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  • Writer's pictureSparky

Oryad - '' Darkness and light can manifest in different ways''

’Being very inspired and influenced by nature, I wanted to allude to a mythical figure that honored that wildness. I was drawn to Diana/Artemis and the mental image of her running through the woods at night on the hunt with her animals. The oread are mountain nymphs associated with the goddess, so I named the project Oryad. I reference “the altar of Diana” or “the cult of Diana” (referring to “cult” in the way that anthropologist Burkert discusses Greco-Roman mystery cults) as a special metaphysical place where I make music, write lyrics, explore those concepts of the self, the feminine self, etc.

Oryad is the incredible three octave soprano talent of Moira Murphy (vocals/keys and arrangements) and the drumming talent of Matt Gotlin-Sheehan, they create evocative music that stirs the soul. Their style is innovative original and traverses the musical spectrum whilst being tied together by its vision. It is earthen, spiritual whilst being heavy and achingly beautiful. Their debut album is the simply stunning ‘’Scared & Profane’’.

Moira Murphy ; ‘’I took the concept of these metaphysical spheres from Mircea Eliade’s book The Sacred and The Profane, a seminal work of religious anthropology that connects traditions across continents in their desire to order and define the cosmos in such a way to sanctify parts of the human experience. Humankind has always wanted to mimic the unknowable cosmos in tangible ways in order to work through universal milestones, to consecrate them. In his book, he uses the term “profane” in its most literal sense— that which is not sanctified. In our modern parlance, we take that to mean “crude,” “heretical,” “Immoral,” when in its purest form, it simply means “amoral,” lacking the sheen of a supposed higher meaning. Most of us live most of our lives as Eliade’s “profane man,” which in a way gives more weight to experiences that cross the veil into the “sacred” designation. It signals a new way of organizing the world around oneself, a focus on the soul experience as separated from the earthy flesh.

‘’Most of my lyrics deal with universal topics through the lens of mythological figures or nature, so to me, it was a new way of designating the intersections of The Sacred and The Profane in life and exploring, in particular, the power of the feminine part of the soul (even that part in the lives of men, that is, the anima for you Jungians out there).

‘’These songs tell a story that digs deep into me, and I was lucky enough to have musical collaborators to coax everything to life. However, I would say it was logistically hard and very time-consuming. I moved across the country in the middle of the process and we had some personnel changes, so at some point I was no longer acting as a recording musician but as a project manager, finding session players to record a couple of songs, scheduling studio times, managing shared databases, finishing orchestration, mixing demos, building a marketing plan, redesigning the website, designing the look along with an illustrator, planning video concepts, choreographing, planning conceptual photoshoots, partnering with PR partners, etc. all while living a whole separate life. I mention all the auxiliary items here because this is just what it’s like being an independent musician. 50% practice, 70% administration, 20% performing?? The math never adds up. But like Sisyphus, you decide one day, while you’re rolling that boulder up the mountain, that you like the taste of your sweat.

It is an album of opposites both lyrically and musically…

‘’I would say it’s less an album of opposites and more an album of evolutions. We chose to begin the album with elements of ancient tribal music to signal an homage to earlier peoples, traditions, and music that have been extremely influential. As the songs ebb and flow between symphonic metal, doom, prog, orchestral, and vacillate between heavy and light, they end with a similar theme/worldview…but with a twist. By adding more electronic elements into the ending Part II of The Path, we were able to evoke a sense of the evolution of self. An evolution that doesn’t completely erase one’s core soul. You can grow as a person, change your beliefs, learn new skills…. but you are still the same essential you underneath it all. I credit Vikram Shankar with appreciating the pattern and helping add some production to really highlight this evolution and make it shine.

It feels very complete with a central theme….

‘’While the album wasn’t intended to be a concept album, the central theme in all my poetry was self-evident and we wanted to highlight that. The forest, natural elements, and mythological women are simply the tools I use to discuss universal pains and struggles. The order of the songs is meant to follow a life cycle, a hero’s journey of sorts. From a rebirth out of a murky past as the Sunrise (The Path: Part I); a fight for self-determination, maturity, and respect; to sensual communion with the world and others; through heartbreak and grief; through struggles with that grief, with anxiety, with insomnia; with overbearing burdens….all the way to Moonrise (The Path: Part II) with a Self that is at peace with one’s existence and more strongly confirmed in the belief that one can honor the sanctity of the universe while still mastering their own fate.

