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Vircolac | Interview


There has been a buzz quietly brewing among a small number of Dublin’s death metal enthusiasts since early 2014.

It has, however, been kept a bit hush hush, the group preferring to hold off on any sort of fanfare while they busied themselves writing their first clutch of dismal death metal ditties.

I duly did what I was told and bit my tongue, but I could tell by talking with them over the months that they were really excited by the noise that was forming in their lair. And rightly so! writes Andy Cunningham.

The three songs (and brilliant horror-score style intro) are varied yet focused little labyrinths of darkness that fuse old school passion with contemporary hunger to come up with something they can proudly call their own.

And so, with no further prattle I introduce Vircolac, a new name from four familiar faces. Metalireland’s own Jamie Grimes is among them – and they’ve given us the exclusive on their new music.

***

Vircolac is a very new mark on the Irish metal landscape, but all of your members have been knocking around in various guises over the past ten to twenty years. Tell us who is involved and how the band came together.

J: Essentially after a false start 3 or 4 years ago under a different name (though also with Darragh and Colin involved), I’d decided to record some song ideas on a four track in the death metal vein that I’d no intention of releasing beyond perhaps making tapes for friends.

Darragh heard the initial instrumental song I’d done and initially offered to do the vocals tracks, and then it drifted into the idea of getting a full line up together to record something properly.

Colin and Karen are both old friends so they were the two other natural pieces of the puzzle, and when we talked about what we wanted to do it was clear the four of us were of a similar mind.

Initially it was still just a “we’ll try it and see if it works” thing, but within the first rehearsal it was very apparent that the chemistry was there and it became a band rather than a simple recording project immediately.

And now here we are at year’s end with the “Codex Perfida” demo under our belt.

The first thing many will notice is the strange name. What sort of background can you give us on its meaning and its relevance to the themes you intend to explore with the band?

D: The name was Jamie’s finding in a book that he had been reading on the subject of the werewolf in European culture and folklore, which I then read as well on his recommendation (Matthew Beresford’s “The White Devil” for anyone interested).

The word Vircolac means werewolf in Romanian. People seem fixated on the fact that it’s Romanian when they learn of the origin of the name but it being Romanian is irrelevant, entirely. It’s a word/name that has never been used by any band before, which is hugely important and it is symbolically perfect for what it is we’re doing with the music.

As werewolf is a transformative concept, we felt that one of the paramount things any band can do is ‘transform’ its listenership or live audience by captivating them with the music being played. It is really the only ‘spiritual’ thing I can connect to or engage with on any level.

Much of metal’s history and legacy is how we were affected by a band or record at a certain point in our lives. That magic, if you continue to be a metal fan, is something you’ll never forget and while I do not mean to suggest for a moment that what we’re doing is going to move people in the same way certain classic albums did, we do want people to have a transformative experience when hearing our material. Be that the atmosphere, lyrics, rhythms or whatever…let it take you elsewhere.

When I first got wind of the project from Jamie back in around January or February, before it even became a proper band, the plan was to mix early Sentenced, early At the Gates and Darkthrone’s ‘Soulside Journey’.

How true have you stuck to that template? Would you say that the inclusion of extra members has had an impact on how the songwriting has progressed?

J: I’m not sure it was so much to “mix” those bands as you put it, but to reach for a version of death metal those bands amongst others (some early Peaceville stuff and Morbid Angel are equally important if you’re going to drop names here) attained – something that was dark, eerie and vicious as you might expect, but which also contained feeling, atmosphere, articulacy and imagination in their approach and execution of the genre.

These bands all had very personal visions and I have neither the inclination nor the technical ability to ape them. They were handy touchstones when I was trying to explain what I had in mind to the others but we’re a great deal more straight forward than those bands sonically ; it’s more we’re aiming to have a character of our own in the way those bands strove to.

The songs on the demo are very much a starting point from which we are already progressing quickly so expect future material to be more intricate, perhaps then we’ll be closer to the styles of the bands you mention but it won’t be intentional.

