Let's start with a ritual question: can you please introduce Orakle to our members? What happened with all these line up changes before the recording of "Uni Aux Cimes"?
AmarRu: Actually, Orakle has been existing for almost 12 years now, even if the present line up is more recent (3 years old). We've found now the most effective geometry: Clevdh (drums), Achernar (bass & vocals) and myself (guitars), to whom an extra guitarist is added for the shows. We've found here the most stable form for the band - and also the most propitious to musical creation, that relies upon a group dynamic based on harmony, and also on close collaboration between the three of us. Good relationships, respect and mutual esteem are the mainstays of our band: the music we play is a place where our desires and personal aspirations meet, are confronted and brought together ; a place where they're condensed in one single expression.
The line up changes you previously mentioned are the marginal consequences of a disharmony in the relation between some individuals and the group. These are not major shocks but rather strict reassertions of the group against one divergent element… that must be left apart. Getting rid of useless loads: that's what it is all about. We have then decided not to burden ourselves any longer and to go on with the three of us, plus an extra musician to help us onstage.
To what extent did these changes affect the song writing or recording process?
AmarRu: Well, the whole song writing and recording process finds itself simplified since the less people there are, the quicker decisions are made.
Your previous release "L'Ineffable Emoi… De Ce Qui Existe" met some very good critics when it was released in 2002. How did this relative success help you for "Uni Aux Cimes"?
Achernar: Well, the "L'Ineffable émoi" EP was an important step for us, as I consider it was our first real professional recording and release, and somehow brought a kind of fresh air within the extreme metal scene, to my opinion at least. It helped us to promote the band, to play our music on live, and as you noticed most reviews were quite flattering. Yet it's irrelevant to speak of "success": that's funny, but in fact I think many people thought Orakle was a good band without even listening to us!
So the release of our first album was really expected by a few people who discovered us through the EP, yet not by so many. They just knew that we were not coming from nowhere with "Uni aux cimes".
The first thing that struck me in "Uni Aux Cimes" is the excellent - and I mean it - quality of the lyrics. You have a very odd - for black metal - concept based on nature. I've heard you roam in the forest of South Paris ;-). Has your personal experience of nature had an influence on your philosophy? Do you think the lyrics are at least as important as the music?
Achernar: Yes, thank you for the compliment. Writing lyrics is definitely something important for Orakle, my lyrics and Clevdh's are the fruits of long and deep reflections, often apart from traditional black metal lyrics just because they're not meant to be especially used in a "black metal" perspective.
We don't feel restrained by the clichés of extreme music, we can basically write about just everything that stimulates our creativity… I mean, reducing Orakle to a nature-based band would be far too narrow; more especially in "Uni aux cimes" where the lyrics depict states of mind, philosophies of power and highness where "nature" is just mentioned a few times as a whole, at a cosmic level. And above all, I don't see nature through materialism, which I consider to be a restraining perception of it; to me "nature" just means matter and energy, a game with infinity of combinations and possibilities, a very fertile ground for creation and imagination.
Going outside for a walk in the woods was indeed a regular activity for Clevdh and I, and still is at times (now I live closer to Paris, in a more urban environment…). These experiences were quite personal and special, you learn to live closer to instincts, to recognize and accept the animal part inside, somehow to transcend social behavior and morals, things like that. I would say it creates a sensation of primitive and naive freedom, which is a fundament of my philosophy, amongst others.
You seem much attached to the use of French now. Is it a kind of claiming your non Anglo-Saxon identity, or just for convenience sake?
Achernar : Well, something like that, yes… But our view is not negative at all, we're not "opponents" to the use of English - this is a beautiful language, it can give birth to special sonorities and feelings. Above all we are opposed to the SYSTEMATIC use and misuse of it by every band, no matter where they come from and what is their knowledge of vocabulary, grammars etc…
Anyway, it really depends on the nature of the lyrics. With Orakle, words need to be precise, because the feelings we try to paint come from deep and complex thoughts… Writing in English would for sure distort their meaning. Our knowledge of the French language is far more accurate to enhance details, you know?
AmarRu: Your question epitomizes the difficulty to consider metal outside its traditional forms. We have no loathing for English, and I personally really appreciate the conciseness of the language. However it is impossible, except for a professional, to translate with high fidelity the subtleties, the qualities and the genius of a language (here, French) into another language that has its own genius. Hence, quite surely, the chronic mediocrity of the texts written by French bands who have chosen to express themselves in English. We prefer to stick to what we master, i.e. French, our native language which is in fact none the less able to express a deep thought.
This conventional use of English - which is totally arbitrary - makes me think with strong reservation of my compatriots' critical skills, as they all agree far to easily to any fashion style put at their disposal.
Can you explain the meaning of this strange title "Uni Aux Cimes"?
