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Russian Funeral Doom band Abysskvlt continue to expand their interest in ritualistic Tibetan themes with 2021's album 'Phur G.Yang'. Here, Comrade Aleks explores the background and drive behind that progress...

Interview with Abysskvlt.
"Started as a quite regular and (anonymous) Funeral Doom project, Abysskvlt - from Samara, Russia - were coherent on their path, and it's natural to see them at that point of creativity and spirituality. With second album 'Khaogenesis' (2018) they expanded on the strict and down-to-earth debut 'Thanatochromia' (2015) by decorating it with a ceremonial twist, adding some Tibetan instruments and even, partly, Tibetan lyrics. Their new album 'Phur G.Yang' is the grim result of a tight alliance between the same old Funeral Doom and the same far older Tibetan ritual music. Ritual singing and ritual instruments are included in even larger proportion than before...

The official statement from Abysskvlt is comprehensive: "Lyrics written and performed in Tibetan and Shangshung languages. Twenty traditional Tibetan musical instruments were used in the recording. The album is dedicated to the theme of Leaving and describes the rituals of heavenly funeral and further spirit wandering through the abyss beyond Samsara borders". It's comprehensive and yet there is still more to learn, that's why today we present this interview with Abysskvlt's collective mind."

Namaste Abysskvlt! All is dust and yet you have a new album, 'Phur G.Yang', please accept my congratulations. What's the band's current state? Do you have any ideas how to promote the album under current conditions?

Namaste Alex and all visitors of doom-metal.com.

We are also delighted with the release of the new album. Now we have the opportunity to chill and relax, think about musical ideas for the future album, start making new musical ethnic instruments for recording. We are not particularly involved in promoting Phur gYang, for the album is already as an independent living being, which we have released into the wild. We do not know what will happen there, but we hope he will find his listener. As for promotion, it's mostly online.

As Abysskvlt will be a new name for most of our readers, let's start from the very beginning. How was the band formed? How did you shape your sound?

In the beginning, there was intent. The intention to start making music ourselves, not just being listeners and fans of funeral doom. Perhaps we were so ambitious at that moment that we thought we could do something completely new, different from the canonical funeral doom.

The band was formed in 2014. The two of us met online, then met in real life. After a little conversation, we realized that we have a lot in common both in our worldview and in our musical preferences. After some time, we found other band members and then started rehearsing a lot and recording the material. We had no disputes about the sound, somehow everything was complete without words.

If you listen to our first album, you will hear almost standard funeral doom, but with elements of ethnics. The first steps, so to speak. But after the positive feedbacks, we realized that we were moving in the right direction and already on the second album the ethnic components increased significantly. New instruments were added, Terra Teratos was invited for female vocals, and some of the lyrics were written in Tibetan language. The third album was a leap of faith for us. All the lyrics are written in Tibetan and ZhangZhun, female vocals have become more diverse - in addition to the already familiar extreme vocals, folk chants, screams, whispers, mantras and howls have been added. Also added new musical instruments.

The band is known today - let's make it simple, and correct me if this description is wrong - as a "Tibetan Funeral Doom" band. How did you come to this idea to combine these traditions with Funeral Doom?

Yes, in general, this is the correct description.

We also use the description "ritual funeral doom", because in addition to Tibetan musical instruments, we can also use instruments from other traditions in the recording.

For us, funeral doom is more of a ritual than a musical genre. This music, more than the rest, puts you in a trance, makes you think about yourself and your inner state. Self-knowledge and analysis play a big role in the creation of this music. It is the same in Tibetan culture, or rather in the Bon tradition. So combining these two things was the obvious solution.

After the release of our debut album, we wanted to do something new in this genre and decided that it would be a great idea to mix funeral doom and Tibetan Bon music. By the name Bon music, let's understand the ancient shamanic music of the Bon tradition, which is somewhat different from modern Tibetan temple music. During the study of the ancient culture of Tibet (the culture of the Zhang Zhung region), we realized that low throat singing, growling copper pipes and flutes made of thigh bones can be the best way to complement our canonic funeral doom.

Abysskvlt - 'Khaogenesis' (Album, 2018):

As I understand it, your debut album 'Thanatochromia' wasn't connected tightly with this concept. How would you describe this period for Abysskvlt? Was it a time of searching for the band's own identity back then?

