Following the release of “The Thule Grimoires” (our review here), the sixth full-length by The Ruins Of Beverast, we had the pleasure to interview Alexander von Meilenwald, the leader and main composer of the band.
Hello there, Alexander! I am a member of Metalpit.it, we are an Italian webzine and we deeply thank you for the availability for this interview. First of all, we would like to congratulate with you about your newest album, “The Thule Grimoires”, which we have reviewed and appreciated a lot. So, let’s start from this last work.
When did you start working on this last album? Did you already have any material to start from or did you write from scratch?
This time, I think I started from the scratch indeed. Cannot think of any older ideas on “The Thule Grimoires”. I started occupying with new material in early 2018, I would guess. Right after the songs for the split releases with Almyrkvi and Mourning Beloveth were finished.
Which are the main themes of “The Thule Grimoires”? Did you draw inspiration from something in particular?
Mankind and its evergrowing decadence, purblindness and ignorance. But frankly, that has been the main inspiration for The Ruins from the beginning. I guess my inspiration for the more naturalistic apporach that is dictating the new album could possibly have been a consequence of several travels that I did recently, along with my everpresent awareness of the environment chaos we’re moving towards and my unbroken love for nature.
Did this global situation, the pandemic and all its consequences, affect your work in any way, both pratically and creatively?
Yes, I was just composing more music, at least on the spare weekends that I would otherwise spend with rehearsals and shows. Apart from that, I witnessed no constraints or changes whatsoever because of the situation. So far, I wasn’t hit by the virus, my job has been stable, the social contacts in my home area have always been fairly scarce, and I certainly don’t belong to the people who regard a medical face mask as a mutilation of human rights. Germany has overall got off lightly throughout the pandemic, and I don’t see any reason for me to whine about anything.
“The Thule Grimoires” fits perfectly into your production, characterized by the distinctive sonority that unites all your works, from your very first album, “Unlock The Shrine” (2009), to the previous one released in 2017, “Exuvia”. Comparing to “Exuvia”, in “The Thule Grimoires” I perceived a darker tone and, in the meantime, I felt a more suggestive and evoking atmosphere, that drags you into a dark and occlusive dimension. On this purpose, I would like to ask you to outline your entire production, pointing out the differences that accompany it and also the common features that characterize it.
I agree that the moods of “The Thule Grimoires” entwine a bit more subtly with the riffs and melodies than it felt on “Exuvia”, and thus evolve a bit more suggestiveness. That would be due to the fact that the album was composed a bit more in detail and a bit more artistic. “Exuvia” was an impulsive composition and production; the songs were written in a shorter period of time and they weren’t build so much on riffs and structures but on emotion and frames of mind. Whereas on “The Thule Grimoires” I put a lot of time in the songwriting again, thus composing riffs and creating suspense, starting from guitar riffs and melodies and building rhythmics and vocals around it. Concerning the recording process, we used a different studio and recorded everything in one session this time, also the vocals, and the mix took more time. I guess that was due to the overflowing experiments that we did, particularly on “Mammothpolis” and on the clean vocals and lead guitars overall.
Listening to this album, even more than the previous one, I felt dragged into this disturbing and unreal imagery, which made me feel so small in front of something so big. It’s probably a very personal opinion, anyway I’d like to talk to you about it. Considering that listening is, in any case, and individual and subjective experience, what’s the aim of your music? What kind of emotions and images would you like to evoke?
