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Heaving Earth's Tomáš Halama: "The album speaks about people that used to have high hopes about life, and even death, but instead they live their final years/moments in a constant shadow…"

Interview with Tomáš Halama from Heaving Earth
by Lior "Steinmetal" Stein at 10 July 2022, 9:44 PM

It can be referred as the gathering of the unfortunate, or maybe those who have lost all hope to have a taste of a better life, or in way, right before the last drop, a suitable death. It can be called suffering, but a kind of suffering that goes hand in hand up to the final moment, prior to the last gasp of air. Nearly coming out of the ashes, but with a strong will to remain, the Czech extreme Metallers, Heaving Earth, return with a new album, going dark, a little bit contemporary, but still knocking out jaws as they play. Steinmetal had a chance to talk with the band's prime Tomáš Halama about reforming, the new album, “Darkness Of God”, and more…

Hello Tomáš, it is great to have you for this conversation with Metal Temple online Magazine, how have you been doing?

Hi, thanks for your interest. All is going well at the moment – summer heat and summer storms, the usual stuff, and our new album finally out.

It has been seven years since the last time the Heaving Earth moniker came up with new material. Other than the pandemic that struck 2.5 years ago, which also served as a slippery slope for plenty of artists, the gap that was created is quite substantial. Was that period of time where you guys simply took your time in order to perfect yourselves or was it simply life banging on your doors?

So many things have happened in the meantime. First we came to conclusion that it won´t work any longer with Denouncing the Holy Throne line-up and shook hands with some guys, then our lead guitarist made a decision to move to United States for some time, so I was pretty much left on my own. But I kept working on the songs, re-arranging them, working on lyrics with our new singer Marek, had to made a deal with some session drummer that we´ve found in Giulio Galati… I wouldn´t say that pandemic was a major factor for the whole process of writing and recording, but it just wasn´t easy task to complete.

Truth be told, “Darkness Of God” is my first experience listening to the band, and I feel fortunate about it, you sure have your way to startle one’s world. With the album out for a month, how do you fanbase find you coming back with new material?

We are pleased with the feedback. It´s great to have fans that patient and also new fans getting aboard. The most satisfactory is that our fanbase mostly not only accepting, but embracing a slight change in our music direction towards to a, let say, more contemporary style of death metal.

Heaving Earth, by definition, is a band that its enticement is to portray the underworld within its constructive musical exports, along with its lyrical themes. “Darkness Of God” is certainly a darkened feature. What can you share about the title of the record? What was the inspiration the led you to it?

The album speaks about people that used to have high hopes about life, and even death, but instead they live their final years/moments in a constant shadow, out of any kind of luck or mercy, literally praying for death. It´s a matter of observation, you see that happening.

Similar to the music, which we will talk about further on, the themes that lead the album appear to be circling the anti-religious theme. In your view, what does the existence of “Darkness Of God” focus on with its philosophy?

In general lyrics on “Darkness Of God” deal with symbols like faith or hope and how they easily transform into hopelessness, abandonment and misery. Anyway it´s not a conceptual album, so each track deals with a bit different topic (like constant struggle of a religious institutions / churches to regain political power, justification of a violence against non-believers in biblical context etc.).

Turning towards the personal aspects, and how it reflects on you. What makes the lyrical concepts of “Darkness Of God” close to your system of beliefs? How do you find yourself attached to the bleaker pictured painted by the record?

I find myself standing aside, not being a part of it. As an atheist / sceptic I do not believe in life happy endings and any kind of life-sequels. This life is what I´ve got and I´m fine with it.

The artwork, upon its blackened colors, provides a good idea on what this is all about, pretty straightforward if you would ask me. However, even within a piece of art that appears to be simple, there is vision behind its characteristics. What can you share about this artwork? Who created it?

The cover painting was created by artist Sözo Tozö. She did a great job. I do agree that its meaning is pretty obvious, not a glimmer of a hope, just shades of black -  that´s exactly what we wanted to show and that´s how I feel about all these ancient myths, that have transformed into several religions.

In relation to the artwork, and the spirituality of the record, in your opinion, are we headed towards that bottomless pit, like a herd, a population of those that accept everything that we are being told, with question?

Society is a way too complex phenomenon to make any kind of predictions where we are heading, at least for me. That´s a field of traditional religions, new age beliefs, esoteric and all other kind of a fraudulent crap to make prophetic revelations of what's to come. For sure we´ve been targeted by thousands of pressure groups on daily basis now, “big brother” is thanks to advanced technologies that we are forced to use more real than ever before, but still we can make at least some choices on our own (and I´m not being that sarcastic meaning a suicide).

Without really knowing what I was getting into, I was trapped by an undeniable storm, a whirlwind that became a reality for nearly fifty minutes, it was unstoppable right from the get go. “Darkness Of God” is marking the next chapter in Death Metal music, protecting its old school imagery, yet, attributing it with multi-dimensional layers of technical prowess. How do you find the band’s musical development over the course of “Darkness Of God”?

It´s without doubt that “Darkness Of God” line-up is the strongest one that I ever was part of. The addition of lead guitarist Martin Meyer, who joined the band in 2015, and later addition of Marek Štembera on vocals and Tomáš Ledvina on bass brought the stakes much higher and also gave me much broader horizon of what I can write and my bandmates perform. It´s great not to think about any limitations when you write music… although we all know, that “man's got to know his limitations”, you don´t want to end up whacked by Harry Callahan.

