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Daniel Droste: “The consistency of an AHAB record consists of our trademarks as well as personal influences, shaped by the story we are composing. The story has to be there before we start composing new songs, it’s not like we had new music and just searched for a fitting story….but the novel we’re working with needs to be a fitting template for heavy riffs and grunts alike

Vlak voor Kerstmis kregen we het nieuws over een nieuw AHAB album ‘The Coral Tombs’. Voorwaar een heuglijk feit, want het was al sinds 2015 geleden dat we contact hadden met de Duitse band toen ze ‘The Boats Of The Glenn Carrig’ uitbrachten, ook al gaven ze tijdens het coronajaar 2020 als pleister op de wonde het live album ‘Live Prey’ vrij. Maar goed, alle goede dingen vragen tijd en dus is de tijd nu pas rijp om onze chat met zanger/gitarist Daniel Droste van AHAB met jullie te delen om de hoge kwaliteit van Nautik funeral doom monster ‘The Coral Tombs’ wat meer in het (water)zonnetje te zetten.
Vera Matthijssens Ι 1 februari 2023

Recently AHAB did some selected shows in Germany. How did you feel to be back on stage so far?
I was really looking forward to this mini tour but I was concerned as well the closer our tour start came. Covid-19 numbers were rising again and the risk that one of us catches the virus and the tour had to be cancelled was always present. Fortunately all members of both bands stayed healthy before the tour and just some got ill afterwards. It was great to be back on the road for a few shows in a row, with the nice people of Stagwounder supporting us. There were more people showing up than we expected and our show in Berlin was even sold out, something I don’t take for granted especially during these times. Playing a show on the MS Stubniz, which is an old fish trawler in Hamburg was awesome as well. I was also very curious about the reaction of the people on the two new songs we had on our set list and the feedback we got during these days was really good.

It has been a long time since the previous album ‘The Boats Of The Glen Carrig’ in 2015 came out. What did happen since this release?
It was definitely not our plan to have such a long gap this time. Until the release of our fourth album we somehow managed to release an album in a 3 year cycle, which wasn’t planned either. Almost everyone in the band got kids during the last years, beginning with the birth of my daughter in 2016, so all of us had their hiatus from AHAB to concentrate on the new family situation. We never got any pressure from our label. They asked if we’re going to book a studio from time to time, but never pressed us to release anything. The interest in AHAB didn’t decrease during these years, we got more offers to play live than we could accept… and with two good friends helping us out as session musicians if necessary, it was possible for us to concentrate on playing live even when some of us weren’t available. When all four of us met it was mainly for rehearsing the live set. We also jammed together from time to time, but that initial spark that enlightens the path to a new record just didn’t happen. We recorded several demo versions of ideas we had, but the musical central theme was missing somehow. In retrospective I’d say that we just weren’t ready back then, that creative workflow didn’t happen. After we’ve passed that first step we’re usually quite fast with composing, but that’s something you can’t force, so we just had to wait till the right time has come.

When did you start writing the new material for ‘The Coral Tombs’ and how do you reflect on that experience since it was during covid-19 times?
Well we were forced by the pandemic to change the way we’ve used work this time. I constantly record riffs or fragments of a song at home when I play guitar. Sometimes it happens that I compose a whole song, and the other guys just add their instrument to the structures. The title track of our new album for example was composed that way….but usually we discuss ideas at our rehearsal space. We weren’t able to meet as a four piece during the pandemic, so Stephan and I met at my place to arrange some ideas I recorded as well as to compose together. This way of working was really effective. I guess we only met twice but already got the rough structures fort the first three songs done afterwards. In retrospect I would say that these sessions were the missing spark that enlightened the path to our new record.