Well, frankly I don’t think too much about what TROB’s music summons within the listener and that’s just because of the reasons you mentioned. The experience of music is something deeply personal and subjective and I neither can nor want to determine what the listener should feel like. The only thing I can manipulate is how I feel myself, which is the ultimate quality control for a RUINS’ song. Like i said a couple of times, when listening to the final version of a song it is my utmost wish to displace myself into a parallel existence where only the audial experience exists and wakes visions within me and I just want to lose the awareness of listening to a CD or LP or, even worse, a stream. I wanna be an inhabitant of the world where the magic happens. Being awaken distressed when the music’s over. Now, that would be the ultimate outcome of a RUINS’ song. What happens within this outside world can vary a lot and is depending on what the respective song is supposed to tell. Just an example: try and experience “Ropes Into Eden” as a setting deep down on the sea floor, where disturbing trespassers are descending in a roaring maelstrom at the beginning. When the chaos ends, silence is taking hold of the deep sea and little by little its natural inhabitants awake, small lights start flickering until after a while everything is awake and the whole deep sea is illuminated; the spirits of the sea begin to fight back. I wanted the song to work exactly like that for myself, because that is – roughly speaking – the story it tells. It’s a story about nature fighting back man of course, but that doesn’t even make the essential point. The point is, the scenery of the deep sea is meant to appear before my mind’s eye. If that works, the song works and certainly, I have no impact whatsoever if that works in the listener’s mind as well. Noone would be able to monitor that.
Now let me ask you a similar question: what does it mean to you to experience music? What impresses you the most when you listen to a song or an album and what are your music preferences?
Well I guess I answered that for the most part already in the above question, but that is of course only going for TROB-songs. My taste of music is ridiculuously varied, so actually, as much as I adore experiencing music as I described above, I enjoy the savage inexorability of Archgoat and Proclamation, just as the subtle melancholy of lots of 80’s stuff. And when it comes to music like that of Dead Can Dance, I almost arrived again at the kind of sensation that I mentioned with the Ruins songs, because their music also paints landscapes in my heart. I guess everything that sets loose emotions and pushes me away from the mere act of “listening” is a comfort for my soul.
Now I would like to switch to another topic that I find really interesting related to your works. As we know, the name of your project, The Ruins Of Beverast, is inspired by Norse mythology, in particular by the episode of the collapse of the bridge Bifröst, which is narrated in Scandinavian poems. Have you always been into Norse mythology? What are the readings that mostly suggest the texts, concepts and atmospheres of your albums?
It is true that my interest in mythology of ancient origin has been extensive and still is, although my appropriate studies went asleep throughout the recent years, just because of lack of time and certainly also the project’s name derives from Germanic origin. I just want to point out that the lyrics and conceptual idea of The Ruins Of Beverast are not consequently built upon mythological foundations. Spiritual world views, surreal ancient ideas of divinity and the progress of the world are, firstly, infinite inspiration for the spatial and temporal sceneries that TROB songs are always built upon. Secondly, they grant powerful metaphorical images that work on the upper level of the lyrics. Thus, they appear in the conception of the lyrics of course, but just as religious, historical, geographical, psychological elements as well. I worship the power of symbols, and mythology is one of several territories that contain such.
Now, one question about the artwork of “The Thule Grimoires”. As an art lover, every time I listen to something new my choice is suggested by the artwork, which is the first way to communicate something about the album itself. I found this artwork really beautiful and suggestive, could you please tell us what it is inspired by and its meaning?
Agree, and following that, it is of utmost importance that music and artwork go together and form a unity. Within The Ruins Of Beverast it is elemental to extensively represent the central idea, mood, approach of the album on the outside – that means motive, colors, overall approach. Well, that’s what also happens with “The Thule Grimoires”: like I said the album is basically painting wasteland-sceneries, upon which stories of human decline are built. Very roughly spoken. That means it shows a deserted landscape – symbolically referred to as “Thule” – the subterranean world below it which is elemental for the stories of the songs and the ancient temple with 4 pillars that represents the ancient idea of the 4 elements. That’s how it falls together unto the title and album idea.
Talking about future projects, at such uncertain time, is difficult and perhaps even inappropriate. In any case, waiting and hoping that this situation will improve as soon as possible, what are your plans? Do you already have new material you plan to get to work on?
No, in fact I didn’t even start to write new TROB material yet, I’m still busy with preparing the Thule songs for a possible live situation, whenever that may get relevant again. Before the pandemic, we were aiming at several release shows and a tour, but you know, it’s still written in the stars. I guess I will try to get busy with new songs in summer latest.
Very well then, our interview ends here. Thank you very much for being so kind in dedicating us your time. We wish you all the best for the future and we really hope this global situation gets better, so that playing on stage and sharing music all together can be a thing again!