Tuesday, 2 December 2014

December Featured Band - Eastern Front


Having recently released their Second album, Descent Into Genocide, UKEM thought a long overdue chat was in order with war obsessed black metal band EASTERN FRONT!


Let’s take it right back to the beginning, how did you guys first meet and decide to form the band?
HOLOCAUST: Back in 2006 I was playing in an Old School Death Metal band that was going relatively well but I was writing a lot of Black Metal riffs that I felt more passionate about so decided to end my old band, start fresh and form Eastern Front. I had been friends with Krieg for about 3 years and he was looking to play in a Black Metal band too after previously managing other bands and being part of a record label so we arranged a meet up and started to jam some ideas with our first vocalist, Mike Taylor. I had been friends with Mike for about 6 years and often discussed creating a band together. He was in a similar position to me and was playing in a Death Metal band but wanting to perform in a band that was primarily Black Metal. Our musical tastes were very similar, Drudkh and Hate Forest being joint favourites of ours, plus all of us having a love for Doom and Death Metal helped us connect easily to begin with. It took a few months to form a full band with Mike leaving due to work/family commitments and switching drummers in a short space of time before our first proper demo recording but we still pushed ahead and played our first live show at the end of 2007.

It’s no secret that we have had many changes in the line-up throughout the years, leaving me as the only original member. However, what most people don’t seem to realise is for the past 5 ½ years the main core of the band (Nagant/Holocaust/Destroyer) has been the same. Blitz joined us at the end of 2012 and since then we have been a solid line-up.

Obviously the band name and lyrical themes are based are war, was it a conscious decision to take that route? Did you guys already have an interest in warfare etc or was it just a natural progression?
DESTROYER: Black metal as a genre is normally synonymous with the darker sides of religion, Satanism and nihilism, none of these subjects being of particular interest to us within the realms of musical expression. The Eastern Front period of WWII was by far more horrific and brutal than any (in our opinion) mythical subject matter and thus way more engaging. We are essentially an extreme black metal band and what is more extreme than the true realities of a world war? 
HOLOCAUST: Yes, we have always had an interest in warfare and wanted to ensure the lyrics were something we had a real interest in. We write about horrific events we feel are often overlooked or forgotten about and we hope that our lyrics will encourage others to learn more about the history of war. As the years tick by humanity seems to take for granted the real sacrifices made for the freedom we have today, even though it’s all still very recent history. Eastern Front is our way of honouring the fallen and that’s why we have been involved in raising money for charities like Help for Heroes and The Poppy Appeal.

Signing to Candlelight is a massive achievement, how did the deal come about?
 HOLOCAUST: Our first interaction with Candlelight Records was at the end of 2008 when we played a show in London with Averse Sefira who were touring their album “Advent Parallax”, which was released by Candlelight. Impressed with our live show and the fact we had just toured around Europe with Lord Belial and Graveworm they told us to contact them as soon as we had an album together. Once we had the album recorded we sent them two songs from it and they responded by offering us a record deal.
DESTROYER: Also, Candlelight were aware of us from winning 'Best Unsigned Band of 2007' on The Metal Underground and our involvement in the FILM4 movie 'Faint Heart'. Now two albums deep with Candlelight we wouldn't want to be anywhere else, when you're on the same label roster as EMPEROR and Eastern Front favourite’s KRIEG it's certainly a good place to remain. 

Your debut album ‘Blood On Snow’ was very well received, how do you feel the recording and release went and is there anything you would have done differently?
 HOLOCAUST: It’s easy to think back now on how certain things could’ve been done differently but the main thing I would change if I could go back then would be to have more time at Sonic Train Studios in Sweden, which is where the main bulk of the album was recorded. I would use the extra time there to work on the guitar tones some more and build a bigger sound like we have done on our latest album. Also, being there during the mixing stages would’ve saved me and Anders (Producer) many months of interacting via the Internet, sending different mixes and tweaks back and forth to each other. That being said it was a great experience for me and I am still very proud of the album.
DESTROYER: I have to agree, think we're all still very proud of that record, but with 'Descent' the process was so much more fluid and natural which afforded us the time to experiment with sounds and textures, hence the increased depth of feel and tone . Before we started tracking the album we were fortunate enough to be endorsed by EVH amplification so this certainly helped when searching for 'the sound' of the record, by combining their superb gear with a few 'secret' elements. 

