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Vermocracy's Andreas Huber: "My personality sometimes demands to break out from this happy, diatonic Melodic Death sound…"

Interview with Andreas Huber from Vermocracy
by Lior "Steinmetal" Stein at 01 December 2022, 9:27 PM

The end is nigh, deterioration is at work, perhaps not at its peak, but it is there, smiling with an evil grimace. Whether true or not, mankind is walking the plank, yet nobody really knows how long is that fragile wooden plank. It is up to the people to wake up and smell the roses, or the bad smell in order to wake up. Hailing from Vienna, Austria, the Melodic Death Metal band, Vermocracy, aren't really optimistic, and their new album, "Age Of Dysphoria", shows just that. Steinmetal had to know more and had a talk with the band's Andreas Huber, stay tuned.  

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

Hi, Thanks for the invitation! I think, we'll answer this first question in detail during the interview.

Things haven’t been easy on people in the last couple of years. The events and happenings that were part of our lives, are deeply connected to what Vermocracy has been referring to in its songs, the sense of hopelessness. In your opinion, what are those connections and how do you relate to them personally?

Generally speaking, our music and lyrics refer to different aspects of humanity in a pessimistic way. Reading the news, looking back in history, drawing conclusions for the future, or just exploring our innermost – Reality offers a plenty of content we use as a blueprint for our images.

Continuing your Death Metal in melody journey, after an impressive debut album, you recently released your sophomore album, "Age Of Dysphoria". Come to think of it, and I am guessing, it was written at the heart of the pandemic, quite the influential resort, ironically speaking. Due to all the restrictions going on, generally, wasn’t it quite a difficulty to work on the record for the band?

Ironically, I used the word dysphoric for some of the working process in our last interview :). But the pandemic was definitely not the main reason for the choice of the albums name and its content.

The first album was released at the beginning of 2020. Retrospectively, this was not the best idea but nobody in this world saw this coming. We didn't have a release show and no opportunity to promote the album live. Nevertheless, it helped a lot to get the attention of some labels. At this time, we already had about 2 and a half new songs and we decided to record 3 demo songs. We were very excited when Black Sunset MDD showed interest and decided to record a second album. From this point on, there was no way back.

For me personally, the songwriting process was really hard because my life during the lock-downs mostly consisted of home-office, beer and bad news. All sources of inspiration like personal contacts, rehearsals, concerts, gigs etc. were gone from one day to another.

Fortunately, Stella, my guitar and songwriting counterpart, provided plenty of riffs and song ideas we could work out and I'm quite satisfied with the result.

Speaking of restrictions, and I know that this pandemic menace also had quite the mental effect on people, how were you able to sustain the chemistry within the band? How did these time periods at home work out for you?

Everyone had his/her own challenges to deal with. The most difficult time was when even rehearsals where prohibited. It's quite hard to explain a musical idea sending around GuitarPro files or writing emails. We are all friends and need the exchange musically and personally. My greatest fear was that one of us (including myself) will give up. But we survived and are planning to go further.

Heading back to "Age Of Dysphoria", it is another word game going on, similar to the band’s name actually. I assume that it is dystopia meets euphoria, which is a critical fusion, a deadly one even. In your view, in light of this title, and I know that it didn’t just surface, where are we heading with this? Is it the end in sight?

First, I have to mention that this word is a medical term and means something like the opposite of euphoria. The end? The question is for whom or what, when and how you define the end. As far as I know, this planet will exist for about another 5 billion years. Regarding humanity - There are so many challenges mankind is confronted with like the environment, wars, the rise of authoritarian thinking, the believe in eternal economic growth, technology developing faster than societies can cope with etc. OK - that was somehow chaotic but that were the first things in a long list that immediately came to my mind. What I can definitely say is that there will be major changes within the next years and decades and I'm not very optimistic about that.

You talk about the decay of modern society, yet, there are those saying that we actually learned something about ourselves as people, in particular when we had a virus running around. People actually showed companionship. Is there a conflict there, or rather the decay is stronger than our ability to improve ourselves?

