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Dornenreich’s Wondrous Weirdness


At the crux of expressionism and Romanticism, there is Dornenreich. Undulating somewhere between black metal, neofolk, ambiance, progressive rock, Romanticism and Expressionism, Eviga’s unique sense of creativity has fueled his brainchild for a period of time which spans more than two decades.

Following an evolution which moves from more traditional black metal to the pinnacle of the gilded style which only can be created by Eviga, Dornenreich is truly one of a kind. Reveling in what he calls “wondrous weirdness,” Eviga is one to cast expectation to the wind, preferring to follow his inner voice into the world of strange madness, resulting in what could either be the most blasting of melodic black metal or tense, whispering neofolk. Each step down Dornenreich’s path is one of uncertainty, with the only static element being the project’s own masterful creator.

In a new interview, we capture a rare glimpse into the mind of Eviga. Much like his ephemeral music, he appeared just as quickly as he left, leaving the conversation in stasis. As it turns out, more material happened to be in the works and his mind had to go elsewhere. Always creating, never stopping. In the meantime, enjoy an unfinished conversation with this master of whimsy.

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Over its more than two decades of existence, Dornenreich has remained singular, possessing its own sound in the face of black metal’s increasingly strict definition. Looking back, what fueled your decision to make such unique music so early on? What continues that drive?

Actually, this highly individual and unlimited approach of expression apart from the overall mysterious appeal is what drew my attention to black metal in the beginning. In my perception almost every band from Norway’s and Austria’s scene, which are the two countries I dived into primarily, appeared to define their very own sound back then (including instrumentation in many cases…). Combined with my interest in expressionistic literature and its immensely individual use of language this — to me — black-metal-imminent individuality let me make first rough tracks through the wilderness of my inner world. And because of the fact that Dornenreich — to this very day — is all about exploring and consciously internalizing the essence of existence I have always trusted in the artistic intuition Dornenreich’s core has always relied on.

It is interesting that you cite expressionism, as I noticed there was a big shift toward that when Valñes left the band a little over ten years ago — more specifically a change from the romanticism which defined Dornenreich’s first decade to the more expressionistic sound we hear today — though he is still heard on the transitioning Durch den Traum in 2006. Though this ties in with a turn in the band’s concept, was there any other driving force which led to this sound change?

Personally, I think that especially Her von welken Nächten already marked one peak when it comes to the expressionism in Dornenreich concerning both music as well as lyrics. A further peak in my perception was reached on In Luft geritzt with regard to lyrics, whereas Hexenwind, Durch den Traum, Flammentriebe, and Freiheit had it all. That is, the natural romantic as well as the expressionist colors… So, all in all, I don’t think that there actually are two different decades concerning our main musical or lyrical elements and as I see things this, let’s say a certain unpredictability just points out how much Dornenreich relies on a vital approach and on intuition. To sum it up from a general perspective: I am quite sure that hardly anybody expected the ferociously intense metal album that Flammentriebe was after the purely acoustic In Luft geritzt… and I guess hardly anybody saw Freiheit coming after Flammentriebe… and, back in the days, surely nobody imagined an album like Hexenwind after Her von welken Nächten

Do you feel Dornenreich’s timeline is defined by that outward unpredictability?

This unpredictability is a result of the intuitive approach everything in Dornenreich relies on. Basically, I experience the creative process this way: on my guitar I dream but that’s no escapist dreaming, no “dreaming away from something,” no, it rather is the opposite as it opens my heart and connects me with everything in a new – and perhaps even deeper – way and it makes a vision enter my perception which then “materializes” by and by. So, in the end, one might say that I “dream forth” instead of “dream away”…

And when it comes to writing lyrics after an album I usually need a longer timeframe, often years, during which I don’t write anything and even don’t think of writing something down apart from some brief notions that occasionally pop up in my mind. However, I usually know the title of the next album at the time an album is released. And so I just live, I try to evolve as a human being and I just gather impressions, make experiences… But then at a certain point I can feel that it is about time to express myself and to bring all the new experiences and perceptions into a poetic shape by means of writing lyrics. And whenever I reach this point I just sit down and write the basic lyrics within few days.

I had wondered if the lyric writing process was arduous, especially with all the word-play involved in your emphasis and enunciation. What kind of process do you follow when looking into how your lyrics and poetry can be manipulated to have multiple meanings?

I don’t experience all that to be arduous, really. It comes to me naturally while I am diving into the music more and more. Usually, I just have to sit down and fall silent and then I start to listen to a song over and over again until the pictorial character, the emotional immediacy and the musical “gestures” our music consists of connect with both my mind and my heart. Certainly, I put conscious effort into some of the linguistic nuances and details in a further attempt, but the core of all the lyrics just shows itself within my mind rather effortlessly.

What led to this use of language ambiguity and wordplay? How does this fit into the overall Dornenreich aesthetic/story?

My love for language and poetry which I discovered at a rather early age. Since my earliest adolescence I have always been fascinated with the possibilities and even with the possible limits of verbal communication — and communication in general, that is, for instance the different aspects and possibilities of music when it comes to communication of emotional and often non-verbal contents and nuances of meaning. Eventually, numerous areas and levels of life — and the exploration of life is what Dornenreich is about substantially — seem to be paradox and therefore I consider it to be very truth — and powerful to incorporate ambiguous verbal expression now and again.

