Chris Naughton: “With this title, ‘Absolution’, we wanted to take the listener through the depths of human emotions, from mourning a loss, the struggle of comprehension and finally finding an ending to an arduous personal journey.”
Niet alleen met Winterfylleth bracht Chris Naughton onlangs een fantastisch nieuw album uit ‘The Reckoning Dawn’), ook zijn vroegere doom/sludge band Atavist heeft nu de vruchten van noeste arbeid geopenbaard aan de wereld. Dertien jaar na ‘II: Ruined’ is er ‘III: Absolution’ en Chris vertelt ons op eloquente wijze wat dat allemaal inhoudt.
Vera Matthijssens Ι 28 juni 2020
Atavist had a first era of activity between 2004 and 2007 with two albums. Next a hiatus of ten years followed. Please tell us how and when the spark for a reinvigoration and return appeared and how the reunion was coming into being?
There was a slow growing feeling that there was more Atavist music that remained unwritten. We had slightly drifted apart as friends as well as musicians over the years and the beginnings of ‘Absolution’ are deeply rooted in us reconnecting again; after this period of distance. Whilst we all moved onto other projects musically and have enjoyed these whilst not writing and performing together as Atavist, the call still remained in us, and ultimately that is what brought us back together to work on this album. It had to be the right album though. We would rather have never done another album again than rushed out whatever riffs we could bundle together and slapping the logo on it. From this internal drive to create more of this music and the spark of reconnected kinship, we began the long road of writing and recording the third album. Which has been happening over the past four years.
What was actually the reason for this kind of break up in 2007?
There had been some tension in the band due to outside factors that had caused a few of the guys to leave and do other things as a result. It was maybe the right thing to do at the time, as we were younger and less worldly wise as to how to deal with things then, so that ‘original’ line up kind of fizzled out there. I carried on doing Atavist after they left with some other friends, including Simon Lucas (Winterfylleth drummer), who’d already been in Atavist for a year or so anyway. After that we did a few more splits and collaboration albums, but never a full-length Atavist album. I guess we just never had that same spark within that group of guys and were becoming more focused on starting Winterfylleth. So in about November 2008, after a tour with our friends in Nadja, we put that project down for a while. That ‘while’ would become almost ten years, until about 2016/17 when we reconnected and started to make ‘ABSOLUTION’.
How would you describe the musical evolution on ‘III: Absolution’ in comparison with your earlier works?
‘Absolution’ as an album was deliberate. We had a concept and could articulate how it should feel without having yet written a single song. This helped us shape everything we began to produce – it was a goal that kept us true. Which led to songs and elements of songs being disregarded because they weren’t right for the journey we wanted to build. We later titled the concept ‘Absolution’. This singular word described both a personal change within us as a group of individuals and the flow of songs we were developing. With this title, we wanted to take the listener through the depths of human emotions, from mourning a loss, the struggle of comprehension and finally finding an ending to an arduous personal journey. Lyrically, our previous album ‘II: Ruined’ was a rumination on the broken, the ruined. With III: Absolution we wanted to revisit this, but to explore the cycle or process as a whole, with a beginning and an end (even if this end becomes another beginning).
One can find four long compositions on the new album. How do you work creating those extended pieces with different moods? Is it by jamming? Is it by collecting and filtering ideas?
There is a healthy tension between Shane and myself when we create music. It was like no time had passed when we began again. We will challenge each other on the smallest details. Continually bounce ideas off of each other. Or just outright say “no” to a moment of ego that would dilute the concept we had. We accept that frustration is often the last step before you create something worthwhile. The practicalities of song writing also changed. We used my home setup to demo and refine the songs. Rather than previously when we’d jam out ideas in a practice room to see where they’d go. Most of “II: Ruined” was recorded live in the studio and we’d often nod to each other when it felt right to move to the next riff; rather than prescribing how many times through we’d be playing it. This was more controlled and deliberate.
Did you play live with this band in the earlier days?
Yes, we played a lot of shows in the early days of the band. We were always out on the road whenever we could be, and we managed to build up a reputation as a great live band, and hopefully as a force to be reckoned with in doom metal music from the UK. As a result of that we did several tours with bands like Sunn O))), Khanate, Cult of Luna & Unearthly Trance, many one-off shows with our friends in Esoteric, Indesinence & Ramesses, as well as shows with rising greats (at the time) like Cult of Luna, Jesu and 5ive’s Continuum Research Project. This was slowly building to the point where one of our last shows was playing ATP festival with bands like Sleep, Portishead and a raft of other greats. A strange leap from the small clubs and close proximity shows of our beginnings.
