Some of us…and some of you as well, consider Memento Mori as a quality label. So when Alex G.J. reviewed Devotion’s second album “The Harrowing” and described it as “Throughout the entire release, they play passages that evoke classic moments from bands like Bolt Thrower, Demigod, Grave, Entombed, to name a few” and “…and consolidates them as an example of how powerful the current generation of Spanish Death Metal bands is”, a simple interview request was the next move. Vincent (vocals) takes us back where it all started… (Alex G.J. & Ricardo)
We were just summoned by Julkarn from the mighty Graveyard to a rehearsal place close to València for the recording of some backing vocals to appear on their acclaimed The Sea Grave. We were some guys who sang in different bands and joined him for the purpose. It was Nocturn from Profundis Tenebrarum and Orthodoxy, Agressor from Horripilant and Domains, and myself Vicent ex Obscure and Nadir. After some growling and screaming we had some drinks together and talked about the possibility to create a band as a homage to our primal influences in death metal. So we agreed and put the project on gear, even though I shortly departed to Norway for the whole winter. Nevertheless I kept in touch with the guys and they sent me the riffs by mail so I could build up some stories to creep behind some cryptic lyrics. That is the way it all started and continues to these days, with several line-up changes though.
Regarding the origin of the members of the band, please correct me if I’m wrong, but most of you live in Valencia? or you are from other places? I was left with that idea after taking a look at the information in the encyclopedia metallum, sorry.
Well, with Julkarn, Nocturn and Agressor out of the picture, I wouldn’t say we’re all from València, at least not from the capital city with the only exception of Xito, the bass player, who lives in a borough which is still considered part of the capital city. The rest of us aren’t from there. We live in different towns around southern València and the practice room is like 30 km away from the city.
What inspired you to start a band in this style, which bands grabbed you by the throat and influenced you with the sound and songwriting within Devotion?
I believe we didn’t start with any particular band in mind, although I get to recall that some names like Winter, Morgoth, Bolt Thrower and the like were mentioned. As for myself, my intention was more into punk metal bands like Driller Killer, Loud Pipes, Tragedy and more. But after a short discussion we agreed to go into a kind of death metal not too super fast, groovier than normal and horror orientated. We’d prefer intensity rather than speed and I believe what we do is more into the neck-breaking field than into the epileptic one.
I just can speak for myself and my experience with the genre. I was a thrasher living in London when I assisted to the Grind Crusher Tour show at Kilburn National venue, and from that moment on everything in my head turned to death metal. The hype was so brutal that when I came back home I joined a band of some guys still into thrash metal and changed their mood to death metal very soon and created Obscure. I know Xito has always been in Technical Brutal Death Metal bands like Visceral Damage and Voice of Hate, meanwhile Nosfer, the guit player, is more into Black Metal and Death metal of all kinds and our drummer David listens to all sorts of metal, psychedelia and weird stuff.
Let’s talk about your debut album “Necrophiliac Cults” (CD released by The Horror Dimension)…
We’re quite proud of the results on that previous album because the process to record it was awkward to say the least. First Javi Félez, the guy at Moontower studios came to our rehearsal place to record the drums, which was done in one day and in somewhat dire conditions. After almost a year we still were with the drum tracks recorded and little possibility to enter the studio to record the rest of instruments and voices because of the busy studio’s schedule. One day Julkarn travelled to Barcelona for a Graveyard show and after it he took some time to record the guitar and bass tracks I get to recall all in one take. Then it took some more time to get to the solos which were recorded home and sent via e-mail to Moontower. Still further ahead me and David travelled to Barcelona to edit some drums and record the voices, all again in one single day. After all that process I sent the tracks to our friend Igor Mesmer who created the intros and instrumental passages and recorded some keyboard tracks for our songs. Pitifully he died shortly after the recording and could never listen to the final result. The writing process previous to this never ending journey took us three years of rehearsals and polishing the songs until they were great for us all. I believe it got quite good reviews in spite of the very unprofessional way it was assembled and I think we didn’t have the right distribution so the Cd was not very much known here or abroad. We also had some issues with the artwork and it led to quite sour arguments about the final artwork to be chosen. We discarded one first artwork by Agus Wibowo but most agreed with the one you can see it was released, which eventually made Nocturn leave the band.
