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  • Writer's pictureSparky

Ysbrydnos - ''I've always been drawn to darker things''




Ysbryd (all songwriting, guitars, bass, and synths). ‘’I created the project in 2021 with the goal of making raw back metal inspired by the folklore and legends of Wales, the country I'm from. When I first wrote for the band, I'd panned on making it a total one-man approach with me doing everything, but once the songs were finished, I realised my vocals weren't strong enough and the MIDI drums I'd used didn't give the music enough energy. I actually wrote the album around a year and a half before it was released, but unfortunately wasted a lot for time waiting for Calderum from Spain to record drums; he strung me along with excuses for a long time before ignoring me completely and never recording a single drum hit. Eventually I hired Arachnid to record session drums for 'The Forest Howls At Dusk’, and since then the drums have been handled by Hundosai, who drums for Saidan.


‘’The vision musically was inspired by many years listening to the tremolo riffs of emperor, chords and ambient of burzum, and the synths and folk elements of early Enslaved, I really liked how the culture of their homeland was a feature of their music and wanted to do that with Wales by creating songs about the places I've grown up around and visited.



The connection to spirit night? And the darkness within?


‘’When I was searching for a name, I wanted something in Welsh, and something that lent itself to the supernatural, folkloric nature of the band; so, a spirit night, when the veil is thinnest and there is more opportunity for communion with the dead, seemed fitting when the theme of the band would be to commune with Welsh history and legend. I think the darkness within is also something that emerged naturally like the name and themes; I've always been drawn to darker things, more melancholic sounds and have always used my musical output as a way to exorcise a lot of internal turmoil and depression; for me making music isn't a 'hobby' or a job, it's something I need to do regularly in order to cope with the rest of my life and how difficult I find living sometimes.


The idea to combine the visceral of black metal with the ethereal of a more atmospheric approach.

 

It all came naturally really, I make music in layers, so I'll write the guitars, then bass and midi drums, and then once I get the real drums back, I usually add a synth layer then send the songs to Aga to add vocals and flute if she feels it fits. I think the natural balance between my darker riffs and her flute creates a good atmosphere and fits with the Celtic, historical themes of the band. When I was imagining making a black metal project, I'd mainly taken influence from Emperor and Burzum, but as I wrote songs and felt they needed more going on I was listening to Gehenna, Summoning and the Mortiis dungeon synth stuff, so was inspired to explore synth sounds and add those to the music, which has now become part of the sound. As with most musicians on their first releases I'd say I was chipping away at the sound on out debut, and it was emerging from a mishmash of influences filtered through my experience; but now I'd say with our latest EP 'Phantasmal Bells Below The Devil's Pulpit' and our upcoming new album I know exactly what elements make an Ysbrydnos song and am writing from a place of confidence rather than experimentation; although you'll still find the odd curveball in my riffs from time to time.


They help create a ceremony. Almost an incantation?

 

‘’Ideally the albums are to be listened to front to back in one sitting and with headphones on; my favourite thing about black metal growing up was to escape to snowy fantasy worlds where my imagination soared; so hopefully our music can also give that to people; and I spend quite a lot of time crafting the songs in an order that best flows, with synth interludes to take breath and not tire the listener, hopefully each album is a world you can inhabit and live in while the album plays. I’m a big fan of dark ambient music as well so perhaps the repetitive, almost trance-like passages of synths that reoccur in that genre seep into what I make subconsciously.



The use of Agata’s flute and vocals to create more earthly tones …


Yeah I think her flute really adds an extra ethereal element to the music, and give the parts where its used a more serene quality that helps to contrast the heavier sections, I think what I most enjoy about her input is I have no idea where her vocals will sit or whether she will add flute or not until I get the songs back; with some of my other projects I send the vocalist a detailed breakdown of what section is verse, chorus etc and timecodes of where the vocals should be; but because I knew she has been the vocalist in Merfolk for some years and is used to playing live and writing for recordings; I knew she'd intuitively feel out which section was what and add her vocals and flute where it felt right; as the spearhead of most of my projects doing all the 'driving' it's really nice when I can just send music to people and trust their intuition to deliver something great back. At the time when I was writing the songs Hulder had also just come out, and I think her influence made me want a female vocalist over a male one for the project; I prefer speaking with, and generally spending time with women rather than men; so having a feminine approach to the music I think helped set us apart; and also the direction Aga approach the subject matter from was much more personal, emotive and heartfelt than how myself or another man would've approached it lyrically, so I'm really glad she came on board and continues to find interest in the music we're making.


The importance of making extreme music.


I think once you nail down the sound of a project and figure out the elements, it's easy to then rest on your laurels and create too many releases that sound the same; trying to find a balance between delivering the sound of the band that people have come back to you for, but also pushing the boundaries of your sound to keep things moving forward with each release. Usually before I write an album, I spend six months or so reading books, listening, and watching things and collecting potential song and album titles, then I think about the artwork and figure out how the project will look; these things help me to narrow down the sound of the album even before I start writing. Then sometimes I'll place parameters on the sounds I’m 'allowed' to use, or make a loose plan for the direction of the album, e.g. this one will be heavier, or I want this one to feel more angry; and then I'll sit down and write with those ideas in mind, or even wait until I’m in the right mood for the project (angry, sad etc) so that the feeling flows out as I write. I also write quickly and with no filter for ideas, I just let the riffs flow out as they come one after another, track all the guitars, then the bass straight away in the same session; only going back afterwards to restructure the song after I've had a break from it, and then add the computer drums as a reference for Hundo. I find this approach gives me a 'snapshot' of how I'm feeling or the style I'm creating at the time of each release, and as I make so much music, I'm not too precious about things being 'perfect' or worried about how it'll be received, as its more than likely I'll have another release out soon anyway.


