Eïs: An Enormity Greater Than Itself
Plato’s Allegory of the Cave reduces human perception to its core values: without true focus, we assume projected shadows mean an equally large presence. The “puppeteers” hide just around the corner, using the fire’s light to mask their size and subsume equity and dominate by sheer existence. Such is the same with atmosphere in music, especially black metal — through the simple catalyst of basic effects and momentum, basic movement becomes cataclysmic and overwhelming.
On their upcoming EP Stillstand und Heimkehr (translation: “Stillness and Homecoming”), German black metal band Eïs embodies this presence larger than themselves. Though massive sounding in its own right, existing in a vast harmonic structure, the two songs held therein focus entirely on atmosphere as a means of projection. Through density and monotony, Eïs manifests as a lumbering giant, building velocity and subsuming its own texture so that each eventual step is an upheaval all its own. When focusing one’s own perception and listening to the music itself with intent, there are only a few actual elements at work here, but, in practice, the sum is greater than its own parts. Much like the shadows in Plato’s allegory, Eïs is colossal as an eventuality, a specter within the cave of your consciousness.
Stillstand und Heimkehr is out this Friday on Prophecy Productions (preorders available here). You can hear the EP in its entirety and read an interview with songwriter/multi-instrumentalist Alboin below.
[Editor’s Note: time got away from us, so this interview is a little shorter than usual. Alboin and I are still trading e-mails and a full-length interview feature is on the horizon.]
There was a very drastic lineup change leading up to the Stillstand und Heimkehr EP, with four members leaving in 2016 (though Abarus rejoined some months later). Did this affect the creation of the release in itself, or was it something which led up to and fueled it?
Actually Abarus was never out of the band, just to take the opportunity to state that clearly. Metal Archives tends to be a little too picky sometimes!
Changes in the band’s lineup didn’t ever really affect the creative process, as none of the former members contributed to it, at least not to a serious extent. Since Galeere, which’s songwriting started ten years ago or so, I did almost everything on my own when it comes to composing and writing lyrics. So, there’s no gap between the 2015 Bannstein album and Stillstand und Heimkehr. The fuel for it came from a very different source.
Though creation hasn’t changed at all, has the paring of the lineup down to you, the central songwriting entity, made any difference in the actual recording process?
We recorded on ourselves for the first time on this EP, and indeed followed a different approach compared to former albums. Whereas I had played everything except drums on Wetterkreuz and except drums and lead guitars on Bannstein, we all played our instrument this time, testing a lot of new equipment, too. I’d say the result proves that, no matter who is playing, with which equipment or in which studio, we are sounding very much like Eïs. That’s something I sensed a lot during our live performances of the last one and a half year as well, and for me that’s a good sign that we work and sound together as a band rather than a solo project with live musicians.
Though the outcome was obviously successful, was there any hesitance in treating Eïs like a band rather than just a solo project?
No. I started playing in bands and never wanted to do a real solo project, at least not with Eïs, as I always enjoyed playing live a lot, and if you do play live, you need a band. Of course there are moments of struggle, fighting and working hard and sometimes you’re just tired of it, but I never hesitated to play with other musicians in this band.
What inspired the creation of the Stillstand und Heimkehr EP?
Something very very personal, and I don’t want to go too much into detail. Generally, both our drummer Torrent and I experienced a lot of very challenging situations during 2017, and we both aimed for a relief when working on new music, so we just locked ourselves in the studio and started playing. At first, this was not even planned as an Eïs release, but as things developed, we both noticed that it was going to be very intense and in most parts typically Eïs, so we presented it to the other two members and planned it as our new release.
Unfortunately, what it originally inspired did not leave our lives after it, but anyway it lead us to the most probably purest and most honest and personal release so far.
As you are and have been active in various projects over the years, are there specific qualities which you feel make a release an Eïs release as opposed to something else? What ultimately led to you and Torrent deciding that this new material fit under the Eïs banner?
First of all, I haven’t been the songwriting entity in all other projects and bands (or at least only a little bit), so for me an Eïs release is a release consisting of material I have written. Of course it’s always an option that I compose songs that do not fit into the Eïs cosmos after all, but so far it always turned out that all music I write actually is Eïs, it’s just my style I guess. With all the arrangements just like I prefer them, a typical production and above all my vocals I guess, in the end it just sounds like us. It’s not that Torrent and me “decided” that, it was just quite obvious after we had recorded the songs in the first place. And we’re all very happy we’re releasing this as a band, really.
Are there any conscious qualities of your inherent style for which you strive to achieve, or is your songwriting style more automatic and intuitive?
Absolutely intuitive. For some reason, when playing guitar and just jamming around, I usually just know when there’s a riff or melody coming which really touches me. It’s a good sign when I can remember a tune and how to play it after a day or two. If not so, it’s no loss at all. That’s why I’ve never recorded only one single song which didn’t end up on one of our records, I’m proud of every single riff I composed, and maybe that causes this kind of dense, comprised releases media people often talk about when it comes to our albums. As a listener, and hate albums starting with two or three good songs, being filled up with pointless uninspired crap afterwards. I rather aim for something like a complete experience from the first until the last second, which might be more of a movie/storytelling approach than this of writing single songs compiled to an album.
With more current black metal being a style which is much more emulatory and lacking in the natural “artist’s intuition,” how does it feel making music with your own “artist’s thumbprint”?
First of all, it’s just my impression that we maybe have somehow an own style, can be that this is something other listeners will judge in a totally different way.
And if so… I don’t care if others play blueprint orthodox or Icelandic post-black metal. Indeed, I personally don’t fancy that and it’s somewhat emulatory, maybe. But then, I don’t have to listen to it. The music I write makes me feel better, balanced and more lively afterwards, it’s a tool to work and cope with my feelings and not a tool to make fans adoring me and fill my pockets to the brim. If others have different goals, then please go ahead and do it your way, I’ll stick to mine. This doesn’t necessarily mean only music lacking intuition can be “successful,” but to be honest, I guess we all have the impression that this is often the case.