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After this year's sophomore release, with their Gaelic-tinged Funeral Doom neatly packaged by Transcending Obscurity, vocalist John McGovern of Minneapolis-based Chalice Of Suffering spoke with Comrade Aleks about their plans.

Interview with Chalice Of Suffering.
"I don't remember if Chalice Of Suffering's debut - 'For You I Die' (2016) - made a real impact back then, but the project's return with sophomore album 'Lost Eternally' earlier this year certainly deserves the attention of doomheads. This project, consisting of six men with different backgrounds in various extreme Metal bands, strikes hard and deep with a profound atmospheric Death/Doom enriched by bagpipes and both old and more modern Doom influences. This melancholic and majestic material has its features, and we've tried to cover all of them along with Chalice Of Suffering's story in this interview with John McGovern."

With Comrade Aleks today: Chalice Of Suffering vocalist John McGovern.

Hi John! What's new in Minneapolis? And what's Chalice Of Suffering's status now?

Nothing much new here, except for more killer bands in the scene here. The status for Chalice is that we are still a group and getting things ready for the third album. I am also now considering doing shows now. So things are moving along well here.

What kind of bands are you talking about?

Cold Colours, Witchden, Living Through Ghosts, Grief Collector, Void Rot, Ulkum, No Funeral, Plague of Stars, Brähn, Adora Vivos, Glutton For Punishment, Incinerate, Septicemic, Mirror of Being, Writhe and plenty others.

There are a few new names I should check there… So, first of all, you started out as a sextet, and most of Chalice Of Suffering's members previously played in different bands. It doesn't seem easy to gather six people in one place in order to record a Funeral Doom album. How well did you know each other at the time?

Chalice has members in different parts of the world and it was key that everyone had access to a recording gear. That was the first hurdle. Second is that we took each instrument one at a time. Yes it took a while, but I thought it was worth it. I have known our drummer for a very long while. His son and my son were in scouts together, so that is how we connected. My guitarist, I've known him since 2014. I was looking for a studio to record our first record and Will said he loves doom and was interested. Nikolay I've known since about 2014/2015 from a post I did on the Metal-archives.com site, and the other guys from Facebook Metal community page.

The band: Aaron Lanik (drums), John, Neal Pruett (bass), Will Maravelas (guitars). Not pictured: Kevin Murphy (bagpipes, Gaelic vocals), Nikolay Velev (keyboards, guitars).

The band was formed in 2015, and you recorded debut 'For You I Die' by 2016. I wonder how did you all, six men, manage to record a full-length in this quite short period?

We have a great studio engineer/guitarist Will that he did his recordings at his studio 14:59 Studios here in Minneapolis, MN USA. We were all determined to get a great record out that packs a punch and make some sort of a splash.

How was this album shaped? There's flute, bagpipes, some lyrics in Gaelic - too much for one Funeral Doom album?

We wanted to be a bit different and not some cookie cutter band that sounded like every other band out there. About the flute and bagpipes and Gaelic elements. I wanted to bring a different kind of emotion into the mix. I always loved the Folk/Viking Metal scene. Then I thought it would be a great addition to funeral doom. It can be too much for a funeral doom album. But if we incorporated it all correctly, it can have an amazing sound.

Were you sure from the start that all of these would work well together? You know, it's like keyboards, which can benefit one band and make impossible to listen to another.

Honestly in the beginning I wasn't for sure it would work. After hearing it, I am glad it worked out. When you have great musicians and recording engineers all things are possible.

Chalice Of Suffering - 'In The Mist Of Once Was' (2019):

A lot of bands nowadays record albums with low budgets, using the capacities of their home studios. How did you work on 'For You I Die''s material?

