Interview: Sisyphean

Lithuanian black metal arch-fiends, Sisyphean, released their incredible second full-length album, Colours of Faith, this spring on Transcending Obscurity Records. Two of the band’s members (vocalist Dainius, and guitarist Kamil) took some time out after Sisyphean’s summer tour to chat with Vuk about how things have been for them and what’s coming next.

Vuk: Hello, Dainius and Kamil. Thanks for taking the time to answer some questions. You recently posted a reflection on the end of the summer festival season. I get the impression that your summer tour was a great success. I was able to watch the performance of “Scorched Timeless” from Kablys, and your concert Live at LXX. Absolutely mesmerizing. Those videos really made me wish I could have seen Sisyphean live. What are some of your favorite memories from the tour?

Sisyphean: Greetings to you, Joel, and all Metal Wanderlust readers! Glad to be featured in your pages.

Well, yeah, recent live activities were just great. During the last year, we had seven rather big gigs and festival performances. This number is not something special if compared to more established international bands, but for a rather underground Baltic band, we’re pretty satisfied with the activity. (The) majority of these gigs were organized on a really high technical level, which benefited the spirit of these performances. Crowds were raging, and we also got plenty of good video material. This also helped us to refine various subtle details of the performance as well as solidify the chemistry between the band members. It can be safely said that after gaining this live experience (yeah, we kinda lost the skill during the pandemic), we’re in the strongest shape.

As for memories, the gig, which we did in support of Ukraine in April, was the most spectacular moment during this period. We were partly responsible for the organization and gathered four most interesting local black metal bands under a single banner. The local audience also mobilized for this noble cause and made the gig a totally killer experience. Other than that, we had a great time while playing along some favorites such as Horna, Dead Congregation, Conjurer, Vltimas, Hagzissa, etc, meeting new people, and sharing new perspectives about music and various aspects of life and the world in general.

We do have various gig plans with the devil in the making, but this will be made known in time.

Vuk: I was listening to an album by an avant-garde black metal band called Alkuharmonian Kantaja today, and I was reminded of Sisyphean, particularly due to some of the vocals. It is similar to Mare Gognitum, or Vukari, perhaps. I have read comparisons of your music to Deathspell Omega and Blut Aus Nord, and there is also a much heavier side that seems almost contrary to the avant-garde. What are some of the influences that have helped create Sisyphean’s sound?


Sisyphean: Appreciate the kind words and comparisons. Blut Aus Nord and Deathspell Omega definitely (are) something we love to spin, but it would be difficult to name any specific influences. Each of us is inspired by a lot of different bands and even genres for one or other thing. It’s more of a momentum of what we feel at the given moment. We are a cooperative collective where everyone brings their own ideas and dilutes them to form a unified sculpture of sound that satisfies us all in the end.

We never had a moment like “let’s use this motif from DsO,” or “we should have more Watain riffs.” This would completely destroy the purpose, which is to be adventurous, to find interesting musical patterns, and to surprise ourselves in the end. The initial spark (riff, lyric, progression) always gets diluted by a few iterations, interactions, and input from different band members. The result is something that we’d like to call something our own. But obviously, we are inspired by a whole lot of contemporary metal and non-metal bands, as well as the classics.

Vuk: Expanding on that, what do you think about “dissonant” as a label? As in “dissonant black metal.” What do you think of labels in general? It often seems like labels are a necessary evil because, as artists push the boundaries further and further, the terms currently in use for compliment or critique just aren’t big enough. 


Sisyphean: We’re not too fond of putting our music into such descriptive, but yet not always accurate labels. Dissonance is one weapon of choice in the whole arsenal, but that’s what it is – an element. It’s kind of weird that people invent a whole new genre around a musical property. Does that also imply that the other bands play “consonant black metal” exclusively or what? It would be quite interesting to hear “microtonal black metal” too (edit: apparently, such a thing exists).