Since I understood that you are a band that doesn’t settle for less, what can you tell that inspired you to go blitz with your technical merits in order to come up with such a ferocious release?

I´d say I´m plainly a curious man and after I´ve done pretty much everything I wanted with a classic death metal formula with “Denouncing the Holy Throne” record, I was looking for some new challenges. In this sense progression towards more contemporary sound was inevitable. It´s also much more fun to write music without any narrow style limitations/obligations. The same applies to influences – it can be any style of music, sounds, noises, as long as I´m able to convert it into language and sound of death metal.

There have been a lot of Technical Death Metal bands going on nowadays, finding that path between utter brutality, and sheer musicianship. In your view, what makes “Darkness Of God” a different kind of journey in contrast to the sea of albums out there?

I don´t think that we are necessarily a “technical” death metal band by today´s standards. In our case technicality is never in a first place, first always comes idea/motive and if it´s hard to play and requires good guitar/bass/drumming technique then it´s more of a side effect. We are focusing on writing good riffs, creating exciting sound layers and soundscapes, varying and progressing them if it makes sense, rather than trying to show off how skilled we are (even “Forever Deceiving Dismal Gods” that suits all kind of “tech death” standards wasn´t deliberately technical when I was writing it). So I think that “Darkness Of God” differs from all current technical death metal releases in almost all aspects.

To say that the songwriting on “Darkness Of God” is varied would be an understatement. With barely a moments’ rest, the energies that are confined within each of the songs is off the charts. What can you share about the experience of the songwriting process of such a complex piece of machinery like this album?

Thanks for a kind words. I´m not sure how other songwriters work, but usually I have to get on some kind of a flow, to be in a different state of mind (no drugs involved) to come up with good ideas – it´s like discovering a vein of gold, you immediately know you have something to work with. In this state of mind, I can come up with handful of riffs, chord progressions and arrangements, not all of this would make it into an album, but time to time I use some of this stuff later, some stuff would be abandoned or forgotten (because I was too lazy to make a guitar tab, to my shame).

In order to jump to the next level, you recruited a session drummer, which I really hope that perhaps would be more of a service to you as your permanent member, Giulio Galati. Galati is also part of the Death Metal merchants, Hideous Divinity. Alongside Galati, you recruited a new bass player to arm the rhythm section. What can you tell about the impact of the two on the proceedings of the album? Galati, by the way, is no less than a monster on the skins.

We were more or less forced to look for a session drummer and Giulio Galati was one of the first choices. I did complete pre-production work at my apartment (all guitar arrangements and programmed drums) so Giulio had a clear understanding where we are heading. Based on the drum tracks I´ve sent him he then recorded his own interpretations from the real drummer's perspective. Bass was the last piece in the recording process, which I do not consider ideal. We had to write bass lines to already recorded drums and still keeping in mind guitar riffs. Considering conditions and options we had at the time the result is probably as good as it could be - Tomáš Ledvina was able to bring real bass players feel to the mix, thing that is mostly lacking on (not only) death metal records.

The song that really had me by the throat was, and still is, “Apologetics (Of Failure and Fall)”, an iconic technical Death Metal experience, showered by enchanted melodies and a highly interesting structure, which had me feeling as if I was dodging bullets fired at me. Quite the experience. What can you tell about the creative process of making this song?

It´s tough to bring back memories. The only thing I´m sure about is that I had the last riff with that damn difficult fusion style shred part and had a hard time to make it work with other riffs. I can´t remember how I put the song together but I´m sure that I instantly knew that it´s something special. It´s my personal fave too, lot of cool intricate stuff is going on during that song, so I´m glad you do appreciate it. I´ve already noticed few pretty absurd remarks and comparisons regarding “Apologetics (Of Failure and Fall)”, so it also serves as a good indicator how broad or limited are musical horizons of those folks commenting/reviewing it.

After working on such a record as “Darkness Of God”, didn’t your brain need a good breather before even thinking of anything else to do?

Yes, my brain says “f..k you, I´m taking a vacation” for some months already. I hope I´ll be able to recharge batteries during the summer and then continue working on some new stuff. I have a plenty of a sketches and some complete arrangements ready, but I don´t feel like working on it until autumn hits and temperatures fall down.

What can you say that you learned from the experience of “Darkness Of God”, whether as a musician, a songwriter, a band member of course and which of what you learned will be tagging along with you for the next Heaving Earth journey?

Lot of things, it was the first time I wasn´t part of a band with full line-up and had to deal with it. Recording process was more like a putting together pieces of a puzzle, but it worked and that´s a good news for some possible future collaborations. I´m sure after some time of rest I´ll look back at all processes to see, if there were any missed opportunities or some things that could have been done better - despite my current satisfaction with the result.

To be honest, it was hard for me to understand, is Heaving Earth a live band as well or simply a recording artist? If it is the former, what are your plans ahead to support the album?

Currently we are not in a state to play live shows, but we are working on it. Sadly, I can´t give you any dates or time perspective, we have to solve “drummer” issue first. It´s bit frustrating, but we´re not going to give up hopes for playing live.

Tomáš, I wish to thank you for your answers and for your time for this interview. You made a great record that holds nothing out of sight. All the best

Thanks for a kind words and opportunity to talk about new Heaving Earth record, greetings to Metal Temple team and its readers.


 



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