Will had his professional studio that he records bands at. So he did many songs as a sketch on the guitar to see if we could go from there. Nikolay recorded all of his parts (all the elements on his songs) at his home studio as well. He did about 3 songs that fit perfectly. Then after all the songs were gathered, Aaron recorded at Will's studio. From there I sent over a track to Kevin Murphy for a song that I recorded in honor of my father. I also sent him a couple paragraphs that I wanted in spoken in Gaelic and he recorded his parts in another studio in his area. I had Robert record some Tin whistle that can be an introduction into the song "Fallen". Then of course I did my parts right after. We had a few people that were going to do bass at the time, but could not get anyone to do it in the end. So Will stepped in and did the bass tracks as well. Then he also did the keyboards. Will did all the mixing in his studio and one of his friends do the mastering. It all worked out perfectly.

Was it difficult to record flute and bagpipes? I suppose that it's not easy to keep a heavy sound balanced with such instruments, but you succeeded with this task.

On the flute and bagpipe I did not do the recordings on those parts. They had guys on their end who recorded those instruments before. I bet it wasn't easy to keep the sound balanced but those guys are professionals and did an amazing job.

Next time, you signed a contract with Indian label Transcending Obscurity Records, which demonstrates a strong passion for proper releases, and your second album 'Lost Eternally' was even released as a box-set. How did you get in touch with the label?

I got in contract with them to do PR for my first release. We talked about this album and we agreed to release Lost Eternally. Kunal is an amazing guy and has a vast knowledge of the scene.

Discography: 'For You I Die' (GS Productions, 2016), 'Lost Eternally' (Transcending Obscurity, 2019).

'Lost Eternally' is an example of a good sophomore album: on one hand it continues the line of 'For You I Die', on the other it develops its own sound (as we can find in 'Forever Winter'). What would you like to say about this material as one of its authors?

Forever Winter for example. I wanted to keep the theme and expand on the message got around. A cold and chilly day walking alone. I wanted to capture that feeling.

Does the band help you to fight daily stress or do you see yourself more a balanced person with just poetic perception of the world's dark sides?

Yes the band helps out a lot. We all deal with things and they are all there for you if you need to talk to them or just there for you to vent out your issues. I have some amazing members.

Were there some difficult songs on this album?

Yes some of the songs have been difficult. Dealing with depression and anxiety, my feelings sometimes come back about those times I felt the way that is expressed in the lyrics. A lot of the songs are personal.

Why didn't you use Gaelic this time? That would be a nice feature for Chalice Of Suffering.

On the first album I wanted something special for that one track in honor of my father. On Lost Eternally I wasn't so sure on where it would fit. As I look back, maybe I could have used it in a few spots. You never know... I could always use it on the next release.

Chalice Of Suffering - 'Forever Winter' (2019):

John, being Chalice Of Suffering's vocalist, you are the lyrics writer as well. How would you sum up your lyrical message?

The message on the albums are all personal. I deal with those feelings of unworthiness, weakness, sorrow and sadness. Then also each album has a song in memory of someone that is close to us that has passed on. First album Fallen for my dad. Second album Miss Me, But Let Me Go. Will wrote them for his mother who also recently passed on.

You've mentioned that you're already thinking over ideas for the third album, is it too early to ask about details?

No it is not too early. I was thinking of having more bagpipes and maybe other Celtic instruments. Having other elements that would be new to us. We will probably have 2 guest vocalists. But things may change so that is not 100%, except for the bagpipes.

And what about gigs? Do you already have a plan how to organize some shows, or is that something for the future? As I understand it, it's always hard to play solo gigs for bands of this kind, and festivals grant more opportunities to reach wider audience.

I personally would like to do shows now. I just have to get over my stage anxiety and do it. As I told my son, if he went out and sing in front of people, that I would. So... He did. I need to be a man of my word. Yes festivals would be great to do. If we were offered an opportunity, I am sure we would be honored to do so.

Thanks for the interview John! I bet now all of us have a better understanding of your work; did we miss anything?

I think you covered everything. If you do have any other questions please let me know.

Next time then! Thanks again John!

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Interviewed on 2019-12-16 by Comrade Aleks Evdokimov.
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