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Formed in Izola, Slovenia, originally as a solo project by Etienne "Hellscream" Chelleri (of Black Metal outfits Bleeding Fist, Provocator and oth...
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As Quercus' new album 'Verferum' arrives, Comrade Aleks talks to the Czech band about their last few releases, and how their unique sound has evolved of late.

Interview with Quercus.
"Quercus began in Plzeň, Czech Republic, in 2001. The band itself slowly developed from an alien, minimalistic Funeral Doom to something very different. Their first full-length album, 'Postvorta' (2007) gained Quercus the reputation of an Avant-garde Funeral band. After the release of second album 'Sfumato' (2014), the band became quite active, and swiftly finished 'Heart With Bread' (2016) and following the demo compilation 'Kverulant & Nenia' (2018) their fourth album 'Verferum'. The album was released by Moscow Funeral League Records on January 1st and contains not just stunning sonic content but also an impressive booklet complete with paintings by founder member Lukáš Kudrna.

Lukáš performs vocals, bass and some additional instruments on 'Verferum', while co-founder Ondřej Klášterka handles vocals, guitars and drums. They're accompanied by new member Marek Pišl, who plays keyboards and pipe organ, and there's a guest appearance by Evoken's keyboardist Don Zaros who sings on 'The Pu-erh Exhumed'. We've tried to sort out what Avant-garde Doom is with Quercus - I can't say we've succeeded completely, but it's a good try."

Quercus: Ondřej Klášterka, Marek Pišl, Lukáš Kudrna.

Hi Quercus! The band's new release is now 'Verferum', but I skipped your previous album 'Heart With Bread' as we didn't talk until years after the release of 'Sfumato'. I'd like to ask you a few kind of retrospective questions about it, if you don't mind.

Lukáš: Hallo, Ok.

Lukáš, correct me if I'm wrong, but the album 'Sfumato' had a sort of concept according to the album's name which represents a special graphic technique. Is 'Heart With Bread' a concept album too? Do you have a theme which unites all the songs on this album?

Lukáš: Sfumato is a technique used in painting, not graphic. Heart With Bread as a name for the album was a joke with a small obscure undertone. But don't be afraid, we are not cannibals, neither occultists or sodomists. I am actually an arts teacher and Markko used to be my pupil.

There is a 23 minute dirge 'A Canticle For A Pipe Organ' on the album: what inspired you to write such a big song with such long text? How did it grow? How did you know when it was ready?

Markko: As an organist I've been longing to pay a tribute to the instrument to which I've dedicated my musical life. This ambition has been growing within me for a long time, until it took the form of a poem, after which the composition of a doom metal canticle became inevitable. From the very beginning I had a clear idea about the basic structure of the piece, which I've put down on paper. I've also had some organ parts already composed, although their final shape only started to show during our mutual work at the studio. The composition took on a life of its own and in the end it exceeded our expectations. We were ecstatic. The work on this one track was seemingly endless, and it was an exciting process. I must warn you that our next will feature a similarly long composition, which will be once again centered around the pipe organ.

Quercus - 'A Canticle For A Pipe Organ' (2016):

'Bread And Locomotive' has very strange lyrics which look like a number of separated images, like a flow of consciousness... "I can't afford new shoes/Scraps and tatters dangle/From the remaining soles/I'll put on bracket fungi instead/I'll put on gaiters of moss/Better than the ones/The boys from Manowar/Wore back in '84…". What is your message in this song?

Lukáš: I love Manowar from my childhood, some of their songs have very doomy feelings within. My other love is nature in its purest form, and also poetry. Put those things together and you get absurd or bizarre images. There is no message in some of the words other than esoteric

You have the Robert Burns inspired composition 'My Heart's In The Highlands' - what drew your attention to this poem? How did you get that it could fit with Quercus' sound?

Markko: For me the poem is inseparable from Arvo Pärt's composition. Pärt paid a tribute to Burns, and our cover version is a tribute to both of these great men. Both Lukáš and me have a deep relationship with Pärt´s music and the poem itself holds immense power. One chilly day Lukáš proposed a humble attempt at creating the doom metal cover, and we got excited by the idea. We realized that the song is already doom metal, what with the slow flow, heartrending minimalism, excellent melodies and melancholy words. All we had to do was record our own version.

