Review/Interview: The Great Hatred- Aphonic Threnody

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Vuk: Thank you for taking the time to chat with me about all things Aphonic Threnody! I’m very excited!

I have listened to all of your available work, which to my ears is all spectacular. A unique approach to atmospheric Doom, which seems to be a bit more guitar-driven than some.

I’m most familiar with “Of Loss and Grief,” which I listened to almost immediately after hearing “Locura” on the 2019 Transcending Obscurity label sampler. The most striking (or instantaneous) difference between the two is the vocal performance by Juan Escobar (replacing your long time vocalist, Roberto Mura). Can you tell me a little bit about that change, and how this affected your approach to writing/recording “The Great Hatred?”

Riccardo Veronese (RV): Thank you Joel. Well, Roberto leaving was a big surprise to me and totally unexpected. It was, I guess, natural for Juan at that time to step in and do the vocals. He has his own vision and I kind of let him go with the flow regarding the mixing and mastering side of things as well. Personally, I think it was a great challenge for me this album with line up changes and trying to find the right balance for where we wanted to go in terms of sound and atmosphere. In the end Juan did a great job on the vocals and carried through some fantastic emotions.

Vuk: Oh, absolutely!

Right out of the gate with “Locura,” singing the lyrics in Spanish, and with both growls and clean overtones, lends itself really well to the introspective nature of Aphonic Threnody’s continued narrative.

By that I mean a feeling of depression and uncertainty, but a willingness to share the struggle in a very personal way. That’s a wonderful track. I absolutely love the guitar tone you achieved, as well as what sounds to me like a bit of a more aggressive approach.

RV: Yes, we have always had a mix of some clean parts as well as the growls. It fits in perfectly with our sound. The tracks are all about feelings. Depression, Struggle we face as humans, the daily emotions we go through and the grief that we all will feel at some point in our lives. I myself have experienced so much pain and I try to convey and release through my guitar playing. The natural progression will be to go heavier and slower on each album. I have been feeling a change in this direction and our next two albums will really showcase that.

Vuk: The feelings expressed lyrically in all of your albums are difficult emotions to capture in any form of art. The Funeral Doom backdrop is certainly an excellent vehicle for this kind of expression. 

Prior to this album, I’ve been struck by the lyrics to “All I’ve Loved” and “A Thousand Years Sleep,” but as far as the lyrics on “The Great Hatred…” I’m just blown away by ALL of them! 

“Interrogation” asks the one question I regularly ask myself when suffering a depressive episode: “Does it even matter?”

More specifically, I ask myself “what difference does it make?” There isn’t any more an answer to those questions than the others… what does it feel like to be carefree, confident, or content?

And I think this confusion, or to put it another way… excess of frustration, is evident with these moments of both loudness and whisper. The Funeral Doom aesthetic of both resignation and persistence exemplifies depression perfectly. 

In the case of Aphonic Threnody, outside of the vocal performance and the lyrics, your guitar work is so incredibly expressive! Forgive me for asking what may seem like a stock question, but who has influenced you as a guitarist?

RV: Thank you for your words. I actually worked with my partner Laura on the lyrics. She has suffered from arthritis and fibromyalgia and I care for her. I asked her to write how she felt about the whole experience of her pain and frustration. We then set about putting it into a lyrical theme to fit the music. Lyrics from the tracks “The Great Hatred” and “Drowning” are some of my favourite. 

Wow that is a tough one on guitar work. I have been self taught and actually have not really followed anyone. But I love old bands like Iron Maiden, Sabbath, early Metallica. Over the years I have really fallen in love with My Dying Bride, Evoken, Shape of Despair, Esoteric and many other bands. I look more on the side of production of the album the clever way guitars flow and balance off other instruments.

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Vuk: So, in a way, it may be more accurate to consider you a sound designer…As your focus is on more of the sonic capabilities of the guitar as opposed to developing a specific style of playing?

RV: I think I have developed my own style of playing over the years. I’m very versatile and can play almost most styles and genres of music. I usually compose 90% of the guitar for Aphonic, and am continuously looking to reinvent myself and come up with new ideas.

Vuk: I’m so glad you mentioned “The Great Hatred” and “Drowning” at the same time, because I very clearly remember the first time I experienced this portion of the album.

I was driving home from work, and I arrived home just as “Drowning” was starting. I sat in my car listening to it, just soaking in the majesty of it. I was already smiling having just heard “The Great Hatred,” then this… continuation. It sounds like a fall. Like what a person may feel like on their way down. And this, of course, was before I had a copy of the lyrics!

About five minutes into “Drowning,” there is  a change in tone. Blurring genres, almost. Absolutely beautiful!

