Vuk (The Magnificent) recently fired off some questions to a couple of the members of Spanish Melodic Death Metal (with some other influences to be sure) band Aeolian. He spoke to Raul Moran (Guitars), Leoben Conoy (Bass), to be precise, and Rotnoxnatl (The Also Magnificent) closes it all out with a review of their latest album “The Negationist.” Here is how it went!
Hello! Thank you guys so much for taking a little extra time to answer some questions. We here at The Metal Wanderlust enjoy your work a great deal, and are happy for the opportunity to chat with you.
Raúl Moran (RM): Hello Joel, our pleasure. We are genuinely happy that you’d liked the album.
When I heard your first album (“Silent Witness” 2018), my thoughts, musically speaking, went to Amon Amarth and Arch Enemy, mixed with a fair amount of late 1980’s/early 1990’s Extreme Metal (particularly in the lead guitar). Melodic Death Metal can be a challenge, and you all pull it off magnificently! Would you say those are fair comparisons?
RM: Well, I don’t like to compare us with other bands because we try to find our sound. But the truth is we are fully influenced by extreme metal bands from the 1990s. I think you can hear different influences in each song of “Silent Witness” and “The Negationist,” even though the new album is more focused on the sound we are looking for Aeolian.
Expanding on that, your new album (“The Negationist”) has quite a few more organic elements. Acoustic guitars and piano, for example, as well as violins and horns. This mixes quite well with your Melo-Death aesthetic, giving the music a Folk-Metal vibe on occasion. Can you tell me more about the addition of these instruments? Was this a change based on the concept of the album as a whole, or more a natural progression for you as musicians?
RM: As you can see we don’t use keyboards. That’s because we prefer a more raw sound merging with guitar melodies. Despite that, we felt this album could have some extras as the violins, piano, and horns.
Everything began when our singer Dani showed me a YouTube video of the Danish singer Agnes Obel. She did the music for the German series “Dark” with a minimalist feeling, nothing similar to our music but with an exquisite taste. We were in love with the sound of strings so we contacted the Canadian musician Mika Posen, and now we are proud of having it included in one song. The piano prelude was an idea of our producer Miquel A. Riutort (Mega). I talked to my friend and talented pianist Valentín Moldovan about the idea and he sent me 4 different versions. Even a couple of them were variations in Bulgarian and Romanian style!
Finally, I talked to my friend Jose Vicente Franco Landete about the arrangements of the orchestral part in “Ghosts Anthem.” He plays tuba in a professional wind orchestra here in Mallorca and composes sort of amazing music.
The lyrical themes on “Silent Witness” focus a great deal on the innocence of animals, deforestation, the pollution of the oceans, and global warming, giving great significance to Mother Earth’s ability to heal herself. There is a legendary aspect to the story you’re telling on that album, which seems to suggest the human race is doomed to continue destroying itself with “faith, money, and race”. Highly significant subject matter, to put it mildly. The new material picks up on the same theme right away with “Momentum,” but this time it seems you’re dealing more directly with the human side of the issue, appearing to be told by a narrator who is actively warning others. Is “The Negationist” meant to be the second part to a continuing story arc?
Leoben Conoy (LC): First of all, it is nice to hear you talk about the first album since for us the evolution in the theme of the songs always had one foot in the first LP and the other in the environmental narrative from a more humanistic and expressive point of view. It’s not really a continuation album in the narrative sense, but we could consider it an heir in many other dimensions.
Somehow we tried to make people aware of this matter from our first album, but we understood that the point of view was an important change to start with. While ‘Silent Witness’ had a central axis that entered into how the earth observed us and suffered our behavior, in this new album we have tried to put the listener in the situation of danger that results from our own actions.
This record is a 180 degrees twist and it is clearly influenced by these recent events in environmental matters. How the problem has been dealt by governments and large corporations. For us, as you say, it is a very important matter, and we usually take it in a positive way, hoping that the music we make will serve to give a voice to environmentalism and the millions of people who care not only about conserving nature, but also making sure the message is clear. Our children deserve having a beautiful, sustainable and safe place to live.
“The Negationist” tries to describe precisely the way in which we all take some of the heat out of this matter about the environmental problem. Sometimes we all need to be reminded that we can be wrong, and in terms of climate change we think that we must change the denial paradigm from day one.