Quercus is known for its avant-garde sound: how would you describe it in the context of 'Heart With Bread'?

Ondřej: You can hear a singing bowl, or an acoustic guitar with an eerie effect on the album. But the overall sound isn't built on things that would be uncommon for doom metal. I wouldn't use the word "avant-garde" myself.

GS Productions released a double CD edition of the first Quercus demos 'Kverulant' and 'Nenia' in May '18. How do you value this material nowadays?

Lukáš: For me is there is some of the purest doom of my own in there. We are very proud that it is released on CD via GSP.

You made new artwork for 'Kverulant & Nenia', and it's pretty disgusting. What inspired you for this work?

Lukáš: The painting is very old, from my years of youth. The room in the picture is the so called Blue Chamber, a big room full of my beloved books and shadows from my family's past.

Did you remaster the demo songs for this reissue? Or do they still keep that raw smell of the deep underground?

Ondřej: We didn't touch the original sound, there was no reason to change it.

Quercus - 'Darkening Of God's Gifts' (2002):

What were your initial plans concerning new album 'Verferum'?

Markko: Verferum is already finished, with Lukáš's oil paintings used for the artwork and with pipe organ as an integral part of the music. The instrument is heard throughout the album in many different forms, from massive rumbles to gentle melodies. Last year I finally acquired an instrument that I can conveniently use at home, but that is comparable to the real thing, i. e. church pipe organ. When composing the music for the new album I was considerably inspired by the genius of J. S. Bach, namely by his compositions BWV546 and 582. We are also very honored to have Don Zaros from Evoken as a guest singer on the album.

'Verferum' is a gorgeous example of artistic and still in some way avantgarde Funeral Doom. How do you value the difference between Heart With Bread and this new work?

Lukáš: The new one is better in many ways, but the previous has some good moments too

Lukáš, half of the lyrics were written by you and the other half by Marek. Do you care how the texts complement your music? Do you see an album as a complex piece of art starting with artwork and ending with lyrics and with music at its core?

Lukáš: We care how the text complement the music, when the music is complete I can touch the lyrics from the far and near history of my person, my feelings. I don't know how Marek did it, we talk about how to switch the drums, but not lyrical content..-)) The artwork is together something like Wagnerian Gesamstkunstwerk, don't you know. Nobody can do it for us.

'Verferum' packaging.

The atmosphere Quercus create with pipe organ and precise arrangements is one of the band's most remarkable features. And the organ in itself adds a spiritual layer to your music. How do you balance the band's sound at the studio?

Lukáš: I don't know how, I haven't been there. I was on the beer. This work was done by Ondra and Marek.

You wrote the text for 'The Pu-erh Exhumed', and that's an amazing stream of images indeed. And the final lines about Epistemological Despondency are so damn straight! I'm impressed! Might you tell the story behind this song?

Lukáš: The story about me and my long time friend, times long time ago, very different disposition from our situation now. But we are still worshippers of darkness death hate nature and good tea.

Quercus - 'Ceremony Of The Night' (2019):

Do you find yourself comfortable when you express personal intimate experience, as with the song 'Journey Of The Eyes'?

Lukáš: Doom is very intimate for me so I am very pleased to use every kind of gloom or happiness into a song, I feel something like balancing on the edge of darkness and light.

Lukáš, the 'Verferum' booklet is decorated with your paintings and they fit the album's heavy and mysterious vibe well. Do you see your music as a continuation of your work as an artist? Or do both of your passions live separate lives most of the time?

Lukáš: In my life it's very close from the painting to music, but the painting I study, music not. Creating music is caring about my primitive darker child. Now I must care about my lovely family, it is like looking into the sun, so my pictures getting darker. It is a necessity. Every day we listen to metal in the car, our residence, garden.

How do you feel the mood you channel through your music and paintings? Do you feel it as a negative one? Or is it a kind of creative energy without any polarity?

Lukáš: Right, without polarity most of time but the result can be positive or negative. It is a magic of creation.

Do you plan to promote 'Verferum' with gigs? Do you see a necessity to play Quercus songs live?

Lukáš: For sure not

How would you sum up Quercus' ultimate message?

Ondřej: The shortest song is eleven minutes long.

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

Visit the Quercus bandpage.

Interviewed on 2019-02-25 by Comrade Aleks Evdokimov.
Thermal Mass
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