Album of the Month

The debut full-length from Greek band Automaton is weighty, sludgy, coffin-lid-slamming Doom perfection.
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Welcome back to Vin de Mia Trix: they haven't been idle while working on inspired sophomore full-length 'Palimpsests', so we thought we'd catch up on what's been happening over the past few years.

Interview with Vin de Mia Trix .
"With their latest release, the double CD 'Palimpsests', earning a justified place as our Album of the Month for its ambitious breadth - and fascinating depth - of vision, it seemed an excellent moment to renew our acquaintance with Vin de Mia Trix and find out a bit more about what's been happening since 2013's debut 'Once Hidden from Sight'. As with our previous full-length interview, the whole band were happy to join in, so welcome to Andrey Tkachenko (vocals), Serhii Pokhvala (guitars, samples), Alex Vynogradoff (bass, vocals, guitars, piano) and Igor Babaiev (drums)."

Vin de Mia Trix, in live rehearsal, 2014: Igor, Alex, Andrey and Serhii.

(1) Hello guys, nice to have you back on Doom-metal.com. It's not actually that long since we last spoke in interview, but let's start with a bit of an introduction to our readers: who you are and where you're from?

Andrey: Greetings Mike, it is good to be back! Thanks for having us once again. We are Vin de Mia Trix from Kyiv, Ukraine, and we’ve been playing Doom for the past ten years.

(2) I don't want to go over much ground that Dominik already explored in this 2013 interview, but I would find it interesting to revisit his questions about what style of music you play. Would you still give the same answers, or has it further evolved as a style and/or process since then?

Andrey: I don’t think much has changed in how we see our music. We play Doom Metal based on Death/Doom roots. There’s plenty of other genres we’ve thrown into the mix, but I’m certain that Doom still defines who we are.


(3) Before Vin de Mia Trix, what sort of musical backgrounds did you all have? Any kind of formal training, or critical inspiration to teach yourselves? And which band(s) made you decide you wanted to play Doom?

Andrey: I attended a music school in my pre-teens, learning to play piano, but at the time it felt more like a chore and I happily forgot all about it the instance I got my graduation certificate. Interest in Rock and Metal only came a few years later. However, the curriculum included a lot of choir classes, and the teachers were really good - I suppose I did learn to sing there.

My Dying Bride was the first Doom band I’ve heard, and I instantly loved it. These guys stayed in my playlist for years, I did my first attempts at growling vocals shouting along to ‘Your River’ and ‘The Prize of Beauty’, and then Mourning Beloveth further solidified my desire to play specifically that kind of Metal.

By the time I joined VdMT I’ve been singing at home for years but didn’t have any real experience beyond a few rehearsals with a local Sympho/Gothic Metal band - worth mentioning because in that band I met Igor, our drummer.

Serhii: I started playing guitar when I was 13. I didn’t have formal training - just taught myself and exchanged advice with some friends. My uncle, a professional musician, gave me a few lessons in music theory, and when I turned 15 he let me use his old Soviet-made ‘Formanta’ electric guitar. That was a real breakthrough - I started dreaming about forming my own band, wrote over a hundred songs that will probably never see the light of day.

I did not play in any bands before VdMT, but there was a few ‘bedroom’ projects with my friend Tim Six who became VdMT’s first vocalist and idea generator before leaving in 2008. Now he’s a successful Ambient/Ritual/Drone artist and label owner, and we asked him to record some ambient pieces you can hear on Palimpsests. One of those first projects was named Eridan and songs written for it became the basis for Vin de Mia Trix’s first album.

I got interested in Doom during my first year at the university, starting with My Dying Bride. Then I heard Saturnus and realized that Doom is my favorite style of Metal. I’ve heard countless bands since then, but I’d like to point out Esoteric, Evoken, Ahab and Anathema. These are the artists that inspire me to this day.

Alex: As a child, I attended a boys’ choir and had private piano lessons. Later on I took classical guitar lessons for two years. That’s about all my formal musical training, the rest being listening to a lot of stuff and playing in bands.

