[home] [interviews] [reviews] [news] [stories] [about us] [beyond the veil] [contact]
Astray in eternal night
EVOKEN is the name whereby all Funeral Doom fans get shivers in the spine, one of the most respected bands of this daunting genre. The band has released four full-length albums "Embrace the Emptiness" '98, "Quietus" '01, "Antithesis of Light" '05 and the final one "A Caress of the Void" '07. Currently the band is working on a new album, but more with Vince Verkay, EVOKEN´s drummer. Azagthoth, our new Necrosphere member is responsible for the interview, we have made only a few questions, so dear left Funeral Doom estate, here is an interview with EVOKEN!

Greetings to the EVOKEN camp. How are things going at this time? Any news, what is happening around you now?
Things are going well. We're in the process of writing new material. We're fairly close to finding a new label for the forth-coming album. Relapse Records has just started to distro our newly designed "A Caress of the Void" t-shirts. Plus, there are other things on the horizon so, we're keeping busy.

So far you have released four albums and the last one is from 2007, so I think that waiting for the new album shouldn't be already too long, or I'm wrong? How much will be new CD different opposite previous ones?
We have actually had 5 releases (4 full-length albums and 1 Ep of sorts) since our start. With re-releases in between. Correct, we have not released a full-length album since 2007.  We have recorded songs for a split EP with Beneath the Frozen Soil due out on I Hate Records. But, the release has been delayed. We recorded those songs in 2008, which for us is rather quick, and those songs rather old now.  

Before 'Antithesis of Light' there was a 4 year gap between the releases. The past couple of albums, we have cut down on time between each release, although this wasn't by design. When we write for each album, we make absolutely sure we take our time, that those songs are 100% complete. We never move on when writing a song for the sake of moving forward.

Well, right now since it is VERY early in the writing process, I cannot give you an accurate description on how the new songs will differ from previous albums. Throughout writing the songs they change quite enough times until we enter the studio, record, and mix the album.

Your songs and therefore whole albums are quite long, each one with more than an hour playing time. It is difficult to write and to record a long track and to combine it all in one unit? What is your process at writing new songs and who invents individual songs?
Yeah, it is quite difficult to combine all the elements when recording. When the songs on average 10 minutes or more, as a drummer you want to record the songs in one take. Otherwise, you have to go back and redo the song all over again, depending on where the screw-up takes place etc. This in turn eats up studio time, which you're financially limited on hours to begin with. I realize you have software like ProTools to simply patch into a song should you completely fuck-up. But, for me as a drummer jumping in say in the middle of a song tends to lose something. For me, I lose the natural flow of playing that song, or even interrupting the connection/atmosphere you have with the other members. With bass, guitars, keyboards, or vocals it's a bit easier. Then, keep in mind slow music like this you have to be accurate, I never use a metronome, it makes things too fucking robotic. Every hit, very note hit has to be spot-on. Of course, you are able to move things around but, at the same time, the tempo has to be on. Also, it's just common sense really. Longer songs, take a longer time to record and mix, hence taking up plenty of hours of studio time. So, we make it a point, if anyone screws up in the studio, we tie them to a tree outside of the studio, smother them in peanut butter, then turn loose several raccoons that have not been fed in several days... Seems to be working thus far.

Writing the songs, we never had a process. Everyone in the band is involved in writing in some form or another. It could be one guy coming up with something at home, at rehearsal, watching cartoons at home. List in endless.

Your music is full of darkest darkness, feelings of emptiness and despair. Are you trying to get these feelings through music out of yourself? Are you sometimes using changed states of mind at writing?
Although we don't have to always be in a "state-of-mind" to write a song or riff. Writing these songs do serve as an outlet for these things. Unless a person is made of steel or plastic, everyone goes through these emotions. Some individuals paint, some write books or poetry, and some people resort to violence. For us, writing and playing this music serves as an outlet for these things. Especially amid the times we live in now. Things appear to be the worst it has been for decades. At least it appears to be since with multimedia making the world a smaller place, we're overloaded with events going on throughout the world. But, back to my point, it's a healthy way to expel those feelings for each of us.

As far as the state of mind, I wouldn't know what each member feels when they write a riff, especially when they write the riffs on their own time. For the lyrics, when I do write them, I do have to be in a certain state of mind to write them. I couldn't simply come home from a long day, take my coat off, and immediately sit down to start writing. I'm sure Nick is the same way. I try to set up an atmosphere around me to focus my mind, and not be distracted by outside sources. This is fairly hard to do where I live. The neighbors live so close; if they fart I smell it 2 minutes later through brick walls.

You have also keyboard player. Do the keys in your music have as important role as other instruments?
Extremely important! But, not where they can overtake the music itself. The keyboards are there to enhance a song. You can play these riffs by themselves, and they still hold up, some more than others but, when keyboards are added, they bring those songs to another level. They set an atmosphere, which is VERY important in Evoken's music. I just think there is a fine line between using them and using them too much. The keyboards should be there to bring the hair up on the back of your neck....or back if you're that hairy. If they're overused, you can lose that effect. Which we try to avoid.  

