Mystical Symphonic Metal From Russia

Greetings brothers and sisters! Today I am very excited to bring you an interview with an extraordinary band from Russia, called BLACKTHORN. BLACKTHORN is an unique band, both musically and spiritually. They are a comprised of four women and one man and they are witches. For those out there thinking about witches in movies and on television, they are nothing like that. But I am not an expert on that subject, so I will let the band talk more about it.
Ordinarily, a person's spiritual preference would have no bearing on an interview about a heavy metal band, but this band, their music, lyrics and physical presence are all entwined with who they are and what they believe. BLACKTHORN is Aina on vocals, Elvira on guitars, Freya on keyboards and Max on drums. (at the time of this interview Verbena, who played bass for the band, had just been fired). So,without further delay, I give you BLACKTHORN...

Welcome to Metal Maidens, ladies and 'gentleman'...
Blackthorn: “Greetings to all Metal Maidens readers! Hi Nick!”

I guess, the first question on everyone's mind is how did you get involved with witchcraft and how do you think it relates to the actual music of BLACKTHORN?
Elvira: “Hmm, I have had an interest for dark music, since my teen years. Perhaps that was the moment, when I felt I’m interested in the mysterial. That should have happened sooner or later, as such kind of music has a very special atmosphere, really unearthly. It provides conditions for inner will awakening, and then every thing in your life starts to obey that.”
Freya: “Music itself is closely connected with witchcraft, because it is able to make an impact upon a listener’s mind. So, our music is our own witchcraft and magic.”
Aina: “When I was a little girl, I watched a documentary on witches. I was impressed by it so much, that all my childhood was spent in dreams of being an enchantress. Times have changed, but I’m still interested in the occult.”

There is good and evil around us every day and what I have read about witchcraft has nothing to do with darkness or evil, but with the celebration of life, earth and nature. Is that a correct understanding or am I way off?
Aina: “I think, there is no such thing as absolute evil or absolute good. That’s why we can’t find the unambiguous answer to this question of witchcraft. It consists of death and life, war and peace, dark and light; everything combines in one substance. The point is what ingredient you choose, this is it.”
Elvira: “Actually, we don’t know what is good and what is evil. Society flogs something into us, but we shouldn’t have to believe it. Witchcraft is the art of being free; a feeling that there are no borders any more.”

I respect the band chosing not to hide who they are and actually embracing it to become part of the music they create as well. Religon is a very touchy subject for a lot of people. After all, millions have died over the years, because of religon. Has the subject been a problem at times for the band, when it comes to how the public sees them?
Elvira: “Metal music awakens inner will. It means your mental outlook does become out of the ordinary and then you don't treat religion the same way most people do, you need something different. I’m not interested in religion (even atheism brings abridgement), but I’m really interested in Carlos Castaneda and a typology of perception process. I know, that religion is a touchy subject and usually try not discussing my preferences with everybody.”
Aina: “I believe, that religion is not our avocation at all. Metal musicians are often stereotyped, as for the public point of view. For example, if you play metal, you must profess some ancient bloodthirsty cult or something like that.”

Unfortunatley, I am sure most of the world do not understand your beliefs. Have you had any encounters with religous groups protesting or trying to stop you from performing?
Elvira: “Of course, even your family and friends maybe don’t share your interest in such kind of things. However, every now and then I meet the people, who don’t dig metal, who don’t dig the occult, but do show their respect to the music we play!”
Aina: “Luckily, nobody tried to stop us from performing and I don’t see any reason why we should have encounters with religious communities. When it comes to unmoral songs, shows, etc, BLACKTHORN is a very unpretentious band… There are always people, who try to ‘save the souls’ and ‘set us in the right way’, though. At a rough guess, I’d remember one metalhead, who got my invitation to the band’s community on facebook.com. He immediately sent me a message full of reproach and blame; he asked me not to tempt him to listen to such ‘satanic’ and ‘evil’ music, or he’ll burn in hell together with us.. Once, I met a member of the church choir as well, we had a chat and… I didn’t notice, when he began to lecture me, actually. I remember he shook his finger at me and said I’ll never see a paradise. I just love such guys!”

