Interview with Sruthán
Interview by Andrea Di Stasio
The two-man black metal project Artach is back with a second magnificent album, “Sworn To Avenge”. The band, based in Newfoundland, takes inspiration from nature and the frosty and unkind weather of Northern Canada. From its creation in 2019, the band has never stopped writing, consistently releasing new music.
This sophomore album, infused with gloom, darkness but also elegant variations, sees not only nature as the main theme, but also its relationship with mankind and its darkness
We met Sruthán; guitarist and bassist of the band and discussed this new release “Artach” as a project, but also the music industry, metal and the future of the planet.
Hey and thank you for your time today. Let’s start with your latest single, “Tuiteam an Duine”, which translates as “The fall of Man”. There is a lot of rage, but it doesn’t feel like an empty emotion. You clearly care about nature and this world; was it always like this? Or did something change in you throughout the years?
I’ve always loved nature, but it’s only in the past 10 years or so that it has become more at the forefront of my thoughts. As I have witnessed climate change with more extremes in weather, and we’ve all seen the unending pollution and never-ending destruction of the natural world, we realize that humanity as a whole just doesn’t care about the planet and it’s occupants as much as it cares about money. At the end of the day we can’t eat and breathe profits. It is from this which I channelled my rage for the lyrics of “Tuiteam an Duine”
The lyrics of the song condemn the hubris of mankind: do you think that despite everything we are doing to the planet, change will still be possible?
Change is possible, but I think we’re not gonna see much of it until it’s too late which may not even happen in our lifetimes. We can’t science or buy our way out of this crisis. As individuals, we don’t have a lot of things we can do. Small personal changes can however make a big impact if enough people do it. The means putting your money where your morals are. For example, don’t buy from planet destroyers like McDonalds, buy more locally sustainable products when you can and it’s affordable, and stop supporting companies who make billions from polluting the planet and abusing and murdering its occupants for profit. As one young inspirational lady is famous for saying – “We are at the beginning of mass extinction, and all you can talk about is money and fairy tales of eternal economic growth. How dare you!”
Have you made any personal changes to your lifestyle to help make a difference?
I’m not an activist or much of a preaching environmentalist, I’m just a metalhead that gives a shit about these things. When there’s climate conferences or so-called environmentalists meet and hold fundraiser dinners etc. and serve dead cow for the meal, you know they are oblivious to making a simple personal change to their own lifestyle which could make a huge collective impact. The main change I have made is to eliminate as much as possible the use of animal products from my life. The means, the “leather” jackets are faux leather, the food I eat isn’t dead animals or secretions from animals. It was an easy change which if more people did, would make a huge dent in the profits of some of the biggest polluters. Just as importantly, it would also greatly reduce the suffering, abuse, and murder of BILLIONS of animals every year. Not to mention, it’s a healthier way of living.
How would you describe your music to someone who has never heard it?
Artach is black metal-based as that was the reason we started it. We also exhibit some influences that are more melodic and epic, along with thrash, death, punk, power/speed, traditional etc as we both like a wide range of heavy music. We fall somewhere into a band that is a mix of first wave black metal with old school sounds of Venom, Bathory, Celtic Frost, and newer stuff like Satyricon, Immortal, and Darkthrone. The music is very riffy, the vocals are unhinged. If you like black metal, cool riffs, thrash, and classic extreme sounds, then you just might like what we are doing.
If you could pick one song to represent the album, which one would it be and why?
One song doesn’t say it all but I think “Shimmer” is a good showcase of our sound because it has a lot of styles with some blast beats, thrashy bits, a clean breakdown, and a long epic guitar solo. For that reason, we selected this one for a music video which turned out really well for a DIY venture with no budget at all.
You seem to be very prolific songwriters, are there any songs that didn’t make it to the final album tracklist?
Yes, I believe there were 2-3 songs that we thought about using but then the album would be approaching double length. At 65 mins, it’s already a lot to digest. We may use them for the third album, we haven’t decided yet. We also now have 3-4 new songs written and mostly recorded so we’re well on the way to having material for our next album.
Were you brought up on metal as a child? If not, how did you get into metal?
As a child, as in under 13 years old, I didn’t know about metal. I was first interested in children’s music and some things my parents were playing in the home. The first bands I heard on my own and liked enough to buy my own albums for was bands like: The Police, Duran Duran, and Billy Idol. Then I heard Judas Priest and it changed my musical perspective as it opened the doors to all the big 80’s bands of the time like Maiden, Crue, Ozzy, Dokken, and progressed into thrash bands like the Big 4, Kreator, Celtic Frost, Venom, etc etc.
What are your top 3 all-time favourite artists and why?
It changes all the time, but since you said “all-time” I’ll go with three that I have loved for decades: Helloween, Slayer, and Judas Priest…and just because, I’ll add one more since it’s more influential for Artach, Immortal. As for why – well Helloween are the best power metal of all time and are still ruling today with the reunited pumpkins. Slayer were my fav band for many years and are my fav thrash/speed metal band. Judas Priest are the metal gods, and the band that really got me rolling down the dark side. And for Immortal, while they are relatively new when compared to the others, they are a band whose music and frontman, Abbath, are iconic. I love their sound, riffs, vocals, etc. Probably my favourite black metal band.
Things have been quiet during Covid-19 lockdowns, but when gigs and festivals were happening, what would you say has been your favourite gig or festival to date and why?
There’s been so many that ruled – seeing Primal Fear, Helloween, the first time I saw Slayer when they had reunited with Dave Lombardo on drums…those all come to mind when I think of some of the best gigs I’ve seen. Being from a geographically isolated place means I didn’t get to see the bands I loved growing up and it hasn’t been until my adult life that I got to start seeing bands I really loved. It creates a melancholic feeling sometimes because I missed seeing so many classic bands in their prime as nothing ever comes here.
