Monday, 14 August 2017

The Art Of Noise: Dephosphorus - Impossible Orbits + Review


I'm beginning to move in a slightly different direction with this blog. One of the ideas that I want to build upon is my "Art Of Noise" features, which revolve around interviews with bands and artists about the artwork that adorns both new and old records. This is the third instalment, the other two are here and here. It features the newest album by Greek astro-grind band Dephosphorus and includes short interviews with both the band and the Viral Graphics, who created the artwork above. I've also decided to review the album below as well. "Impossible Orbits" was released in June via Selfmadegod.

Here's what both Dephosphorus and Viral Graphics had to say about the artwork, the creative process and how it reflects the music:-


(Photo Credit: Dephosphorus' Facebook Page)

Dephosphorus

Before I ask you about the artwork itself, I want to ask you about “Impossible Orbits”. What kind of creative process did you go through when writing and recording the album? What ideas and themes are present on it?

Panos: The creative process has been the same as in all our efforts. Thanos, our guitarist and songwriter sends us from Sweden (where he’s currently residing) demos with the songs (with or without programmed drums). We then play them all together once we’re reunited in Athens, as part of our bi-yearly rehearsing sessions. At this point we finalise the drum parts and we add the vocals.

Until recently we’ve been a trio and bass was added at the studio. For “Impossible Orbits” Babis K., an old comrade and band mate of me and Thanos back in the Straighthate days (check out his noise rock band Krause!), has recorded the bass for some songs and he has been able to join some rehearsals as well . After the completion of “Impossible Orbits”, a proper bass player has joined the band, Kostas Ragiadakos, so for the preparation of our new fourth album which we have just finished recording (scoop!), bass was part of the creative process as well.

Last but not least, before hitting the studio we’re doing pre-production which usually consists of drums recorded at our rehearsal spot (Studio D) and the rest of the instruments and vocals recorded home.

Some of the ideas and themes explored this time in the context of our overall concept are:
The alternate states of existence that consciousness and sentient life can be trapped to.
The cruelty that super-evolved civilisations can display.
The evolution of life beyond biology and the possible osmosis between biological beings and A.I.
The mis-management of resources by a civilisation and the associated consequences.

With that in mind, did you have any ideas for the artwork before you approached Viral Graphics to help you out?

Panos: Viral Graphics are like an extra member of Dephosphorus and we trust them 100% for the visual part. They have done all our artwork so far - except the split-7”EP with Great Falls which was part of the Hell Comes Home box set.

We never give them directions: just the music and the lyrics. From there, they extract some key themes and vibes that resonate with them. The result is always perfect and beyond expectations.

Dephosphorus has always been a heavy band that takes no prisoners. How do you think the cover art reflects both the band and the music on the album?

Panos: The cover artwork has captured the darkness and violence of the album’s music and lyrical themes. I also think that more than previous times, it evokes perfectly the space opera dimension of our music and concept.

What has the reaction to “Impossible Orbits” been like so far?

Panos: Being released by Selfmadegod, which is the bigger label we’ve worked with so far, has exposed “Impossible Orbits” to new audiences and media. The reaction is very positive and we are grateful for all the support we’re getting. Cheers!


(Photo Credit: Viral Graphics Tictail Page)

Viral Graphics

You’ve worked with Dephosphorus before, designing cover art for their previous LPs and the collaborative LP with Haapoja. How were you first introduced to the band and what was you first project with them?

VG: We've been friends with the guys for many, many years now, so it was only natural that at some point we would work together, besides hanging out listening to music. We had done some stuff for the previous band of two of the members of Dephosphorus, called Straighthate back in the day - mainly flyers and show posters - so when the time came they commissioned us to work on the artwork and packaging for Dephosphorus' debut "Axiom" LP in the hot and humid summer of 2010. Good times. 

That artwork somewhat jump-started our involvement (and to some extent, our interest) in space/ astral-themed illustration, which is now, 7 years later, quite a prominent ingredient in our work as Viral Graphics, both for Dephosphorus as well as other artists. 

When they approached you to create the cover art for “Impossible Orbits”, did they come to you with a brief or did you just roll with it? How long did it take you to complete?

VG: Since we're good friends with them, we get to constantly talk about the band and what has to be done and so on, so a "brief" in the strict sense of the word is non-applicable. We get to do as we please as it's up to us in Viral to come up with a concept and how that will be depicted on the cover etc. We of course have some guidelines and some ideas do come from the band, but other than that we are solely responsible for everything art-related regarding Dephosphorus. Minimal guidance from the band but exactly what we need in order to work, so everyone's happy and they really trust us, our work and vision.

We started discussing the "Impossible Orbits" artwork about a year and a half ago. They gave us the album's lyrics and we began collaging a concept based on and around them, then proceeded to pencil out the illustration and when it got approved we started inking it. The inking process start to finish took two solid months, from May to July 2016, of painstakingly long workdays in 40 degrees Celsius weather, but it was all worth it as we consider it to be one of our best works to date.