I feel the strong influence of death metal in all your recordings, but most in the first demo "Shades Of Night Descending". Which bands have influenced you or inspired? You are listening to them till now?
Yeah, so you can hear the death metal influence throughout the recording. In those days, I don't think we discovered our identity yet. We had an idea as to where we wanted to go, but the path to arrive there wasn't within our grasp.  

With that, we still listen to death metal, it's in our blood! As are all genres of metal and other forms of music. Our influences are endless, and would turn this interview into a novel. To name a few: Celtic Frost, Hellhammer, Lord of Putrifaction, Autopsy, disembowelment (pretty fucking obvious), (old) Crematory, (old) Dark Throne, Dead Can Dance, Portishead...etc etc....

Indeed we still listen to them all, there are just so many of them. Metal and non-metal. I don't believe you can go your whole life listening to anything but metal. It can become quite stale overtime and you wind-up burning yourself out. So, it's good to take a break from it from time to time. I won't lie though. If I'm out with other people somewhere, and you're listening to constant radio friendly bullshit, I have the tendency to go through a metal withdrawal. Like a nutcase, I'll start humming songs in my head, tapping the drums on my lap. If anyone seen me on the street, they would have me committed.     

You have mentioned also DISEMBOWELMENT as you influence. Do you think there is still some hope these gods should be put back together?
I have hope, but reality dictates otherwise. I do know a couple of the members have a band put together which isn't in the same context as the might d. IF they did reform, I would personally sell my neighbors wife to the first bidder (she's a nitemare but, someone has to be desperate out there). I think it would be fantastic! Somehow though, I doubt this will happen. I'm sure they have their reasons. Aside from this, it would be great if I could meet and speak with Paul M. just to advise him he has a part in influencing how I play the drums. Which I'm sure at that point; he would quit playing and ask why he even bothered knowing this.  

Only a few bands use three guitars. Why have you chosen to do so? Is it due to layering riffs or you wanted to achieve more heavy sound?
Well, actually this has not happened yet. When Nick moved away, we all felt even though he wasn't going to be a full-time member of Evoken, he still was/is a MASSIVE part of Evoken. So, when listing the band members, we have Chris who is a full-time member, with Nick being a part-time member, and of course John. Meaning, he will be in on the writing process etc. But, right now we remain a 2 guitar band. This could change VERY soon. IF, this does happen it will allow us in a live setting have both rhythm guitars going, while the clean guitar parts come in. Essentially so there are no drop-outs. I'm sure it will shake the paint off the walls. Getting everyone on stage, that's another story. I have no idea how we'll put that off.  

Which album of Funeral Doom genre do you consider to be a primary and crucial? Do you think Funeral Doom belongs to the most minor extreme metal genres?
Hmmm, this is a bit of a complicated answer so, bare with me. If we removed the tag “Funeral Doom” then my answer would clearly be Thergothon. But, keep in mind the term did not exist at that point. I know since the term came to pass, Thergothon have been deemed “Funeral Doom” which I think is absolutely incorrect! They are Lovecraftian Doom.

Now, in terms of “Funeral Doom” I guess I would have to go with Skepticism-'Stormcrowfleet' since I think that was the first time the term “Funeral Doom” was mentioned....not sure if it was Red Stream or not. But, in any case, I would have the say that album. For me personally, I always thought of Skepticism as more of a “Soaring Doom”. When I listen to that first album, I feel as if I'm riding the wind above the mountains and trees...an epic journey of sorts.  

How much important is for you to have an atmosphere in music? Is it the most important element? What are you trying to express the most by music and lyrics?
It's really one portion of importance in the music. There are so many other elements in the music that complete an album or song. One other MAJOR importance for us is sheer heaviness! We could try and set a darker atmosphere with keyboards and clean guitars all we want but, if the guitars sound weak, then it's all for nothing. It has to have an anchor for the music, a foundation.

What we try to express in our music and lyrics is a sense of dread, a sense of doom just over the horizon. You hear it, but you cannot see but, you know that whatever dwells out of sight is always more frightening that what is seen. For our music, it's not a mater of simply putting the music on and listening. It's music that demands your attention, your patience. Once you can sit through the entire album without distraction that is when you will understand the music itself.  

When you are personally listening to any Funeral Doom recording, can you hear it also at the noon when sun shines, or you prefer the evening and night listening?
It depends on the mood I'm in. The time of day or weather has no real bearing on when I listen to anything.  

Do you play live gigs often? Do you think your music sounds better on CD or at live? You have certainly played a lot of concerts around the world. Where you played the best show and why? Was there a concert that didn't turn out according to your wishes?
The past year and a half we have played live on a more consistent basis than in the years past, for various reasons. We just felt they way things are these days within the music industry; you really need to play out more. We have played more shows in this short span than we had the past decade. 

