Slowly We Rot fanzine #16, 2020
1. After having been actively involved in the deepest underground for about fifteen years by now, without ever gaining major attention, I was wondering where your motivation still comes from these days?
- Being dedicated to the metal music and being involved in metal underground scene for more than 15 years, actually, means it is already a part of our lives. It might sound trite, but that's what we can't imagine our full lives without. Even without gaining ‘major attention’.
2. What actually lead to the decision back then to start up your own Black Metal band? Have you all "just" been fans prior to forming KHORS or did you already write and perform a different form of music and then you simply evolved into the Black Metal genre? What were your biggest musical "heroes" when you started out?
- We have always been and we still are huge fans of metal music :) KHORS wasn’t a first metal band for any of us. I have started playing drums more or less distincly in 1993. First time we have met with Khorus, bassist of KHORS, in 1996, when I was invited to play in ASTROFAES. Later, in 2004, I was invited by Khorus to join him for his new band KHORS. Other band mates, who have joined us later, were not some new guys on the local underground scene too. When I started, let’s say, my musical career, I was mostly into Death metal which is now referred to as “old-school death metal”. There were many of our “musical heroes” back then, but I can't remember exactly who of them were especially credible.
3. I could imagine that it must been a lot more enjoyable being in a Black Metal band back when you originally started out than some years laterI mean, a lot of the mystery that was surrounding the scene in its early days more and more obviously got lost due to countless bands that started to put on corpsepaint in order to get a record deal during the big Black Metal sellout a couple of years ago. So, how did you "survive" that period, which I personally would consider a real nightmare in terms of real creativity Have you ever been so fed up with all that, that you were kinda close to throw in the towel completely?
- When we have started, we had a lot of issues that were not related to the Black metal scene or any other world's scenes. Back then, it was a bit challenging to find a place to rehearse, to find a proper musical equipment, there were no people who were capable to record metal music here in general. Not to mention we had no possibility to go touring outside ex-USSR area. Many people dropped that under the weight of circumstances and because of perceived futility to reach out something valuable. Maybe it was the dawn for Black Metal worldwide, but it definitely was a struggle to survive for us here. I can agree with you, it was a terrible time, not only in terms of real creativity or creativity in general, but also that was a terrible time for us in many aspects. Still we survived as you can see. Not many of us, but still :) Somehow we managed to find a balance between our jobs that bring us income and creativity process on the other hand. Have we ever been so fed up with all that? Of course, we have. But, as you can see, this was not about world's metal music trends which were beyond our reach and therefore did not bother us at all :)
4. Looking back to the first KHORS steps and comparing with current state – what has changed? What kind of road was those 15 years?
- That was, as they say, ‘a very winding road'. Many wrong turns, deadlocks, ups and downs. Many different fellow travelers: both good and bad. Many things changed since then. Almost everything. Both, inside and outside of us.
5. I know it must be kinda boring for you, but as a lot of people are probably not aware of KHORS entire career, I was wondering if you could maybe introduce each of your releases so far in a few words… also mentioning good and bad aspects of the song material that appeared on them.
- I can't say it really bothers me, but there's a lot to say about. Well...
Ladies and gentlemen, make yourself comfortable :)
“The Flame of Eternity's Decline” — the band's debut album. It should be noted here that we appeared with the full-length instead of tasting the soil with demos or EPs. This is very raw, kind of a straightforward, honest and open stuff. We recorded it literally at home which was a studio, with drumkit resting against the sideboard in one of rooms. For some reason we couldn't provide a click to the drummer (to me), so this album was recorded without a metronome. I love this spirit of 'true' on this album as we recorded it as we could at that moment, and it sounds really harsh and fair. The album was released in spring of 2005.
The second album “Cold” we recorded in a slightly better environment. We recorded drums in professional studio, and the rest instruments were recorded in that home studio again, which was very 'cult' place actually. Many classic albums from Ukrainian Black Metal scene were recorded right there. So... “Cold” is more melodic stuff, with bigger role of keyboards, quite handful guitar solos, but still black metal in its basis. I consider this album as a step up but still a material of the band that is in search of its distinctive sound. The album was released in October of 2006.
“Mysticism” — our third record, and I, personally, consider this one is a big step up. We went to Kyiv to record and mix it, so that was another sound quality level. The songs sound atmospheric, melodic, melancholic – pretty much rich palette, especially in comparison with the two prior albums. With this album we changed our label to Paragon Records from USA so we’ve got excellent promotion as a result. Tons of reviews we had got where many people described our sound as Dark metal. All right, we accept. I can recommend this record to any metal music lover, not only to a black metal fan. And, yes, we lost some of our followers with such a change in sound and stuff. The album was released in December of 2008.
Ok, drive on! “Return to Abandoned” — our 4th record. This is actually my favorite one. It was recorded and mixed in professional studio with experienced and very talented sound mate — Alex Shaddar. After “Mysticism” record we ran into problems related to line-up changes, and the new guitar guy brought really great ideas for this new record. I still consider this album as our best one in terms of songwriting and arrangements. This album was later issued by legendary Osmose Productions on Double LP. The album was originally released on December 2010.