RV: Thank you. That’s what I was aiming for. A feeling of complete hopelessness falling into an abyss. I especially love the space in the open  parts of these songs. We actually have a proper video made for the track “The Great Hatred” which I can’t wait to get out.

Vuk: Is there a release date on that? I know the pandemic has thrown everyone’s schedules into craziness.

RV: Well “Great Hatred” is 16th October and hopefully I’m looking at another 6 months for the next one.

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Vuk: With you being (basically) a two-piece at the moment, how does playing live fit into the picture? 

Aside from the obvious (that being no one is playing shows at all right now), I’d imagine gathering the proper musicians for a live performance would be a challenge. Although, your music certainly has a live quality to it, and would be incredible to witness in person.

RV: I have always looked to play live but we have never got a consistent lineup and had so many people drop out. We have done a great gig with Esoteric and Fen which was really cool. At the moment I don’t feel we will do live shows. It’s something I miss but I’d rather keep giving our fans music and put all my efforts into doing great solid albums. 

Going forward I think the change up will change. We already have Justin from InOblivion on guitars now and Daniel from Clouds on vocals. Daniel will be doing drums going forward on all Aphonic albums as long as he wants to. They are both absolutely amazing guys to work with. I’m super happy with their efforts.

Vuk: Okay, first of all… Esoteric, Fen, and Aphonic Threnody? Holy shit! Haha! Secondly, that is a fantastic line up! Speaking of Justin and Daniel, that is.  Justin’s guitar work mixed with yours would be… just amazing. I’m excited to hear that! And Daniel has played with many bands, some of which I must confess to being unfamiliar with.

But I understand your stance on playing live. The studio experience is entirely different, for one thing. And it allows an artist more freedom to create, given that you don’t necessarily need to be in the same place at the same time to get things done. Will both Daniel and Juan be doing vocals on the new material?

RV: Yes I agree. Justin’s work has been amazing on the new material. He has added something really special and I feel we will really bring out something special. Daniel has been in so many bands and he is such a great professional so it is easy for him to work with us. I feel Juan will not be involved in the next few releases. We have pretty much got everything we need. I feel the new line up complements our music perfectly and it was really smooth the whole process of creating the next album.

Vuk: There is an almost ancient tone to “The Fall.” A timelessness, or imperial quality. Some of the piano work, once again, shines through. An excellent ending to the journey “The Great Hatred” takes its listeners on. Can you tell me more about the lyrics? How do they fit into the overall theme of the record? 

They’re fantastic:

“Like a white canvas

Through your veins

Tinted by shame

You will never be the same again”

RV: “The Fall” actually came about when I had started watching the tv series Vikings. That’s where that opening riff vibe came from so it always had that gladiator warrior feel to it. Like an epic battle and a slain warrior that draws in his last breath. Juan took this onboard when he wrote the lyrics I think for this track. I didn’t even tell him at first my ideas, so it was great when he came back with his ideas. It fit the song perfectly. I guess it was a track that maybe does not fit in with the whole theme of the album, or a typical Aphonic song, but I think it still musically fits in with the style of the rest of the album and is a fitting end to the journey.

Vuk: Absolutely! And there’s a warrior-like vibe to a lot of Aphonic songs, I think. At least in the sense that the lyrics suggest battles with various degrees of pain. Keeping going, even through the struggles, in spite of the difficulties and helplessness that accompanies them. An epic battle is perfect! A “slain warrior who draws his last breath…” that moment…. Glorious!

RV: Exactly a lot of my guitar definitely has that feeling of all hope that is lost and then climbing back off the floor to regain one’s self and become alive again.

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Vuk: I would be remiss if I didn’t ask about Towards Atlantis Lights. 

Your song (“The Bull and the Serpent”) is a great moment on the 2020 Transcending Obscurity label sampler.

Can you tell me anything about how that project is going?

RV: Yes the album is completed and is a really great follow up to our debut. I would definitely say it is a lot heavier than the first one. I really enjoyed playing the bass on this. The concept and music is strong and I can’t wait for you all to hear it.

Vuk: That is excellent. We’re excited to hear it as well.

So, “The Great Hatred” set for an October release, plans for a follow up mid-2021, Towards Atlantis Lights second LP coming soon. So much greatness on the horizon for you, man! Very exciting! 

Thank you so much for taking the time to answer my questions, Riccardo. Much appreciated.

RV: No problem at all, Joel. It was a pleasure to share my thoughts with you. Let’s make sure we keep pushing ourselves and keep in touch. Look forward to sharing more music with you.

AT

Review by Rotnoxnatl.

