Spectral Lore Lets the Light In On New Album (Early Album Stream + Interview)
Spectral Lore plays a waiting game. Namely, the wait for fabled full-length IV, now stretched out over the better part of a decade, has resulted in a small library of releases; sole member Ayloss has used this as an opportunity to explore his sound's minutiae and potential rather than simply soldiering on in one direction. When looking at the past six or so years, which has given the world releases like Gnosis and projects like Mystras, Spectral Lore has moved not just forward, but outward, grabbing onto influence and absorbing as some ever-growing, Tetsuo-like horror, and witnessing this has been glorious.
And yet, the movement suddenly shifts. Looking back on Sentinel in particular, upcoming Spectral Lore full-length album Ετερόφωτος zeros in on musical elements which might have been ignored or cast off in the past and brings them into the light once more.
"I had written the first half of the first song from from Ετερόφωτος many years ago, probably around 2017 and I was instantly whoa, this calls for a Sentinel sequel," Ayloss says in an interview which can be read in full below. Continuing both the Sentinel concept and, in part, sound, Spectral Lore's reach promptly moves temporally, reaching into both the past and present for inspiration.
Much like Sentinel, Ετερόφωτος possesses an aggression which Ayloss previously traded for either atmosphere or a more progressive mindset in his prior genre adventures, but make no mistake, neither are sacrificed in its place. Sure, there are blast beats and big, angry riffs, but this new album's subtlety is the true winner, here. Multiple listens reveal Mediterranean folk melodies, bizarre melodic phrasing, and textured ambiance which might not have been a part of the Spectral Lore canon during Ετερόφωτος spiritual predecessor's heyday, and it's this unexpected, subdued progressiveness which truly defines Ετερόφωτος.
Listen to Ετερόφωτος in full and read an interview with Ayloss below.
Following the EP and split series, people were expecting your next full-length effort to be the fabled IV, the sequel to III. What led to you writing a different full-length instead?
ΙV is going to be released! I had written several songs for it around 2015-2017 that remained unfinished. What happened is that I guess the pressure or trying to make a follow up to III was too much. I had been working on III for about six years total and obviously it's an album that condenses much, much work. So, instead of doing a one and a half album with all the music styles that I embrace as Spectral Lore, I went for doing smaller and more fun projects that were exploring one thing at a time. Hence the EP trilogy, the second split album with Mare Cognitum, my new projects Mystras, Ontrothon, A Compendium of Curiosities and of course the new album Ετερόφωτος, which continues the storyline of Sentinel. You could say I ran away from IV for a long time, but I'm back working on it since some months now, so I could perhaps predict a release time around next year. It was seven years from II to III and it's already seven years from IIIIV, so that's fitting. I suppose V will be released when I'm 44 years old!
What led to you resurrecting the Sentinel storyline?
I had written the first half of the first song from from Ετερόφωτος many years ago, probably around 2017 and I was instantly "whoah, this calls for a Sentinel sequel." Sentinel is a very special album to me, as it was written during a very brief period of great inspiration, about a month actually. It was even intended to not be a Spectral Lore album in the beginning, but a new project in which I would be playing mostly dissonant and agressive black metal. In the end, I decided against splitting my work into different projects which was a good decision at the time. Still, it is a very unique and different item in the Spectral Lore discography as it's very different to the albums before and after it. During the last years and as I've generally been getting back into black metal music after a lot of bands that I shared ideas with, I was composing a lot of aggressive and more old school black metal, so to return to that style was obvious. I also felt that lyrically Sentinel was not exactly lacking, but an artifact of an earlier time in which I wasn't sure what it was exactly that I wanted to say. For all of these reasons, a comeback to that concept was obvious.
How do you find yourself adapting as you return to this previous style?
Ι'm not sure if I totally adapted to the old style, Ετερόφωτος is quite a different album to Sentinel in the end rather than being a "part II". I'd say it's probably somewhat of a mix of Sentinel, the newest epic black metal stuff I have been doing in Mystras and a small dose of Gnosis. I didn't try to consciously redo the riffing style of Sentinel, which was very much based in dissonance, so I think it came off a bit more melodic. The central idea was to bring back aggression and intensity as the primary drive behind the music, from there and on it evolved into being a Spectral Lore album, perhaps even more compared to how much Sentinel was at the time, which remains the most "different" Spectral Lore album, I believe.
Do you feel aggression has been absent in more recent Spectral Lore albums/releases?
Yeah, I mean aggression was never the defining aspect for Spectral Lore. It's more like one element that exists in a certain balance among others, speaking in terms of genres, a typical album of mine as Spectral Lore is more like black metal/doom/acoustic/ambient rather than simply black metal. It's definitely not the primary drive behind the music. A friend had once said that the intense/fast parts sound more like a "release" of a build-up rather than sounding violent and I would tend to agree.
