Interview by Steve Earles
Over the years, Wolves of Avalon vocalist and lyricist Metatron has put his name to many a fine piece of music, whether with the aforementioned Wolves or the Meads of Asphodel, and the Wolves’ latest release ‘Across Corpses Grey’ lives up his high standards.
Metatron met me to tell me the tales behind the creation of ‘Across Corpses Grey’
Metatron, how did the Wolves come to create the 30-minute epic that is the title track of ‘Across Corpses Grey’? Where you trying to be a folk-metal Genesis?
‘Ha, there are worse things to be! The track was originally supposed to be six minutes or so, but as J. Marinos crafted the main body of the song, I threw in an idea for a four-minute solo, and then the track grew to ten minutes, but the song did not feel right, so we got Thurios [Drundk] to do some harsh vocal lines to break the song up into two parts. Hidlr Valkyrie also did some vocals. Now the song seemed too short, even though it had grown to eighteen minutes. The track expanded further with the scope of the lyrics I had come up with, and the violin sections grew as did the flute parts. We added my narrative sections and finally I asked Daemonskald to do the guitar lead for the intro, and the song just came together until it felt finished. The whole process seemed a natural journey to create a very long track that would not come across as pretentious or boring. We never intended it to end up this way, it just happened.’
Which is the way all things should, but seldom do! Tell me, what inspired your choice of guests for the splendid Venom cover on the album?
‘Venom had always been a band close to my heart, as I know it is to yours, and it is the first four albums that I absolutely die for, and also the two initial releases of the Dolan era.
I have to agree, Metatron, I think ‘Prime Evil’ is superb and criminally-underrated Venom album. What do you think of the current dual incarnations of Venom?
‘I think the new Venom that Cronos has created is okay, but the Mantas/Abaddon/Dolan Venom Inc really captures the Venom of old. I have little time for the modern-era Venom albums as they seem to be neither here nor there to me. I had thought of doing a Venom cover for ages, and ‘Die Hard’ had always been a track that raised the hairs on the back of my neck. We wrote down the main body of the song a bit slower, and then laid down my vocals. I wanted this to be a special cover for the Wolves of Avalon foremost, and beyond that if anyone else like it, it would be a bonus.’
‘I have many friends in the scene, and the vocal part for the verse sections required three additional vocalists, and I know Mirai from Sigh adores Venom, so to be on a release with Mantas would make him happy.’
‘Rob from Amebix/Tau Cross did some vocals with the Meads, so he seemed like a natural choice.’
‘I had been asking Alan from Primordial to do some vocals for a few years and this time he agreed.’
‘With Mantas on lead guitar and doing his ‘Die Hard’ vocal rasps, the song came across as a fuel-injected, whole-heartedly fun, passionate version of a song from a band that we all respect and owe so much to.’
Indeed, it’s a version to be proud of, we’ve spoken of this before, but people should realise that after Black Sabbath and Motorhead, Venom are the most influential metal band. As to the other cover version on the album, can you tell us what inspired you to record Nokturnal Mortum’s ‘The Voice of Steel’?
‘This was a recording we did for a very special, albeit underground, tribute release called ’22 Years Among The Sheep’, released on Heritage Records. It’s an awesome underground offering, a monster, a 5CD box-set with two CDs of Nokturnal Mortum remixes and live songs, plus three CDs of bands doing cover tracks. It’s a very Eastern European tribute and we are honoured to be a part of this, albeit with a dubious nationalistic aura surrounding the whole concept. Being that the Wolves of Avalon embrace our land’s past, we can claim a certain pride in out heritage, and yet this does not mean we can apply these emotions today, as our land is nothing like it was 1000-1500 years ago.’
Wise words indeed. The artwork for ‘Across Corpses Grey’ is very evocative. What inspired this choice?
‘It was a painting we instantly knew the cover art of the album was supposed to be. It totally reflects the album’s lyrical themes and embodies the music perfectly. The figure of a weather-beaten knight, standing in the mist-shrouded battlefield is a powerful window into the War of the Roses conflict.’
Metatron, as with any project you are involved in, there is a great commitment to the physical format of music, but this is sadly far from the norm now. What is your opinion on the endless and escalating downloading and devaluing of music; and the plethora of generic Facebook bands who appear only to exist, Matrix-like, as a figment of their own imagination? Does the music and scene you love and have given so much time and effort to over the years have a future?
‘My views on this are widely known and I rue the demise of the band-to-fan commitment, not completely diminished by the internet, but certainly not personal.’
‘I am a believer in moving with the times, as one has no choice, yet the lyricist has no place in the on-line streaming and downloading of music. I loathe Spotify for the obscene greed-driven beast it is, where the bands are not the big earners, much like a greedy label. The cover art has become a mere online image, neither to be touched or admired as it should be on a physical copy.’
Indeed, it’s part of a very negative change in the world of human interaction, like ghosting or digital only releases, Metatron.
