How would you describe Illuminandi’s music to someone who’s never heard it?
Since I wrote most of the music for our last album, I may not be the best person to ask… What I mean is that I lack the perspective because of my emotional involvement. So asking me to describe our music is a bit like asking a proud parent to say what his dearest child is like – don’t expect objective information. Anyway, I’ll try to do my best: our music is a mix of various sub-genres of rock and metal that heavily relies on the use of the violin and the cello. Both these instruments are used extensively throughout the album and are an integral part of our sound –sometimes as leading instruments, sometimes receding into the background. We usually use both clean (male) and growled vocals, sometimes accompanied by higher-pitched screams. The balance of clean vs growled varies depending on the song. Although we don’t consider ourselves a pure folk metal band (half of our songs have almost nothing to do with folk), a lot of people label us this way: it’s probably because we do use some folkish melodies and historical/folk instruments such as the hurdy gurdy, shawms or recorders on some songs.
How did the current line-up for the band come together?
Well, four out of all the seven members have been in the band since the very beginning: I mean myself (Jan – voc, guitar), Aleksander (guitar), Aleksander (bass) and Antonina (cello). Our violin player, Krzysztof, joined the band in 2007, and the drummer Tomasz – in 2008. We managed to find Krzysztof through our previous violinist, Patrycja; Tomasz had been our good friend (and on several occasions, a substitute drummer) for a few years before his joining. The status of our seventh member is a bit unclear now – Paweł (growls) left the band for reasons we don’t really understand. We’d love to have him in the band, but he claims to have lost his interest in making music. As a result, we’ve been forced to look for a growler…
Your previous two releases were done through Bombworks Records but your latest one In Via was released through Ars Mundi. Was there a reason for the switch?
Corection: only the collection of our demos – the Beginning (2005) – was released on Bombworks. The EP Illumina Tenebras Meas(2007) was released on MocneRamie – a small distro/label run by our friend. As for our latest album, In Via, we decided to go with Ars Mundi because they offered us the best terms. A huge part of the recording process for In Via had been self-funded by the band, but we needed at least twice as much to mix and master the album. Ars Mundi offered us that money. They’re not very good at promotion, but we knew that before they signed us. We needed the funding and we got it. Bombworks were initially interested in releasing “In Via” but then suddenly their representative, David Bixler, stopped the communication (which had been sparse anyway). Now that we think of that, we’re glad we didn’t sign with them because they’re still some unresolved issues between the band and Bombworks, for instance the issue of digital sales of the Beginning, which as far as I’m aware, the band has never even been informed about or received any financial compensation for.
Who are some of the musical influences of the band?
Each of the band members has their own fascinations, but the funny thing is that although we hardly ever listen to punk rock nowadays, almost everyone in the band – except for the cellist, myself, and our ex-growler – has their roots in this style. As far as I know, Aleksander (guitar) doesn’t listen to a lot of music at the moment, but he enjoys some hardcore/heavy rock. Bands like Demon Hunter, for example. Aleksander (bass) enjoys a variety of styles: from the Smashing Pumpkins, through female –fronted symphonic gothic metal, to Dream Theater. Our violin player is one of the two people in the band with a diploma in music. He likes a wide variety of styles, but I guess one could say that he likes his music to be unpredictable – I think his favorite band is Meshuggah. The drummer has an incredibly open mind – he listens to anything that sounds good to him. Ever since he started playing with us, I’ve been lending my favorite metal CDs to him and he enjoyed most of them. The cellist, our other qualified musician, prefers making music to listening to it. But I know she enjoys Celtic music: artists such as Clannad or Loreena McKennit. I (Jan) have always had two musical passions: early music (medieval and renaissance) and metal. As for metal, I especially enjoy doom/death metal, melodic death, folk metal and metalcore, but will listen to all kinds of metal, except satanic/occult/evil stuff. My favourite bands of all times are Amorphis, In Flames, Paradise Lost, Orphanage, Virgin Black, In the Woods, Eluveitie, Extol (“Undeceived” era)… and lots of others. I also listen to lots of folk music (Scandinavian, Celtic, Slavonic, Middle Eastern), some post rock, reggae, some pop, hardcore, progressive rock, electronic music (the Prodigy, Pendulum)… really, I could go on forever, so I’d better stop now. As for Paweł, our ex-growler, he was more of a death metal fan – he usually enjoyed “the brootalz”, but also some more melodic stuff like new Amorphis, Eluvieite, etc.