I got into doom metal via Katatonia’s Discouraged Ones, which, technically speaking, is not doom metal, of course. But then a friend of mine told me, “Katatonia is good, but if you want to hear some really crushing stuff, check out My Dying Bride. It’s like a tank running over you.” And he brought me The Angel and the Dark River and Like Gods of the Sun. That was my true initiation into the genre. But I think ultimately three bands made a real difference to me: Skepticism, Evoken, and Mournful Congregation.

Igor: I also attended a music school and took piano lessons when I was a kid; a few years later, after graduating from high school, some friends invited me to join their amateurish attempts to cover some Sympho Black Metal songs. I wasn't even into metal yet at that point. I did not have a proper synth, so at our first rehearsals I played Dimmu Borgir songs on a small 2-octave toy keyboard - that must have looked incredible! After buying a synthesizer and rehearsing with a full band I got fascinated with drums and decided to switch the instrument. I took lessons from various drummers and went through a sequence of bands, including that Sympho Metal project Andrew has mentioned. But the band split up soon, so we drifted apart and never met for several years, until I accidentally went to a local Death/Doom show that he also attended. VdMT was just looking for a drummer at that moment, so... you can guess what happened.

As for my musical tastes, I listen to everything - from pop rock to techno and electronics to black metal. My favorite Doom bands at the moment are Clouds and Evoken.


(4) Back then you told Dominik: "Today all the songs for the second album are almost ready", and from the description, that must be the material for the just-released 'Palimpsests'. You did also say it wouldn't be seen earlier than 2015. So, when did you actually start writing it, and when were the various stages finished?

Andrey: That’s right, by the time the debut album came out we were already actively playing and rehearsing songs from ‘Palimpsests’.

Alex: Pharmakos was actually the first properly metal song I've ever written, and it must have been sometime in 2009.

Andrey: The rest of material was written between 2010 and 2012. By early 2012 we were already playing Pharmakos and Fuimus live, and started rehearsing Matarisvan, when our previous drummer left. It meant we couldn’t really do live shows, so we took the opportunity to flesh out the remaining two songs. Then Igor joined and helped us develop and adapt them to live setting. We even recorded a demo version of ‘Matarisvan’ but somehow it ended up on the shelf. We first entered the studio in the Autumn of 2014 to record extreme vocals, followed by guitars, clean vocals and drums a year later. There have been all kinds of delays, as usual, so we were finally ready to submit the recorded tracks for mixing and mastering only in October 2016.

(5) We'll go into more depth with that shortly, but before that, you also said you had plans to do a split release first. That came out last year on Throats Productions, with Texan band Nethermost as the other half of the album. Andrey told me that had been planned and agreed by both bands - what's the full story behind that?

Andrey: I’m afraid there isn’t much more to the story. We were labelmates: Nethermost released their debut EP ‘Alpha’ through Hypnotic Dirge Records a few months before our first full-length came out. The band reached out to us and offered to do a split with them, to which we agreed as we knew the next album will take long to finish and we could release something to fill the gap. So, both bands got to it; and after a couple of delays related to finding the right label for the initiative, we released it in Spring 2016 through Throats Productions. That’s about it.

(6) It was, on paper, quite an odd combination, but I felt that it worked out much better than could have anticipated. Were you all pleased with the results? And would you consider doing other splits in future?

Andrey: Yes, Nethermost were not the most obvious choice for a collaboration, although I must say I can find some similarity between what they played at the time and our earlier days, when for a time we were leaning toward early Katatonia-esque Dark Metal. But it was them who made the offer and we saw no reason to refuse - their material was strong in its own right, and it’s not like they were coming from a completely opposite genre. Besides, they put a lot of effort in the release, introducing us to their sound engineer Marco Santiny who made sure both sides of the split sounded awesome.

In the end, I’m quite happy how everything turned out. As for the future plans, it’s too early to tell. Whatever new material we are writing at this time is likely to go towards the next full-length album, but if we feel there is something that should be released separately, a split is always an option. It would also be interesting to do a different type of collaboration, where both artists work together on the tracks rather than simply submitting their own songs - but these things are infinitely harder to organize, and at the moment we do not have such a partner in mind.

