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Igor Leiva & Claudio Carrasco (Poema Arcanvs)

Interview with Igor Leiva & Claudio Carrasco from Poema Arcanvs
by Justin Wittenmeier at 02 October 2020, 6:50 AM

POEMA ARCANVS is a gothic Death/Doom band from Chile who have gained a legendary status from their years of putting out solid albums within the doom scene.  They formed in 1992 under the name GARBAGE but in 1997 they changed their name to their current moniker.  I reviewed heir latest album, “Stardust Solitude,” and gave it praise for being “ incredibly emotional, melancholy drench Gothic doom.”  Metal Temple writer Justin Wittenmeier was lucky enough to be able to speak with guitarist Igor and vocalist Claudio on a variety of subjects, including the Chilean doom scene.

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America and England gave birth to the doom scene in the 80s and early 90s. It seems like a nice country but Chile probably doesn't come to mind to most when thinking of doom metal. How did the idea of playing and forming the band come about? What bands influenced you to give it a shot? Were there any bands outside the usual doom circles that inspired you?

C: Yes, probably when thinking in doom or even in metal in general, one is prejudiced to first think in traditional metal countries. But let me say, there are a lot of great metal acts worldwide, and talking about Doom, Chile has currently a great reputation, so in the other hand it might even appeal to some metalheads listening to a band coming from the end of the world, where we have besides, a solid and prolific Doom Metal scene. About the other question, we began to rehearse with Igor, the only original member with me, in 1992 when we met at school doing tape trading. By that period there were very few bands playing Doom Death so it was an unexplored territory to start discovering as a new band. We had a mixture of styles in our first demos, having death and grind songs but too a totally Doom song called "Errant Souls". In one moment we realised that doom-ish songs suited us better, in terms of less creative boundaries than the typical death grind or thrash styles. So naturally, we began to create more and more Doom songs and with it, came the final change of name to Poema Arcanvs. About the influences of the band, apart from Candlemass in the metal scene I have to mention The Fields of the Nephilim as a big influence to write and play dark music.

Musically speaking, what was it like in Chile when doom was coming into its own? Was there much of a metal scene (doom or otherwise) back then?

C:As I said before, in these days there were very few bands playing Doom worldwide and especially in Chile, actually only 2: “BEWITCHED” and “MISCHIEVOUS AUGURY”. The first one was a band from Santiago, our same city, which mixed traditional Doom with Black and Mercyful Fate/King Diamond influences, they released a demo in 1992 that could be labeled as Doom related. The second one, was a band from a nearby city, which released a Doom Death demo in 1993. On those days the Death Metal scene was very active, and the gigs were limited to one or two per month, for the same reason support was very good. So when we appeared in the scene and began to play doomy songs, there were diverse reactions but in general, headbangers showed us their respect, I think because of our brutal roots. In a way or another we opened the way for the next generations of Doomsters bands and currently as I said before, we have a healthy and prolific scene, plenty of great bands.

What of the scene now? Do you guys see yourselves as the torch bearers for Chilean metal?

C: No no… we are just old headbangers who like to play the best and most original metal we can.  Before us, there were a lot of acts which paved the way for the next generations. Many bands here, have had a lot of success in the worldwide scene and they totally bear the torch! We are below trying to help with our grain of sand to keep the black flame burning.

Moonspell have said being from Portugal was an advantage, they felt it made them stand out as being one of the few bands of that style from that country. Has being from Chile been an advantage to you? Had you been based somewhere else, do you imagine anything that could be different in some way?

C:I don't think so, because as I told you, the Chilean Doom scene is pretty healthy and bands like Procession, Mar de Grises or Mourning Sun, have been very successful in the worldwide Doom scene. They came after us but they have come very far in foreign countries, even more than in the local scene, so in our case we aren't the only band playing this style, maybe one of the first old bands which is still playing Doom, you know. So no, we don't think it is an advantage, especially in the beginning, there was a lot of prejudice in the labels and probably in some metalheads too. Maybe in the past, having been based in a European country could have been very useful to get tours more easily and get good contacts. Here, at the ass of the world, it was very difficult in the past to move the band outside our frontiers, nowadays with the internet and all this technology, it is certainly easier.

Everyone gives such a great performance but the bass was something that really stood out to me. I feel like a lot of doom bands just use the bass a low end or a foundation but “Stardust Solitude” has bass that just pops and has actual riffs. Were the songs written around the bass or the bass lines created first?

C: The predominance of the bass guitar came from the beginning because of our influences from Voivod, where the bass is almost a guitar. I think the achieved result in the last album is something that we always wanted, but we never had optimized as in the last album. As I have said in other interviews, this bass sound wall is the best result of all the albums we have recorded and certainly is something we are proud of. About the composition process the songs are written mostly around the guitar riffs created by Igor and Luis, and particularly the bass usually is added after that, but this method could change as we have a permanent bass player from 2 years ago and he is contributing some ideas currently.

