Album of the Month

The debut full-length from Greek band Automaton is weighty, sludgy, coffin-lid-slamming Doom perfection.
(Read more)

Random band

Founded in 2014, in Malmö by Mattias Svensson (ex-Saturnus, and others) and Henrik Kindvall (Skald, and more), later adding drummer Johan Mathisson (O...
(read more)

Veteran Dutch Death/Doom band Officium Triste have a new full-length album almost finished, and an appearance at Moscow Doom Festival scheduled imminently - things which encouraged Comrade Aleks to have a long chat with vocalist Pim.

Interview with Officium Triste.
"Born in 1994, Officium Triste remains one of the oldest active Death Doom bands today. Despite just five full-length albums recorded during this period, they remain something solid, a kind of pillar for the European Doom scene. And you know what - besides Officium Triste, vocalist Pim Blankenstein also stands behind one of the two oldest Doom-related festivals - Dutch Doom Days - he writes for the lordsofmetal.nl e-zine and he's appeared in such bands as Clouds and The 11th Hour. So, Officium Triste's last studio work was 'Mors Viri', released in 2013, but I know that they've almost finished a new full-length - this, and the forthcoming appearance at Moscow Doom Festival in May, made me disturb Pim with a bunch of questions on different topics. The interview turned out to be awesome..."

Officium Triste in 2018: Pim Blankenstein (vocals), Martin Kwakernaak (keyboards), Gerard de Jong (guitars), Niels Jordaan (drums), Theo Plaisier (bass), William Van Dijk (guitars).

Hi Pim! I've checked - we did an interview nine years ago: I entitled it "15 years of fun", quoting one of your answers. Now Officium Triste is close to another big date: you've been on stage for almost 25 years, including the period the band existed as Reincremated. So... ten more years, one full-length album in this period... Is it still fun to sing in one of the oldest European Death Doom bands?

As a matter of fact it is still fun, even when there were times I thought of throwing the towel in the ring. Overall the good times weigh in a lot more than the bad times. And it is great to have a set of people in the band that make it all worthwhile to create and play the music we love.

You, Gerard and Martin are those who stood at Officium Triste's roots, and keeping three original members for 25 years is a good score. Did you ever tire? Or have the years made you interplay only tighter?

We have had some line-up changes over the years and most of the guys that quit the band did so on a friendly basis. The three of us who you can now consider founding members still enjoy being in the band a lot. You know, we have common ground in the music, which is the most important fact. Even when we are quite different personalities with their own thoughts and ideas (on things like faith and politics), we get along fine. Basically because we said early on we should only focus on things that matter (the music) and don't get involved in discussions about other things. That is one of the main reasons we are still around. Back in 1998 we did quit for something like 8 months, which was a bad decision we soon found out. Also the reason we quit was pretty stupid, so we learned a lot from that and that made us stronger. I think that's also a good reason we're still around. Like I said earlier, we did have some bad times when I felt it all wasn't worth it anymore, but the overall love for this band and the music made me decide to carry on. It is really fulfilling to be in a band and it gives you lots of positive energy. Right now, we have a real solid line-up and the atmosphere has never been better. This leads to even better songs I can tell.

1994 vintage Officium Triste, Pim, Gerard and Martin with Maarten Van Der Giessen and Johan Kwakernaak.

'Mors Viri' saw the light of day in 2013 - what has slowed down the process of working on new songs?

Actually "Mors Viri" was already finished in 2011, we just had to wait till we found a label and then it took some to before the album actually was out. The songs for the split with Ophis we did, were written and recorded after we finished "Mors Viri". Still that split came out earlier. Anyway, after the album we did a lot of shows and we focused on playing live. That's what we usually do. Then our guitarist Bram decided he would quit. We found his replacement in William (formerly of Whispering Gallery) who we needed to break in. Once he was settled we had to get rid of bassist Lawrence. I won't go into details but he had to go. His replacement Theo had to work his way into the band too. So those changes had some impact on writing new material. But we have never sit still and decided we would take our time to come up with a great follow-up to "Mors Viri". We're in no rush and we certainly don't want to deliver anything mediocre. We wrote plenty of material and not even all will be on the new album.