Serhii: It was our first experience working with a professional sound engineer, and it was really priceless. We used that experience when we worked on Palimpsests and avoided some mistakes we’ve made before.

Early discography: 'El Sueño de la Razon Produce Monstruos' (EP, 2009), 'Once Hidden From Sight' (2013), 'Live in Kharkiv' (2015), 'Nethermost/Vin de Mia Trix' (Split, 2016).

(7) There was also the "archive live bootleg" release on Contaminated Tones in 2015. Again, on paper, a fairly unlikely venture to get live footage from a 2010 gig in Kharkiv out on a US-based tape label. How did that come about?

Andrey: I mentioned that we spent some time looking for a label to release the split. I knew about Contaminated Tones from my good friend Stanislav from Suffer Yourself: CT have released their demo album on tape, and he was pleased with how it turned out. So we reached Jon Norberg with an offer to release a split, but he said he couldn’t do a CD release at the time. However, he got very interested in our music and offered to release a demo, EP, or a bootleg on cassette. We did have some good footage from two Kharkiv shows sitting on our computers for a few years - there was an idea to release it at the time, before we dedicated our efforts to the first album, so Jon’s offer was a good way to revisit and finalize that chapter of our lives. I’m glad that we did it - this release got me into collecting cassettes in addition to CDs, and Jon did an excellent job on the packaging and layout.

(8) You've obviously done a fair bit of live work since then: how much do you all enjoy gigging/touring? And are there are any other performances you'd like to immortalise in album form?

Andrey: Playing live is one of the points of occasional debate, as we have kinda different opinions on how much shows we should do, and which offers are worthy of attention. We did play a lot of shows back in 2010-2011, although probably not as much as an average underground band would, as Doom has always been the least popular of all extreme metal subgenres. We got really exhausted by the end of the second year - the attendance was mostly not too great, and besides, we did not have any quality studio material to back up the shows and cement the fanbase. So we have decided to take it slow ever since, playing 2-3 shows a year and sticking to dedicated Doom or atmospheric Metal events like Doom Over Kiev.

There have been some really great gigs, most notably a show in Kyiv (Spring Solitude Evening II) in 2014 alongside Raventale and Endlesshade, but nothing we’d like to release so far. But I hope there’s a plenty of memorable shows ahead!

Alex: In Ukraine (like in many other places, I guess) there is this trend among the young underground bands of having as many live shows as you can get. We have dozens of those local legends that are well known within the community and remain perfect nonames abroad. In our first years, we would generally follow the same pattern, however studio recordings have always been a priority. You can play countless gigs, but in the end, people will mostly remember your records. And, for me personally, many gigs would turn out to be a daunting and not such a rewarding experience. Which is why I'm one of those snobs in the band who will think twice before agreeing to play a live show. That being said, I can recall several gigs that were a total epiphany, so I’m not that bedroom-type musician either.

Vin de Mia Trix - 'φαρμακός (pharmakos)' - Live at Spring Solitude Evening II, 2014:

(9) So, whilst you haven't been entirely quiet since the 2013 'Once Hidden From Sight' debut, I guess the big thing would be working towards the 'Palimpsests' sophomore full-length. Which, at time of writing this question, launched yesterday. How nervous were you about the way it would be received, and how excited about actually seeing it finished?

Andrey: The past few weeks have been really crazy for me, with mailing preorders and promos, and arranging all kinds of other related matters, so I had very little time to worry about the critical and fan response. For now I just feel enormous relief that it is finally done, and everything, from the production to packaging, turned out as good as we could ever hope for. There is mostly a sense of accomplishment rather than excitement - these songs have been a part of my life for so long that it’s hard to believe they’ve been actually finalized and presented to the whole wide world.

Alex: I clearly remember us having a meeting around 2013 about the upcoming album and all that had to be done to avoid the mistakes of the debut. Back then, we really felt we were up to something significant. Today, after so many hours of recording and proof-listening, I feel less ambitious about the whole thing, yet even now, I think we did our best and the journey is there. Whatever the reactions may be, we made a statement with Palimpsests, and we feel very secure about it.

