In June last year, Anthelion finally dropped their sophomore full length album, Obsidian Plume. With the Taiwanese symphonic black metallers’ debut full length being a distant 7 year back, Obsidian Plume was certainly an album that was highly anticipated. After the (honestly) rather disappointing and different 2010 EP, Mañjusaka, the band returned to their roots and original style on Obsidian Plume, showing how the past years have done nothing to dull the edge that they have in their songwriting and playing. Vocalist Code tells us more about the new record.
Greetings Code, thank you for giving us this opportunity to talk to you. Before we begin the interview proper, give us a brief introduction of Anthelion. How did the band form in 2001?
Zeist and Troy were classmates back in senior high school. Troy started learning drums due to the influence of Japanese rock music, then Zeist started learning guitar because Troy wanted him to. I met them in a music workshop, and we thought that maybe we could play in a band together. That band became Anthelion.
The band’s name in Chinese is 幻日, and gives listeners a sense of mystery. How did the name of the band come about? Are there any stories behind the band name?
In ancient China, the natural phenomenon of anthelion was interpreted as an inauspicious symbol. It was said to portend a war for supremacy among the separate kingdoms during the Three Kingdoms period, as China was not a single country back then.
Interpretations of “Anthelion” can be extended to include the idea of setting out on a punitive expedition against existing systems. Wrong or right, dark or bright, from different perspectives you will see different answers.
2007 marked the release of the band’s first debut album, Bloodshed Rebefallen and it was one of the most remarkable symphonic black metal releases of its time, with the fusion of black metal and the classical with the piano pieces on the album. How did this sound of Anthelion come about?
We didn’t try to figure out the elements to assemble our music, it’s simply what we usually play and what we think about.
Following the release of Bloodshed Rebefallen, the band took 3 years to write the follow up EP, Manjusaka, which had a much rawer sound compared to the debut, along with a slight shift in musical style. Was this shift in sound intentional, and what was the reason behind it?
It was on purpose, our plan was to release an album, but after Siniz joined the band we put more emphasis on digesting our old works, and integrating Siniz into the original Anthelion.
Partly because of personal reasons (I left Taipei and stayed in Yun-Lin for a while), members thought that we had lost our motivation, so we needed some new events to keep the band alive. After considering the relationship between time and money, we chose to release an EP first. We also made some adjustments to our music to set into motion new possibilities, which I think was a good choice as a new start for the band.
4 years on, the band recently released the second full length album, Obsidian Plume. How has reaction from the Taiwanese media been so far for the album?
The reaction from the media has been favourable, and we were even nominated for “Best Rock Album” at Taiwan’s Golden Indie Music Awards this year. We’ve received some thoughts and suggestions from our friends and fans, and we are keen on improving our defects. Further, we have already begun crafting the concept for our next work of art.
In total, the gap between Bloodshed Rebefallen and Obsidian Plume was 7 years. What was the reason behind such a long delay between the two albums?
Actually, we spent too much money on producing Bloodshed Rebefallen, and at the time we weren’t a sufficiently mature band, so it took us a quite a while to explore our next possible steps. Of course, the switching of band members, and the new stages of our personal lives were also things we had to adapt to.
We have already surpassed that phase and started a new journey. We will continue with the same attitude and faith in our music career.
The first album saw the band going all the way to the famous Studio Fredman in Sweden, but Obsidian Plume was recorded back in Taiwan. What was the reason behind the first album being recorded in Sweden, and the new one being recorded at your homeland?
The main reasons were regarding attention to detail and the cost of recording. The recording quality of Fredman is great, but due to the cost, we couldn’t spend much time on adjusting the intricacies of the sound.
Eventually we decided to record ourselves, and adjust the sound to what suited Anthelion the best.
With the experience recording in Studio Fredman the first time round, how has the experience shaped the process of the recording of Obsidian Plume?
It was a good lesson, and we learnt a lot from it. This time we also made some adjustments to recording Obsidian Plume in a way which suits Anthelion better.
Let’s now talk about the music of Obsidian Plume. The music of Anthelion is often heavily-themed. Could you tell us more about the concepts behind the new album?
Obsidian Plume is a very emotional album. The fundamental message we wanted to convey is that every society, community, and each generation has different hardships and suffering to face, often leading to a profound, misunderstood loneliness.
We chose the raven as a metonymy for overcoming this kind of adversity, because although it has been taken as a bad omen since ancient times, the animal is fierce and tough, yet mysterious and wise, and willing to accompany its spouse for its entire life. It is just like those who are fighting in the human world but are suffering from stigma. Each song on Obsidian Plume has a story; unique and realistic, they belong to different individuals, and are all drawn from a variety of different personal experiences.
The music once again saw a slight return to the style of Bloodshed Rebefallen, after the shift in sound on Manjusaka. How was the songwriting process like this time? With Siniz in the band since 2009, how has his contribution shifted the dynamics of the band’s sound?
I’m not sure about what you think about Bloodshed Rebefallen, so I can’t comment on “return to the style” of it. As for writing songs this time, it was still Code-centric; I wrote the songs, and the other members dealt with the arrangements with me.
Zeist worked a lot on “惡終之葬 (Forlorn End of the Funeral)” and “鴉夢 (Hrabanfluht)” this time. I was in charge of perfecting the final phases after everybody had discussed and understood the contents of each song.
Compared to other members, Siniz is kind of new in this industry, sometimes we give him some advice so that he can adjust the way he plays to suit the band more.
Of course, the most important thing is continuous practise.
The band recently performed in China, and we saw the tremendous support that fans of China had for the band. Does the band face questions from fans about your stance on political issues between Taiwan and China?
Sometimes our fans mention political issues, often unintentionally, but it’s not taboo with us.
I respect the standpoints and intentions of our fans, since it is everybody’s birthright to have opinions. Of course, they also have to respect ours.
Being considered one of the earliest black metal acts out of Taiwan alongside ChthoniC, how has the metal scene evolved since the band’s formation in 2001.
There are more and more bands, events, and venues, as well as a proliferation of rock music classrooms.
While there are more and more bands, the ones who can’t get popular will naturally disappear.
Even though you don’t always find good bands, this whole band thing is now popular. I’m actually happy about that, since it generates more chances for good music.
What are the plans for Anthelion after the release of the new album? Is a tour in place for the band?
Yeah, we already started making some plans for a tour in 2015. Currently we have gigs till summer, and then it will be time to make a new album.