The Slowest Tome: Doom Metal Lexicanum
If Black Sabbath is metal’s Big Bang, then doom is clearly the genre’s nucleosynthesis (yeah, science!). From Pentagram to Witchfinder General to Candlemass to today’s ever-expanding plethora of low ‘n' slow acts -- according to Encyclopaedia Metallum, there are currently over 9,000 bands calling themselves "doom" -- 50 years later, it’s as present and vital as it’s ever been. Perfect timing, then, for a giant tome dedicated to the bands past and present that carry the torch. We recently cracked open the new, definitive compendium of the genre and spoke with the man behind it all -- Russian writer Aleksey Evdokimov, contributor to a plethora of doom-loving outlets over the years -- to find out just what makes it so special.
The last decade has been a blessing for metal fans that like to read; now-definitive books like Swedish Death Metal, Heavy Metal Movies, Choosing Death, and Black Metal: Evolution Of The Cult have paired great writing with the fascinating, hilarious and improbable stories surrounding the genre’s origin and ascent. While much ink has been spilled on death and black metal -- and even more on VH1 Behind The Music usual suspects like Metallica and Black Sabbath, whose accounts can almost be recited from memory at this point -- doom metal had yet to be given its proper due. It had to be big, heavy and demonstrate the subgenre’s global reach and influence.
Massive in size and scope, Doom Metal Lexicanum is the ultimate coffee table book for those who love it low and slow. After a brief introduction and summary of doom metal’s history, much of the text is dedicated to encyclopedia-type entries on various international groups, from A Sickness Unto Death to Zaum, with a focus on traditional acts with mostly clean vocals. The choices are inspired, with lesser-known newer bands (Year of the Cobra, Kingnomad, Sinister Haze) rubbing up against the genre stalwarts (Saint Vitus, Church of Misery, Solitude Aeturnus).
Evdokimov’s passion for his subject matter is clear; rather than simply list a bunch of facts, each entry reads like an intimate band profile. There are quotes from band members, stories about lineup changes and recording sessions, and innumerable anecdotes spread across the 364 bands that make up the book. Evdokimov’s writing has a natural feel; each entry flows at a comfortable but brisk pace, never getting bogged down by too much detail or oversaturation. What’s more is that he accomplished all of this -- over 300,000 words of prose and interviews - in a second language, a monumental feat. Granted, he had some stellar editing assists in doom-metal.com editor Mike Liassides and Tana Haugo Kawahara (bass/vocals for Eternal Elysium) but in their profiles they defer praise back to Aleksey and the long, painstaking hours he put in.
Sami "Albert Witchfinder" Hynninen (Reverend Bizarre) is another welcome addition to the Doom Metal Lexicanum with an essay about the roles witchcraft and black magic played in the band’s career. It’s a unique look at how different influences filter through to a band’s aesthetic and translate into the actual songwriting process, even extending to the album artwork. Also, an interview with Lee Dorrian from 2005, by Cult Never Dies publisher Dayal Patterson, is republished in the book and serves to remind how great an album The Garden Of Unearthly Delights is. The book's unexpected and fun coda is "Lovecraftian Influences in Doom Music," a summary of H.P. Lovecraft’s Cthulhu Mythos and most popular tales, as well as input from Lovecraft biographer Paul Roland and various bands that worship at the Lovecraft altar.
Spring may officially be here, but now there’s two feet of snow outside the door. Settle into a deep chair with a dark porter and the Gates of Slumber discography: Doom Metal Lexicanum is a natural fit.
Did you approach each band's entry the same way, or did the circumstances vary?
For more than one year I worked in secrecy, so to say. I just did interviews with the bands, as I do always, and gathered the necessary intelligence. This is the same method as always: I approached the bands through their Facebook profiles, through their labels, PR managers, or directly to some members who I already known.
Some cases were slightly different. For example, I spent some time searching for members of Cathedral’s original lineup to ask them questions -- Adam Lehan and Mark Griffths replied, and that was good result. In some situations, nothing worked -- for example, I didn’t find the way to get in touch with anyone of Saint Vitus lineup!
Did writing in English get easier as you went along? What was the hardest part of working in a different language?
Oh, u’r askin’ a rilly gud kuestion, deer komrade! Indeed it wasn’t a big problem most of the time because I took a lot from the interviews we did with the band. But here’s another problem: a lot of bands from the countries where English language is a foreign one just like for me do some mistakes themselves, and I just copied it.
