Remix albums have always been a contentious notion, capable of either reducing quality albums into a mess of mismatched experimentation, or offering a refreshing new take on already beloved material. Orchestrated with care by the duo behind atmospheric black metallers Kosmogyr and a host of producers, Eviternally: The Remixes is certainly a case of the latter.
A remix album was probably the last thing listeners expected next when they delved into the band’s debut album Eviternity earlier this year – an album that we commended for its accomplished blend of furious black metal and more grandiose textures – but it’s hard to argue with the results. With tracks that range from dark ambient and experimental noise to jungle and witch house, the remix album is an ambitious endeavour that offers something for everyone except that ever dwindling population of metalheads who continue to refute the vast possibilities of electronic music in favour of riffs and, uh, more riffs.
Sound interesting? Great! Because you don’t have to wait until July 13th to hear all nine of the remixes the album offers, as Astral Noize is thrilled to present a remixed rendition of ‘Iridescent’, originally a bout of blistering black metal infused with loftier atmospherics, now transformed by China’s Swimful into an oddly tranquil affair that curiously retains the original’s blackened shrieks, with the dreamy ambience instilling into them a sense of raw anguish.
Speaking of the remix, Swimful tells us:
“I knew more or less right away when I got the stems that I wanted to do an ambient piece using the vocal. When I was in high school I got really into collecting fantasy/battle ambient tapes; so my starting point was to do something with the feeling of an Uruk-Hai or Vinterriket record. Fortunately, I’m kind of bad at imitating styles and my musical habits mean that everything I make ends up sounding like myself.
In terms of setting the mood for the track, I knew I wanted it to be split into two pieces and have a shift of intensity. The lyrics are very visually evocative and I thought with the idea of iridescent colours, putting the vocals in two different ambient spaces and having lighter and darker sections of the arrangement reflected the lyrical themes.
Ultimately, it felt good to have a go at something that is totally different from what people might expect from listening to my recent output, but that I still felt strongly connected to, having played in black metal bands when I was younger.”
Check out ‘Iridescent (Swimful Remix)’ below, and keep scrolling for an interview with the band’s Ivan Belcic, who collaborates with Shanghai native Xander Chang from Prague.
You’ve previously stated that you’d prefer not to say where the name Kosmogyr comes from, any chance you’d make an exception for us?
In the words of Buzz Lightyear, “not today”.
How do the two of you go about collaborating from different locations, are there any particular benefits/drawbacks that arise?
It’s pretty cut-and-dry. We’ll be talking about the direction we want to take, and at some point, Xander will send over an assortment of riffs for a new song. I’ll then play around with his ideas and come up with a song structure, and maybe we’ll pad the track out with a couple more sections if needed. We’ll go back and forth, making tweaks and changes from there until we’re both happy with the structure and progression of the song. I’ll write the drum parts, and then while Xander’s recording the instruments, I’ll be coming up with lyrics and vocal parts to record when he’s done.
After recording, Xander handles all the production, and we’re good to go. It’s hard to discern whether there are any benefits or drawbacks to this process, since it’s the only way we’ve ever worked on this band. There’s nothing to hold up for comparison.
He and I tend to be on similar pages with this band, so in that regard, our songwriting process is an efficient one. I like most of what he writes, he likes most of what I do with it, and so this arrangement works well for us as a team.
Your music seems to throw away the notion that metal needs to be brutal and shocking 24/7, did you set out to make a “prettier” and more atmospheric strain of black metal?
We didn’t set out with this specific goal in mind, but neither were we into an approach that would yield something that’s all-brutal all the time. I agree with the general idea, so it’s nice that our album can be seen as an exemplification of this philosophy.
Xander’s other band is a melodic death metal group called The Arcbane, and their music is quite atmospheric as well, with lots of synths. Maybe the resulting Kosmogyr sound was his way of evoking that same type of elegance with a reduced sonic palette.