What lead you to the heavier more extreme side of music? The



self-expression within it?


I've mentioned this in other interviews but I'm autistic. Usually, Autistic people have some kind of 'special interest', something that captures their attention and they can't get enough of, since I was 8 mine was metal. My dad had a lot of rock records and vhs and I sat down one day and listened to stuff like British Steel Live, Thin Lizzy Live & Dangerous and Iron Maiden Live After Death and they just blew me away, the artwork, the heaviness, everything. So, I just fell in from there and kept looking for heavier and more extreme music the older I got. I think by the time I was playing in thrash bands when I was a teen most of my friends were listening to Lamb Of God and Slayer and I was buying Mortician CDs from Relapse mail order and learning to play Necrophagist songs; so, I guess making more extreme music was a natural step as that was what I was into from a pretty young age.


As far as the self-expression side it took me a long time, many years or home recording to be able to get the sound in my head out onto the computer and have it translate to an audience; and honestly it keeps my life interesting, with every new project I do being a challenge to myself, my playing ability and how comfortable I am in myself to add more nerdy elements for example, do things that perhaps I wouldn't have had the confidence to do when I was younger. Now the most 'extreme' thing I feel I can do as a man nearing 40 is to challenge myself to create music that surprises me and be fearless to release whatever I'm feeling at the time musically with confidence, no matter how it's received or how many copies it sells.


How do you define extreme music? Is it more of an idea rather than an identifiable sound?


It's credible to me, making extreme forms of metal. it's people making music for reasons other than money or popularity. I like how niche extreme music is and that even within the metal community the majority is Ghost-listening festival-going cunts that are essentially trendies just with black Metallica shirts on, Fuck that. It's a statement to me, it’s a 'fuck you' the mainstream world, same as tattoos used to be before every trendy dickhead got them, footballers etc. I got in fights for looking like this and being into this music, got picked on in school, got headbutted and had bottles thrown at me in city centres, fought gangs after gigs and have sacrificed for this. It meant more to me than just music, and still does, it's who I am, even if I never play another note on guitar.



Your stance against all forms of fascism, racism, and hate? It is unusual for artists to make such a public statement. And the reasoning behind it?

 

Yeah, I thought I'd print that in the inlay of our last EP as I kept getting questions about being. racist which really annoyed me. Even labels that wanted to work with us were making me clarify. that I wasn't racist before they would work with me. I understand this is because there are so. many NS pricks in black metal, and you need to check out people are ok before you work with them and put your reputation as a label behind them; but I also felt that it was because of the Celtic elements in our design and the Welsh patriotism I feel. The fact that some right-wing groups have co-opted Celtic heritage and used it for their insidious means is a shame, but it won’t stop me from using Celtic knots and the Welsh language in my music, as it represents who I am, where I come from. So, I wanted to clarify that we are not a racist band by making that statement, and as a neurodivergent person with mental health issues that are largely unrecognised and minimized by society as a whole, I'd never support anything that was prejudiced against people for being who they are as I've experienced that myself. Hopefully this will be the last question on this topic I ever get asked ha-ha.


Plans for the future. And more releases?


I'm very excited for our future as a band. This year I've started a small label called Nocturnal Curse to press DIY cassettes of my releases and do limited cd runs. At the moment I'm working on a lot of dungeon synth music under my Altar Of Moss moniker; and have released a few splits and one album so far. I have a whole bunch more splits coming over the next six months with some excellent dungeon synth artists, and have finished a new EP. Most of the UK presses of these splits will be handled by me, with EU tapes from Dale Of Shadows and USA tapes from Weregnome records. Enshroud is a vampyric black metal project that I've recorded one EP with and have just finished a split with a brilliant raw BM band that will be out this summer, and Carmilla Dracul from Winter Lantern has joined the band on vocals, and I'm really pleased with our split songs, so keep an eye out for that. I've just finished mixing a full-length debut album for my new Barrow Lord project, which is warlike vampyric black metal with large bombastic horns and dungeon synth elements; the vocals on that are being handled by Vass from UK BM Band Vassus. I reached out to him after hearing his latest release and he was perfect for the project, and similar to Aga, has brought extra elements to the sound that I hadn't anticipated.


I've also completed recording on the new Ysbrydnos album, which is 9 new tracks, most of which are quite long, more complex than before and include all the elements people would expect from us. I'm just finalizing the artwork now, which is a photo collage I'm creating; drums are being recorded at the moment, and then I'll send it all to Aga to work her magic on. We're hoping for an Autumn 2024 release.


Tops 6 albums of all time

I'll have to just pick of the black metal genre otherwise this would take me weeks to narrow down!

Emperor – In The Nightside Eclipse

Varathron – His Majesty At The Swamp

Mgla – Exercises In Futility

Burzum – Filosofem

Immortal – Sons Of Northern Darkness

 

Enslaved – Vikingligr Veldi

 

 

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