Thursday, April 4, 2019

Interview with Aaron Robinson of BLOOD OF ANGELS by Dave Wolff

Interview with Aaron Robinson of BLOOD OF ANGELS

Blood Of Angels’ debut EP "Rise of The Fallen Gods" is based on Norse mythology. Does the band offer a new slant on subject matter that has been adapted my many others?
We have offered a new slant to the subject by telling a three part story. Most bands have covered battles, historical moments, Norse ideas and Norse philosophy. Our story begins with Loki bargaining with the Ogre King which caused Thor to lose his hammer. Odin's rage when the deceit is revealed. The Final War which is when Thor takes on his nemesis the Midgard Serpent.

Was this storyline a conscious effort to homage Norse mythology, or something that developed naturally? How long have you had an interest in Norse mythology?
Originally, it was supposed to be a complete album having songs that included Greek, Roman, and Celtic mythologies. Due to other obligations from some of the members at the time, we settled for just the three song EP. I have had an interest in the subject as far back as I can remember. My dad's father came to the U.S. from Norway. I grew up with some of the traditions and stories. I always wanted to do my own spin on this metal genre.

Norse mythology has been a part of metal since the 1980s. From the 1990s onward its incorporation into the genre was emulated from Norwegian black metal bands. What are your thoughts about bands from Norway mixing the occult with Norse legend?
I think it is great that they're exploring their history and culture. To me, it gives already well composed music a deeper meaning. Just like how Iron Maiden influenced me to study works of literature I may never have read otherwise. These bands have brought awareness of their heritage to a global audience.

Describe the folk tales you grew up with. How many of them did you carry into your later years, and which of them most profoundly spoke to you?
One of the folk tales that speaks most to me is when Odin sacrificed his eye to achieve greater wisdom. By observing other cultures you can see that many people sacrifice certain comforts to achieve knowledge and growth. Through difficulty comes great lessons to learn and grow from. The Tale of Utgarda is also a good one. The contest described in this story to me showed that there are some things in life, no matter the effort, you can overcome. Especially when Thor was wrestling with old age. That affects us all.

What do you think the tale of Odin sacrificing his eye to achieve wisdom supposed to symbolize? And on that note, what of the tale of his sacrifice to himself?
It is up to the individual to figure out for themselves how far they are willing to go. When he almost sacrificed himself at the tree of Yggdrasil to uncover the secrets of the runes. That can be applied to many aspects of life. In my case I took out a loan to do a six week South American Tour. Luckily we did well enough that I was able to pay the loan back after we returned. There were times of discomfort during our journey. The knowledge I gained living in that culture for that period of time is priceless. I would have been screwed if we weren't able to pay back the loan upon our return. Our lives weren't in danger, but it took a big sacrifice to achieve that knowledge and experience.

Explain the Tale of Utgarda and the contest it’s based on. How did you first hear of this legend?
Thor had three challenges. The first a drinking contest, where his horn never emptied because it was the ocean. The second was to lift a cat that turned out to be the Midgard Serpent. The last is to wrestle an old women who symbolized old age. You can never defeat the process of ageing no matter your strength. I was around twelve or thirteen when I came across this story. I began to be fascinated by mythology and religious texts at this time. I was searching for truth.

Do you think those bands who introduced their heritage to audiences worldwide have broken any misconceptions about Scandinavian culture that existed previously?
I can't speak to that other than to present my opinion since I am an American. Being of someone who has only known this culture mostly through heritage, I believe a lot of stereotypes have been broken regarding Scandinavian culture. It has made fans of this music read, study and understand Norse history.

Was any research involved while you wrote your storyline? Was it planned from to tell it in three parts, or did it develop that way?
Chris (vocalist) and I did some research on Norse mythology before writing the lyrics to these songs. I read the book "Norse Mythology" by Neil Gaiman. We didn't plan on telling a story, it just developed as we were writing.

When was Neil Gaiman’s “Norse Mythology” published? How many different myths and folk tales are covered in that book and how much information about them is offered? How much of what you read was incorporated into your storyline?
The book was published in February 2017. It was what I was reading at the time when we were tracking the lyrics to these songs. The book didn't cover actual folk tales, but used the Norse Gods in a very creative story. It gave us the inspiration to make the three tracks into a story, and not just three songs about Norse mythology. “Norse Mythology” is made seamless into a complete arc. It is a good book if anyone is interested in this subject. There are fifteen short stories. Overall I would say they were accurate. I'm not a professor on the subject, but as far as I can tell, he captured the Norse Gods spirit really well. 

Cable TV stations like the History Channel have aired programs on Norse culture and mythology. If you have watched any of them, do you find them worthwhile for the viewer?
I have watched a lot of them, and they're a good foundation to start your journey in the history and mythology. The details in these programs only scratch the surface and show you the rabbit hole. After watching these programs you can decided if you want to continue to on the path, or just take what you have received from the program.

Name all the songs appearing on "Rise of The Fallen Gods" and explain what part of the storyline is told in each of them?
The first track is "Miscreant Deeds of Loki." This song kicks off the EP with a brief overview of all the manipulations that Loki has committed towards Thor, Freya, Baldur, and Odin. The Second is "Odin's Wrath." This track is about Odin’s rage toward Loki after killing Baldur. The third track is "Final War." Is Thor's final battle with the Midgard Serpent.