‘’While I may believe that some things happen for a reason, that mysticism is tempered with a strong root in what I call ‘Invictus-meets-Camus.’ I am the master of my fate and choosing to embrace (hard) work that celebrates the absurdity in existence provides deep spiritual fulfilment.

‘’I intertwined a lot of personal experience and pain into the lyrics among the fictional, as a way to work through those spiritual cycles myself, but I refrain from discussing in specifics in order to focus on the universality of those experiences.

Is it a beginning as touched on the excellent Eve?

‘’I’d like to think that nothing is really an ending, but a beginning in a different timeline. Eve isn’t really creating a new beginning but setting the record straight and clearing her name. Clearing the name of maligned women everywhere by proxy, taking a lesson from the apocryphal tales of Lilith. As a child, the story of Eve terrified me. By extension, growing up female terrified me. I worked through that. Finally owning it, loving it.

‘’By extension, celebration of Mary and her femininity via both The Maiden and The Mother deserves examination in its direct opposition to the characteristics of sensuality and spiritual weakness assigned to Eve…the Madonna/Whore complex is at its heart gnostic in nature in that it values the soul at the expense of the body. Why can Eve not value her body and its sensual experience in the world if the world around her is natural and good? Why does her existence confirm the masculine with a value judgement that is much too reductive?

Writing “Eve” was one of the first moments that we did try to marry heavy plodding riffs with feminine and ethereal elements to create tension and an exploration of oppositions. I had sent “May Our Chambers Be Full” by Thou and Emma Ruth Rundle to Luca while writing this and it really inspired him. It’s probably one of my favourite songs on the album.

Your incredible adaptation of Wayfaring Stranger….

‘’I’m so glad you like it! It’s been a goal of mine to always record an Appalachian melody with each collection I do. The EP included “Black is the Colour of My True Love’s Hair” because of obvious gothic ties and the fact that I simply liked the melody. This time, I chose “Wayfaring Stranger” for its bittersweet longing and for a very personal role it has played in my life. Squinting into the distance, knowing that death is waiting on the other shore, like an old friend. I have some personal ties to performing this song when I was younger, and given my return to the Appalachian homeland, it seemed appropriate. Giving it a heavy stoner metal edge didn’t seem right at the time (but I could still be convinced). The opening motif is a quotation and then transposition of Bach’s Prelude in C minor, BWV 847, from The Well-Tempered Clavier. I had written that simple piano arrangement many years ago, but I felt moved to add string quartet and lighter doom guitar. In seeking something that spoke to older generations, to long human history I went looking for percussion that was the most appropriate and landed on Persian percussion. The cradle of civilization, etc. It wasn’t until after we’d sent off all the stems for mixing and my mind was clear that I recalled that Cammie had sung a haunting version of the tune at the end of Oceans of Slumber’s The Banished Heart. They are one of my favourite bands, and also steeped in their own Southern culture, so it felt like a little heart-tug.

It is also much heavier yet also wildly experimental from blast beats to jazz inflections. A natural part of the song writing process….

‘’Yes! When I first began the project years ago around 2017, I was guided into symphonic metal because I’m an active classical soprano who was looking for something else. The music resonated with me at the time and really represented a huge personal moment for myself. But even while finishing the EP in 2020, I couldn’t shake the feeling that it really honestly wasn’t me. I wasn’t listening to symphonic metal bands myself (This is what I’ve been listening to). And all the guys were always super supportive to write and complement any ideas I had. So, when we sat down with new melodies and poems, we just wrote what we wanted to, and I very deeply wanted to let their own musical voices be heard as well. We have all worked a wide variety of gigs across genres. Luca isn’t a member of the ensemble anymore, but still a dear friend. And letting his ear go where it wanted on the pieces, he helped write was really what made them shine. We loved getting together and discussing moods and chord voicings. Matt came into the latter part of the first EP and its conception. He really inherited a lot of stuff back then that he adapted. But this time with new album material, it was all from scratch. Letting him loose on it all was the icing on top. The two of us have been writing some new songs now that are continuing along this vein.

