Interview with In Cauda Venenum

In Cauda Venenum Logo

The self-titled debut album by In Cauda Venenum is now over a year old and about to get a vinyl re-release. If you haven’t yet heard it then I highly suggest you do. Containing only two tracks, yet running for 42 minutes, the music is epic, top-of-the-line atmospheric black metal, full of texture and darkness.

Ictus, (guitars, bass and vocals), brought me up to speed with all you need to know about this talented band…

For those who are unfamiliar with your band – introduce yourself!

We are two guys playing Black Metal songs. We like making it epic, progressive and atmospheric. If you enjoy long tracks, you should give a chance to IN CAUDA VENENUM.

Give us a bit of background to In Cauda Venenum

I wrote 4 first ICV songs during 2009 and 2010. When N.K.L.S. joined me as a drummer in 2011, we decided to bring them to another level and started a rewriting process. After several years working on these 4 tracks, we finally decided to focus on 2 tracks to prepare our first release. We made this choice because our tracks were quite long (more than 20 min each), and the job was to huge.

So we finally came in 2015 with our first album featuring two 21 min tracks and released by Les Acteurs de l’Ombre Productions via their underground subdivision Emanations.

What are your influences?

Concerning transcendental sides, definitively ALTAR OF PLAGUES – White Tomb, LUNAR AURORA – Andacht or WOLVES IN THE THRONE ROOM – Black Cascade. On the other hand, IN CAUDA VENENUM features a kind of epic and pagan energy that may come from NOKTURNAL MORTUM – The Voice of Steel, PRIMORDIAL – To the Nameless Dead, or ULVER – Bergtatt. I am also a big fan of PINK FLOYD – Atom Heart Mother and GREEN CARNATION – Light of Day, Day of Darkness for progressive and cinematic aspects of their Art. I must also list one of my favourite bands, FALL OF EFRAFA, and their masterpiece Inle, for melancholy, sadness and yet beauty in death and loudness.

I have been inspired by these absolute masterpieces. I listened to them times and times, so they are certainly responsible of IN CAUDA VENENUM’s identity.

What are you listening to at the moment that you would like to recommend?

Since its release date last year, I cannot stop listening to GLACIATION – Sur les Falaises de Marbre again and again…I have a serious problem with this album!!! I am also listening to the last FYRNASK album, Forn, which is atmospheric and narrative Black Metal as its best. It’s like you have been assisting to an occult and hypnotic assembly.

In reality, there are a lot of very great bands these days. As I also carry about Les Acteurs de l’Ombre Productions, I’m also very proud of the last album we released, like WILDERNESSKING – Mystical Future (if you like hybrids Black metal bands, this is for you. They play Rock with Black Metal feeling, or Black Metal with Rock feeling…I don’t know, you should listen to it to make your own opinion. It is unique!).

How do you feel that you fit into the wider black metal scene?

We play music we like, mixing inspirations we like. The current Black Metal Scene is so rich that I’m sure we can find a nice place among bands playing atmospheric and epic Black Metal.

Give us a bit of background to your self-titled album – any particular concepts or ideas you want to discuss?

I chose not to give a name to our first album because our name was strong enough. It perfectly evoke the concept and the reasons that make me express myself through music.

In Cauda Venenum is a Latin phrase you can translate to the poison in the tail (in reference to the scorpion). It was originally used to talk about a text or a speech which starts nicely to make the audience or the adversary comfortable, and suddenly ending in a sharp and nasty tone. For me, this phrase could also perfectly describe life in its essence. As living beings, we all have one common fate, death. This is the tail, the poison. We know everything could suddenly turn wrong unpredictably, for us or for the people we care about. Life has taught me not to ignore how vicious it can get, and not to be blinded by the present, as comfortable as it could be. It may seem pessimistic, but I think fatalism and vanity can be quite healthy and sane to project ourselves in life.

In Cauda Venenum also includes luminous points like for example samples on the second track, which are extracted from interviews of one of the most influential minds of the twentieth century, German architect Walter Gropius, who founded Bauhaus School and wrote a huge step in modern arts history. I let curious people make some research about his great man and his work.

Tell us about the album artwork

I started working on some drawings for the cover, but finally, I decided to work on with Jeff Grimal from THE GREAT OLD ONES and SPECTRALE. I wanted something original and breaking with traditional codes. I described the album concept and Jeff painted two masterpieces: two portraits stuck between life and death.