Can you give us an insight into some of the topics dealt with on ‘Blood On Snow’
NAGANT: There were a myriad of topics that were dealt with on the ‘Blood On Snow’ album; some of the songs focus on individual battles such as ‘The Battle of Smolensk’ whereas others deal with weaponry (‘Stalinorgel’) or individual accounts and perspectives. The song ‘Motherland’ deals with a Russian soldier’s experiences fighting and his thoughts on the horrors he faces and the atrocities of seeing family struck down almost as a counterpoint the title track was inspired by the book ‘Blood Red Snow’ this book details a Wehrmacht machine gunner’s memoirs of what he faced on the Eastern Front, this contributed to the lyrical idea of ‘Blood On Snow’. 

You’re an active live band, for anyone who hasn’t seen you on stage, what can we expect from a live performance? 
DESTROYER: WARFARE, plain and simple. We use smoke/lights/banners and props to turn the stage into our battle ground. We all feel in the band that a 'show' is more important than a gig. It would be easier logistically for us to perform in T shirt and jeans every night but we choose to wear bespoke military stage outfits that encompass all relevant elements to achieve our 'War-Torn' appearance and depending on venue size we also bring full size wooden gallows wrapped in real barbwire to add to the overall feel. That's sometimes an issue as certain venues won't allow smoke due to ventilation issues, in fact not only was our album launch show at the Black Heart effected by this but due to the lack of proper ventilation the temperatures reached 50 degrees by the time we played in full battle gear, the cost of this was myself collapsing due to heat stroke directly after the last note of the set rang out BUT that's the whole point of doing our subject matter justice, in my opinion one must suffer for ones art if it is to be honest and have any true passion. THAT is indeed something you can expect from an EASTERN FRONT show.

How do you find the support from the UK underground? There seems to be apathy (especially on social media) towards the underground, especially aimed towards gigs and venues.
NAGANT: It’s difficult to agree or disagree with that; we are all involved in the UK underground scene and I have been very impressed with promoters, especially over the last few years getting some incredible bands over here who wouldn’t have been able to come say 5 years ago. Just over the last two years I have been amazed that Bethlehem, Evoken, Forgotten Tomb, Mgla, Svartidaudi, Sigh etc have all been able to come over and receive great support. However on the other hand I do find the UK underground scene does suffer from apathy towards itself. Fans are more likely to go out and watch bands who are international than home-grown bands. This is also seen in terms of what gigs are going on, more and more you find bands touring on their own with just local support instead of whole tour packages.  

You have just released a brand new album, ‘Descent Into Genocide’. How do you feel things have improved and progressed from the previous album.
NAGANT: Personally I think the album is a much more mature effort compared to ‘Blood On Snow’, the songs are more technical and structurally stronger, as a whole the album flows better and strikes as a more unique piece of music. Also having a complete machine of a drummer in the form of Blitz has definitely had an energetic impact on us and the songs. From a lyrical and vocal perspective there is much more vitriol and spite in the performance and a huge effort was placed on making the lyrics as engaging as possible by Destroyer and myself. We wanted this album to be much darker and horrific than the debut and as such pushed to find more fitting topics that haunted us and had an impact on our psyche. I imagine the other members can contribute towards their thoughts on the album too…

HOLOCAUST: The music has naturally progressed from the previous album as I had begun writing some of the songs on ‘Descent Into Genocide’ before ‘Blood On Snow’ was released. However, due to spending more time in developing the songs and experimenting with different ideas it allowed each track to grow and become stronger. Re-writing some of the drum parts with Blitz was also a huge positive for the album and being able to build our sound in the studio with much more ease definitely helped make this album sound bigger and heavier than before.

The cover art for the new album is very different from the first album, what was the thinking behind the new art?
DESTROYER: It's very difficult to encapsulate the entire concept of an album in just one image but that was certainly something we wanted to attempt. From the off we wanted to keep it simple and striking while have a depth and if you look closely you can see many elements of the subject matter in the image layers. The main triangular image is in fact the factory stamp from Izhevsk where the Nagant rifle was produced during the period. It's such a simple image but so relevant to this record that I redrew and inverted it in line the title, as if to suggest if you were facing a rifle you would see it that way, also an arrow pointing downwards implies descent so it was the perfect choice. The textures constructed for the art were from scratch and (hopefully) represent the colours that would have been apparent, fire/cordite/fuel/oil all leave there mark and from the image research I undertook prior to starting the design process in earnest grey scale was the way to go and I personally am really proud of the results.