Along with being the first example of a more Viking-like tone, ”We Humans” has an extremely interesting premise. Picking up on the theme of armageddon, the song suggests that WE are the locusts prophesied for the end times, and that despite centuries of archeology we have learned nothing. “We humans must learn to evolve,” is the line that strikes me, because it’s interesting to consider that evolution doesn’t just happen naturally… it is a participatory event. Can you expand on this?
LC: I personally think we have always had a little that fear of causing the end of days, that irrational fear of disappearing. Many times we have associated it with cataclysmic events, but sometimes the issue of an end caused by our laziness and irresponsibility has been raised. Without being pessimistic, I consider it important to realize that we continue civilization after civilization making the same mistakes. If you analyze a little you begin to find coincidences, patterns.
The problem we have today is that our globalized civilization frames us to commit the same mistakes together. Everything that has happened this year with the pandemic has shown how interconnected we are at all levels. So in the end you think and you realize that since the first settlers of prehistory we have dedicated ourselves to spending the planet’s resources as if they were eternal, as if we were savages who do not see the global vision. Today it is sad to have so much information and not see beyond the screen of our smartphones. Regarding evolution, it is a subject that I am passionate about, I have always read many treatises on anthropology, philosophy and sociology and I think what you say is quite correct. If we wait for evolution itself to make us need less food, oxygen, sunlight, drinking water. I think we will not have much luck.
So basically, we have to force ourselves to evolve, to adapt to new circumstances. It is something that I believe that the new generations will have to accept and understand, there is no viable future if we do not adapt, and that path leads from being consumers to being those who repair, from being wasteful to being those who save resources, from being the ones who annihilate to be the ones who only take what they need. Humans are special, we have a great capacity as a species, especially if we collaborate so I trust that we learn once and for all and act as one being.
Wildfires are an all-too-common occurrence in both America and Spain, not just in the past but quite recently (Southern Spain, and Western America specifically, this just within the past few months). Your song “Animals Burned” seems tailor made for a discussion on the topic. You are quite literally screaming out for someone to do something! It’s an incredible song, which takes the album in another direction musically. I hear some Iron Maiden in there, as well as some very nice acoustic work and vocal backdrops, which mesh the themes of new and old together brilliantly. Please, can you tell me more about this song, how it relates to your region, and how the lyrical content has influenced the music?
RM: In this song, we wanted to escape a bit from the sound of the first album. The truth is that we are used to composing music before lyrics so we can say the music influenced the theme of the lyrics. In this one, lyrics were influenced by the terrible Australian bushfires even though it’s a big problem all over the world, including Spain and America. And you are right, we cry literally for someone to do something about that terrible matter.
By the time the song “Blackout” arrives, it seems some of the characters in your story are beginning to understand that the only way out of this destruction is to work together as one for the common good. But with the arrival of “Blackout,” it is far too late! The song works on several levels, beginning with an obvious change in the vocals (reminiscent, once again, of Iron Maiden, or King Diamond). It also does well explaining what an anxiety attack feels like (trying and failing to move, lack of oxygen, heart racing, etc.), but in a more literal sense, something very bad has happened in the world you’re singing out. Some sort of devastating explosion, perhaps? What has just happened?
LC: We don’t want to panic anyone, but all the science fiction stories, all the dystopias and apocalyptic futures that literature and cinema have presented to us do not seem so far-fetched lately.
Let’s say you wake up from a dream and every bad thing that you ever imagined is crystal clear reality. Now living underground may be the last option in a few hundred years, especially if solar radiation continues to increase and if pollution continues to spread. More than a nuclear explosion, our ‘nightmare’ encounters a human being far from his fullness, far from the possibilities that nature offers him and who ends up relegated to a painful survival full of regrets and sadness. Stylistically speaking, this theme would be a kind of extension of movies like Mad Max, The Matrix or Carnal Love, which show that dehumanization and fear out of our worst fantasies coming true. Musically, it is one of the hardest and most complex songs, the voices as you have said have classical reminiscences, but they try to go a little further, they are the pulse of a time that is perhaps closer than it seems to us.
With “Blackout” as a turning point, both musically and lyrically, the remainder of the album seems to deal with some sort of nuclear fallout. I’d like to get your take on a few of these songs. “Golden Cage,” “Bleeding Garbage,” and “The Flood” have so much imagery weaved in and out of them. It’s a bit overwhelming, which I love, because under those circumstances how could it not be? There are soldiers returning from battle, discovering trees with generational roots thrown about the landscape. Waste scatters the forest floors, children know nothing but darkness, and the oceans are coming alive once again. Would you mind helping me dissect some of what’s going on within this portion of the album?
