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INTERVIEW: Polish Black Metal Band Sauron

Sauron- Wara!

Let’s get this out of the way: there have been a ton of bands over the years that have used or are using the name Sauron and taken influence from J.R.R. Tolkien’s works.  Metal Archives tells me there are three from Poland alone, though the subject of this article was the first in the country to use the name.  This particular Sauron formed in 1991 and released two demos between 1993 and 1995, and it would take almost a decade before they resurfaced.  Since that time the black metal band has been more active than ever, releasing ‘The Land of the Dead Sun’ earlier this year and ‘Wara!’ just recently.  The former contains remastered material from the band’s past, while ‘Wara!’ is a mix of old and new alongside a killer Bathory cover.

What caught my attention when ‘Wara!’ first came across my desk was how the band had absolutely nailed that mid to late 90s black metal sound yet they didn’t sound like the usual derivative, bland groups that keep trying to pay tribute to the style.  That makes sense though, given that Sauron has been around since that fertile period where the second wave and beyond sound was starting to take shape.  ‘Wara!’ knows how to make a strong impression, with songs that keep things simple and focus on catchy yet abrasive hooks that have a bit of a rock ‘n roll feel interspersed with that familiar icy coldness.  At times it’s reminiscent of bands like Taake, while other moments pull in more of that epic Bathory feel.  The strong song writing is bolstered by clear production values that allow each instrument plenty of breathing room, and that makes this a black metal release that has continued to draw me back.

This was my first exposure to Sauron’s material and I came away very impressed.  Given that the group was around two decades ago before resurfacing in recent years, I was curious to learn more about what led to the recent spike in activity and what went into creating ‘Wara!’ and Sauron’s other recent releases.  Guitarist/bassist Evil was gracious enough to answer my questions, which you can check out below.  ‘Wara!’ is available on digipack CD and gatefold vinyl from Witching Hour Productions.  The CD is available to order now with the vinyl set to ship December 20th.

Transcending Obscurity (Chris Dahlberg): Thanks for taking the time to answer these questions.  ‘Wara!’ or ‘The Land of the Dead Sun’ might be some people’s first exposure to Sauron, but you first formed in 1991.  Polish metal had just as many standout bands in the early to mid-90s as some of the better known scenes, but has always been overlooked in my opinion.  Where did Sauron fit in this period of Polish metal, and how does that differ from the band’s current incarnation?

Sauron (Evil): Yeah – it has been a while… 😉 Early nineties were very crazy times in Poland. We’d just got rid of communism and were trying to learn the new reality. For such young guys like us it was quite hard to get instruments or places for rehearsals. We didn’t know western languages and overall access to information was rather poor. I think that in many cases those factors were pulling Polish bands down.

But anyway – despite all those obstacles (which we were actually not that much aware of, ‘cos it was the only reality we knew) we had surprisingly strong local micro-scenes with many bands sacrificing a lot in order to have possibilities to make music and play it. Sauron was one of those bands. We’ve only ‘pushed’ it one step forward by recording a couple of demos that we could distribute. Today it might seem weird but back in the day it wasn’t that easy to make it happen.

You cannot really compare those days to present time. Today the Polish scene is technically not any different than any other worldwide. I guess that today we (in Sauron) still have some of that urge to record new tracks and enjoy it.

TO: Since last year you’ve released three full length albums.  Your last album before that was 2007’s ‘Hornology’, so this is quite a bit of material in a short amount of time.  Do some of these songs date back several years, and where does ‘Wara!’ fit into the timespan of your recent albums?

Sauron: Answering that question requires some wider context… Over 7 years ago I’d moved to Norway. We were just working on ‘Unholy Man’. I needed some time to settle down in a new place and shortly after that we were done with the recording. Then I’ve spent some more time looking for best (and achievable) options to do the production and finally – mix and mastering were done by Tom ‘Thrawn’ Kvålsvoll in Strype Audio. When eventually all was done my first daughter was born and I had to reshuffle my priorities for a while. As a result – ‘Unholy Man’ was collecting dust in my drawer for some years… About two years ago I started bringing Sauron back to life again. After some time, we made a deal with Via Nocturna which last year released both ‘Unholy Man’ and ‘Hornology’ (the latter was first released by Old Temple in 2007). In the meantime, we started working on new material. I was also trying to find a label willing to release our older stuff – ‘The Baltic Fog’ (1995) and ‘Kraina Martwego Słońca’ (1997). Since I couldn’t find a proper place – I decided to open my own label – Wheelwright Productions and released ‘Kraina Martwego Słońca’ on vinyl as ‘The Land of Dead Sun’.

‘Wara!’ was done shortly afterwards. It’s kind of a compilation album with 2 new tracks, 3 re-recorded and one cover.