What other musical projects are the band members in?
Illuminandi is the only musical outlet for Antonina and both Aleksanders. Krzysztof is still at university studying music, so he is involved in lots of classical music projects. He also plays the drums in a young prog-metal rock band Kryptyda – they don’t have an album yet. Our drummer is the absolute winner in the “bands-I’m-a-member-of” category: he’s in five groups, although only two of them rehearse on a regular basis – Illuminandi and Direction (heavy rock/metal with a touch of industrial). I know Direction are working on their debut EP right now. One of his bands is also Pospolite Ruszenie – we’re in it together. It’s a medieval rock project- I’m responsible for the vocals and the hurdy-gurdy parts. I became fascinated with this instrument some time ago, had one made this winter and am currently learning how to play it. Pospolite Ruszenie uses a lot of traditional instruments such as the bagpipes, recorders, shawms, vielle, viola da gamba… We also use traditional Polish melodies and lyrics form the Middle Ages and the Renaissance period. But we also use downtuned seven-string guitars and occasional growls, so it’s really a combo of early music, rock, and quite a bit of metal…. We have just released our debut EP (available for free download here: http://www.fonowizja.pl/ruszenie_pobieralnia/swiebodnosc.zip) and are slowly working on new songs; so far this has been more of a studio project, but we are planning on doing some shows in the summer. I also do session vocals for the Polish Christian melodic death metal band Malchus. The leader, Radek, contacted me again some days ago and asked me to provide some clean vocals for their new album – to be recorded in March. This will be my third album as Malchus’ session vocalist…
What is the Christian metal scene like in Poland?
Nonexistent… There are some bands, but no scene as such. The only Christian metal bands here I know personally are Malchus (they live about 100km away) and Pneuma – a metalcore band from the north of the country which I feel for some reason has been trying to become less obviously religious recently. I also know there is one death metal band in the capital of Poland, but I cannot remember their name. There may be more bands, but as far as I know, they’re either very young or haven’t released any albums yet, or both. We don’t really have any “major” Christian metal bands here – we only have one or two rock bands that are pretty mainstream, but nowadays their sound is almost free from any metal influences… I feel that the general situation of Christian music (although I prefer the term “music with a Christian message”) in Poland is deteriorating. It was never perfect, but recently the number of festivals has dropped drastically and there’s no magazine that would promote such music… Considering the fact that Poland is, or at least WAS, regarded as an extremely Catholic country, this is a bit ironic…
How is the band accepted in the secular metal scene?
I don’t really know. When we started about a decade ago, we tried sending our first demo to metal magazines and got literally crushed with negative reviews. Now that I looked at this, I think we deserved most of that abuse – we were really inexperienced, the production was awful… But that put us off from trying to be a part of the “secular” (another word I don’t really like, but which I think is sometimes useful) scene. We don’t play in clubs very often; in fact, most of the shows we play are at Christian metal festivals abroad (the Czech Republic, Germany, the Netherlands) or at Christian music festivals in Poland. We’d like to change this and our manager is working really hard on it. Also, with In Via we got some very positive reviews in “secular” press (both Polish and international) and this may help us in entering the “secular” scene.
Will Illuminandi be playing any shows outside of Poland this year?
Yes. We’re still looking for shows, but we already know we will visit the Netherlands again.
Will there be another album released soon?
Not very soon, I don’t think so. We’re still promoting In Via; we feel it hasn’t yet received the attention we think it deserves. Also, after we finished the production for In Via, I felt drained and needed some time to regain the energy necessary to write new songs. But I already have some new riffs and ideas… Three songs are almost completed in terms of riffs/song structure. Last month we started rehearsing one of them, we might start playing it live pretty soon. It’s a very heavy sounding song with a clear post-rock influence – no folk in it at all. Still, most of my other new compositions sound more or less folkish – I just cannot escape that and don’t really want to. Yet, I feel it’s too early to say what the new album is going to sound like… We’re planning to remain open and sort of go with the flow…
Any last comments or requests for the readers of Untombed?
Thanks for supporting us! Keep the faith and don’t give up. Enjoy life and good music!
Thanks again for doing this interview.
Thank you! It’s been a pleasure. God bless!