HECATE ENTHRONED – “We’re Primarily A Satanic Symphonic Band, With Witchcraft And Pagan Coming Into It”
March 12, 2019, a year ago
Perhaps quietly, Welsh veterans Hecate Enthroned have been a driving force in the ever-growing symphonic black metal landscape. They’ve been a dependable, if not ever evolving presence since the mid-90s. Through lineup changes and sonic shifts, the band remains a punishing metal experience with layers to unravel through seven studio records.
Their latest, Embrace Of The Godless Aeon from M-Theory Audio, captures the bands evolution, a hybrid of dark and brutal black metal and sweeping symphonics that is sure to quench diehard fans and entrance new ones. Longtime bassist Dylan Hughes caught up with BraveWords to talk album timeliness, band evolution and the demanding business of the music business.
BraveWords: It has been roughly six years since you released your last album, Virulent Rapture. We know you’ve been sitting on this album for some time, waiting for the right distributor, and you seem to have found that in M-Theory audio.
Dylan Hughes: “We know what the physical math is nowadays. It’s down to the distribution, the promo and getting the label that is going to put it out there. Everything is downloadable and everything is streaming, but if you have someone who has already got these contacts it just gets it out there to more people. It’s great distro, great PR and we’re working with really great people now. We’ve had a lot of good feedback. It was worth holding onto the album. We’re more than happy with what we’re getting at M-Theory. The package they’ve put together, the release itself, is just fantastic.”
BraveWords: This is Hecate Enthroned’s first album recorded with Joe Stamps on vocals. How do you feel he fit into the formula? He seems to be making a definitive and distinctive stamp here that is all his own.
Dylan Hughes: “We knew Joe could do it, we’ve always known it. He’s been friends with us now for a good 12 years. When he was a kid in university in Liverpool, his band had a show with us in Liverpool and it was just before we were going to go on a UK tour and Dean was unavailable for some of these dates. We got Joe to stand it. His vocals just suited what we did and he was a fan of the band anyway. We’ve always known that Joe could do it, and he knew the set and the old stuff and we knew his vocals worked on the old stuff. He’s always been able to nail it. He just completely slots in. The fact with this album is it sort of hearkens back to that feel we had with the first three releases where it’s a bit more black metal symphonic sort of style. It is that sort of pace we used to play there. It’s been perfect for him because that’s his vocal style. He’s just sort of transferred it to the live stage with what we were doing honing the set. He’s doing that now with the new stuff. It’s a perfect fit.”
BraveWords: From straight black metal, to adapting more of a melodic or symphonic style, to flirting with death metal tendencies, the band has evolved so much over the years. Do you feel you’ve met that delicate balance between genres and styles on this album?
Dylan Hughes: “With the heaviness that’s always been a way we’ve played it...We’ve been quite a riff band and always wanted more of a heavy sound instead of a wishy-washy black metal, angry wasp in a jar sort of thing. We’ve always had a bit more meat to it. It’s always been a balancing act when you’re symphonic as well to get that balance. In previous albums, as good as they were, it sort of led one way or another and it depended very much on the production and who we had producing. And with time as well. You get cleverer, learn some of the tricks and get more studio savvy. We’ve been at this a long time now and we know what we’re doing. With this album it’s a bit of an accumulation of everything. It just works well.”
BraveWords: Songwriting-wise, where are you guys leaning on this album? Any particular themes or agenda you’re looking to hit?
Dylan Hughes: “It’s never a complete concept. The ideology is always there. We’re primarily a sort of satanic symphonic band, with witchcraft, pagan coming into it from where we are in North Wales. That’s where we’re sort of from. It’s a funny thing. How it has come across depends on the vocalist that we’ve had, because the vocalist is writing the lyrics. With Jon he was acute to the sort of satanic. He did lean heavily on the welsh Celtic side of things with witchcraft and paganism, where Dean was a bit more on the anti-Christian thing and it reflected back to Elliot with that straight more satanic side. With Joe the imagery is there and that’s sort of the band we have, and Joe sort of tells stories with each song. Each song is a story or morale and it has an ending to it, either a warning or a caution and you can take something from it. It’s setting a scene really, like a reader reading a book. That’s how Joe sees it.”
BraveWords: You’ve collaborated with Sarah Jezebel Deva once again on this record. Her work on “Goddess Of Dark Misfits” was just brilliant. Was it a no brainer to bring her back?
Dylan Hughes: “We had been talking for years on if we were going to do something. She was very keen on it and it’s something we never really got around to do it. Maybe things had influences on it, why we weren’t together sooner. As soon as Virulent Rapture it was obvious we were going to do more stuff together. What we did really, once we had the songs down we gave them all to her and said see what you think, what jumps out at you and what you want to do. We gave her carte blanche really, and it was down to her to come up with ideas and she just basically picked those three songs. She said she could do more, but she wants to do something with substance, for it to mean something. You can see it in them three tracks. It’s more than the usual operatic style. She’s literally putting so much into those songs. She has such a wide range in the vocals, and people just have her down as this operatic style. She can do so much more than that, and we’re really glad for what she’s done on this, especially as you mentioned with ‘Goddess Of Dark Misfits’. It’s really a quite different track for us, and what she’s done with it has made it a standout track.”
BraveWords: When you look at the music business today, especially heavy metal, it really feels like a band has to step outside of the box and break the mold to stand out. Whether that be in live performance, in sound, whatever. What’s your take on that evolution? And what it takes to make some waves when there are so many bands all striving towards similar goals.
Dylan Hughes: “It’s difficult to do anything different, let’s be honest. It’s nigh on impossible now to do anything unique or different. I think it’s down to the fact that whatever you do you have to do it well, because there’s so many other bands that are doing it or doing something similar. I think the bands that add a more complexity to the music or just a clever way of writing songs or put them together, they’ll stand out. They’ll have something that puts them above it. With us, we’ve never really contrived to sound a certain way. We went a bit death-metally, but it wasn’t intentionally, it’s just how we were at the time, that’s how we were writing and that’s what happened. What we look at is we just try to write the best possible songs we can write and do the best thing with the material that we have. I think the craft now is in songwriting. You can be the fastest drummer in the world, the best guitarist and be in this amazing band, but it’s not necessarily going to stand up above the few hundred bands who are doing that. The craft now and the skill is in crafting the song, writing the song and whether people like it or not a lot of it has to do with how the band looks and how they project itself, the image. It is. In black metal you have a lot of bands that sound more or less pretty similar, who I wouldn’t say music wise sound brilliant, but when you go see some of them live they really go the extra few miles and they look amazing and the show is incredible. Now that’s what people are realizing. We have to do something else, do a bit more. I think now the new bands and metal musicians that are a success are the ones that see that, that do realize that and they can do all of that. They’re the complete package.”
BraveWords: With this re-tooled lineup and this new partnership with M-Theory, we’d imagine you’d like to get moving on a follow up album sooner rather than later. No chance we see such a big gap between records?
Dylan Hughes: “We’re always writing. We don’t really stop writing whether or not we’re doing an album. That’s the way we’ve always worked. We are contracted for a second album with M-Theory, but we haven’t really discussed a timetable ... We just really want to back this album. Do some live shows, get Sarah involved so we can really play the album live, so we’re not just picking and choosing a few songs.”