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Servants To The Tide's Leonid Rubinstein: "Revolution for the sake of revolution itself usually turns out to become a very tiring and boring thing. The elements that our music draws from have been there already…"

Interview with Leonid Rubinstein from Servants To The Tide
by Lior "Steinmetal" Stein at 14 March 2021, 10:05 PM

To follow one's dreams is to follow one's passions, there is no doubt that making that crucial step in making that dream a reality is outstanding, it is an inner fulfillment that is worth more than any million in the bank, to put it mildly. Pay homage in one's own version to beloved idols can be interpreted in many ways, when thought positively, it can be another basis to gain interest, to provide an angle, and this time around in Doom Metal, its epic kind. Servants To The Tide rose on the basis of fandom, and came to be a smooth reality. Steinmetal had a talk with founder Leonid Rubinstein about the hardships of finding the right members, the new album and its vision.

Hello Leonid, it is a great to have you for this interview for Metal Temple online Magazine, how have you been doing mate?

Hi Lior, thank you for having me! I am doing fine so far, considering how the world is going crazy – more so than usually, that is. I crave a good live concert as probably most of us do, but that aside, I am great and hope you are too!

Only recently, you departed with your early band Craving, which I have been following since last decade. And here you are with a new band, or project, named Servants To The Tide. I understand that you are a Doom Metal fan, yet it would be great to know what exactly in the music drove you to start something fresh on your own?

I’ve been into Epic Doom Metal since I’ve discovered the first CANDLEMASS records as a teenager and I’ve tried several times to put together an Epic Doom Metal band on my own, even back when I was in CRAVING. However, it is not quite easy to find the right people for this kind of music (let alone, all of them at the same time in the same place), so, at some point, I started to write things on my own that would become the basis for SERVANTS TO THE TIDE. After my departure from CRAVING, I joined a new Melodic Death Metal band named CATALYST that I am still with, but I thought that at this point, I should really go for it and try to create what I intended to create to begin with.

On a general basis, in your view, what does Servants To The Tide stand for? Since I can’t believe that it is merely your salute, or homage, to your Doom Metal heroes.

It’s basically my version of how I imagine this kind of music to sound like, the elements from bands like ATLANTEAN KODEX, WHILE HEAVEN WEPT, SOLSTICE or aforementioned CANDLEMASS that drove me to love and adore this kind of music in the first place. SERVANTS TO THE TIDE stands for epic, melancholic Metal, drawing inspiration from the heroes of the past and present, sometimes paying homage, but never imitating them, and trying to give the scene something that we see worth to be listened to, being loved and adored by people just like us.

You are set to release your self-titled debut album, signed to the Greek No Remorse Records. Since the Greek Metal scene is mostly about old school Metal, no doubt that this label choice is well made. How do you find this signing with this respected label?

It's been a choice of heart, really. I did not write to many labels to begin with, since SERVANTS TO THE TIDE is my shot at the music I love, so I saw it also as a chance to work with one of the labels that I respect and own records of myself. When NO REMORSE showed interest, it was a quick decision, and one I have not come to regret yet, as they do great work. Plus, we are in good company with bands like ETERNAL CHAMPION or RIOT CITY, so that is a bonus as well!

Finding people to share your vision, and also play their part as expected, with proficiency, can be rather difficult to find. However, you found yourself a team that made this vision of yours a rather compelling reality. Did the chosen musicians have also an influence on the songwriting of the album, or rather did their part in the recording phase only?

It can be hard to find good musicians for your band, and it is a nightmare to find musicians for an Epic Doom Metal band. Most people find the genre rather repulsive, even Doom fans often tend to lean more towards 70ies Black Sabbath-worship (as much as I love that!), or Stoner stuff, or Sludge… so finding someone who is both interested in Epic Doom Metal and has the skills to execute it is not too easy. Luckily, Stephan Wehrbein is a great singer who does not only have a good, characteristic voice and a good ability, but is also just as much a Metal maniac as I am, with a great taste in music. He understands completely what the music is about and how it must sound. Lucas Freise, our drummer, he is a rather modern player with a strong Melodeath background, but he did a marvelous job in recording those songs.

