(Earth)Bound For Better Things: Hermes Mora discusses Tome of the Unreplenished’s New Record (Album Stream + Interview)
Tome of the Unreplenished is a project that defies categorization. Not because it's a band whose compositions are so abstract it's impossible to arbitrarily file them within the confines of a singular genre - though, the co-mingling of various styles is an integral part of their identity - but because throughout its decade of existence, Tome of the Unreplenished has spent just as much time as a metal band as they have an ambient project… and noise artist…. and a power electronics performer. As the the brainchild of musician Hermes, Tome of the Unreplenished provides a courtside seat view into the mind of the Cyprus-born founder and the bastion of diversity his band has become.
Earthbound is Tome of the Unreplenished's first metal record since 2015's Innerstanding, as well as the band's first metal record with a complete line-up. This marks an important internal shift for the project, but much like the music he so carefully curates, Hermes could not have picked a more competent contingent of musicians to fill out his ranks. Joined by Aort, of post-blackened progheads < c o d e > as well as Alexandros and Tom Vallely, the duo behind Hellenic black metal institution Macabre Omen, Earthbound sees Tome of the Unreplenished at its most collaborative and perhaps unsurprisingly, its best.
There is no lack of dynamics to be found here. Stunning album opener "Tellurian", despite its name meaning "of, or inhabiting the earth" features soaring melodic chants and airy keyboard passages. Meanwhile, "Tryst at the Gales of Cyprus" indulges in more earthly pleasures with its folky flirtations. Perhaps more so than on any previous album, there's a focus on melody, but it never feels overdone or implemented at the risk of sacrificing heaviness. In fact, the solemnity in the acoustic flourishes seen throughout "Unbound" may be the one of the "heaviest" moments on the album and it's impressive how the band could compose something that is so heartachingly beautiful.
Recently, we had the opportunity to chat with Tome of the Unreplenished's founder and mainman Hermes about the origins of the band, the purpose he finds in music, transitioning from a solo act to a group project, and much more.
Earthbound is your first full-length album since 2015, and first metal material the project has released in seven years. What spurred the decision to return to a metal-centric sound?
Once Innerstanding was released in 2015 and a few months went by, I started writing new material with a purpose: "Let's recraft the sound and make it better". About an hour into the new material I started feeling off, I started asking myself what the point of this is. Am I just trying to one-up myself? Is this now an image that I need to preserve? I didn't like the idea of having a particular identity, that is not why I started this project. I needed to subvert. After all, music is supposed to be a way of expression, so what exactly am I expressing if I'm releasing the same stuff over and over just like a million other bands do.
Steve Von Till once said: "The only honorable thing to do for the sake of music is to physically and psychically embody the spirit and the energy of the music and the sound, otherwise its fake, and it's bullshit, and you're just a performer, you might as well be an actor, and that's not what we are, we aren't performers". I am not a performer, I am not a great musician either, I am average at best on guitar but I know what I want and I know that I need to keep developing my own dialect.
I needed a new way to express what I was feeling, and the only way to do that was to break away from any bond that was surrounding this project. Tome of the Unreplenished is a collective of multiple expressions under a similar path. I am a big fan of anything industrial and avant-garde, i believe that to be able to create real expression you need to be amorphous.
As a previously solo outing, how did you go about filling out the line-up for Tome of the Unreplenished?
I actually started Tome of the Unreplenished as a side project during some rubbish-ridden years while I was involved with other projects. I always loved the idea of a solo project, something that I could call my own, not only as a way of expression, but I also fell in love with the idea that I could write something without anyone bothering or interfering with it. Growing up I'd spent countless hours jamming with friends. It was extremely beneficial that I had access to drums, bass, guitar etc, and I made sure I put my hands on each and every instrument available. If you have something to say through music then you simply cannot rely on anyone else to express it but yourself.
This is Tome of the Unreplenished's first metal album with a fully established line-up. What was the collaboration process like?
Working with like-minded people in music is definitely an achievement on its own. I grew up on a small island and the options when it comes to musicians were almost non-existent. I am extremely grateful to have worked with a handful of local friends who helped me develop parts of this project.
Our collaborative process couldn't have been nicer, after all, we are all friends and fans of each other's music. Alexandros (Macabre Omen) is a dear friend of mine, he knows exactly what i want, i literally had nothing to say to him during recordings, and all recordings were done remotely, we never met during any of the process. I don't need to describe Aort (CODE) to anyone who is familiar with extreme music, the man is an incredible artist, same goes for T.J.F. Vallely. I handed them the material and told them to follow certain simple guidelines to preserve the aesthetic of the project, but apart from that they did whatever they wanted.
Much of Tome of the Unreplenished's newest record sees the band combining elements of black, death, and even folk metal. Do you find it hard to bridge together all of these sounds cohesively? Do you ever want one sound to be more prominent over the others?
I have never thought about it this way. For me, everything falls pretty organically within a song.
I have a ton of things to say and it can sometimes be tricky to express everything I want. I usually sit on a song for quite some time. I like to distance myself [emotionally] from it and try to feel whether it resonates or not. The past few years I've been really touched by Greek folk music, especially music of Epirus, Pontic music, Aromanian Vlach and the surrounding Balkans. I needed to be in touch with that sound and I wanted Tome of the Unreplenished to represent even a fraction of it. The pronounced folk elements were just a natural progression for me. In music it is good to dare, but dare with conviction and confidence
Now that you’ve dabbled in both metal-centric and ambient/noise-centric music, what are some similarities you think these genres share that perhaps you may not have noticed before?
Freedom of expression. There is honestly nothing like the liberties you get when you have no boundaries under musical context. Noise music fascinates me, you are riding the chaos, trying to put a leash on it but you can't. Recording Cosmoprism: The Theurgy - Act I or the split with Starless Domain were pure joy for me, the feeling of having open mics in front of you and an abundance of instruments and noise-producing items at your disposal is the ultimate creative experience.
What is your favorite track on the new record? Did it stand out to you as you were creating it, or did it not stand out until the record was completed?
Every song or record released through Tome of the Unreplenished is special to me. I look at Earthbound as one unified experience. Quality over quantity should always be the way in music, or in life, depending what world you live in. You can take as an example Macabre Omen, everything released under that title is something special. Whenever a new Macabre Omen album comes out you know you are in for something special. This is how you leave a colossal legacy behind, rather than being a drone that keeps releasing music just because you have the need to fulfill certain requirements
Is there any style of music you haven’t explored yet that you’d be interested in exploring in the future?
I am pretty unpredictable as is, I expect that I will remain restless. I'd like to think that I will evolve with my sound, and hopefully never settle.
Do you have any dream collaborators you would like to work with in the future?
Blut Aus Nord, Peter Andersson (Raison D'être), Ulf Söderberg (Sephiroth).
What is next for Tome of the Unreplenished?
There are a few channels I'm looking into. Cosmoprism Act II, or maybe a split release with a project that shares a similar ideology with us.
Any final words or shout-outs?
Thank you to the Avantgarde Music family, Xenoglossy Productions, and friends.
Earthbound releases April 8th via Avantgarde Music and Xenoglossy Productions.