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Ildaruni's Robert Meliksetyan: "The hungering urge to create, to dive deeper into music and to channel the inner zealous flame, drive us forward and spark eagerness to see the seeds of our efforts realized"

Interview with Robert Meliksetyan from Ildaruni
by Lior "Steinmetal" Stein at 11 April 2021, 12:33 AM

Enriching the ties between Metal music and history has been done in various of ways throughout the years. Band learned the arts of storytelling through their music, and it appears that the only way is up. Each culture on Earth has its own point of view and a story to tell that people would realize how reach is this world we are living in. No doubt, once again, that Metal music serves as the plate for the occasion, because let's face it, the mainstream can never comprehend a heritage of a legacy of a people. Ildaruni, hailing from Armenia, one of the new players in extreme Metal, unchained their wits to create a stellar story, unveiling the mystery of their past as a folk. Due to the newly released “Beyond Unseen Gateways”, Steinmetal had a chance to talk to Robert Meliksetyan of the band for a talk about the band, the new album coming out, signing, a little history lesson in a one intriguing interview

Hello Robert, it is awesome to have you for this conversation for Metal Temple online Magazine, how have you been doing mate? How are things looking on your end?

Greetings Lior, busy but doing well. It’s an honor to be hosted in this interview and thanks for having an interest in our band and music.

I guess that discovering Ildaruni was kind of a meant to be a situation for me, since I have been a strong follower of your new record label, Black Lion Records. What can you tell about the band in short, several strong points about its image and musical form? What was the key motivation behind the band’s formation?

The band was formed in 2016 by myself and drummer, Arthur Poghosyan. Until then we had minor line-up changes but now we stand firm, loaded with new ideas and tunes set to induce interest in our craft. The key motivation and inspiration behind the band is the creation and insemination of our music, our evolving path, granting a unique experience and reflecting our inner chaos in music. The other inspiration came about from ancient Armenian pagan culture, concealed legacy and mysteries, covered with the dust of time. I had a strong and precise vision of the band which helped me to reshape the sound and establish a band within certain parameters. Musically, we are trying to deliver a blend of ancient folk melodies and traditional black metal, encouraging the listener to delve into a spiritual journey of bygone times.

Certainly one of the greatest influences is Rotting Christ, it is hard to deny it, in particular the Greek band’s current modern driven form, which is exhilarating. What other musical influences would you say that drive you forward as a band?

You noticed correctly regarding the influences of Rotting Christ and the Hellenic black metal scene. I think the Greek scene carved its own defiant path, heavily incorporating folk tunes and black metal, therefore affording well-deserved recognition and fame. Our inspiration emerges from a multitude of sources, both musically and spiritually. The veterans of the genre, such as Bathory, Celtic Frost, Venom, King Diamond, strongly impacted our musical taste and built a solid base of views and perspectives that would later take shape and form. It encouraged us to forge our own sound, identity, at the same time being loyal to the roots, and tread into new musical spheres unknown to us. On the whole, I would say that even classical music can affect us and guide our inspiration and creation of songs. We are trying to set our ideas free, avoiding any limitations or boundaries.

I usually don’t ask this question, yet in your case I believe that it would emphasize your importance as a Metal band. With Armenia not being considered as one of the major powers of Metal music, how is it like to be a Metal band over there? From where have you been gathering your motivation and strength to continue your efforts?

Unfortunately, the popularity of metal in Armenia has been fluctuating over the last 10 years, and there is no major interest in metal in Armenia compared to the scenes of European countries. This creates a big stumbling block for bands, preventing them from evolving and spreading their voices and music. However, our motivation arises from the unquenchable flame of dedication and love towards the black art which spurs our artistic endeavors since the formation of the band. The hungering urge to create, to dive deeper into music and to channel the inner zealous flame, drive us forward and spark eagerness to see the seeds of our efforts realized. Even though we had certain obstacles over the last years, we had never thought of quitting music.

Signing with the Swedish Black Lion Records was a milestone that is major for a new band, yet the main event, which I believe that will follow you in the next couple of years, is your debut album, “Beyond Unseen Gateways”. Let’s begin with the signing, did it feel natural for you guys to sign with Black Lion Records, perhaps finding it a proper home for Ildaruni to begin with?