As for the songwriting, I wrote all music and lyrics by myself and approached the others only after a fair share of the material was already done. They did bring in their own personality in the details, though; Stephan had to decipher and interpret the horrible guide vocals that I recorded (I’m a really, really horrible singer, thank heavens Stephan spared all of you from that experience) and came up with things that varied from what I had in mind, and we went with some of it because it really brought the songs to life. Same with Lucas, who followed my guide drums for the most part, but brought in really cool fills or cymbal patterns.

Philosophically speaking, what is the universe that engulfs the album’s songs, as from what I could tell there is that Norse / Viking driven connection, yet also stronger emotions that might indicate a personal touch. To where does the album lead in that sense?

There is no clear concept connecting the songs; rather an emotional drift, feelings I tried to convey – be it the feeling of coming home in peace with yourself (“Departing From Miklagard”) or as an act of redemption (“A Wayward Son’s Return”), or the feeling of being left behind alone (“Your Sun Will Never Shine For Me”). “North Sea” is my personal homage to the region I live in since I’ve been a child and also, much like “A Servant To The Tide”, a tribute to WHILE HEAVEN WEPTs “The Furthest Shore”, which is the greatest song ever written in my book – the emotional journey of drowning on the open sea. “On Marsh And Bones” is the only song directly being influenced by a novel, “The Face Of Black Palmyra” by Wladimir Wasilliew, and deals with a very dark and twisted version of the founding myth of my birthplace St Petersburg, Russia.

One of the album’s stronger suits is the integration between the melancholia of the music and the most part of the lyrics, which by this fusion, creates an emotive, mostly sorrowful, atmosphere. What is your take on this strong connection between the lyrics and music in this record? How was this connection tended for while writing the songs?

Well, it would be quite weird to write depressing Doom Metal in B minor and sing about fluffy unicorns, am I right? Of course, lyrics and music must be in harmony to enforcing instead of weakening one another. I am grateful to see that it worked for you, and I hope others will perceive the record the same way!

From what I noticed, I guess that the pandemic made you stop the album’s procedures, including some of the recording, along with the engineering of the release. What other forms of challenges were in your way throughout the album’s creation?

Well, the pandemic was a weird factor, but not the one that really put a break on the project. There were many elements, like finding the right people, recording the right songs, sometimes reworking and reforging the songs (“North Sea” saw several arrangements before we settled on the one that ended up on the album), but it should be noted that we were in no rush, as we were not signed to any label and no one was expecting us to release anything. New projects have the freedom to take their time to get things right, and that is what we did! I could, in example, have recorded this with a different singer, but it would have not become what it is now with Stephan. I could have gone with my MIDI-drums, but I really wanted a real kit on the recordings. We could have gone with the demo mixes I did myself which were, in my opinion, not too shabby, but we wanted to have a really great production and gave the job to Rosenquarz Studio who nailed it. We could have released it on our own, but of course, we would have never done a job as good and competent as No Remorse are doing right now. Each one of these steps costed weeks or even months, but they changed the outcome for the better. There will always be room for improvement with the next album, but for this one, I would not want to miss any of those, and if they costed us some time – so be it!

When it comes to Doom Metal, and I do mean the pure kind, without the Sludge elements, there is a lively market nowadays, how do you find Servants To The Tide as part of this great wave of bands? What do you think that the band brings to the table in relation to freshness?

We bring nothing that was not there in one way or another – and we do not try to do so. Revolution for the sake of revolution itself usually turns out to become a very tiring and boring thing. The elements that our music draws from have been there already – loathsome melodies, heavy riffs, melancholic lyrics. However, a dish is more than the sum of its ingredients, isn’t it? We bring our tastes, our skills and our passion into this, and I think this alone should suffice to sound fresh.

To be honest, I had the feeling that this entire album was going to be a sort of Doom / Death Metal as the sound and measure of the music, at least at first, as if it would eventually happen sooner than to think. However, you did include harsh vocals on the closing track of the album. Was there an intention to stray away from classic Doom Metal? Is it a sort of a teaser for the next release?