There are several guests on the album and they are really a fine addition. So please tell us about them and their contribution/cooperation?
There are three main guests who perform on our album: violinist Bianca Blezard, keyboard/synth player Mark Deeks & cellist/solo artist, Jo Quail. Bianca is probably a little bit unknown to the metal community at this point but is a great and prominent violin/viola player who has done a lot of interesting projects outside of metal music (and now in it!). She joined us onstage in Winterfylleth when we went out on the road in 2018 to perform our acoustic album ‘The Hallowing Of Heirdom’. Ever since then we’ve become good friends and she has since contributed her playing to the new Winterfylleth album ‘The Reckoning Dawn’ and had a key role to play in developing and writing the violin/viola parts for ‘III: Absolution’. I think her ability to capture the essence of mourning and defeat on the track ‘Loss’ is one of the albums highlights for me. Showing how there is still beauty to be found after sorrow. Powerful and emotional stuff.
If you know Winterfylleth well, then Mark needs no introduction. He is the keyboard/synth player in Winterfylleth, a good friend and an amazing musician/player/solo artist. His ability to provide the essence that glues tracks together is one of his biggest strengths in metal, and hence why we had to have him perform on ‘Absolution’. This music is all about invoking emotional responses through the creation of atmosphere, and I think that Mark’s playing and understanding of this kind of music really helped us to realise that on ‘Absolution’. Finally, we have Jo Quail on cello, who again needs no introduction as she is also a prominent solo artist who has collaborated with Myrkur, My Dying Bride, Winterfylleth, Wolcensmen, Mono and many others over the last few years. We first met Jo when she came to perform on the Winterfylleth album ‘The Hallowing Of Heirdom’ and have stayed friends ever since. Her being on ‘Absolution’ was actually very fortunate. She was coming to the studio to work with Chris Fielding (who recorded this album and her recent album ‘Exolve’) and her session was the day after ours ended. So given we are friends, she came up the night before to hangout, hear the album and relax at the studio before her session started. As a result of that we asked her to contribute some cello to the album, and I think the results speak for themselves.
What are the plans for the near future? Would Atavist hit the stages when possible?
I think we would very much like to return to the live environment with Atavist, and we have already had several great offers to play festivals and shows – that have obviously fallen by the wayside due to Covid-19. Coming back to playing live with this band in 2020 requires a little more for me than the Atavist of 2008. I’d like us to progress from the ‘wall of noise’ shows of our previous incarnation and focus more on the depth and presence of what our live show can become with the addition of the session players. I am really keen to try and bring some of the magic from the recording process to the live environment, with the addition of synths/strings and other guitar layers this time. So I would like to include, Mark, Bianca and a cellist into the line-up, as well as a second guitar player – probably Nick from Winterfylleth. But we’ll see what’s possible and where we end up after all of this virus situation. As things stand we can’t even rehearse, so that’s the first step!
To occlude: let us give a guidance to our readers to which metal fans your music would mostly appeal… and what were your personal sources of inspiration to create this ponderous heavy doom/death sludge yourself?
The intention of the band was to create something heavy and slow that pushed the boundaries of extremity, as much as we knew how. In short: through jamming we soon began writing our first song and Atavist was born. That first song was called ‘31:38’ and came from an idea both simple and stupid: how long could we keep one song flowing forward without repetition. It was a mix of many different influences we all brought together. That said, there were some key albums that inspired us in the early days. Here are some from what I can recall: Boris ‘Flood’, Grief ‘Come To Grief’, Corrupted ‘Llenandose De Gusanos’, Sunn ‘Flight Of The Behemoth’. Atavist 2004 – 2008 was a product of its time, it was the manifestation of who we were as individuals then, of our circumstances and attitudes. It was our take on the doom genre of the time, something we look back on fondly, but know that we are not the same as we were then. As we have evolved as has the music we need to create.
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Thanks for reading! We hope you can check out our new album and buy the vinyl here – https://atavistdoom.bandcamp.com/album/iii-absolution
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