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Hands Of Orlac, originally from Italy but now based in Sweden, continue their retro Dark Sound Doom with a recent third full-length release. Co-founder The Templar gives Comrade Aleks more details about this latest venture.

Interview with Hands Of Orlac.
"Italian Doom metal band Hands of Orlac started in 2009, but some time after that most of its members relocated to Sweden. The band survived that, and they now have three splits and three full-length albums in their discography, but only two original members - The Sorceress (vocals, flute) and The Templar (bass). The third album, ‘Hebetudo Mentis’, was released on September 18th by Terror from Hell Records, and I bet there are some stories behind these songs which you’d like to learn. Like: how far have they come from their first demo Vengeance from the Grave? How much Italian Dark Sound is in the new material? The Templar will reveal these and more in this new interview."

Hands of Orlac: Axel Johansson (drums), The Sorceress (flute, vocals), Manuele Bonanno(guitars), The Templar (bass).

Hi Hands of Orlac! How are you doing? Who’s online today?

Hi, we are doing fine, thank you. It is the Templar to answer the questions for you today.

Nice to hear from you again. Six years passed since your last appearance on the split album with The Wandering Midget, and now you return with the new album ’Hebetudo Mentis’. Where have you been all this time?

This whole time has been spent in the dungeon to transport the new album from the metaphysic domains to our sensitive world, with a few breaks for some live shows. This process started about the time the split has been released. We hope you like the new album.

Yes, I do. And I like the split as well. It’s sad that The Wandering Midget was disbanded, do you keep in touch with Samuel? And do you have a constant contact with some other doom bands?

I actually do, even if not as often as it should be. TWM was a great band and really special to me, its disbanding really struck me. Still, Gargantuan Blade will keep the torch lit. As for other doom bands we try to keep in touch with those who are closer to us, like Misantropus from Italy or the mighty Epitaph. It´s hard to keep the networking going when you age...

During these years you lost some band members, and Emil Jansson joined the band in 2018 as guitarist. Did it change the inner processes in Hands of Orlac cardinally?

All of the “classic line-up” has been slowly disappearing through the years for different reasons. Emil has been a great addition that unfortunately lasted just for a few months. The band is solidly formed by me and the Sorceress but for this album we have been lucky to be coadiuvated by talented musicians as in Manuele Bonanno on guitars and Axel Johansson on drums.

How did you and Sorceress manage to keep the band active together despite the move to Sweden, the pandemic and all changes in the lineup?

Hands of Orlac is something that keeps going in its own time despite all the practical events. We do not pursue any personal gain or glory, it is the deeper sense of music that drives the band in the spectrum of all its meanings. Despite all the things we kept on going even if it has been slower then the early years.

Hands of Orlac - ‘Frostbite’ (2023):

I see that Emil played in death metal band Decapitation and some others bands totally unknown for me. Did he bring his own influences to the band or was it you who taught him how to play Doom metal properly?

He already knew everything that he needed to know to be able to play with us, from Goblin´s Opera Magnifica to Blood Farmer´s Deathmaster. He is now more prone to the heaviest of death metal with Virulentum.

How long did you work over the songs for ’Hebetudo Mentis’? Was it stressful or rather a relaxed experience this time?

It has been a very intense process to put the album into reality. All the songs have been crafted according to those traits that we felt were missing in the previous works. It is surely a lot of informations to take in at the first listening and in that sense it took a lot of effort for me to write and arrange the songs to the point needed. To let the rest of the playing band take all those things in, to fine tune and arrange the missing details is an intense process, too. I would not say stressful but relaxed has never existed in my book.

Which certain traits were what you “felt were missing in the previous works”?

Not in a pushing fashion but we felt we needed to explore further dimensions in music. We never started a song in a certain way with drums, we never had a song in italian before, we never had synths in the middle of a song and so on. Overall a certain atmosphere, it can be sensed as a continuation of the “Teschio Umano” split. The careful listener will definitely know.

