Last month, New Jersey funeral doom veterans Evoken released their 6th studio album, Hypnagogia. A concept album based around World War I, Hypnagogia is the bands first new album in 6-years, and as drummer/lyricist Vince Verkay explains:
“[The album] is based around World War I and its physiological impact on those who fought. It’s used metaphorically about events that impacted me the past three years, which I will keep to myself. But the story behind this World War I theme is based on a soldier who was so bitter about being lied to and is losing his life. He’s wounded in battle and decides to write a journal of his final hours, describing what he sees and what he feels as his life is slipping away. Feeling cheated, he makes a pact with a sadistic god that he can leave a part of his soul, which contains all of his suffering, within this journal.”
If you think that sounds heavy, just wait until you hear the music. That said, transcending their previous albums, Hypnagogia finds the band broadening their sound with more intricate and diverse song structures resulting in an effort that provokes a deeper emotional response than your average doom offering.
We caught up with guitarist Chris Molinari to talk about the album, the bands touring plans, some of his influences, and we even got a little advice for artists in the early stages of developing their craft. If you want to know more about the album, you can also check out our review.
the void report: It has been six long years since Evoken fans have had a taste of new music. What has been going on with the band during that time?
Chris Molinari: Since the release of the last album in 2012, we have done a European tour, some festivals, and a few shows in North America. We received a lot of positive feedback from Atra Mors, and wanted to concentrate on a successful follow up. We took a little more time to complete this one, but we are very happy with the end result.
the void report: Hypnagogia is the first Evoken album to have a full concept story-line. Can you tell us a little about the concept and how it was conceived? Is it based around any personal experience?
Chris Molinari: The Hypnagogia concept was created by Vince (Verkay), who for those new to the band, is the drummer and co-founder. The story is centered around a soldier of The Great War (WW1) and his personal struggles. Although Vince is far too young to have participated in the war, the concept is influenced by his own experiences of betrayal and tribulation.
the void report: The song structures in Hypnagogia stay true to the crushing doom style that Evoken is know for; however, these songs seem to have more layers and subtle details that push the sound to be slightly more complex and diverse. How did you all approached the writing for this album and how long did the process take?
Chris Molinari: I do not think our actual approach to writing was different on this album, but I feel as if we were more willing to experiment. This is my second recording with Evoken, but I have known them since the beginning, and I always felt they had a more cerebral approach to writing than the run-of-the-mill band. Hypnagogia is another chapter in that saga. This process took a little longer than usual, but it was well worth it to get the desired result.
the void report: Did you try anything different in the songwriting and recording process compared to your previous output?
Chris Molinari: We are always trying different things, but not just for the sake of being different. Many bands have experimented, but failed to produce the same quality music of their previous releases. We did not set out to change our style, or reinvent the genre, but we tried to incorporate some new elements, such as female vocals, and a more prominent cello presence. As for recording, this is a process that is always dynamic. It pretty much ends at the same time as mixing.
the void report: After 25 years and paving the way for Funeral Doom, what are some of the biggest challenges that you have faced over the years? How have you overcome those obstacles to continue to charge forward with the band?
Chris Molinari: I believe one of the hardest obstacles for any band is making each release better than the previous one. The main thing is to create something different without compromising your sound or style too much. In my opinion, each Evoken album has a different vibe than it’s predecessor, and our goal is to provide a more interesting listen with subsequent releases.
the void report: As music has evolved over the years and genres get intertwined, are there any up-and-coming artist that you all enjoy and draw inspiration from?
Chris Molinari: I cannot speak for the rest of the band, but I am not too knowledgeable about up-and-coming artists. I am sure there are a lot of them out there. Some newer artists I enjoy are Burial Invocation, Drift Into Black, and Crowlegion.
the void report: On the other hand, what are a few of your all time favorite albums that you find yourself revisiting the most?
Chris Molinari: I would say the most important releases outside my biggest influences (Iron Maiden, Pink Floyd, King Diamond, Mercyful Fate) are [Paradise Lost’s] Lost Paradise, [Katatonia’s] Dance of December Souls, [My Dying Bride’s] Turn Loose The Swans, and [Anathema’s] The Crestfallen EP. There were so many great releases from the aforementioned bands, but I feel these albums are the four that really shaped my playing style. The late 80’s/early 90’s were just magical.
the void report: Now that Hypnagogia is out and receiving some stellar reviews, what does the future hold for Evoken? Any plans for extensive touring outside of the New England area?
Chris Molinari: We plan to take our success with Hypnagogia as far as it can go. When it comes to touring, the idea is to play in as many places we have yet to visit. A few people in the past have traveled extensively to see us. We are so glad to now have the opportunity to return the favor, and bring the doom to their hometowns.
the void report: What is the biggest piece of advice that you have for artist in the early stages of developing their craft?
Chris Molinari: The best advice I can give to a new artist is to never let anyone stand in your way. Stay true to yourself, and never become tempted by the prospect of instant fame and fortune. Much better to have a substantial, long lasting career like Iron Maiden or Rush than to be some flavor-of-the-month who is soon forgotten.