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This year's offering from Hamburg's Ophis, 'The Dismal Circle' continues their uncompromising Death/Doom journey. Comrade Aleks talks in depth with founder Philipp Kruppa about that.

Interview with Ophis.
"Ophis gained its grim reputation over 16 years of existence. The Hamburg-based outfit is known for their cruel, nihilistic and hostile Death Doom works born from the slime of modern society and human mistakes. Listening to their new album, 'The Dismal Circle', I easily understand what drives Philipp Kruppa to write such uncompromising and deadly dark material, though understanding it doesn't make the listening any easier. Philipp, together with Oliver Kröplin (bass since 2008), invited two new members - Steffen Brandes (drums) and Simon Schorneck (guitars) - about a year ago, and this line-up completed six new songs whose roots were lost in the demo sessions for preceding album 'Abhorrence In Opulence'. I'm happy to share with you this interview provided by Philipp: once more he has proved that Ophis plays music which makes the listener not only feel, but also to think."

Ophis 2017: Simon Schorneck (Guitar), Oliver Kröplin (Bass), Steffen Brandes (Drums), Philipp Kruppa (Vocals, Guitar).

Hi Philipp! So, finally after a brief three year pause, Ophis is here with new full-length album 'The Dismal Circle'. How long did you have the idea of this album in mind?

Hey Aleks. Well, we started writing on this one pretty soon after our last album, so it was about three years. When we did "Abhorrence In Opulence" we had a little more material than we needed, you know, some stuff that was pretty good but simply just unfinished and in the stage of rough ideas, so this stuff did not make it on that album. But we picked it up from there, so the ideas that could not be used for "Abhorrence" were the basics for the new album. It turned out to be a bit more straight forward, though.

Did you have a certain general theme for the new material, or is it just a logical step further (or deeper) in the realm of Ophis nightmares?

There is no general theme, although the lyrics tend to be more personal this time. On the last album, almost every song dealt with some socio-cultural aspects, and even though the lyrics were always very metaphorical, I had specific things in mind when I wrote them. This time, most of the topics are centered more about my private life and my inner feelings. They are at times also more abstract. "The Vermin Age" for example deals with society, but rather with my emotion concerning this society and not so much about what society really does or means. The only really focused socio-cultural song with a critical analysis is "Shrine of Humiliation".

It seems that Ophis have regularly released albums since 'Stream Of Misery' (2007): does that mean that you know no lack of negative inspiration in your life?

Unfortunately this is correct. The universal shit is endless.

Full-length albums: 'Stream Of Misery' (2007), 'Withered Shades' (2010), 'Abhorrence In Opulence' (2014), 'The Dismal Circle' (2017).

The new material continues the line of cruel Death Doom metal with a sick and ominous atmosphere. What were your requirements for Ophis's sound in the studio? What kind of new effects did you try on your songs?

Strictly technically speaking, our new drummer has a very different style in playing compared to our ex-drummer. That changed the sound a lot. He also tunes his drumkit very differently and has a very different work on the cymbals. He also uses deeper and darker sounding drums. That alone made a difference. We also tried a more direct approach this time. On the last album we used 3 amps at the same time for every guitar. It created a good sound, but also a little artificial and more controlled. This time, we just plugged a single old amp, turned it to full and blasted it through the microphones. It sounds more direct, in your face.

I guess that I know the answer, but what about the emotional side of Ophis? I don't know about its therapeutic effect, but do you feel yourself… I don't know… another way when you perform or listen to your own songs? How does it work?

Most of the times I do. It depends a bit on the mood and the setting. During rehearsals for gigs, we rather concentrate on technical aspects such as tightness or sound, and do not focus so much on the meaning of the songs. But when we are on stage, in the studio or during the writing sessions, then it sure does something for me.

Did you have any technical difficulties during the work on this material? Did you have moments when you didn't know how to express a thought or emotion inside Death Doom borders?

