In March the Italian doom/death metallers of Tethra will be releasing their new album, titled Empire of the Void. DutchMetalManiac’s Tim van Velthuysen recently interviewed Tethra’s vocalist Clode Tethra and guitarist Federico Monti about it.
Hey, congratulations with your new upcoming album, Empire of the Void. I really like it.
But before talking about the album, I’ll express my condolences to you, since your former bass player Giuseppe Aufiero passed away in September last year. Sorry for your loss. What’s your best memory of him?
Clode: Thank you for expressing your closeness to our loss. I remember that during the initial phase of the composition of Like Crows for the Earth, with the band in full, we rented a villa in the mountains where we set up a rehearsal room and for a few days we lived as brothers and played at all hours, Giuseppe, sometimes, was a person of few words but when he let himself go no one could hold him anymore, I’ll miss his silences full of meaning and his very personal style in playing bass.
About the album, the concept of Empire of the Void focuses on the duality between what is hidden inside the depths of the human soul and the vastness sidereal space, both empires of the void. What was the inspiration for this concept?
Clode: Each of our albums is linked to an element, this time I decided to take into consideration the air or, in this case, the lack of air, so I thought that space could be an interesting topic also as a starting point to allow me to treat in a different way also some human feelings that sometimes make us feel like empty shells. Also this time all the processing of this new work was cathartic to get rid of all the negativity accumulated in our life after the release of our previous album. For us it is like a kind of group therapy and, in the end, we go out emptied of all energy but regenerated and satisfied.
You have one three-part-song on the new album, titled Gravity. Between releasing it this way, as three separate tracks, and as one long track, what made you choose for the first option?
Federico: When I began writing these songs, I was not in the band yet and Pt. I & II remain the only songs that took life before joining Tethra (in 2017). At that time, I was working on some material on myself and the idea of the suite has grown just because I was composing a very long song!
If I can, I try to visualize what kind of feelings I want to convey, but in this case I was just putting my sadness and struggles (of that period) in music, with a hint of hope.
Then, working with Clode, some of the parts have slightly changed and I composed the third part from a white page, focused on what Gravity was becoming.
Separating the tracks is the best idea in these cases, because I’m still bounded with the idea that a song still needs to be a song (with a verse and a refrain that repeat somewhere), to let people listening to it remembering and bounding to the melody and the lyrics.
Gravity is actually a three-song track, with all its parts linked to themselves, both musically and lyrically, but I believe that like this the fruition is much better than a mastodon of 15 minutes.
That doesn’t mean we won’t write a 20 mins song in the future!
The keyboards on the album are played by guest musician Lele Triton. How do you look back at this collaboration?
Clode: Lele Triton and I have been friends for a long time but, for one reason or another, we never had the right opportunity to collaborate together on a project. When Empire of the Void had already been composed we called him and asked if he wanted to contribute with his keyboards to make the sound more layered and deep, he accepted and what you can hear on the album is the result. For the next album we already agreed to include him from the beginning in the composition of the songs, I can’t wait to hear what will come out of it.
Federico : I met Lele after a chat with Clode considering putting more depth to the songs with some keyboards. Lele is a great guy and we share the same ideas on making music, even if our background is slightly different.
I played piano for a while when I was young and love that instrument, but I realized that I wasn’t good enough to do this all alone. Fortunately, we had this opportunity.
In this case, keyboards have been added to almost completed songs and we had to stick to the research of a deep and layered sound. For the next songs, the writing process will be thought considering six instruments from the beginning, something that will surely give us more possibilities and opportunities to expand Tethra’s sound.
He’s a guest musician on the entire album, but no band member of Tethra. Have you thought about making him a permanent band member of Tethra?
Clode: This is a good question, in this moment the keyboards are not a very preponderant instrument in our sound but who can say that in the future we’ll not decide to give more space to them and include a new element to our musical family? During the first years of the band we would never have thought of including a keyboard to our music because we played very aggressive and direct doom/death, even if with frequent melodic openings, in recent years, instead we opened ourselves to different solutions, and the contribution of the keyboard on the last album was so good that, in the future, we could really think of calling Lele in the band on a permanent basis.