I really wish I could tell you if we sounded better live or on CD but, that would be something to ask someone in the audience. For us, we hear what comes through our monitors so; it's very difficult to gauge how we sound in front of the stage. We do attempt to achieve the same sound you hear on a CD in a live setting. To me, there is nothing worse than going to see a band you are a fan of only to hear the complete opposite as to what you hear on CD. Now, of course you do want some differences, louder, heavier etc. But, hearing a band plug-in on stage and all it sounds like is someone dropping the drumset down a flight of stairs, while the guitars sound similar to rubber bands on a tin can will ruin your opinion on that band.

We have had the pleasure of playing so many fantastic shows all over the world, which we are far from being done with. Shows that went beyond anything we have ever expected. So, I can't really give you one particular show that would absolutely stand out. Put a gun to my head? Rotterdam or Berlin. Regarding the worst shows, I could tell you but, then I would need several drinks to calm myself down since they were not just shows that went bad, but went horrible! But, not every show is going to be perfect.  

Do you visit concerts as well as a fan? Can you recommend a band that recently surprised you?
I try to visit as many concerts as I financially can, as well as shows that interest me. This seems to be less these days. I wouldn't say anything has really surprised me as most bands I have gone to see I am already aware about. I did enjoy Gravehill some months ago at a fest we played here in NJ. I had never heard the music in detail before but, live they put on a pretty brutal show. Other than that, nothing completely stands out. Unfortunately, most bands I would like to see live for the first time all dwell outside the US.

Lets go back to your first demo "Shades Of Night Descending", which was released before 16 years. How do you perceive the material now? What would you change on it?
Well, it is what it is I suppose. I'm still quite proud of it for the time. We were very young, with no experience on how to do things so, the end product is the result of that. We were only used to rehearsal rooms, amps cranked to ear bleeding levels. So, going into a studio where you could hear every little nuance was very nerve racking. I think the material still holds up for the time.

Well, here it is so many years later and of course there are things I would have liked to change about it. BUT, on the flip-side I think if given the chance to do so, I would decline and leave it as is. It was a reflection of the time, it has a novelty to it that I think if changed would lose something to its atmosphere. 

Which album of your creation would you choose as the best one? For me personally it's "Antithesis Of Light", but each one is somehow exceptional. Could you say a few words to each album?
That's somewhat a hard decision to make. If you had several children and someone asked you which is the best one and why, how could you answer that? Each one is special to you for various reasons. But, I will make one comment on the album you mentioned 'Antithesis of Light'. Out of all the albums, that one was the hardest album to create to date. The band was in such disarray at that point. We just lost 2 members, welcomed in one new member, decided in the middle of writing to do a small mini-tour of Europe. We went into the studio with no bass player, which John had to record without any practice to the songs. Denny (second keyboardist) lived so far away we in the end had to show him where we wanted the keyboards, the sounds we wanted to use etc. It was the first time recording strictly digital, so we had NO idea how things would turn out. We must have gone over each song too many times mixing, then re-mixing to the point where I thought Ron was going to run us down with his car. It just strikes me as odd so many people like that album the best for its rawness, when in reality we were in a state of complete fucking confusion.  

The last album you have released under I Hate Records. Do you think they did a good job? Will they release also your next album?
At the time, we were extremely satisfied with I Hate. Ola did such a great job with us.  Evoken, we felt, was a priority with him. He kept in constant communication with us, put his FUL support behind Evoken, and letting the world know the album was coming out. Now that unfortunately Ola has left the label, things haven't been the same for us. This is not a complete knock on I Hate but, the above mentioned seems to have dropped off. Communication had been lacking, for lack of a better word. We no longer really feel Evoken is a priority so, we are moving on with regards to the new album, and a new album. I cannot say why I Hate have since then dropped off since Ola left. I will not sit here and slam the label for anything. I truly wish them the best of luck in the future, and hope things begin to pick-up again. But, as far as Evoken is concerned we always do what is best for us. In which in this case, we shall move on.

Do you like night walks in dark woods? Ok that's all from me, your last words to Slovak readers.
I do enjoy quiet walks anywhere that people do not inhabit. Unfortunately, we simply do not have woods of any kind close to my home. Your neighbors are a stones throw away. We live next to one of the shiftiest city in the state, and if you do wish to have a calming walk in any woods, you literally have to drive a VERY long distance to find any peace. This state of New Jersey is known as the “Garden State” which is a far cry from its true self. Where there were once wide open lands, trees, and silent places to have some sort of piece of mind are all but disappeared now. Those places have been taken over by the fat, snake in the grass politicians who cater to the rich. Only building anywhere they can land their greasy, fat fingers and wallets on. It's is my hope that one day, this country will wake-up, and lynch every individual with money or power that infest and bring this country to the pathetic state it is. Lynch the rich, and disembowel the politicians.....EVER last one of them!

I would like to pass our deepest thanks to all those who have supported us throughout. As the years have passed, our fan base there has steadily increased. It is my hope we can visit your area in the VERY near future. The honor is ALWAYS ours!

Vince                                                       13. 6. 2010 Azagthoth