Do you find your spirituality gives you a greater vision and insight into creating music?
Elvira: “I do. The best way to bring up your spirituality is to try to keep the perception beyond social influence and listen to your inner voice, the voice of Nagual.”
Max: “I think I do, but I find my spirituality only when I sleep. Sleep is a powerful art accelerator, because of that I sleep all the time.”
Freya: “Of course it does. Spirituality helps to create. When you speak about such phenomenon like music or any other art, you shouldn’t forget that you have to deal with imagination, emotions, which help to express yourself through music and also show your beliefs, thoughts and some points of view. Imagination and emotions in music must collaborate with your own thoughts and a spiritual mind can help you to make this collaboration very harmonious.”

Has the ‘sisterhood’ of being witches created a unique and special bond between the band that most other bands cannot comprehend?
Aina: “I want to believe there’s some chemistry, an invisible line between us. I hope, it will last as long as possible.”
Elvira: “We are not just musicians, that play on the same stage. Something like family, you know.”

Maybe if more people took the time to read some of your beautiful and intelligent lyrics, they would understand what you are all about a little better.
Aina: “Maybe… It seems that most people feel no excitement over lyrics in general, but it’s not a big cause for writing lyrics in a slipshod way. When you’re writing lyrics you should probably think of those, who call themselves as ‘lyrics maniacs’ and spend days and nights exploring Darklyrics.com, haha! Anyway, I want to thank you for such beautiful words about the lyrics! Actually, I don’t take them too seriously. They were written many years ago and now it’s quite funny to read all these thoughts of a little girl.”
Elvira: “I agree. In most cases, music is a thing that catches all the attention; yet lyrics are important too. Never forget about it!”

Who does write most of the band's lyrics?
Aina: “So far I’ve written all the lyrics. I've always been interested in poetry; I wrote my first poem at the age of five, so it’s not a surprise that this duty is mine..”

Does most of your lyrical content come from your beliefs in general or personal experiences mostly?
Aina: “A little of this and a little of that. There are no problems with inspiration, as I have good imagination and always try to hark my inner space.”

Do you write in Russian then later translate into English?
Aina: “Nope, I don’t usually do this. In my opinion, translation can kill the charm of any given language. I always decide whether a song will be Russian or English, when I listen to the music for the first time. In most cases, it is clear immediately if the song will be an English or a Russian one and then I don’t want to change something.”

Is this a difficult process and does the enitre band speak English?
Aina: “I can’t say, it’s difficult. Russian is our native language; as for English, I can speak it well enough to talk, but when it comes to writing lyrics I prefer to use a dictionary. It takes more time, but broadens your word-stock. I can say that the entire band speaks English, more or less.”

I am not sure you can really classify your music accuratley but I would say symphonic metal would be fairly close. Do you agree?
Elvira: “I know, that it’s quite hard to put the band into a musical category. A combination between NIGHTWISH & DIMMU BORGIR, maybe. But to name you a style, I’d like to call our recent music ‘dramatic symphonic metal’, where ‘dramatic’ is the atmosphere, that we try to create. So yes, I would probably say Symphonic metal. I know, they call us gothic metal as well and all this doesn’t disturb me too much, because I know that is easier for people when they can put everything in a special style.”
Freya: “You are right. Neither gothic, because, I think, it is more connected with the theme of suffering and sounds more sorrowful, closer to doom metal; neither black - as some colleagues call us because of some rhythmic parts. But symphonic metal suits our music very well.”

Aina, your voice is absolutley haunting and beautiful. Are you classically trained?
Aina: “Thanks! I am still a student, actually. I will get a Master in classical singing from Maymonid Moscow State Classics Academy in a few years. All the lessons I got here maybe have not taught me a lot so far, but definitely changed my mind, encouraged me to pursue my own sound and style of singing. I am thankful for all this and happy, because now I know that one day I’ll give BLACKTHORN everything.”