You always select a novel. This time Jules Verne’s ’20,000 Leagues Under The Sea’ was your source of inspiration for the concept. How did you come to this topic (because I think you considered it for a long time)?
We actually discussed using ‘20,000 Leagues Under The Sea’ as a template some years ago, yes….but in retrospective I’d say that it just wasn’t the right time back then. We all knew the story, but none of us had read the book at that time, so we didn’t realize that there actually is enough potential in the story being the template for our music. The consistency of an AHAB record consists of our trademarks as well as personal influences, shaped by the story we are composing. The story has to be there before we start composing new songs, it’s not like we had new music and just searched for a fitting story….but the novel we’re working with needs to be a fitting template for heavy riffs and grunts alike. After we also read the book, we experienced the whole potential of the story. By delivering a deeper look on captain Nemo and his aversion to the world above, the story got a second level of interpretation and seemed to fit very well as a basis for an AHAB record.

The first song ‘Prof Arronax’ Descent Into The Vast Oceans’ happens to have surprising elements right away with blastbeats and screams of Ulthra’s Chris Noir. What can you tell about his cooperation and about the development of that long opening track?
The opening riff of “Prof Arronax…” developed during a jam-session quite spontaneous. I guess we were stuck at a song we were working on and I just started shredding that riff during a break. Our drummer is always ready to join stuff I play in between for fun and added the blast beats and the longer we played, the more we started enjoying this little shred…..until someone came up with the idea  that this would be a great and unexpected opening for the new record. The first lines of the lyrics Chris wrote for that song were just perfect for a duet. We were looking for a contrast to my voice, so it was just obvious that we wanted to have a black metal vocalist. So one evening Chris and I sat in my kitchen and listened to different black metal bands and finally I showed him an ULTHA song. We both agreed that Chris Noir would be a great option. We didn’t know him personally so we just wrote a mail to ask if he’d be interested in participating on our new record, and luckily he agreed.

Another guest appears in the last track ‘Maelstrom’ and Greg from Esoteric is an icon in (funeral) doom metal. How did you get in contact with him and can you tell about this cooperation?
Greg Chandler is a friend of ours since we’ve been on tour together in 2012. Chris and I were fans of his band ESOTERIC even before AHAB existed. Greg’s vocal part is closing “The Coral Tombs”, in a part dealing with drowning in a maelstrom. His vocals combined with all this sick effects he’s using on that part, that’s a perfect match. I remember when I first heard the final version of that song in my car on my way to work. I had goose-bumps all over and a big smile on my face at the same time. His band was a huge inspiration for us and one of the reasons we decided to found a doom metal band. It’s a real honour to have this guy on our record!

Funeral doom metal is quite a small niche in our extreme metal world, but for AHAB there is a wider spectrum. Although it sounds devastating at some points, the melodic parts are of peaceful beauty. I guess you have quite of different influences and bands you like. Can you tell anything about that?
Well it’s not easy to define what exactly inspired me musically to my contribution for AHAB, because I think that inspiration often happens unconsciously. I mainly listen to guitar related music, but I’m not limited on a specific genre. As a teenager I was obsessed of listening, buying and discovering new music. I’d say that this period of my life, when I was listening to 90s death metal and discovered Anathema’s ‘Pentecost 3’,which still is one of my all time favourite doom records, had the heaviest impact on my musical journey for sure. I was also blown away when Opeth released “Blackwater Park” back then. I don’t know how often I listened and played to that record, the guitar work is just perfect on this album. It definitely influenced my playing and composing in a way. Nowadays I also enjoy listening to prog rock, stuff from the seventies as well as Steven Wilson for example. His solo records and his releases with Porcupine Tree are a must have in my collection. He’s just an amazing composer and his style of writing music definitely had an impact on me as well.

Did you stay pretty close to the original story of the author or did you take the freedom for personal approaches or features? Which parts appeal to you the most?
Chris is responsible for the lyrics in AHAB. Like on every novel we’ve composed so far it is just impossible to retell the whole story of a book with all its details on one record. Chris picked the most iconic scenes and described those in his own words but also quotes in some parts.

