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Epic, mysterious, and unexpectedly heavy and dark, the Tolkein-inspired Funeral Doom of Khazad-dûm drew Comrade Aleks to investigate further...

Interview with Khazad-dûm.
"Growls, snarls and rumbles emerge from the lightless depths of Moria as UK-based project Khazad-dûm starts to stream debut 'Hymns From The Deep'. Formed in about 2015 by Daniel Scrivener of Black Metal outfit Aklash, the project then slumbered until March 2020, when I Hate Records released this album. 'Hymns From The Deep' was performed by Daniel (all instruments, clean vocals) and Matthew Surry (vocals). There aren't many Tolkien-influenced bands in Doom territories, but this album drew my attention with the shades of epic and mysterious atmosphere soaking these five tracks. I invite you to take a short trip to the world of Khazad-dûm with Daniel."

Hi Daniel! How are you? How has Covid-19 changed England?

I'm doing well thanks. The pace of life has slowed which does have its advantages and disadvantages. I'm missing seeing friends but have been making the most of the extra time to myself. Writing and recording music and playing a lot of video games!

When did you actually found Khazad-dûm? Was it a "Funeral Doom metal duet with Tolkien-influenced lyrics" from the start?

It was in 2015. Myself and Myrddin had talked about pairing our love of Doom and Tolkien. So he started writing lyrics and I started writing music. I then approached Matt about doing vocals after putting together a couple of demos.

Sorry, who's Myrddin? I see that there are only you and Matthew Surry in the band. And Chris Kendell was in the band during the recording of the 'Stones Of Sorrow' demo.

Myrddin Evans is a very old friend of mine, we've known each other since we we're teenagers and have takes many musical voyages together. He wrote the epic poem which makes up the lyrics for the album. Chris recorded bass on 'Stones Of Sorrow', yes, for the rest of the album it was easier to just do it myself.

What are the pillars of Funeral Doom for you? Which examples did you follow when composing early material?

For me it's Evoken, Mournful Congregation and Esoteric. Back then I was listening to 'The Monad of Creation' a lot, along with an eclectic mix of black, death, doom and post-metal.

There are up-tempo parts and blackened vocals, despite the Funeral core of Khazad-dûm. Did you pick up these elements consciously to add some atmosphere or was it just something, let's say, you had at that moment as echoes of other bands you're involved in?

Those elements naturally made their way into songs while I was composing. I am used to writing in a black metal style from previous projects so some elements bled through into the funeral doom without me thinking too much about it. I think it works well to allow the funeral sections to occasionally explode into blast beats.

Khazad-dûm - 'Stones Of Sorrow' (Lyric, 2020):

And actually both elements perfectly fit the dark realms of Tolkien! By the way, what kind of mood and stories did you aim to evoke through your songs? Did you aim to write only about Lord Of The Rings subjects, or did you want to include Silmarillion stories in your songs as well?

We aimed to create a dark atmospheric journey into the depths of Moria. The source material is from Lord of the Rings, the lyrics are a poetic interpretation of the chapter 'The Bridge of Khazad-Dûm'.

Around 2015, you recorded Khazad-dûm's first demo 'Stones Of Sorrow'. This song quite well represents the project's spirit: what prevented you from recording more material back then?

I was busy writing for Aklash, who I gig with regularly, and with standard life and work commitments. So it took a while to find the time to write and record the rest of the album. It also took quite a long time to get it released after completion but we got there in the end!

I've mentioned Khazad-dûm as a project, but how do you and Matthew see it? What are your ambitions for Khazad-dûm?

As it stands it is very much a studio project. Currently I have Aklash and Mountainscape that I play live with and an ambient/post-rock project Third Horizon. We really enjoyed putting together Hymns from the Deep. I wouldn't rule out performing it one day if the time/setting was right.

Funeral is a minimalistic genre, and sometimes a home studio is enough for recording a decent album in this vein. Was that the way you worked on 'Hymns From The Deep'?

Yes Hymns from the Deep was all home recorded on my old MacBook pro. The drums were programmed and I used digital amps for guitar and bass. I've since upgraded a lot of the gear in my home studio but I'm still happy with how the album sounds.

Do you hope to get live drums for the next album? I interviewed Eli from Flesh Temple a few weeks ago, and there's a big difference between his EP with programmed drums and LP with live drums.

I completely agree that there is nothing quite like the sound of real drums to bring an album to life. I can program drums but I am not a very competent drummer myself. So hopefully the next album will have real drums if I can find a drummer to do it. There's also the financial investment to consider, getting a good live drum sound requires paying for time in a good studio. As I'm sure you know there's very little profit in underground metal so it's also I case of getting the funds together. My next release from my post-metal project Mountainscape features live drums and it does really add to the record. So I will definitely try and use real drums on as many future releases as I can.

How do you value this work today, as the album is released? How do you see its strong sides? As its author, do you see any weak spots?

I'm really proud of Hymns from the Deep. It's great to finally have it released and hopefully it'll be enjoyed by those who stumble across it! I think it's biggest strength is the huge dark atmosphere we created. There are little parts where I'm sure we could've got better takes, we did quite long vocal sessions for example. Nothing too noticeable though so overall I'm happy with it.

Khazad-dûm - 'The Forsaken Palace' (2020):

You've chosen Tolkien's mythology as the central theme of your lyrics. It's a tricky thing from my point of view - on one hand he's a kind of "mainstream" author nowadays, on the other, some of his writings are filled with utter depression and feelings of bleakness. Actually, Blind Guardian picked up these points very precisely on 'Nightfall On Middle-Earth'. So was it a challenge to approach this theme with Khazad-dûm?

Answered by Myrddin Evans: The genre of funeral doom metal matches the poignantly bleak nature of Tolkien's darker moments. Whilst bands like Blind Guardian have touched on Tolkien themes in more broad, sweeping strokes, we've chosen to really zoom in on the gloom and misery of Mirror Mere, exploring the dark depths of Moria in a way that other bands have not quite done yet. Setting the scene for such a narrative was challenging, involving no small amount of literary and musical intrugue, but aesthetically it was deeply rewarding.

As Tolkien's mythology is truly vast and multilayered, could you say if you already have ideas for the next album, or even albums, of Khazad-dûm?

The way we approached Hymns from the Deep with retelling one chapter in an epic poem would work well with other chapters. So yes we've discussed other ideas and chapters that could work well. No solid plans for the next album in yet though.

Okay, then thank you for the interview, see you next time when Khazad-dûm returns with new material!

Thanks for your interest in Khazad-dûm! I hope anyone reading this enjoys journeys to the deep dark of Moria with us.

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Visit the Khazad-dûm bandpage.

Interviewed on 2020-06-01 by Comrade Aleks Evdokimov and Comrade Aleks Evdokimov.
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