With the addition of Freya on keyboards and Max on drums, it seemed to me that the band finally had the right chemistry and talent to reach the next level, then Verbena, your bass player, was fired. Can you explain to us what happened and how it is affecting the band?
Freya: “Verbena is not the person with whom the band will rise high. Her purposes are different from ours.”
Elvira: “Yep, Freya and Max were one of our best choices ever; Max is such a ball of fire and Lady Freya is a true artiste and a very talented keyboardist. Did the expulsion of Verbena affect us? Hell no. We didn’t loose a composer or a front woman, so it’s ok. Music still comes from the bottoms of our hearts and we’re all friends as always.”
Aina: “Indeed, I really enjoy the current atmosphere within BLACKTHORN. There’s no person I detest, I respect and appreciate every bandmember. Sometimes dismissal is a deliberate choice, sometimes it’s a bolt from the blue. But I used to think that changes are ok, here is the way to something better! At least our line up changes always were instrumental. As for Verblena, I have had enough of her, so what’s the next question?”

Are you holding auditions for a new bass player and is it important that the person will be a witch as well?
Elvira: “Of course we are. Well, first of all we want to see that a new bass player is not a birdbrain and does have a big passion for music; an outgoing personality is very welcome as well! If she will be a witch, it’s great… What else can I say?”

I know these kind of things happen in bands, but it just seems the timing was very bad with the release of the new CD?
Elvira: “There are a lot of people waiting for the release of our album and that’s the most important thing at the moment. Life is going on; Verbena was not a big fish to wear penitentials. So don’t think of the line up changes, just buy our album, when it will be released!”
Aina: “Exactly, the separation of not functioning parts is a great reason for the album release!”

Max is a very unique and talented person in the fact, that he is blind and plays the drums. I had a family member, who was blind and as strange as this sounds, I believe he had special gifts and intuition, that people with sight do not have. I find it very ironic, that fate brought you all together given the very keen intuitive powers that witches possess. Is this something you agree with?
Max: “Personally, I don’t like discussing my blindness. I am what I am. Hmm, intuition? Wish, that I had it! Then I could know, if the girls will be tardy for a rehearsal. And if they will, then I can sleep more. And it means, I will be happy as a lark!”
Freya: “For this we can just thank our fortune. Maybe really something magic has happened. And even despite of our changes in the band, it will only turn to the better.”

You do not see a lot of metal bands coming out of Russia. How did you decide to start playing this type of music and what is the metal scene like there today?
Elvira: “Haha, I can say Russia is the land of musicians, but not audience: everybody wants to be a metal star! Maybe that’s the reason of our ‘in shade’ music position… Playing metal here in Russia is not an upmarket thing. Imagine, that there’s no MSM support, no buildup. It’s pretty hard. There are only a couple of bands, the world metal stage is interested in, so our metal atmosphere is befogged for now.”

Has the band had an oppurtunity to play many live performances?
Aina: “I don’t remember. We didn’t document all the gigs we played, unfortunately. It seems, there were a few performances in the past that just were not announced. Also I’d like to add that we are discerning in performing at the moment and I think the present situation is the best for BLACKTHORN. Of course the stage experience is really important, but when you play the same songs in the same city thrice a week, it’s becoming tedious for a band and for the audience. Maybe now we should choose really good gigs.”
Elvira: “Same here, I don’t remember. But I want more really good gigs!” Max: “I have no idea! I just play, that is it. I guess, I had more gigs than the ladies, as I have many side projects, such as DOMINIONS (symphonic black doom), REAGENT (thrash), Ch.T.D (alternative rock), CANTICUM (folk metal), etc.”

