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Canada's Norilsk are just about to launch their third release, the sophomore full-length 'Le Passage Des Glaciers'. Comrade Aleks wanted to find out how that continues the cold journey begun with 'The Idea Of North'.

Interview with Norilsk.
"There are a few bands in the world that use a Russian city as their name: Finnish Doom crew KYPCK, American outfit Minsk, Canadian sludgers Astrakhan, and not forgetting Leningrad Cowboys and Radio Moscow. All of them have reasons to wear such names, and Norilsk is no exception. The band, whose goal is to create a deadly cold atmosphere of desolation and everlasting frosts, chose this industrial city placed in the desolate north of Siberia, and known for its hostile environment. Canadians Norilsk are known for their debut release, 'The Idea Of North': they gained a reputation for this embodiment of cruel, picturesque Death/Doom and French lyrics. Nicolas Miquelon (all instruments, vocals) and Nick Richer (drums, backing vocals) have continued their story - with the help of some guest musicians - on the second LP 'Le Passage Des Glaciers', released by Hypnotic Dirge. I'd like to invite you into the cold embrace of Northern Death/Doom, to learn more about it from Nicolas himself."

Norilsk: Nic Miquelon and Nick Richer.

Salute Nicolas! How are you? What's going on in Norilsk now that you have new album 'Le Passage Des Glaciers' at hand?

Hi Alexey. I am doing well. Things have been busy lately in Norilsk with the recording and promotion of our new album. This also means a new music video, new merchandise, and a new website. Plans in the short term are to do a release show here in Ottawa, on December 8th, and keep promoting the album until Winter releases us from its grasp and we are able to play out-of-town shows in 2018.

Will Norilsk play there alone, or do you already have a good company to share the stage with you?

The show is organized by Chord Productions, who are one of the best promoters in town. We will share the stage with Replacire (from Boston USA, Season of Mists), Mangler (the one from Canada, not Russia), Pronostic (from Montreal), and Messora. It will be an eclectic bill, but very fun. Plus, the venue is House of Targ, a local favourite known for their arcade machines and pierogie menu.

I've given a few spins to the album and at first glance the new songs spread the same feeling of biting cold as the debut album did; is the general idea of 'Le Passage Des Glaciers' the same?

On the surface, I think it keeps a similar vibe as our first album The Idea of North, but with a bit more 'melodic' moments. This new album was written with more focus overall, with more direction on the composition level, and more time for the arrangements. Like the previous album, it uses the barren nordic landscape as a backbone, but the songs are set like a voyage through the North - which becomes a metaphor for death, and gives us a backdrop to speak about mourning and departure.

Discography: 'Japetus' (EP, 2014), 'The Idea Of North' (2015) and 'Le Passage Des Glaciers' (2017).

Ha-ha, okay, I have a question of almost metaphysical character: what do you do when you want to spread this "Nordic" feeling upon your listeners? What are your methods to reach this "frosty sound"?

I eat Mr. Freeze popsicles. Haha.

I think it's a balance between sound and arrangements. I find many black metal bands have perfected this cold winter storm feeling by using layers of thin guitar sound, a bit of reverb on guitars, and shrieks. I think funeral doom and doom death bands in general can achieve similar results with walls of guitars, keyboard atmospheres or discrete effects layers, and a few 'floating' notes. In our case, we use a bit of both approaches and we keep it simple: for example, we rely on the black metal reverb on the lead guitars, instead of using keyboard; and we also use minimal vocals (lyrics) compared to many bands, as less makes you feel more alone.

What kind of goals, music-wise, did you set for yourselves when you started the recording sessions for the new album?

For Nick (Richer), he wanted to diversify and level up his playing on this album, which included doing more double bass drums. I think he did an excellent job here, and he absolutely brought more heaviness to the whole. As for me, my objective was to write more memorable riffs. At the end of the day, it's always about trying to be relevant, and write something compelling.

Does that mean that the more straightforward and maybe even harsher approach of 'The Idea Of North' wasn't intentional?

This approach you describe was definitely intentional on the first album, as we wanted something organic with a few imperfections. It made a lot of sense for us to do it this way at the time, especially since we were defining the Norilsk aesthetic, and the recording session for The Idea of North was the first time we could sit back and reflect on how we sounded. However, as musicians we are subject to auto-criticism, and consequently we wanted to do things differently from a composition and execution level this time around.

Norilsk - 'Ghosts Of Loss (Passage Pt. 1)':

'Le Passage Des Glaciers' is Norilsk's second full-length, but you aren't newbies to the metal scene. However, I'd like to ask you to name some crucial bands which affect the Norilsk sound this time. Who helped teach you how to spread such killing frost?

We listen to a ton of bands, old and new, commercial and underground, which contribute to broadening our horizons. On this album, we sometimes turned the clock backwards and took a few detours to pick up influences from Paradise Lost and Katatonia's first few albums, a bit of October Tide, Morgion, some dark wave rock bands of the late 1980's, and elements of later black/pagan metal bands.

Norilsk produces some antihuman, adversarial vibes, so what are your influences nowadays besides other bands? I can't say that the album leaves a "misanthropic" impression, but it's something very close to that…

I wouldn't go as far as calling it misanthropic since the music is not meant to carry hate. However I see your point when you call it "antihuman". For us, it may be more like an impression of tragedy, or absence. More like a castaway's perspective when he realizes he has more things in common with the dead than with the living…

Stories and history have been constant inspiration. The discovery of Franklin's shipwrecks Erebus and Terror in the Arctic are examples of that bitter loneliness; another example would be the missing and murdered indigenous women, a topic which I try to familiarize myself with; the passing of friends and family members in the last two years also had something to do with the atmosphere of our music.