“Wisdom of Centuries” — our 5th one but the first record on which we have started to sing in Ukrainian. This is a conceptual album dedicated to the historical events that took place in Ukraine in 20s of the last century, so the change of the language to the mother tongue for the lyrics was obvious. We faced some line-up changes again, so we entered studio updated, with the new guitar player Jurgis, who also assumed the role of lead vocalist. This album sounds much darker than the previous and has many ambient touches and instrumentals, much less keyboards. It is quite short, only 4 full-fledged metal songs on it, but it sounds smooth, dark, atmospheric and densely. With this record we've got an offer from Candlelight Records and the album was released in September 2012.
Our 6th full-length with a very complicated title “Night Falls Onto the Fronts of Ours” is also one of my favorite records in KHORS' discography. I call this type of records ‘a multi-layered stuff'. If you want to understand the album you can dive deeper and deeper into it with each new listening. This is not the kind of a stuff you can fully understand at once. Something that I love in music. And I remember we worked hard on songs, on structures and on arrangements. I enjoyed seeing how the process evolved from the very first (rather low-key) reviews to getting better and better over time. This album was created at difficult times for our country and that was also a difficult time for the label. Candlelight Records was transferred to Universal Music Group's ownership, so we had to wait 8 months for this album to come out. Finally it was released in spring of 2015.
“Beyond the Bestial” is our first EP. After quite a long break we were back to composing process, but we realized it might take a year or more to complete the album. So, we decided to go for EP. The same year we celebrated 10 years anniversary of our “Mysticism” record, so we decided to re-record 3 songs from that album. Personally, I don’t consider an idea to re-arrange and re-record old songs a good one, so, I'm quite sure, we will never do this again. As for the new songs from EP – that are still multi-layered compositions, melodic and atmospheric, so I’ve started to call it ‘KHORS' Signature sound’. The EP was released in December 2018.
And, finally, our brand new 7th full-length “Where the Word Acquires Eternity”. I love this album very much, no matter how indiscreet it sounds :) This is a conceptual one, dedicated to the events that took place in our native city Kharkiv in 20s/30s of the last century. You can find more about the album concept in press-releases. That’s very professional stuff in terms of sound quality, songs structures, arrangements and not bad in execution as well. We gave it a try to collaborate with new local studio in Kharkiv and we're happy with the result. Again, I can recommend this record to any metal follower no matter what kind of metal you are into. I am pretty sure everybody can find something for themselves in it. However, if you are die-hard black metal fan, you most probably will be disappointed as sometimes happens. The album was released in September 15, 2020.
6. Late of you are very productive and intensive – in less than four years you‘ve presented two full-lenght albums,singiel, ep,live album, dvd and done plenty of shows. Is KHORS on their best shape or lets say – on their wave? Was there any new winds that blowed after Helg left the band? Does the new musician, Andres, strengthened the band so good or this is a more natural state of constant moving forward and doing your best?
- Honestly, we are not very productive lately. In last 4 years we presented EP, one full-length and live compilation. We've been much more productive in our first 10 years of career. I would say that everyone is on equal footing now. In conditions of quarantine and lockdown it is difficult to answer in what shape we are. Of course, we were planning a tour in support of the new album and we were in good readiness, well prepared, motivated and positive back then. But the plans never came true, so there are no any winds for the moment. We are glad to have Andres onboard as a new band member. He is an excellent guitar player, well versed in soft and equipment and he brought many great ideas and arrangements.
7. How successful went your last album "І нiч схиляється до наших лицъ (Night Falls onto the Fronts of Ours)"? Does the sales, the reactions and feedback differs from past albums?
- Nothing essentially new happened with the sales, reactions and feedback when this album came out. As I said before, this album is one with a difficult fate. After Candlelight Records was taken over by the Universal Music Group, we lost contact with our management. We stopped receiving sales reports and after a short while this album disappeared altogether from sale everywhere and we’ve heard some weird stories about elimination of all our back catalogue in transition period.
8. It’s a very fashionable thing to re-release demos on vinyl and / or CD these days, so have you ever been approached about that already as well? If not, would you agree to those kind of re-releases if the conditions would be acceptable?
- Each of our first 4 albums have been re-issued since the original editions were sold-out long ago. There was a time we also had a licensing contract for the sale of our albums “Mysticism” and “Return to Abandoned” on the territory of ex-USSR. The albums “Wisdom of Centuries” and “Night Falls...”, originally released by Candlelight Records, will also be re-released soon.
9. How important for you is the message in the music, the words behind the notes? Its obvious, that KHORS doesn’t belong to those bands, that really cares only about playing ephemeral four chords metal and shouting whatever.
- You can fill the material with extensive palette of emotions and make it better and more interesting if you're really into what you are talking/singing about. If it resonates with your attitude, if it's close to you, you become really honest at that very moment. It's not a problem though if someone is filled with such a behavior format: playing ephemeral four chords and shouting whatever. Whatever you do — do it honestly and efficiently.
