Salome, Endless Blockade, Liturgy.) Since I’m Don King, I’ve teamed up with Decibel for High On Fire’s complete Snakes For The Divine tour, which includes this Austin-specific show:
Speaking of tours, Mayhem canceled theirs, which left the opening bands (Ludicra, Krallice, Tombs) shit out of luck: Enter Ludicra’s De-Cancellation tour, where they get to play with bands who are more interesting than Mayhem 2010. Info at Profound Lore.