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Chilean band Heráldica de Mandrake talk to Comrade Aleks in some depth about their origin, influence and sources as they stand on the eve of their latest release.

Interview with Heráldica de Mandrake.
"Heráldica de Mandrake was founded in 2014, simply as Mandrake. After one self-titled demo (2014), and a single - 'La Doctrina De Los Saqueos' - in 2016, the trio suddenly changed their name. Since then they've been performing their heavy psychedelic Doom metal, using just their initials - F (guitars, vocals), M (bass) and C (drums). Their full-length, 'No Hay Caminos Cortos A La Libertad' (2017) is crazy hallucinogenic Doom metal with Spanish lyrics and a reverberating mysterious vibe. We've done quite a detailed and interesting interview with F, Francisco, so I encourage you to read it while listening to the album, it really helps understand the Heráldica de Mandrake concept better."

Heráldica de Mandrake: M, F and C.

Francisco, you started playing Doom together as Mandrake in 2014. What was your concept for the band? What kind of influences and your own ideas did you want to channel through this band?

Yes, we played together with my brother Cristian back in 2014, under the name of Mandrake, but Mandrake is a different band from Heráldica de Mandrake. In those times I wanted to do a lot of things, we had influences from Jimi Hendrix to Aguaturbia and of course lots of doom metal …also, I was really inspired by a circle of doom rock bands from the Chilean scene like Esquizoide (R.I.P.), Humberstone (R.I.P.) but mainly the ones under the legendary Enzo Toledo's label "Proyecto Sepulcro" that counted with "Budasses" (R.I.P.), "Sangria", "Electrozombies" and "Procession", they all had (in those times) a heavy, slow and monolithic sound (even Procession that released the "burn" demo, quite different to their last records). So, here's the thing with Mandrake when we were a duo: I've had several projects before, all related with doom metal that is my true passion, I had a one man project called Magna Veritas (doom death) I founded Somnio (doom death) and when I created Mandrake (stoner/doom) and started to play a lot, I just didn't feel comfortable in the rock and roll ambience where I was playing in that time. You know, I don't have an outgoing personality and we didn't sing about having fun with drugs, party hard or psychedelic trips, these topics were pretty different to the fatalism, solemnity, emotional and dark vibes from my vision of doom metal, so I sent to the trash a lot of songs and started to clean the sound of Mandrake for a more pure and traditional doom. This is what I wanted to play, crushing metal like the soundtrack of a cataclysm, I didn't want the people to dance, I wanted them to think. The only thing that I kept from Mandrake before I changed our name was the concept.

Conceptually, Mandrake is a universe that I created inspired by books like the Lord Of The Rings, Conan, Elric of Melniboné, Foundation (Asimov), Dune, etc. It's about a reign under construction with a social system that may turn into a corrupt world or an utopic government. The characters that live in this world react the same, which can heal or destroy themselves in an introspect level. This is why it's called "Mandrake", a plant also known as Mandragora, used for healing or poisoning properties.

Is Somnio an active project? I see that you only recorded a demo in 2012 and there's no news since…

No, it's not active, and it's a pity, I had a full album composed, I still have rehearsals of that. It was a mix of doom metal, death metal and punk, it sounded like Extreme Napalm terror trying to play like cathedral's forest of equilibirium. You can check it out in YouTube. The bassist left the band and then the drummer too. I was alone and started Mandrake so I took a break from Somnio and that was the end. Currently I'm putting all my Energy on Heráldica de Mandrake and The Ancient Doom (ex-Ancient). I'd love to resume Somnio and other projects I had but that means time and money, and I'm really satisfied with my current bands, if I take another project I think I'll lose some quality in any of these.

You joined Epic Doom band Ancient nearly a year ago, and I see there's only one founding member left - Bernardo Maldonado. What are Ancient's prospects? Are you ready to record some material?

Ancient always has been Bernardo's Project and I feel so lucky to be part of the band. The current line-up is amazing: Matías Aguirre, lead guitars (Mourners Lament, Suffering Dusks, King Heavy) Alfredo Pérez Gorigoitia, vocals (Concatenatus, Verbum, Mourners Lament, Lacrymae Rerum, Siaskel, Sol Sistere...crap I'm not sure if he has more projects!) Cristhian Krono Alarcón, drums (Voragine Of Autumn) Bernardo Maldonado, bass (Suffering Dusks) and me, rhythm guitar. We are preparing new material for our first full length but I can't reveal too much. We are active and rehearsing, in fact we have a gig in December 14th sharing the stage with MarchaFunebre, Black Flow and Black Messiah.