That's right. Thanatochromia was a traditional funeral doom, maybe with some new ideas.

Not all novice bands have a clear idea of what they will play. And we weren't an exception. At that time, we knew that we want to play funeral doom, but there were no specifics. We had sketches of future songs, but they sounded quite simple or rather primitive. The fascination with Tibet played a role in this - each of us had a pair of folk instruments brought from Tibet. And we ventured to add them. And we think it was the right decision.

Thanatochromia also has become an excellent foundation to develop our musical skills further. This period was full of searches, inner awe at the time of writing the first songs and trial studio recordings. We realized what we can do better and more interesting and where we should move on.

How deep were your researches into Tibetan culture? How did you come to the decision to combine it with this kind of music?

Indeed, in order to be immersed in Tibetan music, we had to read a lot of tibetologist researches, study the Tibetan language and the basic foundations of Zhang Zhung, start translating mDzod Phug (A Cavern of Treasures) into Russian, listen and analyze Tibetan temple music, watch old retro videos of the first explorers of Tibet and reproduce some musical instruments from footage frames. Of course, we used the help of scientists who have long and professionally understood this. All this was needed in order to be at least 1 percent authentic. In order for our creativity to be not a feigned masquerade, but a retransmission of the majestic and chthonic Ancient Times.

But even now, we believe that we have learned only a small part of what this mysterious culture hides.

Really? What kind of instruments did you create yourself?

All ethnic instruments that we use in recording can be conditionally divided into three groups:

1 - fully made instruments that we brought from Tibet and Nepal (such as Tibetan singing bowls, jew's harps and dungchens)
2 - instruments from Tibet and Nepal, but which were modified by us (such as sarangi, Khmer violin tro)
3 - instruments made by us from start to finish (such as goat horns, flutes made of bones, various kanglings, conch shells, damaru made of two skulls, piwang lute and dramyin). Our special pride is "Ikiller" - a cello made from a horse skull. Several instruments are currently under development, such as the "dudarma", a Buddhist percussion instrument from the Tamchinsky Datsan.

As mantras are one of the core elements of this tradition, and rituals have been based on sound since the dawn of men, this tradition has a concept of "healing sound" - to put it simply. And distorted guitars rather represent the destructive side of music. Don't you see a contradiction here?

In this tradition, the sound is the beginning and the end, as one whole monad, which in itself does not bring creation or destruction. The main thing is the intention inherent in the sound. This intention is also heterogeneous for the musician and the listener, that is, it is not necessary for the listener that the listener will hear what we are talking about and this is normal, it should be so.

The modern idea of Tibetan music as healing, giving enlightenment and getting rid of all adversity is only the idea of a contemporary person.

If we look deeper into antiquity, we will find many Bon mantras sung in low, vibrating, like a drone, voices, the texts of which are not about enlightenment, but about destruction as well. Shamanic (pre-Buddhist) Bon is a set of methods that were used in the old days (BC) by ordinary people, the inhabitants of ZhangZhung, who had simple worries and needs - so that there was a harvest in the fall, so that the yaks would stay alive after long winter, so that the neighbor would not damage by black spell and healing also. This is what our stories are about - about old chthonic times.

And again according to Bardo Thodol, the human spirit travels through afterlife experiences guided (almost automatically) by his settings/habits ones collected and grown during life on Earth. Didn't you think a habit to "dark" side may blunt your perception and play a bad joke during the final journey?

No, we don't think so. We can only hope that the "dark" side prepares our spirit a little for the bardo space. In the Sidpa Bardo chapter, it is written that You will be confused and angry until you realize and accept that everything around, all these terrible images and emanations, are You.

We also add, according to Tibetan Buddhism, after the bardo space there are several different options for the outcome of consciousness, and not just rebirth or an exit from Samsara.

Let me remind you that we are not practicing Buddhists or followers of the Bon tradition. We are musicians who plunged into this topic and brought out something useful for our creativity.

Also "drone" could be considered as the first form of ritualistic music, and Funeral is quite closed to Drone. Is there a chance that Abysskvlt will cross that border?