In Cauda Venenum

How were the songs written?

Between 2009 and 2010, I wrote four « proto tracks » about 15-20min. First versions were recorded with a drum machine and a cheap multi-effect Zoom G1. When I shared these tracks with N.K.L.S. in 2010, he decided to join me and we decided to spend the needed time to push these songs as far as possible. No name. No label. No deadline.

In my opinion, it takes more time to work on long tracks than shorter ones. You have to make it coherent and interesting enough to keep the listener until the end. So we decided to take our time to do our best, dealing with our busy schedules and geographic distance. We made several versions for both track, experimenting with different structures, interludes, etc… N.K.L.S. recorded about 2 hours drums for each tracks to offer me the choice to try as things as possible in order to improve the tracks and bring enough relief.

We spent almost 2 years working on these four tracks until I realised we would have difficulties to finish it in the near future because we live far from each other. We meet only once or twice a year, so everything is done online, which is very long. Tracks were about 25min long at this time. It took so much time that we decided to focus on only two tracks for the first album as soon as we knew it could be released by a label. We also decided to limit duration to 22 min to be released on vinyl.

How did the recording process go?

If my memory is good, recording process ended on 2014. Then it took several months to mix and master it properly. We learnt a lot with this album, and we are now able to work faster and more efficiently.

In terms of sound, as a DIY project, we made everything by ourselves, and learnt step by step, almost from nothing. I remember when I was looking for a guitar sound, I spent days trying several settings with the VOX Tonelab ST I had just bought. Finally I focused on FALL OF EFRAFA guitars on Inle as a starting point and added layers of guitars with different settings to make OUR sound. Drum recording and mixing were even more epic! N.K.L.S. recorded his parts with 3 ultra cheap Amator mics (maybe 30€ in total !) and we spent days and days trying to make it sound as good as possible.

Finally, I had to deal with this cheap recorded material and make my possible to create a mix focused on atmosphere and identity despite of clarity and accuracy. Fortunately, we play Atmospheric Black Metal, so we do not absolutely have to make everything be perfectly listenable. So I tried to produce a well balanced mix with massive layers of guitars, organic drums and cavernous ambience.

To sum up, I think the final sound identity is due to constraints and compromises, which are, in my opinion, two fabulous engines for creativity and originality.

Whats your favourite song on the album and why?

Both track are different but complementary, so I don’t have any favourite one.

As the album is about to get a limited vinyl release, what’s your take on the physical vs digital debate in music?

Digital format is good to discover, for example via Bandcamp or YouTube, but I’m not interested in collecting digital albums…

In my opinion, the product aspect is almost as important as the music itself. It is a part of the experience. That’s why we made a limited digisleeve edition with silk-screen wooden covers (13 of them on walnut, the other 37 on oak). It has been handmade by Christin Georgel of En l’Encre Nous Croyons, and I did the assembly by myself.

Lots of people asked us for a vinyl format maybe because in a way, buying a vinyl is like an act of resistance against digital music supremacy. I think this makes the difference between consumer and supporter (whatever they buy a CD, LP or even a tape).

What are you up to for the rest of the year?

Our latest (15min) track called Laura Palmer, Agonie à Twin Peaks has been released a few days ago via Emanation (a subdivision of French label Les Acteurs de l’Ombre Productions). We share an amazing digisleeve through a split album with friends HEIR (Post Black Metal) and SPECTRALE (Acoustic experimental side project of Jeff Grimal, who painted the cover, featuring Laura Palmer, and playing in renowned band THE GREAT OLD ONES).

I wanted to make a tribute to TWIN PEAKS for a long time. Its universe is so complex, becoming darker and darker as it focuses on Laura’s character and her personality. The complexity of the scenario guides us with the characters through psychotic and occult themes, which is perfect as inspiration for Black Metal. When I learnt a new season was in production, I decided this was the right time to work on it. And when I started reading Laura’s Palmer Diary (by Jennifer Lynch), I decided to focus on this character and her childhood.

N.K.L.S. just finished recording drum parts and submitted me re-arranged tracks for the next album. The two others tracks will be the logical follow-up and will conclude this tetralogy. We are currently working on it and it should be released in 2018. I’m about to start the guitar recording process and preparing a first version to submit to Raphael Verguin so that he can compose and record cello on it. I also want to include a friend as a guest singer.

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