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After Scald disbanded, and the later Tumulus went on-hold, three of the members of both created Pagan Death/Doom band Intothecrypt. Comrade Aleks discovers a lot more about this little-known project.

Interview with Intothecrypt.
"Dedicated fans of the one and only Russian Epic Doom band, Scald, know that after its disbanding in 1997 - caused by the tragic death of vocalist and inspiration Agyl - some of its members founded original Progressive Folk Metal outfit Tumulus. Despite Tumulus' potential, they didn't get proper recognition and nowadays the band is on hold with a back catalogue of two full-length albums and a few smaller releases. And yet some of us could easily have missed the appearance of Intothecrypt, a Pagan Death/Doom band featuring three ex-Scald musicians: Velingor (bass, vocals), Ottar (drums) and Harald (guitars). Italian label Ordo MCM released Intothecrypt's debut album 'Vakor' on June 21st 2019, and here we try to learn more about it."
All questions answered by Velingor, translated by Tatiana "Kedi" Krylova.
Photos by Andrey Pushkar.

Talking to Comrade Aleks today, Intothecrypt's bassist/vocalist Velingor.

Hi Velingor! Thanks for your time and energy! First of all, how did the idea to mix Death/Doom and Pagan Metal take shape? That's still a quite specific combination. What was your vision of the band from the start?

There actually was nothing like a "vision" at first, at all. Harald and I haven't seen each other for quite a while, and when we finally met again and started communicating on a regular basis it turned out he had loads of unrealized musical ideas in store, whereas I had a concept for lyrics ready. So I suggested we combine it all in some kind of project. By the way, I came up with the band's name a long time ago - I just thought, well, would be cool to name a band "INTOTHECRYPT" (like that, as one word) someday. What we decided was: let it develop the way it goes, if it works out - that'll be great; we had no definite plans. The idea was to record a demo first, and if we'd be both pleased with the result - a full-length album would follow.

So what we started to record (at Harald's home studio) turned out to be a mixture of doom/death and pagan metal (pagan, obviously - because of the lyrics). But I would not say this kind of mix is something to be called original - just to give you an example, BATHORY had done it on "Blood Fire Death" back in 1988.

But we didn't want to simply follow in their footsteps, so we asked my friend Gervald to join us. A highly gifted multi-instrumentalist, he managed to create INTOTHECRYPT'S amazing backsound, a sort of soundtrack for the "dreadful fairy tale of northern woods". Lyrics based on shamanism is also something to be rarely encountered amongst pagan metal bands. These two aspects are what makes INTOTHECRYPT unique.

How quickly did you form Intothecrypt? Initially it was you and Harald - when did Ottar join the band?

Well, on the demo stage we worked with a guest drummer who never planned on staying with us afterwards. When it came to recording the full-length album we had an agreement with another drummer at first, but he kept us waiting for nearly half a year, feeding us all kinds of excuses… and then he simply ditched us! So we got really pissed off and decided to never work with any new unreliable blokes again : ) Instead we turned to Ottar, whom we knew for ages, since SCALD times, obviously (and we also played in TUMULUS together, for many years). I think it's fantastic that three members of SCALD got together again for a new project; this very fact was a great inspiration to us all!

Intothecrypt: Ivan "Harald" Sergeev (guitars), Ilia "Velingor" Timashev (bass/vocals), and Aleksand “Ottar” Kudryashov (drums).

It's said that the themes of the songs on your debut album 'Vakor' combine elements of Slavonic and Finno-Ugric mythology. Did you adopt some old texts for your songs or did you use original texts?

We did adopt some fragments of original old texts, yes. But most of the lyrics have been written by yours truly (Velingor). Some of the ideas I had for a long time, others formed while working on the album… I have been fascinated by the subject of shamanism for years. I do read a lot about it, and mostly scientific articles and books (not some sort of crap fantasy and fiction, you know). Shamanism as a form of religious consciousness must be the most ancient one in existence. It formed when there were still no concepts of God or gods, when a human being felt one with the spiritual world and forces existing inside it, in both "upper world" and "lower world", and could interact with those forces freely.

Why do we use Finno-Ugric paganism (which essentially is shamanism before anything else) in particular? The reason for that is that some of the Finno-Ugric tribes used to live where we come from, one of those tribes being Merya. They are last mentioned in chronicles in the 14th century as non-Christian folk who lived in the woods. All that's left of Merya now is many toponyms and hydronyms in the vicinity of Yaroslavl: we have created a whole song (called "Mga") using nothing but the names of rivers and lakes of Finno-Ugric origin.

