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Comrade Aleks talks to Chilean band Bitterdusk about their lengthy career, and how it's evolved from pure Death/Doom to more experimental approaches. Co-founder Fabián Alvarado fills in the blanks.

Interview with Bitterdusk.
"Bitterdusk from Santiago, Chile, was originally started as a Death Doom band in 1995, partly influenced by the UK Three. Their demos 'Pantheon' (1997) and 'Promocional' (2001) still reflect echoes of those bands. Things turn more interesting on their debut album 'Spirits' (2002), which started to show individuality, and sophomore full-length 'Santuaria' (2006) brings a stronger local vibe alongside Spanish lyrics and a driving delivery. The band weren't afraid to experiment, and this album proved they were right to develop their sound in their own way. They went even further on third album 'Árbol Cósmico', but I'd like to let one of the band's founding members - Fabián Alvarado (guitars) - speak for Bitterdusk. Don't hesitate to check out the videos in this interview, they help to build the right impression about this authentic band."

Bitterdusk: Carlos Salinas (guitar), Fabián Alvarado (Lead Guitar), Leonardo Alvarado (Bass & Vocals), Kurt Heyer (Drums). Photo: Sebastián Dominguez.

Hi Fabián! So, Bitterdusk was formed in 1995. What did you want to achieve with the band? What were your guides in the world of metal?

Hello Aleksey. Thanks for the support. At that time, we just wanted to make the music that we liked and drive us crazy. Something heavy and dark. I remember that we lowered the tuning by 5 semitones to achieve that. Bands like Paradise Lost, Anathema, Entombed and Dismember we liked a lot at that time.

There were uptempo songs with harsh vocals on the 'Pantheon' demo - I'm speaking of 'Trivial Wisdom' and 'Their Strayed Joy'. Why didn't you choose this heavier way to express yourself back then, as the whole scene seems to tend towards the harder sound?

We have always liked the time changes in the songs. On the other hand, we like to create slow and fast songs, preserving the spirit of the band and the deep feeling of the songs. As long as that spirit exists, it is perfect for us.

You recorded your first album, 'Spirits', at W Studios, Santiago de Chile. What is this studio? What are your memories of this recording session?

Recording at W Studios was a great experience. We learned a lot about how to work on a more professional level. We had the help of an excellent engineer (Juan Ricardo Weiler), who is also an experienced musician. I remember recording sessions where we turned off the lights and recorded in the dark to generate more communion with what we were doing. It was a great job for us.

I've seen that you even have a video for the song 'Pagan Angel'. How did you manage to record it? Did it help you to reach more listeners?

'Pagan Angel' is the second track of our album Spirits. We chose that song because it represented very well the sound and style of the band. Something heavy, intense, but also with slow and deep moments. Without a doubt, that video helped us a lot to promote Spirits, and reach more people around the world.

Bitterdusk - 'Pagan Angel' (Official Edit, 2004):

There's the song 'Among The Trees' on the album... Well, okay, it has controversial lyrics, just as some other songs: how would you sum up the lyrical message of 'Spirits'?

The lyrics of Spirits are closely related to internal and personal processes. Search processes of an interior path, a light or internal guide. I think that more than once in our lives we experience this type of search, often bruised by gray or dark situations. It is a path that must be traveled to advance to the next level. Spirits reflects that inner journey.

Most of the album's songs are really long and complicated, was that a part of your vision for Bitterdusk? Was it your goal to be massive and heavy?

Hahahaha, It is true. We usually make songs without caring about the duration of these. We just let ourselves be carried away. I think we have learned to improve the way we like to deliver the message of the songs, however, we still care more about the "opus", than the duration it may have. Anyway, I think we have shortened our songs from 10 to 6 minutes on average, hahaha.

By the way, how did you play it live? And how often did you get a chance to play live back then? What are the highlights of your gigs?

We have a very varied repertoire, which allows us to create very dynamic shows. Long songs mix with short songs, slow rhythms with fast rhythms, so we have no problem playing these songs live. I remember great shows with Anathema and Moonspell here in Chile, and Reino Ermitaño in Peru. I remember we were in the top charts in some Doom-Metal radios, and very good comments in Doom Metal sites of the time.

Live, 2018.

With the next album 'Santuaria', you switched to Spanish lyrics: why did you decide to turn to your mother tongue?

