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The Book's Torham: "80s Metal has no computer tricks, no plasticity. Just raw art, raw power that drives you forward. Which can be both very dark and very epic"

Interview with Torham from The Book
by Lior "Steinmetal" Stein at 03 July 2022, 10:45 PM

Mysticism, symbols, ancient rituals, through the enticing power of Metal music, on its earlier stage of the 80s, are cause for exploration and understanding. To find the true essence of the music, it takes a lot, as if a deep dive is needed in order to embrace the magic. Old schoolers ought to comprehend what this means, yet there is always an opening for the modern types to rally. The Czech Metallers, The Book, have been immersed by the golden age of Metal music, not just because they are fans, but for the quest. In light of the band's new album, “Forgotten Art Of Old”, Steinmetal sat down with Torham about the experience.

Hello Torham, it is great to have you for this conversation with Metal Temple online Magazine, how are things going on your end?

Hello Lior, thank you for the opportunity for this interview. I will try my best to answer your interesting questions. And how are things going? I’m enjoying, as Whitesnake might say, the best
years of my life!

It has always been a great pleasure of mine to get to know new bands, and I must say that The Book made quite an impression, in particular with its strong intentions in rehashing the darker side of 80s Heavy Metal. Other than your inner wish to fulfil the vision of old, what can you tell about the foundation of the band, its image, and the incentive for you guys to start it?

Well, we started the band with a drummer Sarapis immediately after the break-up of our previous group Žrec. It was folk metal, where a lot of different arrangements were needed, like keyboards and folk instruments. I dare say that in the end we were very inclined to make the music rawer, so it was logical that after the end of the band we wanted to fulfill this desire immediately. That was in 2018. But we didn't want to limit ourselves to the boundaries of metal genres, so we simply played as we thought. However, since we have years of experience listening to more traditional metal bands, it naturally boiled into us in the form you had the opportunity to hear.

Interestingly, we initially chose the name Ophion to express more our primordial and mythological image, or rather the aura. During this phase, I had a dream of playing in a Greek amphitheatre at a metal festival. But somehow they forgot about us and the unknown band The Book performed instead. Next day, I went to other members and I immediately suggested renaming, but I failed. Out of nowhere, however, the band Ophion appeared in the metal underground with their debut album and label, while we didn't record anything. So after a short while we logically turned to the title The Book.

Aside from Bathory, which is a clear influence, what further influences are part of the identity that is The Book?

Since I started listening to music on Black Sabbath, their riffing and atmosphere are still holding me very tight. I feel similar vibes from old Slayer albums or even Rotting Christ demos. In general, Greek black metal absorbed a lot of heavy metal elements, which constantly inspires me. The lyrics of such bands speak of dark occult rituals, but somehow I feel the presence of that ancient European culture in their music. In the band, we are also fans of 70’s hard rock and prog rock music.

And often in interviews I forget about an important band for me. It's Celtic Frost. You can hear some totally CF inspired riffs on Sacrificer or Ancient steel. A few people also hear the Czech Legend Root or the traditional NWOBHM Angel Witch in us, which is of course an honour and inspiration for us for future recordings.

Let’s talk about that darker patch within 80s Heavy Metal. In a way, I believe that it showed immense potential, as Metal music, and darkness, are a match. What form of magic, so to speak do you personally find in that direction within the golden age of the genre?

As one wise person would say: Satan. No, I'm just kidding because I've never felt like a Satanist. I think that form of magic is a kind of natural organicity. 80s Metal has no computer tricks, no plasticity. Just raw art, raw power that drives you forward. Which can be both very dark and very epic. And I feel in old bands a lot of insanity and possession in a good way. No fundamentalism, just expression of free will.

From what I read, it appears that the pandemic didn’t really have any effect on the band’s continuity, especially since these last couple of years hadn’t been easy on anyone. How were you able to keep The Book intact, and also working on material, throughout that period of time? Did that pandemic had an effect on your mental state, or perhaps lowered your motivation to do anything?

Personally, I think that when the pandemic closed us at home, we had plenty of time to use our creativity and think about the band more deeply. Especially me. For example, when writing lyrics, I need to completely immerse myself. Of course, we took care of our health, and if someone felt sick, we didn't risk anything and just cancelled the rehearsals or recordings. But when everyone was fine, we fucked all these restrictions. So I think during this pandemic bullshit we stayed strong in our minds.

