Interview by Ed MacLaren
Plagued for years by technical issues and internal strife, it didn’t look like the debut album from Russian goth metal band t.h.e. Sacrament would ever see the light of day. But good things always come to those who wait – after four years in the making, “The Sobering Cold” has arrived and it was worth every second. An impressive mix of dark melodies and rhythmic crunch, “The Sobering Cold”, shows no audible sign of the pains of its creation. Femme Metal talks with vocalist LoraSS about the troubled birth of “The Sobering Cold” and how it brought t.h.e. Sacrament together closer than before. The best thing is that they have four years of material ready to record.
It was a long wait but “The Sobering Cold” is out and it’s an awesome album of atmospheric gothic metal. How does it feel to finally get this material out to the fans?
We feel that we did it! Now we can say that we called it a day! We feel that we can start work on our next material which waited on this release for so much time!
It took four years for the band’s original vision to come to fruition. What was the genesis of “The Sobering Cold”? What were the delays and why did they happen?
“The Sobering Cold” contains all our first songs, written until 2006. But there were several causes that delayed its release. First, some days before the album presentation the record-studio gave us a completed but very bad quality CD. Everything was damaged: the recording, mixing, mastering and most of all the input material. It meant that we had to start again from the get-go. Second, I left the band when the album was being mastered. While I was absent, t.h.e. Sacrament made its own record-studio and its engineering quality was better than the quality previous to that. That’s why when I came back we started the record a third time.
You left t.h.e. Sacrament for a period but returned in time to complete the album. What changed for you and the band during the time you were gone? What brought you back again?
It seemed to me that the mutual respect re-appeared between us. It was chance to start again from the get-go. I think it was a necessary period in our lives; it gave us the possibility to value the importance of each other. I’m sure it is good.
“The Sobering Cold” sounds incredibly mature for a debut album. Did the long gestation period allow you more time to perfect the music? What did you think of the results?
Thank you! I think that it was so, we had more time for the work on our album, and above all, we had the possibility to correct our mistakes, to re-record moments that weren’t liked by us. We had time to become more professional musicians so we did a more mature product.
How did the delays in writing and production impact the finished product? Did the album turn out differently in 2010 than if you had finished it back in 2007 or 2008?
Of course, the album turned out in 2010 has differences from the previous variants of that. First, is the quality of the performance, recording, mixing and mastering. Second, it contains our new view of the material, new sounds and details have appeared, I have improved my vocal parts and added backing vocals in many songs. In “The Little Kingdom” we have changed it with an invited vocalist.
How did the band develop its sound? It’s a unique blend of atmospherics and aggression.
I think it’s different views of our music by the musicians. It seems to me the atmospherics is the female basis in our band – until recently the key board player was Juliett. And the aggression is male.
Musically, “The Sobering Cold” is a seamless unification of atmospheric keyboards, aggressive guitar riffs with a very inventive rhythm section. Do the guys in the band come from different musical backgrounds? If so, is it a challenge to combine all these influences and stylistic differences into such a sophisticated sound?
No, the guys and one lady on keyboards either came from similar or alike musical backgrounds or our band was the first band in their life. Of course, we are all affected by our favorite bands therefore there is this a combining of all these influences and stylistic differences.
Your vocals on “The Sobering Cold” are wonderful. Your voice is clear and bright with a purity of sound that contrasts with the dark musical atmosphere. It has a sound quality that is unique among female metal vocalists. What were you trying to achieve with vocal contributions on “The Sobering Cold”?
Thank you! The most important thing for me is the emotion. I’m trying to say my thoughts by the intonation and the emotion, even maybe not by the words because there are a lot of people in Russia who don’t translate the lyrics. Let it be only feelings such as melancholy, fear, uncertainty, anxiety etc. It’s great because it means if I can create the mood, I can touch the soul.
“The Sobering Cold” is a great headphone album. The production is very meticulous. Tracks like the intro piece to “Falling Star” and “I’ve Got Only One Day” really benefit from the extra attention. How important was it to focus on the little details for this album?
You know, we never thought about it. We didn’t try to focus on it is what I think we would say about considering variety, dissimilarity between songs per se. They’re just different with their stylistics.
“The Little Kingdom” is a standout track on the album. It’s more experimental vocally and is bolder in its arrangements and instrumentation. What were you trying to achieve with that track? Is it a bit of a taste of the direction t.h.e. Sacrament is heading on future releases?
No, it isn’t so. It is just one of our songs. If you say that it’s more experimental vocally, we simply invited a vocalist with clean vocals (because we haven’t a clean male vocalist in our band). He, Roman Rain, is a famous musician in Russia, so it was an experiment of collaboration with a talented and original man. Also we invited Dmitry Rishko (Dominia) as violinist and keyboard player; he has an inimitable style and I think he has an influence upon this song.
The album artwork is beautiful and very striking. How does album title and cover imagery reflect the music on the album?
I tried to show despair, hopelessness, the feeling of time lost, because the majority of the album lyrics contains this subject area. Unfortunately, we often don’t value our life, people who surround us – we are selfish and blind. We lose opportunities and regret it. I tried to say that the only cause of our tears is we ourselves, and if you dive into cold water in winter you may reveal that frozen water over you. Our life is in our hands, and we‘re responsible for our future. The album title and cover imagery is the moment of this truth.
The goth metal scene is very crowded these days. It’s very hard for a new band – especially one with a female vocalist – to stand out. In the early days of the band, was there a conscious effort to try to do things differently?
We never think about it. We write music that we like; we don’t think and don’t know what it will be at the end. And in our early days we did that also. For us it isn’t possible to push creation into narrow stylistic boundaries; we think these boundaries will deprive it of the air, the freedom. And if at some time we write a pop-rock song, we will play a pop-rock song, because the most important criterion is that our music must be liked by us!
We’re starting to see more and more femme metal bands emerging from Russia. What’s the scene like over there for bands like you and other metal bands featuring female vocals? Are there any stigmas or preconceived notions attached to being a female-fronted metal band or is there a lot of support for this type of metal?
I think there isn’t a sharp difference between femme metal bands and bands with male vocals. Every band finds their fans, some people like the female voice, some people like the male voice. There must be different types of metal for different tastes. And the most important thing for many people is the quality of the band’s material and the performance instead of the kind of vocal.
Are you going to be touring outside of Russia this summer or are you staying close to home? What we really need is a touring package of all Russian female-fronted metal bands. If you could put a tour together for t.h.e. Sacrament, who would be performing with you?
We aren’t planning to tour outside or inside of Russia and some gigs this summer. There are two causes: we’re working on our new release and summer is the dead season for music bands in Russia. In order to have the tour outside of Russia, we must be known to somebody in another country especially to concert agencies! I think we are only on the way to becoming a famous band and all is in the future for us. But if I’d dream of an outside tour and of the female-fronted metal bands with which we can perform, I think it would be …
(Famous) last words?
I wish for more good music.