Saphath Discusses Debut Album “Ascension Of The Dark Prophet,” Genre Bending And Metal In Eastern Russia
It’s the most obvious thing in the world to say that the COVID-19 pandemic ground the world to a halt two years ago. From the viewpoint of the music industry, albums were delayed, tours were cancelled and plans were up in the air. Imagine then that you’ve created a band which is difficult to define, has some amazing music to offer but you face it being over before it even began. That’s exactly the situation Russian outfit Saphath faced.
Despite all the setbacks, Saphath has risen with full force and this month, released their debut album, “Ascension Of The Dark Prophet,” a multi faceted story of contrasts, darkness and beauty in the strangest places. To find out more about the record, Metal Underground caught up with the band’s vocalist Alexey Duraev and bassist Alexander Klimkov. You can read it in full below.
Diamond Oz: Congratulations on your debut album, “Ascension of the Dark Prophet.” What is the meaning behind the title?
Alexey Duraev: The Dark Prophet is a character of harsh fate, an outsider in his world, rejected by society, but possessing indomitable willpower and independence. Since his youth, he hears a voice of Darkness in his head and the Darkness is personalized, she is not just a universal power, she is a lady of forbidden knowledge and defiance. You may look at him as Antichrist or Cain and perceive her as Lilith or Mara (Slavic goddess of death), but it is more to them than the known mythological characters.
The Prophet aims for reaching the city he sees in his dreams, and this would be the story of his ascension. On his lonely path, he travels around the world seeking knowledge of half-mad wizards, he falls in love and loses his beloved, he gets sentenced and kills, he becomes a ruler and a demigod god and finally reaches his goal, falling into the arms of Darkness in the land of his dreams. All the album lyrics are written from the Prophet’s standpoint, but if you look closer at the character, many people in the world can relate to him. I just meant to tell that everyone can ascend from dust to the sky, even so it is unbelievably hard.
Oz: What kind of topics are covered in the lyrics on the album?
Alexey: As I said, many people could relate to the Dark Prophet at something. The music and lyrics are filled with a poetic combination of loneliness, despair, pain, anxiety, passion, rage, judgment and questioning of what is believed to be truth. A couple of songs of how love hurts. Summarizing that, every song expresses a particular emotion a person like that would feel. It is very personal to me, I lived through every hardness expressed, so everything described is a sincere thing in Byronish style bars.
Oz: The artwork for the album is amazing. How did you come into contact with the artist (Alexander Balinets) and how well do you think it represents the music?
Alexey: Mr. Balinets has been my good friend for 13 years by now, even though we have never met in person, since we live in different countries. We have been working on several art projects in the past and currently are on the final stage of making a dark fantasy graphic novel together. He is a great artist, as for the musical part of what he does – he made an album cover for Deicide, “To Hell with God”. He does not make album art anymore for about 3 years, but when I told him our album was coming close to completion, he said: “Hey, album art has to look decent” and made it look brilliant. The music representation is 100% well reflected – you can see the Prophet and the Darkness overseeing the land of his dreams – it is dark, displays epic gothic architecture, horrifying chthonic beings crawling around it depicting terror and madness. When I showed the first sketches to my bandmates, they blasted: “YES! THIS IS IT!”
Alexander Klimkov: Also, I’d like to mention another artist, Vlad Gernet. He has done an illustration for every song of this album; they will appear in the booklet for the physical copies of the album. The arts for The Raven and Outcast Of Eden can already be seen on the covers for the singles. There are a couple of those images in our band’s Instagram and Facebook as well.
Oz: The music itself is very varied, combining Death, Black, Gothic and Symphonic Metal. Do you feel that having such a broad range helps to attract more listeners?
Alexey: I think so, yes. The more elements are there in your music, the more you can do with them. A listener is always hungry for something new, but attracting a listener is not the point. It’s just us trying to express a lot of complicated thoughts and emotions through music, thrashing around different sides of a human soul. When you do that, you simply do not fit inside the box of just one genre, you go out and combine different approaches.
Alexander: It’s not like we are trying to found a new genre, but there are never enough instruments and genre-specific approaches to express your message in its full. It might progress into something new, we do not intend to make loud statements like “we found a new genre”.
