Extreme Gothic metallers Blackthorn from Russia have recently released their second album “Codex Archaos”, a great work that shows the band’s serious intentions. This all-female group seems more determined than ever to take a bigger step, so it was the right time to ask them everything about their amazing band. Let’s see what all their 5 members have to say in this interesting interview.
- Hello. It’s a great pleasure for me to make this interview. You are a band I watched since its beginning and it is really nice to see how you evolved through years. Can you tell us a few words about the idea / concept behind the band’s name?
(Aina): Hello. First of all, thank you for your great interest! When we started the band I had this word just stuck in my head but I was not sure at first. We settled for «Blackthorn» after many discussions. I thought the meaning is simple, but a couple of years later I discovered that according to world folklore, blackthorn is seen as a magical tree and associated with witches. As there were numerous witch references associated with our band, I felt this name does match us! Blackthorn thorns are also a symbol of protection and power, thus the name is kind of a good luck charm of ours.
- How did Blackthorn started? As far as I know Aina formed it back in 2004. Can you tell us a few words about the beginning? Your influences and your ambitions for this band?
(Aina): Yes, Blackthorn was formed in October 2004 by me; the only one who remained from the original line-up. The former members and I began to compose and rehearse our very first songs and in September 2006 we entered the studio to record the demo entitled “The Prologue of Eschaton“. That’s how it all started. Of course we underwent some line-up changes but that never stopped me. I’ve always been ambitious with the way I do things and I likely will be until I die. I said to myself, «If we work hard and keep on believing then we will get ahead». My influences back then were black metal bands. I actually wanted to play something like that, but it took Blackthorn a long time to do it.
(Elvira): I joined the band in 2006 and I was deeply interested in rehearsals, gigs, composing and recording. I can’t remember I had any ambitions I’d rather say no than yes. Just enjoyed being in a band!
- Blackthorn has only girls in the line-up. Was this something intentional since the beginning? Will you remain like this in the future, or could male members enter the band too? I know you had a couple of male drummers in the past.
(Varaska): That’s right, the band had a couple of male drummers in the past, but I ate them all!
(Greta): Why does everyone keep asking about the possibility of a new male band member? I think it’s obvious that the current line-up is comfortable enough for us to work together. Probably the only male who could handle us on tour is our sound manager However, doing a song with some special guest would be an interesting experience, but we didn’t think about it yet.
(Less): There are males in our crew; I mean a sound engineer, his assistant, moving men and so on. We especially need their help on the road. But I’m not sure we need male band members… I feel comfortable collaborating with the current line-up. The girls are fucking awesome and I don’t want anything to change.
- In 2007 you released the demo “The Prologue of Eschaton”. What were people’s first reactions to your music?
(Elvira): We were very inexperienced back in the days, so the demo turned out pretty shoddy. Anyway, it helped the band somehow; we got Russian and foreign listeners interested in our music and attracted attention of local gig organizers. It’s weird to see those who still dig “The Prologue of Eschaton” in spite of the fact there are better recorded versions of the demo songs on “Gossamer Witchcraft“.
- In 2009 you released the album “Gossamer Witchcraft” and its Russian version “Araneum”. By the way, which of the two versions sold better? This album was a very successful debut. Can you tell us a few things about it? What do you think of it today?
(Elvira): Honestly, I’m not so happy with the debut album today. It marked a big step in our development after the demo recording, but anyway… it’s so naive! It’s ok to criticize the previous works; a natural thing to do for every developing and experienced band.
(Less): I have a personal funny story about these two CDs. I once recorded some tracks for my previous band and I was told by a sound engineer to check out the debut album of an all-female metal band. I pshawed and disfavored their image (because I found them horrifying), but took the album into consideration and did like it, hah! I consider “Gossamer Witchcraft” and “Araneum” a good launching pad; it helped us a lot.
(Aina): It’s hard to say which of these two versions sold better. Both CDs sold well.
- Let’s go now to your current album. “Codex Archaos” was released in the end of 2011. I know you got very positive feedback about it. Are you fully satisfied with the result? Has it met your expectations?
(Greta): Ok, this is where I come in I joined Blackthorn right when the band began renewing its style, getting a more powerful sound and the mysterious concept you hear now. For me “Codex Archaos” is the best we could offer at that time, and I’m really proud of this album. Of course there’s always a place to grow to, but ”Codex Archaos” was just as we wanted it to be.
(Elvira): We are very satisfied with the final result, it can’t be better. We did everything we wanted to do and it turned out fine. In my opinion, the album is complete, deep and sophisticated – both musically and lyrically. Too bad our debut album is not so good.