Despite that, the music is still fast-paced and heavy, was it important to you to retain that urgency despite the more atmospheric influences on display?
Certainly. I think this bit and the previous question go hand-in-hand. You need dynamic contrast in order to highlight the various aspects of your music. The brutal heavy bits won’t feel as intense if they’re surrounded by music that’s equally pulverizing.
For me, black metal is at its strongest when it enables you to unleash that pent-up, purgative sigh of relief, and you need to manipulate tension, pacing and dynamics in order to set up those climactic zeniths.
Who/what inspires your music?
For me, Kosmogyr is an attempt to produce a version of black metal that includes everything I want, as a listener, from the genre, with a production style that also satisfies this vision. I don’t subscribe at all to the idea that black metal can’t have solid production values, just because early black metal bands made albums that sounded this way.
I’ll send Xander songs and albums I like as reference points—Krallice and Solbrud were two such influences for our first record. What he uses and how he chooses to use it is entirely up to him, along with whatever influences he might bring on his own. I can’t emphasize enough the extent to which the music begins with him.
Do you think it’s important to do something unique in modern metal? Did you set out with the intention of doing something new musically, both with Evternity and this remix album?
Uniqueness is nice, but not mandatory. The resurgence of OSDM these days goes to show how compelling a nostalgic sound can be, assuming it’s done correctly and that the songwriting and performances are there.
We’re not necessarily doing anything terribly new or original with Kosmogyr, but at the same time, I do think we’ve managed to carve out a tiny niche for ourselves. It’s something I’m hoping we can expand on and crystallize further with our next record.
How did the idea for a remix album come about? It’s not something you see extreme metal bands doing often…
I was given the idea a few years ago during an interview I was conducting with Heatwolves, a DJ based in Shanghai. He mentioned remixes as a good way for the city’s bands and electronic music producers to work together, and right away I knew it was something I’d want to try.
I organised two remix comps for my previous band The Machinery of Other Skeletons, and both times, I was amazed by the results. It’s fascinating to see what someone else can create when they approach your music from a completely different perspective.
I’d been chatting about music stuff on Twitter with Grimbit—who also makes black metal as Bitter Lake—and he suggested we organise a remix comp for Eviternity.
Are there any albums you admire that you’d love to see a remix album for?
If it were me doing the remixing, my first choice would be Mirror Reaper.
How did you source the artists to remix the tracks? Did you give them a framework for what you were after or did you prefer to let them loose and create their own thing?
Most of them are friends of mine from when I was living in Shanghai. Nahash and I used to have a band together, for example, while Swimful and I were in the same gaming group for a while. For the others, Grimbit put me in touch with Equinox7, and a Beijing-based producer by the name of Thruoutin pointed me towards Dazed Marrow.
For the remixes themselves, I minimise my involvement as much as possible. The joy comes from seeing how another artist can repurpose the songs when they’re given absolute creative freedom. My role in their respective processes is finished as soon as I send over the stems.
How did you picture the final project, does it sound how you imagined or were you surprised by what some of the artists did with the songs?
For some, I had an idea of what I thought they’d do, and with others, I was completely blindsided. MIIIA’s remix of ‘Vision’ sort of hits on both of these levels. I know MIIIA loves dark techno, but whereas for previous remixes she chose just a tiny snippet of a single instrument as her starting point, this time she surprised me by using a lot more of the original song than I thought she would.
DJ Caution’s take, on the other hand, was one that came totally out of left field for me. He’s a massive hip-hop head, but then he turned around and delivered this monstrous, super-abrasive banger that verges on industrial noise at times.
What’s next for Kosmogyr?
Xander sent me the riffs for a new song a couple weeks ago, so you can say that we’ve officially begun to work on new music. We’re broadening our territorial reach, but the music still has the same bones. The new stuff is going to expand on the themes we established with Eviternity, taking the ideas of that album and developing them further.
Eviternally: The Remixes is out July 13th. Pre-order here.
Words: George Parr