There is a beautiful calmer track - 'One With The Sea (Part II)' beside the proper Death Doom songs on 'Mors Viri'. And we know that Officium Triste are good at making both Death Doom stuff and softer material, even though this side of the band shows itself rarely. Do you set a limit of "softer" material per album? I guess that no-one would blame you for an entire acoustic album ; )

We don't limit ourselves in any way. The songs on "Mors Viri" came out as they did. Sometimes we just feel to write a "softer" song. Not much to explain here really. This is who we are. We haven't thought about doing an acoustic record, although we have done some tracks that could be done acoustic easily. Who knows what the future will bring though.

Officium Triste - 'Your Fall From Grace':

One of your latest songs, 'Your Fall From Grace', deals with the problem of drug addiction. What inspired you to write such lyrics?

I think it was a couple of things that inspired me. Over here in Rotterdam you could see plenty of junkies in the 80s but that is not the case anymore. When I visited Athens I saw quite a few people shooting up on the streets. Plus I saw a few documentaries on TV and I remembered the German movie Christiane F. Those things combined inspired me to write the lyrics.

Drugs, as well as alcohol, are things that have always been close to Rock and Metal music, and a lion's share of bands speak about it in a rather positive or neutral way. I'd like to mention Hangman's Chair, as they have a different approach in showing the problem from inside. So what is your point of view on this alliance of Metal music and substance abuse?

On our demo from 1994 I wrote a song about weed, which I have used for quite some time. I have quit though. I don't see drug and alcohol use as a big problem, when people know how to handle it. Of course it can become a big problem. Just look at Pentagram's Bobby Liebling for instance. I think the substance abuse in metal (or any other music form) has a lot to do with boredom. Bands being on tour only have to actually work for a few hours. The rest of the time you are waiting, which leads to boredom and possibly substance abuse.

Metalheads are also considered as drinkers. I like my beer too.

Usually our environment is a real source of all Doom-related topics, but it seems that Doom metal is focused not on the reason for suffering, but on its outcomes. You know - Celestial Season's 'Cherish My Pain' song... So what's the spirit of Death Doom metal for you? Is it just the aesthetic of mourning, and other bitter states of mind?

I don't think there are any limitations to subjects to sing about. To me it is always about the vibe of the song and what feelings it gives me. I then think of a subject matter that fits the music. As far as topics are concerned this type of music is suitable for the less happy things in life. I think in general you are right when you say that lots of doom metal bands focus on the outcomes and not on the reasons. I actually never thought about it that deeply. Like I said to me the lyrics should fit the vibe of the song. That's what matters to me.

Your songs - at least on later albums - sometimes have a proper positive vibe, there is some light, some hope. And this is a rare thing for Death Doom bands, although we can find these moods as if in an interplay of light and shade in some bands. So... a chance of being positive... Does it really have a place in such music?

Sure, why not? Being hopeful can be a strong emotion. And like I said, when it fits the music why not use it? I really don't want to limit myself because something is not done in the eyes of others. I'd rather try to be as original as possible opposed to copy stuff because "that is how it's supposed to be". So, when there is room for some positivity it can be used. Overall I think our songs are quite dark though and I know our next album won't have much positive vibes.

Officium Triste's latest song, 'The Weight Of The World', was released as a digital single in June 2017. Was it a song that you want to share as a herald of the new album, or was it a kind of separate manifest showing the band's position at that moment?

We did release 2 songs. "The Weight Of The World" actually is a cover of an Editors song. It's from their second album from 2007 and we felt that the vibe of that song is awesome. So, we decided to record a cover. We also recorded a new song called "World In Flames", which we see as a demo. We basically recorded the songs to check out a studio for possible drum recordings of the new album. We were pleased how the songs turned out and we put them online. Of course it was also to show that we are still alive and kicking.

Officium Triste - 'World In Flames' (Demo):

What's the progress of your work on the new album? How soon will we get a new portion of virtuous sorrows?

We have the album written and arranged and Niels will start recording drums in April followed by the recordings of the guitars and so on. If all goes well we should have the album finished this summer. I guess a release this fall seems realistic.

We already have the cover art sorted as well. Like I said you can already hear one new song in the demo version. This one is going to be re-recorded for the album though.

Well, I should ask about any details you're able to share concerning the new material? What's it all about? How far did you go from 'Mors Viri'?

I don't want to give away too much yet. But I can say that the new songs are definitely Officium Triste songs. We have integrated some new ideas and sounds and it will be a varied album with both slow songs as well as a few more upbeat ones. As was the case with "Mors Viri" too. In total it will be 8 songs and lyrically it is about subjects such as guilt, the state of the world or loneliness.