How do you think the music industry has changed over the years? Or is the music industry how you thought it would be when first starting a band?
As I’ve loved metal for so long, there’s been plenty of big changes I’ve witnessed: the rise and fall of glam, the birth of thrash, the way the internet has helped level the playing field and allow us access to metal bands both old and new meaning we don’t have to rely upon shitty big label, radio, and magazine gatekeepers to tell us what is popular. For Artach, we’re only onto album #2, so there hasn’t been any change of note since we started. The music industry has in some ways changed for the better, as in the levelling of the playing field, but this is also a double-edged sword as the abundance of bands means that instead of there being 100 big metal bands, there are more like 100,000 smaller bands who are unsigned or on smaller labels. It makes it hard for any band to “make it” or rise above the noise. This can be great and bad for bands and fans, but I lean more towards liking it as there’s so much to choose from as opposed to when I was a kid.
It’s stated in your bio that in this album you played an instrument that you never played before? Is that related to both members?
Yes. I’m a guitarist and Fíochmhar is a drummer. When we started this is when I started playing bass, and when he started doing vocals. For me it isn’t a huge stretch as guitar and bass are related, even though it took me some adjusting to playing such monster strings lol. For Fíochmhar it was perhaps a bit more of a challenge as he hadn’t sung before so it took him a bit to find his crazy unhinged possessed voice.
How do you feel about bands collaborating to do split releases? Is this something you’d consider doing?
I personally don’t seek them out to buy them myself, but I have no aversion to Artach being on one if the opportunity arose, which it hasn’t so far.
I love that you included the Gaelic element in this project: are there any particular Scottish/Irish traditions or elements of folklore that you are particularly connected to personally?
It’s not so much of a direct personal connection as it is a desire to connect with our past and roots. Most of those who originally immigrated here came from places like Ireland, England, and Scotland. Therefore, rather than have historical references to things we have no connection to, we chose to look to our ancestors and their history. Or course one of the more interesting traditions is Samhain – the Gaelic festival marking the end of the harvest season and beginning of winter. This inspired some of the lyrics for “She Gathers Leaves”.
It’s very beautiful where you live. Do you have a favourite natural spot where you seek refuge or just go for inspiration? Or go to relax?
Inside the city, for a quick escape, there is Bowring Park which is a fav spot of mine to walk through. But nothing can beat getting to more quieter spots along the coast with the raw savage rocky cliffs, crashing waves, fog, etc. Those are the moments when I feel the most solitude in nature.
Have you already started working on the next musical chapter with Artach?
Yes, when we capped off material for SWORN TO AVENGE, we kept things rolling and as mentioned we have 3-4 new songs done. I have maybe 100 riffs in the can to sort through as well since every time I pick up my guitar I come up with stuff. The creative well is never dry. Whether or not they are all good usable ideas has to be explored. The reason I play guitar is to come up with ideas, I’ve never been much into copying and covering songs, or endlessly practising scales etc. It’s something that has to be done sometimes, but it’s not “fun” like coming up with new song ideas and riffs. My motto is “Create, don’t copy!”.
How is the metal scene in Canada? I assume you don’t get many gigs?
Like the mighty Darkthrone, we are a two-piece, so the idea of playing live is currently not possible so gigs are not on the agenda. As for the metal scene in Canada, well it’s a huge country and Newfoundland is geographically isolated from the rest of the country as it’s an island. So even most Canadian metal bands don’t get here. I don’t feel connected to the Canadian metal scene any more than to the metal scenes in Norway or Germany. All places are equally disconnected and distant to us. Of course, we grew up having some killer Canadian bands being more available to us on TV when there was a station that played Canadian heavy metal. So bands like Voivod, Annihilator, Sacrifice, Anvil, Infernal Majesty, etc, all have a special place.
What do you guys do when you are not composing music? Do you have any other hobbies?
For me, my free time aside from my day job, is mostly music-related stuff. So playing guitar is the main thing. Aside from that, walking in nature, reading, and watching some cool sci-fi stuff keeps me occupied.
Are there any recent Black Metal projects that have caught your attention? And what made you move from your previous project which was more symphonic to black metal?
Hmmm recent? Well recent to my ears in the past few years would be bands like Mgla, Uada, Firtan, and of course many of the more classic bands of the genre – I still love their newer outputs as much as their classics.
If you could only pick one album to listen to for the rest of your life, which one would it be?
This sounds like a definition of hell to a creative individual. There’s no one album that I’d want to listen to for all time endlessly because no matter how much I love it, it would become a form of torture to only listen to that. So, I’ll pick some atmospheric sounds of nature album with wind, rain, waves etc because at least that won’t be as bad lol.
What does the future hold for Artach? Do you have set plans or just going with the flow, as to speak?
The current plans are to keep writing and recording and have a third album for 2022. It would be nice to have it released more widely and on vinyl, but that would depend on the label. If that doesn’t happen, then we’ll still release it like we have our first two. The interest in, and reach achieved for SWORN TO AVENGE, has been greater than we hoped with all the reviews being positive. Hopefully that continues and people who read the reviews check out the album too. 🙂
Thank you for your time. I wish you all the success with Artach. Are there any final thoughts you’d like to share with our readers?
Thanks to you for the interview, and for anyone who’s read all the way to the end, thanks. You have an attention span greater than most. We hope you check out our videos and lyrics videos and if you like it, buy our newest album on Bandcamp or in physical form.