And what about your latest release; “The Harrowing” (CD released by Memento Mori)…
This time the whole process was utterly different. After a couple of years after the first release we just had a couple of half-finished songs and the truth is we were doing stuff quite far from productive, and then the offer from Raúl in Memento Mori arrived. That meant we needed to change the creative method as we had a deadline to have the Cd ready to be released in about one year time. So we started putting the final touches to what we already had and week after week tried to recover some riffs we had developed in past rehearsals and force ourselves to create new ones in meetings we had home, before the computer and with the total need to get something fresh for the forthcoming recording. We needed to become a productive team and leave all procrastination behind. Then the pandemic came and everything got delayed, so we had more time to polish riffs and structures and rehearse more thoroughly every single part of every song. We entered a professional studio to record the drum tracks and the result was so impressive that we decided that whatever came next should have that standard we achieved with the drums sound. Guitars and bass were recorded clean at Julkarn’s home studio and sent to Moontower to be reamped. After that, me and David travelled to Moontower studios to edit some drums and to record voices and keyboards in one single day, with the great helping hand of Javi Félez at the helms, who also contributed in some guitar lines and solos in one of the tracks. The Cd was released last January and the press and fan reactions have been amazing. We never had so good distribution and consequently such following as we’ve lately had. This same interview is a sample of it all. The artwork was a consequence of myself following Diko, the Indonesian artist, in everything he drew. One day I bumped into this art which I felt very much inspiring and close to the kind of atmosphere we wanted to create with our music. I showed it to the guys and we all agreed it was a fantastic piece of art and the decision was taken. For the debut album we were the same quartet who recorded this last one, with the late addition of a guitar player called Jesús for some final guitar touches in The Harrowing. Before the release of TH Julkarn decided to quit for personal reasons and we became a quartet again. Then Nosfer, who was formerly in the band returned with us, and lately Jesús also quitted the band, so it seems we’re condemned to remain a quartet for good…or not, who knows!!
It’s me (Vicent) who is responsible for the lyrics. Most of the first lyrics I wrote were inspired by religious outrage and some biblical events which were narrated in apocryphal books and which I twisted to make them be delirious pieces of abomination. Some other lyrics are inspired by random words or expressions which come to my mind and make me focus on the topic they involve. Some lyrics are inspired by the observation of a pictorical work of art and lately I’m more inspired by sci-fi stories and the cosmic world that makes us so tiny and insignificant. In the rest, there’s some sociological complain and rebellion expressed in a kind of personal imagery.
The musical difference between your latest release “The Harrowing” and its predecessor; “Necrophiliac Cults“?
Well, there must some musical differences, as the composing team has been different this time and the tempos also differed a lot one from the other. We had like three years of rehearsals for the first work, so we had the tracks very practiced and polished, but there was a bad timing issue with the studio and ended up recording the different parts quite randomly and had very little choices as for the guitar sound and some other details. To sum it all up, after such a long time, we did it quite unprofessionally but the result was quite satisfying for us. For this last one we just had like three tracks prepared for when the label contacted us and we inked the deal, so we had to start creating more forcedly and with a different system. So, we recovered some missing riffs which were recorded from random sessions and we really liked and had to create some new ones to start the serious process. It took time but we were “favoured” by the pandemic and we had enough time to give it all the sense we pursued and with all things in place. It was tough and stressing but I guess it was worth the effort. Either way, our real aim in both was to recreate some of the old time death metal flavor and add some personal and evil touches to feel it like something we’d stuck our ears to for a long time and we hope it’s become a piece of that kind.
How do you evaluate the response from the fans, the labels, both locally, nationally and internationally to both releases? Did you get a chance to give live performances, perhaps when “Necrophiliac Cults” came out?
For what we’ve been reading, hearing and seeing, it’s been quite a good response from fans as much as media. We never expected something so remarkable, but make no mistake, there are thousands of bands releasing albums almost every day, so the impact of any album is really ephemeral, unless you’ve got a great production team behind and the chance to tour as many big bands do. We played a lot with our first album, being as we are an almost unknown band, but we were lucky to share stage with some big underground acts, more even before NC came out. After the pandemic we’ve just played a couple of times and haven’t even presented “The Harrowing” officially.
How did you get in contact with your label Memento Mori?