The chemistry between the four members has been massively instrumental in shaping the sound. I write the bulk of the riffs, but the arrangements and alterations are a group effort, and each member adds their own personality to the sound in their playing – Purcell’s drumming for example often is quite different to and improves greatly upon whatever rudimentary rhythmic idea I might have had.

We’re all very much on the same page with what we want musically, and were the writing simply me left to my own devices it would all sound very different.

From talking to you all individually over the last few months I have really picked up a sense that the creative juices are flowing thick and fast here. There’s a sense of urgency to get this stuff recorded and get out gigging.

Progress has been fairly quick with a demo recording on the horizon. Tell us what your intentions are with this release because I get the impression you are looking beyond the confines of the local scene with this stuff?

D: I’d replace urgency with focus or determination. Urgency makes it seem like we’re in some kind of desperate hurry to make our presence felt, which certainly isn’t the case. Time waits for no man and at this point of our lives, we have no need to bang and clatter around in a rehearsal space trying to badly mimic or imitate mediocre metal music to give ourselves a sense of purpose.

Going into this, once rehearsals began, it became very clear that there was a creative consciousness that just simply worked. If we had attempted this a decade ago with the same personnel, it really would not have gotten past one rehearsal but now, it works perfectly.

Our aim, simply, is to get our music across to people who we feel will appreciate what it is we do. The avenues for that locally or domestically are horrendously malnourished so it’s natural that we’ll extend our reach as far and wide as possible. Whether others bite the bait and invite us is purely speculative right now.

I understand there is some sort concept at work on the demo tracks. What can you tell us about that?

D: There is no single unifying concept but the lyrics do nod to the grand old traditions of metal and incorporate themes such as death, spirituality as well as man’s own enslavement to his darker impulses and desires, despite or maybe actually because of the inheritance of rules that were simply impossible to adhere to and quite possibly perverted and destroyed the mind.

Your first gig is as part of the Redemption Fest this November in the company of The Ruins of Beverast, Bolzer, Dread Sovereign etc. That’s a pretty damn impressive way to start the band’s gigging career. I expect you won’t be getting onstage wearing white shirts and blue jeans, though. Do you have any plans to make it more of a visual spectacle and what can we expect?

D: Honestly, though we’ve tossed around the subject of playing live and how we’ll approach it, we haven’t given it a huge amount of thought as getting the demo done was our priority. As first gigs go, it certainly is a great way to start. No doubt about that. We had no desire to begin limping into existence live so we wanted to start with as strong a debut gig as possible.

J: Yeah, as Darragh says it’s the one area of presentation we’re still tweaking. We’re conscious of the pressure making our debut as part of such a strong line up, and we intend to rise to the challenge.
One of the songs on the rehearsal recording has some prominent keyboards which is often regarded as a bit of a no-no in death and black metal.

This suggests to me that the concept has maybe grown wings in the last while and is moving into new territory. That song also seems to avoid using any minor chords, yet manages to build an eerie vibe regardless. What the hell is going on there?

J: There are moments of both piano and keyboard (and violin) in some of the songs but both are used briefly and sparingly so I’m not sure what you mean by “prominent”, if anything they’re barely there bar the instrumental title track. Certain passages in a song will suggest additional instrumentation to one or all of us, and we’ll discuss it or try it to see if it works with the song.

I can’t think of any valid reason why we shouldn’t use whatever tools we wish to bring a song to life, be that effects, other instruments, samples, whatever in the studio – we’re attempting to capture a definitive version of the song permanently so whether or not we can reproduce it live doesn’t matter, and again these are enhancements and shading rather than the core of the piece. Anyway, why should we give a fuck about what’s a “no-no”? Who are we beholden to exactly?

I hadn’t really thought about the lack of minor chords, but the song I think you’re talking about (“As The Worm Turns” I presume?) has quite a lot of dissonance in it so it’s hardly upbeat and jolly sounding. Eeriness is definitely a key concern with both that and the newer stuff we’re working on, and has been from day one.

The third song you sent me is kind of heading off the beaten track from the straight up death metal template laid out in the beginning. Do you think that at the minute it is important for bands to show a bit more daring?