The title of your first demo CD was called "The Prologue Of Eschaton", which if I am not mistaken has something to do with the end of the world, but then a rebirth of sorts... Is that correct?
Aina: “Yup, that’s right. One day we’ll see a huge eraser falling from the skies and effacing all that people created on the earth… Except your magazine, of course… Well, joking aside, I’m really interested in everything relating to Eschaton. It brings such an amazing spirit of beautiful dissolution and the rise of everything living at the same time! That’s my biggest source of inspiration.”

Do you feel the band has grown alot musically and spiritually from the first demo to your new CD?
Elvira: “I think, that we’re not green anymore. Of course, we got some experience and we have grown, not only technically, but musically, too. I mean now we know what sound we need, what style, what kind of metal stream we’re interested in. We are currently working on the brand new songs and in my opinion this is the music that does represent BLACKTHORN.”
Aina: “What an interesting question! While on the subject of my voice, I can tell, that now it’s more stable and easier to control and maybe it’s just me, but I sound more like young woman than a little girl, just comparing the demo and the album. We have grown spiritually as well, no doubts. Where mind level grows there are always big changes. I agree with Elvira, now we know what we want and we definitely want more aggression and rigidity, this is the way we’re going to sound. All the experience we got with our recordings is also important, when it comes to dealing. No more liars, no more wise asses.”

Your new CD is entitled "Gossamer Witchcraft". Can you tell us the meaning behind that title?
Aina: “First of all, I have to say that “Gossamer Witchcraft” is one of the songs (also) that do represent our music. We chose cobweb as a symbol of the debut album. For those who don’t know, cobweb stands for fatality and fragility of mankind, ancient knowledge, maze of time and our movement between its walls. BLACKTHORN was founded almost five years ago. There were ups and downs, sometimes we didn’t know what we wanted, who we were, what we should do. Now I see that everything was right, we went to the right direction - to the centre of cobweb, where there is a parallel world’s portal.”

The cover of the CD is very interesting, as it depicts four sort of ghostly images of yourselves, holding fire while entangled within a spiderweb. This is a very cool cover. Can you tell us more about it?
Aina: “I can’t tell, that these images represent us, but I’m not surprised you think so. Ok, however, the conception of the cover is created by BLACKTHORN… The cover’s based upon a picture by Oleg Kumanovskyi. He’s a pro artist and he did it specially for us. First it was a picture executed in oil, then Kron of MELANCHOLY (a Russian metal band) being a designer also, gave it digital touch. The cover of “Araneum” was edited by designer Svetlana Sokolova. She’s a friend of mine."

I absolutley love the songs on your Myspace player: "Edenbeast", "Nekromans" and "Saturnia" are all excellent songs, but I am also very intrigued by one song, whose title unfortunately I cannot translate. The song is called "Charyi Bezumnoy Lunyi". Can you tell us what that means?
Aina: “Oh, glad to hear you like the tracks! “Charyi Bezumnoy Lunyi” is a Russian version of our song “The Moon Emerged From Behind Clouds”. There’s no word-for-word translation, but it’s pretty close to the progenitor. The lyrics are about midnight forest, scary fairy tales, owls and nightmares.”

Some bands seem to be at the mercy of their record company, when it comes to the actual recording in the studio. How much freedom did BLACKTHORN have in what went on the CD?
Elvira: “Some bands are, but we are currently not signed. Here in Russia, there are a lot of metal bands, who are self-produced and we’re no exception so far. I think, if a record company covers all the musicians’ expenses, then there should be some control over studio working.”

I read a quote from the band saying this CD felt like it was your ‘child’… Can you explain what that means?
Elvira: “It’s our child indeed. I see a lot of similarity; first you have him inside, then you give birth to it.”
Freya: “It means, that we have spent days and nights bringing it up.”
Aina: “After a while we’ll see, if our child cares for us or places the parents in the nursing home before their time, hehe…”

Does your CD come as a Russian and an English version?
Aina: “That’s correct. The title of the Russian version is “Araneum” and the title of the English one is “Gossamer Witchcraft”. Actually, the Russian version was an experiment. I don’t want to repeat such an adventure again. However, we all hope, that people from other countries will enjoy “Araneum”, despite the language barrier.”

