The Dutch’s black Metal scene is probably more ‘laidback’ than, let’s say; their death/grind flourishing talents. But that doesn’t mean we couldn’t find any great black Metal bands up there, and names like FUNERAL WINDS or CIRITH GORGOR amongst others, are damn great ones. ORDO DRACONIS is one of the newer bands that shows potential, and I’m quite sure that they’ll become one of the strongest in the short period of time. I find that talking (virtually) with the guitarist Rahab interesting enough, so let’s just invulge into it straightaway…
The dragon is a symbol for matters to which I attach a lot of value in my life, for example the cycle of creation and destruction – a cycle inherent to the concept of life and existence. And we all participate on various levels and in various phases, like cycles within cycles. Of course the dragon is also the ancient guardian of treasures and wisdom (which just might be the same in a symbolic sense). The search for wisdom is one of the main goals in life for me. Next to that, the dragon is a symbol of tragedy and this fascinates me. The dragon is destined to be slaughtered, whether that is by ‘gods’ like Jahwe or Marduk, or by ‘human heroes’ like Sigurd or Beowolf. I think it interests me because dragons are mostly depicted as ‘evil’-beings in myths and legends (not necessarily in modern fantasy literature). People tend to label things, they don’t understand ‘evil’, I think it’s interesting and important to question and if necessary to redefine values like ‘good’ and ‘evil’. So the cause for the extinction of the dragon just might lie somewhere in between ‘justice’ and ‘ignorance/intolerance’. Taking into account the importance of these values in our view on daily life and in our philosophy of life, we decided to call our band the order of the dragon – ORDO DRACONIS. As a symbol of chaos and potential (the opportunity to create) the dragon is the patron of the creative process within the band. An interesting contradiction, concerning our band name is the fact that the Romans only used the word Ordo as the opposite of ‘chaos’ (it was only later that the word Ordo was also used meaning ‘a cult’), yet the dragon is a symbol of chaos… So as you might understand, my fascination for the dragon goes a little further than myths only. As far as I know there aren’t any well known stories about dragons in the Netherlands, so I’ll have to disappoint you on that one.
How did you guys sort of got together, thus forming ORDO DRACONIS? The line-up seems to be quite stable too…
The first concrete ideas for starting a band arose during spring-time of ’96, but ORDO DRACONIS was actually founded in September ’96 by Moloch (bass/vocals), Bob (guitar), Midhir (synths), Timo (drums) and myself (guitar). In January ’97 Timo left and Arco took his place – this has been the only line-up change we had so far, fortunately. When we started out, we only played cover tracks by rather diverse bands, so I can’t say we played a particular style at the time. We started writing our own material when Arco joined in. I’m not so much into ‘labelling’ our music – I suppose symphonic black Metal will do. In our biography and on our flyers we mentioned our music was a little in the vein of DIMMU BORGIR, DISSECTION and ARCTURUS. There were a lot of reasons for starting ORDO DRACONIS; we wanted to contribute to and participate in the scene with the music we cherished most. The band also offers the perfect opportunity to fulfill our artistic aspirations and to express our emotions in music and lyrics. The synergy aspect of playing together is very important as well.
I understand that your first demo is a polished rehearsal-recording, so it makes me wonder that you guys might not have been ready to release anything proper those days, but it came out anyway?
We recorded the songs that were to be featured on our debut demo “When The Cycle Ends” for ourselves, because we wanted to capture our first three creations in a way that we could enjoy listening to them afterwards. Now we have the mentality within the band that either we do something in a professional way or we don’t do it at all. The songs for “When The Cycle Ends” have all been played in live in our rehearsing room. The instruments were mixed instantly by a friend of ours. Only the vocals were added later on. Just before the recording of this demo we had done our first gig and afterwards people kept asking if they could obtain recordings of ORDO DRACONIS. Of course, if we would have thought that the recordings were total crap we wouldn’t have released it, ever. So eventually we decided to put the recordings out, although they didn’t sound as professionally as we might have planned for our debut demo. Anyway, I’m not ashamed of this demo or anything – I think the songs are quite OK and so is the lay-out. We have been surprised by the response. “When The Cycle Ends” has spread 1200 copies so far, it’s nearly sold out by now. I remember we really felt like taking quite a risk by duplicating the first 500 copies! The general response to the demo was very good and we got a lot of good reviews – especially the remarks on the good sound quality always make me smile a little.
