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Perennial Isolation's Albert Batlle: "If you have to cry, cry. Share it and impregnate your emotions in music, because that's why you do what you do. Just be natural and human."

Interview with Albert Batlle from Perennial Isolation
by Lior "Steinmetal" Stein at 20 February 2021, 10:27 PM

There is no real expression other than being truthful, in particular in music. An artist's creation, at least from this side of the table, is not merely for sale but also to twitch a personal emotion. Whether towards anger, contempt, relaxation or even sharing one's pain and sorrow, it is all there for the taking, understanding and comprehending. The Spanish Atmospheric Black Metal band, Perennial Isolation, has been living and breathing the cold, the Autumn and went through a journey with their new album, "Portraits", observing various of people's images and lives. Steinmetal had a great conversation with the founder, Albert Batlle, about the new album, generated feel, the journey, new label and more…

Hello Albert, it is a pleasure to have you for this interview for Metal Temple online Magazine, how have you been doing there in Spain at the moment?

Greetings from Barcelona! Well, as you can imagine and like many countries at the moment, things are not right. The pandemic situation continues its course and we are approaching one year in duration. But well, regardless of how things are and that there is not much more to add, from my side I am very well, it has been a great year (so far). I try to find everything positive regarding this 2020-2021 stage and the band is in an intense moment. We must make the most of it!

It crossed my mind, right before I started listening, that I haven’t stumbled upon you guys, and it appears that you have a history. First of all, I am glad that I did take notice of your new creation, but thinking about it, which leads me to my question, how do you find that utter vastness of the Metal market? So many bands, so many albums and EPs going out on a daily basis, how can one keep up really? Is there too much competition?

Really when it comes to Black Metal we are living a boom moment, right? The number of bands that are born and the number of albums and singles that appear day after day is incredible; some from big names in the worldwide scene and others from very small bands totally focused on the Underground; even clandestine, for a very specific audience.

I honestly have no idea how blogs and the media, for example, are capable of having such an exhaustive tracking. I suppose they must work side by side with record companies, otherwise I can't explain it. Look, I have tried to keep track of Black Metal in my country and it seems very complex to me, because the number of bands that are there is overwhelming. Without going any further, the other day I was buying cassettes from a Black Metal distributor in Barcelona and I was amazed at the amount of material from bands from the southern area of Spain.

Now, nowadays with all the evolution of social networks, you can specifically monitor what specific information you want to obtain. That also makes me think about what you said about the competition. I think it also depends on who you are working with. There are labels that are stronger than others. Some that are more renowned and others not so well known. But I think Black Metal moves in specific circles. You have to go to the specific site to find it

After years of being signed locally in Spain, you decided that it was time to move and signed with the Dutch Non Serviam Records for the release of your fourth album. Was it a natural career move to step to the next level? How did you know that it was the right time to do so after being in a rather comfort zone like domain?

It is exactly how you describe it, moving to the next level. Album after album we try to improve ourselves. We follow the same path as always but we look for a way to innovate: new sounds, new harmonization and atmospheres, new ways of composing, … Small changes that offer freshness without losing our essence. But honestly, we weren't in a comfort zone.

There came a point in the band, and after 3 albums under the banner of the label where we were, where things were no longer the same. You want to be ambitious and take your music further. We are not a conformist band and I think this is a big problem within the Metal scene in Spain: Conformism and not fighting to go further. So when we got down to work with ‘Portraits’ and seeing the positive impact caused by the previous album, it was the right time to change and try our luck in knocking on the door of someone bigger who wants to welcome your music. This is luck after all. You send a promo to the label. You and 100 more bands. It’s all said and done; it's just a matter of trusting and waiting. We have been lucky, our proposal was liked and we are delighted to be part of the Non Serviam Records family. They are working in an incredible way with us. We are very grateful!

Your new record is entitled with a charming, yet also somewhere drifting, title as “Portraits”. When I think of portraits, I think of images of people, rather than landscapes, and I believe that the wintery artwork has a share within the title. What are these portraits for you? Perhaps the change of seasons or simply the unseen border between Autumn and Winter?

The concept of a portrait has to do with people;  that's how it is. But in this case this title goes further. 'Portraits' is a collection of all our memories of the natural landscapes that we have stepped on throughout these 8 years as a band: mountain ranges of northern Spain, French and Italian Alps, central European plains, … To move around the peninsula we always go through the same places, for example. This is something that gives us life. We love nature. But nature is changing, dynamic, it ages, it dies. Like people. From one year to another the site is different, nothing is the same. This for us goes beyond a simple photo. It reminds of the typical portrait of someone you see and who no longer lives. And everything has a meaning on this album: the cover, theme, title, … and it's exactly how you say it too. The whole theme is related to this visible and invisible border at the same time between autumn and winter. Like a temporary fusion which we are unable to see and distinguish the links, but we perceive them.

Looking at the artwork, which is quite atmospheric, with a spiritual kind of sense, I was wondering if is it a real place or rather a scenery that came through the mind of the artist? Why be so simplistic?

