Rejoice, mortal vessels of flesh and blood! In concomitance with the release of WIZARDTHRONE’s first album “Hypercube Necrodimensions”, I had the awesome chance to have a chat with Michael Barber, aka M. Archistrategos Barber, to talk about their music and how this project came to life. I hope you’ll enjoy reading about it!
Hi Michael! How are you? I am Elena, from Metalpit, and I want to thank you in the first place for the time you’re going to dedicate to my questions. I am totally into “Hypercube Necrodimensions”, what a great work it is! It went straight up into my top-tier albums list!
Thanks so much, that’s very kind of you and really great to hear!
So, the Wizardthrone concept is quite peculiar: we have a clear, heavy lovecraftian inspiration that is perfectly mixed with scientific notions and arguments. How was it introduced to the members of the band and how did they react to this idea?
Everyone got on board pretty much immediately. The focal point for Wizardthrone was always meant to be the music so we chose the members based on their skills in that field before anything else, and everyone was fine with taking a different approach to the lyrics.
Writing such unusual and complex lyrics, I think it can be quite tricky. I mean, ending up mixing a bunch of bombastic words just for the sake of it, it’s right behind the corner. But this is not your case: it’s all well connected, and we can easily follow through the lyrics to see where they want to lead us to and what they are telling us. How was the writing process structured? Did you get your references from literature like The Master himself H.P. Lovecraft, or sci-fi authors like William Gibson with his masterpiece “Neuromancer”, just to quote some of the best ones, or is there someone in the band who has some kind of scientific formation/interests that was helpful?
I had written a couple of scratch lyrics to the first track, “Black Hole Quantum Thermodynamics”, and they were quite heavily based on this Lovecraftian, doomsday sort of stuff. When I sent the first demo to Chris he responded with some lyrics that he’d written studying mathematics at university years ago. They were actually an early version of the title track, “Hypercube Necrodimensions”, and I thought they were perfect, definitely different than the typical extreme metal lyric. As we worked through the album, we just kept writing in this style. Chris provided the bulk of the lyrics in this sci-fi sort of style, and I’d add a bit more of the horror element, along with a few well-placed heavy metal cliches.
Spacing from lyrics to music, I can sense two main bands that might have inspired your sound, Bal Sagoth and early Dimmu Borgir (along with the contribution of the different musical backgrounds of the band members), am I right? If you were able to choose a band for a feat with Wizardthrone, either from our times or from the past, which would you choose and why?
Lyrically Bal-Sagoth were a huge influence, along with the narrated elements, but musically maybe a bit less so, although the influence is still present with keyboard sounds and certain chord progressions. A couple of Matt’s riffs I also felt had a bit of a Dimmu Borgir vibe, more rhythmic with clear melodic orchestration, wheras when I write in that style I lean towards an Emperor-ish approach with dense contrapuntal guitar parts, but an important balance is found working together like that. I’d probably choose early Children of Bodom just because the attitude they had towards writing back then is similar to ours now – style/genre is irrelevant as long as the songwriting is strong and the ideas sound good.
The mixing of your album was made by Nino Laurenne, and the mastering was put in the hands of Svante Forsbäck. They are two of the greatest excellences in this fields, they worked with huge bands such as Wintersun, Rammstein, Sonata Arctica and so on. How was it to work with such great professionals?
It was great, honestly. We were concerned in the beginning because I’d planned to fly to Helsinki and join them on the project but the travel situation in January made that impossible. However Nino was able to stream his work in HD audio live to my own home studio, and while my setup is obviously nothing compared to his, it’s good enough that we could work almost as normal – the main difference being we were chatting over WhatsApp rather than face to face, haha. I have to commend him for his dedication to seeing the project through, as we ran over by about 2 weeks and he was still committed until the end. Svante was so professional that I almost have nothing to say about him. He came highly recommended via Nino, so we sent him the files, asked for a single revision, and he sent them back as you hear them now, with zero issues. We were a little skeptical about whether a big-name mastering engineer could really make a difference as it’s not something any of us have done before, but the audio quality was significantly better when we received the final masters.
Now, I’d like to ask you something more personally-directed if you want. You surely are an experienced musician, you have played in quite a lot of bands (Deathcode Society’s Eschatonizer is pretty impressive!) and you just recorded a feat for the Laurenne/Louhimo project. This kind of career inevitably means that you have to interact with a lot of people, and let’s be honest, we can’t always get along with everyone! So I was wondering, what is your trick and/or advice to create a strong bond with your bandmates?
I think being able to listen as well as being able to speak your mind clearly and constructively. Luckily with Wizardthrone, and Deathcode as well, there’s a strong degree of mutual respect between all the members, so even if we might disagree on something initially, you can go away and ruminate on a differing opinion, and maybe realise you were completely wrong. Of course it can’t always be that easy, and if you’re dealing with another group with strong personalities that might clash from time to time, then being constructive and trying to keep people working as a unit is even more important. If you’re dealing with email or instant messages for example, read what you’ve written before you hit send! If a band member is having trouble getting their point across and getting frustrated, try and see if you can’t take their point of view and help them illustrate what they’re trying to say a bit better, whether you agree or not.
Taking a look back at your previous bands, I see you are mainly a giutar player, except from the keyboards for Gloryhammer. But, stepping aside from traditional ones, is there any unusual, ancient or niche instrument you’d like to be able to play? And would you like to maybe put it into one of your projects?
I’ve been really interested in modular synthesizers, sound design and procedural/generative audiovisual art for a few years now but I’ve never fully committed to making it myself. It seems like such a rabbit hole that I need to get the more ‘traditional’ music out of my system first, or I’d have no time left for it! It’s definitely something I want to explore more.
Getting back to Wizardthrone, I think that your songs are really suggestive and evocative, especially for fans of the authors I mentioned before or of the sci-fi/cosmic horror narrative in general. While listening to your album I got in my mind those Immortal videos where they play on some cliff over the ocean or atop a mountain and so on, and thought that Wizardthrone really deserve something similar that would match their badass music and emphasize it. So, my weird question of the day is: what unique and special place in the whole world would you choose to record a 100% Wizardthrone-style music video or for a one-of-a-kind live? If we can dream, why not doing it big!
Actually Immortal are a great comparison, as they created their own world in which their songs took place, and despite being less po-faced and deadly serious than some of their peers, they created arguably better music than most of them. If we would go down that route and budget was no issue, some kind of huge panoramic video shot in Iceland on the lava fields/black sands. If we’re going all out, why not add a ton of chemically enhanced multicoloured pyrotechnics, and add in a few thousand alien armies engaged in warfare with ancient vortex-dwelling creatures in the skies above?
I’d like to close with a question that comes very precociously, since “Hypercube Necrodimensions” has just been released, but I was wondering: do you plan to create a Wizardthrone narrative universe that will grow and develop in your future works?
Hard to say exactly. There are a couple of links between some tracks on the album but there’s no concept per se. Maybe we’d revisit a couple of things or maybe we’d just try to keep it fresh so it’s more entertaining for us to create.
So this was my last question! Thank you again very, very much for your time. I hope you liked my questions even just half as much as I liked your album!
Spoiler: I love it 3000!
Thanks so much!