A lot of your artwork has a horror/occult theme to it. What sort of theme did you go for with “Impossible Orbits” and what reaction did the artwork get from the band when you presented it to them?

VG: Well, the concept is best described by the band so we'll just quote them on that as it fits exactly what us in Viral we'd say about it anyway: "Concept and aesthetics draw influences from cosmology, astronomy and science fiction literature, as well as the associated sociopolitical and existential repercussions." 

The "Impossible Orbits" cover artwork is exactly that, given that it has a slave ship on it with more slaves embarking upon voluntarily, while their planet comes to an end through a cleansing, maniacal fire. You could say that the current global situation is like that, you get to be a slave to something or someone, or you get burned by the "fire" closing in on you rapidly.

Much like the current geographical alterations taking place right now, for example the people of Syria, they stay there they get killed, they leave they get drowned in the Mediterranean sea and the ones that manage to get to Greece's or Italy's shores, they get treated like shit, and then afterwards - even if they get through that ordeal too - they have to hike innumerable and unfathomable heights to have something resembling a 'normal life' and that's just one example of what the world has come to. That sense of hopelessness was what we tried to capture with this artwork. It is very earthly in a way, while simultaneously being 'spacey'. 

As for the band's reaction, they loved it but they got to witness each and every step of it, as we were documenting the illustration's progress through photographs which we'd then send over to them to review.

As fans of the music, how would you say the cover represents Dephosphorus and their sound?

VG: Well, it still fits within the band's basic concept of Dephosphorus being an entity, as well as the world surrounding that said entity. This pretty much describes it all in all.

Carry on down to the review below...


Tracklist:

1. Above The Threshold
2. Micro-Aeons Of Torment
3. Rational Reappraisal
4. Asteroskoni
5. Impossible Orbits
6. Imagination Is Future History
7. The Light Of Ancient Mistakes
8. Suspended In A Void Universe
9. Blessed In A Hail

I’ve always been a fan of fast grind and metal, but as I’ve grown older I’ve come to realise that it has to be interesting as well as just speedy. Bands that spring to mind that fit that mould include are Famine (UK), Wake (Can), Full Of Hell (US) and I’ve sure there’s a few more laying scattered around my head. Athens quartet Dephosphorus are another band that belongs on that list and while I haven’t featured them here for a few years (until now), I know that they won’t disappoint. “Impossible Orbits’ features nine quick-fire songs that fuse together, hardcore, sludge, grind and almost everything in between. Opening with Above The Threshold, Dephosphorus takes you to the edge of their blackened psyche. Fast and with a rumbling low-end, it’s only pierced by the crazed screams of Panos Agoros. Disturbing as it may sound, they still find a moment to weave in a brief but atmospheric mid-section into the song to break up the barbarity. Things lean in a more metal direction on Micro-Aeons Of Torment, thanks to the more straightforward intro. The song itself is more sludgy and thick. It’s here that you get a true sense of the “astro-grind” sound that they preach. It’s off-kilter, dark and chaotic. There are sludgy hardcore undertones flowing through Rational Reappraisal, but it never strays too far away from the albums violent blueprint. The vocals, while an acquired taste to some, completely work amongst the noisy backdrop of the instrumentation. The furious drumming of John Votsis provided the rhythmic equivalent of a lobotomy. Asteroskoni is bolstered by the Greek vocals. They add an extra something to Dephosphorus’s sound. I don’t think merely calling the song “fast” does it justice either. The title-track highlights the band’s crushing song-writing and distills it into ninety-seconds of glorious brutality, before stopping on a dime. Dephosphorus make great of their affiliation with all things cosmic and while listening to Imagination Is Future History, it’s hard not to think about the idea of floating through space with it as your soundtrack, as the pressure crushes you and the asteroids batter you. There are nods to the technical edge of the metal stratosphere on The Light Of Ancient Mistakes and even swathes of ambience. Not that the rest of the album isn’t technical, but it just seems more obvious here. The notion of being lost in the ether only becomes more vivid during penultimate song Suspended In A Void Universe, though it could aptly describe everyday life as well! By the time you reach final song Blessed In A Hail (if indeed you’re strong enough to get there), you’ll be rewarded with one last slab of angular blackened grinding fury. Granted they are adjectives that are thrown about daily by “media types” but they will do here. Dephosphorus has nailed it and that’s the highest praise they can be given. After all… they’re out of this world!

Stream the record here:-


It's available to purchase directly from Dephosphorus in digital and cd formats above, as well as a part of various merch packages.

It's available from Selfmadegod here - https://selfmadegod.com/shop/

I want to take this opportunity to say thanks to both Panos (and the rest) of Dephosphorus and to Viral Graphics for taking the time to answer my interview questions and for agreeing to be part of this feature.

Dephosphorus - https://www.facebook.com/dephosphorus/
Viral Graphics - https://www.facebook.com/ViralGraphics/
Selfmadegod Records - https://www.facebook.com/Selfmadegod/

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