What plans do you have for promoting the new album – gigs? Tours? 
HOLOCAUST: There is a lot going on behind the scenes at the moment but these are the live appearances confirmed thus far: 

23/01/15 – Radius - Peterborough (Headline show)
13/02/15 – Rat Infestation Festival – Bristol (Headline Show)
14/02/15 – The Garage – London (Main support to Tsjuder) 
18/09/15 – Warhorns Festival – Selby (w/ Skyclad, Finsterforst , Solstice, Saor etc)


Finally, now that you have a few albums under your (bullet) belts, what plans are there for the future?
DESTROYER: As of Remembrance day this year (November 11th 2014) we released 'Descent Into Genocide' on a hugely limited edition double vinyl format. The release is already selling well which is great as for each sale we are donating £1 to The Royal British Legion Poppy Appeal. With 2014 being the centenary year of WWI we wanted to do our part to somehow commemorate this important event and decided that following the success of the box set edition (where we gave 10% of profit to Help For Heroes) and how well the new album was received by fans and press alike; we would release 'Descent' on double vinyl ourselves in partnership with Mordgrimm Records. That’s another thing that is so great about this release, because it is as DIY as we could make it while maintaining the quality our Troops expect from us, plus with only 100 hand numbered copies of each version available it will soon become a rarity that punters can be proud of. In line with this release we'll be filming a new video during December though that's as much as we can say at the moment and we're already powering ahead with the writing and pre-production for album 3. That's something we feel very strongly about, with the four years it took to release 'Descent', largely due to personal issues and line-up changes that now we have a strong and ultimately the definitive EASTERN FRONT line up we want to capitalise on the strength and fire within the band at the moment. It's so much easier and more satisfying to create when every member in the band is on their game and we're not having to wait for people to catch up or having to compromise to accommodate their skill set.

ALBUM REVIEW
Candlelight Records 2014

1.Retribution Sky 2.The Hanging Of Faith 3.Blitzfreeze 4.Katyn Forest
5.Descent Into Genocide 6.Die Reise In Den Tod Pt.1
7.Ghouls Of Leningrad 8.In Memory Of The Fallen

Four years in the making and war obsessed black metal troupe Eastern Front have returned with their sophomore album ‘Descent Into Genocide’ and what a return it is, the long years waiting for this effort are well worth it. The moment opening track ‘Retribution Sky’ blasts open it is more than evident that the band has improved massively from their debut. There’s a real maturity to their sound now. It comes across as though they have found a sound that really captures what they are trying to get over to the listener through the music and lyrics and are delivering it with pure conviction. The ‘ice cold’ atmospheres are still there, Nagant’s vocal delivery especially vitriolic, rasping and snarling with anger, hatred and a desperate sorrow at times – the perfect accompaniment to the atmospheric black metal barrage that the remaining three members (Holocaust – Guitars, Destroyer – Bass and Blitz – Drums) offer up. Listening to the album, it almost feels like the band had discovered the art of holding back and allowing the haunting atmospheres and slower, morbid paces to rally the troops to battle, rather than relying on speed. Not to say that they have forgotten how to blast, far from it in fact, because when they blast, they really do blast and sound as dangerous and threatening as ever, if not more now! With over 51 minutes of music spread over only 8 tracks, the majority of the songs are lengthy, just over 9 minutes being the longest but this utterly irrelevant as when listening to the album, you do find yourself being dragged into the black metal onslaught and time is of little significance when music is this good. Ironically the longest track ‘Descent Into Genocide’ is the stand out track on the entire album, devastatingly effective black metal that really keeps the listener fully engaged throughout. Key to the bands success on this latest outing is definitely their diversity, moving from harsh and speed driven black metal assaults through to slower, morbid and more doom laden passages with great ease and you add in the acoustic passages, the ‘marching drum’ themed ‘Die Reise In Den Tod Pt.1’ and the haunting spoken passages and it’s all just delivered so effectively.  Eastern Front have taken all these individual ingredients and mixed them perfectly into an ice cold barrage of devastatingly effective black metal. For me, this is the best album of 2014 to surface from UK underground scene so far, such is it’s brilliance, originality and effectiveness to really punish throughout. It’s an absolute 'must have' and there aren’t too many bands going to be able to top this at all.

9.5 Out Of 10

Band Page: Here

Buy The CD: Here
Buy The Vinyl: Here

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