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Interview with Svart Crown

French extreme metallers Svart Crown are finally back – with a new single & video, a new album and a tour! Armed with a new revigorated line up, the band is releasing their fifth studio album “Wolves Among The Ashes” on February 7th, 2020 and it’s certainly their most mature and diverse album to date. This new set of songs promises a deep and introspecting journey, from freezing black metal vibes to post-modern apocalyptic death metal. Across tortured and bleak landscapes, the French quartet is exploring the most sombre and psychotic traits of humanity, With its message both poignant and thoughtful, "Wolves Among The Ashes" is a true devil in sheep's skin and a new exciting milestone in Svart Crown's history. Metal Imperium had the pleasure of chatting with mainman JB Le Bail who enlightened us about all the important details…

M.I. - First off, I would like to say I love the new album. Congratulations!

Thank you!

M.I. - This album showcases a wide variety of styles, from Gregorian chants to industrial samples, from black metal to trip-hop beats. How confident does one need to be in order to innovate like this?

There is a new vibe, a new feeling that, emotionally speaking, it's like we did something else. Even the melodies sound different. It's different kind of stuff, that's one of my favourite albums and, so far, there's people that really love it and people who don’t because that’s not what they expected because they didn’t listen to the whole album. Some people will be maybe disappointed.

M.I. - “Thermageddon” is the 1st single you released to showcase the album. Why have you chosen this track in particular?

I think it like an obvious choice, a risky choice… it is more like a classical track. 

M.I. - What’s the meaning of the album title “Wolves Among the Ashes”?

It’s a kind of chorus taken from the song “Thermageddon”: “We are angels of our fall, the enemies of ourselves, our own predators, wolves among the ashes” and it summarizes well the identity… man is auto destructive and that’s maybe what we want to say, it’s a big reflection on the world, of what we are doing right now and also this is about the internal fights that we are all struggling with. I'm talking a lot about myself in this album but, also, I'm also talking about the world. I think the title is a strong sentence.

M.I. - Why did you want to portray “human madness to the extreme”? 

I don't have a very good opinion about the world. I could be optimistic in some way but when I'm thinking about the future of the world and the world itself, I'm negative. I am also more inspired by the dark face of everything and the darkness and perdition we are going through in society… so that's kind of my vision of the world right now.

M.I. - Supposedly, the album came to life as a vision after you saw the Darvaza gas crater in Turkmenistan, a natural gas field nicknamed ‘door to hell’ (‘darvaza’ literally means ‘door’ in Turkmen) which has been burning for the last four decades. What impact did it have on you that you decided to dedicate an album to this?

That's clearly a confusion in the press release as I didn't go there exactly. I just watched videos and saw stuff online about it. Anyway, those visions and pictures I saw, were a real inspiration… when I had the first prediction and flash, you know, I was connecting all the writing and all the melody to a picture. It was visually important for me and for the balance as we always try to have strong covers and strong design. It represents the violent force of the nature and this kind of thing that you always feel is that there is something bigger than you. For me, the best of this is all the lava volcanic caves… this is the greatest strength of the natural that will always show you that there is something bigger than you and bigger than human. Nature will always have the last word, that’s what I think. 

M.I. - Yes and currently we are actually witnessing just that. There is heavy rain and floods here in Portugal and fires in Australia… everything is messed up!

Exactly! I wrote everything even the lyrics, right before the huge fires in Amazonia this summer, and the word “Thermageddon” actually comes from one of the guys who created Greenpeace. They wrote a book about this and said that humankind would eventually create its own Armageddon. I believe that when the Armageddon will come, it won’t be a biblical thing because biblical subjects are more metaphorical rather than real. I mean this is super interesting to see but I think we are creating our own apocalypse. All this is connected to what we are trying to say.

M.I. - This album features two former members, Ranko and Clément Flandrois, that returned to the band… how’s the experience of working again with them been?

It's like they never quit. I mean we always connected and spent time together even when they were not in the band anymore. So, it's like everyone grew up during four or five years and the band is not the same band. We all evolved personally so I think we are more focused on our thing and it’s more peaceful in terms of communication. Everything was easier… for example, Clément just wrote stuff two months before the recording and what he put in the record is really important as he puts the final touch that makes the biggest difference, in my opinion.

M.I. - You used to write 95% of the albums, did the same happen with this one? 

I always write in the same way so I mainly focus when I'm alone. I write some ideas and try to pick up the best things I can. I record everything and then I try to work on some structures and stuff like this. When I'm super happy about something, I show it to the guys and we just work on it and do some adjustments. The inspiration comes anytime when I’m not on tour, when I'm inspired, and inspiration can come from anything… the people around me, the band, anything… everything could be inspiring, you just need to be focused and keep an eye open.

M.I. – Have you ever suffered from writer’s block?