Oz: You recorded a wonderful video for the song, “Outcast of Eden,” where was this filmed and can you explain more about the story in the clip?
Alexey: There she is, a sorrowful innocent soul coming to church for answers and finding none. There he is, a dark stranger asking her why is she looking for truth in this place. He tells her that if she cannot satisfy herself with answers everyone believes to be true, they might make little sense and she might be right and the entire world – wrong. He challenges her to walk the path of darkness and find him on top of the mountain where he found his knowledge, following the star that challenges the sun. And there she walks her thousand steps to find the genuine light of truth.
We were filming it in our city. When we were looking for a filming crew, a man from St. Petersburg, Artyom Ditkovsky responded that he was interested. He read the scenario, liked it a lot and a couple of weeks later called his friend, Vadim Ivanov to assist him, took a plane from the opposite end of the country to get to our city. There was 3 insane days of driving around the city, carrying stuff around, 9 hours of filming every day… Grand job, super happy with the result.
Alexander: Definitely an interesting experience working with professionals. The guys know what they are doing, have an ability to improvise on the flight and they are switched on 100% of the time. They also did all the post production, basically did everything from the start to the end. Of all the filming days I mostly liked the day in our puppet theatre where the band scenes were taken – a lot of people from this theatre were involved: stage light director, sound technician, stage technicians… I work as a stage technician in a theatre myself and it was interesting to see how people work in another place.
Oz: In the West, we tend to hear mostly about bands from Russian cities like Moscow and Saint Petersburg. How is the metal scene in Yuzhno-Sakhalink and was it hard to find like-minded musicians?
Alexey: It barely exists here – just one small bar for headbangers. There are a couple of really good bands (pretty old and idealistic) playing there once in a while, all the rest of the time it’s mostly cover bands. If we talk about Far East in general – there are quite a few great bands musicians and some decent gigs happening around, though not too often. Looking for people for Saphath took me 6 years, I was just accumulating ideas before we started with the album. Nevertheless, if you want to do something, you just do it, even if situation is not really working your way.
Alexander: “Barely exists” is the right way to put it. Although, there are bands known outside of our place. Our good friends, Autopsy Night, has existed since 1996, the are touring around Russia, played with Cannibal Corpse in Serbia and at MetalDays in Slovenia. Basically, if you feel like your place is too tight for you to grow, just leave your comfort zone and do it!
Oz: The band formed in 2019, but only a year later the world had to deal with the COVID-19 virus. How did the pandemic and restrictions affect the growth of the band?
Alexey: yes, it affected everything, but not exactly in a bad way. From one hand, I was stuck on an oil rig in the middle of the ocean for almost entire 2020 since my back-to-back simply could not travel to relieve me. On the other – my band mates had quite a few days off from their jobs and were able to do a lot when I was away and only able to participate in the process by staying online. In two words, we did not really suffer or benefit from it – just reorganized the process.
Alexander: Pandemic has not destroyed the world. It has changed it and we have changed, too. We learned how to work remotely, that’s most beneficial given that our guitarist, Nikita, lives in Moscow and sends his parts online. Can’t say it hurt us.
Oz: What plans do you have for the future once the album is released? Do you think you’ll be able to do an extensive tour throughout Russia or perform in Europe or Asia?
Alexey: We will see how it goes. It’s down to a lot of management, of course. Touring around Russia is in order, although travelling outside the country is sadly impossible right now. Hopefully, not for long.
Alexander: We will most likely start from Far East of Russia. I already have the touring experience and we know where we will be going. If the West met us warmly, we’d be happy to go there. We are all but a big metal family, no borders should stand between us, even if we speak different languages.
Oz: Thank you very much for taking the time to answer my questions. Good luck with the album!
Alexey: Thank you! Hopefully you will enjoy the album!
Alexander: Thank you for your interest! We are doing it for the listeners to maintain this musician-and-listener energy exchange, and we’ll be happy to chat with you anytime!
Ollie Hynes has been a writer for Metal Underground.com since 2007 and a metal fan since 2001, going as far as to travel to other countries and continents for metal gigs.
Link to the source article – http://www.metalunderground.com/news/details.cfm?newsid=153192