What do you think of the movies that were made about the theme?
The only version I know is this old Disney movie with Kirk Douglas and James Mason. This movie from the 60s was my first contact with Jules Verne during my childhood, and I really loved that film back then. It’s obviously made for a younger audience and I actually haven’t seen it for a long time. Nevertheless I’m quite sure that I wouldn’t enjoy watching a newer picturisation of “20000 miles…” because old movies of these classics usually have way more charm. When it comes to Moby Dick for example I also preferred the movie with Gregory Peck to the newer versions, those neither had the quality nor the soul of the story, the older version was able to capture.

Three video clips will be launched at the world for this album. These are amazing visual experiences (I have seen two so far). Can you tell a bit more about the making of and the things you decided to do on the visual side?
The video for our first single “Prof Arronax…” was done by Chris. It’s a lyric video where he used royalty free material with nautical content. Some people didn’t get that one of us edited this and criticized that we should have done several things different, but if you’re dependent on a specific database, you’re also a bit limited of course. Nevertheless I think Chris did a great job, especially if you consider that he never did anything like that before. For our main video, we wanted something special. We all agreed that we’d never have one of these videos where you just see the band performing somewhere, but always dreamed of a stop motion clip. Unfortunately creating those videos is very expensive, so we’ve never had the chance to do that. This time we had a budget and actually we found a company in Inspira that enabled us to realize a gloomy storyboard we’ve developed ourselves. It was a great experience to be part of such a process, to see our ideas growing into a stunning work of art. These people working at Inspira did an amazing job and we’re all damn proud and more than satisfied with the result. The third video clip consisting of live material we’ve collected during our last mini tour is edited by Stephan and should be already released when this interview is published.

What can you tell about the artwork and the collaboration with artist Sebastian Jerke?
I’m not sure how we found out about him, but I guess it was an album of Long Distance Calling he illustrated that got our attention back then. ‘The Coral Tombs’ is the third AHAB album that was illustrated by Sebastian Jerke by now. He is such a talented artist who puts so much effort in every project he’s involved in and we’ve been more than satisfied with everything he did for us so far. It was obvious that we just have to work with him once more. For ‘The Coral Tombs’ we discussed the main scene, the painting style and our idea of the coloration for the cover within the band first. Sebastian always reads the novel first before he starts painting. Our last release was so many years ago that I almost forgot how much work the illustration of a whole album really is. There was a constant exchange of ideas and he delivered tons of sketches until all of us were satisfied with the positioning, the perspective and the size of each element on the cover art. In contrast to the cover for ‘The Boats Of The Glen Carrig’ we wanted to use mainly grey tones and only one additional colour to highlight few elements this time….but nevertheless there were numerous slightly different versions to choose from. When that decision was made he finally repainted the whole cover in India ink again before he started creating the inlay of the booklet.

The release show on 14/01/23 will be something special. Can you tell a bit more about that?
It was during a show in Dortmund two years ago when an organizer spoke to me if we’d be interested in playing a show in a church in Braunschweig. She immediately got my attention of course, because that’s something we always wanted to do. We first planned playing a special ‘Call Of The Wretched Sea’ set, but with the release of our new album we thought doing our release show in such a beautiful location would be an awesome option. With Ernie of “Krachmucker TV” we’ll have a well known German YouTuber as guest, reading passages from the novels we’ve composed between the songs. Chris Noir of Ultha who did guest vocals on the opening track of our new record will also join us on stage as well.

I understand that you prefer shorter tours rather than extensive trips, so what are the plans for the near future to support this mighty record to the utmost?
After our release show in January we’re going to play some weekenders as well as some festivals shows in Europe. We just joined forces with Heavy Mountain Agency this year for bookings, not to increase our live appearance in the first place, but to have more offers to choose from and by that being able to sail to new shores we’ve never been before.

What would be an ultimate theme for AHAB to dive to into the future?
Well it’s hard to speculate now what we’ll be composing in the future. There’s one novel we all have on our list, but like “20000 Leagues …” back then, it didn’t feel right to start this project now….but maybe we reconsider that for our next record in, hopefully not eight, but a few years from now.

If there is something you like to share with us and our readers, please feel free to say it here… Thank you very much for this interview. Check out our new record and hopefully see you on the road some day somewhere.