EMQ’s with FORMICARIUS
Hi Everyone. Welcome to our new EMQ’s interview with London based Black Metal band Formicarius! Huge thanks to them for taking part!
What is your name, what do you play and can you tell us a little bit about the history of the band?
Hægtesse – Bass, Vocals: We are Formicarius and we play a pretty unique blend of black and death metal. The band is a melting pot of our various influences – we borrow electrifying lead guitars and insane shredding from old school heavy metal and classic 80’s thrash, counterpoints and harmonies influenced by Baroque/Classical music and symphonic, atmospheric elements from bands like Emperor and Dimmu Borgir, who were initially reviled for introducing these elements to black metal. As it turned out, history ended up looking kindly on these pioneers of the second wave of black metal despite them being sneered at by black metal elitists and confusing the hell out of genre purists. We’re no strangers to this ourselves and hopefully we’ll have a similar legacy of genre-defying innovation, a pretty bold statement!
The majority of us have been playing together for over ten years and we’re veterans of the current wave of UK extreme metal, having lent our unholy talents to bands such as De Profundis, Domitorem and Aeternum. When our old band dissolved, instead of looking for other musicians to join us, we formed a new band with the same members, but a much darker, more focused sound. Valdr joined us recently after a number of different drummers had to move on for various reasons and he’s really stepped up to the plate to be the final missing ingredient in the devilish concoction that is Formicarius!
How did you come up with your band name?
Nazarkardeh – Guitars: The Formicarius is the earliest European text to discuss the subject of Witchcraft. Written by the 15th century theologian Nider, his transcription of a Swiss Inquisitor’s dealings with a coven of Witches who practiced transformation, child sacrifice and Satanic worship predates even it’s more famous counterpart, the Malleus Maleficarum.
Put it this way – if the Malleus Maleficarum is the Reign In Blood of the Witch hunter, then the Formicarius is it’s Show No Mercy.
What country are you from and what is the Metal/Rock scene like there?
Nazarkardeh: We are from the UK. Unfortunately! One of the few good things about living here is our metal scene! Despite the fact that any status Britain had as a cultural powerhouse is long gone, UK Extreme metal is incredibly diverse and has gone from strength to strength in the last few years. To list just a couple of my favourites we have Deadwood Lake, Live Burial and Repulsive Vision who are all making a serious impact both in and out of the UK, but there are many, many more!
I wish them all the success that this country makes so difficult to attain.
What is your latest release? (Album, EP, Single or Video)
Hægtesse: Our latest release is our sophomore album, “Rending The Veil Of Flesh”. It’s a real step up from our first album in terms of production, songwriting and even the packaging of the album. We’re always learning from our mistakes and I feel that this album really cements what we want the Formicarius sound to be – epic and technically proficient but with engaging melodies and a strong sense of narrative running through each track. The first single off the new album, which we released a lyric video for, is ‘Early Will I Seek Thee’, featuring Sakis Tolis of Rotting Christ on guest vocals and Nicholas Millar of Aklash on violin! The track is a pretty good showcase of what we’re all about these days, which is why we chose it as our lead single.
Who have been your greatest influences?
Hægtesse: The music is written by Morath, Lord Saunders and Nazarkardeh, so I’m probably not the best qualified to answer this question! Having said that, the influences are evident to the careful listener! We absolutely adore the complex interplay of melodies and harmonies employed by bands like Iron Maiden and Judas Priest, so this is a huge part of our sound. This harmonic sensibility is a big part of Baroque and later Classical music, another huge influence of ours – check out the counterpoints in O, Dread Impaler, for example. Visually and vocally, we’re in thrall to second wave black metal bands like Immortal and Dimmu Borgir and to some extent Cradle of Filth, who lend us their gothic atmosphere and uniquely British take on black metal.
If you could collaborate with a current band or musician who would it be?
Nazarkardeh: As Hægtesse mentioned, we were fortunate enough to have Sakis Tolis of Rotting Christ feature on one track, which was a huge honour. Rotting Christ’s unashamedly catchy, refined and well written take on Black Metal was a big inspiration for Formicarius. The Fourth Horsemen is directly influenced by King of a Stellar War for example!
As for others in the future, there are a few that come to mind. Rob Halford was talking about making some black metal with Ihsahn and Nergal recently… I wonder how we could convince him to ditch them and make some Blackened British Steel with us instead?
What’s the weirdest gift you have ever received from a fan?
Nazarkardeh: I can’t really think of any but we don’t need gifts from our fans. The fact that there are people out there supporting our music is a gift enough!
One of the stranger things I’ve seen someone do at a show is Sieg Heil us. Not sure what that guy was thinking in assuming we were that way inclined, but fortunately he was dealt with. The less our scene tolerates those cretins the better.
If you had one message for your fans, what would it be?
Hægtesse: We’re not an overly political or ideological band, but impossible to exist in a public sphere and not project some message simply by acting in the way that you do. Even if you have no explicit message, some people will still draw lessons from your behaviour. Our unconscious message seems to be something along the lines of “don’t worry about what anyone else thinks, do what you want to do”.