TO: Last year you reunited with former drummer Rzeczy, who originally left the band in 1996.  What led to him rejoining Sauron after all this time?  Did his rejoining the group play a role in why you’ve been so productive recently?

Sauron: I didn’t have much contact with Rzeczy since he left the band. Our paths parted for good and after I’d left my hometown we were running Sauron as a duo with me and P.W. Two years ago when I started giving Sauron more attention again, I found Rzeczy on Facebook. After a short discussion with P.W. we asked Rzeczy what would he think about taking back the drums in Sauron and he said it’s worth trying… 😉 Having him back is definitely a great driver for the band. Well – after so many years as a duo we are the Band again! It feels great and so far it works just excellent for us.

TO: ‘Wara!’ was written as a continuation of the direction Sauron was heading in during the late 90s, and I think you absolutely nailed that sound.  The icy melodies in particular are what have drawn me back to these songs on a regular basis.  Tell us more about some of your influences and ideas that you had as ‘Wara!’ began to shift into its final incarnation.

Sauron: That was exactly my goal. I wanted ‘Wara!’ to sound as if it was recorded back in 1999. I had a period when I was trying to make complex, heavily arranged riffs – I packed most of it on both – ‘Hornology’ and ‘Unholy Man’. This time I wanted to make songs that I will be enjoying playing with the least possible effort. That was a kind of intentional degradation to recall the style we had in the late nineties. I am a huge Fenriz worshiper and his attitude gives me most of the inspirations these days. After his influence I knew that I wanted ‘Wara!’ to sound as raw as we can get – with no triggers on drums, etc. Considering where we started working on those tracks I’m more than very satisfied with the final result.

TO: I love the cover of Bathory’s Enter the Eternal Fire.  You mentioned in a previous interview this was the song you gave to Rzeczy to give him an idea of the type of music you wanted to play and now you were finally able to record it.  What made this particular Bathory song the one you chose all those years ago, and what impact has Bathory had on your music?

Sauron: I’m really impressed about how well are you prepared for this interview! You’re right – that was the song we gave Rzeczy to show the direction we wanted to follow with Sauron. P.W. was always a hardcore Bathory fan. He was always strongly inspired by Quorthon and his music. Enter the Eternal Fire is one of many Bathory songs with powerful and unique atmosphere and you could almost derive an entire genre of upbeat, anthem-ish songs having only this track alone as an inspiration 😉 I’ve been listening to Bathory records a lot recently and I was actually quite surprised to realize how much I was always inspired by them. Listening to those albums is to me very intimate and almost a spiritual experience. Sometimes I almost feel jealous when others post Bathory tracks here and there because I feel like they were touching my girl – if you know what I mean 😉 All that made me realize that we belong to the Bathory Worshipers army and I’m sure new Sauron tracks will be even more marked by Bathory influence.

Sauron

TO: Haldor Grunberg was the producer for ‘Wara!’ and he gave the album a very full sound that provides a considerable amount of clarity without sacrificing the abrasiveness of the riffing or vocal work.  Though the songs have that 90s feel the sound quality is certainly much better.  Tell us more about the studio process for ‘Wara!’, and will you be utilizing Grunberg again in the future or trying something different?

Sauron: Haldor is a genius! Not only is he one of the best producers technically – he is also able to understand amateurs trying to explain in plain words what they would like to achieve 😉 He loves the music and he knows the music – it really makes working with him pure pleasure. That was exactly my experience – I tried to explain to him what sound I’d imagined for this material and gave him couple of other bands as examples. His first proposal was already jaw-dropping and after couple of back-and-forths he found that sweet spot you can hear in final mix. Being totally honest – what he’s done to those tracks you can compare to what good plastic surgeons can do to rich Hollywood stars 😉 I hope we will be able to work together in the future – we understand each other and working with him is always a pleasure.

TO: The cover art, which was created by Robert A. von Ritter, is stunning.  Tell us more about the process of working with von Ritter and how he was able to bring the ideas you had to life.

Sauron: Robert is an excellent artist, I love his work and I really wanted him to do something for Sauron. Luckily he liked our music and he is a really cool guy in general. I was lucky with coming to that album title when I was trying to find something appropriate. I knew that material would have kind of an eclectic nature having some old and some new tracks and I was trying to find title that would bind it together. ‘WARA!’ is an old Polish word for “fuck off!” (not that rude though) and is used in one of our lyrics on that album. When I eventually ’saw’ it – it was like hitting the bulls eye! Of course the next step was to try to find out if it was already used in similar context. Luckily it was not and during that search I found an old Polish propaganda-poster from 1939 with a Polish soldier defending Polish industry against Nazi-German hand. When I saw it I knew immediately that this is our cover design, but I needed a kind of mash-up inspired by it but referring to album’s pagan message. I described it all to Robert and he caught the idea. His drawing is just amazing! It’s far beyond my expectations and it decorates the album in the best possible way!