After proving that there is a strong suite going on, with your previous EP / Single, "Sculptures of the Gods", you teamed up with Rafchild Records, for the release of your debut album, “Forgotten Art Of Old”. With the album being out for a month, how have been the responses to its emergence?

We have good reviews mostly on German webzines, we were also played by radio in Australia, our friends like the record very much, so we are more than satisfied. But this is just the beginning, and there are a lot of steps to do.

I found the title of the album, “Forgotten Art Of Old”, to be both mystic and majestic at the same time. There is a story being told here, even if not in a form of concept, that intrigued me. What can you tell about the title, from what it derived? What is its meaning?

The title came from one verse in the last song Master of the dawn: “By the altar - forgotten art of old - the young poet stood unshaken and bold.” Here, the story explicitly states that it is an ancient sacred place used for rituals. We actually see a similar thing on the cover of the record. Four stone statues stand by a dilapidated majestic portal into which the blood-red sun (or moon, if you want) enters. Through this symbolism, the name secretly expresses that we are looking for a kind of mythical golden age in which man fulfilled his divine essence. Gradually, by involution, man lost this essence and we are trying to transform ourselves to get this essence back. You mentioned the Golden age of the metal genre which is also a great metaphor for all of this. Because we are also seeking for a great old metal sound and majestic atmosphere of the past where metal was a pure lifestyle.

What can you relay in regards to your personal connection with the album’s philosophical path? How are your set of values, as a person, integrated with the spiritual sense of the record?

A very delicate question. It is about finding a way (or walking a path) to transform yourself. I will give you an example. Song Ancient steel is about a ritual where blood and sacred metals are melted together to fill your heart with whatever you want, but in this case it’s a passion for metal music which is metaphorically formed into some sort of weapon, Excalibur, Orcrist, Spear of destiny etc. And you have to sacrifice a lot in your life to fulfil all of this.

For me, this way and transformation can be the creation of music, writing lyrics and playing concerts. 3 different activities or disciplines. I admit that their mastery is out of reach for me and it’s still forging. But that’s challenging and cathartic at the same time.

In your opinion, is there a direct, or indirect, connection between the themes of “Forgotten Art Of Old” to our very own reality? Would you say that you intended to imply anything to the current state of affairs worldwide?

Like any music, this album aims to invite and keep you present while listening. Therefore, even the lyrics are full of universal symbols that should mentally enrich a person. I don't know if this will help anyone in the fight for life and death, for example. However, ads, corporations or consumption will not help in this fight at all. The affair is, therefore, a person's own path, own exception of free will and soulfulness as a revolt against the modern world.

The signature of a traditional form of Doom Metal was the first thing that crossed my mind when I started listening to “Forgotten Art Of Old”, nevertheless, it didn’t stop there. Forms of classic Heavy Metal up towards an extreme image rose to power and made their mark as well, and in such a way that the twists are near pitch perfect. What is your take on the fusion going on musically on “Forgotten Art Of Old”?

It's simple. We like a lot of metal genres and therefore we don't want to stay with just one. At such a phase, the music often turns to the complicated avant-garde, while we want to play what we like, what is good to listen to, and what we are happy to return to. Best of all, it came naturally. We didn't have to say things like: “Now it needs something more heavy metal, because the rest sounds too thrash metal.”

The songwriting of the record is quite varied, there isn’t a particular search for the hook, but also to demonstrate the diversity within the traditional spectrum. What can you tell about the songwriting process of the record?

Usually I come up with basic riffs and we put them together in the rehearsal room. The drummer is already inventing his parts, just like the bassist. We usually record the process on a Dictaphone so that we can think about it at home. In the meantime, an idea comes to my mind as to what the song might be about, and with that come the first verses. But sometimes the opposite is true. The lyrics also come with melodies and phrasing of the singing, which the singer then adjusts to his liking. Well, nothing special, we just do it like most bands in the world. Except the Dictaphone.

Which aspects, within the songwriting process, were emphasized rather than others? What was important to you personally to include on the album, that it couldn’t be left without?

For me personally, it was the creation of an atmosphere of those extinct teachings and ancient mythical worlds naturally combined with the so-called old school metal. But as is common in the creative process, not everything is as one thinks. Despite our readiness, a lot of things were created in the studio, which changed a lot of details.