Heráldica De Mandrake - 'No Me Inclino Ante Nadie' (2017):

After three years of existence Mandrake was renamed Heráldica De Mandrake: why did you choose to rename the band? Does this new title better reflect the band's spirit?

Mandrake and Heráldica de Mandrake are two different bands, linked just by the story line. During that three years we recorded the Mandrake demo and then Cristian had to go to Santiago (we were from La Serena) so I looked for a drummer for a long time. Then a bassist entered and, as I cleaned our sound for traditional doom, heavily influenced by Reverend Bizarre, Saint Vitus, Warning, Count Raven, etc. the band changed on many levels. On the other hand, there are lots of bands with the same name, not in metal, but there's the Japanese progressive rock band, a gothic band, etc. and I didn't want to be confused. This is why I write my lyrics in Spanish too, I want to be clear about our identity. And yes, of course it reflects better my intentions, "Heráldica" means Heraldry, the study of the designs from the shields that reflects the lineage from a family or city and that's what our work is: a study of the generations in Mandrake.

Heráldica De Mandrake's debut album 'No Hay Caminos Cortos A La Libertad' was released in 2017, soon after rebranding. Was this material already written when you changed the name? How long did you work on it?

Yes, it was already written, I think it was something like one year, it was quite fast I guess, I had all the ideas and lyrics and we just had to rehearsal a lot because the people I played with wanted to add their own ideas and I rejected most of them, they just didn't fit at all in what I wanted to do, but finally I let them collaborate with some arrangements.

Discography: 'No Hay Caminos Cortos A La Libertad' (2017), 'Esto También Pasará' (EP, 2019).

The album consists of four massive songs, they're psychedelic, heavy and stunning. Did you aim for these qualities of your sound in the studio? How did you work on the album there?

Thank you for your observations! Yes, I wanted it like that, I'm not pretty sure about the psychedelic part, though! When I compose for Heráldica de Mandrake I think of '70s/'80s dark progressive rock (King Crimson, Emerson Lake & Palmer, Goblin) besides all the doom metal influence so I think that's why people get the "psychedelic" vibe. The experience in the studio was great. We worked with Nicolás Guajardo from Estudio19, at that time the studio was in such a natural place retired from the city so it was the perfect atmosphere to be concentrated in what we were doing. Besides, La Serena/Coquimbo is pretty small and it was difficult to find someone that understood our sound. We were lucky, we recorded everything in two days, Nicolás has a great disposition, in fact we worked the mixing and mastering with him again for the new EP.

I see that you prefer to write lyrics in Spanish: what kind of message do you put in your songs? What are your texts about?

Most of them are about resilience and thinking for yourself. "No hay caminos cortos a la libertad" means "no shortcuts to freedom", is a concept album of 4 songs. In each one of them we discover the lands of Mandrake. You can read its chronicles from two points of view: the mass behavior or the personal emancipation.

The first scenario is about the slavery of the people of Mandrake under Kharasiri's hand, emperor and absolut god that explodes men, women and children through hard work from dawn until dusk for just a few gold coins that they change for bread and water. The rebels are expulsed to the desert of Intiyaykuy under a malefice of immortality. That means that their souls are chained to their bodies while they are getting rot. In time one of these exiled families gave their child to the race of serpents and they baptized her as Rumiyay (she who becomes stone), she turns into the one who'll free Mandrake. Rumiyay leads an army of the exiled living dead and kills Kharasiri, assuming the throne. Once there, she is corrupted by the power and betrays her people, pushing them to hungry and sickness. When she realizes the consequences of her actions she asks to the race of serpents to take her own decision to rule, which is denied: she've been always a puppet of them. With a reign that hates her and betrayed by the people that raised her, she decides to abandon Mandrake. Before Rumiyay leaves, she left the gates open of the palace and all the slaves of Mandrake kill the race of serpents: the oppressed were thousands and the elite only a few. The chronicle ends with the falling of the lost civilization of Mandrake, going through a hundred years of darkness, the people, with no other lesson than being a slave, repeat the same actions: they steal, kill and rape.