LC: “Golden Cage” is perhaps one of the most self-critical songs on the entire album. As the title suggests, the song connects us with our ‘selves’ from the future, angry and sorry for not having done anything, for not having seen all the calamities that we will face coming if we do not do something to remedy it. Our lives may not be perfect, but we are very lucky to live on this planet. We do not realize it, but sometimes the balance that sustains it is much more fragile than it seems. So, it is a theme that comes from that lament, from that tormented being that shows us how everything has changed in a few years and that makes us open our eyes and eat conscience.
“Bleeding Garbage…” I guess it’s one of the most critical songs of the whole album. The most important thing is that it alerts us to that critical moment, to that point of no return that we are reaching. The almost terminal speed at which we produce waste has compromised not only governments but every living thing on this planet. We are a species that generates waste even in the Earth’s orbit. If you go to Venus you can find remnants of our unmanned missions, and beyond that imagine what there will be in a couple of centuries floating around. The earth as an ecosystem is suffering, and it’s starting to give us back all that garbage as if it were a haemorrhage. It is an image that although it is not at all poetic, it evokes what many people feel when they get sick, their blood boils, they vomit, etc. So let’s say that we try to make people aware of how it affects us that the planet cannot contain any more garbage and start to expel it as if it were a haemorrhage… like a vomit that is returned to us at a time when we should have realized the problem. Yet we continue to dump millions of tons a year into our seas. I believe that we will never learn, although there is hope in the new generations.
Speaking about “The Flood,” this is one of the first tracks we worked on when recording the album, and it links directly to the first album. Whenever we talk about global warming and the disappearance of the polar caps, the same image of submerged cities, underwater civilizations, floods like the texts of various religions comes to mind, something that takes us out of the equation and makes the planet take control again. These apocalyptic ideas underlie the narrative of the entire album. It is not catastrophism, but simple pragmatism. Nothing lasts forever… So we try to teach and imbue these ideas as if this album were a kind of hypnopaedia for humanity. Our songs talk about something we see everyday, the days are warmer, every day you see less ice via satellite, the glaciers are shrinking year by year. It is unsustainable, so we try to show images of that future perhaps not so far away to raise awareness for those who do not yet see it coming.
Both musically and lyrically, “The Flood” takes all of the ideas presented on your first album and the first half of “The Negationist” and mixes them all in one spectacular piece of art! It seems that you could have ended the album with this song. Is that something you considered?
RM: Thanks Joel! You are right, the second part of the song would be a good ending for the album but finally, we chose “Ghosts Anthem” as the last song of the album because of the final orchestral part. Just one clarification, the last song “Reborn” is a bonus track so it doesn’t count in the official LP track list. The truth is, it was difficult to make an order of the album, so we had several candidates to finish it.
Clearly, there is much more to the story. “Children of Mud” and “Ghosts Anthem,” are like the aftermath of the aftermath. Even more devastation is to be discovered, if you spend enough time looking… if you pay attention to the world around you, and in this case it seems the humans who’ve survived the flood are in danger of repeating themselves already! While it is very sad, I do enjoy that you’ve involved the children as well as the animals and land. In your opinion, are the children our only real hope of survival?
LC: Only children can be the heroes of the future. Unfortunately, we continue to instill in them a culture of consumerism, obsolescence and irresponsibility. “Children of Mud” is based on daily stories from countries where childhood does not have so many privileges. If you look a little further, there are still millions of children who are hungry, living badly, working in subhuman conditions or being treated like simple cattle. These same children must be the garden that grows and turns all the garbage we have left into a new paradise. Those who point the finger at us and teach us the truth of life and the very meaning of humanity. Unfortunately, many of them do not even reach adulthood. It is something that I always have in my memory and that I remember when I feel miserable. “Ghosts Anthem” talks about how we ignore all those inequalities, all those injustices. For centuries there has been a first world living and consuming beyond its means, and a third world squeezed and plundered to the point of exhaustion. All those burned, consumed and broken souls are added to the credit of the history of the powerful, like tombstones in a huge cemetery where every victim is counted, where not only the powerful, famous and rich matter, but where everybody is equated. It is a hymn to all those people who go unnoticed in a world that is consumed in an unsustainable system. If this album has some political message it is because injustice comes at a time when it cries out from its blindness to see how we trample on it.
That piano intro on “Reborn” is absolutely beautiful. There are more organic elements throughout the song as well, on top of a great mixture of rage and melody presented by the entire band. The song seems to have less to do with what is happening to the world and more to do with a certain hope moving forward, once again giving voice to a newer generation. Is “Reborn” your song of optimism and forgiveness?
