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Latvian band Frailty, after something of a digression with 2017's 'Ways Of The Dead', return to more familiar Death/Doom territory with their latest work 'Tumši ūdeņi', explored in their mother tongue. Comrade Aleks seeks out the story behind it with band founder Edmunds Vizla.

Interview with Frailty.
"For years Frailty was the one and only real Death/Doom act in Latvia. Being born in 2003, they released first full-length 'Antithesis... Melancholia On Earth' in 2007 and sophomore 'Lost Lifeless Lights' followed in 2008. The band's individuality - based on solid live performances and a grim yet melodic sound - was later honed through the 'Melpomene' album (2012), but turned upside-down with 2017's 'Ways Of The Dead', which revealed the more wicked, extreme and chaotic side of Frailty. They returned to the old Death/Doom ways with 'Tumši ūdeņi', a fresh piece of bitter and fierce monumental liturgy, released on October 2nd. A bigger sound, Latvian lyrics, and more complex arrangements demonstrate Frailty's renewed image. The band's guitarist Edmunds Vizla tells the story behind it from beyond quarantine's veil."

Frailty in 2020: Lauris Polinskis (drums), Jēkabs Vilkārsis (rhythm guitars), Mārtiņš Lazdāns (vocals), Edmunds Vizla (guitars, vocals), Andris Začs (bass).

Hi Edmunds! How are you? What's going in your camp? Were new quarantine restrictions announced in Latvia?

Hi! We are feeling great, thank you! As you know Frailty has released a new album on 2 October, and we also have a new official video for the song "Es degu". Currently we are doing some promotional activities. This year has been very challenging for the whole world, but in Latvia the situation has been quite good, at least for the first wave of the virus outbreak. Now, when the second wave is here, things have become harder, but no extra hard restrictions have been made. To wear a medical mask in public places like shopping malls or in public transport is not really a drastic restriction. On the other hand there are restrictions of public assembly in places like concert venues. That affects the entertainment industry, but that is a common problem throughout the world.

You took a decision to release your new album 'Tumši ūdeņi' despite all difficulties the scene suffers from nowadays. Why did you choose to do it right now?

We are really unaffected by the hardships of the scene, because we are not a band, who makes its living with music. We had a plan to release an album, and we simply stuck to it. Also, everything is on the Internet now, so there is no problem to reach our fans. The only thing that is missing, is the live shows, because of the restrictions. Hopefully we will return to normality next year. Then we will be planning some live shows.

Your new video for the song 'Es Degu' looks quite good. It's solid, it's grim, it's well done even though it demonstrates that "anticlerical" attitude common for the Metal scene in general. Did you shoot it on your own too?

We really encourage the audience to try and see beyond the typical "anticlerical" motives, because it was not really what we wanted to show on "Es degu". The basis of the video's story are important events in the world's history – the times of Reformation in the 16th Century. We had the intention to depict a fictional but appropriate episode for the period, which characterizes the dimension of human tragedy in time of the collision of different worldviews. A great emphasis is made on the characters and symbols presented in the video, and also on the relevant existential questions. How far can a human being go in protecting his own truth? Does the goal really justify the means? Does faith and trust crumble in the face of trials and death? At what point a person gains or loses that which makes him or her human? The characters of "Es degu" are made in search of answers to these questions. And yes, we did it by ourselves. Our guitar player Jēkabs was the director, so a huge thanks goes to him to make this all possible!

Frailty - 'Es degu' (Official, 2020):

Once again you released your album DIY: was the experience of releasing 'Ways Of The Dead' comfortable enough for you?

It is OK to do it all by ourselves. We recorded the album in our own studio, we also did the mixing and mastering. It allows to have extra time to do things exactly as we want, and we do not have to worry about any extra costs of the studio time, etc. Based on the good results we have achieved, we will most likely continue to do so it in the future as well. We can only salute the technological possibilities of the 21st century! It also concerns the promotional side, with all the reach we can have on the Internet, however we must admit, that we have to do some more here.

How did you equip your studio? Was it expensive? And did you have to economise choosing the necessary equipment? Let's say... what would you like to add to your arsenal?

Let's say, we had everything we needed, most of the stuff gathered during recent years. The main man in the studio is our bassplayer Andris, most of the recording equipment is his. I'm not really a super pro in the recording equipment, but the album turned out great, so I suppose everything was OK. Hopefully we can add some stuff for the next recording sessions, maybe some different cabs for guitars. They usually have a huge impact on the sound.

You changed the direction from classic Death/Doom to its more extreme form on previous album 'Ways Of The Dead', and now I would say that you've taken a step away from that to further develop and expand the ideas of 'Melpomene'?

We really have moved forward from that era. I'm not afraid to say, that we have become better musicians and songwriters during the years since Melpomene was released. Ways of the Dead was meant to be a little bit different from everything else we have done before, and it helped us a lot to evolve. I would say that Tumši ūdeņi is not a return to our "roots". It shares a lot with the early stuff we did, however everything is better: the production, the ideas and the approach to the music in general. It is likely, that our next work will be a mix of musical elements from Ways... and Tumši ūdeņi, because we do not really want to focus on particular style of making songs or albums, we want just to let it come and go naturally. If we have some good ideas for faster, more death or black metal songs, they will make it to the record. The same goes for doom or ambient stuff. If its good and it works in our opinion, it should go on the record. Metal is freedom after all.