For years (stretching back to when we first started making music together in our previous incarnation) we’ve been accused of being confused about our genre, been called derivative and even boring. That doesn’t matter to us, because we’re not really making music for anyone else. We make the music we like making for the simple fact that we like making it. So our ethos, the message we deliver just by existing and being visible is a pretty corny one – just be yourself!
If you could bring one Metal/Rock star back from the dead, who would it be?
Nazarkardeh: Does Nicolo Paganini count? The guy was refused a Christian burial because his supernatural violin skill convinced people he was possessed by Demons. That’s more metal than the edgiest faces in Black Metal can attest to. Perhaps we could swap him for Varg Vikernes?
If not then I think I’d choose someone who died before their time. Randy Rhoads comes to mind – it’s a shame that we’ll never see what incredible things he could have achieved… Or maybe Chuck Schuldiner! Could have carved out a legacy for Control Denied just as he did for Death?
What do you enjoy the most about being a musician? And what do you hate?
Hægtesse: The best thing about being a musician is those moments when you nail a piece of music and you’re just completely absorbed in it, whether than be on stage, in the rehearsal room or in your bedroom. The only way to achieve those moments is the answer to the second question: hours and hours of repetitive, focused, tedious practice! So like most things in life, you have to suffer just a little bit to get something worthwhile or fulfilling in the end.
If you could change one thing about the music industry, what would it be?
Nazarkardeh: This is a difficult question – so many complaints about the music industry come with an image of the past seen through rose-tinted glasses. Just look at all the dinosaurs from the era of guitar shaped swimming pools whining about the Internet on Blabbermouth!
I could complain about Spotify’s weak payouts to bands despite their own gargantuan profits, but those are injustices that aren’t limited to the music business, and aren’t symptoms of this industry but another system that needs to be destroyed…
Name one of your all-time favourite albums?
Nazarkardeh: if I had to choose one metal album it would be “Abigail” by King Diamond. I won’t explain why, just listen to it! However it holds a particular significance for me because, well… what the hell is it? It would be short sighted just to call it heavy metal with it’s heaviness and atmosphere. It’s far too dark to be power metal. It clearly isn’t black metal despite the influence of King on the genre. But does any of that matter? The ability of a record to break through the barriers of subgenres to create something truly unique is something that really strikes a chord with me.
Honourable mention goes to Death’s “Individual Thought Patterns”, Morbid Angel’s “Covenant” and Windir’s “Arntor” which are among the close contenders for similar reasons.
What’s best? Vinyl, Cassettes, CD’s or Downloads?
Hægtesse: This is a strange debate in terms of the dogmatic and evangelical attitudes people take to transmitting information in some physical vector into sound waves that hit their ears and their brains interpret as “music”. It’s not even one I think is particularly relevant. There are hundreds of factors that can enhance or hinder our enjoyment of music beyond the objective physical qualities of the sound. So the medium I’m playing music on isn’t as important for me as the mood I’m in or whether I’m hungry, for instance, in determining how much I enjoy it.
I do a lot of travelling on the London underground and the convenience of having every single song I own (I think a more pertinent debate is streaming vs. purchasing music and I opt for the latter every time I appreciate and want to support an artist) on my phone to drown out sniffling bankers or howling school children is a godsend. I don’t miss the days of carting around multiple CDs and carefully cradling my Walkman so it didn’t skip every 30 seconds!
Having said that, there is nothing that compares to minutely examining a badass vinyl cover for every single cool little detail while you’re jamming out to an album for the first time! Our artwork, designed by Moonroot Art and our own multi-talented Morath is an amazing example of the intricate style influenced by artists like Necrolord, whose cover for Emperor’s “In the Nightside Eclipse” is an absolute masterpiece.
So there really is no point debating the absolute best way to consume music, people have their preferences for whatever reasons and I’m fine with that!
What’s the best gig that you have played to date?
Nazarkardeh: They say you’re only as good as your last show. Good, because our last show was our best! Our last show in London supporting Asagraum was us playing our strongest material with our strongest line-up. After our first few shows getting used to playing “Rending The Veil Of Flesh” material live and getting comfortable with the new presence in the band – our supernaturally skilled drummer Valdr – this show felt like the culmination of that process. If I’m right, then next time someone asks me this question it’ll be about the next show!
What’s next for the band?
Nazarkardeh: We have one final show of the year on December 14th in Zebbug, Malta! It feels good to finally take Formicarius beyond Great Britain to further pastures. We are already in talks about further shows in support of “Rending The Veil Of Flesh” both at home and abroad.
Writing for album number 3 has begun. I can’t say much bar that it takes everything we find special about “Rending The Veil Of Flesh” and intensifies it. But more on that later…
What Social Media/Website links do you use to get your music out to people?
Nazarkardeh: Formicarius can be heard on whichever platforms you consume music, and can be found on whichever social media platform you prefer.
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