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From 2004 to 2014, Spain's Orthodox were a trio, sometimes Doom and sometimes not; for the last few years they've been a duo, mostly returning to Doom territory. Comrade Aleks goes in search of their history...

Interview with Orthodox.
"Dressed in the robes of the Sevillian brotherhood's penitents, this Andalusian trio took their first steps on the Doom scene in 2004. Their names were Marco Serrato Gallardo (bass, vocals), Ricardo Jimenez Gomez (guitars) and Borja Díaz Vera (drums). The trio's first effort was the full-length 'Gran Poder', an authentic Doom work comprising three songs and one instrumental. Orthodox started to elaborate their own twisted sound with a lot of allusions to classic bands, yet also with an atmosphere of unique local influences and mysticism. After eleven years of existence, Orthodox became a duo, during which time they left and returned to the path of Doom. In between, they tried a lot of everything: Drone, Avant-garde, Jazz elements and freaky improvisations. Where are they now...? I asked Marco Serrato to conduct a brief tour of Orthodox's history."

Orthodox: Borja (Drums) and Marco (Bass, Vocals). Photo: Beatriz Carmona.

Marco, Orthodox's albums are so different that some may think these are different bands who played on the debut 'Gran Poder' and on your current full-length 'Supreme', so let's try to look at it in a retrospective way. The band's feature was these penitents' robes you wore on stage. When did you refuse from that?

We never refused it completely. Just decided to use them when all the technical aspect of the show were really under control and all the music we would play really fit the whole concept. We stopped using them at our regular shows around 2008. But we used them at every show we had with Israel Galván (a flamenco dancer) between 2007 and 2012. We also used them at our gig at Primavera Sound at 2012. Don´t know if we´ll do it again sometime in the future.

Photo: Beatriz Carmona.

How do you see Orthodox's debut 'Gran Poder' nowadays? What do you remember about this period of the band's life?

Having an album was a dream come true for the three of us. It is a dark metal juggernaut. It was our statement and we're still proud of it. It was the beginning of everything, no one knew us in 2005 and due to this album, in 2007 we were playing Hellfest, Roadburn and having a contract with Southern Lord.

Orthodox - 'Geryon's Throne' (Official live 2012):

You recorded the second one, 'Amanecer en Puerta Oscura', really quickly: it was released in 2007 and already had some differences from the previous work. How did it happen?

This album was very important for us. We tried so many different things on it and I think most of them worked well. Part of our metal audience got confused but it's still the favourite of many others.

After participating in the four-way split 'Four Burials' you returned in 2009 with 'Sentencia'. Finally, you set out on this avant-garde experimental road - was it a difficult step?

This was a risky move. Artistically, it was a courageous album. Commercially it was our suicide, 'cause we definitely lost our metal audience. We've always thought only in our musical interests, but that has a price. We set some good ideas on it, but maybe not everything works like it should. I know is the favourite of our weirdest audience.

The 'Matse Avatar' EP preceded the fourth album 'Baal': why did you turn back to a more doomy sound?

After Sentencia's complication we felt we wanted to go back to basics, relax a little bit, play riffs and write some stuff we could easily play live. This way we definitely placed a slab over ourselves. The metal audience had forgotten us, and the weirdos who liked "Sentencia" didn´t get that "back to metal" thing… we got some nice reviews anyway and we still play some of that songs live. But, for the first time, we weren´t happy with the sound and artistically we missed some of the fire of the three first albums.

Photo: Sergio Martin.

By the way, why did you name the album with this title?

We just thought it would be interesting to bring some of the phoenician heritage of our mediterranean culture into the lyrics and the concept. So "Baal" was an easy choice to make it clear. Also, my son was born between "Sentencia" and "Baal" and his name is Aníbal, which means something like "grace of Baal", so I can say I was "under the influence"…

Marco, can you also sum up the lyrical message of Orthodox?

I don´t see a big change from one album to another. In fact, I wouldn´t say there's a message in the lyrics. It´s all in the music. We just like to create images you can tie to the music so everyone can make its own picture… of course we´ve talked about some themes like religion, symbols, myths, etc… but when we say that "the message is in the music" we're really serious about it. Even the name of the band is about our concept of real heavy metal music. When you see bands saying they sound like Black Sabbath or Celtic Frost they usually just copy the easy parts, the obvious. But most of the time, the creativity, the imagination and the risk are gone along the way. They just copy the carcass of those bands, but they forget the true meaning: create without rules, try all kind of different things, even if you fail making it. To stay comfortable within the margins of a genre repeating the old tricks time after time it´s a mainstream concept of music. The real orthodoxy in metal music comes from breaking rules instead of bowing down your knees to a bunch of stupid rules.

Photo: Beatriz Carmona.

After 'Baal' you recorded few smaller releases with really challenging experimental sound, what do you usually express through this complex and sometimes unfriendly music? How do you see your own intentions in this practice?

We just listen to a lot of different stuff, and sometimes we just try another ways to expand our sound. "Unfriendly music" as you said, it´s a nice concept. Music that makes you feel uncomfortable. We're not here to take care of anyone but to shake heads.

'Axis' is the first full-length you recorded with Borja as a duo. Did it differ much from the way you worked as trio with Ricardo?

This was a very important album for us. Between "Baal" and "Axis" the three of us get involved in different projects but things didn´t seem to work when we got together… so losing Ricardo was a painful sacrifice, but I think we putted out a great album with this one. I see something from each of our previous albums on it, but with a new vibe. There's some doomy stuff, some experiments and some straight stuff. We played a lot with this album and toured a bit with Dead Neanderthals and High on Fire, so we felt like having a great time again. Some people re-conected with Orthodox thanks to this album.

Orthodox - 'Medea':

How did your situation with gigs change from album to album? You played really different sets through the years, so I bet that it's hard to organize gigs with the same bands and in the same venues all the time.

Most of the time we play "low cost" gigs, so we just go for an easy set in terms of logistics. But if things get better we hire some other musicians and try to play some of our more complex stuff. These are the best shows because we can play all our different stuff and show how one leads to another and make a complex show with different episodes.

Your latest full-length is 'Supreme', one solid 36 minutes long song…

I can't help myself seeing "Supreme" as the end of the journey. At some point it's a comeback to the heaviness of "Gran Poder" and at the same time it's a more effective statement than "Sentencia" as a "metal margin breaker" artifact. All the different sides of Orthodox you can hear on "Axis" from one song to another are here distilled in one single idea. The essence of the band is perfectly reflected here… So, what's next?

Photo: Miguel Angel Garvi.

Yes, what's next? You also released the split with Grajo and EP Kreas in 2017. Does it mean that you and Borja will follow this way further?

We couldn´t answer that question now. To be honest I have no clue about our next step. But that´s what keeps Orthodox alive: "where do we go from here?... we can go anywhere". All the time.

What did the fact of being in Orthodox teach you? How has it affected your life?

Artistically it´s been a gift for me. For my personal life, it´s been a ruin. Not the right choice if you want to have a family and bring money home.

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Visit the Orthodox bandpage.

Interviewed on 2017-08-27 by Comrade Aleks Evdokimov.
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