TO: You’re already at work on new material, which you’re planning to record next spring.  At what stage of writing are you in right now, and how does it compare to both ‘Wara!’ and ‘The Land of the Dead Sun’?

Sauron: I would say I’m ready in about 80% composing new tracks. I hope we will continue the style known from those two albums. There will be definitely even more Bathory influences 😉

TO: Sauron has mainly stuck with Polish labels, with recent releases coming out from Via Nocturna, Old Temple, and Witching Hour Productions.  What are the advantages of working with record labels from your country, and what has it been like working with them?

Sauron: It’s a little bit hard for me to talk about advantages because – as you noticed – I don’t have any other experiences 😉 All those labels are driven by passionate maniacs who love the underground and when they decide to release something – it’s because they liked the material personally. From our side – we don’t have huge expectations I think. We all love Sauron and having released records is the ultimate reward. And if there are any other people who like it – that’s even better! The only goal is to share our passion for music. It was never money – we were always covering all the production costs, even ‘WARA!’ cover art, designs, layouts and simple visualisation for ‘Goreją Wici’ were paid from our pockets. I’ve spent hundreds of hours spreading propaganda on Facebook and other media trying to let people know about our new stuff. The only thing I expect in return is material to be released and distributed so others can enjoy it.

I am a huge Fenriz worshiper and his attitude gives me most of the inspirations these days. After his influence I knew that I wanted ‘Wara!’ to sound as raw as we can get – with no triggers on drums, etc.

TO: You mentioned in a previous interview that you are working on releasing your older stuff.  Does this refer to re-releases of the demo material and ‘Kraina martwego słońca’ album, or are there other older songs we have yet to hear yet?

Sauron: ‘Kraina…’ is already out on vinyl (as ‘The Land of Dead Sun’). We have one more demo – ‘The Baltic Fog’ which will be released on the 1st of Dec on tape on Witches Sabbath Records and shortly after that – on vinyl on my Wheelwright Productions. I’m really excited about those releases as again – it was Robert A. von Ritter who created excellent cover art. In addition – there is some extra drawing made by Sirkis for the vinyl. Sometime next year I’ll be trying to find a label willing to release those two materials on double CD – most likely titled ‘Tam gdzie płonie wiatr’. After it’s done I’ll be finally done with the past 😉

TO: A lot has changed in the past two decades with how metal is released.  Digital downloads are common now but there’s also been a resurgence of vinyl and cassettes.  What are your thoughts on this, and do you have a preferred format?

Sauron: I really do appreciate all those streaming services. I subscribe to some and it gives me immediate access to most of the fresh and older releases I want to know about. It also gives me opportunity to browse through the records I would never hear otherwise. On the other hand – to balance it in a way I’ve learnt to appreciate vinyl records. This is the only format I buy these days. Vinyl releases compensate my need for physical contact with the record, its cover, design, even smell 😉 That’s why I decided to run my own label – even though I totally suck at sales 😉 But holding ‘The Land of Dead Sun’ in my hands knowing that this is my ‘product’ on so many levels – it’s a purely orgasmic experience! 😉

TO: While Sauron played live many years ago, you’re mainly a studio band now.  Is there more interest in continuing to write and record new material rather than playing live at this point? Are the logistics of getting all three of you together for a gig difficult?

Sauron: I wish we could play but since we’re spread so much worldwide it would be quite difficult right now. But being honest – each month I’m kind of maturing to make it happen one day in the not that distant future – just don’t tell it to my wife right now 😉 As you said – it is a logistic challenge indeed, but I’m sure that if we really want it – we can do it! Anyway – there are no plans for live gigs right now, but I didn’t strike such option yet… 😉

TO: ‘Unholy Man’ was originally released under the name Ivil’s Pandemonium Carnival, before being re-released under the Sauron name.  What led to the change of name for a couple years?

Sauron: Well, there were a couple of reasons. After I moved to Norway I thought that it would be simply impossible for us to continue with P.W. as Sauron – especially since for some time I was much too busy being a fresh father. Luckily I was proven wrong 😉 Right now I know that for me there are no other gods bands but Sauron and I’m sure we will keep creating stuff as long as blood runs warm in our veins! 😉

TO: Is there anything else you’d like to say about Sauron or ‘Wara!’?

Sauron: Sauron is our passion and it’s great to share it! ‘WARA!’ should be soon available and I’m really looking forward to hold it in my hands! But there is not much left to say about it beyond what I’ve already told answering your questions. That was the real pleasure – it was definitely the best prepared interview I’ve had so far! Thanks for that and for a chance to speak up!

Sauron | Witching Hour Productions | Wheelwright Productions | Witches Sabbath Records

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