Regarding your tour of South America, how many stops did the band make while you were down there? Were fans of extreme metal receptive to your shows?
We did twenty-two shows over six week in Colombia, Ecuador, and Peru with my previous band. The fans were very receptive, and the tour was very successful. I have a lot of great stories during that tour. One of my favorite was when we played in Paute, Ecuador. They had a stage in a courtyard in the public park. There were around five hundred people at the show. Half-way through our set the whole crowd erupted into two circle pits. The view of the crowd from the stage was breathtaking. I will never forget it.

Was South America your only tour outside your country or were there other times you toured abroad? In what countries would you want the band to tour next?
The South American tour has been my only outside tour. Our record label is based in Latvia, so I hope to spend a lot of time in Europe after the release of our next album, "The Failure the Faith."

What Latvian label is the band signed to, and how long have you been hooked up with them?
We are with Sliptrick Records. They have been fantastic promoting and supporting our upcoming release.

How much effort has Sliptrick Records put it promoting the band? Does the promotion mostly include zines and magazines or are there also mass emailings and social media campaigns?
They have done a great job to this point promoting the band. We have only released a single through them so far. It has included some social media promotion as well as physical media. I am sure promotion will really kick into high gear when the new album is completed.

Are you still interested in writing about Greek, Roman and Celtic mythology for future releases?
I do have an interest in writing about other mythologies in future releases. Our next album with cover the current mythologies of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. It will be a full-length with ten tracks. We have four tracks and will be back in the studio next month.

What aspects of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam are you covering on the next album? Provide some information about the songs that have been completed.
The album will be exploring the validity and influence these faiths have had on humanity. It begins with the track "Monotheism" which is about the time when man creates the idea of a singular god. That brings us to the time of Abraham. Followed by "40 Year Journey" which starts with the Exodus, discusses the holocaust, and then ask the question has the oppressed become the oppressor with the horrible treatment of the Palestinians. "Blood of the Lamb" ask the question of how can Christ be so charitable and forgiving in his teachings, then have his legacy used as a reason to commit unspeakable acts of horror. In the fourth track "The Messenger" we explore the prophet Mohammad's story of how he was given the latest word of god from Gabriel. But these writings weren't published until decades after his death. Throughout the Middle East the Islamic faith is used by Sultans and clerics not to promote peace and enlightenment, but to control thought and behavior of their citizens through fear.

How much research went into writing the lyrics of the new album? Any books that you would recommend?
I have done a good amount of research. Making this album is something I have wanted to do for many years. For research material of the side of religion there are the obvious, "The Bible", "The Quran" and "The Torah." As far as the opposing side I have delved into Stephen Hawking’s "A Brief History of Time" and "How To Prove God Does Not Exist" by Trevor Treharne. I have also watched speeches by Richard Dawkins and Richard Carrier.

In what ways did you compare what you read in the Bible, Quran and Torah with what you read in Hawking and Trehame’s books while researching and writing the lyrics?
There really isn't any comparison. They're cover different things. For every "holy" book I read, I also read a book that challenge the "holy" books. I have found that science and historians can support their conclusions with proof. Whereas religion just goes by the premise of just trust and believe without concrete fact to back up their word. The faiths have always had to adjust their beliefs to match scientific and historical discoveries. Science has never needed to change based on religious dogma.

How many of Richard Dawkins and Richard Carrier’s speeches were you watching during the album’s songwriting process?
At least a dozen by this point. With every lecture I learn a little more.

Considering the religious atmosphere in the US and other countries, do you imagine the new full length will be taken out of context by some people, or will your listeners basically understand what you’re trying to say?
I don't think the album will be taken out of context. Those with open minds would listen to the music, and be open to debate which is healthy for development and the growth of any free society. Those that cling to their religion like a comfort animal will call me a heretic and the music blasphemous. Those accusations would be accurate within the narrow limits of religion. Considering I am challenging their medieval beliefs and to look at the world as a completely fact-based society on the development of our world and the evolution of the human experience. Science doesn't have all the answers yet, but we definitely are not here based on incestuous ancestry line as told in genesis.

Where in Europe do you want to perform in support of the new album? What parts of the world would you travel to from there?
We would perform anywhere at any time. We just want to connect with people and share our music. We promise to bring a high energy metal show to everyone who would like to see us.

After the new album’s release, are you considering one release each about Celtic, Greek and Roman beliefs? Or will a single release incorporate all three?
I haven't thought about that. Now that you bring it up, one release is a good idea. That way we can explore each subject in as much detail as a metal album can.

Are there any other ideas you are considering basing an album on at present? What do you hope your conceptual ideas in general will contribute to extreme metal?
I got a lot of ideas. Just to name a few, I was thinking of doing a album that explored different cultural interpretations of what death means. Also, there is an opera I wrote a couple of years ago that I would love to release as a album. I got many more. I hope these conceptual ideas can help bring extreme metal into other areas of intellectual expression. So the music can grow beyond some of its rigid subgenre purity.

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-Dave Wolff

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