Before signing, we had been acquainted with Black Lion Records and had known about the great experience of working with the current label. We contacted Oliver, asking him to give our new material a listen, hoping to release our first album under the banner of Black Lion Records. We feel fortunate to sign and work with such a great label. One that’s devoted and loyal to the underground spirit of metal, and we value their faith in us and our music. Oliver totally supports us and has the perfect view of how black metal must be represented to the masses.

Following my listening sessions, along with exploring every bit that I could gather about the universe that you are storytelling about, it was rather complicated for me to comprehend the kind of sphere that you have been maintaining throughout the record. What can you tell about the narrative of the album? What are the key features in the story?

Each composition of the album unearths a mesmeric path to the past and provenance, unfolds the covert wisdom of heathen times. Each song is an indivisible part of a grand ode which explores the height of the Urartian domain and the esoteric knowledge of pagan mysticism. “Beyond Unseen Gateways” is a hymn to the bygone venerable flame which was combustible deep in our hearts anew. The conceptual story behind the album denotes certain historical and mythological aspects and excerpts of Urartian (Van) Kingdom and tears the veil of auld arcane lore, disseminated through our art and honest expression.

What can you tell about the images, sights and echoes of the sceneries that you are describing on the record? How did those influence you while writing the songs? 

Before the composition process, we make sure to frame the substantial concept and direction of the album so that it can manifest our spiritual ignition and profound visions. Nevertheless, these aforementioned sceneries and themes don't contain or embrace main influential elements while writing the music. For us, songwriting represents a dynamic process, esoteric journey derived from different musical vibrations and an inner fire of creativity that boldly lies within us.

Is there a relation, even distinct, to the actual history of your country? If not, would you say that you are trying to unveil truths or secret messages that are linked to our present?

Urartian history is a mostly enclosed and vital part of Armenian history, in the same sense that the history of Gaul is a part of French history. Our art aims to convey the grandeur of a specific epoch and impel the listener to consume the distinct content, both musically and lyrically, which is expressed in the form of outspoken, relentless and fierce black metal, conjoined with enigmatic melodies. Devotion drives us forward, stirring us to unveil the sacred legacy of our ancestors.

I found the artwork of the record majestic, it has a measure of comfort just looking at it, without really divining in. However, altogether, it appears like a calm before the storm, right before things got twisted and turned. Mark Erskine made that artwork for you, simply an amazing work. What was the vision behind this piece of art and its connection to the story at hand?

The artwork and layout were created by remarkable artist Mark Erskine, who perfectly captured the essential concept and key message of the album, combining a diversity of styles/techniques and providing a comprehensive picture. This tremendous piece of art represents the depiction of an ancient city Ardini, also known as Musasir, adorned with numinous Gardens and sanctum temple of Haldi, illumined by the otherworldly torch of hierophant Urzana. The city was a spiritual center of the Urartian (Van) Kingdom, enshrouded with hidden symbolism and sublime Numen, emanating throughout the span of centuries.

Sailing under the banner of the blackened flag of Black Metal, yet establishing several other fronts, tending the Folk / Pagan form of Metal along with surmounting the fine touch of oblivion with beautiful atmospheres. How would you say that working on “Beyond Unseen Gateways” developed your perspective towards the modernized kind of Black Metal?

The creation process surely helped us to forge and mature our craftsmanship, by enriching and expanding newborn musical horizons, enhancing our cognition and will towards the art. Every new composition is a strive for evolution, unchained, unbound and ready to burst like a supernova explosion. An unquenchable thirst for music and the essence of creativity undeniably drove us forward giving flesh and bones to our first release. Generally, it broadened and refined our musical perceptions and views. The album involves catchy melodic segments and harmonies which enlarge the texture of songs.

What do you think are the main effects of your own personal development as a songwriter, ever since the band emerged, that it contributed to the nature of the record?

The main reason was an unextinguished yearning to create, materialize our own thoughts, unlock ideas and pour our souls into our chants. Expression of inner fire and absolute sincerity are the true motivations behind creation. These factors guide me to present and grant something valuable and authentic, stepping a level up towards musical and spiritual evolution. Having a certain vision and direction regarding the final result, helped us to generate your mentioned nature of the record.