I:I have to add that this time we had consciously decided that we wouldn’t use any synths in “Stardust Solitude”, and we never write guitar parts for more than one guitar (because we want to sound as close as possible to our live performances), so the challenge was to make the bass guitar become that missing second guitar, and also to make it cover a lot of sonic ground, specially when there is a guitar solo which needs a substantial background to sit on top of. As Claudio says, we always had a similar approach towards bass guitar, but this is the first time that we achieved the exact sound that was in our heads.

One aspect I love about “Stardust Solitude” is that although it is definitely layered with Gothic and melancholic tones, it isn't overly depressing like a lot of doom and I found the lyrics to be more poetic and engaging on a storytelling level. Is this something you strive for to be different or is this just built into you naturally as a writer?

I: For this album I got to write all of the lyrics, hence my reply About the lyrical approach, well… maybe it is something that just comes with age. I’m neither an overly depressed, nor a super cheerful person myself, so if I started writing that kind of lyrics it would not be totally honest. Of course I’ve written some overly dramatic lyrics when I was young, and that’s fine (although I still do cringe a little when I revisit them); but nowadays I just couldn’t write something I’m not totally into. Since a few albums already, on the lyrics I’ve written I’ve tried to avoid the doom and Gothic clichés, and tried to pursue, with varying degrees of success, some kind of dry poetry instead, without any flamboyant language or images; and addressing subjects from real life without any sugar coating. I mean, life is quite fucked up already and you don’t need to search too deep to find interesting topics which are basically asking to be addressed through this “dry poetry”

In this particular case, from reading about the origin of the universe, quantum physics, time and space interactions and that kind of topics, you inevitably start feeling alone and insignificant in such huge and incomprehensible universe. Suddenly the entire history of humanity looks like a tiny non- transcendent anecdote suspended into this infinite and mysterious void, not to talk about our little personal histories, concerns, feelings and miseries. That was the starting point for this not so linear story. The tone of the lyrics in this case was heavily influenced by Andréi Tarkovsky and Ray Bradbury, both of which in my opinion are masters of this kind of cold, dry poetry.

“Stardust Solitude” is your first album in 8 years. Why such a long gap in between releases? Do you think having the long time between allowed for a great album?

C: Eight years was a lot of time, and the reasons were a lot too… from line up issues that pushed us to re-write several songs, personal situations which kept some of us from dedicating ourselves to the band as much as we wanted, the search of a new label, the scheduling and coordination with the new label and finally the pandemic. Everything added time and difficulties to the process, so here we are, eight years after the previous album but with a "strong will nature" one. Indeed looking in retrospective and being positive, I think we learned a lot and specially we had the time to improve both the songs and the production, so maybe all of these things made 'Stardust Solitude" a better album than what it could have been, without all that noise and suffering (hahahaha).

I:I gotta add that the song rewriting process was carried out by just Luis and I, with Claudio being away for personal issues and with no bass player at the time, so everything ended up taking much longer than normal, as our rehearsal room dynamics changed completely, and every time we wanted to make any little change it ended up being a tiresome and cumbersome task.

“Stardust Solitude” is getting excellent reviews from many outlets. Does it feel like sort of a comeback album? Regardless, I imagine it feels bad releasing such a masterful album and not being able to tour on it.

C: Mmmmmm yes and not hahaha. The truth is that almost a life passed between “Transient Chronicles” and "Stardust Solitude”, in my case I became a father 2 times and changed jobs 4 times, I had a couple of health issues and certainly I was away for a couple of periods due to all these situations… So yes, it could feel like a comeback, but on the other hand, Igor and Luis continued rehearsing and polishing the songs until I was ok and after a serious chat, we decided to seek for a new bassist, Juan. So, we had a lot of problems with the line up, labels, rehearsal rooms and stuff like that, but finally we achieved the goal and we are very proud of the result, the feedback from our fans and the media. And yes, it’s a pity we couldn't tour with this album this year but we hope to do it next year and we are already booked for Dutch Doom Days, because this year the promoters cancelled it. You must know we had an entire tour booked starting at the Metal Gates Festival in Bucharest and closing after three weeks touring at the Dutch Doom Days in Rotterdam. We had almost everything booked, so cancelling was a big letdown, but I think as the new album has worked very well, it could help us to achieve better gigs and maybe 2 or 3 more guys in the audiences (hahaha).

Special thanks to the guys for giving such detailed answers! POEMA ARCANVS’ latest full length “Stardust Solitude,” was released on August 28th, 2020 thru Transcending Obscurity Records.  Links to purchase and listen to the album can be found below.

Transcending Obscurity:

https://tometal.com/

Bandcamp:

https://poemaarcanvsdoom.bandcamp.com/album/stardust-solitude-doom-metal

Spotify:

https://open.spotify.com/artist/04DJuyh1BhoPisrAoYA69s?si=iCGY_dbsSF26-YUF26Sovw

Facebook:

https://www.facebook.com/PoemaArcanvs



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