I can't tell you if it exists or not, but I prefer to live in ignorance. Play with that wow effect. It is true that, curiously, when we saw the cover, it reminded us of a landscape of our country that we have stepped on and seen. We were in a very similar place. Was it there? I really doubt it. But apart from that, the cover reminds us of that place and will play on our nostalgia forever. And we like the simplicity. We have been governed by that concept of "less is more" and elegance. Create an all-inclusive and contrasts. Simple cover but music loaded with elements. Like nature itself.

What made you reconnect with the coldness of Winter on this record? What was your main inspiration when it comes to the record’s ideals and philosophy?

I adore the fall. I can't help it. Many hate autumn and I don't understand why. So this record represents who I am and my adoration for the autumnal season; but not only is my admiration linked, but also that of my colleagues who largely think like me. From my side, all the bass recordings and lyrics completions were in the fall. I can't write the lyrics for Perennial Isolation in a month of August at 35 degrees (laughs). It is impossible. I have to get into the atmosphere. So I don't have to imagine; I have to step, touch and feel.

For the moment, the world is going through a phase, a kind of turmoil due to the pandemic going on. Do you find any connecting dots between the Covid-19 and the dreary atmosphere going on through “Portraits” or is it a rather means of escape from it all into a lonesome universe?

Wow… I hadn't thought of it like that. Certainly many could find links between the coldness or gloominess of the album and the global pandemic situation we are experiencing. Totally true. What's more, the concept of our name has more value than ever when associated with individual isolation or confinement these days. But no, the Covid-19 had not made a dent in the composition stage. And this is because the album began to be recorded at the beginning of 2019 and it was finished a few days before it fully impacted Barcelona (the city where we live). They confined us all one day after recording the last voices… we were lucky. So I think it may be a coincidence that the facts are linked to the setting of the album, but the theme, music and lyrics were created much earlier.

Following merits of Black Metal, as a guiding torch of black fire, Perennial Isolation has been coming and going, crossing the threshold time and time again by implementing elements of Post Metal and silky smooth melodic enchanters, all embraced by mystic twilight oozing emotiveness. It is a kind of romantic combination I might add. How do you feel that you guys developed through the songwriting phase of “Portraits”?

I think it's the most experimental album we've made so far. The four members have influences in common but many others lie in the borders of the establishment in terms of Atmospheric Black Metal. Without going any further, our drummer is in love with Doom Metal and 'Portraits' has many elements about it. We always try to take it to the realm of emotion, nostalgia and yes, of course, romanticism; but this is not something that we are necessarily looking for, it comes out naturally. When we compose those sounds and these elements come out. It is uncontrollable. We are ourselves. We like to talk and approach music like this. Sure, then you try to take it to something more pragmatic by including elements of each other's influences.

With mentioning the vastness of the market, there has been quite a rise over the years of atmospheric driven extreme Metal bands, not far from your spectrum. What do you think that makes “Portraits” an album that is off the grid, special in its own accord?

Within a band or at least for me, it is very difficult to know if the music you make has more differentiating points in terms of what is established within conventional Atmospheric Black Metal. Because in this particular genre, I see a lot of bands that sound or have very similar elements, but at the same time there are a lot of bands that have absolutely nothing to do with each other.

I try to compare, for example, the setting of bands like Skogen or Imperium Dekadenz with the proposal of Saor or Woods of Desolation. Now, breaking a lance for myself, I think we have a different sound. I say neither better nor worse. But different from what is commonly established as Atmospheric Black. We have always liked to go our own way, make the music that comes from within, regardless of the opinion of the great connoisseurs (are there any though?) I think there are no established rules within this genre. Look, without going any further, a characterizing element of ours is that we do not use large industrial amounts of Reverb (laughs) in fact the voices have very little reverberation. But, I insist, I think that ‘Portraits’ is different simply because we haven’t sought to resemble anyone, but simply to be ourselves.

One of the greatest attributes of the music on the record is that it is icy and wintery and the chilling feels that it generates. How were you able to find that angle, to tweak the music to convey the transcendent essence of the record?

This question would be perfectly answerable by our guitarist, I. Recently, in a streaming through Twitch, he explained to us that part of his way of obtaining settings or influences takes place through electronic music. But an important point to convey this feeling or the essence of winter is to play to imagine. You must imagine or even feel that cold, feel the environment and feel it in your hands. And then it's a matter of finding that sound that transmits to you the same. You know, effects, samplers, effects … You rebuild that feeling through sound. And then you add all the musicality and explain a story. Broadly speaking, it is our way of making music. For this occasion we wanted to be more atmospheric than ever, because the viewer has to feel what we feel.

Just an assumption, as I was listening to some of the songs, it sounded to me a couple of times as if you were on the verge of crying due to the high emotive overload of a particular song you were singing. After singing such emotional driven songs, what is the cause effect on you mentally? Do you connect yourself with the songs so strongly?