We had a lot of help with the lyrics from Tatiana "Kedi" Krylova, who translated them into Ancient Russian (to make them sound more authentic) and English (to make them more understandable for our audience worldwide). There is also a society of volunteers in Kostroma who try to restore the Meryan language (with some help from professional linguists). They kindly let us use their findings, which is most appreciated.

Intothecrypt - 'Dol'ne Videnie' (2017):

Can you name the literary sources of your knowledge about shamanism and Finno-Ugric traditions? It seems there's a lot of books written by self-proclaimed "shamans" and "volhvs" who claim to have obtained one and only "ancient wisdom" and etc. A lot of modern books breed only hollow speculations…

Sure, you are quite right, there is plenty of such books nowadays. But the ones I used were written by ethnologists; some of them lived and studied Meryan culture back in the 19th century. For example, "The Meryans and Their Everyday Life According to Kurgan Excavations" by A.S. Uvarov, published in 1872. I won't go into details here; suffice it to say that A.S. Uvarov was one of the founders of Moscow Archaeological Society and the Historical Museum of Moscow, which definitely means he was no self-proclaimed "shaman". He studied Meryan culture from scientific point of view, and it was back when Orthodox Christianity was the official religion and ideology of the Russian Empire.

Another one, "Quackery and Witchcraft of Komi" by A.S. Sidorov, first published in Leningrad in 1928. The author was one of the most famous Russian/Soviet ethnologists, a Komi himself by origin (Komi and Merya culturally are very alike). He gathered all the materials for his book himself; he also made a significant contribution to founding "The Institute of Komi Language, Literature and History". The works of O.B. Tkachenko (Soviet philologist of note), V.Ya. Petrukhin (Soviet/Russian historian and archaeologist) were also of great help to me. These are just a few examples - I could not possibly mention everything I ever read on the subject; that would take several dozen pages!

There are some bands who deal with occult and shamanic themes as well, for example the Italian band Caronte, who preach "core shamanism", or Peruvians Reino Ermitano, who based their albums on ayahuasca rituals. Can you name any bands you appreciate for their approach to spiritual themes in their songs?

I've never heard of these bands before, and I doubt I can name any others of this kind. All of us listen to different kinds of music and what we create usually doesn't depend on what we listen to.

The central concept of 'Vakor' is the figure of a shaman living at the crossroads of these cultures. Was this idea born before the one of combining different musical styles? Or did you feel from the start that both aspects would work well together?

The idea to use a shaman as a central character for the lyrics was born long before INTOTHECRYPT was formed. And when we started to write first songs for our demo I felt that this concept would fit perfectly with the music.

A shaman is the most strong spiritually, the most sophisticated person to exist in the world I've described above. Later, when monotheism took over, such people (or rather their descendants) were proclaimed witches and wizards and persecuted; they were either killed or driven into hiding. This made them quite angry, obviously - so there is no use in expecting any good deeds on their part : ) The lyrics of "Si Mas Ver", the opening title of "Vakor" album, is nothing less than a credo of such a shaman.

It is my goal, as the lyrics writer, to create the image of this shaman, an outcast who inherited the magical practices of Merya but combines them with Slavic pre-Christian beliefs (because Slavs first appeared in this region quite early, in the 4th-5th centuries). He's got magical powers and lives in his own spiritual worlds; of course the common people are terrified of the mere sight of him, they believe him to be an unholy, dark being. All the lyrics of INTOTHECRYPT are written from the point of view of this shaman. And it's not just a children's story - it is a truly frightening, completely alien to a normal human being world. There are immense sinister woods in it, which might never let one go; tree trunks springing to life and tearing apart anyone who wanders their way; spirits of swamps and mosses; all kinds of indescribable monsters which appear when an incantation is addressed to them…

Do you feel that the music supports this concept well enough to tag Intothecrypt's songs as a kind of spiritual experience?

Probably… Spiritual experience is a highly personal thing. Everyone gains it in his or hers own way - sometimes by being influenced, sometimes through the natural course of life etc. If INTOTHECRYPT songs can provide this for somebody - this will be a huge success for us. But whether it works this way or not is not up to us, it's for the listeners to decide. We, the members of INTOTHECRYPT, are satisfied with how "Vakor" turned out - I mean its overall atmosphere. And I would say we definitely gained some new spiritual experience while working on it.

Where did you record the album? How was this session organized, considering the participation of guest musicians?