There were some offers from labels back then, but why didn’t the band accept them?
It’s true we felt we weren’t ready for the recording of an actual debut album at the time. You should know that most of us started to handle the instruments we play in ORDO DRACONIS when the band was formed. I must add that we all had at least some experience with playing an instrument, so making music in itself wasn’t totally new and this definitely speeded up the process of learning to play our new instruments. Anyway, when we recorded “When The Cycle Ends” we weren’t even playing together for a year! So there was so much to be learnt – there still is actually, but we have improved a lot, I think. We received our offers, not too long after the release of our debut demo and we have always wanted to make a real masterpiece out of our debut album. In order to achieve that we needed more time, to improve our musical skills and our compositions. It was after sending around the demo that we came to the conclusion we weren’t ready yet. I think we are pretty much ready by now. It’s hard to explain what the evolution we experienced. I think the most important things are we play a lot tighter these days and in the songwriting process we emphasize on not just putting together a bunch of nice sounding riffs. The song structures have become a whole lot more complex without becoming inaccessible – the parts of the various instruments differ a whole lot more and the tension in the songs is worked out better. This is an ongoing process, by the way – we are still improving! Another important thing is that we recorded our second demo in a professional studio and thereby we have gained studio experience. So, when we’ll enter the studio to record our debut album it’s not like everything is completely new and we don’t have any idea of what is possible.
And now the MCD has been released; so are you ready for a deal now?
I do believe so. We have grown mature musically and like I said, we’ve gained some studio experience. We’ve done quite a lot of song writing these last couple of months and we have about 8 new tracks finished that will appear on our debut album, which is to be recorded this summer – if everything goes as we have planned. I have the pleasant announcement to make that we have found a label that has shown their interest in releasing our debut. We are currently working out the details of the contract, but if everything goes the way it looks like right now, we will most definitely put our autograph under the conditions offered. For the moment I have to remain a little discrete, so I can’t mention any names, but it’s a young, professional and dedicated label, that believes in their bands and the music they release and we would be very proud to be on this particular label!
I think you guys are going all out for this one (the MCD); you now recorded at a highly professional studio, impressive full color booklet, and so on…
Well, first I must thank you for this big compliment! I believe it’s important to give the best you have in what you are doing. Maybe especially for a demo, I mean you have to show what you can do, you have to present yourselves to labels, magazines and fans with it. And that is what we wanted to state with “In Speculis Noctis” – this is what we are capable of by ourselves – people just have to imagine what we could do with a little help from a record label for themselves. Another important factor, for me personally even more important, is in the fact that we have made these songs and I want them ‘captured’ in a way I will be able to appreciate them for a long, long time. As I am contributing in the composing process, I have tried and capture moments and emotions that are dear to me (which doesn’t necessarily mean it were ‘happy’ ones!) – it’s only logical that I want them to be preserved in a way that honours them.
The obviously detected improvements would concern the keyboards. I think you guys have maximized its usage very well, and the parts are excellent this time, what do you think? It gives a highly orchestrated atmosphere to the music…
Well let me start by saying I think our keyboard player Midhir is an absolute genius. He touched the keys of synthesizer for the first time about two months after starting ORDO DRACONIS and he improved his skills so incredibly quickly! I think he has done a splendid job in “In Speculis Noctis”. I dare not say he has maximized the usage of the synthesizer on this recordings, because he’s capable of a whole lot more these days – just wait and listen… I fully agree that the atmosphere of the tracks on “In Speculis Noctis” is very orchestrated. I think that’s because the synths are very much up front in the mix, not as much as with the first two LIMBONIC ART releases, but still…
And there are still these female vocals parts. Why don’t the band use this even more? What’s the importance of female vocals parts on your music? I see they weren’t done by the same vocalist as on your debut demo.