You recorded the album with a few guest musicians: can you introduce them? What made you start this collaboration?

Pim Blankenstein (Officium Triste, The 11th Hour, Extreme Cold Winter, Clouds) did guest vocals on "Ghosts of Loss." I have been a fan of OT for a number of years, and I got to meet them on a few occasions. Aside from the fact that "Ghosts" is one of only two songs in English on this album, I also had dual vocals like Pim's in mind when I wrote it. His vocals got remarkably lower and more guttural over the years, and the spoken words are to me something of a reference to these melodic doom-death bands that shaped the scene starting in the 90's. We were very honored when he accepted the invitation.

Martin "Mort" Marion plays a guitar solo on "Noirceur intérieure" (Darkness Within). Nick Richer has been a close friend to Martin since they were teenagers, having played together in another band called Outrage (now Outrage AD) since 1992. Martin had also played a guitar solo on the song "Planète Heurt" on our first album, which means we had many good reasons to believe that he could pull an epic doom guitar solo.

The songs' lyrics are written in French again, while we're used to English, and they're difficult to decipher at least for me... So what are main topics of your songs?

Mourning and departure are the main topics on this album. "Ghosts of Loss" and "L'érosion" (The Erosion) are parts I and II of a central story, called Le passage des glaciers (The Passage of Glaciers), where the protagonist is left behind to survive the disappearance or loss of a beloved one. Other songs explore various points in time and various perspectives, for example a bad omen on "La voie des morts" (The Way of the Dead), the futile attempt to escape before death on "Le puits de l'oubli" (The Well of Oblivion), or a search for the dead on "Noirceur intérieure" (Darkness Within).

For anyone interested into our lyrics, Hypnotic Dirge Records has kindly agreed to include all English translations in the booklet of the CD.

Norilsk - 'Namolennye':

There's also a song with the Russian title 'Namolennye'; I'd like to ask you to tell a bit more about this track.

I learned about this concept when reading about icon painting, which involves praying to an icon is different than praying before an icon. This, and the whole notion of an iconostasis representing a division between the celestial and the earthly worlds, made the perfect metaphor to talk about estrangement and the passage to another state; in other words, the harsh reality vs what you wish is on the other side, and how you relate to it. We also used a quote from Pushkin at the end of the song, about dying where you feel you belong.

Where do you feel you belong? I know that you've travelled a lot in different countries, but where does your heart lie in the end?

"My country is not a country, it's winter" as songwriter Gilles Vigneault once said. Beyond this affinity with Nordic countries, my heart remains first and foremost with the people that I love.

Nicolas, you've mentioned Pushkin and there's also a quote from British-Canadian poet Robert W. Service in the short composition "Midnight Sun". Is it that poetry's one of your hobbies or is it something bigger – like architecture or your dedication to doom metal?

Good observation. I do not read poetry like I do with architecture or the arts. In fact, I came across these two poems and authors unexpectedly, and they both left a mark on me. I thought they would serve as reference markers on this album and add meaningful artistic layers to the whole.

So... did you ever get feedback from Norilsk city itself?

Not from the city officials, however we were positively surprised that a few metalheads originating from Norilsk contacted us or got interested into our music.

Do you feel Norilsk is a part of the Death/Doom scene, or so you see yourselves as rather an isolated band?

We certainly feel kinship with the death doom scene. However, because of our geographic location (there aren't many death doom bands around here), and because our music is very hybrid, we also feel isolated. Interesting enough, I think there are equal amounts of death doom, black metal, and sludge fans liking our music.

The live Norilsk line-up: Thomas Hanson (guitars) and Chris Humeniuk (guitars) with Nick and Nic.

How far did you tour with the band? You mentioned October Tide and early Katatonia as your inspiration (well, your song 'Noirceur intérieure' shows that clearly), so I believe that Norilsk would be in demand in Europe. I remember that Canadians Longing For Dawn even played at Moscow Doom Festival during their big tour with Mournful Congregation about eight years ago…

I do remember this, and it must have been amazing. Norilsk toured westward with the previous album, and we played as far as Edmonton (equivalent distance from Spain to Moscow). We did talk a few times about playing Europe, and I hope we will have the opportunity in the near future, as we do have many fans there. The crux of the matter will be to find either a band to tour with, or a good tour manager, and/or a festival or two to anchor the tour around.

Nicolas, I'd like to thank you for the interview. It's good to know that Norilsk is here again. How would you like to conclude our interview? And when do you plan to return with new material?

Thank you Aleksey (and Doom-Metal.com) for your renewed interest in our music. I would like to give extra kudos to Hypnotic Dirge Records for going the extra mile and helping us with this album release. I do not want to spill all the beans, but you can expect more music from us in 2018, which means there will be no shortage of opportunities to keep you interested, to promote our music, play the new songs live, and have a few surprises for the fans.

Click HERE to discuss this interview on the doom-metal forum.

Visit the Norilsk bandpage.

Interviewed on 2017-11-10 by Comrade Aleks Evdokimov.
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