There is such a massive amount of death and black metal spewing out constantly, and often of a very high calibre, making it easy for a band to slip under the radar. Do you think that bands need to stop being so genre specific or is it just a coincidence that these outside influences are creeping in at the edges?

J: I don’t think it is. Perhaps where some see death metal as coming with a strict rule book, it’s just that we see it more as a rough guide book. There’s no contrived effort to try and add elements solely for the sake of it or stand out.

I don’t really see a lot of what we’re doing as being massively outside the realms of death metal, it’s perhaps just that we don’t limit ourselves to having the distortion on all the time or just playing powerchords all the time– but those are hardly revolutionary musical ideas that we deserve a pat on the back for.

And to be honest I don’t really care about how other death metal bands create music in context of our band, they can be as genre specific or daring or not as they want provided they’re writing good music.

Again, because we want to create songs with feeling and atmosphere we don’t place a great deal of limitation on the way we achieve it. We all like and have played a wide sphere of music obviously, but– with the notable exception of horror movie soundtracks– I don’t think we’ve consciously incorporated any other genre’s tropes into our music, and it would be a load of fucking waffle to pretend otherwise. If it’s there, it’s coincidental.

We view ourselves 100% as a Death Metal band, not some mutant subgenre of a subgenre.

Invictus might seem like the obvious label choice but I believe you have someone else in mind?

J: I suspect trying to balance the responsibility of running the label with his role in the band would create a level of stress for Darragh that neither he nor the rest of us need, so it’s extremely unlikely there’ll ever be anything by Vircolac under the Invictus banner purely for that reason alone.

There’s also I suppose the fact that a band putting out a release on a label run by one of their members, particularly a well established label, would be written off as a vanity project, which would detract from the work we’ve put into the music.

For “Codex Perfida” we’re delighted to be working with Iron Bonehead, and hopefully that relationship will continue for as long as it works for both parties.

What can you tell us about how the logo and artwork tie in with the music and lyrics?

J: Both were done by a friend in the US, an illustrator named Stephen Wilson, who has since informed me for whatever personal reasons these are likely to be his last work for bands, which I believe is a great shame.

The cover image was a piece he had done which I noticed and which immediately saw as fitting with some of the ideas we’d discussed between us to do with the music and lyrics. There’s an element of transformation and transcendence to it, but also a hint of denial of both in the way in which the figure’s head is encased within the triangle, and the image itself has a cold, eerie presence to it which complimented the music beautifully – it spoke to the four of us on seeing it.

I contacted him to see if he would permit us to use it and to my delight he did. He’s also designed a band sigil and is working on a logo currently. How they tie in with everything is probably more of a personal concern between the four of us.

I believe there are already inroads being made into the writing of new material for a possible EP after the demo? How are they developing in contrast to the demo songs? You seem to be wasting no time. Is it important to strike while the iron is hot or will you space the releases out a bit?

J: It’s way too early to discuss the new material. There will be a 12” or Mini LP of some kind next year but we’ll reveal the concrete details nearer time of release.

Is world domination on the cards?

D: If I meet or speak to one person who buys our music that is moved by it, I consider that a success. We’re a new band with old heads swimming against a massive deluge of bands all trying to find space in a very noisy world.

Interview by Andy Cunningham ::: 10/11/14


46 Comments
  1. I like it.
    The vocals make it really worth while.

  2. That’s sounding great – looking forward to hearing this live.

  3. awesome interview, can’t wait for the gig

  4. Great track/Interview. Look forward to listen to the tape!

  5. Eoin McLove Says:

    Some of the questions read a bit strangely due to the interview being written on the back of some rehearsal recordings before they hit the studio. I didn’t have song titles and so on. Still, good to have another set of comrades to assault Europe with!

  6. wizardinblack Says:

    My ears are enjoying this immensely, solid old school basis but infused with a more progressive palette musically. Proper. Looking forward to hearing the other tracks!

  7. Didn’t know what to expect and only knew Purcell and Darragh were in the band. It’s very good. Reminds me of Bolt thrower a bit in parts. Love the horror theme running in the background

  8. Great track, very promising indeed! The atmospherics are deadly. Eager to hear the rest of the tape

  9. Vircolac or Viroclac?

    Heading on the interview seems to be wrong.

