Already since „Nothing But The Whole“ (2014) EMPTINESS have turned further and further away from Black Metal and towards more quiet ambient sounds. With their latest album, „Vide“, the Belgians consistently continue this path. Guitarist and singer Olve Lomer-Wilbers alias Neraath reveals which feelings the dark album is supposed to arouse, which influence the lockdown had on the creation and in which situation of life you should best listen to „Vide“.
Hi and thanks a lot for taking time for this interview! I hope you are all healthy and doing well – considering the circumstances?
Hello. Thank you as well, here I’m doing fine, yet quite wondering where all this is gonna go into, in terms of social and economic outcomes and questions about the nature of freedom.
Let’s start with the obvious: The tracklist is right on the cover, you rarely see that. Doesn’t that devalue the expressiveness of the image?
Indeed, you rarely see that, that’s why we were inclined to do something different, and directly defining what we are selling here, together with the enigmatic cover and title. There is also a graphical purpose into it, pushing the idea of a product in time. Personally, I think it adds some value to the image and to the whole concept of the artwork.
Speaking of which, what (or who) are we seeing here exactly? Is there a real newborn, or is this the artistic representation of a newborn?
It isn’t real. This is a copy of a newborn, a nameless artifact, fake and empty from all humanity and still so close to everyone’s collective conscience.
Why did you choose this image, why is it the perfect cover for this album?
For several reasons: the band’s lyrical indentity deals a lot with the definition of man’s role in the Universe, its significance, aims and actions. With this album ‚Vide‘, we wanted to transcribe such thematic within the notion of time and how this time is affected during a lifetime trip. We also wanted something ‚odd‘ but very natural. As a reminder of how life can sometimes be strange in itself, but we are so used about everything that surrounds us. The world, as we think we know it, has some curious properties, uncertain almost unpredictable but all entangled in a mathematical logic of a cosmic coherence. Our perceptions from brain and heart are used to deal with it, and so, showing a newborn to illustrate these concepts about time, life and death, seemed a perfect fit.
Musically, the album is less varied, but very coherent. Is that the intended effect?
One of our main goal was to make the listener feel uneasy, and to bring a certain type of discomfort, with all the musical freedom we could have. It may sound less varied, I see what you mean, however, we arranged many layers of details, and these details would sparkle after a few listening. It is coherent from the beginning to the end, and recommended to be listened as a whole piece.
The songs were recorded in a variety of places, the pandemic and the lockdown influenced that, i guess? What would you have done differently if you could?
I don’t think the pandemic had an influence about it, the will to isolate started before the crisis, and the composition work took another form from there. There was a true intent to go away from the city’s influence, to do things differently than we used to, not in a recording studio.
What effect did these conditions have on the outcome of the album?
To be more instinctive, to keep improvisations and work and built from these spontaneous recordings. There isn’t a technical influence that proper recording studios can have. When you’re in studio, there’s undoubtfully a will to set up things good, for the best takes and the mindset is different. Here, we were isolated in some unknown places, or familiar appartment, and just let imagination flow.
Did it also affect the lyrics, what are they about?
I don’t think it did, but I’m not the one writing them. For sure, the collective mood around gives a singular feeling to the everyday world. A hint of depression. Our lyrical themes remains the same since a few album, they are cryptic with a chunk of dramatic poetry. Some of them decribe these moments of life in which we can’t fully recognize ourselves, like a parallel humanity, close to ours, where nothing seems straight or logical.
You chose French as the language for the lyrics for the first time – why?
Like the songwriting, more instinctive. There are no more technical limitation to translate, it is now more authentic to the initial idea and easier to express all sorts of feelings. As french speakers, it is more legitimate to us.
You did everything on the album yourselves, up to the sound – was that planned, or also a consequence of the lockdown situation?
We try to do everything ourselves since the beginning. It happened that we had some collaboration for a technical aspect or an artistic reason (like the previous record „Not for Music“), but we were decided since long to handle all production work for this album.
Quite independently of EMTPINESS: Ten, twenty years ago it would not have been possible for bands to record an album without a producer and studio. Do you see this development only as a gain in freedom – or has something perhaps also been lost with it, be it a „filter“ that not everyone can record music with little effort, or a „supervisor“ as an external authority, as producers used to be?
I prefer that professionals do their work, but someone’s skills does not necessary translate another’s vision as it should. It can be frustrating, and the result different from what to expect. But, of course, it can be surprising too. Now it became so affordable to gain skills and buy production gear and hardware. People need passion and goals, if it fulfills their lives and boost opportunities, good on them. It’s up to the listener to choose what suits its ears.
One last question about your other band, ENTHRONED: What is the state of affairs there, are you already working on a new album?
We gathered a few things already, working on a new concept for this chapter and perhaps make it more concrete later this year. The 2020 crisis made it difficult to see each others, as we don’t all live in Belgium.
Thank you very much for the interview. Let’s wrap it up with our traditional brainstorming:
A food that always makes you happy: traditionnal food
Europe: A fascinating civilization, perhaps the only one to move beyond the known world into the unknown.
The last album you listened to: William Basinski – Lamentations
Craft Beer: brussels beers in general
A hobby of yours that has nothing to do with music: painting
The perfect situation to listen to „Vide“: To sit in a crowded public space, with headphones on
EMTPINESS in 10 years: up to no good
Once again thanks for your time. The last words are yours – is there anything left you want to tell our readers?
Thank you too, I always invite readers to give a try on our music, if they want to hear something different than the norm.