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French Trad band Father Merrin have finally followed up their 2014 EP with three new tracks on a split release. Comrade Aleks wonders just how motivated they are, and drummer S. explains...

Interview with Father Merrin.
"I learned of French Doom band Father Merrin four years ago, when they released the EP 'All Is Well That Ends In Hell'. I liked their Traditional sound, somehow these songs caught me so I took a seat and started to wait for a full-length album. I checked the band's page from time to time, but then I almost forgot about them, until getting in touch with their drummer Stéphane de Pauw - who told me about their forthcoming split with their friends Clegane. And, indeed, Sleeping Church Records released that 12" vinyl on November 23rd. Was it Pazuzu's dark spell which delayed Father Merrin from finishing this righteous quest of Doom? Stéphane denies that!"

Father Merrin live. The current line-up is T (Guitars), A (Vocals), J (Bass) and S (Drums). Photo: Christophe Mielot.

Hail Stéphane! I guess we can start from Father Merrin's very roots: so, the band was founded in 2009, what was on your mind back then? What drove you to follow the Trad Doom direction?

Hail comrade! After Circle of Hate, our previous band, had split-up, A (guitar), The Unknown (guitar) and myself (drums) started a new band together. Instead of trying to stick to a certain formula – which we considered as our main mistake with CoH – we decided to play what would come naturally. And what came was this more traditional kind of doom combined with aggressivity at times, "Possessed doom metal" as we nicknamed it soon after! Since we had no vocalist, A suggested to try out on the mic and it sounded awesome from the very first attempt. Father Merrin was born… We also wanted this new band to be a more active one, and that's the case.

The band's name is pretty remarkable: did you intend to have a concept of telling horror stories with your music? It seems that there're more global topics in the songs which got on the EP 'All Is Well That Ends In Hell'.

During the Circle of Hate days, I was very involved in the lyrics. So, the first song we wrote as Father Merrin ("Hellride") had also my lyrics on it and I suggested that band name which combines my love for horror movies and the religious aesthetic that suits doom metal so well. But we soon discovered that A was more comfortable with singing lyrics of his own, and he quickly built his very own style which fitted our music perfectly: metaphorical yet raw litanies; that was perfect! You are right, the topic range is wider, but we never felt the need to change the band's name.

Father Merrin - 'Dawn Of The Sixth Day' (2014):

The material is well-composed and interesting, but you released it yourselves. Did you search for labels who would care about it?

Yeah, we searched a bit at the time. But the band was rather unknown, and we had very few contacts in the scene. Nonetheless, we got one serious offer. But it would have meant waiting for 5 months or so to release the EP although everything had been ready for months. Therefore, we decided to take over. To this day we haven't any regret on this.

The next year you digitally released 'Fismes_20150425', a recording of your live set with all four songs from the EP and one new track. So I should ask how often do you play live? And do you play in your town?

We play several gigs a year, sometimes mini-tours, but I'd like to do far more. Of course we often play in big towns of our area but so far, we played throughout the northern half of our country plus two times in Belgium and one in Germany. Fismes in particular is a great place to play. The guys there are a great bunch and they hold this old school hard rock / heavy metal festival several times a year. The audience has always warmly welcome us since the first time we played there in 2013. On top of that, you have the possibility to get your performance recorded professionally. So, we decided to put it out digitally and burn a few CD's for friends, so that people can figure what we sound like on stage.

Father Merrin early 2017 line-up: JB (Guitars), A (Vocals), S (Drums), J (Bass).

True to say, Father Merrin doesn't look like a motivated band - your three new songs have only now been released as part of a split album with Clegane. What prevents you from focusing on writing and recording more actively?

Mainly line-up changes! Just before the EP was released, we recruited a second guitarist, JB, to get a heavier sound on stage and to leave A to fully concentrate on the vocals. Then we began playing shows as a five-piece and working on what would be our first album. But we parted ways with The Unknown and JB in 2016 and 2017, respectively… I have to thank Presumption's Moomoot Fish here, who did some rehearsals with us, co-writing a track and helping us still feel like a band. When the guys from Clegane – top-notch gentlemen who had us play with them in Paris back in 2015 – suggested making a split record together, we thought it would be a good opportunity to release something sooner than a full-length. We still had to find a guitarist though, and that happened late summer 2017 with the arrival of T and our return as a four-piece.

By the way, what does the band, and Doom metal itself, mean to you? Is it a twisted form of relaxation, a process to get rid of bad experiences, or something?

Maybe both. Doom metal is simply the music in which I recognize my personality and emotions the most, for instance feeling like I'm out of this world sometimes. Sorry for the cliché! I've always thought Mournful Congregation has given the best definition ever: "Doom is for those whose hearts beat slower". Being in the band is almost the opposite. There is undeniably a paradox between the kind of music we play and all the good times and the excitement it provides. Therefore, I'd say being in a band is certainly a way to escape other aspects of life. All I know is my passion for doom (and metal) and for the band are inseparable and both equally vital to me.

Father Merrin - From the 2018 split with Clegane:

The split was released by Sleeping Church Records, who also put out the last albums by Presumption and The Bottle Doom Lazy Band. Is it a sort of friends' congregation or do the label's guys try to promote local outfits to a higher level?

In fact, the split is still partly self-released, as it is a collaboration between Clegane, Father Merrin, Sleeping Church and Almost Famous. The guys at Sleeping Church are friends indeed, but as far as I know, they only release what they like and believe in. And not only in the doom scene, since they released the excellent debut EP by Australian melodic death metal band Rituals lately.

Speaking about the new songs, I need to admit that all three tracks sound damn potent: this stuff deserves attention for sure. How long did you work on this material? And how did you reach this good result in the studio?

Thank you! As always, the songs themselves have matured during several months in the rehearsal room before reaching their final form. Two of them had even been tested on stage before JB left. We recorded in a pretty classic way: one day, one instrument. The recording-mixing process took us about a week in the studio, but our engineer, Nicolas Gardel, also worked on the mix and mastering on his own. We worked with him again because we still love what he did on our first EP, and we knew he would give us an even better sound this time because he's got his own studio now, and of course we all gained experience since 2014. The only bad thing is that the process spanned over several months due to schedule difficulties.

Photo: Christophe Mielot.

There's a song with the interesting title 'I, Son Of Grigori' - what's it about?

It deals with some blurry aspects of Christian beliefs, like the Nephilim race. But A has a critical/cynical approach and, as I said before, he often uses these religious topics as metaphors to speak of totally different matters. Whether this is the case here or not shall remain a mystery...

Next year Father Merrin will celebrate its 10th anniversary, isn't that the right time to celebrate with a full-length album release?

I want to believe it will not take us another four years to release something. In fact, I know it, because a special project involving several French doom metal bands is in the works actually! But I am pretty confident regarding Father Merrin's next output, as we already have a couple of songs ready, and some unfinished ones. Our guitarist T is very prolific, while almost every song idea was coming from A in the past. That said, saying a release will happen during 2019 would be too optimistic. But there are at least good chances that the recordings begin during the coming year.

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

Visit the Father Merrin bandpage.

Interviewed on 2018-12-16 by Comrade Aleks Evdokimov.
Rotten Copper
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