10. Your music is a tribute to the ancestors ・their values, world view, relationship with nature, war history etc. Basically those topics doesn’t have a place in nowadays life that is evolving faster than we can understand that. How do you think why is it so hard to make people look back and search for answers in their ancestors wisdom? Why does the songs about your homeland and its history are so hardly accepted?
- It's absolutely not hard to get people to look at history. I even think modern people do it often enough. Another matter is what exact lessons they learn from this. And that's a huge difference between people. This is the way things are and will always be.
11. What is your lyrics influenced by? Can you describe what is going on in your mind, while creating all those... timeless epic tragedy, hymns for ancestors etc.? What does it give to you as a creator?
- Each album is differently inspired. Everything flows. Everything changes. Our perception change, the things that inspire us change, make us worry or inspire us. There is no one constant box that we always climb into in search of new ideas.
12. Does today's realities impacts the concept or creation process of your band? Every day we see society loosing old values, people refusing traditional ways of thinking, worldview, and drowning in slough of capitalism. That tide, you are swimming against, is getting stronger...
- The trends of contemporary society certainly don't bypass us and can't help but they affect us. But this hardly has any particular influence on the concept of our creativity and on us as musicians within KHORS. The globalization process, on the one hand, gives us new opportunities; on the other hand, it takes away the familiar and well-established tools from us. I can say for sure that we do not consider any missions in struggle for fundamental and traditional values or any particular ways of thinking. Humanity has entered a spiral of ‘idiocracy’, the casual nature of things.
13. Three times already, you have recorded albums where the lyrics were in your native Ukrainian language ,"Мудрість століть (Wisdom of Centuries)" ,"І ніч схиляється до наших лиць (Night Falls onto the Fronts of Ours)","За межами тваринного (Beyond the Bestial)" and KHORS is great example for those, who says and even declares, that if the band sings in whatever, but not English — the doors are closed and there are no chances to be appreciated on the international scene and etc. Could you speak more about this topic? Is this a point of identity? Maybe something else?
- Firstly, it has always been a normal practice to sing on native language if we talk about Black metal or Pagan black metal especially. I can give you many examples of bands worldwide which achieved recognition on the international level while singing on their native language. Secondly, we have never been that good at English that might limit the emotional spectrum of lyrics. Thirdly, the further concept of our band's creativity and reference to historical events in Ukraine quite logically assumed the Ukrainian language of performance. But I can agree that Heavy Metal has its conservative styles for which English is traditional and appropriates the best.
14. Listening to your latest release "Where the Word Acquires Eternity" is like being crushed by a two-handed hammer from the ancient ages. Was it the objective? To crush the listener?
- The only goal was to do everything honestly and efficiently :)
15. Why do you actually comeback to write lyrics on the latest full-lenght "Where the Word Acquires Eternity" in English, which must be a lot more difficult for a person like You, who’s out for quality?
- I will probably surprise you, but the lyrics on our latest album are also in Ukrainian. These are 8 poems by 8 different poets who lived in that house 'Word' in our native city of Kharkiv in 20s/30s of the last century.
16. How important do you consider live shows to be for the band? Which do you think is a more accurate portrayal of KHORS, a live show or a recorded album? For what kind of audience you dedicate your music?
- Live shows are important enough for us and we love to play live, especially at well-organized shows :) I cannot say which of our hypostases is more expressive: albums or live performances. We have heard opposite opinions from our listeners. There is no specific audience we focus on. Everyone is invited :)
17. You’re with Ashen Dominion although many bands today's start record companies of their own, did you ever think of taking care of everything on your own and why did you decide not to do so at the end of the day?
- Ashen Dominion was established by our bass player Khorus and his companion Eugene from Eclectic Productions. I think you got the answers to all your questions here :)
18. I think by now KHORS are an already kind of "established" band although you probably all have to work in order to make a living. Do you think you can change this situation (maybe with "Where the Word Acquires Eternity") and become "big"... Do you want things to change or KHORS are a platform for creative expression or maybe some kind of a safety valve so as not to go crazy and beat someone in a fit of rage?
- I like a definition 'a platform for creativity expression' and especially 'a safety valve'. I think we will continue to make music with KHORS as long as it fills us with emotions and as long as we find motivation for this. Of course, we all do something else for living in different ways not related to the band. I have never tried to define the place in my life that the band occupies. We will never get 'huge' for a number of reasons, but that has never broken or stopped us.
19. What have been the latest albums and / or demos that really impressed you? Do you still follow the scene with interest or is it more like, you only get to hear new stuff every once in a while?
- I've been listening to a little music lately. Not because I'm a snob or something, but I simply don’t have time. But I still try to be interested in news of the music industry and I think that plays both ways. If you are not interested in anything, then why should you be interested? So far I am impressed by new albums from Ulver and Benediction and still many more albums are on my 'pending list'.
20. Before we end this interview I’d like to give you the opportunity to fill us in on the latest happenings in the KHORS camp. So, what are you currently up to? The closing comments are yours ・all the best!
- We are on standby. No shows, no rehearsals, no creative process at the moment. Processing the mail orders, collecting the interviews, and waiting for better times to come. Thank you for this interview. It was interesting.