So this is more of a "direct" approach than a dynamic one?
Yeah, if you mean dynamic in terms of tension and release, yeah. This is the defining characteristic especially of my older albums. I've found that the one thing I really enjoyed in music was the juxtaposition of very different parts in terms of emotion or dynamics. Which was also a natural thing for me to do as I'm more of a classical guitar player rather than an electric one. Of course, it's also interesting to be able to create such tensions more subtly, without resorting to simple loud/quiet changes. Being able to create parts that have a lot of tension between them even though they're all alike loud and being played on top of a blastbeat. I believe I've been able to achieve that a lot with Sentinel and hopefully the new album as well. There's more of a build up of tension and less release obviously, but I wouldn't say the structure of that build-up is totally straightforward, which I guess the succession of dissonance and consonance helps.
As a classical guitarist, do you write your material on a classical guitar?
Not really, I used to do that up to 10 years ago but it wasn't really working. Distortion always plays a big deal in how a metal riff will sound and sometimes a good riff on an acoustic guitar won't work on the electric one and vice versa. Sometimes it's cool though, especially when you're playing that psychedelic and jazzy kind of black metal with a lot of arpeggios played with distortion and so on. To be honest, I don't play classical guitar that often any more, but it's still the instrument I'm the best at, since I've studied it properly for about 15 years. And I didn't really get to examining the electric guitar as an instrument a lot, other than using it as a tool to compose my metal music. I mostly play to compose nowadays, but there probably will be a time when I'll return to studying different styles again.
Can you go deeper into the concept and story which drives this new album?
Ετερόφωτος is conceptually a sequel to Sentinel, which was a kind of cosmic enlightenment story, in which after some trials the protagonist is transported to a "City of the Gods", where the eternal values and greatest knowledge of the universe are being guarded. In Ετερόφωτος however, the Sentinel sees an earth which is at the brink of war and destruction and seeing that the Gods are indifferent, decides to reject eternal enlightenment and return to it. In a way it's a concept in which I'm reviewing and expanding not only the previous story, but also some things I thought in general around then. It's central message is a rejection of equal distances and a call to action.
In moving in these separate directions within the Spectral Lore concept, how do you feel the overall project's concept has expanded?
It has grown a lot, for sure. Spectral Lore was initially supposed to be an experimental black metal side-project and nothing more. In a course of a few years it became my main creative outlet, up to the point of possibly including every style of music that I feel confident composing, even outside of metal. As you're probably aware, I somewhat cut this back in the last two years with the introduction of my newest projects Mystras, A Compendium of Curiosities, Ontrothon, and Under A Banner Black As Blood. The reason I guess being that I wanted to experiment again without the "weight" of a bigger name and at some point this expansion would definitely end up being chaotic. The "breadth" of the Spectral Lore canon right now is probably reflected in the full-length albums, we'll see in the future if it makes sense to me to expand it again.
Do you feel Ετερόφωτος follows the same (what you described as) "epic and transcendental" path of its spiritual predecessor, or does the extra added layer of aggression make it something different to you?
I would say Sentinel is even more aggressive and dark, so it basically stays as the more "different" metal Spectral Lore album. It was even supposed to be a new project in the beginning and not a Spectral Lore album. Ετερόφωτος is influenced by Sentinel but has elements from other albums of mine like Gnosis as well, so it rests more comfortably as part of the discography I guess.
The press release/bio says this new album "call[s] for a revolt through radical self-examination." How do you want the listener to self-examine?
I think my lyrics are a giveaway about that for sure, especially "The Golden Armor" or "The Sorcerer Above the Clouds". I was thinking a lot about things that exist in the background of the typical "journey of the hero towards self-actualization" tropes such as class, privilege, power, and so on. The first step towards self-examination is finding out how you relate to other people, obviously.
How does one's light come from others? (this is going off the rough translation of the title)
We're nothing but a hodgepodge of all of our influences, negative or positive. Nothing is being born out of the void, as a Greek saying states. In Greek the word "Ετερόφωτος" tends to have a negative meaning and refers to people who don't have a character of their own, are defined by trying to imitate others. It's a meaning that is primarily ascribed to the moon and therefore associated with female qualities as well. The opposite is "αυτόφωτος" which means self-enlightened and is a word that, on the contrary, is used always positively, at the same time when "nothing is being born from the void" and I find the contradiction between these two very characteristic. So, I wanted to claim/recontextualize the word because it has a beautiful sound and meaning.
With this aggressive sound being more pointed to a different storyline and concept within the Spectral Lore universe, how do you see IV adjusting as a result? Does this affect IV at all?
Not at all. More of less my plan for IV is to have the same balance of elements as III and II had, so it's not related to Ετερόφωτος at all.
Ετερόφωτος releases April 23rd on I, Voidhanger Records.