Do you already have a bunch of ideas for the next album?

Yes, there are some new ideas, but they are in their very early stages, so I cannot say, what will become of them. Maybe the majority of them will be discarded, and replaced with something different. It' s too early to say.

You said that some of the 'Ways Of The Dead' songs were composed back in 2008. How fresh is the material you've included on Frailty's new album 'Tumši ūdeņi'?

The material on Tumši ūdeņi is very fresh in comparison to other albums we have made. Almost all ideas came during the rehearsal sessions with the band during 2018/2019. So, it was put together riff by riff, constantly searching for the best possible combinations. It was a real teamwork on that.

So the new songs aren't that malicious and chaotic - what made you change the sound concept?

It was a natural development, we did not think to really change the style or whatsoever. We let it come naturally. I suppose the idea to make all songs in Latvian also played a part, since the Latvians are somehow brooding and gloomy by nature, so it had to be slower, doomier .

And I really love how your countrymen Druun perform it on their 'Veļu laiks' album! That was a killer debut! Do you communicate with them? I have the best free advice, which no-one was asking for: you should do a split release with them!

They are our old friends, we have known them for many years. As for the split release - we have never considered that option. We always try to concentrate on full albums.

'Ways Of The Dead' was all about Lovecraftian mythology's horror and madness and D. Tyson's interpretation of this stuff, and now you switch to your mother tongue. What drove you to do this?

The legacy of H. P. Lovecraft is incredible. You just can not to fall in love with it since you get to know it. Yet stronger still is the influence and heritage of your own national roots. The Latvians have a rich history, full of many legends and hardships. I would say it is a perfect mine for really good doom metal material. Also, we have been thinking to make a record in Latvian for years. Now the stars were right to do it, and we just went on.

Did it change anything concerning Frailty's popularity in Latvia?

We became even stronger actually, even got a Latvian Grammy nomination. The album won the Independent Latvian Metal Music award for Best album of 2017. If we had decided to play live more, the results could have been even better, but really we have nothing to complain about. To have faster, more savage songs in the set only helps, as it makes the performance more dynamic.

'Tumši ūdeņi' means Dark Waters, that sounds OK for a Death/Doom album. Do your new texts keep a standard doom vibe or do you raise some new themes in your songs?

I would say that the lyrics I wrote for this album are the darkest I have written in years. I tried to deal with dark premonitions, the fear of death, the fear of abandonment by God, interpretations of major historical events, aspects of Latvian mythology, also of grief and madness... It corresponds with the general doom vibe quite well, so Frailty stays canonical by all standards. To do otherwise would be heresy.

Frailty - 'Tā aiziet gaisma' (Official, 2020):

May you name a few canonic Death/Doom bands for you? Which bands remain your beacons through the years?

That's simple: old Anathema (Serenades, Pentecost III, The Silent Enigma albums), My Dying Bride (almost everything from them, with some exceptions), Paradise Lost (everything from them, their return to death doom recently is beyond epic!), also Saturnus, Evoken, Morgion, Novembers Doom. The Silent Enigma by Anathema remains my all time favorite album, nothing and no one can ever beat it in terms of musical perfection, if we are speaking about true death/doom metal. That is the highest standard for me, but it is closely followed by MDB's The Dreadful Hours and The Light at the End of the World.

Did you record the new songs all together as the band, or did you contribute most of the ideas as it was with the first albums?

I made the "skeletons" of most songs on Tumši ūdeņi, but like I said above, it was a team effort to grow the "meat" on those bones. Our guitar player Jēkabs is continuing to contribute more to the band musically. The song "Tā aiziet gaisma" (Thus, the Light Departs) is his brainchild on this album, so you can expect more diversity in the future albums as well.

Frailty didn't often play live previously, so is it a problem not to have the chance to play new stuff live?

We really hope that the crisis of Covid-19 will go to hell next year, and we can plan and do live shows or even some tours. We love to play live, however, the stars have to be right to do it.

Live, 2019.

I remember the time when your second album 'Lost Lifeless Lights' was just released by Solitude Productions, with that live DVD shoot at Shadow Doom Festival in a pack. There was also a show with Skepticism in Moscow. How often have you had invitations to play in Russia since then?

Last time we played in Russia was in 2014, when we did a crazy tour with Belorussian Woe Unto Me. We played in Kaliningrad, Velikiye Luki and St. Petersburg.

How do you see the European Death/Doom scene today and how do you see Frailty's prospects there?

I don't really follow that so much nowadays. It is great that Paradise Lost is back playing doom again, I suppose that makes the scene stronger. About Frailty' s prospects - come what may, we will still play the music we like and do it damn good. If there are people who like us, we are truly thankful. We will continue to release albums and videos, and hopefully play live more after the Covid-19 crisis is over.

Thanks for the answers Edmunds, I hope we'll have a chance to speak soon and discuss Frailty's new album. How would you like to finish this interview?

I'm really looking forward to discuss our latest album. I' would like to encourage everyone to give it a listen, we tried to do our best to make it a good and solid doom record, dealing with some dark and heavy stuff from the black depths of our Latvian hearts. Also if you are not familiar with Latvian language, this can be a nice first step to find out more about it.

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Visit the Frailty bandpage.

Interviewed on 2020-11-16 by Comrade Aleks Evdokimov.
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