We decided to sing in Spanish, due to the energy of that album, the lyrics and all that stuff. It reflected much better the message we wanted to deliver, since it spoke of the connection of man with the forces of nature, the ancestral wisdom of ancient cultures in our continent. We felt that the logical step was to sing it in the mother tongue.

The album has a different vibe in comparison with 'Spirits', it tends towards a vast cosmic atmosphere, it's bigger and more free. What kind of new influences did you let into Bitterdusk?

I remember that in Santuaria's time we were all in somewhat complex personal processes, hahahaha. Someone getting married, others being parents for the first time, others getting involved in a lot of stress, so the music came out more rocky lake too. It was like a "cry of freedom". Added to that, bands like The Cult, Danzig, added to our previous influences, and I think that something of that was noticed in Santuaria.

The band's line-up was the same as on 'Spirits' - how did you manage to achieve all these changes with the same members? Did everyone just agree with that? Or do you have a chief song-writer who made the others play what he wanted?

The line up was the same on both albums. It was a natural and nothing forced change. We have always made songs that we all like to play. Obviously, there are discussions and different points of view as in all collective creative process, but nothing that can not be fixed with good cold beers and Buddhist patience, hahahaha.

Bitterdusk - 'El Llamado' (Official, 2009):

What happened then? Why have you kept silent until 2017, when third album 'Árbol Cósmico' was released?

In 2009 we decided to separate because we were not giving the time or commitment required for the band. Each one was with personal issues that affected the internal work, so the best thing was to finish. But the music is stronger, and we got together again in 2014 to start composing the third album "Árbol Cósmico". I can tell you that today we have even more desire to play music than when we were 19 years old. We are enjoying this moment very much.

There are twenty years between Doom metal demo 'Pantheon' and the pretty progressive 'Árbol Cósmico'. How much of your initial intentions remain in the band?

For us, making music means something too important in our lives. From the beginning, what we want is for music to be a journey. That transports you to another place, with a strong and deep feeling. That remains in what we do now, is what calls us to compose and play live. Generate the trip. In general, we are very happy with the work we have done. From our demo Pantheon, until our last album 2017 Árbol Cósmico the band has evolved in a natural way always having the same path and heart beating.

This time you recorded the album with an updated line-up, how did you recruit the new members? How did you collaborate at the studio?

That's right. When we met again, not all members could continue. So, through some friends, we found Kurt Heyer (drums) and Carlos Salinas (guitar). The recruitment process is basically this: get together to talk with some beers, listen to music (which allows you to know the tastes of each one), and to talk about what we want with our lives. It almost always works, hahaha.

Live, 2018. Photo: Huracan Web.

These new songs leave an impression of your interest in "Post-" music, did I pick up correctly on your influences, or is it just unconscious evolution?

I think it was an unconscious evolution. In fact, we do not listen to post-rock bands or anything like that. Maybe the guitar sound may have influenced that, but it's almost an accident. On the other hand, we have always liked to put more "road trip" kind of songs, such as 'When The Sun Lays Down' in Spirits, and 'El Destello' in this album. Anyway, our new songs are much heavier and darker. That's the way to go for the next album.

This material is easier going than even the brilliant 'Santuaria': did it help to attract more attention to the band?

I don't know. This album was edited by ourselves, so reaching more people is harder when you do not have a Record Label that supports you. On the other hand, our sound has been changing from album to album, so we have true loyal fans of the first or second album, which of course they hate each other, and also fans who like all our work. We hope to reach more people every day of course.

What's the band's current status? Are you working on new songs?

Currently, we are making some dates to commemorate the 20 years since the release of our demo Pantheon. The shows have been very good. Along with this, we will start with the composition of our 4th album in April of this year, plus launch a video clip of the song 'El Retorno' ('Cosmic Tree') now in March, as well as schedule some dates in Europe for end of 2019. Something we hope to confirm soon.

Thanks for your time Fabian! So, did we forget anything? How would you like to finish our interview?

First of all, thanks to you Aleks for the interest and supporting the band. I hope to see you soon in a gig. And for the lovers of dark, heavy and full of feeling music, see in Bitterdusk a comrade. Stay Doom!

Bitterdusk - 'Transmutación' (Official, 2017):

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Visit the Bitterdusk bandpage.

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