At the same time, it’s understandable. For example, one can get quite picky about what kind of music one wants to listen to at a given time. So for a listener, labels can help to find the drug of need faster among a sea of recordings. And this works with a lot of bands who tend to mostly stay loyal to their book. Not that there’s something wrong with this, as there are a lot of original bands with their own sound which like to repeat the same book and still slay, but I would consider us an ever-changing entity. If you compare our two albums, they are very different with a lot of new elements, which deform the big picture in a totally new way. 

Vuk: The atmosphere on Colours of Faith is hypnotizing at times. Parts of the Bandcamp description read “Everything seems in place and is there for a reason,” and each song works “as if carrying on from where the last one ended and doing something more with it.” I found this description fascinating before I listened to the album, and I found it accurate afterward. What can you tell us about the production of this record?


Sisyphean: Thank you for these words – really appreciated. Although each song stands out as its own entity, together we wanted the album to feel like one living inter-connected organism. Or a story, if you will. From start to end, each piece connects itself to make the whole. 

We recorded the album during the summer between the first and the second lockdown. Before that, we had plenty of time to bounce ideas between ourselves, work on details, and evolve the music as we pleased. I think this is what really helped to bring this “everything is there for a reason” vibe into the whole creation.

Probably the strongest aspect of the production was that we had a competent team working with us. We recorded Colours of Faith locally in Vicarious Recordings, which is run by a meticulous engineer. The album was mixed by Haldor Grundberg (Satanic Audio), who has previously worked with Behemoth, Blaze of Perdition, Thaw, and more. Haldor was one of the easiest and most efficient people to work with and his craft provided a desired level of depth to the sound. Dan Lowndes (Resonance Sound, Cruciamentum) was responsible for the mastering and did a great job in shaping the final artifact.

We are satisfied with the final result and think that the sound is able to translate the message, which is the most important thing. The only thing we would have done differently is participating physically in the mixing process, but this was not possible because of the lockdown. Doing things with people in an actual collaboration (not online) does bring out the magic.

Vuk: I would love to hear more about some of the lyrical concepts.

There are some fantastic lines like “Will you call light what we men call the worst of darkness?,” and “Lost again, as I inhale – The intoxicating purity of mind – Catastrophe exalted” (from “Exiles,” and “Open Wounds,” respectively). These can stand alone as philosophical and existential questions, or inspire very specific and detailed art. What goes into the creation of your lyrics?

Sisyphean: The lyrical concepts of the band were never based on some theme, nor did we have any particular topic as a priority. They are like a diary written on our flesh. We are inspired by everything around us and write poetry as a memoir. Anything from life experiences, observations of our surroundings, people, and thoughts on events around our globe.

“Exiles” is a somewhat ode to individualism in modern times where we live in an endless stream of information, where being part of a group is aspirational. The paradox is that the current spirit-of-the-age implies individualism, but this can be quickly dismissed if you look into societal behaviors from the bird’s eye. “Exiles” mirrors this sentiment in the metaphor of Lucifer’s fall (e.g. Paradise Lost by John Milton and Red Book by Carl Jung).

“Open Wounds” is the most personal song on the album and is based on a mix of tragedies of various close people from our lives. It’s in a sense a eulogy to the drug addicted and the shadow of tempting fate. The damaged ones are reopening their wounds in search of escape. It’s about the trials and tribulations that these people face, and the risks of each encounter becoming an enlightenment, but also an end.

You could say this is a black metal song in a similar vein to the Alice in Chains song ”Would?”

Joel: Three songs, in particular, seem to tell a spectacularly epic story that takes place both in and out of our reality. “Scorched Timeless,” “Sovereigns of Livid Hope,” and “Conqueror.” They cover so much ground that it’s difficult to know where to begin or how to phrase a question simply. I shall do my best! 

Scorched Timeless 

It opens with the Latin “Inter faeces et urinam nascimur,” which is loosely translated as “We were born between shit and piss.” That’s another one-liner, for sure. And the way you deliver the next line, “Whose creative thought is to be accused – for this surrounding firmament,” is so full of rage. What else can you tell us about this song?