My introduction to the crushing funeral doom of Aphonic Threnody came at the suggestion of TMW’s own VUK. He was slated to review this album, but was also doing an interview with Riccardo Veronese so he asked if I wanted to check it out to see if I would like to do the review. This approach worked well for the most recent “Great Cold Emptiness” release, so I listened to “The Rise of the Phoenix,” the pre-release track with an accompanying promo video on the Band camp page and agreed.

That was only about a month ago that I got my first taste of Aphonic Threnody. A couple weeks ago, I suffered a loss in my extended family. One of my cousins, who was younger than me, died. In the days following this loss, I naturally turned to music to release my pain. One of the albums that I played was “Of Loss and Grief,” Aphonic Threnody’s 2017 album. A few days later, I also played the 2015 single track “Bury Them Deep” from the four-way split album “Of Poison and Grief (Four Litanies For The Deceased).”

That brings me now to the subject at hand, “The Great Hatred,” the new album from a different line up of Aphonic Threnody. Riccardo Veronese (guitars) is now joined by Juan Escobar C on vocals, bass, and keys, who replaced long-time vocalist Roberta Mura. The two had previously worked together in Arrant Saudade in 2015. As can be expected from an album in this subgenre, the music is mostly slow tempo, devastatingly heavy, with lyrical content focusing on madness, loss, and questioning of self. But there are also lyrics about letting go, allowing yourself to be reborn and musical elements that pull the weight from your soul as you listen.

Right from the start, it hits hard all at once with the full band and growled deep vocals on the first downbeat. “Locura” sets the tone for the album with the extended guitar chords and slow, steady drums, but also incorporating Juan’s excellent clean vocals and some choral backgrounds that add to the gothic funereal quality to the music. In the middle of the track, the drums pick up the pace throughout an instrumental interlude until the wave of doom breaks into a cleaner guitar and almost whispered vocal before resuming with a fantastic melodic guitar line that carries us into the final verse.

The second track, “Interrogation,” opens with a clean guitar and bass before beginning the litany of questions that the narrator is asking of themself. “Does it even matter? What is sorrow? What is pain?” The main riffs on this track move between an atonal and harmonic quality, with the guitars playing mostly in the mid to high register and the bass going hard, heavy, and lightly distorted with some wonderful tribalistic drum sections. Towards the end, it truly does feel like an interrogation.

That leads us into the title track, “The Great Hatred.” It opens with a simple clean guitar line and clean vocals before the waves come crashing down upon us. There is an excellent combination of the two vocal styles, particularly in the bridge section where they have been layered on top of each other. The final guitar solo feels like it has been wrenched from the depths of despair and is echoed in the string outro.

Drowning” opens with bell-like piano tones echoing the guitar melody until the guitar strikes off on its own, but only briefly. As it settles into the main riff, the bass guitar pulses and flickers beneath the sustained chords, but then more closely follows the guitar once the growled vocals begin. This shifts to an almost chanted vocal style as the piano/guitar melody returns. The lyrics present a person who is unable to accept happiness; even death is not a release. This is felt most discreetly in the clean middle section of the song, “I longed for death, but found no peace.” It is a drowning within oneself.

After the depressive piano ending of “Drowning,” the heavy guitars return at the start of “The Rise of the Phoenix,” as does a slightly distorted, driving bass line. There are even some bass melody parts on this track, as well as a classically inspired clean guitar, bringing the narrator to their moment of redemption.

The closing track, “The Fall,” enters with a Sabbath like intro riff, to which is added harmonized layers of guitars. Underneath the crushing guitar chords, the piano rises until it takes over the primary melody between the verses. After more of the intense, heavy chords, a melodic interlude prior to the final verse begins to release the grief that has built through the whole album. In the end, that is what this album provides; a build up and then release of grief.

I absolutely love the sound of this album. The guitar and bass tones throughout are superb, mostly very heavy distorted deep guitar sounds, but occasionally coming into a cleaner or more mid-range sound for melodic passages. The use of piano is really excellent. Drums and vocals sit well in the mix, as do the other keyboard sounds that crop up here and there. I especially like that some of the clean vocal parts are more subdued in the tracks, giving an era of mystique to those lyrical sections. All of these elements come together to form the perfect mood for this album.

Aphonic Threnody, a lament unspoken… perhaps; but if it is unspoken, then it has surely been sung and equally wrung from the strings of guitars and the skins of drums.

Rating – 5/5

https://aphonicthrenodydoom.bandcamp.com/album/the-great-hatred-atmospheric-death-doom-metal

https://www.facebook.com/AphonicThrenody/

https://www.facebook.com/transcendingobscurityrecords/

https://transcendingobscurity.bandcamp.com/

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