There are two schools of thought when it comes to bands making “scary” music. The first one is most prevalent in extreme metal circles and follows the dictum: the harsher the noise, the scarier the music. This is all well and good, and in the cases of bands like Obituary and Darkthrone there’s probably something in it, but it’s not the be all and end all.
The second school of thought leans into a more subtle idea of scary, one that focuses on atmosphere and a feeling of unease. It’s this niggly sense of dread (or should that be doom) that a raft of psychedelically minded bands have always strived for. From Coven in the ‘60s, through to Blue Oyster Cult in the ‘70s and ‘80s, all the way down to today with acts The Devil’s Blood and Uncle Acid And The Deadbeats. One of the most fascinating bands to have picked up this particularly horrific baton is Spain’s Kabbalah, with their latest release The Omen cementing their place as purveyors of high quality gloom rock.
Following the album’s release, we chatted to Alba DDU (guitars/vocals) and Carmen Espejo (drums/vocals) about what they’ve been up to during lockdown, and what we can expect from them in 2021 and beyond.
Hey! How are you all doing? How are you coping with lockdown?
Carmen: We are doing okay, considering how bad other people are doing. Of course, the lockdown is something nobody likes, but what is important now is to protect people from the disease. I’m grateful because my family is alright.
In terms of the band, lockdown is affecting our routines so much; we will have to catch up on rehearsals when we can!
If you had to describe Kabbalah in one sentence what would it be?
Alba: A dark lullaby straight from last night’s nightmare.
How did the three of you come together to form Kabbalah?
C: Marga [Malaria, bass/vocals] and I knew each other from a previous band and started this project together. We made a post on Facebook looking for a guitar player, after having recorded twp EPs with two different ones. It seemed like a difficult task, because we live in a quite small town, and our kind of music is not so popular, so you think you know every musician that might be into it. But Alba answered, we didn’t know her, and she came to play a few songs with us, and we thought she was perfect instantly.
Who were your primary influences when you first got started?
C: I would say that Danzig and Black Sabbath were what Marga and I had most in common at the beginning.
A: By the time I joined the band (just before releasing our EP Revelations) I remember we were more focused on Black Sabbath. They told me, when in doubt, they always thought “what would Ozzy do?”. I think we’ve incorporated other nuances now, although it’s possible to hear the early doom references like Black Sabbath or Pentagram in The Omen.
Lyrically you focus on occult themes, where do you draw inspiration from?
C: My inspiration comes for what I’m living at the moment. It can be something personal, something I’m reading or listening to, the Universe, current events in the world…
A: Personally, reading is my main inspiration, from poetry to myth and comparative religion, Jungian psychology and symbols…
Earlier this year you released your new album The Omen, are you guys happy to have it in the world?
C: Really happy. I love the album and all the songs on it.
A: It’s weird because we started writing these songs in 2019. Instead of the immediacy of music nowadays, we’ve taken the time to evolve and be comfortable with the songs we were releasing. So it’s great to finally see it out there.
Tell me a little bit about the writing of The Omen, how was the process different from 2017’s Spectral Ascent?
A: I think we’ve definitely evolved in terms of being more confident with where we want our music to go. We’re making darker music, darker riffs and atmospheres but also want to balance it with catchy melodies. Perhaps, a song like ‘Liturgy’ was only possible with this release. The writing process for ‘The Ritual’ shows this idea. First, Carmen brought the vocal melody for the chorus and we liked it but weren’t sure if it was too cheesy. Then, I wrote the “heavy metal” solo (although I’m sure purists would look at it with contempt) and, to make things worse, Marga went “all in” and wrote a super “heavy metal” bass line to go with it, because there was no other option. We joked about this for a while and thought, are we taking this too far? Will we have to wear leather bikinis, swords and carry torches for the next band photo? But finally, we went all in with all the three elements and are really happy with the result.
It feels like there’s some new influences on The Omen, touches of folk and film music, what has inspired that?
C: I’ve been listening a lot Dead Can Dance during the writing process… that might have added an unwitting folk touch.
A: I agree that new influences can be found in The Omen, compared to our earlier releases. This responds to our increased confidence in pushing our compositions in new directions, I think. A song like ‘Stigmatized’ is extremely cinematic, in my opinion. Also, I remember us at some point during the songwriting sessions in 2019 having dinner with the soundtrack to Francis Ford Coppola’s Dracula as background music.
Are there other up-and-coming bands from your local scene that you’d like to recommend?
C: We always recommend the locals No Sanctuary and Pape.
What are your plans for the rest of 2021?
C: We hope to be able to play The Omen live soon.
A: In the meantime, we want to release another music video and single and we’re considering a live video recording, so that people can see our songs live even if we cannot tour, but this might take a while as we want to make sure the sound and video quality is good enough to present the songs.
The Omen is out now on Rebel Waves Records. Order here.
Words: Dan Cadwallader