Saturday, October 25, 2008
Empire Auriga... Interview and Review
Recently, I’ve reviewed a number of releases from Moribund Cult Records. One act that particularly piqued my interest was Empire Auriga, a duo from Lansing, Michigan that play a unique combination of industrial and black metal, resulting in memorable, bleak soundscapes. I also had the opportunity to question Boethius, a member of Empire Auriga.
Empire Auriga Interview
1. Briefly describe the history of Empire Auriga. Did the band members play in more traditional black metal projects prior to Empire Auriga?
We had met a number of years before and partook in a project which was named, "The Hearing Blood". It was very inspired by Ulver, in particular the Bergtatt album. It was a strange and foresty project and it went very well, but we were all really wanting to do some different things, so we moved on for a while. The Hearing Blood name was given to a new project by another member of the old project. It all gets convoluted and hard to follow. Basically there is a small group of us from the mid-Michigan area who all play in each others’ projects and start various bands together. It ranges from Empire Auriga to nasty black thrash to bizarre folk music tales... whatever. We jokingly refer to ourselves as the MMMM, the Mid Michigan Metal Militia. But anyhow, a few years post-Hearing Blood and 90000065b asked me if I wanted to do some vocals on an industrial type of project. We toyed with a number of different sounds before the draw of droning black space captured our interests and we've really enjoyed that sound so far.
2. I am intrigued by your choice of project name. Tell me how the name Empire Auriga came about?
To be truthful, it was inspired by Fenriz and his mighty Empire Algol from the Neptune Towers albums. Neptune Towers is some godly fucking music. When we thought we might go more industrial we had some other names, but they were all pretty crappy and not worth mention.
3. What role, if any, does astronomy play in your thematic and lyrical content?
None. The name was chosen as a means by which we could convey the idea that the events in the lyrics are taking place in a real portion of space, but in a time and space that is removed beyond current memory. That, and I'm generally fascinated by space and the overwhelming power of it's presence.
4. Your band’s information lists two members. Describe each member’s role, if you would, in the project.
As Boethius I am mostly just there for vocals and lyrics. I help with the general structure of each song, but 90000065b writes almost all of the riffs and beats and effects. Once he has a couple of them which go together very well then we get together and try to make a cohesive song out of it. Occasionally he writes all on his own, and we acquire the help of Gestalt when possible. Gestalt is not entirely reliable, but when he does show up and lend his ideas they are often quite genius and we are thankful for his contributions. His role in the second album may well be expanded quite some bit.
5. Do you characterize Empire Auriga as black metal, or something more (or less, for that matter)? Why or why not?
I try not to characterize it as much of anything. Black metal has been and likely always will be a primary influence and factor in what I do. There are purists and there are "experimentalists" but I really don't care how you try to classifiy it because as long as something has its roots in blackmetal you can always recognize that bleak and lost feeling of emptiness. The feeling of the void that blackmetal produces is something that I hope my music never loses.
6. What musical influences are present in the music of Empire Auriga?
At the time we wrote Auriga Dying both Burzum and Summoning were large in our minds. We were always trying to get the epic sweeping feeling that Summoning so often achieves with great success. Burzum's Filosofem was an album of astounding foresight on the part of Varg. He took blackmetal to the next logical step before anybody else could even begin to envision it. Also present in our music is influence from Vangelis, Xasthur, Fripp, Eno, Tangerine Dream, Darkthrone, Popol Vuh, Mayhem, Taake, Gorgoroth, Lustmord, Pink Floyd, Sombrous... the list could go on and on and on....
7. Any plans to play in a live setting?
No. Much of the point behind Empire Auriga is to try to put your mind into a place which it cannot be in any other way. No experience, natural or otherwise, can do for the mind what a pure ethereal and space bending musical journey can do. I love music because of it's ability to cause one to travel in the mind and a live show of Empire Auriga would completely destroy any chance we have of conveying that feeling to the listener. Aside from that, there are only two of us and too many parts to play, if we could ever even remember one riff.