The pandemic was a perfect example how easy societies can be split into two groups. There was a lot of dogmatism, instrumentalisation and misinformation poisoning the public discourse. I'm really glad that this seems to be over for the moment.

My personal feeling is that societies (or democracies) with large inequalities have the tendency to slip into authoritarian systems. I see wealth and decadence on one side and poverty on the other. Public institutions like solidary social systems, health care, retirement plans or education are reduced, disestablished or privatized. This is the perfect breeding ground for totalitarian thinking and the next reactionary dazzler is standing in line telling the people what they want to hear, to push through his or her power-hungry agenda. But this not only applies to modern societies.

The difference in modern societies is that profit oriented companies and their algorithms are additionally adding fuel to the fire, creating needs and opinions for their own purpose. The fact that all kind of information is available at any time and everywhere speeds up this process.

I'm aware that there are so many other aspects I didn't mention or I don't even know about but more would go far beyond the scope of this interview.

Looking at the artwork, and there is a recurring motif of what looks like a remainder of a human being plugged to a machine. But on "Age Of Dysphoria" it is even worse, there is no person, just a shred of a face and with a scenery that is the end of life. What can you tell about the vision that led Armin Stocker? Would you say that the end result shocked you at first glance?

We asked Armin Stocker, a good friend of us, if he would do our second album artwork at the time when we recorded the first 3 demo songs, which were Grace of Hypnos, World of Wounds, and Necrocracy, as far as I remember. I didn't ask him about his thoughts but retrospectively it fits the three songs perfectly. A damaged world, war and the wish for eternal sleep. Also, the continuation of the first artwork and the consequently ongoing decay of the protagonist’s face seemed perfect to us. When I saw his first draft, I was shocked by its beauty, if we want to stick to this word.

From there on, it grew and got more detailed. The only thing we had to do was to choose the background colour, in the end. I can't thank this amazing artist enough for this perfect visual interpretation of our music.

Following the notion that we are all doomed, and there is probably no way to stop this train from moving, do you still think that we might have a chance to become better as people, as a social order?

I wouldn't say we are all doomed, despite we are all going to die at some point. I'd appreciate a better social order, but I don't have a clue how to realistically do that. Besides, trying to radically create a utopia is dangerous in my opinion.

The mid to late 90s are shining bright within the band’s music on "Age Of Dysphoria", treading areas that cross with intense groove, powerful riffing and melodies with plenty of conviction. I can scream out early In Flames but it wouldn’t be just it, there is more to it. From what I can gather, you tried to break the circle of being merely on the Melodic Death labelling. What is your take on the musicianship level on the record in contrast to the debut?

On the first album, all songs were written by me with help of our drummer Roman within about 7 years. At the time, we were building up the band and it took a long time to find this perfect band line-up we are having, since the first album.

Naturally, all of us have different musical influences. The 90ies and early 2000s Melodic Death Metal is something that we agreed on, in the first place. When Stella joined, shortly before the recording our first album, a lot of her guitar playing, which is heavily riff based, was integrated into our music. Michael is a very versatile vocalist whose voice ranges from deepest growls up to Black Metal shrieks. Roman is definitely influenced by Iron Maiden and Hannes (Bass) started out in the late 80ies with old school Death Metal. We try to integrate every member's uniqueness, as good as possible. I hope, there will be some point where people say we sound like Vermocracy and not like anything else.

Mentioning that briefly on the previous question, there is the songwriting. To be honest, other than a lot of Melodic Death Metal of the early age, it didn’t sound to me that you went for the hook, but flash in with great playing. Therefore I ask, would you say that "Age Of Dysphoria" in general is a riff based album? What was your initial vision for the written music?

Riffs are definitely an important element used on this album but only riffs would be quite boring for us and our listeners. There is no particular initial vision besides getting rid of the chaos every new song brings, in the beginning. Maybe there's a recurrent theme we want to follow which is getting as much as possible out of our few instruments with hardly any artificial effects.

One thing that can take you away from the basic comparisons is the darkened nature of the music. Sure, it feels like what Melodic Death Metal used to sound like in the 90s, yet that flavor of pitch black or mysterious grey is right there. What can you tell about that element in your music and how did it serve you well on the songs?