    Song is class either way.

  10. pentagrimes Says:

    yeah to clarify: VIRCOLAC, not Viroclac.

    thanks for the kind words all

  11. Haven’t had a chance to check out the track yet. But will as soon as I’m home.

    One thing, though!
    How can you call it a ‘Demo’ if it’s been arranged before recording to release it on a label?

  12. pentagrimes Says:

    Ha..I know what you mean. I guess because the initial plan was to release it as such on tape, it would have ended up being referred to as a demo anyway,and certainly that was what it was meant to be initially. Ask Malthusian and Zom the same question perhaps?

  13. Eoin McLove Says:

    Because demo.

  14. Yeah! I know Zom and Malthusian did the same thing, too.
    I just don’t get the ‘Demo’ tag. So what if it’s released initially on tape.

  15. pentagrimes Says:

    We refer to it as a demo, you can refer to it as whatever you prefer.

  16. That’s savage!! I love that drum sound. Physical copies? Please say cd as well as the rest.

  17. I just read the bit in the main forum about the availability etc.

  18. My bad on the name typo.

    Music is killer, main thang.

  19. pentagrimes Says:

    oh one last thing: photos are by Lyndsey Putt.

  20. I love the one on the rooftops, cracker idea.

  21. open face surgery Says:

    They stole that idea from Bono.

  22. Nelson Moreira Says:

    I just came across both band and tune through ARGUS that shared the stuff. After listening to “Confessio” (more latin names, please) carefully twice, what I enjoyed the most was that eerie sense of impending doom, of treading the edge of the abbyss towards the end of the song. Looking forward to hearing more. Curious and interested… .

  23. Anyway, why should we give a fuck about “what’s a “no-no”? Who are we beholden to exactly?”

    Take that Cunningham!!!

  24. Eoin McLove Says:

    Trust Jamie to offer a diplomatic response to an innocuous question!

  25. *the interviewer wipes the gob from his face and proceeds with his next question*

  26. Black Shepherd Says:

    Savage track, really excellent to hear Darragh working on some stuff again. The music is thick, rich with atmosphere, mystery and mystique. Not to put too fine a point on it, but have ye made a conscious decision to go for the opposite in the interviews?

  27. Finally got around to checking this out…
    Fantastic stuff. Top marks!

  28. Great track. Always liked Darragh’s vox, he doesn’t disappoint. Real quality here gents.

  29. Eoin McLove Says:

    Yeah, great to hear Darragh back doing some vicious vocals. It adds a really violent edge to the music.

  30. Fuckin cool track.

  31. Very cool in fairness

  32. That’s fucking cool.

  33. darragh is like simon cowell ,if im not involved somewhat its not happening

    signing himself next 😉

  34. Can’t play the Soundcloud link on my computer, ipad or phone. Looking forward to getting the tape though.

  35. @Pio – pm me

  36. resonant paddy Says:

    Well done jamie. That is savage. Production is fantastic too. Very atmospheric. wouldn’t mind pickin up a copy o this off ya over redemption weekend. You still see Graham around? He’d be well impressed!

  37. Very good track, I look forward to hearing the rest.

  38. Pretty cool. The section with the vocals and that kind of skank beat (around 1:27) sounds somewhat like old Dodheimsgard (which is no bad thing).

  39. I want see this live in a cave. Love the vocals. Nice horrible sound too. Fair play.

  40. Good stuff!!! Love the old Swedish DM sound on there.

  41. Sounds promising!!!

  42. loving it…

  43. Pretty good stuff alright, I do the the track’s atmosphere. Looking forward to hearing this live at Redemption Fest…

  44. Just listened to this on bandcamp. Seriously Lethal stuff! Love it.

  45. The bullet belts are gas. The original village people! haha

  46. […] Metal Ireland har intervjuat bandet, ni hittar det här, och en av frågorna som diskuteras är så klart det underliga bandnamnet, som Darragh (sång) […]

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