Interesting, I rarely even listen to Death/Doom-stuff, and even if I do it would rather be stuff like ASPHYX, but you are not the first one to point that out. I do not think the growls on the last song were a teaser for the next album, rather just something that spiced up the song a little bit and gave the listener something different and new at the end of the album. I also did not want the band sound to become too predictable too soon, ending up in the “they sound like this and that”-drawer before we even had a chance of exploring a definite band sound and make it our own. Though I said that paying homage to some of our favorite bands is one of our motivations, I would hate to limit myself and the band to a mere memorabilia act, just to please the expectations of having to sound like band XY. With the growls, people will wonder whether we will use them again, and whether we will introduce other elements to our sound with the second album that are not being expected from an Epic Doom Metal band. And we might. Or might not. Who knows? I do not, and there is something charming about it, haha!

When I was introduced to “Your Sun Will Never Shine For Me”, I was dazzled, certainly one of the most creative, and highly dramatic, songs that I have heard in a while. Stephan Wehrbein charmed with his well executed vocal performance along with the music that echoed from all cylinders. What can you tell about this particular track and its creation?

Thank you so much for the compliment! I am pretty proud of the song, even though many people told me that “North Sea” is the heart of the album for them, it’s one of my favorites, and the label choose wisely to release it as the first single. The track was one of the first ones I wrote for the band, it came together fairly quickly, and I recorded a draft on the fly in just a few hours that ended up becoming the final version in large parts. There is a roughness to it when it comes to the arrangement, but while we rearranged songs like “North Sea” or “A Wayward Son’s Return” to sound more sophisticated, I really love the simple and imperfect arrangement here and we kept it as it is.

The lyrics deal with the feeling of seeing people moving on with their lives, marrying, having children etc. while you are stuck at a certain threshold, unable to reach the happiness the others are enjoying, just watching them as well as the chances you might have had fading one after another. I think many of us have reached that mental state at one point or another. Some stayed there for weeks, some for months, some for years, some forever…

Returning to the sound, Michael Hahn created a rightful sound direction for you guys that reminded of some of the heavier forms of Doom Metal, blending the Sabbath sound with Paradise Lost and My Dying Bride to a certain extent. How do you find Hahn’s work on the sound of the record?

I’m absolutely happy and amazed by it! I wanted a sound that sounds crisp and clear without being completely polished and squeezed, and this is exactly what he delivered! I think there has been not one revision sound wise, just some details that I wanted to be changed – as he is a big Doom fan himself, he knew amazingly fast what sound I was going for and nailed it instantly. Also, he has the cutest studio dog on this planet, and cute dogs are always a plus in my book! A special shoutout should also go out to Andreas Georg Libera (from Eirð) who dialed in this crushing guitar sound that many people – me among them – seem to dig.

Given the fact that you have time on your hands, have you already started brainstorming for the next up release of this group? Are there ideas already set in motion?

Actually, a few songs are already written, there are probably enough ideas to fill a new album already. However, there is no need to rush, and we will take the time needed to polish the music, to think through the arrangements. And then, of course, a second album should take flight.

Talking about being a band, is Servants To The Tide a new band, which one day would eventually take the stage, or is it rather a project to return to every once in a while?

I definitely, definitely, definitely want to bring SERVANTS TO THE TIDE to the stage. I always loved playing live and miss it a lot, and I am really curious to find out how the audience will react to us. I also expect the songs to be incredibly fun to play live. There is no chance to make this a regular local band, with me living in the Hamburg suburbs, Stephan in the Rhineland and Lucas in Berlin – mind that we would need two more members to play live. But as soon as the Corona situation gives us a reasonable chance to rehearse, and as soon as we see interest from bookers to have us, I will take all necessary measures to bring SERVANTS TO THE TIDE to the stage.

With the culture shut down, a lot has been lost for so many people, whether their jobs, way of life, and simply just going about one’s business. These restrictions imposed on people, in order to safeguard them, have been told to cause depression of sorts. How have you been keeping yourself sane throughout this time?

Not by enjoying live music, that is for sure. I was lucky enough to have a lot of things going on during that time – I had a lot of work on my hands with my regular job, I moved in with my girlfriend into a new city, I – of course – finished the SERVANTS TO THE TIDE album and kept working on other music as well. I am quite fortunate to not have been affected by Corona directly, and the people I know who had it are still alive. I really hope that all of you guys make it one way or another without more than the usual bruises…

Leonid, I wish to thank you for your time and effort for this interview. Through Servants To The Tide  you are creating something that I believe will be greater than it is one day. Thank you and cheers.

Thanks, Lior. I am glad to hear that from you and hope that you are right!


 



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