First of all, I'm very thankful to recognize how detailed you studied our music. I have my roots in Black Metal too and in my youth one of my favourite bands was Opeth. Not being an actual Black Metal band but using this element a lot. My personality sometimes demands to break out from this happy, diatonic Melodic Death sound. Harmonically, dis-harmonic elements like only moving around minor chords or using scales like halftone-wholetone scale can create great tension demanding release – depending on our mood, we either allow that release or not. From the rhythmical point of view, dark, two-voiced Black Metal shredding is one opportunity to break out from the excessive riffing you mentioned before.

One outlier on this album which serves some of those clichés is the last song called “In Darkness Let Me Dwell”. It's a Death Metal interpretation of a John Dowland song, written for voice and lute in the early 17th century. Michael loves this kind of music and told me he would like to do a reinterpretation of this song. I liked the song and especially the lyrics, so I tried to put the song in a Death Metal context which was a big challenge, especially because musicians hardly were using bars, in this era. Lyrically, there was no need for change because none of us could ever write such hopeless and beautiful words like two unknown persons almost 400 years ago.

We talked about the darkened feature, and also about the music being on a different level. Now, when it comes to finding that right integration between the lyrics and the music, how were you able to accommodate both? How were you able to find that cohesion?

Normally, when it comes to the lyrics, the song is almost finished, instrumentally. In some cases, Michael has an association, meaning the lyrics are inspired by the song. In other situations, there is some content he wants to deliver and he applies it to the existing song. If needed, I write lyrics but they are just content to be refined by the vocalist. The first rhythmic integration of the lyrics is done by Michael because guitar players normally don't have a clue how to do that, or are just not interested in this kind of work.

For “Age of Dysphoria” Michael joined forces with his girlfriend Bettina Neustifter who is in fact a talented writer. She helped us to find the right words and to realise our lyrical ideas.

Earlier on, I mentioned the difficulties with the pandemic. It is possible to write songs on your own, yet to rehearse those as a band, along with actually recording afterwards, now that is a challenge on its own. With that said, how were you able to push forward in order to complete the album, while there are restrictions going on outside?

Yes, it's possible but as I mentioned before, it is very difficult without direct interaction, repetition, reflection and feedback. Furthermore, I needed some kicks up my ass by my bandmates to get active.

Before we bring a song to the rehearsal room, we have to write it down and practice, anyway. But that's just the instrumental part. We hardly had any opportunity to rehearse with vocals because we've finished the instrumentals shortly before the recordings. This led to some difficulties within the recording process because we didn’t communicate all our ideas in advance. But that's just another lesson learned how to maintain band chemistry.

Usually I pick a track, or two, from the record, and try to understand it. Nonetheless, this time around, I am going to ask you just that. Which of the songs, and it can be more than one, do you wish to share your opinions, or impressions, and recollections about?

Musically: Grace of Hypnos and Necrocracy, Lyrically: Opposed evolution – I wrote the lyrics for this song – consequently, I sometimes can identify with them

Just recently you performed in a release show for "Age Of Dysphoria" at the Escape in Vienna, what can you tell about the show? How was it for you?

It's not the first time we've played at the Escape Metalcorner but we've never had such an enthusiastic crowd. People were headbanging, moshing, screaming, holding up lighters and even dancing. Thanks to everyone who supported us that evening. Special thanks to our supporting bands namely:

Schänder (Klagenfurt, Austria)
Dismal Lumentis (Vienna, Austria) and
Infest (Belgrad, Serbia)

Talking about the live element, do you have additional plans to perform in order to support the record properly?

We had a concert in Graz and the week afterwards in Klagenfurt. In December we have a show at a festival at the Escape Metalcorner, Vienna, again. We are planning to do some gigs outside Austria, next year.

Andreas, it was good to have you for this interview, I wish you all the best and thank you for the reminder of how Melodic Death Metal should sound. Cheers

I take this as a great compliment and, and thanks Lior for the interesting and Vermocracy related questions



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