And besides all the sword and sorcery context, this argument talks by itself: the curse of the nations repeating their doomed destiny over and over again: false libertarian leaders consumed in greed, the eternal thirst of ambition of the human being (free or slave) and the need to be educated and reach utopia. There's a lot about Chile that inspired me (my native country), the pillage of southamerica when the European conquerors arrived to America and brought subjugation to the native people, the saltpeter exploitation in the north of Chile and the horrible conditions of the workers and their families, the dictatorship (that even now is active), the current plutocracy in my country disguised as democracy and other historical references in Chile are terrible proofs of how the human ambition never stops, it just changes.

The second context about the individual emancipation is in an introspective level in Rumiyay, the libertarian and later tyrant of Mandrake: she doesn't have identity or family and the only people that she loved, used her as a tool. We are facing a character that, first, sure of her decisions and motivations of her life to keep moving forward are crushed when the true is revealed, sinking into depression. She makes the hard decision to cut ties with her people pushing her to a complete loneliness, but also she cleans herself of burdens to finally find peace. No influences, no manipulations.

We've all gone through these situations under dogmas, ideologies, religions, traditions like chauvinism, patriarchy, etc. and when we cut these ties, suddenly we turn into pariahs, but we reach personal freedom to decide and think by ourselves. And we live this even in daily basis or our regular lives: false friendship, manipulative relatives… it's like that Lemmy quote: "In my life so far, I have discovered that there are really only two kinds of people: those who are for you, and those who are against you. Learn to recognize them, for they are often and easily mistaken for each other."

I saw a movie trailer for Trauma by Lucio Rojas, a very ugly, violent and bloody film exploring and exploiting the consequences of Pinochet's crimes. I didn't watch the movie itself, because after watching this short trailer I already wanted to take a shower. In his interview Lucio said that he wanted to show all this violence to remind people of that terrible period of Chilean history and as a catharsis for the tortured feelings he bears inside. What's people's attitude to that period nowadays?

I just met Lucio Rojas in an horror convention here in Santiago and I remember something pretty clear about what he said: "we're still under a dictatorship" and it's the truth, we even have some fuckin' assholes in the government that supported and support PinoSHIT, we have a current genocide in the south, the police manipulate information to cover their crimes, people disappear, union leaders and activists are killed (please read about Alejandro Castro, Macarena Valdés, Juan Pablo Jiménez, Camilo Catrillanca) and the media lies telling that these were suicides or some stupid excuse, we even live under the constitution of 1980, that's the Pinochet constitution. All I can say is that there's a long way to find democracy, if real democracy even exists, and how's people attitude? Well, not as angry as you could think and not as informed as they should be, the government has done a great job keeping the people ignorant, have you read about the current piece of shit that we have as president?

I'm wondering if songs' lyrics have a connection with the artwork. Can you say that in your case music, texts and artwork are bound together? And can you say whether your vision was completely fulfilled in this album?

Of course, totally, everything is bounded, the whole album is not complete without the art, the lyrics, the argument and the art. On our Bandcamp page if you buy "No hay caminos cortos a la libertad" (it's under the "name your price" mode so you can download it for free if you are interested) you can access all this information in English and Spanish, so everyone can read it. There's a comic that I created for this also that I wanted to attach in the CD or vinyl version but sadly no label was interested so I just started to upload it to our webs by chapters.

As I was saying, the artwork is a symbolism of the whole story: in the center is Rumiyay surrounded by the race of serpents and each one represent the different stages: in the left is "the savior", in the right "the tempter" and in the center "the betrayer", this was explained in the promos that we gave away.

I liked the results of the whole album but I wish it could be edited on CD or vinyl as it was planned. I was a dreamer and far too optimistic, even when I knew I was doing a "suicide record": long songs of more than 10 minutes, lyrics in Spanish, and a length of almost 60 minutes, I mean if you want to edit it in vinyl you need a double 12"! but well, maybe in the future.

Excerpt from the 'No Hay Caminos Cortos A La Libertad' comic (click to expand).

You have no label behind you, so how do you promote Heráldica De Mandrake? And how do you deal with organizing gigs and distributing CDs?