Achernar : Yes. One of the first texts I wrote for this album was about a fascinating analogy I strongly felt between the highest parts of nature and what I consider to be the highest parts of man. The lyrics evoke the concealed inner paths leading to the summits, the heights perceived as symbols of purity and strength. Through a symbolic approach, I describe the relation between nature and a kind of prophetic man, whose desire is to merge with this untamed and inspiring environment, as he strongly identifies with it. This is very much a reaction against dogmas and traditions which tend to separate man from his environment, so feelings like bitterness and anger are also very present throughout the song.
Later, the other texts we wrote were somehow linked to this same idea… Emancipating, looking for isolation, moving from a perspective to another, surpassing oneself and reaching states of extreme power, to finally feel at one with a cosmic nature. So we just picked this title for the whole album.
Your album is in the same vein of melodic grandiloquent black metal as bands like Emperor or Arcturus. What do you think of these comparisons?
AmarRu: These are bands we really like indeed, and of whom it would be vain to try to deny some legacy. And yet, we don't set them up as models we should copy or even as positive sources of inspiration. What we are cannot be summed up in that "likeness". Some people mention the common use of clear voices singing in unison, with saturated guitars… but is the convention over yelling voices so strong that one cannot deviate from it without automatically "copying" those who don't follow that norm?
Achernar : I totally agree, that's sometimes boring to hear a few people "judging" our music not for itself but always in comparison with Emperor or Arcturus, even though not so many bands can pretend to such references.
"Uni Aux Cimes" has been out for six months already. What kind of feedback did you receive?
Achernar: I don't have the feeling that this album was released six months ago already… We don't have a huge promotion and distribution, so things progress slowly, bit by bit. "Uni aux cimes" was officially released in May 2005, but feedback from the media came later in June and is still going on, as we or Melancholia couldn't afford to promote this album at a large scale - we don't have the means to do intense promotion during a short period. And "Uni aux cimes" should be available in Europe soon, with subsequent promotion I hope.
But anyway, the feedback in France is great, really. Well, not commercially-speaking, as it seems metal fans prefer downloading than buying, even though they can easily find the album on mail-orders and shops… Yet, reviews are very good, some described "Uni aux cimes" as one of the best albums released this year in its style, and most saluted a work of great quality and personality. It's very rewarding, and I hope it will also be the case outside France, soon.
Do you already have ideas for your upcoming release? Will it be in the same vein as "Uni Aux Cimes"?
Achernar: We prefer to focus on "Uni aux cimes" for the moment. I mean, promotion goes on, and we want to play live and do our best for this first effort to be known. I have already composed guitar stuff for the next release, Amar Ru too, so we have ideas. I want to develop certain things, go further into experimentation and atmospheres for instance, but today we just have riffs and ideas, nothing is built or arranged yet. Time will tell.
I know you're actively searching for concerts everywhere in France. So, what are the last news? Found any plans?
Achernar : Ahh… yes indeed we're searching for concerts and festivals, in France or outside France. That's a very very difficult task, believe me. Metal music is not welcomed in many places, in fact only in a few to be honest. And there are so many bands… some being very involved and socialized within the scene, compared with us. So we contact people, associations; it permitted us to play with Arcturus in October, but we have no other serious plans for the moment, nothing before February 2006.
Seen from outside, the French black metal scene seems pretty strong - actually, one of the strongest in the metal world. How is it working from within? Is it hard to find a personal space among all the bands that pop in everyday?
AmarRu: I'm sorry I'll have to destroy your illusions here. To me, the French scene seems to be anything but vigorous. The increasing number of bands (how many musicians belong to several bands at the same time!), the stylistic standstill and the impossibility to reach interesting or international stages do not look like encouraging symptoms. There is no cooperation but a lot of isolated wills. Except a few bands such as the excellent Gojira, very few manage to stand out from the crowd, despite the existence of very talented bands.
More generally, what do you think of French metal?
Achernar: Indeed, there are good bands within the French scene… Some are recognized, like Seth or Anorexia Nervosa, a few deserve it, like Balrog, Maleficentia. But as a whole, I also see the French scene as something quite stagnant, often stuck in childish comparisons and amateur behaviors: that's not a question of quality, because in any scene, there are naturally thousand bands of poor quality for 9-10 bands of higher quality. That's particularly about how important people (labels, press, managers, associations, festival booking, etc) behave with many French bands: some can pretend to grow bigger and recognized, but they're often supported in a very timorous way. That's not a generality.
One question that has nothing to do with your album: is Melancholia Records recovering from the tragic events that took place in June? (For those who don't know, in June 2005, the label was robbed and burned down, making its future uncertain).
Achernar : More or less. Alex (label manager) is still absorbed by the investigation and the judicial problems, because it is a criminal act. The "Studio du Pendu" was meant to become a professional recording studio, a lot of money had been invested in the equipment, and finally it burnt out. It's logic to lose motivation after such an event. But as far as I know, Melancholia Records is still alive, and strives for his bands to be better known.
Last word to the wise...
Achernar : Thank you very much for this interview and your support through Metalstorm. Check our website at www.orakle.fr and if you like the two songs there, you will not be disappointed by the whole "Uni aux cimes", believe me.
AmarRu: Thank you very much for showing such interest for us, and I hope to see you around for a concert!
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