I think I’m not the only one who received the news about the reunion of Ancient with unmeasurable pleasure. The band had a great reputation during the 90s and also after the millenium but after their latest album came out in 2004 somehow they vanished for quite a long time. Founder Zel answered my questions about their dark past and also about the recent happenings.
Greetings Zel ! How are the things around the band?
Hello, things are good, we are very busy these days, getting ready to play live again, first time since 2010. We have a new session guitarist and I will be playing bass / vocals this time so we have much work to do, but things are moving on good so all is going well and we look forward to get out there again ! We also soon will have news for the release of our new album “ Back To The Land Of The Dead” which is very exciting.
It was almost 12 years ago when your last album ’Night Visit’ came out. What’s the reason behind the long passive period? What happened in the last more than one decade?
Well many things didn’t go as we expected. And all in all, we lost motivation a bit and the band slowly started “ falling apart” somehow. The reviews and response from fans after Night Visit was great, but album sales were rather low and it was difficult to plan much touring as we wanted. The drummer, Grom, decided to move to the Us as there was not much hopes in making money from the band etc, and the rest of us felt a bit similar although for me it was also that I started getting tired of the extreme metal thing in general. I moved over to Athens, Greece where I had my new girlfriend and decided to settle down there, I still have my house in Greece although the band is basically based in Como, Italy these days where Dhilorz lives.
Have you received any requests to carry on with the band from fans or even from labels during that period?
Yeah there have been many fans writing and asking what’s happening etc. but the band was practically split up between 2006 and 2009 although we never made any official statement about it. I guess we just didn’t care so much.
What was the final push that lead you to restart?
I can’t say there was really such a thing as a final push but I guess that something started getting interesting in early 2009 when we got in touch with Nick Barker and had the chance to start playing with him. We did 2 mini tours in Spain / Portugal in 2009 / 2010 to see how it was to be playing again and cause we like a lot to play in these countries especially. The band wasn’t working on any new album then, so it was a kind of way to “test” our passion in playing again combined with a kind of vacation in these places, it was a nice experience to go there and we have many friends and contacts in east Spain especially. After these tours we started discussing the idea to work on a new album. Things were moving slowly, all of us being in different countries, but playing with Nick, we definitely had started feeling more inspired to carry the band forward again. Many of the songs I was working on were a bit slow and not really fitting so well for Ancient ( I thought ) while the ones of Dhilorz were faster and more typical extreme metal, but we decided to work together on a new album nevertheless, and I kept aside some of my “slower” songs, which I will keep for another project I will work on later this year. So, the new album has been in the works since 2011,you see.
You were there when the second outbreak of black metal happened. Can you recall any remarkable moment from the past, something that you think was an important moment, a milestone on the path that you walk since Ancient exist?
Yeah I remember a lot, growing up in Bergen, Norway. I remember when the band Old Funeral started playing, a band that included Abbath, Varg etc. This band, looking back today, really became an important band in the “history” of Norwegian black metal, even though they didn’t even release a full album back in the days. The band had many local fans in Bergen but also in the underground worldwide where tape trading and selling demo tapes and 7” vinyls was some of the big things back then, I remember it well. I probably saw Old Funeral live 4 or 5 times and also visited a rehearsal once. I think they’re an important band to recognize as this band later on somehow “gave birth” to 3 other new bands namely Immortal, Burzum and Hades. I remember meeting Varg in the local rock bar when he told me “ I have quit Immortal, I am starting my new band called Burzum, I play all the instruments myself, Burzum means darkness in the language of the elfs” these were pretty much his exact words. I think somehow this inspired me to also start my own band or project, which later on developed into what became Ancient, when I asked Grim to join as drummer. Then with the church burnings, Varg on the front cover of the local newspaper appearing as an anonymous person claiming responsibility for the first church burning in Bergen in June 1993 etc, I remember Grim told me he was in the local record shop in Bergen the day before, when Varg came in and told the owner “ tomorrow it is 6.6 ( June 6 ) something is going to happen at 06 o clock “ more less those words, so the next day when the church burning was in the news, Grim knew who did it, but he kept saying “ I cant tell you who it was “ , but ok, Varg was caught soon after, and again a full photo in the front page of the newspaper etc and everybody speaking about this stuff, not only the metal fans but practically the whole city. So many things..
Which one is your favourite Ancient release, that you’re the most proud of?
This is always a hard one, cause I feel that all our albums are great but in their own way, cause they’re all a bit different to each other. I like Svartalvheim a lot for its raw and atmospheric feeling, I love The Cainian Chronicle for its cold dreamy atmosphere, I love Mad Grandiose Bloodfiends for it’s “wicked” dark feeling ( even though the production was bad ), I love Night Visit for it’s power and great production and also performance. The only album I’m not so pleased with is The Halls Of Eternity as I feel it could have been a lot better in terms of production and the way the songs were played. The albums and music you create I think in a way can be seen as your “spiritual children” so I feel it’s difficult to measure them up against each other. We’re not a band that likes to make 2 albums sounding the same where you can easily say which you like more, to me they all have their different feelings and qualities, but ok, many fans feel it differently. I can’t speak for them.
Due to the technical evolution of the music industry have your writing habits changed during these years?
Honestly I don’t think it has changed the music we make, it has just made the process easier in some ways, but also harder in some ways ( cause nowadays it’s like everything has to be so “perfect” that sometimes you can lose a bit focus on the actual music if you’re not careful ) but generally, a great song usually comes from a great guitar riff or a great idea that inspires you a lot, and you can’t create that with a computer, it must come from within yourself, at least that’s how I feel it.
The yet unreleased new album title is ’Back to the Land of the Dead’. Has the title got anything to do with your return?
Yeah basically the concept of the title track is about a guy who has been away many years from the place or “society” he was born in. He is saying ( in the lyrics ) “ my journey’s over, it’s time to come back “. As he returns he realizes that the place where he was born is now full of “ spiritually dead “ people, like “ spiritual zombies “ or so, and that’s what you see on the front cover. This is a lot the way I see our return to the scene. The society we live in today ( everywhere in the world basically ) is full of “ spiritually dead “ people, though most of the metal fans luckily don’t belong in this category so much. This is a bigger concept I intend to elaborate on more later on, perhaps with the next album.
I think it’s not a secret anymore that Nick Barker played the drums in the studio. How could you convince him to join Ancient, considering his duties in other bands? Is he going to hit the road with you?
He is busy with many bands and he’s fortunate to actually live of the music, which is great. I think it depends a lot on how much touring we will have and how things will go with the new album. He has also started working with our new management, Alpha Omega management and that will help things moving on better in the future. We will just do our best and see what will happen after the album is out.
Who else do you cooperate with during the recording session?
Apart from Nick, the whole album was recorded by Dhilorz and me, though we had a few guest musicians for some vocal parts and acoustic guitars, but just a few small parts here and there.
Have you got any exact further plans for the future or you just want to carry on slowly, step by step?
After the album release, which will probably take place in March / April, we will probably make a new video, and plan a lot of touring, starting around September but we don’t have exact details about it yet.
It’s been announced that you will perform at Blastfest and also at Under The Black Sun festival in Germany. Do you have any plans for a tour maybe?
Yeah as I said above, we will probably start touring from September, possibly also in South America, USA, Asia, basically anywhere possible, we will see which options there will be available when the time comes.
Well, that’s all for now. Thank you for your time to answer my questions. I’m looking forward to listen to your new material and maybe see you live..somewhere, someday.
Thanks for your support! See you somewhere on the road yeah!
Pictures were taken from the band’s official Facebook site.
An interview by LGH – MMXVI