Sure, this happens. There was a point where I thought "Shrine of Humiliation" would never be finished, as we could not come up with a riff that changed the atmosphere of the song for almost a year. It all just sounded out of place. Until we finally said "fuck it! Let's just not change the atmosphere. We just do not add another riff!" And so it was done.

We also write a lot of stuff that we never use, because we think it is not strong enough. Only about one third of the material we write ever gets released. The rest goes into the toilet after a while.

Ophis - 'Carne Noir' (Official):

I guess that it would not be possible to write the whole album from the beginning in a professional studio, so where did you imprint the sonic images of 'The Dismal Circle'? How much time did you actually spend in the studio?

We only spent 10 days in the studio. Not much at all. And I do not think we would write a better album in a studio, actually we write when we feel inspiration. A studio does not inspire me. To me it is just a working-place, where we get things recorded. We need several years to write a record, so doing it in the studio is impossible for us. Our motto is: writing should not be done quickly - but recording should be. No long experiments in the studio. Get in, build the right sound, and then give your best and nail it all on tape. Bang!

The album was recorded with a new drummer and guitarist, how did you find Steffen Brandes and Simon Schorneck? Did these line-up changes influence the sound of the new record?

Sure, for example in the way I mentioned earlier. But I think on the next one, their influence will be bigger, because about half of the new record was already written when they joined. We knew both of them for some years already. Simon used to play in CRIMSON SWAN and Steffen still plays in CRYPTIC BROOD, and we played shows together with these bands several times. When we looked for new guys, we knew they would fit into the band and just asked them. Fortunately they agreed. We also tried some other drummers, but Steffen clearly was the right choice.

I remember that your previous record, 'Abhorrence In Opulence', had lyrics born from your antisocial attitude: what kind of human flaws influenced you this time?

Partly my own flaws. The song "Carne Noir" is about me, and about my failure and my faults. "Engulfed in White Noise" deals with people who suffer from dementia and autism. It is a song that tries to depict the rift between their world and ours. "Dysmelian" asks a rethorical question: if man was made as a picture of God, than how must this God look like? Surely not an old, wise, benevolent man on a cloud, right? More like a disfigured, sick, twisted and cruel abomination unable to stand up. And that God is the Dysmelian. "The Vermin Age" is just a stream-of-consciousness about the greediness of our current society and their herd-mentality. "Ephemeral" is a song about fading and the fact that nothing lasts. "Shrine of Humiliation" is one of the best lyrics I ever did, I think. It is about media shows that exploit people who humiliate themselves for attention and money. You know, these attention-seekers who just do anything to be on TV. And the audience who judge them and use such shows to make themselves feel better by assuring themselves that there is always someone more pathetic than they are.

'Engulfed In White Noise' starts with tortured screams alongside insane mocking laughter. First of all, I wonder how you recorded it, and secondly - what is it all about?

We did not record it ourselves, the screams are taken from a documentary about autism. It is a real recording of an autistic teenage boy who is having a so-called "meltdown". That's some sort of mental cramp that autists sometimes can get when there are too many stimuli for their minds. It's pretty nasty when this happens and it's quite a torture for the autists. The woman in the beginning of the song is his mother. She complains that she is punished by God with an autistic child, but when you listen to that boy scream, tell me, who is the one punished?

As mentioned before, this song deals with disorders that make the person having trouble with the interrelation of symbols and reality as well as the integral processing of stimuli. Such as autism and dementia. Even though those disorders are very different, they have this thing in common. I often meet such people at work. It can be tough sometimes, but I think these disorders need more attention by society.

What brought your attention to this topic? And how - consider this - do you see your music, or maybe extreme music in general, as it also leads to alternated states of mind?

You are right that extreme music leads to an altered state of mind, but that's something completely different than autism.

Ophis - 'Resurrectum':

You live in Hamburg, and Germany is one of the most important countries in the Old World. How comfortable actually do you feel yourself there?