Who is going to play the keyboards live?
Clode: As for the next scheduled concerts we are organizing to play with backtracks, it is a relatively new thing for us but already from the first tests we have understood that, for now, it is the right way to go because our sound had immediately a significant improvement and the whole band feels more confident and more charged.
You have one guest vocalist on the album, Aeonian Sorrow’s Gogo Melone on the track A Light Year Breath, which really gives a lot of depth to that track. How did this collaboration come to pass?
Clode: I first met Gogo on Facebook and, personally, when her band Aeonian Sorrow came to Milan to play with Swallow the Sun. Already from the first time we played A Light Year Breath I realized that something was missing during the refrain and that a female counterpart would have been the right choice. Therefore, already knowing Gogo’s singing skills, it seemed natural to me to propose this collaboration to her. She immediately accepted willingly and sent us her voice tracks after a few days. Needless to say, we were all amazed at the final result and how her voice harmonized with mine, as if she had always been part of the band.
How do you look back at working with her?
Clode: As I said in the previous answer the collaboration with Gogo was a very fast thing and it happened without any problem. I sent her the song and she asked me if she could feel free to make small changes and harmonizations, we were very happy to hear this because it is important that everyone can make their contribution without too many restrictions to our musical cause. After a few days she sent us the files and the result is what you can hear on A Light Year Breath.
In January you released the first single of the new album, titled Cold Blue Nebula. You commented “we present the music video of the second track Cold Blue Nebula, the song it’s a threnody that faces feelings of detachment and loneliness passing through a painful and necessary transition to get to know your inner self.” What’s your best advice for getting to know your inner self?
Clode: I’m certainly not a spiritual guru and, therefore, so I’m not convinced that I’m the best person to give these tips but I can say, according to my experience, that in my life I learned more when I left my comfort zone, it’s important to always have new challenges to face and it’s equally important not to be afraid to look inside yourself to understand what makes us truly happy and gives us the push to move forward.
The surroundings filmed in the video for Cold Blue Nebula are very nice. Where was it shot?
Clode: The video for Cold Blue Nebula was created by our label, I really don’t know where it was filmed but I imagine that the shooting took place in their area. In fact, the headquarters of the label is located in a remote region of Sweden, surrounded by woods and lakes, also in this particular period of the year there’s a spectacular blanket of snow which is the perfect element to translate the lyrics of that song.
You have one cover included on the album, which is a cover of David Bowie’s Space Oddity. What made you choose this specific song to cover?
Federico: I always like to find one cover song in records, because if the band works on it putting its style in it (and not just re-playing the song in a metal manner), this can be a way to know the band better and the influences that made the band itself grow. So one day I told Clode to add a cover and, considering that space was one of the themes, he said “why not Space Oddity?”.
But I wasn’t really thinking of doing it seriously.
I had a little project between my experience in Total Death and before joining Tethra and it was an acoustic trio with female vocals willing to have fun re-arranging rock and even pop songs in a different manner. Space Oddity was one of these songs, so I was already familiar with it. That’s why Clode thought of that one.
But playing it live for some shows and recording a cover for a band, is a really different job and I won’t hide: I was f*ing scared! This song is one of the most known and recognizable songs in the entire history of music. Doing it badly would have been a disaster…
I don’t really know how, but I began working on it until I came up with this version and I feel that the song is still there, with all its great melodies and impact, but in a new form.
I love the result and I hope that who listen to it will agree with me…
The cover artwork is made by Carmine Korvo Foschino (KORVO a.k.a. KORVUZ KORAX). What made him the perfect person for this job?