We will definitely not limit music from what it wants to be. Therefore, this cannot be ruled out. We do a kind of briefing after each album is released. We discuss what has already been done and what can be done in the future. It will also depend on the environment in which we will be while writing the album, our physical and psychological condition.

Abysskvlt - 'Phur G.Yang' (Album, 2021):

'Khaogenesis' in 2018 widened Abysskvlt's range in comparison to Thanatochromia. How do you see the conceptual difference between these albums?

Khaogenesis was the result of our first attempt at mixing Bon music and funeral doom. Conceptually, this album is devoted to the issues of the emergence of darkness (in the meaning of confusion, departure from one's true nature, to duality) from the very beginning of life on Earth, from the point of view of the Bon tradition. Also the second album became darker, heavier both in perception and in sound. The debut album, again, is more about the typical theme of funeral doom - death, leaving the life and posthumous experience. More effort was made to try to convey our thoughts to the listener.

How important is the experience of performing Abysskvlt music live? How often did you play gigs before pandemic?

From the very beginning, live performance was not our main goal. This is a nice and very useful bonus to the recording of music and the release of albums, which gave us a lot of experience.

Due to the peculiarity of our music and the technical complexity of its performance, we did not have many performances, maybe 10 or 12. But each of them gave a huge experience. And we appreciate it and will use it in the next concerts.

We have something to tell and show on stage.

Speaking about your new work 'Phur G.Yang'... Twenty traditional Tibetan instruments, guest vocalists... How did you work through the album's whole composition? Did you have its whole composed before recording?

Let's start with the fact that at some point the band members live in different regions of our country, so all the work was carried out remotely. We can say that our studio is the entire territory of the country (the world?). Recorded both in home studio and professional studio, and on the tops of mountain ranges. And this, as it seems to us, has its own flavor of the album. He is not tied to any particular place.

Initially, the album theme, outline of individual songs was determined and an approximate track list was compiled. Then "skeletons" of compositions were written and parts of ethnic instruments were painted by common efforts. After that there were a couple of months of recording, adding and editing parts. So everything came to the final version of the album.

The experience of working on previous albums helped us. It also helped that all the members of the band were involved. This significantly reduced the load. But even in such conditions, not everything goes according to plan. So to answer the second question - yes, the basis was composed in advance, but there were a lot of adjustments and improvisations during the recording process.

How did you orchestrate recording sessions? I see that only drums were recorded at a real studio.

A lot of studio experience in the past has helped us in this. Drums are more demanding to record, so yes, we recorded them in the studio. Currently, guitars and vocals do not require any special recording conditions, so there were no problems with them. Home studio, quality microphones and diving into inner space. More details about how Terra recorded her vocals, it is better to ask her, as it was a real magical action, full of mental concentration.

The recording of acoustic ethnic instruments took the most time. Because we found that recording in the studio did not provide the desired depth of sound. This is why some of the ethnic instruments were recorded in the wild, in their natural habitat, in the foothills of mountain ranges, under a rising moon, or in a secluded room. This was done so that you could be alone with the sound.

The lyrics this time were taken from Tibetan and Zhangzhung texts. Which sources did you use? What kind of ideas did you transfer through the new songs?

Precisely because we started to immerse ourselves in Tibetan music, we decided to completely abandon the English language in the lyrics and focused on the Tibetan and ZhangZhung languages. If the Tibetan language is still alive (about 5 million speakers worldwide) and it can be studied and the lyrics of a song can be written, then the ZhangZhung language is dead. Until now, several texts have survived in this language, which are studied in detail by Tibetologists. One such text is mDzod Phug (A Cavern of Treasures), which we began to translate.

New songs tell about some of the rituals of the past, associated with a person leaving the border, as well as stories about ancient times. For example, the first track Jhator tells about the sky burial ritual. Nga-Ri is a kind of offering to the great fourteen eight-thousanders mountains and other Bon sacred peaks. As a whole, the album aims to create the atmosphere of ancient ZhangZhung, so that the listener can immerse themselves in these visions.

How would you like to finish this interview? What's Abysskvlt's ultimate message?

Thank you so much for the interview. As we always say at the end - Close your eyes and see.

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Visit the Abysskvlt bandpage.

Interviewed on 2021-07-01 by Comrade Aleks Evdokimov.
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