Things got worrying here. The right-wing parties gained A LOT more power during recent years, many people turned fascist. It is the first time now since the Nazi-regime in 1945 that we have right-wing populists actively in the government. We have political posters on the streets again with discriminating slogans against other races. It is horrible. Economically Germany is still pretty strong, but socially things have changed very drastically in the last 5 years. Sure – in other countries it is much worse. But that does not mean at all that things are well here. Main problems at the moment: police is getting infiltrated by criminals, huge lack of educated workers, middle-class income is disappearing which means that 33% of ALL german money is owned by only 1 % of people while every fifth child lives in permanent poverty. If it stays that way for another 10 years, Germany will be a broken nation.

Taking into account the negative nature of your music, how do you measure people's recognition concerning your work?

To be honest I do not know what you mean exactly. There is no real measure for us, except record-sales maybe, but I think those do not say much about how people feel about our music. We try to speak to fans whenever we can and they sometimes tell us what the music does to them. And we check forums on the internet every now and then to get some idea what people think. But then again, we do what we do. It is music from our blood. We are very, very thankful that there are quite a few people who like our music, but if everyone hated it, we still would make the same music. I hope this answers your questions as you wanted?

Yes, it's exactly what I wanted to know… Philipp, Ophis's debut, 'Stream Of Misery', was born ten years ago - how has Ophis's individuality changed since then?

Ah dude, that's a fucking tough question, man. Haha. The band's individuality... now that is hard to explain. It sure changed because I am the only remaining band-member from "Stream of Misery". So with completely different people, the band is of course different than it was. And we had so many ups and downs in those ten years... But in a certain way, it is also still the same. We still have no real image. We still have the same musical goals as back then. We still have the same principles regarding business, musical ethos and work ethics. And we still are very disorganized sometimes, haha.

What has changed is mostly the way we work in songs and how we organize rehearsals, especially now that our drummer lives pretty far away from the rest of the band. But spirit-wise, there is more or less everything as it ever was. We are bit more relaxed about it now, that's all.

Live 2016.

How do you see the essence of Ophis now that your discography has increased with one more album?

You tell me. I think it is still what it always was. There are many ways to play Death Doom Metal, and most bands choose to play the melancholic style with beautiful keyboards, elegic melodies over chord-riffing and clean vocals thrown in. And there is nothing wrong with that. Quite contrary, we also like to listen to such stuff. But you can also keep it brutal at the same time, and that's what our essence is: a strong emphasis on brutality. We are closer to the Disembowelment than to Saturnus, even though we love them both. I think the new album is even rawer than the other ones.

How do you see the perspectives of Ophis for the near future? Can you predict where Ophis will turn next time?

I have no idea. I tried in the past to give the next album a certain direction, but I never succeeded. I just can not force myself to write more towards Death Metal for example. It just happens or not. So I have absolutely no plan about the next release. As far as shows go, we will play less shows than in the past years. At least for a while. There won't be a full tour 2018. Reasons are partly personal, partly due to health and partly due to time. We'll do some festival shows and some weekenders the coming year. What will happen after that I do not know. Ophis is a small band, we only ever plan ahead for ca. 1 year.

Live 2012.

How do you value the current state of the extreme doom scene? Has it had another rise since the '90s? Do you see its perspectives?

The Doom scene is a bit stagnant at the moment. From 2009 to 2014 there was some sort of boom, with many new bands coming up, many festivals and many tours. Also, most albums that were released were pretty good. At the moment there is not that much going on, at least nothing too exciting. Postrock is the shit of the moment, and many Doom bands tend toward this direction now. Also, tours and shows are less frequent now and have less audience.

There are still many great bands out there, and lots of cool new albums, but that certain "buzz" from the time mentioned has faded. Well, I do not worry. This is how music culture goes. Always did, always will. Ophis has been there before the rise, and we will be after. And maybe even at the next.

Philipp, thank you for the detailed and honest answers, much appreciated! I hope our interview will help Ophis listeners and our readers (that's probably the same audience) to understand the band better. Thanks again! Any final words?

No clever final words, but honest ones: thank you!!!

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

Visit the Ophis bandpage.

Interviewed on 2017-12-25 by Comrade Aleks Evdokimov.
Aesthetic Death
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