Actually, Raúl got in touch with us and I just knew about his job in an underground death metal catalogue which he’s been running for years, but as I said we got news from him that he wanted to release our upcoming stuff and then we checked conditions and thought it was a more than good effort what he did for the bands he had released so far. So we didn’t hesitate a single moment to accept the deal and conditions implied. The deadline was forced to be changed for the recording due to the pandemic but when the time came it all happened even better than we expected. Nice guy to work with indeed. At the moment we’re arranging like three newer tracks but haven’t talked to him or anybody else about the way we want our next stuff out. Depending on the length of our next effort, there will be different options I guess.
Why have you decided to record a debut full-length right away, without releasing a demo or EP first? Just opportunity or is there another reason?
Well, we could have recorded just a demo, but as we had already seven tracks completed, we asked Javi in Moontower studios, who is a really good friend and even has participated in our last album, about the chance to make it an album, and also received the offer from the Spanish label The Horror Dimension, which is run by our old friend Avul. With both opportunities open we decided to record the first album and even it was with great difficulties due to schedule issues as I said before, it ended up being some real shit we’re still proud of.
What are your expectations for Devotion in the future?
As I said, we’re writing new stuff but also practicing the live set, because we’ve been playing live quite recently. Our second album was released in the middle of the pandemic so we had no chance to show it live. But, as we’ve got no live shows until November, we’re focusing on giving the final touches to the new tracks. Certainly, the sound will differ, in a way that we pursued from the very start. We’re after a more organic and denser sound, more sinister and disturbing and with a deeper sense of obscurity. We’ll try to get out of much compressed sound that sounds powerful but unnatural. Even the lyrical approach will differ somehow, more cosmically orientated.
Some of you are involved with acts like Visceral Damage, Orthodoxy and Profundis Tenebrarum. Any news on them to tell our readers?
Well, I guess Visceral Damage are quite out of the picture but the other two acts are still running, I think both are about to release newer stuff, but in this case you should ask Nosfer. Anyway I think I’ve given you the right news.
Are you involved in any other way in the music scene? Maybe as an illustrator, writing reviews for a zine, having a studio or working at one…or something else?
I (Vicent) was for a long way working on different magazines and zines. I started work in the mid nineties with La Oreja Metalica, a free zine with lots of quality stuff and nationwide distributed. Also worked for the magazine Hell Awaits doing some reviews and my last work was tih a Norwegian magazine called Helvete as a translator and reviewer. Nowadays I do nothing of the sort and the same is valid for the rest of the band as far as I know. Nosfer and I started a funeral doom act called Der Führer des Schattens in the early 2000, recorded an Ep but left it almost abandoned and it’s so for a long while.
Are there any bands or albums of your recent playlist you would like to mention? A rediscovery, an overlooked gem or an unsigned demo band that deserves attention?
We usually listen to quite different stuff so you should ask others in the band. As for me, I’ve been listening quite a lot bands like Blood Incantation, Temple Nightside, Abjvration and lots of Dark Ambient, preferably Atrium Carceri and the likes. We could recommend form our own country bands like Oniricous, Graveyard, Orthodoxy, Ataraxy, Altarage and that’s all I can recall right now, I mean form the underground scene.
Also do you have favourite labels you always keep an eye on when they announce a new release? Or a favourite illustrator / cover artist? Any favourite printed / online zines…
Sorry to tell you we’re not great consumers of any of the above mentioned sources. We just read the zines and magazines where we appear and pay very little attention to anything else. Personally I’m a great fan of the Polish painter Beksinski and that’s the only thing I’d mention on this topic.
Before we wrap up this interview, do you have any final words or thoughts? Is there something I’ve forgotten to ask you which you would like to mention? Thanks for your time!
I guess you pointed to every corner of our band and did a nice approach for the readers to know quite a lot from us. We’d just like to add that we’re quite sick of huge festivals where only the usual bands play with no room for most of the underground acts, which I think it’s where any kind of creativity and innovation will come. I encourage people to attend local bands shows and do what’s necessary to let this wonderful underworld emerge and leave this sick world in debris and ruins. I know I said we don’t pay much attention to media, but we’re very close to everything that happens in our tiny world of immoral music. Let’s keep it strong and rebellious for good.