Is there a major tour in the works to support the new CD and are there any plans to tour the U.S. sometime in the future?
Elvira: “Oh, I’d love to!”
Aina: “Well, I’m not sure a major supporting tour is possible so far… Miracles happen, though. As for the United States, we’re always ready to play for this country. In other words, everything depends on gig providers!”

Who have been some of the band's musical influences and if you had the oppurtunity to play live with anyone,who would it be?
Elvira: “Most of the bands I’m influenced by don’t exist anymore, what a pity! Anyway, we are mainly influenced by metal bands, such as CRADLE OF FILTH, DIMMU BORGIR, ANOREXIA NERVOSA, NIGHTWISH… We all have almost the same taste in music, so I hope my bandmates agree with me.”
Aina: “It would be great to share one stage with the bands, Elvira has just made reference to.”

This band is very unique in many ways as I am sure you know, but I guess the most obvious fact is that you are four female musicians and one male. Women in metal have made huge strides over the years and it seems females are more popular in heavy metal today than ever. What is your view on women in the scene today?
Freya: “Both women and men are involved nowadays in metal music. And both can have a wonderful success in it. Maybe about ten years ago, women in metal could be like something extraordinary, but I can’t say it is really so, because even in the beginning of the nineties, there were some ladies like Doro Pesch, for example.”
Elvira: “Yeah, women want to be metal these days. Some of them choose an atmospheric, melodic metal style, while others (which is hard to believe though) choose a brutal and extreme one! For those, who admire a more ‘clawed’ stream of metal, here in Kaluga, Russia, we have the Iron Maiden’s festival. The line-up include a variety of bands with female lead vocals. BLACKTHORN was confirmed to play on the festival once and we were really impressed with everything the provider did. Really amazing!”

As women with very strong convictions yourselves, do you see the band as role models for young women, who are maybe thinking of starting their own band?
Aina: “Well, maybe not as role models, but we can give a few good, useful counsels!”

What can you tell anyone, who might have questions or an interest in learning more about the subject of witchcraft?
Elvira: “Spread the wings of your perception and you’ll see how wide this world is. Don’t fear original chaos and then magic will touch you.”
Aina: “Don’t go too far with the visual side. The true witchcraft is far beyond a gurgling cauldron, ritual knives and when the grimoire is closed. Make your mind wider and it will make all your dreams come true.”

When will the new CD actually be available and how can potential fans buy it?
Aina: “Unfortunately, I can’t answer this question. We sent out a few promo CDs to a bunch of metal labels and now we’re waiting for a reply. Maybe, when this interview is published, something will change. I hope, all the fans from all around the world will be able to get our album.”

Are there any plans on doing a DVD of your live performances?
Aina: “No, doing a DVD is not our main goal these days.”

Is there anything else you wish to add to this interview? Maybe something the fans do not know about you?
Aina: “I think, we just can wish the readers something! Remember, that your subconscious mind has a huge power. That’s why it’s so important to set yourself up for success. Try not to have weak and unmatched thoughts!”
Elvira: “Get all that you want, reach your goals and believe in yourselves!”
Freya: “Never stop dreaming and having faith in miracles!”
Max: “Please, don’t offend us, we’re goody-goodies! Demand BLACKTHORN in your city, listen to our music and have a smashing good time!”

I personally have the utmost respect for this band for being true to who they are, while at the same time creating music that gives a very spiritual voice to their fans. On behalf of Metal Maidens and myself, I want to thank you for taking time to talk with us today. We wish you luck in the new year and peace in your life.
Aina: “Thank you very much for these words and for the interview! See you!”

copyright: METAL MAIDENS
interview by: Nick Rohm, Metal Maidens 'zine / April 2009.

Visit their My Space site at: www.myspace.com/blackthornian