Like any other independent band: giving away and sending physical promos and thousand of e-mails. The true is that even if my plans didn't work out as I wanted, we were lucky enough to receive the help from Danilo and his label Manifectation prods., he did a great edition of "No hay caminos cortos a la libertad" in cassette limited to 100 copies and most of them were distributed out of Chile, that was a great start to promote Heráldica de Mandrake. About the gigs, we just received invitations but it was a long process to reach that. I was from La Serena and we played a lot there, when I had to move to Santiago it was like starting from the beginning all over again. I changed all the members (for second time): a new drummer (Cristian again from the duo whom I met again in Santiago!) and a new bassist, so we were pretty busy with rehearsals and I didn't have time to organize a gig. Arteaga helped us to play live and slowly we started to gain some attention from people like Daniel (King Heavy, Marchafunebre) who invited us to play in an event that organizes with his partner Alfredo (Concatenatus, The ancient doom, Mourners Lament, Lacryame Rerum, etc.) called "Under The Sign Of Doom II". We played with Black Messiah that night. Anyway, it has been a lot of hard work, but nothing different from what an underground band uses to do to open a path… yes, we do have tools like bandcamp, Spotify, facebook, even Instagram, but we are also doom metal maniacs: we buy records, read zines, go to gigs from local bands and we know how the underground works!

Heráldica De Mandrake - 'El Temple Para Dejar Todo Atrás' (2017):

How would you describe features of playing, recording and promoting Doom Metal in Chile?

We are in South America, everything is difficult, just look at all the problems that I had, I've changed the line-up three times (Vicente Zamorano is our new bassist) but people here is so enthusiastic, we can accomplish everything. You may think that with such a great circle of doom metal bands as the ones that I mentioned in the past questions is easier to grow but, hell no! Doom metal still being the most undervalued genre of metal, and we are just a few! But devotion is intense. Nowadays there is lot of options to record your demo/album and there is a bunch of good zines interested in digging in the deeps of the underground, but as I said before, doom metal is the harder genre to reach people, any doom metal comrade can tell you that, even the big ones! On the other hand, everyone playing doom here is because we worship the genre and there are great relations between the bands, that is a great help. When we released our first album, I started to receive support from doom metal bands from all the country like Condenados and Marchafunebre, Calaverno, even Claudio from Capilla Ardiente was first in line watching our last show! This helps a lot to keep going, because it has been such a hard road! And of course I can't forget bands like Ocultum that invited us to play a few times in Coquimbo and Santiago just because they liked our stuff.

So, as a member of two different doom metal bands, it's, above all, pretty difficult to play and promote your band in Chile. I remember when I got here in Santiago and Bernardo called me to play in Ancient, he was looking for new members for his project, starting all over again too, just like me. It's a common thing.

By the way, I've seen you have the single 'These Riffs Kill Tyrants' recorded in 2018, but it wasn't uploaded to your Bandcamp profile. Is it just a promo for labels? Did you find any?

We didn't upload that promo to bandcamp because it's just a selection of two tracks from our first album "No hay caminos cortos a la libertad" ("No me inclino ante nadie" and "mil noches de insomnio"), our edition in cassette was sold quickly so these promos were an alternative to show labels and zines our proposal but as I told you before, we just found the help from Manifectation prods. and this was before the hundreds of promos and e-mails, so, no, we didn't find a label for our first album, I'm being completely honest with you! Someone was interested but it seems that it didn't work out… but for our new EP we did find a label! It will be edited by Interstellar Smoke Label.

Do you already have enough material for a new album? How would you compare that with songs from 'No Hay Caminos Cortos A La Libertad'?

Yes, we have a new EP called "Esto también pasará" (This too shall pass) it's a single theme of 20 minutes and we are going to release it first digitally through spotify and bandcamp this October 18th for anyone that's interested to hear some crushing doom metal. This is the continuation from the chronicles of Mandrake that started in "No hay caminos cortos a la libertad", once again with Rumiyay as the main character. In this EP we sing about the lonely ones, the outcasts, the black sheep and anyone getting through hard times, so, remember, everything is going to be available this October 18.

I'd prefer not to compare this work with the past one, but I can say that is darker. Be aware!

"I remember wandering far beyond the desert and arriving to the black sea. I found a small coastal town surrounded by the hills. And a kid. Barefoot, beaten and looking to the sea.

Chapter I, The Pariah:

"Who made you this?" I asked him. "The rest of the kids", he answered me. "I can do things that they can't and that scares them. I scare their parents too and they call me warlock". I was curious and I ask him to show me what he can do. He made a gesture with his tiny hand and moved a stone without touching it. "You keep a great secret. Don't tell anyone until you are strong enough. You are alone, and you will remain alone for a long time, but hear me well: everything, eventually will pass. This too shall pass."

-Francisco Visceral

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

Visit the Heráldica de Mandrake bandpage.

Interviewed on 2019-10-16 by Comrade Aleks Evdokimov.
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