Do you already have a label interested in the album, or are you searching for a proper one?

We have a similar construction as with "Mors Viri" where we licensed the album to Hammerheart Records. This time we will work with Transcending Obscurity Records from India who have been making a name of themselves the last couple of years with some outstanding releases. So, when we are ready with recording and mixing it is up to the label to make sure the album comes out.

How did you work with Ed Warby on The 11th Hour's 'Lacrima Mortis'? Did you discuss the album's concept before you visited the studio?

Nothing of that. The 11th Hour is Ed's band. And even when I was asked to do the live shows initially it was planned that Rogga Johansson would do the grunts on "Lacrima Mortis" again. I'm not sure what the exact reasons were, but one way or another it didn't work out the way Ed envisioned it all. He asked me to step in and all I got were the lyrics to my parts and the pieces of music with some scratch vocals. I ended up doing the vocals in Ed's studio and I was done in a few hours, but I never heard a complete song beforehand. I actually had to wait when everything was mixed. But like I said, it is Ed's band so I had no part in any of the song writing at all.

The 11th Hour has been silent for a few years, what's the current status of the project?

It's still silent. We never broke up but I think Ed gradually wasn't into it that much anymore. Personal matters and his involvement in Hail Of Bullets, Ayreon, The Gentle Storm and Vuur made it impossible to do anything with The 11th Hour. We might return though.

As far as I'm aware, you've only written lyrics for one Clouds song. How do you see your role in the band? Yes, I guess we have the full right to name Clouds a band, even though Daniel wanted it originally only as a one album project.

Actually I have done two. "A Glimpse Of Sorrow" on the debut and "Driftwood" on the second. When Dan asked me it indeed was supposed to be one album. Now look where we are.

I basically feel like part of the band even when I don't perform with them. Actually I have done "Driftwood" live twice now. I already spoke with Dan about doing another song for the next album, so you could say I am part of it all. It is fun to do.

Officium Triste will take part in the Moscow Doom Festival in May 2018, how did it happen that you're playing in Mother Russia?

Quite simply we got asked. I have no idea why, haha. No, you really should ask the organizers this question. We're very happy to return though because the gig we did in 2011 in Moscow was great to do.

Where else will you play besides Russia? Actually it's a shame that there will be only one gig here, but... I don't know what to add...

Since we are quite busy with the new album we haven't booked that many shows. Two weeks after Moscow, we have a local gig in Sliedrecht. It's the venue where we recorded our first demo back in 1994. Other than that we have Malta Doom Metal fest in October and a show with Sorcerer in the famous Dynamo venue in Eindhoven.

Do you already have a complete playlist for this show? How many new songs do you plan to perform?

We haven't decided yet, but it'll be a mix of older and new stuff. I think we'll do 2 new songs that most people won't know yet. One of them you already can find online though.

What kind of merch will you have with you?

We'll bring shirts and CDs.

You organized one of the first doom-related festivals - Dutch Doom Days. I guess DDD and Doom Shall Rise were the festivals that set the ethics of such events. And now London has its own fest, Italy has two, something, somewhere happens regularly. Do you feel yourself as one of those who stood at the beginning of this slow yet steady movement?

I'm not sure it's a movement but I as well as Jochen and Frank of DSR found out early on that it was really hard to organise regular shows for doom bands. But when you turn it into a bigger event with more bands people seem to be more interested. I figure that's also a reason why there are so many doom events like this now. And I only think this is a great thing.

I don't want to say that I'm responsible or anything. I'm just a fan myself and I'm glad I have been able to get some cool bands on a bill. I'm actually already looking forward to the next edition of DDD, which will have a Russian band performing for the second time.

Mare Infinitum again?!

No, not them. Even though I have to admit they delivered the goods last year. That was a really impressive performance and I look forward to sharing the stage with them in Moscow. This year Who Dies In Siberian Slush is coming over. I have high expectations as I think they have recorded some great albums.

In general I am glad that we are able to give a stage to bands you don't see in Western Europe that much. There's plenty of talented bands and when I am able to get a cool band on DDD I am only glad (even from a selfish point of view because I want to see a band live).

You've done guest vocals for Falling Leaves (by the way, are they still alive?), Doomed and now (okay, in 2017) for Norilsk. How do you build such collaborations? Do you have any collaborations of this kind at the current moment?

