BELOW THE SUN are an intriguing band. The Russian outfit have been bubbling under the surface for some time now, striving hard to craft a soundscape that eludes the shackles of genre constraints. It’s an enormous sound that creates a wide pallet of emotions. 2017 saw the arrival of the band’s sophomore effort, Alien World, an album that has taken heavy influence from Stanislaw Lem‘s Solaris. We caught up with the band to reflect on their latest album, their massive and expansive sound how BELOW THE SUN are transcending the genres of heavy music.
So you released Alien World at the end of May. For people who haven’t heard it yet, what can people expect from your latest record?
BELOW THE SUN: You better not expect any specific genre from this one. Of course, the music is based on some specific genres and some other specific genres were mixed in with the based ones. But if you manage to get rid of the “hashtags” from your head, you will be able to hear more, than you expect. This album is an atmospheric ride through the emotions of the main character of the book. The music is based on the emotions, not genres. So people can expect different kinds of emotions we tried to express in a musical way. Such as awe, fear, love, hate, pain, insanity and so on.
It’s been two years since your debut full length, Envoy, how has the band progressed and developed in that time?
BELOW THE SUN: At the beginning we had a fifth member of the band – vocalist. He left the band almost simultaneously with our first release. We tried some singers, each of which preferred to work at specific genres. We had a funeral doom guy, for example, and a THE PRODIGY fan. But each time something was a bit off… So our guitarist, who did some vocal parts on Envoy, took the microphone. We started to use clean vocals and added some new genres to our mix, as a solid quartet now.
Alien World is based on the science fiction novel Solaris. Can you explain the concept and themes your new record explores?
BELOW THE SUN: Sci-fi, nowadays, is overflown with the anthropomorphic image of the alien life forms. Grey men, humanoids, xenomorphs from the Alien movies. It’s almost boring already. And this book offers something completely different! Solaris tells a story of a contact between human and completely alien life form – the intelligent ocean covering all the planet’s surface. This philosophical creation is so deep, that first of all it provokes introspection. It makes you see and think of all the stereotypes and patterns that mankind follows.
The album was recorded at two different studios in your home town. Can you explain how the recording process for Alien World?
BELOW THE SUN: We wanted to record the album live all together in order to deliver those live energy through the record. But here we’ve got no good studios for this kind of recording at our city. So we have recorded drums at one of them, playing along with the drummer, and the rest of the instruments and vocals at the other. Despite having a clear understanding what we want from the sound, the work was interesting and creative. Some musical parts were created during the recordings. For example, record of the opening guitar part for In Memories satisfied us only on the 326th try. And at the end of Black Wave a saxophone appeared.
One thing I find particularly interesting is that no synthesisers or samplers were used during the recording process. Why did you decide to create this vast soundscape using just guitars, bass, drums and vocals?
BELOW THE SUN: We like to explore the potential of our instruments, and we like to create thick atmosphere with guitars specifically. Shoegaze bands and especially pioneers of drone\ambient TROUM influenced us a lot. Music with synthesisers and samplers is too easy and, which is more importantly, it sounds too flat, so to say. We could probably try stuff like analog piano, digital sampler, synthesizer, cello, mandolin or any other instrument. But, most likely, we will do every of these sounds with our guitars, as we already does it right now.
And how difficult was it to create this sound without the use of synthesisers?
BELOW THE SUN: It was pretty easy. The difficult part was to record guitar ambient apart – one guitar first, then – another. For our live, rehearsal and jam sessions there are no such problems. You see, live ambient sounds deep, interesting, unique. We like to play loud, and when we can “feel” each other, sense the shift in the dynamics, even the tiniest intensification creates something like the “avalanche effect”. The wall of sound envelops you, you can hear even the most hidden overtones, and it makes your mind create the images unique for any human. This effect can be achieved only live.
The overall sound of the record is fairly difficult to pigeon-hole into one style of metal as there are certainly elements of black metal and doom. Was this always the intent? To crate a massive wall of sound that crosses genre boundaries?
BELOW THE SUN: We think there are no boundaries, and mustn’t be. Moreover, we don’t want to put ourselves in a boundaries of one genre. Yes, we have our “base” doom metal but on that base we put anything we see fit. The most interesting thoughts always appear behind the lines of a pattern thinking. If people would always put themselves in boundaries, there would be no such thing as art development!
And who would you say are your biggest musical influences?
BELOW THE SUN: PINK FLOYD, RADIOHEAD, AHAB, TROUM, YOB, MY SHAMEFUL, SUNN 0))), KHANATE, RABIES CASTE, KORN, THE MARS VOLTA… and so on, the list is virtually endless! There is something new every day. Melodic inspiration can be found even in “analog ambient”: rain, noise of the city, and even the silence is not always the same!
And with Alien World released back in May, what do you hope to achieve with the record?
BELOW THE SUN: With this album we want to show our development and musical emancipation, so to say. Moreover we are preparing our audience not only to our next albums, which will be a lot more experimental, but also to the long awaited contact with the alien life forms, which will be impossible without the ability to perceive something new and unknowable.
To close, we will offer you the floor. Do you have anything to say to the readers of Distorted Sound?
BELOW THE SUN: Look at the star more often! …maybe it will be you, who will witness the Contact first?
Alien World is out now via Temple of Torturous Records.
Like BELOW THE SUN on Facebook.