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INTERVIEW: Greek Psychedelic Black Metal Trio – Hail Spirit Noir

Hail Spirit Noir, the psychedelic black metal trio from Greece is one of the most unique bands out there today. Their amalgamation of 70’s psychedelic / prog rock with second wave black metal is a breathe of fresh air to both black metal and occult rock genres. The band has been consistently putting out releases that have been consistently excellent and after 6 years as a band, Hail Spirit Noir took their act to a live setting for the first time this week.

After being floored  by the band’s recent output ‘Mayhem in Blue’, we got in touch with them to talk about their new album, the experience of taking the live stage and other things, which you can find below.

Hail Spirit Noir

Transcending Obscurity (Shrivatsan R): Hey guys. How’s it going? How are things in the Noir camp?

Hail Spirit Noir (Theoharis): Hallo! It’s only been a few days after our first live shows and we are still riding that high! Finally, after six years of recording and releasing material, we got to take it to the stage. Supporting Virus no less. So we are understandably giddy with excitement. We are now planning ahead for more shows and opportunities to promote our new album.

TO: Hail Spirit Noir has been growing as a band with each realease. Oi Magoi had a much more refined direction in the music compared to Pneuma, both excellent releases might I add. With ‘Mayhem in Blue’ coming out, what would you say was approached differently compared to the previous album?

HSN: To be honest with you, I can’t really put my finger on it exactly. I mean, the only album that we had something resembling a plan was ‘Pneuma’ and that’s not really accurate. While Haris was composing the basic structures of the song and handed them over to us, I think we noticed a subconscious focus in a more streamlined songwriting. Song is king no matter what kind of music you play. We are obviously very far from the stereotypical rock form . Another thing that we noticed after the record was complete was that this album was more aggressive. In terms of playing, not because of the sound. The sound naturally followed the music and had to be harsher than the previous records. But I think our basic elements of emotion, interesting themes and many twists and turns are still here.

The idea behind the band’s name was that it would summarise our desire to pay tribute to the 70s Italian horror movies as well as the prog rock of the same era we so adore.

TO (Vidur Paliwal): It feels, that ‘Mayhem in Blue’ pulls in much more from the traditional forms of black metal compared to previous albums, while simultaneously incorporating even more progressive rock influences. It’s like you got heavier and also less metal at the same time. What would you say for that?

HSN: I think we’ll take that as a compliment. As I said the record turned out more aggressive. I think we are obviously a metal band, we just incorporate all of our influences but at the same time we try to make them work in favour of the songs. We also have to keep things interesting for ourselves as well. So we try out new ideas, use different instrumentation where we think fits. There are parts where the guitars are there to add a flavor and everything turns metal because of the keyboards and how malevolent they sound. Plus the new songs demanded a different mix, a heavier one.

TO: You also recently announced addition of three live members to the band. How did you guys go through the selection process? Did all the members know each other from before?

HSN: All three guys we’ve known for quite sometime because we all lived in Thessaloniki. Foivos (drums, also of Agnes Vein) is together with Haris in Katavasia. Cons Marg will be handling vocal duties and is also in the prog metal band Until Rain. Sakis will be playing keyboards and he is one of the most talented musicians I’ve ever met. He was also part of one of the most important Greek bands, Horizon’s End. There weren’t any auditions or any sort of thing. We asked those guys because we trusted them and once we actually had our first rehearsal, we knew we made the right choice. Any chinks that might come up will be ironed out through playing. Plus, they understand what we’re trying to do. Sometimes, they’ll even explain it to us!

TO: Hail Spirit Noir recently a couple of shows supporting Virus. How does the music translate on stage, considering the studio material has such a narrative and hypnotic quality to it?

HSN: We are still dizzy by the response. Thing is, we didn’t know ourselves. We picked the setlist hoping it would create a perfect atmosphere for a live show. But really, I can’t tell you if it did translate well on stage. If the audience is anything to go by, we did something right. There were some difficulties but they didn’t throw us off. Hopefully, the audience appreciated it as well.

Hail Spirit Noir

TO: There are a lot of influences at play when it comes to the music, most of which seems to stem from horror literature and movies. What are some specific writers and film makers from who you draw inspiration?

HSN: There has always been a Lovecraft-ian influence in the way we write lyrics. He is the epitome of darkness and horror when it comes to descriptions. Plus the Cthulhu mythos is an undeniably impressive creation. Clive Barker is another writer I personally enjoy reading. But as you may have noticed, there is a strong hint of irony and sarcasm in our lyrics. This usually comes from me reading tons of English comedy literature such as Thomas Sharpe, P. G. Wodehouse and Irvine Welsh. When it comes to films, there are directors who have managed to scare the living crap out of me like John Carpenter, who also happens to be a musician. David Lynch and his inexplicably weird movies have also had a hand along with Dario Argento whose work has been the greatest influence on us. I mean, the whole band started as a tribute to the music of his films and bands such as Goblin. One movie that has been haunting me ever since I watched it is  E. Elias Merhige’s Begotten. It’s first 15 minutes had me pulling my nails out. It had confused me, terrified me and intrigued me, all in equal measure.