'Palimpsests' (2017).

(10) It's been streaming for a little while over at Terrorizer, there have been a few reviews, and it's obviously on Bandcamp now - what sort of feedback have you had so far?

Andrey: There’s been a few reviews that I know of, most of them really flattering and positive, a few very encouraging user comments here and there, and some thumbs up from Doom-metal.com forum patrons. The reception has been so good that I’m actually bracing myself in wait of some harsh criticism that is sure to follow up soon, because there’s got to be some karmic payback, right? Seriously, though, the feedback so far has been encouraging and heartwarming - although I can’t say there’s been a lot of it.

(11) Clearly, undertaking such an enormous project must be a real labour of love, as well as one of attention to detail. What inspired you to come up with the initial concept, and to switch to such vast compositions to put it across? And was that a challenging prospect, or one which came quite naturally?

Alex: I was really into Opeth and Mournful Congregation when we were writing these songs. For me, each track was meant to become a journey, and the length was a result of that intention and a tool to achieve an epic feel. Moreover, writing long songs was - and still is - very easy for me, and it felt right at the time. Now I actually think it's much harder to write a short track to express some complex concepts and emotions, and I envy musicians capable of creating little symphonies in only 4-5 minutes. This is something I would love to master in the future. Speaking of the texts, I've always thought it important for lyrics to fit the music. Extreme metal, in my opinion, tends towards the chthonic, the archaic, the archetypal. So it only felt natural to turn to the myth and to the ancient languages on this album. I was writing a paper on Dionysian and Apollonian in Julien Gracq's Le Rivage des Syrtes back in the day of my French literature studies, and was fascinated by the multiple readings of the Dionysus myth presented in Károly Kerényi's book Dionysos: Archetypal Image of Indestructible Life. This inspired me to explore the theme further and definitely reverberated with my affection for Lux Occulta's Dionysos. This is how Pharmakos was born.

Andrey: After Alex has explained the lyrical concept behind Pharmakos to us, we decided to turn our attention to other ancient stories that somehow appear in different religions and mythologies. We wanted to get to the archetypes represented by characters of such stories, and to picture these archetypes as amalgamations of characters through which they manifest. Our Dionysus is Christ, our Matarisvan is Lucifer as well as Prometheus, our Noah gets saved from the flood in the same vessel that brings about Ragnarok. It took time and effort to compose lyrics fit for such purpose, but there has been more than enough stories, legends and other accounts to inspire us, so everything came about quite naturally.

Serhii: First notes of ‘Matarisvan’ appeared in my head when I was on my way home after a late-night rehearsal. When I got home I immediately grabbed my guitar and started playing and taking notes. My wife just couldn’t make me go to bed, asking: “Haven’t you played enough at the rehearsal?!”. Then it took me a while to write other parts of the song and piece everything together. Initially I wanted to divide this song in two parts, but we dropped that idea after a while. There is that curious Thrash/Punk part near the end - initially we were just joking around and played it for fun at the rehearsal, but then realized it sounded surprisingly good, so we decided to leave it like that. I think that ‘Matarisvan’ was the track that laid the foundation of the second album and really got us going.

When I started working on Fuimus, I had the idea to insert a long acoustic part for contrast. By the way, there is still a riff from that old Eridan project in this song. The extended Sludge/Stoner interlude in the middle was also composed at one of the rehearsals, similarly to the Thrash part in Matarisvan.


(12) We've now reviewed 'Palimpsests'. I always feel it's nice to give bands the chance to formally respond to critics: it shouldn't be the case that we can simply write anything with impunity. So, if there's anything you'd like to add or respond to (to this, or any of our previous reviews of your work) - good or bad - "on the record", then please do.

Andrey: Your reviews have this to be said about them: when you’re done, there is not much left to add. I have always been surprised how you and Dominik were always able to get to the very bottom of the material: in case of VdMT, you have not only correctly identified everything we wanted to put into our music, but, on more than one occasion, even predicted the direction we took after releasing that particular work.