The reason for not using any more female vocals in our music is simple: we don’t feel like it – it has to remain something additional. The female vocals that we do implement in the songs are rather important in the sense that it is not without purpose that these particular parts are sung by a female. The female vocals on “In Speculis Noctis” were done by Maaike Arkesteyn. Maaike is a friend of mine, who I had known for quite a while before her contribution to “In Speculis Noctis”. She has been the manager of Dutch doom Metallers ORPHANAGE. We are both involved with a Metal society in the place where I live and we had worked together organizing concerts. I knew she was a pretty good singer- she had a classical education for some years. She also has her own band called SHADES OF SILENCE. It’s a project of some THRENODY members, a little in the doom vein and she’s doing a wonderful job at it! SHADES OF SILENCE really is a name to remember. We won’t have a permanent female vocalist. On “When The Cycle Ends” we had worked with Femke, the former female vocalist of GANDILLION, on “In SPeculis Noctis” with Maaike and this way of working is pretty much ideal for us. It is quite likely we will work with Maaike again, in the future – we’re planning a project in which her contribution will be more than welcomed! She also helps us out live sometimes, but no obligations. She can join with us if shehas the opportunity and feels like it.
You brand the music as classically influenced black Metal, so where can we trace these classical parts in your music?
That our music is influenced by classical music doesn’t automatically mean that it actually contains classical parts, of course. However, if you look at a song like “Deirdre of the Sorrows” it shouldn’t be too difficult to hear some classically inspired parts especially in the clean and acoustic guitar parts. At the age of thirteen I had some classical guitar education and despite the fact I have never become really good, I still very much enjoy playing classical guitar music and I try to incorporate as much of these classical influences in the music of ORDO DRACONIS as I can. It’s my opinion that the influences from classical music are still gaining importance in our next material. In one of our new tracks we have incorporated a well known classical part that we transformed from 7 or 8 minutes into one and a half, still having a head and a tail. This was quite an interesting challenge!
So, when the band is working on a song, how’s the process? Perhaps you could tell us from the start to the finish…
Usually we start out with a main concept or a main theme. Then we start writing riffs, chord structures and parts to suit the atmosphere related to the concept. Then we merge things together and make a whole out of it. Finally we arrange the songs with the entire band and the lyrics to the song are written. Midhir, Bob and I are responsible for the major part of the composing. All three of us have our own way of composing riffs and parts. In the end everyone is responsible for his own parts. I don’t know about the others, but I compose most when I’m busy with other things and under a little tension – I don’t need a guitar to compose, I can ‘play’ with the melodies in my head. I seldom just jam around like Bob – for him, jamming is the best way to compose. What Midhir does, I really can’t tell, apart from the fact, that I’m nearly always satisfied with the result! Composing is a creative process and I can’t force it – composing usually gets me in a certain ecstatic mood, but I think it’s more an effect than a cause although it gives me a stimulating feeling. I don’t know how to describe it.
Do you write lyrics that only suit the music, or just put certain lyrics into a certain composition according to what is available at that moment?
We consider the lyrics and the music of a song to be complimentary, in a way that the sum of both is more than the separate parts. It’s pretty essential that lyrics and music have the same atmosphere to achieve the synergy. Midhir and Moloch are responsible for the lyrics. As far as Midhir’s lyrics are concerned, they deal with mythology and legends, mainly Celtic. Midhir has a lot of knowledge about (old) English due to interest and studying. His lyrics are stuffed with all hands of figures of speech and written in metre. Moloch writes his lyrics in a more direct manner and they are quite personal to him. The subjects he writes about are mainly on the occult field – themes like out of the body-experiences, invocations and other issues on the subject of magic and the supernatural, also vampirism. Especially, the angle of the human psyche shines through in his lyrics (suicide, depression, self-destructive side of man), since these theme intrigue him. There are plans to write some lyrics in our mother tongue for two particular songs; only parts of the lyrics will be in Dutch. I don’t want to say too much about it at this stage, for the lyrics still have to be written.
Right now there’s a lot of people who don’t feel comfortable if their music is called ‘black Metal’, even if their materials clearly sounds like it. What’s the reason for this, according to you? So what about ORDO DRACONIS itself?
Oh, I’ve heard several reasons. But an obvious one is that the concept of black Metal has grown so broad that it doesn’t say anything about the music anymore. Just compare DARKTHRONE to EMPEROR, ABRUPTUM to CRADLE OF FILTH and MYSTICUM to DISMAL EUPHONY. All these bands are labeled as black Metal, but everyone will agree that their music sounds completely different. Not labeling your music black Metal anymore is a way to distinguish yourself from other bands, even though just calling your music differently has no influence on the music itself. Another reason why bands step away from the ‘black Metal label’ is because black Metal has build up a bad reputation and there are people who don’t want to give the music a chance because it is labeled as black Metal – you might avoid this by calling your music differently. At this point ORDO DRACONIS see no point in calling the music any other than black Metal. Personally I’m not that much into this labeling shit, but if you want to label ORDO DRACONIS’ music, I’d prefer black Metal, because black Metal is nearly undefined in musical terms. We don’t want to feel restricted in our creativity – we aim to express certain emotions and atmospheres through our music and the means by which we do that are subordinate to the expression itself, as long as we like it ourselves. I guess it’s simply due to who we are and what we want to express that we play black Metal. We wouldn’t hesitate to incorporate reggae influences in our music if it would help expressing what we want to – it’s just not very likely we would want to express anything where a ‘nice reggae beat’ would fit in. Another reason why I prefer black Metal is that we feel and have felt related to the black Metal underground ever since we started to listen to extreme music.
