It seems that more and more people are interested in slow, mournful and depressive doom metal these days and the term “funeral doom” is getting more and more respect day by day. One of the most promising names in this genre is Pantheist; a young and talented band that hails from Belgium, their first album „O Solitude „ appeared this spring at Firebox Records. Kostas, the founder of Pantheist, who is also the editor of doom-metal.com magazine, answered my questions.
Hi Kostas, how are you these days? What are you doing to escape from the summer heat? Do you like this warm weather or you are better choose to hide from the sun?
Hehe, this question is not more relevant, as my legendary delay with answering brought us into fall in the meanwhile. I can tell you one thing though: the heat is evil, man! I can`t even stand it in Greece any more, I`m a disgrace for the Greek race!
Would you like to introduce yourself and the band to our readers? When and how you started the band, what were the motivations? You have also released some demos, before O Solitude. Tell me about them.
I started Pantheist in January 2000 as a dark synth band, as I didn`t have any other equipment than my keyboard and didn`t know any musician who was into doom then. However, it soon became clear that I needed a typical metal line-up to express my musical vision. Nicolas, who was from the beginning evolved in Pantheist, joined the band on guitar once we had the equipment we needed and together with Lawrence from Solicide (as session bass player) we recorded our `1000 years` demo in the Templa Libitina studio of Stijn Van Cauter (Until Death Overtakes Me, The Ethereal). The demo was very well received and brought us into the attention of labels and other musicians, so we signed a deal with Firebox Records and saw Oscar (drums) and Frederic (bass) joining the band.
Why did you choose this name - Pantheist - for your band? What's the philosophy behind the name?
Pantheist is an individual who believes that God and the world are one. The music of Pantheist is the expression of the feelings of solitude and despair created by the realization that unity with the Divine Whole is not possible as long as we are deceived by our consciousness and its illusions of individuality and complete independence from our surrounding world.
You believe in God or any kind of Supreme Being? How do you see religions?
I don`t believe that there is a Being with supernatural powers, I find nature amazing and complicated enough and the introduction of a Supreme Being doesn`t make matters any easier. Religions have many and various social and psychological functions, and I do think that the most interesting aspect of them is that they connect people through a common belief (the word `religion` comes from the Latin `religere` which means `to connect`).
The debut album it has been out for some months. What kind of responses did you get so far?
Most reactions range from positive to extremely positive. We have been praised for our originality, the variety in our music and our almost religious atmosphere. From the other side, I heard some complaints about the faster parts, it seems that a doom band is not allowed to accelerate here and there, because this entails the danger of being less boring, which is not compatible with the doom metal philosophy, hehe.
The label says on the info sheet that Pantheist plays "avantgarde funeral music". Do you agree with them? How would you describe your music for your grandmother, for example?
I would certainly not use the words `avantgarde funeral music` to my grandmother, hehe. I think she would agree that we play `really loud music`. But I suppose this is not longer enough in a music industry dominated by very descriptive labels. I like using the term `funereal doom metal` to describe our music, as it both gives a hint towards the sound of our music (which brings forth images of the atmosphere of a funeral) and separates us from the `funeral doom` tag, which is used too widely and careless nowadays.
How do you ended to sign Firebox Records? Have you contacted Muikku, or he found you? His label was the only, who offered you a deal, or did you get other offers too? How the relations with the label are? Are you satisfied with their work?
We were actually recommended to Firebox by Markus from Aarni. Rami contacted us, we sent him the `1000 years` demo, he liked us and he signed us. Some other labels showed interest as well, but Firebox was the only one that came up with an official offer.
The relations with the label are outstanding, we are in regular contact with Rami and he appears to be a very honest and trustworthy person, and one of the few label owners in the metal scene who are actively promoting the doom genre.
Who are the biggest influences on your music? I guess My Dying Bride and Skepticism was a big influence for Pantheist. I even feel a little bit of Elend influences in the clean vocals. Please correct me if I am wrong.
I like all the bands that you mention and I guess there are some direct influences from them, but the biggest influences for Pantheist are to be found outside the metal genre, more particularly in the Greek traditional music and classical music.
The keyboard/organ melodies reminded me of religious/church music. Are you listening to this kind of music? At what age you picked up first a musical instrument?
I really like some choral music, I`m a big fan of requiems and the choral/organ work of Bach, so I guess that`s where this influence comes from. But I`m not particularly interested in the religious content of this music, more in the awe inspiring/majestic atmosphere it creates. Music as a very powerful means of influencing the emotions of people, has been used extensively by the church to convert the masses.
To answer the second part of your question, I must say that I started playing the piano when I was 15. Shortly after I started playing the accordeon and it wasn`t until years later that I started playing some guitar as well.
I understand that you have Greek roots. Then you are playing in a Belgian band, yet the address you gave me is in England. The band name is in Dutch and your label is Finnish... Could you explain a little bit?
It`s very simple really...I`m Greek, but I have lived for years in Belgium and only recently I`ve moved to England. I started building up the band when I was still in Belgium, so it`s not surprising that most band members are Belgian (except our drummer who is from The Netherlands). We all live or used to live in the Dutch speaking part of Belgium, hence the Dutch band name. And the choice of the record label is rarely limited by the label`s country of origin, so choosing for a Finnish label was for us not very different than choosing for f.i. a Belgian or Greek label.