Alex: I would really love to respond to criticism, if I felt we have been misunderstood. This is not the case in your reviews though. I don't want to sound flattering, because you gave us a high mark, but I must frankly say that this kind of in-depth reviewing that used to be called critique back in the day when people actually read long texts, is something I encounter very rarely in metal journalism nowadays. It is a dying art which has to be cherished and deserves the highest praise.

(13) Out of interest, you've skipped about with labels somewhat: this release returns to Hypnotic Dirge, but in partnership with Cimmerian Shade rather than Solitude. What's it been like, working with all these different parties? Does anyone offer multi-album contracts these days, or is it a case of negotiating each release the best you can?

Andrey: It’s definitely the latter! I don’t think I ever met someone who’s got a multi-album deal with a Metal label, and I feel it’s even less likely to happen in the future, given how the industry is changing. It’s not necessarily a bad thing: this way a band is able to find the most suitable outlet for each release, try out different labels and compare their approach, etc. When we have finished the first album and reached out to Hypnotic Dirge, it was Nick’s idea to make a co-release with Solitude as the two labels have already been in a good distribution partnership and wanted to take it further. It was a conscious decision to find a different label for the split, but we still thought of HDR as our primary label and first choice for the follow-up album. We knew it would have to be a collaboration again, as releasing a double-CD album is not an easy task, so we still had to find another partner. I’ve heard a lot of good things about Cimmerian Shade from Stanislav and some other friends, so we decided to turn to Dave and it seems that both labels got along quite well.


(14) As a slight aside, and with no disrespect intended to all the other contributing instruments: the band sound overall is distinct and individual, but the two elements which consistently stand out for me as uniquely definitive of it are the bass and vocals. Would you agree with that? And, Alex and Andrey, could you tell us a little about how you developed and create your particular styles?

Andrey: Thank you for pointing this out. I can agree that we’re probably paying more attention to clean vocals - specifically, choirs and duets - than most of our peers. But the credit here goes to Alex as much as to me. We tried singing together on a few songs back in 2009 and found that our voices fit really well, and besides, we didn’t know of other Ukrainian Metal bands who would employ dual clean vocals. So we decided to make it our distinctive feature.

Alex: I feel rather confused when thinking of myself as a bassist. I'm not at all the sort of a guy having a couple of slap bass tricks in my pocket, ready to impress the audience, or recording the playthroughs of entire Rush or Primus songs. I’m a very mediocre musician, but I also feel bored to follow the same pattern as the rhythm guitar all the time, which ultimately defines my 'style': be audible in the mix and make it sound interesting without sticking out too much. At some point we at VdMT decided we could do without a second guitar, and it was the time of my triumph, haha. I could be audible most of the time and would experiment with all sorts of distortion pedals to substitute the rhythm guitar. This can be heard on Palimpsests: in many sections there is no rhythm guitar at all, and the bass re-amped through a Mesa Dual Rectifier is doing all the heavy work. I don't know many bands that do it this way.

(15) I have also noticed a somewhat 'Eastern' influence becoming more prominent, both rhythmically and in some of the guitar lines, as time has passed. Where does that come from, and is it a conscious development of particular ideas?

Serhii: I can’t say it was a conscious decision. For some time I’ve been interested in music history, reading about Indian 22-note scale, Pythagorean scale, and how Europeans came to the 12-note scales. Maybe that influenced me to some extent. The most distinctively Eastern-sounding solo is in Pharmakos, but that was written by Alex.

Alex: It may stem from my adolescent love for early Therion. Or from the fact that Phrygian mode is inherently metal :) I've been thinking about it a lot, but I can't really think of any deeper bonds with the Middle Eastern culture that I personally know very little of.

Vin de Mia Trix - 'Mātariśvan' - Live at Monteray, Kiev, 2016:

(16) So, any idea what's next? Have you been working towards anything else whilst preparing 'Palimpsests'?

Serhii: We spent a great deal of time and effort to create this album, and that left very few possibilities to simultaneously work on further material. At this moment I have a fully developed track in my arsenal, and a lot of ideas and riffs that are waiting to be combined into something complete.

We are planning to modify our line-up - a decision that might also influence our songwriting in the future; but let’s keep that a mystery for now - everything will be announced soon.