Usually what we associate the sea with is images of tranquility, there’s hardly ever the longing for mayhem in the sea. So the figures emerging to toll the bell are delivering a message of impending mayhem.

TO (Vidur Paliwal): Hailing Lucifer/Satan/demons is quite textbook black metal stuff. And, the word ‘Noir’ being over-used for anything similar to the late 70s. So, how did the band arrive on the combined ‘Hail Spirit Noir’ moniker?

HSN: The idea behind the band’s name was that it would summarise our desire to pay tribute to the 70s Italian horror movies as well as the prog rock of the same era we so adore. Plus we wanted it to represent what we perceive as the human conundrum. And to celebrate the way the darker desires of man, his black spirit , are the ones that actually move the world forward.

TO: Your music has retro influences from 70’s progressive rock. But you channel it in a way which makes it much more than a “revival” band. The same however is not true for many bands today and there is even a 70’s rock revival scene going on with a lot occult rock bands these days. What are your thoughts on such “revivalist” movements in heavy music today?

HSN: There are a couple of aspects of this revival you mentioned, obviously. But I’d like to think that we can’t be lumped with all those bands. We never really tried to lump on any bandwagon and I do believe that our three records have each shown how we are actually inspired by rather that copying that era. But then again, everything moves in circles. If you look closely there have been three different kind of revivals in the noughties. One was the retro-70s rock, one was 80s thrash and now I think stoner is making a comeback. But every time something like that happens you can weed out the copycats from the bands that take their influence and run with it. But to each their own. I can’t criticize anyone wanting to pay their respects to an era that has influenced us as well. Still, I’d much rather like it if things moved forward.

Occultism is a different thing. I believe those who dabble seriously in such practices feel it is such a personal subject that to see the occult used as a gimmick is kinda frustrating. Those who speak of the occult should at the very least have some personal experience and not base their lyrics, image or concept on stale hearsay.

TO (Vidur Paliwal): While the ‘revivalist’ retro crowd may not associate with HSN and its music due to the black metal elements, the elitist metal crowd may simply reject the music, for not being ’true to the roots’. Leaving people with a hate it/love it kind of position Has this polarized the reaction you receive for the music?

HSN: Well, that can only be a good thing! I love extreme reactions when it comes to art. It means it has struck a chord. It had an impact on the recipient. I loathe lukewarm approaches to music. It’s true, both our previous albums have had reactions on both sides. Other love both records whereas others hate them with a passion. Some may love one and hate the other. It’s all welcome. If it is an honest reaction, I can deal with it, in fact, we welcome it. We could always release a safe album, take no risks. But where’s the fun in that? I much enjoy making people pay attention.

Hail Spirit NoirTO: Each song in the album has it’s own unique identity that makes it stand out. During the composing stage, does each song go through several different iterations before the finished product? How does a typical song writing session in the Noir camp go?

HSN: Haris is the main composer. Once he’s completed demos of song ideas and starter-structures he hands them to Demian and me. We begin working on the guitar parts. Usually, I deal with the rhythm guitars whereas Demian handles lead guitars. Then, when we rehearse the songs take shape because anything goes really. We try not to restrict ourselves and use any instrument to the songs advantage. So from the demos to the actual recording, the songs differ vastly. Plus we always leave room for some last minute studio experimentation if inspiration strikes! Thank fuck, our producer Dimitris Douvras doesn’t hate us and is always patient and spectacular.

TO: In the title track, Mayhem in Blue, you talk about an impending apocalypse caused by the oceans rising. Does this tie in with what we see on the album artwork?

HSN: The cover art ties with every song on the album in one way or another. If you read the lyrics while looking at the cover I believe you’ll find them . The title is an antithesis and the title song is actually about an ecological nightmare Haris had. Usually what we associate the sea with is images of tranquility, there’s hardly ever the longing for mayhem in the sea. So the figures emerging to toll the bell are delivering a message of impending mayhem. I believe we struck gold with the cover since it’s a brooding and unsettling piece of work that suits our music perfectly.

TO (Vidur Paliwal): How do you see the Metal scene in Greece? How has it changed over the years? Have the recent economic crisis there had a big impact on the metal scene?

HSN: We could talk about this all day. It’s weird but insanely satisfying to see how far along the scene’s come. You see most of the time, particularly in the 80’s Greek bands lacked the resources and anyone, anyone at all, with the slightest know-how of recording this kind of music properly. There have always been talented bands but it’s only in the last 10 years or so that we’ve managed to ditch the “oh, brother, why bother?” and mentality. As a result, we now have focused and dedicated bands willing to make sacrifices. More bands are getting noticed abroad. It’s not just the usual trio of Rotting Christ, Nightfall or Septicflesh. Gus G has also helped immensely simply by being Greek as well as George Kollias. Bands like Aenaon, Thy Darkened Shade, Wardrum, Universe217,  Sacral Rage, Exarsis, Until Rain are all bands that have made an impression and a lasting one at that. Hopefully, more will emerge

TO: Thanks for the time guys! Is there anything else you’d like to say about the band or the new album?

HSN: Thank you for your interest and for taking the time to read through our rumblings. “Mayhem In Blue” is waiting for you to dive into it’s maelstrom and whistle with us till you’re, well, blue in the face. Beware the Spirit Noir!

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