(Less): I must say it is ok if a musician’s not completely satisfied with the creation. First and foremost, the sky is the limit. On the second hand, most musicians are too self-critical and always think they could do better! Like «I could play much more expressive» and so on. But yes, this time it’s met my expectations. ”Codex Archaos” is the first album of mine approved by my parents. They actually find it really cool and that means a lot to me.
- How would you describe your music on your own words? What have Blackthorn to offer to the listener with “Codex Archaos”?
(Less): Our music is the whole Blackthornian world and we offer to our listeners to find their places in it.
(Elvira): I would describe the music of Blackthorn as extreme, symphonic, dark and having classical influences. Let me say we play symphonic extreme metal; the term seems to be a little abstract, but at least it’s true enough! I wouldn’t describe our music as Gothic, though all the online reviewers seem to refer it as such! That’s bullshit; we are not related to Gothic music genre at all. Ok, maybe the first album can be related, but we don’t have that much Gothic influence in our new songs.
(Greta): As I already said, ”Codex Archaos” is more powerful, probably even brutal than what the band did before. I guess that we’ve just grown over the girly witchcraft thing and turned towards a dark and creepy direction The first album was like boiling potions, yet now we’re boiling people, haha >:-]
- Is there any particular lyrical concept behind the album? Where do you get inspiration for your lyrics?
(Aina): Of course, but not a clear one. The main lyrical idea behind the album is an attempt to describe rituals of an ancient magic codex (Codex Archaos) and experience, thoughts and feelings of the one who reads it. I get inspiration from my life and all within it. Art, movies, books, nightmares, dreams and so on.
- All your albums are released by different labels. Are you satisfied with your current label, or do you ask for more?
(Less): Our current label is MSR Productions and we are very satisfied with it.
The label does support and help us, so we can’t complain. However, one always asks for more, it’s just the way things are.
- Can you tell us a few words about the composition process of your music? Do you write a song if something good comes in your mind, or do you sit down and try to compose something in a specific timeline?
(Elvira): I compose the music spontaneously, I don’t plan to write and it starts by itself with a certain thought or a feeling. Sometimes it can be a collaborative process. Somebody from the band offers an idea and we all develop it until we get the song we’re satisfied with. But the more you rehearse it, the more ideas suddenly come to your mind so I usually edit our songs a lot before recording.
(Varaska): Forcing yourself to write a song in a specific timeline is not a good idea. There are only imaginative touches and inspiration. I want to create music with a soul; I don’t wanna create just a set of notes.
(Less): I can tell you about the final stage of the composition process; it sounds like «Damn, if I play this I will break my fingers for sure».
- Most Russian bands write lyrics on their native language. You always had a preference in English. I believe your genre is better with English, but I also think your local scene prefers Russian. What led you in this decision? Was it a matter of language “aesthetic”, or are you so confident about an international career?
(Varaska): I’m not sure singing in English can really help our international career, but since English are declared as an international language, most people in the world are able to understand what we sing about and that’s good.
(Greta): I guess this is just a “to each his own” case. I don’t really think that all who sing in English do it just for the abroad listeners. Russian is a rough language itself, and it’s less melodic than English, so to my ear I would prefer English lyrics. In fact, writing in a native language is kind of an intimate process, you are just forced to fully open up in your poetry, while a foreign language is like a shelter where you could retreat. So i think that it would have been harder for Aina to create her stories if she wrote most of her lyrics in Russian.
(Aina): I have nothing to add to what Greta said. My thoughts exactly. Indeed, a foreign language is a shelter. So don’t drag me out of it!
(Elvira): By the way, some of our local listeners choose the bands that sing only in Russian and some listeners prefer the bands singing in English…. Sometimes just because of their hate for Russian metal scene itself. When it comes to the listeners from Europe, the USA, etc, they are really tolerant to Russian language or even show genuine interest to it. They may not understand it but they still enjoy our songs in Russian.
(Less): Some songs sound good in Russian, some on English, some on Latin and so on. It all depends on the story behind the song. I think most of our songs sound great in English while «Серебряный ключ» was composed to be a song with Russian lyrics! It is clear to me why some of our Russian listeners want Russian lyrics from us. The lyrics are gorgeous, so I can understand why they want more, hehe.
- Can you tell us a few words about your live shows? What should a Blackthorn fan expect from you on stage? Is there a particular feeling or atmosphere you try to create?
(Greta): Like I said, we boil people Ok, just kidding. Several years ago the band used some visual presentations on stage, like decorations and stuff, but now it’s all about the energy. I guess we don’t need sfx anymore to present our music. Playing live in front of people is magic itself, to me every performance we do is catharsis, a tribute to our unity and the direction we are moving towards.
(Less): I believe we create some atmosphere onstage! We usually don’t have a special plan, our music leads us. Every show is a little bit different and that’s good. We try to avoid clichés and play and rock as good as possible.