Even though you aren’t considered Balkans, there are various elements in your music that would suggest strong influences, in particular the Greek kind. What can you tell about these aspects in your music on “Beyond Unseen Gateways”? Is there a connection?

Armenia, as a country, has a strong, entwined connection with Greece, both historically and culturally, which is apparent in any period of our history. It’s worth mentioning that Asia Minor was originally inhabited by Greek people/tribes, neighboring Armenia which also impacted our ties and traditions throughout the centuries. This irrefutable connection is imprinted in our preserved cultural identity and heritage. Concerning the musical aspects of the album, we tried to embed Armenian folk melodies into forceful black metal, which can obviously remind and convey the sound and feel of Hellenic Black Metal, as Armenian folk music sounds very similar to the Mediterranean, especially Greek one. If we go deeper, we will find out that some Armenian folk melodies are constructed in the Phrygian or Aeolian tonality, which may create some impressions of resemblance to Greek folk music.

What can you tell about the cohesion of the lyrics and music on the record? How were you able to find that fine thin line between the spirituality of lyrics to the harshness of the music?

Every detail of our first album release, be it the lyrics, music, sigil, or artwork is strongly connected to the main message and core of Ildaruni and is the subject of comprehensive research before final manifestation. The harshness of the music and strong lyrical content complements each other, radiating the full image and atmosphere. I think we could shed a light on the genesis of certain epochs, balancing the musical and textual content. We don't limit ourselves, letting our black vessel move forward along its natural course and flow.

I found a lot of inspiration within one of the album’s mightiest songs, “Boundless Numen: Gardens Of Ardini”. At first I envisioned that I was listening to a two-part tune, which two different stories, perhaps that is the case. Anyway, the general atmosphere is surreal and the quality is beyond what I imagined. What is your take on this track? What is being told here?

Composing this track took longer than I had expected. When you’re writing, evolving the song which is 8 minutes long, needs to prevent weariness and make the listener experience and grasp the full meaning and philosophy of the song, passing through the ever-changing transcendental journey. This is a vital approach towards any song, presenting the assemblage of amplifying and powerfully hypnotic tunes. The current track describes the mystery of arcane initiations, held in the ancient city of Ardini, bringing forth the story of divine Gardens and conundrums of dormant Numen.

Going towards the ultra-sonic melodic tune of the record, “Arakha” burst into my ears with fury, grasping my attention and captivating my every being. Such ferocity and melodies really made a number right there. What can you tell about this track’s creation and impact on the record?

Thanks for pointing out this song. “Arakha” was written very intensely, gathering and intertwining different patterns and reshaping something unique that could respectively and clearly introduce textual content. Besides lyrical factors, the music uncovers transcending momentum with its drastic, yet at the same time, interwoven changes. On the whole, the song unleashes a mystical vibe, density of the sound. The song is about king Arakha, who was a nobleman of Urartian (Armenian) descent, firstborn son of Haldita. He was crowned as the king of Babylon and led the revolt against Persian Empire. The famous Behustin inscriptions contain records of Arakha’s rebellion which was the very last resistance. By the way, Arakha means “crown prince” in Armenian.

How are things looking for you guys in relation to the Covid-19? Is there an end in sight for the shutdown of the culture life in Armenia?

The situation with Covid-19 is terrible in the whole world, and Armenia is struggling with it as well. The whole cultural life in Armenia has slowed down because of all the lockdown restrictions we’ve had, and still have, and I assume Armenia is not the only country that struggles in decadence. But despite all the hurdles we are still facing during the Covid times, we do not despair, we are realizing and refining our mission. We will not stop for any external barriers.

Have you started planning for the end of the year, similar to most bands out there, or have you rather started working on your next record?

Due to Covid 19 the live shows being postponed to uncertain times, we’ve decided to focus on the composing processes, putting our serene energy and attention into the creation of the new incantations. Now we have enough time for detailed research and development, exploring the various extensions of new content, building the foundation of the new record, which will be more rigid, dynamic and will initiate new tunes and vibes.

Robert, many thanks for this interview for your time, to say that you only uplifted my spirit would be an insult, you made it happen on all counts in my bill. Thank you.

Thank you too for this great and detailed interview. It was a pleasure to unravel the core elements of our art and emphasize the main ideas and themes that strongly define our band. Cheers!


 



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Edited 11 May 2021
 

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