LC: In essence the lyrics of the song refer to change, to how to reverse the situation. The planet has had a certain stability over time but in recent years we have messed up quite a bit. This renaissance will not be carried out by our generation, but by the next ones, and I think it will have to do with an awareness of the problem. There is talk of it and we have many personalities, including presidents of powerful nations who deny that climate change is even happening? Those deniers are the antagonists of the album, and the new generations are the ‘reborn’.
It is definitely an album that has that dark undertone but we always try to come to the conclusion that there is still time, and that we cannot give up. We don’t defend inaction or simply wait for it to fix itself… We defend activism and protest, but we certainly defend awareness and education. Today’s children are tomorrow’s heroes.
I want to thank you, sincerely, for your time and your music. A fantastic album, with such great depth. I’m a better person having spent time with it. Before we end our conversation, is there anything else in particular you’d like to share?
RM: You are welcome Joel, thanks to you for the amazing interview.
For everyone interested in the band, you can follow us on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, etc.. and pre-order the new album on the Black Lion Records Bandcamp. We hope you like our new album called “The Negationist” that it’s going to be out on 20th November and we really wish its message helps people to make some changes in the world and as soon as possible, we all are in need of a more sustainable place to live. Best wishes for all of you especially in these difficult times. Stay safe and healthy!
Thanks again, guys!
From the opening unrelenting blastbeat riff of “Momentum” to the closing brass-tinged chords of “Ghosts Anthem” and through the acoustic guitar of the epilogue bonus track “Reborn,” “The Negationist” by Æolian is a work of Melodic Death greatness. The second album emanating from the island of Mallorca takes the band’s environmental message to a higher level than their debut “Silent Witness” and also sees the band further developing their own brand of Melodeath music.
Lyrically, the album centers around environmental issues and the place of humankind within our current race to climate disaster. Wildfires, floods, animal extinctions, and total annihilation of the human race seem imminent. However, there are glimmers of hope, although a few of those visions seem rather bleak in themselves.
But the music holds that hope high throughout. While it is an album of powerful Death Metal with elements of Thrash and Black Metal brought into the mix as well, the overall tone of the album is carried by the melodic part of Melodeath. In every song, there are beautiful guitar melodies and often harmonies to be heard. The use of acoustic guitars to good effect on several tracks also brings that element of musical hope to the fore.
In listening to “The Negationist,” you will certainly get all the elements of a good metal album that you would expect. Heavy riffs, pounding drums, and driving bass lines abound, as do vocals that are somewhere between a scream and a growl, but are also mostly discernible throughout, although having the lyrics helps to get the message.
You will also get a few surprises along the way. The bridge of “Unseen Enemy” brings to mind lute music of the Renaissance. A syncopated breakdown in “Blackout” brought an interesting level of energy as did the orchestral strings in the solo section and outro. The sudden shifts in “Bleeding Garbage” keep you on your toes, with one section calling to mind Pink Floyd (if Pink Floyd were a Death Metal band). In “The Flood,” which has an overall Judas Priest feel to it, there is a gorgeous guitar melody after the second chorus with an almost underwater tone that gives way to first a screaming guitar solo and then some beautiful harmonized guitar work.
In what is probably my favorite track, “Golden Cage,” there is a reverb-drenched single note guitar riff that calls to mind the masters of surf guitar as well as the Dead Kennedys before shifting into a thrashy riff. For the solo section, we are treated to dive bomb guitars followed by a brief but brilliant bass solo where the rest of the band drops out. The song closes with backwards guitar that feels like waves pulling you down.
The two biggest surprises come in the final tracks, “Ghosts Anthem” and the epilogue “Reborn.” “Ghosts Anthem” opens with a more melodic guitar passage than we have heard so far. It then heads into a thrashy riff that would be at home on any early Big 4 album. The surprise hits as we come to the instrumental passage and horns come up from the depths of the mix to emerge as the only logical instruments to carry us to the end of the album, with one part sounding almost like a Theremin at the very end of the track. Then “Reborn” opens with a glorious solo piano part that takes us through the most hopeful of the songs lyrically, hypothesizing that there is a possible way to fix the issues that humankind has created in nature.
Having come out of the cataclysm reborn, we are now obligated to act to make that rebirth a reality. That is what Æolian is prophesying on “The Negationist.” Although we live on borrowed time, it’s never too late.
Rating – 4.5/5