- Are there any tours planned this year? Any gigs confirmed? Is there any band you’d wish to tour with (not necessarily on a realistic base)?
(Aina): Yes. Everything is going to be revealed very soon!
(Less): I would sell my soul to tour with Carach Angren.
(Elvira): When it comes to bands from other countries, I’d wish to tour with Septic Flesh, Carach Angren or Fleshgod Apocalypse
- What are Blackthorn’s future plans? Will you remain in this metal style, or could we see any experimentation from you? When should we expect a new album?
(Elvira): It’s been hardly two months since we released the first single of Blackthorn entitled “Era Obscura“… And musically, this single is different from our latest album. It means the band won’t stand still and probably you will hear some experiments in the future. Speaking of the next album, I guess it’s a bit early. Of course we have some good new ideas, but we are still excited with “Codex Archaos“. So it’s hard to predict when the next album will be released
(Less): We’d like to keep our plans secret. I believe that our future works will be… bigger. Let’s have some patience!
- How do you see your local scene? How difficult is for a band to make its own way these days? Do you see any different treatment or prejudice because you are all girls? How do people react when they listen to you without knowing what you play?
(Varaska): I can’t say I’m happy with the scene in our area! Due to many reasons. Is it hard to make its own way for a Russian band? Yes. It’s hard and not so optimistic; people are too lazy to go to a gig, they prefer to sit next to their computers all the time.
(Elvira): Making a band with the highest hopes of becoming famous can sometimes be a discouraging thing… An all-female line-up can’t help, by the way. However, you have to work very hard and practice a lot to make your own shining way. Different people react differently to Blackthorn. Some hate everything about the band while others adore it, but our live shows usually go very well. The audience may not be too enthusiastic yet it’s curious and friendly almost all the time.
(Greta): You know, after one of our concerts in Poland I had a weird conversation with a girl who was trying to convince me that we do music just to prove something to the world It really bugs me to hear things like that. I don’t think that we are different or special in any way, just because we are girls. And I wish we could be treated in the same way as any male band, without any stereotypes. We are not trying to prove anything, we just do what we like. However, there are pros in our situation, because it’s always a pleasure to hear that we sound like a real male metal band
(Aina): Of course, we run into prejudice from time to time. Many people don’t take us seriously just because of the line-up. They even don’t want to check what we play but they are sure a female metal band doesn’t have a right to exist, can’t headbang, can’t rock, girls can only play pop songs, blah-blah-blah. Such people don’t take us seriously and we don’t take them seriously as well. Let alone that most of them are not brave enough to express disapproval to our faces so they do it online.
(Less): If you’re in a pop band then bunches of money will make everything much easier because Russian pop-scene is almost all about money, which compensates a lack of talent. In case you play metal, it’s incredibly hard work and you have to do everything by yourself. Blackthorn’s lucky enough; our music’s good and we have not so common line-up inside the standards of the genre. A female vocalist is not an oddity these days, but people are always amused when they see the «instrumental part» of our band. Some people tell us women can’t play metal as well as men and some people are amazed how solid our line-up is. You know they say females can’t stand each other and so on. Well, we cause some commotion, anyway!
- Is any of you participating in any other bands? Would you like to tell us a few words about them?
(Less): I also play in a few Doom, Folk and Melodic Death metal bands.
(Varaska): I play drums in Sinister Frost; it’s a Symphonic Black metal band.
We have recently released our new album, so you can buy it or check a track entitled “Nightmare” here. Besides that, I also play bass in a couple of Black metal bands.
(Elvira): I am a keyboardist and a second guitarist for symphonic melodic black metal band Sinful. By the way, Sinful front-man is a live sound engineer of Blackthorn. I can say there’s a strong metal friendship between our bands, we got used to touring / playing together. I’m also involved in a few metal projects as a session studio musician (guitars, keys) and there are more to come.
- What is the funniest and what the most annoying thing you remember from your career in Blackthorn?
(Varaska): I’m in the band, and that means only pleasant things can happen to us
(Aina): Picking the funniest thing is very difficult as there have been so many… Life changes and shit happens but we always have fun together! As for the worst thing, it was singing with a throat infection a week before our show. It was a really bad idea; as a result I totally lost my voice. Luckily, my scratchy voice passed pretty quickly and the show went well.
(Less): When I got a terrible flu right before Zheleznye Devy festival. I thought I was going to die, I was so miserable, so the band had to perform without me. Regards the funny moments, we’ve had so many that I can’t choose which one is funniest.
(Elvira): Had the most annoying moments with the former members of Blackthorn… But those moments are now considered to be the funniest!
- Thank you very much for your time. I wish you all the best with your band and with your lives. Last words are yours.
(Greta): Thank you for your interest in our band; it’s a big honor for us!