What does the Dornenreich project mean at that substantial, core level?

As I perceive it personally Dornenreich makes the human individual live through certain crucial experiences and it confronts the human individual with nature and mystery of life in a pure and disarming way — and it does so in spite of the fact that all takes place in the fields of aesthetic exaltation, primarily.

It simply invites moments of great awareness and honesty, which have the power and impact to shape and change a lot within the sphere of a person.

So, as far as I am able experience it Dornenreich is an exceedingly conscious celebration and artistic realization of the wondrous weirdness it is to be alive, the wondrous weirdness it is to be here at all.

“Wondrous Weirdness” is a perfectly succinct way of describing the Dornenreich experience. For music as beautiful and haunting as it is, there is this inherent strangeness and surrealism to it. I think about various passages across your discography which manage to balance tension and beauty in a larger, stranger suspension of reality. Is this weirdness inherent to your style or something on which you place extra concentration?

Yes, it is inherent to Dornerneich or, better put, to the source we try to gather at when dreaming on our instruments. It is a part — or even the vital heart — of our intuitive approach and it never fails to enchant us just because it comes without any extra effort. So, there is some kind of magic depth revealing itself continuously that keeps everything very vital and exciting (even) for ourselves.

Does the black metal style make the most sense with regard to your intuitive emotional/dreaming approach?

In my perception black metal as a genre offers the most varied possibilities, for there are no limits in structure, arrangement, and instrumentation. The atmosphere is crucial, the vision, the spirit. In my eyes and perception, the ‘black metal style’ as you put it is the most ‘open’ and ‘wide’ ‘style’ I can think of, and therefore I consider it to be truly inspiring.

For at least the last ten years I have always composed on acoustic guitars exclusively in order to keep my approach as pure and natural as possible.

During the further elaboration of songs and albums we then spend a lot of time on exploring different instrumentations or arrangements we want to go with.

Howsoever, Dornenreich is all about deeper vibes, about soulful spheres in the end. So consequently we, for instance, have songs like “Reime faucht der Märchensarg”, “Jagd”, “Erst deine Träne löscht den Brand” or even the main Hexenwind-songs that we play live in two totally different ways — that is, metallic and acoustic. Both ways work, and they do so because of the spiritual dimension our expression has and offers.

The deeper vibes certainly go beyond chosen genres and instrumental performance as well — I am always taken aback by your vocal presence across the Dornenreich discography. Considering your range (shrieks, howls, whispers, moans, hushed singing, and more), how are these different techniques and sounds composed, sometimes in juxtaposition, with the music?

Actually — and I am sorry to be so repetitive here (haha) — it’s all about intuition again; and, I mean, of course it is, given the fact that the vocals are the most personal area of sonic human expression. Apart from the fact that I should be more keen on applying apt techniques I just like to keep my approach pure — also and especially — when it comes to the vocals and I try to maintain this intuitive approach even if that means that sometimes I tend to harm my vocal chords temporarily. So, usually, there is barely any voice left after a tour or a longer recording session and, without any doubt, that’s because of the mix of screaming, whispering and talking to people for hours after the shows…

So, I just go with the feelings, the inner pictures and the energy the music and the live-situation create within me, the vision demands from me.

Besides, I am a cineaste and radio-play-adorer, that is, I truly love well developed and nuanced voices, which is something that really shows in Anigzia which is another project I am involved in as a singer or — let’s say — vocal performer…

Though intuition is obviously what comes naturally, have you ever tried to challenge it? That is to say, have you tried to throw you own ideas of conventionality “out the window” and approach from a new perspective?

After quite some time of letting this question seep in, I dare to state I have often “challenged it” via changing main instruments within the compositional process and through enriching the intuitive core with continuous reflection of what artistic expression is all about in my perception and via continuous reflection of what I deeply want to communicate by means of artistic expression; and all that is clearly underlined by our multifaceted discography and our unpredictable decisions in general. So, I would say that even this very important core of intuition is embedded in a pure and always present thoughtful as well as spiritual awareness that never could be described as conventional.

What does music mean to you?

To me, music — in its most comprising shape — has the potential to the most intense channel of multilayered human communication. For instance, it can mean a vital gesture or even an actual touch including both connecting or dissolving transformations of energy and consciousness…. and I know this reads like esoteric hyper-trash but — hand on heart — on a certain level, music truly resonates with me that way.

So it’s more of a metaphysical thing to you?

I really don’t have to super elevate things, and I am able to enjoy the elegant power of, let’s say, Pantera, or even the winking horror of let’s say the Misfits, just for the sake of this energetic or sing-along listening pleasure. But when we sit down and start to reflect things I admit right away that, in my personal perception, there are many layers of musical expression and ideas of what music can effectuate or simply mean to somebody.

As music, in some respects, is invisible art that might trigger physical reaction such as goosebumps, it connects visible and invisible spheres. So, as I perceive things there doubtlessly are metaphysical, transcending aspects and when one looks even deeper one might perceive or see further aspects (as I pointed out in my last answer referring to what music means to me).

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