Atmospheric Black Metal gives me peace and balance in my daily life. I consider myself a happy person and this type of music does nothing but make me feel better. Now, I have emotional ups and downs, well like everyone else. Part of the lyrics are written in a stage of pain and sadness. So emotionally everything ended up connecting and clashing a bit: My personal situation, the lyrics, the music … I live the music we make a lot and very intensely. So if I have to cry in the middle of the recording I do it and I'm not ashamed to say it. Music is expressing feelings and if these feelings come up while the mic is on, I won't stop. This music is real, without artifice. If you have to cry, cry. Share it and impregnate your emotions in music, because that's why you do what you do. Just be natural and human.

Were there deliberations on perhaps adding clean / melodic vocals alongside the blackened growls for the record? If not, have you thought about adding it on perhaps your next material?

The use of melodic voices emerged for specific songs. This was a considered decision as a result of the fact that I am not qualified to sing cleanly and also that certain songs asked them to be included. So we looked for guests specialized in it who would give the emotional and clean charge we were looking for. Now, will there be more clean voices on upcoming albums? I am convinced of it! We were delighted to include this element. But in our case we always want to include it as a secondary and ornamental element. But time will tell.

What would you say were the main challenges in regards to the songwriting and recording phases of the record? If there were, how did you deal with them?

Guitars, definitely. The guitar work and harmonization on the album are overwhelming. M. and I. spent a lot of time on it. And I think it has been one of the biggest challenges on the album. Because without all the guitar architecture, in addition to the atmospheres, the other lines couldn't quite coincide. They did an excellent job. They are great musicians. And this is what I like about this team. Until it sounds perfect for all four of them, they’re not going to stop. But of course, obviously that also has a setback: the longer it takes, the more the composition process stretches, and that affected our original planning. We had to postpone entry to the final studio for 3 months. So these 3 months we work with great intensity and without rest. Sometimes that pressure point is necessary to achieve what you want.

 “Through Fire Upon Fire” is quite the blast beater, a sweeping speedster with an addictive traditional Black Metal styled riff, it is hard not to be taken by it. What is your appreciation of this track?

Thanks for your appreciation! Funny how the world perceives songs. The ones that some may love, others simply value it as one more added track. I think it's a very good song. It has a lot of strength as you say and yes, with elements of conventional Black Metal. I adore the aggressiveness that the lyrics give off with the “Folk” touch of the music. But I feel more identified with other songs that perhaps touch a chord more for what they deal with, such as "The Silent Solace".

Adding that fine layer of contemporary direction of the extreme, there is fantastic melodic “Unceasing Sorrows From the Vastness' Scion”, bearing such a cryptic kind of title as well. What can you tell about this song’s creation and its enigmatic title?

This song has a very personal value for me. It is a tribute to my ex-mother-in-law who passed away in the final stage of composition. It was a very hard time for my ex-partner and me. Everything turned gray. I remember my ex-partner saying to my face with tears in her eyes: "… what am I going to do now without my mother?" So I could only answer her: "go ahead …". I remember it was a very cloudy stage. This, the delay of the album, the uncertainty of a pandemic that was growing … Here is the reason why there is so much emotional load in certain songs as you pointed out several questions back. Many things got together and exploded in the middle of the recording. So "Unceasing …" is simply a metaphor that symbolizes a mother wolf who dies and leaves her offspring out in the open on the snowy plains to keep walking and survive.

Creating such a fine atmosphere, no doubt you made “Emanations from the Swallowed Twilight” to become the finisher of this album. It captures the band’s diverse core of music. What is the impact of this track on the album?

I think it's one of the most special songs on the album. With an impeccable and tragic ending by Josep Brunet on vocals Helevorn. It is a conclusive clue. With a theme as real as that nature follows its course and we will be here to contemplate its return. Winter ends and spring starts. Die and be reborn. But. Will we really be here? Watch the sunset and think… Will I see it again tomorrow? Everything has a reason in this song and it is to play with the concept of "Carpe Diem". Seize the moment; take advantage of your time. We are temporary here. Tomorrow you may no longer be there to see the sun again.

Leaving not too many chances to perform live nowadays, how do you see the promotional process of the record with the absence of any live action?

Indeed, live music has an important weight for the promotion of an album. And this right now is in a dormant state. We can't wait for all of this to end and play live again. No, we don't work like that. We have an album to defend and if we have to reinvent ourselves or innovate in the promotion lines, we will. In fact, we are already doing it since we are going heavily for streaming and video. Today's technology allows you to work wonders. This situation has its positive side and it is the creativity of the artists as a survival tool. We totally distance ourselves from the orthodoxy of certain styles of Extreme Metal in terms of: normal concerts or nothing. If we have to do streaming concerts, we will. In fact, the presentation of ‘Portraits’ is going to be like this. If we have to do concerts with the audience seated or several sessions, we will do it too.

Albert, I wish to thank you for your time and effort for this interview. Thank you for such a wonderful cold as it can be kind of a record, a fine piece of music to be listening to in February no doubt. Cheers sir.

Thanks to you for your time and for your words in regards to ‘Portraits’. It's going to be a good year for us. I am convinced. Stay safe, thanks for your work and support for the bands and labels!


 



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