Reviving the 80s Heavy Metal stream in a spectacular way is no less than “Sacrificer”. The song was originally released on the single of 2021, and added to the full-length album. This is an example to the catchier tune that is bound to have people ticked. What is your appreciation of this track?

I love traditional doom metal, so not putting its elements on the album would be a sin. We can't stay with one genre, so riffs similar to the Celtic Frost style and the implementation of heavy metal harmonies seemed to us to be an excellent and actually quite obscure journey. We definitely want to develop this recipe in the future as well. For us Sacrificer is a very good song to play live. This is also proved by the fact that we want to release its rehearsal version as a bonus for the MC release of our album.

Your cover version for Bathory’s “Man Of Iron” reflects a lot of emotion, such a feel that clings to the entire album to be honest. How do you perceive your version of this great song? What were you trying to express through the cover, other than paying tribute to a fanned artist?

Above all, we wanted to prove that doing a cover version is different than just taking someone else’s song and playing it. I remember going on a hike somewhere and I came up with the construction of the song, which should start similarly to Manowar. That's how I think covers should be done. I mean not starting as Manowar but just take the base of the song and imprint a different face on it and not just copy a hundred times played. Of course, the lyrics of the song suited us conceptually. Again, it’s about transformation of the individual.

The finishing touch of the record, the epic “Master Of The Dawn”, is multi-faced tune, it shares the capabilities of what The Book can do, and it appears that it can do wonders in such a strong track. It has a punch, but also creates a wonderful atmosphere. What can you tell about the creative process of this track? How do you find its impact on the band’s music?

Yes, this song is my favorite, because it listens well, but at the same time it was also a challenging playing experience for us. As I recall, we also composed it last, so we imprinted the most experience with previous songs. I remember playing the refrain melody at home and recorded a second parallel melody to it. I kept playing it around, and when I closed my eyes, I saw a vast landscape over which the sun rose. The phrasing of the words "master of the dawn" instilled in me, and I already knew that this song had to be about that, but at the time I had no idea what it could all mean.

We've been talking about darkness here, but so far I'm only talking about the light itself. In this vision, I perceived the light-bearing myth of Prometheus or Lucifer. But it depends on the point of view, what is the meaning of light and darkness for each one of us. All that remained was to come up with the rest of the riffs, which took place mainly in the rehearsal room. I remember we were a long way from the finals for a long time, but we felt so close to the finish. Because it was a challenge, everyone participated in it as a composer, and that strengthened us as a team.

Once the entire proceedings of “Forgotten Art Of Old” was finished, which overall was quite the experience, what can you say that you learned from this entire process, whether about yourself as a musician, a songwriter, and as a band member?

I mainly learned that it works! I mean that I can compose and play riffs or solos that I never dreamed of before. The same about lyrics. In my life, I have not composed any lyrics in English nor symbolic and meaningful. Now I know that I can make it, even develop it and that The Book has moved me further in my possibilities. But all this could not be done in mental discomfort. So I have to thank all the current members of the band, with whom we function as perfect friends.

From what I noticed, you already started working on your sophomore album, any details that you can share about ideas, perhaps direction of music that it might entail with it?

Sure, I'm happy to share the news. The album is of course at the very beginning, but we already have one song ready for live performance. It's called Ophitic Vibrations. In addition, we brought our longtime friend and excellent guitarist Kubyk to the party, so we are looking forward to the sounds we get from this cooperation. The album will definitely be much darker (both musically and lyrically), as we have found that our singer enjoys more doom-like tones and can portray even epic-sounding "suffering". And we fully enjoy it.

Looking to the rest of 2022, is there a plan to support “Forgotten Art Of Old” in any way, maybe festivals or short tours?

Yes, we are planning concerts in the autumn, but so far only in the Czech Republic, specifically on 28.10. in Pilsen and 29.10. Brno. As the main star, we invited the German Lynx, whose album Watcher of skies is an instant classic. Unfortunately, we won't have time for summer festivals, and I really don't mind at the moment. We will rather focus on new songs.

Torham, many thanks for your input on this conversation, I was glad to get to know The Book, and you left quite an impression with this debut. All the best

Thanks again and all the best also for you Lior and for Metal Temple. Keep the metal hearts fulfilled.


 



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