The vocal challenges you created for yourself...

‘’I’m a classical singer by training and by vocation, but I wanted to really allow myself to experiment with other styles of vocal production. I’ve also recently been delving into Medieval and Byzantine music in my other musical professional life, and training my voice to control in other, non-bel-canto ways. I’m not sure if I’d ever be good at brutal vocals, but playing with chant, with operatic styles, with belting, with gospel-style jazz from my youth…is something I wanted to do. If it served the poetry. Everyone wants a high note, and I used to just toss them out like confetti. But now, the word and the musical phrase need to deserve it.

Do you allow your songs to evolve naturally ….

‘’Yes…in a very basic sense. Every once in a while, if we’re stuck on a section, we’ll pull up songs that we think have similar elements to what we’re trying to achieve. Get inspired. The exterior influence is always there in terms of what we are listening to and resonating with, obviously. But I never start a song and say, “This is going to be just like DANCE by Cellar Darling” or what-have-you. I’ll admit sometimes that makes communication difficult if I’m trying to explain what I hear in my head, as someone who is not a guitarist.

‘’Being very inspired and influenced by nature, I wanted to allude to a mythical figure that honoured that wildness. I was drawn to Diana/Artemis and the mental image of her running through the woods at night on the hunt with her animals. The oread are mountain nymphs associated with the goddess, so I named the project Oryad. I reference “the altar of Diana” or “the cult of Diana” (referring to “cult” in the way that anthropologist Burkert discusses Greco-Roman mystery cults) as a special metaphysical place where I make music, write lyrics, explore those concepts of the self, the feminine self, etc.

The darkness that hides within the beauty of Within the Veil …

‘’This song is about Orpheus and Eurydice and focuses on the lack of communication in their relationship. I once performed Eurydice in Gluck’s opera of the same name while in graduate school. Our director mentioned that he felt the biggest conflict in the opera is that between the couple and their lack of effective communication, and the reason that an entire act of the opera is a painful flow of pining, tortured arias by Orpheus and Eurydice. That really stuck with me. Eurydice can cry out to Orpheus to be stronger, more than the wisps of shadow and grey she sees through the obscuring veil on her side of the underworld. But that doesn’t mean that Orpheus is already strong and feeling the same struggles. She just can’t see it.

The inspiration for Lilith and the quest for freedom….

‘’Lilith was not a figure I learned about until much later in life. I’m fascinated with how her mythological roots remain a contested hodge-podge of texts, satirical poems, and etymological branches. Demon? Screech owl? First wife of Adam? All of the above? The undercurrent of all Lilith mythology is one of self-determination. She is nocturnal, she can fly where she needs to. She is a threat. Her song, you will notice, is lighter than its sister tune “Eve.” Lilith soars and her self-determination is celebrated. This called for string quartet and a gentleness that I think she rarely receives.

How do you appease the opposing force of darkness and light…

‘’Musically, there is a part of American culture that has decreed that the heavier the instrumentation and more distorted the guitar…the darker and “eviller” it is. Which is preposterous. While we don’t even begin to touch the edge of extreme music, I wanted to play with extremes of instrumentation within our own sound. Black-metal-tinged riffs. Piano and string quartet. A heavier riff doesn’t equate the darkness. Sometimes I let a solo cello line, synth, or silence represent darkness while power chords on the guitar represent a pleading voice of purity (like in “Through the Veil”). Darkness and light can manifest in different ways. And you cannot forget the core tautology of our reality: both must exist for the sake of the existence of each other.

What’s next for Oryad and any collaborations..

‘’We are working on heavily promoting this album to all our worldwide, online friends in an effort to really connect with folks that will resonate with this music. Working hard to move past “metal opera” as our main draw and find like-minded music lovers who may not have normally found us. Extreme physical distance (of 1400 miles/ 2253 km!) makes this project rely on a dispersed fan base rather than a purely local one, but we are trying to see what live performances we can get booked.

‘’We are also in the process of writing the next recording; I’m rotating about half an album’s worth of drafts at the moment. I’ll also be working on a nice little inter-album release of some alternate mixes, acoustic things, etc.

‘’No collaborations at the moment, but I’m really open to it and would love to do some guest vocals, duet vocals, etc.

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