The demo was recorded at Harald's home studio - which, quite naturally, made his neighbors extremely happy ("is it a bear roaring at your place", they would ask while we were recording the vocals in his kitchen) : ) As to the album, it was partially recorded at Harald's as well, but there was some studio work involved, too - for example, the recording of drums. And we had no problems with our guest musicians whatsoever - they would simply agree (or not) to what we suggested and find means to record what was needed. For example, we had to work online with Gervald (because he lives abroad so we could not see him in person) - we would send him the songs and he would send us back his own interpretations of them, with all the mystical sounds he's so brilliant at composing.

The album comes as a digipack with 32-page booklet: that's a massive addition to the album. What does this booklet contain? Did you include lyrics in both Russian and English in it?

This is quite correct: the booklet contains all our lyrics, some of which are in Ancient Russian and some in English: for the former English translations are also given. Furthermore, since our lyrics feature a lot of obscure Finno-Ugric words with very particular meanings, we felt it necessary to make an addition to the booklet in a form of the "Shaman dictionary". This way people can get some idea as to what it is all about. That's why it had to be a 32-pages booklet - it is our belief that the only way to make our audience fully appreciate "Vakor" would be allowing them to understand our lyrics; it could not be achieved in any other way.

Intothecrypt - 'Vakor' (2017):

Have you already had some feedback on the 'Vakor' release? How do you see Intothecrypt's chances to reach a wider audience outside Russia?

There are some reviews of course, most of them being rather optimistic, although there is constructive criticism in some, too. Most reviewers say that INTOTHECRYPT has got a lot of potential but the songs on "Vakor" are way too varied and differ a great deal from one another. Well, we do agree - but is it good or bad? We like the songs exactly the way they are; and our being happy with what we create was our main criteria while working on the album.

It's quite difficult to give you an estimate as to how wide an audience we can possibly reach: dozens of albums are being released every month, many of them belonging to the same style as "Vakor". We do hope SCALD fans will be interested in it, since many musical ideas of INTOTHECRYPT are in some ways similar to those of SCALD; even though INTOTHECRYPT is much more extreme than SCALD used to be.

Ordo MCM seems to be quite a small label: do they provide proper promotion for Intothecrypt or do you have to deal with it on your own?

No, all the promotion of INTOTHECRYPT is being done by Ordo MCM. Since we are a new project who just recorded their first album it was not very likely that a bigger label would be interested in us. Do they provide proper promotion? I would say yes - at least we've already read quite a few reviews published on various websites (both positive and negative, but luckily positive ones are more numerous); the number of followers on our Facebook page also keeps growing everyday.

Do you feel the necessity to perform Intothecrypt's material live?

Not at the current stage. For now INTOTHECRYPT is nothing more than a studio project. But you never know - we might arrange some live shows in the future. We do not have any plans at the moment though.

Is Intothecrypt for you a single-album project, or do you plan to develop it further as a full-time band?

Again - it's hard to tell. We have some new ideas, both where music and lyrics are concerned, but it's too early now to talk about any recordings. We've got other business to attend to at the moment. But anything can happen in the future. There are equal possibilities of INTOTHECRYPT becoming a full-time band or staying what it originally was - a studio project.

Would you say that your mission with debut album 'Vakor' is successfully fulfilled for now? You've said what you wanted and needed to say, and that's the only thing that matters now?

Yes, I would definitely say so. We wanted to compose and record songs with exactly this kind of atmosphere, and that's what we did. This is it for now, as to the future - we'll see what it has in store!

Velingor The Shaman Tree.

Velingor, you took part in the Hammer Of Doom festival in Wurzburg, on November 16th 2019, with an updated Scald lineup. How was the band's appearance there organized? Who initiated this reunion?

I was under the impression that this interview was about INTOTHECRYPT, was it not? There are three SCALD members in INTOTHECRYPT, yes, but these are two different bands after all. I do believe that the subject of SCALD reunion and our performance at the HAMMER OF DOOM in Germany deserves to be addressed in a separate interview. All I can tell you now is that everything was organized perfectly and there was a whole bunch of people involved in making the reunion happen…

Okay, I take your point, let's speak about Scald another time. Thanks for this interview, how would you finish it? How would you summarize Intothecrypt's ultimate message?

With INTOTHECRYPT nothing can ever be planned beforehand, the thing that matters the most is inspiration. When it comes to us there will be a new album! And for now - listen to Vakor and submerge into the atmosphere of austere Northern shamanism!

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

Visit the Intothecrypt bandpage.

Interviewed on 2020-01-25 by Comrade Aleks Evdokimov.
Aesthetic Death
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