‘Indeed you are right. It takes, or rather did take, a lot of effort to record an album, to get it released on either vinyl or CD, but now albums appear totally digitally or on 100 CD pressings as these Facebook bands just have a following of 10 or 20 true fans among their 3,000 followers.’
You have to laugh, though it’s a hollow form of laughter!
‘For sure, it’s a fucking joke, and the joke is on the fans who have been poisoned by this modern age. The modern age has also made the one bad band a scourge of music as it is so easy to record an album in your bedroom and release a digital album, a feat impossible 20 years ago .You tell me if this is good or bad for music as a whole?’
For certain, Metatron, we have both given so much of our time and effort to the music scene, so we should know, it is largely bad. Anything people do not pay for they don’t appreciate, this is simple human nature. Anything people do not have to sacrifice and strive to achieve, they do not appreciate it. On the metal scene, one generation of bands would help lift the next up, but now, without record sales, there will be no more Metallicas, Motorheads, Black Sabbaths, Iron Maidens, and as those bands die (as in the sad case of Lemmy and Dio), or plan to retire (Black Sabbath for instance), where will the next generation of bands come from, and so much of it is down to a generation who think it is right to steal music from bands they profess to support.
‘I have to agree. I have painfully watched the decline in CD sales, and it saddens me that music will inevitably become far from the mesmerising days when bands like Black Sabbath or Metallica felled all with music played from the heart, where a band could put heart and soul into a profession where a living could be earned. Internet theft is seen as an acceptable side of today’s music scene, and the days of the truly spiritual relationship between band and fan is virtually dead.’
‘I mean, who would send out a signed photo now? It’s easier just to e-mail one. Who would bother wasting time on a stamp to send a fan anything by post?’
‘I was privileged to be in an age when that actually happened. I have numerous letters from bands; Venom, Sodom, Sepultura, Nuclear Assault, tank, Emperor; the list goes on and on, and this is lost in this internet age. But that is how it is and I can’t do much about it.’
Finally, Metatron, as a musician with a great knowledge of history and politics, what do you think of Britain’s historical and world-changing Brexit vote?
‘What a complex, confusing subject that really is lost in the sands of bureaucratic inertia fuelled by the population’s bemusement with the political establishment, whether through the obscene Blairite war with Iraq that gave birth to so-called Islamic State, thus creating the Syrian refugee crisis, all of which has influenced the judgement of voters.’
‘I would suspect racism and fear have merged into one excuse that the Remain voters cite as the inexcusable reason we have left the EU. Racsim is a minority reason, the biggest reason is fear. I think the fear of immigration is not a racist motive, but rather an indoctrinated sense of insecurity created by our own government’s rash actions of the recent past. It is a never-ending argument that I try to steer clear from.’
‘If you wish to bring nationalism as a reason for leaving Europe, then I would say that is not a viable reason unless you agree with football and the Olympics. With these events most people suddenly align themselves with a country, and outside these events these same people are all suddenly supposed to be one race on planet Earth. Are we English, British or European? Maybe this loss of identity that we have during such sporting occasions drives us to secure the same identity as a nation.’
Metatron, many thanks for a very thought-provoking interview.
The Wolves of Avalon-‘Across Corpses Grey’
Reviewed by Steve Earles
Ten out of Ten
It is music such as that made by the Wolves of Avalon that restores my faith in music as tangible and meaningful form of art.
Musically it is superb; all the musicians are at the top of their game and play their hearts out. The list of guests who joins the Wolves of Avalon in each track is truly impressive, all adding, rather than distracting to the body of work they all contribute to.
This is music made for just the right reasons. The title track is a prog-pagan epic of thirty minutes duration, yet it does not feel overlong. This is music unencumbered by the rules that blight the metal scene. Metatron has produced the best lyrics in a long impressive career and his vocals have never felt more heartfelt and sincere. They are truly poetic; beautiful heartfelt odes to a world light years away from the imaginary isolated digital world so many now find themselves self imprisoned in.
The vocals of James Marinos and Hildr Valkyrie form an appropriate counterpoint. Flute is provided by Sasha Mason and Aylena Dubrovina; whether it is Black Sabbath or Cathedral in the past, the flute adds a suitably ethereal quality to the music herein. Violin is provided by Kat Evans and Avrid Vermete, and truly adds to further organic dimension and reality to what in any genre whatsoever is a superb piece of music.
The packaging and artwork is fabulous, reflecting Godreah’s commitment to the physical product of music in the face of a world that increasingly devalues music by stealing it, and in the process, foolishly destroying the future of the music they profess falsely to love.
A fine cover of Nokturnal Mortum’s ‘The Voice of Steel’ follows; the Wolves do it justice while making their own mark on this fine tune.
Last, but by no means least, it features an incredible cover of Venom’s ‘Die Hard’, which features original (and best) Venom guitarist Mantas, and as well as Metatron on vocals Alan Averill from Primordial, Rob Miller from Amebix/Tau Cross, and Mirai from Sigh, all guest on vocals, to make this a truly special cover.
Just looking at this review, how many albums this year will I be able to write thusly about?