But I was more focused on writing itself, I was sure that my friends Mike Liassides (editor of doom-metal.com) and Tana Haugo Kawahara (Eternal Elysium’s bass player) edit well anything I send them, and they helped a lot with proofing my grammar errors. And in the end Dayal Patterson himself, the chief of Cult Never Dies, edited this proofed variant and after some rephrasing and trimming, we have what we have.
The hardest part was to write about music without abusing all these common description like “crushing,” “atmospheric,” “psychedelic,” and etc. It’s doom, it’s about slow and low! There aren’t many synonyms to use in such situation.
What was the criteria for including newer bands that only have a couple of releases to their name?
My original band list exceeds the number of the bands which could get in Doom Metal Lexicanum. So there were some new bands (and a few old ones) which didn’t get there just because we have no more space.
But to the matter of the question… for the last seven years, I constantly received promos from labels focused on this sort of music. I don’t mean that every doom/stoner/rock related label sends me their new releases, but I have some contacts as I write not only for doom-metal.com, nocleansinging.com, and Outlaws of the Sun, but also for two magazines -- InRock (Russia) and Fire (Italy). I receive promos, I review the albums I like or interview bands’ members and sometimes I stay in touch with the bands I like… so first of all, I put there the bands which I like and which I know.
I would be damn glad if I could add Apocalyptic Orchestra or Old Night in the book, but somehow I skipped the first one and the second one released their debut when the text was already done.
Is there any band that you really wanted to keep but ended up cutting for the final edition?
I would say that I put there all bands which I want to see. Some readers were disappointed that they didn’t find few of their favorite bands in Lexicanum, but let’s face the truth: it’s impossible to put all doom-related bands in one edition. For example, I have doubts considering Paul Chain, there’s no article about him in the book, but I was sure there’s a separated book about him (later I’ve found that there’s no book about Paul Chain -- even in Italian, such a shame).
The text was finished in the mid summer, and then Dayal took his editor’s scissors and cut some parts of the text. But, all bands remained on their places, we didn’t throw out any single band. However, I would like to have about 20 to 30 more bands… as well as I’d like to have more detailed stories for some bands like Barabbas, Bevar Sea, Northwinds, Pohjonen, or The Black, but paper doesn’t allow to fit there anything I want. Saying this, I have to admit that I’m rather happy with how it [turned out]; some articles are really informative and well-composed. There’s some unique information as well. The book is alive with direct speech from almost each band mentioned there. And it looks killer -- thanks to Dayal Patterson and the artwork’s creator David Thiérrée.
Your Lovecraft section was an unexpected surprise, as well as thoroughly informative and a great introduction for the uninitiated. Were you already a fan before starting the book?
I’ve found few clichés listening modern doom bands, they are influenced by witches’ stories, horror movies, and Lovecraftian mythology. The witching topic is perfectly described by Sami ["Lord Albert"] Hynninen of Reverend Bizarre, it’s there in the book too. And the writing about Lovecraft, it was written in the same year I started the book -- for Fire magazine. I just recalled all doom bands who have songs based on Lovecraft’s story and asked them for some comments, trying to split the whole text for three nominal parts according three nominal “cycles”: Dream Cycle, Cthulhu Mythos, and Macabre Tales. Again, it’s not ultimate collection of Lovecraftian influences, but it’s proper article, with good structure and with some interesting opinions. I hope that it’s able to give reader a push to discover, to read, to analyze.
But I wasn’t big fan of Lovecraft before that. I’ve read most of his writings in the school, but he had too many of similar patterns that I was a bit disappointed. But “At the Mountains of Madness," “Rats in the Walls,” or “Shadow Over Innsmouth” are amazing stories. That’s something!
Do you have any ambitions for a Volume 2?
No, I have no ambitions… I feel it as a necessity, something that I can’t get rid of easily, something that I have to do. In February 2018, I started to write the first articles for “Lexicanum II." It’s too early to speak about deadlines, maybe it will be done in collaboration, but I like how it turns out until now. I have about 30 texts finished at the moment and they cover stories of such bands like Celestial Season, Decomposed, Hamferð, Hooded Menace, Morgion, Mythological Cold Towers, Norilsk, and Visceral Evisceration, to name a few. Each article is partly based on the interviews we did with the bands and/or on the exclusive comments of bands’ members. Right now I’m going to finish this interview and deal with the text about Abske Fides.