My calendar shows me that it’s 2023, but ’Hebetudo Mentis’ sounds as if it’s 1983. You’ve kept this retro vibe since the band’s foundation and it seems that you don’t plan to change the course. What are the key components of Hands of Orlac’s sound?

We like a certain sound in music and that is the sound we pursue. High gain distortion would not suit our concept. We mainly dig old stuff for the themes we talk about as in we probably like older stuff. Recording at Berno studio surely helped to achieve such sound, a “timeless sound” in the words of the very Berno Paulsson. We aimed for a sound that has no time and we made an album that is not imprisoned in time.

Well said! The album’s title ’Hebetudo Mentis’ appeals to dementia: “simultaneous disorder of intellect, memory and fantasy”. What drove you to pick up this title?

TIMOR ET HEBETUDO MENTIS CECIDIT SUPER NOS. It is a quote from a motet of gregorian tradition. Hebetudo Mentis can be translated as dullness of mind, a state that is more than common in these times. It is something that can as well occur to the listener if not enough trained to certain kind of music or practices.

What kind of lyrics did you prepare this time? Knowing your addiction to horror movies, I’d like to mention the new album of your colleagues from Spain, Misty Grey, ’Visions after Void’. They based the entire album on the films of Fritz Lang And, partly, Alfred Hitchcock. What about you?

Cool to hear about Misty Grey´s new album! With this one, too, we decided for a variety of themes. As for the horror movie theme we got inspired for the song “Malenka” by Fangs of the living Dead (Malenka la nipote del vampiro is the italian title) directed by one of our favourites, Amando De Ossorio. The story starts in Rome and it is interpreted by Anita Ekberg, a symbol, the bridge between our eternal City and our actual hometown of Malmö.

I never watched the film, but I see that it has a pretty low rating. What did draw your attention to this one?

Well, it felt like it was a metaphorical bridge connecting our two cities. How Anita Ekberg symbolizes this connection but as well how decadent it has became from the scene where she is bathing in Fontana di Trevi with Marcello Mastroianni to be in a De Ossorio movie in just a few years apart. I suggest to watch a documentary on her life to get further explanations. Also the movie has great parts that really suit our music, I think, like in the flashback part. It has as well a good amount of grotesque pieces that reminds us the are an inevitable part of life, too. Nothing is so shiny or perfect in real life.

“Ex Officio Domini (The Executioner of Rome)” is the longest song in the band’s discography (even longer than “Curse of the Human Skull” from the split with The Wandering Midget)...

This song is also a tribute to Rome in one of its bloodiest character, Giovanni Battista Bugatti, known as Mastro Titta. A murderer “ex officio Domini”. As grotesque as the catholic church can be, he was selling umbrellas when not on duty for the Pope as executioner. The song needed to be long to tell what we needed to tell about it.

Hands of Orlac - ‘Live at Underwerket, Copenhagen’ (2022):

Oh, wait… I’m reminded of Hangman’s Chair album ’This Is Not Supposed to Be Positive’. The artwork was dedicated to the last French hangman… damn… Anatole Deibler! Yes! Well, it’s so… sentimental that you return to Rome in your songs. Did you ever think to move there and leave Sweden behind?

We are still to be in Sweden at the moment, a lovely country. Not comparable with other countries for a lot of advantages. In a way it was too many things that conjured us here to let go so easy of it. It is now 11 years. Also the band has existed longer in Sweden than in Italy.

What about live performances this time? Did the situation change?

The situation is similar to the previous but we are eventually ready to perform live with the appropriate conditions. The blood of a band is a live performance to the like minded audience in a mutual ritual.

What are your plans now towards Hands of Orlac’s future? How do you see the band’s prospects today?

Hands of Orlac is about to release their latest album that has been recorded in the 13th year of existence. Numbers are not to be underestimated. We face the future with an open mind and an open heart and never succumb to what is not true to us.

Thank you very much for your questions.

Thanks for the interview Templar! Let’s hope that we’ll have another chance to discuss Hands of Orlac, and it won’t take six more years.

It will not be so long!

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Interviewed on 2023-12-19 by Comrade Aleks Evdokimov.
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