It’s really frustrating but I am always writing stuff and when I don't feel things are right, I don’t do it. I don’t put any pressure on myself because I don't feel that we have to record an album every year or every two years. I prefer to take my time and record another one when we're ready because it doesn't make any sense to record something that we are not really happy with. Since we finished the recording of the album, I barely played any guitars because I didn't feel like it. You know, in order to play I need to feel different and, right now, I feel different and I just want to grab the guitar to play. I need to feel this need of writing and, when I have it, I get more inspired.

M.I. - You said that the most difficult part of the process was when you had to do the vocals because you had to open new doors and put your ego aside. What do you mean by this? 

The thing is, this time, I felt that the songs needed something else, that they needed something really good for the vocals. I think I put some pressure on myself and had this inspiration but I wasn't so sure about my ideas, I wasn’t sure the other guys would like them. I didn't feel confident and I was always questioning myself and I was struggling because I wasn’t sure about what I wanted and I got some fear and made things more complicated than I should. So, I had to be more confident about my ideas and once I really opened my heart and my ideas to the others, they really got it and things turned out okay.

M.I. - Ever since your 2nd album, you’ve been working with Francis Caste. How important is it for you to work with people you know? Don’t you think working with someone different might inject something extra to the band?

We thought about it sometimes but we really have a connection with Francis. Album after album we work with him because we are doing something different and he is bringing something fresh to the band. We see Francis as someone that can do a great job in terms of quality and also in terms of trust and confidence. This is really important. I just want to work with a really cool, confident and working guy with really good ideas, who understands all the aspects of everything. Recording an album can be long and complicated and I like to be in a comfort zone and working with him is awesome because he really gets us and he always brings something interesting to the mix. 

M.I. - You’ve been in the band ever since day 1 and you’re the only standing member. How complicated has it been being the band’s leader for the past 15 years?

Yeah, I started the band when I was very young and I had this idea to create my own music but it is not a calm and easy-going road. I tried to do it with some other people, some people that were connected with me and that made things way easier but some people weren’t. So, I just try to keep the boat floating, I also do mistakes and I am human so I do my best in dealing with people and members, you know, but it could be complicated.

M.I. - On your 2020 tour, you’ll be accompanied by Gost. What are your expectations? 

I think we're going to try to present something a little bit different and globally more intense. We really want to step up our live show in terms of production and everything. We really want to propose something else to the listener so that he really has something interesting to see and to hear. We are working on those aspects and we hope we manage to do it properly. And I hope we will cover most of the territories we always did in the past and maybe conquer new territories. 

M.I. – But you’re not coming to Portugal… last time you played here was on the Rotting Christ/Carach Angren tour…

Yeah, we really had a good vibe there with the people. We never had the opportunity to return for festivals or even touring… Portugal is a place that’s far away for the routing as we have to go through Spain… sometimes we can’t say anything because it’s one of those “take it or leave it” tour so… I will try to make sure to come back because we really had a good vibe there. We had really strong support.

M.I. – Yes, I was at the show in Porto and I totally agree! It was intense and I think you should come back but I understand some bands don’t come here because the logistic is complicated. I read that you are a huge Alice in Chains fan. Have you ever considered the idea of doing a cover of one of their tracks… 

We never did any cover, we never really recorded any cover but we used to cover some songs in the beginning of the band. Of course, that would be something really interesting to do and I would love to do it. There’s no plan but it could become real one day…

M.I. - If you were to do it, which track would you choose and why?

That’s a tricky question. I really don’t know. There are so many good tracks. I think a track that would be suitable… because when you are covering a band, you need to think about the atmosphere you are bringing… Alice in Chains have this dark song “Love, hate, love” that is a really good song and I love the lyrics… I think it fits perfectly with our universe.

M.I. - You are already promoting the album and some tracks have been released but it will only see the light of the day on the 7th February 2020… why is the wait so long? Wouldn’t it be great to release right before xmas and sell more copies?

That’s not our choice. It has got to do with the planning of the label. They are the ones who decide the release plan. Obviously, they told us that xmas would be a tricky period for smaller bands like us because of the releases of the bigger bands. So, they always prefer to release our albums after the New Year and before the Summer.

M.I. - Now that the album is ready and has a release date, what will you do until then? Rest?

(Laughts) No! We still have a lot of work to do. We're going to rest a little bit for Christmas but we have all the promotions to do which is a huge amount of work. We are also looking for some videos to shoot and we also have all the booking aspects to take care of… we have to keep an eye open for the bookings and plans that we want to do. Yeah also we have to prepare the new live set and we want it to be really cool. We want to prepare some songs that we have never played before because we are feeling we want to play something different. We will play some classics but we want to play something different… so there’s a lot of work.

M.I. - Many thanks for your time! All the best! Please share a message with your Portuguese fans and readers of Metal Imperium! Hope to see you play here soon!

Thank you very much for the interview. We will make our best to return to Portugal because it is a country that keeps the flame alive and it would be great to play there once again. 

For Portuguese version, click here

Interview by Sónia Fonseca