Ahh, and you still wearing those warpaints. Lots of black Metal bands nowadays washed their faces with ‘water’, what’s your comment? What’s the purpose of wearing those paints anyway for ORDO DRACONIS?
Not all band members of ORDO DRACONIS use corpse paint all the time. It is and should be a personal thing. I use corpsepaint on stage as an expression of the contrast within me, which also reflects in my contribution to the music we’ve created. It’s a form of dramatic expression to emphasize on the matter – the two extremes, dualism. It has absolutely nothing to do with being cool or something and it’s not a necessity to use it when you play black Metal either. Still, I don’t understand why so many bands are disassociating themselves from it if they had any reason for doing it before, other than commercial ones – if you use it for personal reasons, how can it lose its value simply because others do it too. OK, it’s not unique anymore neither is it shocking, so what – I know why I’m using it and that’s good enough for me.
This statement: “Only black Metal bands should/can wear corpsepaint”. Your point of view on this?
I must admit I would find it quite strange if non-black Metal bands would start wearing corpsepaint. However, I think that everybody should decide for him or herself if he/she wants to wear corpsepaint. I’m not going to judge others on that, although I have my personal opinion. And like I said in the previous answer, I don’t think every black Metal band should wear corpsepaint. Corpsepaint is just an emphasis, not the essence and it’s most important to stay true to the essence (i.e. the music and its emotion/atmosphere) – if corpsepaint doesn’t feel appropriate at a certain point to a certain musician, he shouldn’t wear it I think.
What’s your personal musical interest? What are the current releases, available in the market, that you would like to recommend to anybody?
Personally I’m into what I’d call quality black Metal. Bands like EMPEROR, DISSECTION, ARCTURUS, LIMBONIC ART, OBTAINED ENSLAVEMENT, ULVER, ABIGOR, BAL SAGOTH and so on make the kind of music I like best. Hmmm let me see if I can come with something interesting here. I would like to recommend the debut album by SIRIUS (Por) (out on Nocturnal Arts Productions), the debut of OBSIDIAN GATE (Ger) (out on SKALDIC ART), the latest demos of MOONSORROW (Fin) (released through MEATHOOKED), NOCTURNAL MORTUM (Ukr) and EPHEL DUATH (It). All these releases are incredible I think!
Are you into these ‘fake’ Metal like MARILYN MANSON, KORN and the likes? What do you think about it?
Bands like KORN and MARILYN MANSON are definitely not my kind of thing! I get very nervous listening to their music and this MARILYN MANSON fellow looks pretty pathetic if you ask me… still he’s making a lot of money by looking the way he does, so I suppose a lot of other people must like it. These bands don’t bother me that much, as long as I don’t have to listen to their music and look at their appearance. I mean there are a lot of things out there I don’t like and I prefer doing something I do like over getting annoyed over things others do that I dislike. It’s not my thing, so I don’t give it too much attention. I think it’s better to give promotion to the acts I do like instead of saying how fucking bad these other particular bands are in my opinion.
So what if a band like those invites ORDO DRACONIS to play a live show together, or to do a split, or something?
Concerning things like a split or something it’s very easy – we would definitely never do such a thing with these bands. A live show would depend on the opportunity and the conditions that are offered. If for example we would be offered to play in the United States or Malaysia without making losses, we just might consider it… I mean, people are smart enough to see that we don’t (nor want to) have anything to do with these other bands and playing abroad is beneficial for us, even if it only were for the experience. But don’t worry such a thing will never happen anyway!
I think I’ve bothered you enough, so here’s your chance to say anything that’s left to be said.
Well, thank you, Shah for this nice and extensive interview!! Best of luck with RANDOM zine!!!