Clode: I discovered the magnificent works of KORVO from a cover of our friends Esogenesi, I was immediately impressed by his style heavily influenced by metaphysics because I always loved geniuses and out of the rules artists such as Dalì and De Chirico who metaphorically opened the doors of other worlds allowing us to take a look in universes where the laws of physics are radically different from ours. When we spoke to him for the first time and I explained my idea of the cover, I immediately understood that he was the right person for the enthusiasm of his response and also because it was performed the entire work in a record time, so much was the degree of involvement in this project.
The main aspects of the cover artwork are the spacey background and the heart in the center. What’s not entirely clear to me to be honest is what the yellow part inside the heart stands for. Can you tell me that?
Clode: The cover represents what for us is, metaphorically, the heart of the universe and also the human heart from which all our emotions spring. Inside this heart you can see an arid and lifeless landscape that means the most devastating and introspective feelings that we can experience, sometimes, during our life: Sense of abandonment, depression or lost loves are just some of these. But even these dark feelings can create a universe made of bright stars and calm oceans.
Is there a relation between the heart and space you want to show with the cover artwork? If so, what relation?
Clode: As I said in the previous answer, the heart, for the concept of this album, is at the center of the universe and all physical things but also all human emotions come from it. The two elements, the heart and the space, are linked inextricably because from one the other is born and one cannot survive without the other. It also wants to remind us that our whole world revolves around the emotions and that this is an unwritten law that, in these strange days, it was almost forgotten in favor of unbridled egotism that leads us to look only to ourselves.
For this release you signed with Black Lion Records. What makes Black Lion Records the best record label for Tethra at this moment?
Clode: I think it’s still too early to judge the work of Black Lion Records but, what I can say is that, up to now they have exceeded our best expectations because they have immediately proved passionate and very professional in managing their work, they are also extremely fast in their answers and this is something that I personally appreciate very much because it allows me to contact them every time I have inspiration or some new idea and immediately receive feedback, it’s a very stimulating thing.
On Saturday March the 21st, one day after the album’s release date, you’ll have a release party in Cassano D’Adda in your home country, Italy. Looking forward to it?
Clode: Of course! We are looking forward to continue playing and carrying our new music around. During 2019 we decided to focus totally on the composition of the new album, so we were away from the stages for a while. Playing live is one of my favorite passions because it brings our music to a completely different dimension from just listening to a CD, that with the audience is a mutual exchange of energies and emotions and now we can no longer do without it, we need it for recharge us in view of a new release.
Rome in Monochrome and Esogenesi are also going to perform. Did you choose those bands yourself and if so, what made those two bands perfect to join you for the release party?
Clode: It’s not something that happens to us often but, given the relationship of trust between us and The One that has lasted for years, we had the opportunity to be able to choose the opener. The choice of Esogenesi was particularly easy because they are an emerging band akin to our sound with an excellent just released album while with Rome in Monochrome the choice was dictated by the esteem we feel towards them and by the beauty of their musical proposal, also they play a very different doom from ours and this will allow those who come to the show to be able to attend three different emotionally performances but linked by a common love for dark and decadent sounds.
Can we expect any other shows in support of Empire of the Void soon? Maybe coming to The Netherlands?
Clode: At this moment we are in contact with some promoters and soon the first concerts we will attend from here at the end of 2020 will be revealed. In Holland you have the Dutch Doom Days, an excellent doom fest, so we would be very pleased to have the possibility to participate now that the new album is coming out. Who knows how things will turn out in the next few years? What is certain is that we’ll work to be able to play as much as possible, especially outside our country.
Thanks for your answers. Is there anything you want to say to our readers?
Clode: First of all we thank DutchMetalManiac for the interview and we want to invite your readers who love doom/death sounds to accompany us in this exciting musical journey into the unknown that we have embarked on with Empire of the Void, see you on stage.
I’m Tim van Velthuysen and I started DutchMetalManiac back in 2014. I’m 27 years old and I live in Nijmegen, The Netherlands. Of course, I like metal, but I can also appreciate other musical styles. However, metal is what I mostly listen to. I also like going to concerts, meeting with friends and watching movies (especially arthouse).