Belgian epic folk black death metallers Ithilien have recently released their debut album “From Ashes to the Frozen Land”. The band is already 9 years old, but since this is only their first full-length album, they are still quite unknown. So the time was perfect to ask their signer, guitarist and founding member Pierre Ithilien everything about this very promising band.
- Hello Pierre. Thank you very much for your time to make this interview. Ithilien is a new band, at least in discography terms, so would you like to introduce the band to our readers?
Hi there! Thanks for your time too, we really appreciate! We’re actually 6 people on stage. Jerry is the one behind drums and Olivier at the keyboards while Ben moves as crazy playing his bass on stage. We also have Geoffroy at the bagpipe and since a few weeks a new member, Sabrina at the hurdy gurdy. And as you already mentioned I’m the guitarist and singer of the band.
- You formed them back in 2005. What are you memories from these early days? What were your influences and the sound of the band back then?
Well, I remember having a lot of fun with the members of the band back then practicing in our little studio in Brussels. We worked for months but didn’t know how to look for gigs. After one and a half year, we had our first two gigs but unfortunately some of the members got demotivated after that. At that time, most of us were into bands like Children of Bodom (first two CDs), Ensiferum, the emerging Wintersun, to name a few… We were not yet really into folk, but rather liked a balanced mix of black and death if you see what I mean.
- How long did it take you to gather a decent line-up? When was the line-up complete?
Oh, that took a lot of time! But I guess every band has the same issues. I started the band when entering university. And as you know people change with time. They feel submerged by their studies, they start working, want to travel, or just get demotivated… The final line-up is rock hard since about 2 years and half ago. Now that we found each other, we’re all going forward on the same path… and that feels just great!
- In 2011 you released the EP “Tribute to the Fallen”, your first official work ever. How different was your sound back then? Was the line-up complete before the recording, or was it more as solo EP?
We had ‘a complete line-up’ at that time but not the same as the one now. Back then the sound was more aggressive I guess, corresponding to the roots of the project.
- Finally, 8 years after the band’s creation, you released your debut full-length album. Why did it took you so long? Are you at least satisfied with the result?
3 years ago, after recording the EP “Tribute to the Fallen” and touring for almost a year, we had an offer from a German label for a European tour. I was so excited! Unfortunately not everyone felt the same way. We all knew we couldn’t continue that way… Facing the problem I started searching for new members (again) and first met Ben. Together we searched for more people and when most of them were found we decided to work on a new album. It was kind of a way to start over and leave the past behind I guess…
- What are the fans reactions and press feedback you got so far?
Well as you know, you can’t do music that everybody likes, but I must say that we are really happy with the reviews we received until now. Most of them really show appreciation of our work and that makes us feel really good! And the fans, they are awesome with us, as always! We would never have come so far without their support!
- How would you describe your sound to someone who has never listened to the band?
The way we define ourselves is as a Belgian folk metal band with a balanced mix of black and death influences together with Celtic and Scandinavian folk atmospheres.
- You use several folk instruments in your music (whistles and bagpipes). How difficult is to combine them with the metal orchestrations? Do you plan to use more traditional instruments in the future?
We are currently working hard to add the hurdy gurdy on most of our songs and it works pretty good!
- I know there is a lyrical concept behind your band’s name. Would you like to describe it? Is “From Ashes to the Frozen Land” a concept album?
At the first listen, you’ll understand it is a story about a lost warrior that finds mates and go together on a quest. But if you close your eyes and try to feel the music, you will notice that there is much more than that. There is a story in which everyone can find itself. Undoubtedly, everybody had to face some difficult times in the past and had to find the courage to move forward. That is what we wanted to tell through our music.
- Would you like to give us any information from the recording / editing process of the album? Any guest appearances worth mentioning? What is the usual composition process you follow? Is it a team work, or has any of you the main writing role?
I don’t really like to show off, but I was behind most of it. I basically composed all the music, except for two songs I arranged from previous compositions of band members. It may sound weird but when composing, I just sit behind my computer and start writing… And probably as most creative experiences, the more I write, the more I get inspired (haha!). When thinking of the recordings, we faced a huge problem: the financial aspect. Entering a studio was out of budget, so we bought some mics and started recording in our own, lets say, home studio. Basically I took in charge the pre-production, mixing and parts of the mastering. That also explains why it took so long, since I had to do a lot of research in order to get the sound we wanted! At the final stage, parts of the mastering were done by a studio in order to bring the production to a more professional level. And the guy really did a good job. Looking back at all this, I must say it was a really long and exhausting project, but it was worth the effort!
- The album is released by Mighty Music and Target Distribution. What are your expectations by this cooperation? How are you planning to promote the new album?
Mighty Music and Target Distribution offer us promotion and a European distribution of our album. That already means a lot for us! For the future plans, well we intend to tour as much as possible all over Europe! Keep an eye on our website, those tour-dates will be announced soon
- Tell us a few words about Ithilien on stage? What should your fans expect from you? Do you play all traditional instruments live, or do you use samples? Are there any tours planned that you’d like to inform us about?
On stage, we are ON FIRE! That is the moment where the warriors in our hearts get to be seen! Of course we play also the traditional instruments on stage. And beside that we have keyboards and some samples.
- Maybe it’s a bit too early, but are there any thoughts about your next step? I hope it will take you less time. How do you dream the future of Ithilien? Any great wishes and ambitions?
Currently, we’re not thinking yet of a new album. We’re not tired yet of touring (haha). I guess we would be really happy to participate at the most important European festivals like Wacken, Graspop, Hellfest, Paganfest, Heidenfest…
- Do you watch the Belgian local scene? Are there any other bands in the genre, new or older, worth mentioning?
We definitely watch the Belgian scene, but unfortunately there are really few folk metal bands in Belgium. Maybe I can mention Aktarum and Sandoo. Those are the only ones to our knowledge.
- Is any of you in other bands too? If yes, would you like to give us some info about any of them?
Actually, none of us is involved in other metal bands. Everybody is 100% dedicated in Ithilien (haha).
- Thank you very much for your time and wish all the best for your band. Last words are yours!
Thank you very much!
If I can say a few words, I just would like to thank Valerie, our manager, for her dedication and support during all these years, Glynis for the awesome stage clothes she made for us and Julie for being present at every concert helping and holding the merch. Besides that, of course we want to thank all the people who support our project and especially those who bought our album! It means a lot for us! We hope to see you at one of our gigs and for sure, don’t hesitate to have a drink with us at that occasion