Sisyphean: With this song, we aim to explore the silent forces that drive a lot of stuff around us. These forces can be what is called an “egregore,” and relate to the collective memory. This can be more mundane things such as war, deception, power games, etc. Well, we have to admit that the nature of a western person teaches us that we are born into a constrained world with a whole lot of natural laws. The pressures that shape them are rarely challenged or even questioned. The song considers these factors, and the line that you quoted poses an existential dilemma.

Sovereigns of Livid Hope 

“Fading faith and doubts into something yet untamed

Between the idol and the plague

We’ll take anything to fill in hearts

Between the shadow and our bones”

Sisyphean: To unpack these lines, we would need to give some context about what this song is about. The track speaks about our coming into this world whatever the state of matters is at the given time and us being the sovereigns to inherit the reality gifted to us by our forefathers. So does this rule work for us, as the ones who will sow the building blocks that future generations will reap? 

So from one side, you could think that we should be more considerate towards others, our community, society, or environment. From the other side, these specific verses talk about the reality that being human is often about living the moment and not considering the future. In the words of Louis XV “Après moi, le déluge” (‘After me, the flood’).

Conqueror

“We. The children of the sun

Shower in the flames of kenosis

Devoured by those flames, as a cross

We drowned in the waters of salvation

Above, below, here and beyond

While God slept through every holocaust”


Sisyphean: Same here, some context is needed. “Conqueror” loosely delves into authority-based religions like Abrahamic (Islam, Judaism, Christianity), Confucianism, etc. Authority in these organized religions being the “opium for the broken people”. A sigh of the oppressed and the soul of the soulless conditions. The oppressive force against progress and the force of domination to rule over all.

These lines specifically talk about the blind zealous devotion in the sight of anything before them. An ignorant approach to anything that the world would throw towards you instead of searching and achieving your own self-made salvation.

Vuk: And just a few short questions for you here, if you don’t mind. We’ve covered a lot of intense topics. I can see people responding in pretty enthusiastic ways. What is your relationship with Sisyphean fans like? 

Sisyphean: It’s kinda hard to reason about “fans” in the digital age where everyone gets an enormous amount of music to digest, information to swallow, and social media posts to scroll by. Do people still have an attention span that is long enough to make a personal connection to a band? Research lyrics and interviews? Or (is it) just a passing activity in the endless stream of bits and bytes?

Whatever the answers to these questions are (surely, there are people who want to embrace meaningful creations), we’re feeling grateful for every person who resonates with our art. Everyone who reads and contemplates our lyrics reads interviews, headbangs during the live performances, or otherwise feels the currents that we channel deserve respect for our camp – we salute you all.

Vuk: Who are some of your favorite artists in the Lithuanian metal scene?

Sisyphean: One of the best Lithuanian bands was Nyksta. Modern unique black metal exhaling atmospheres of urban decay. It’s a huge shame only one album came out from this promising bunch. 

But we have quite a strong scene and we’d recommend checking out Luctus, Au-Dessus, Extravaganza (black metal), Erdve, Aortes (leaning towards post-hardcore, but heavy as fuck), Phrenetix (thrash), and Juodvarnis (quite proggy stuff with Lithuanian lyrics).

Vuk: Can you recommend one album that helps you get through the unequivocal madness of life? 

Sisyphean: Impossible to pick one, so here are five.

Kamil:

Dainius

Vuk: Thank you so much for taking some time for us today. What is next for Sisyphean? 

Sisyphean: Thank you, Joel, for having us. It was a pleasure to answer well-researched and thought-out questions.

We are currently working on a conceptual music video for “Scorched Timeless,” and also recording a totally new single. These two pieces will see the light this year.

Apart from those planned activities, we’re spending a lot of time creating new music, discussing new concepts, and coming up with some creative ideas. We have a number of drafts ready for the upcoming album, so now it’s time to shape them accordingly. As a bonus, it’s autumn here, so the days are getting shorter, and the climate is getting more wet and gloomy. All of this infuses a really productive mood. 

And, as usual, we’re trying to get more live shows. Playing live is probably the most rewarding activity for us. Hopefully, more people can witness the storm of SISYPHEAN soon!

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