When was your first contact with metal music and doom metal in general? How do you reached to play in a doom metal band?
It was not until I was 18 years old that I came in contact with metal music in general and doom in particular. It was a classmate in the University who introduced me to doom. In fact, `Turn loose the swans` was one of the first metal albums I ever heard. However, it wasn`t until I heard Unholy`s `Gracefallen` that I became completely obsessed with this style of music. It was also in the University that I met Nicolas, which meant more or less the beginning of Pantheist.
I have read some negative reviews of O Solitude. Some people wrote for example that Pantheist has nothing to do with doom metal and stuff like that. What do you think, what is the essence of doom metal? What makes a band to be “doom”?
For me personally, the question is completely irrelevant, as I really don`t care whether we play doom or not. I know one thing, there is music that appeals to me and music which doesn`t. I try to listen as much as possible to the first, and ignore the second.
Doom metal is a very specific style of music involving slow tempo`s, heavy guitars and dark atmosphere/lyrics. Some old-school dinosaurs might disagree, but there is nothing `special` or `elite` about doom metal, it`s just a style of music like any other.
Beside Pantheist, you are supporting the doom scene in another way too. You are one of the editors of the www.doom-metal.com webpage. Could you tell us something about doom-metal.com, how did you reached to “work” there, what’s your role there and so on…
The site has been started by Aldo some years ago with the intent to create the most comprehensive guide about doom metal on the internet. Little did he know that the term `doom metal` is for some people some kind of religion and they are even prepared to fight a `holy war` to protect what they think is `true doom`. Despite all shit going on, he has managed to promote the doom genre like none other on the internet, and the site is still growing every day.
I have been involved in the site since the beginning. I`m mostly responsible for the review section and do occasionallly some interviews as well.
Are you following with attention other zines, websites? What do you think about mp3s? The 1000 Years demo is available for download on the Pantheist site. Do you use the internet to download music?
There are some interesting paper zines which I`ve read lately, like Abandon all Hope and Shroud of Woe.
Mp3`s are a great way of promoting the music of underground bands, I think every band should have at least their demo`s available for download on the net.
Where do you think that doom metal will evaluate? Could you imagine the doom metal as a new trend in the future? Do you think that is possible for the scene to be more popular?
Nowadays, I think the doom metal genre manages to keep its more traditional style and yet we see branches that involve into new interesting territories, like f.i. mixing doom with ambient, industrial and classical music.
I don`t think doom will ever be a trend, I`ve seen many attempts to focus attention on this style of music, and yet most people still associate doom with irrelevant bands like Tristania and Within Temptation.
Doom metal has many faces. Do you like only the funeral/death/doom, or you are listening to other kind of doom acts, like sludge, stoner, southern…Some people are considering these styles to be doom as well.
I listen to all those mentioned styles, although I don`t consider all of them doom.
What do you think about the style changing of bands like Anathema and Paradise Lost? Do you think it's a shame that they left doom metal? What do you think about their newer stuff? What about My Dying Bride?
I don`t mind it when a band changes style. Unless that band sounds like later Anathema or Paradise Lost, haha.
I think that My Dying Bride still sound ok, but they lost something of their spontaneity and originality throughout the years.
The lyrics are pretty depressed. Are you a depressed person or you just writing such lyrics when you're on low frequency?
I was really feeling down when I wrote most of the lyrics of the first album. I guess it really reflected on the whole concept. I couldn`t do the same album again now, as I don`t feel this way any more.
Overall, I would say that my lyrics are a magnification of a certain negative state.
Death is a topic that appears in many of the lyrics. How do you see death? Are you afraid of dying? What do you think it's happening after we die? Do you believe in any kind of afterlife?
I think everyone is afraid of dying, although some people wear their brave mask and say that they are not. I think the most terrifying aspect of death is the loss of control, the great leap into the Unknown and the Emptiness.
I don`t believe in what is commonly known as the afterlife, I don`t see how a conscious being would lose everything that connects him/her with the physical world and yet remain conscious. I think most people confuse eternity with immortality. As part of a bigger whole, we all participate in the eternity of the Universe, but that doesn`t mean that we are immortal.
You recently made a European tour. Tell me about. What places have you visited and what reactions have you get?
We played three dates in Germany and one in The Netherlands, Belgium and the Czech Republic. The reactions of the audience were quite positive, which wasn`t very evident considering the fact that the three bands (Skepticism, Pantheist, Until Death Overtakes Me) had not exactly a very high `headbang factor`.
How do you make your living? I guess you have to work beside making music and writing reviews…
Hehe, making music only costs money, it doesn`t bring you anything. Right now I`m working for Victim Support in England. I have studied clinical psychology, so I`m very interested in most social sciences and human behaviour in general.
That’s all for the moment Kostas. Thanks for answering my questions. Do you have a message for the sorrowful hearts?
Thanks for this interview Robert. To the sorrowful hearts I can only say that if your hearts are really sorrowful, you will like Pantheist. Check us out!
by Robert Sun