I want to believe there will be a worthy follow-up to Palimpsests and that we will once again prove our reputation as an unpredictable band.

Alex: We've got some demos to work on right now. Still not sure what direction we're taking though. I think the new album will definitely be much shorter and have more prog elements to it. But time will tell.

(17) And, looking back, how satisfied are you with what you've achieved so far? Is there anything, with hindsight, that you'd like to have done differently along the way?

Andrey: The first album should have been released much earlier than 2013. We always knew that, but too many things were out of our control. I think that with Palimpsests we have finally rectified most of the errors we made the first time, and truly demonstrated what we really are when we’re at our best.

Alex: We're never fully satisfied with what we do - and I don't think we should ever be. But Palimpsests is indeed the kind of album we've always wanted to do, and I don't think it would have been the same if we had accomplished it several years earlier. Generally, I don't like to think of the past as something that could have been done differently, but I definitely think that all the mistakes we've done throughout our history have taught us quite a few things.

(18) What else occupies your time inside and outside of music? Do you still have time to play in other bands, or work on other projects? And is there anything you'd particularly like to be doing, given a free hand to indulge?

Andrey: Since 2015 I’ve been a part of the Doom Over Kiev festival team, communicating with the bands and helping out with all sorts of stuff. Last year I’ve joined an as yet unannounced Post-Black Metal band, the debut album should be coming out this Autumn. I’m also always happy to record session vocals for my friends’ bands when I get the chance - like Human Collapse a few years back or X.Kernel that came out earlier this year. Social networks and video games occupy what remains of my time, with an occasional book in between. And I also have a ‘day job’ in IT company.

Serhii: In addition to VdMT I’m also working on my guitar-based Dark Ambient project named Nightspirit. Some traces of that stuff can be heard on Palimpsests as well - each track contains some ambiance and sonic background created by heavily processed guitars. Outside of music, I’m going for a PhD in Astrophysics - my other long-time passion. I also love to travel and ride my mountain bike.

Alex: I have a post-prog rock project called a noend of mine with VdMT's drummer Igor and ex-Suffer Yourself guitarist Eugene Dmitriev. We've released our debut album The Serenity's Eve in 2016 via Pest Productions. I also play in KAUAN, a band whose style I won't even try to define. We're releasing a new album this fall and will have a small European tour in October. And my 'real job' is at a contemporary art and culture foundation called IZOLYATSIA.

Igor: As Alex already mentioned, I play in a noend of mine with him. Outside of music, I work at the insurance company and am a huge fan of art-house and experimental cinema.

Vin de Mia Trix - 'Silent World' - Live in Kharkiv, 2010:

(19) And in the longer term, do you have any particular vision for where you'd like to take the band? Any idea how would you like it to be spoken of, looking back from sometime in the future?

Andrey: A few years ago we agreed on a thought that we’d like to be one of those old bands that were re-discovered by the Internet community and risen to cult-like status in the new millennium years after breaking up, like diSEMBOWELMENT or Winter, only without the ‘disbanding and being forgotten for a decade’ part! Inspiring a scene of successors and followers also seems like a worthy achievement - I might be wrong, but that’s how I view the relationship between Asunder and younger American West Coast bands like Lycus and Ēōs, and to me that’s a strong example of setting up a great local scene.

Alex: Hard to answer this one, but I would not mind us being mentioned from time to time along with some of our favourite names in the genre.

(20) To close, I hope that between this and Dominik's previous questions we've explored Vin de Mia Trix pretty thoroughly, past, present and future - but if there is anything you'd like to add, the last words are yours.

Andrey: I think you’ve got it all covered. Thanks a lot for the interview, and thanks to everyone who’s reading this for your attention! Stay hungry for the new music; keep an open mind and give a chance to the new bands that play something unusual, but don’t hesitate to get back to your favorite things when you need them. And above all else, stay doomed!

(-) Then it only remains for me to thank you again for your time and participation, and I hope we'll be keeping in touch for many years to come!

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Visit the Vin de Mia Trix bandpage.

Interviewed on 2017-06-30 by Mike Liassides.
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