8. How does Michigan’s decaying economic climate contribute, if at all, to the themes of Empire Auriga?
Well, economic decay is certainly an inescapable aspect of life right now. I never really thought of it as something that helped to propel music along, but on the Sodom DVD Tom Angelripper was talking about how destitute his hometown was when he was growing up and how he thinks that had a lot to do with so much good thrash coming out of Germany at the time. Maybe he has something there and maybe that is part of why so many good things have come out of Michigan recently. All of that theoretical junk aside, I am greatly inspired by the ideals of personal freedom and anti-state thought. I'm not sure that this has to do with Michigan in particular (In fact, I myself am now in Boston), but the ideas of freedom and self-sufficiency are pretty core to my beliefs. Of course, this all gets back to religion as a crutch and government as a crutch and how you need to stand for yourself and not all this other stupid shit of politicians and messiahs. Use your brain and think for yourself! So, I suppose, yes, this does come through in the lyrics for Auriga and the sense of retalliation and fight that I hope the songs convey. Empire Auriga has been a place of oppression for eons and the townspeople are taking to the pitchforks!
9. Do you have any affiliations with other bands from the Michigan scene?
I mentioned above that Empire Auriga really came from a small group of us all playing in different projects together. Some are mere basement wailings and some are a bit more involved and real, but here is a short list of our musical attempts: Sauron (Witches Brew), Quintessence, Araphat, Elsewhere, Wastelander, The Hearing Blood, Carnage Bastards, ROT, and I could go on. Doomy G. Blackthrash from Sauron has been doing some work with Nocturnal Fear as well. Summon are also from Michigan and we've been in contact with them for some years now. Michigan is a good metal place. Boston fucking sucks for metal.
10. How did your partnership with Moribund Cult Records come about?
We sent out a bunch of promo type things and got responses from a couple labels, one of which we signed to. Then, Moribund contacted us a couple months later and we couldn't sign with them because we had already signed at the other place. Well, two fucking years went by and the first label never did release us, but we were under contract and kept waiting and waiting. Finally, we talked them into breaking the contract and letting us go, at which point we were able to go back to Moribund and ask if they still wanted us. Obviously, it all worked out and there are no hard feelings with the previous label, just caused things to be a little extra delayed. We are very happy with Moribund so far.
Here is my orignal review of "Auriga Dying"...
Empire Auriga- Auriga Dying
Anything with references to astronomy in metal, especially black metal, is going to get my interest, so I was naturally intrigued by the debut full-length from Empire Auriga, a duo from Lansing, Michigan. Entitled “Auriga Dying” on the ever-reliable Moribund Cult, Empire Auriga’s debut consists of strange, ambient black metal with a nice combination of dreamlike drone and some harsh, almost industrial soundscapes, sailing along a nightmarish base.
A kaleidoscope of decay consisting of muted vocalizations that range from a disinterested, banal tone to rasps that fade to the background, and programming, the promo material is quite vague with regards to the instrumentation arising from Empire Auriga. However, quite notably, a definite organic sound arises from the composition and nicely avoids the pitfalls of synthesized ambient soundscapes; that is, sounding far too mechanized. Throughout my initial listens of “Auriga Dying”, not once was I given the impression that I was listening to anything but traditional instrumentation with a few effects. In addition, although quite dreamlike in certain parts, the inclusion and variation of harsh sounds are nicely incorporated into “Auriga Dying”, resulting in a fresh, original, and interesting listening experience.
If not well done, this sort of black metal can get a bit monotonous (to that end, there’s not much in the way of tempo variation, though), but “Auriga Dying” has varying compositions spaced out over 37 minutes and 7 tracks to hold your interest. To those with an interest in blackened drone, Empire Auriga comes highly recommended and I look forward to future releases...
Sorry, song removed.