Interview by Vard Aman
Blackthorn may not need that much of an introduction to the more dedicated fans of the genre, this they have likely done for themselves. Since the seed was sown in Moscow in 2004, they have steadily grown into a unique and outstanding act, and have continued to grow as the sound they have consolidated over the years has become increasingly dynamic and extreme – as can now be heard on their new album “Codex Archaos”, released at the end of 2011. Blackthorn have now become an all-female metal band (Max, their previous drummer and sole male member has been replaced by Varaska), although perhaps in keeping with the Blackthorn concept, it would be better to say that they are now an “all-witch band”, or an “all-succubus band” – and such a description would be quite fitting for the dark sounds they conjure! I caught up with Aina, vocalist and founder member, for a brief chat about Blackthorn and their craft.
Hello Aina, and welcome to Femme Metal Webzine! Let’s start right at the beginning. When you formed Blackthorn in 2004 was it your intention to eventually become an all-female group, or was that just something that happened?
Hello! I think it was something that just happened. Only later I realized that’s cool and rather unique, so I decided to keep the band all-female. I can say that now it’s kind of a concept. Sorry guys, only witches allowed.
What was your inspiration for the name?
One day I was looking through a dictionary and came across the word “Blackthorn”. I immediately liked it and thought “What a great word. That’s what we should call ourselves”. After checking a couple of esoteric books, I found out that blackthorn is a tree of witches; they use it in rituals of cursing and initiation. Again, this is a tree of the spiritual strength and support, purification and protection. I did accept it, and I think it defined many things in our career.
What have been your main musical influences?
I guess I have had quite varied musical influences. My influences range from classical composers such as Sergei Prokofiev, Richard Wagner, Gaetano Donizetti and Edvard Grieg to contemporary composers such as Gyorgy Ligeti, Roberto Cacciapaglia and Lisa Gerrard; from metal bands such as Anorexia Nervosa, old Tristania, Mayhem, Watain, Behemoth, The Vision Bleak, My Dying Bride and Emperor to strange Dead Can Dance and Devil Doll. Soprano singers such as Norina Radovan, Nuria Rial and Yma Sumac.
Were you in any bands before Blackthorn?
No, Blackthorn is my first love.
The first thing that struck me when I first heard “The Prologue of Eschaton” in 2007 was not just the huge potential, but that there was something new and fresh on offer. Blackthorn already had a sound that was uniquely Blackthorn, and that has been developing ever since. Was the Blackthorn sound something that developed after you started the band, or was this the sound you wanted right from the beginning?
I’d say both variants are true. Started as a gothic metal band from the very beginning, we always had more extreme metal in mind.
For those who have not yet heard it, how would you describe the Blackthorn sound?
Some drops and essentials of Symphonic, Black and Gothic metal, an ethereal soprano, violent extreme vocals, thunderous rhythm section, sinister guitar riffs and mystic sounds of a violin!
“Edenbeast” was featured on the “Metal World Compilation Vol.3” CD. How did that work out for you?
Well… The band didn’t expect too much from the compilation, but we were pleased to participate, anyway. I can say it was released as the CD-appendix of Mattey magazine, and the zine itself is fucking great! Just as great as Femme Metal, of course!
And then you recorded the twin albums of “Gossamer Witchcraft” and “Araneum” (released in 2009) which continued from there. Now recently (2011), you’ve released your new album “Codex Archaos”. How would you say your sound has progressed since “Gossamer Witchcraft”?
It’s a lot heavier and a lot more aggressive. We’re also more symphonic now with gorgeous Silver Voice; a choral ensemble of Moscow Conservatory. I want to believe the vocals have come some way since the debut album, too. As would be expected, there are finally growls and screams. Growls by Elvira and screams by me. Also, the recording process was a lot more organic this time and I think it shows in the new material. The difference between the old CD and the new album is pretty big, hope people will notice that as soon as they hear the first seconds of “Codex Archaos”.
What was it like working with a live choir for the first time?
It was an incredible experience. We’ve been so lucky to get to work with the amazing Silver Voice on our new album. The guys were one of the great pleasures of the recording process. There’s just something magical when a choir sings some sinister melody.
There have also been a few lineup changes since “Gossamer Witchcraft”. Who are the new members and what is their influences have they brought to the new sound?
Yep, some time after the release of the debut album we got three new members; Greta (bass), Varaska (drums) and Less (violin). Some of them are more serious to the band; some of them have a different approach to playing the instruments than previous band members; some of them are unique with the absolutely new instrument for Blackthorn; some of them are more sincere, at long last! Their arrival was the fresh blood in the band and of course that gave some new ideas and creates a new sound overall. Many people think that with the new lineup Blackthorn sounds better than before. I agree!
Great cover artwork! Who designed it?
The cover artwork was designed by W. Smerdulak. Check out his huge portfolio on the internet; I’m sure you will like it, too!
Do you still play any songs from “Gossamer Witchcraft” live?
Yes, we still play “Necromance”. We’ll probably play one more song from the debut album later on.
One of Blackthorn’s many outstanding features is your lyrics. You certainly have a way with words! Where do you get your lyrical inspiration?
Oh, thank you very much! Actually, I get inspiration from my own life when writing lyrics, because you know, it’s more sincere to write about something that you have experienced yourself. I also read and watch a lot to find some interesting themes.
What would you say are your main lyrical themes on the new album?
Witchcraft, chaos and self-development.
Do you have any personal favorite songs from your albums?
My favorite songs are “Gossamer Witchcraft” and “Necromance”. When it comes to “Codex Archaos”, my favs are “Hexshadow Turned to Flesh”, “Bestial Satan of Grotesque Beauty” and “Серебряный ключ” (The Silver Key). Damn, it seems I love all the songs from the new album!
You’ve played many shows in the Russia, Ukraine, Belarus and Estonia. Do you have plans for playing outside the CIS – a European tour perhaps?
Yes, yes, yes! We’re proud to announce our first tour throughout Poland this February! Blackthorn will be touring with Russian Symphonic metallers Sinful and Ukrainian death metal band Def/Light. We are really looking forward to this 8th tour of Metal Spirit Resurrection. Don’t miss it!
Do you have any plans to make a music video at some point?
Yeah, it would be great to shoot a video clip, there’s something that should be covered visually. However, we do not have a certain plan for a video right now.
What do you like most about playing in a band? And is there anything you don’t like so much?
I love the whole aspect of it – composing, rehearsing, performing, traveling and hanging out with the bandmates, of course. On the other hand, gigging is often a disappointing process because of the crowd or bad sound, but however gigs go, I always want more. It’s great being in the band.
What do you like doing outside of Blackthorn?
Singing, reading books, cooking, taking photos with my camera. I also love to craft and design things.
And you like collecting different kinds and brands of tea, don’t you? How many do you have now?
Absolutely right. I love teas, I have so many kinds at home…. Approximately 50.
Thank you very much for talking to us, Aina! We shall be continuing to follow your progress with great interest!
Thank you for the interview! Many thanks to all the readers as well!