Basically I just get asked, which was the case with all three. Falling Leaves sent me an e-mail and asked me. They were unknown to me but when I checked out the songs and found out who they had also asked I decided to do that. I still think it is cool I did some guest vocals for a band from Jordan. I actually have no clue what they are up to at the moment.

Pierre from Doomed asked me as well. He told me how he really likes my vocals. So, I did that one too. I met Pierre in person afterwards. In the case of Norilsk I met Nic at the Malta Doom Metal fest where he had traveled to from Canada. One of the main reasons was that we were playing there. I got along real fine and later met him in the Netherlands again. There he asked me if I'd be interested to do some guest vocals, which I did.

I have been asked by other bands but at that time I simply was too busy.

I don't have any collaborations as a guest vocalist at this moment, but I do have another band called Extreme Cold Winter. This is a band with A.J. Van Drenth (formerly of Beyond Belief) and Seth v.d. Loo (formerly of Severe Torture). We released our first EP a couple of years ago and we're now working on a full-length. I only need to get the vocals done for that one but I need to finish the new Officium Triste album first.

I also have a project called Dark Epoch with Stu from The Slow Death and Illimitable Dolor, but we haven't recorded yet.

I hadn't heard about that! Taking into account that you're collaborating with a Slow Death member, let me guess… more doom?

I have been in touch with Stu for quite some time now. We have similar interests when it comes to collecting records and our taste in music. I also met him when he was here in Holland as a session guitarist for Mournful Congregation. Anyway, he told me he had written 7 songs he wanted to use for a different band with an international line-up. He asked me if I would be interested in doing the vocals. Right now we still need to properly record the songs. The idea has been around for some years now, but since we are all very busy with our main bands it hasn't happened yet. I'm sure we will get it done some day. There is a Facebook page, so check it out.

Officium Triste - 'Love Like Blood' (Killing Joke cover):

I've caught myself thinking about one certain thing. Once, Officium Triste recorded a cover of Killing Joke's 'Love Like Blood', I listen to it from time to time, damn good interpretation. So I think that bands in the '70s and '80s, probably even the '90s to a point were "clearer", less "distorted". And saying this I mean not only the Metal scene, but pop and r'n'b… musicians? artists? Well, those dudes and chicks who perform these genres - they use a lot of "distortion" too - let's take this over-emotional vocal style simulating "lusty message" or "stylish message" - I don't know. So the question is: you've written for years for lordsofmetal.nl, how do you feel the general changes in the genre? Do you see that it's turned out to be overloaded with emotions as well? Or do some "simple" bands exist in an almost equal number as before? You know, like dark folk bands who've been doing their sad acoustic stuff for years…

Interesting question. I'm a firm believer that things happen in circles or like waves, you know. It's just fashionable or in vogue to do stuff a certain way. Like for some time you had bands with productions that hardly give the music room to breathe. But that was their way to do it so plenty of other bands had similar productions. As a result there are bands that as a reaction turned back to analog recordings with a more open sound and so on. You can see that also happening in modern R&B where lots of so-called singers can't even sing and turn to auto-tuning. To my ears that sounds horrible and I'm glad there's also proper artists around who look at the origins of the genre and play great R&B and soul. The same thing applies to any other genre, so also to metal. You see younger bands playing in a more old-school way. Until something else becomes 'the talk of the town'.

Thank you for the conversation Pim! Would you like a few more words for our readers? Did we miss anything?

Actually, there is something you missed. Next to the new album we have another release coming up that we have been working on for some time now. It's a split release with Lapsus Dei from Chile, who invited us to do this. It's hopefully coming out late May (probably a bit too late for our gig in Moscow). Australis Records from Chile is going to put it out. Our part of this split will consist of two live tracks we recorded on the Malta Doom Metal fest in 2014. That show was recorded on multiple tracks so we were able to mix it properly. In addition the cover we recorded of that Editors song we talked about earlier has been added too. So, that one gets a physical release as well.

Furthermore we are already thinking about April next year, because then we'll be officially in business for 25 years. No solid ideas yet, but we should do something then.

I guess that's all and I want to thank you very much for this interview Aleksey. As always this is much appreciated. And we hope to see lots of people in Moscow.

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

Visit the Officium Triste bandpage.

Interviewed on 2018-04-10 by Comrade Aleks Evdokimov.
Advertise your band, label or distro on doom-metal.com