About Me

Interview with Strigoi

What do Strigoi and Paradise Lost have in common?! The incredible talent of the mighty Greg Mackintosh! Even though he plays guitar in Paradise Lost and handles the vocal duties in Strigoi, it is impossible to not be amazed his creativity and talent.
Strigoi are about to release their second album “Viscera”, via Season of Mist, and Chris Casket, the other founder of the band, had an interesting conversation with Metal Imperium about it. Check it out!!

M.I. - Are you finally relaxing from the festivals you had this year?

Yeah, yeah, finally! It was slightly hectic but they went really, really well. It was great to finally get out there and play these songs after all this time, so yeah they were brilliant, all of them were really good.

M.I. - So let's start from the beginning! Strigoi in Romanian mythology are troubled spirits that have risen from the grave. Is this the band's interpretation as well? What lured you into this name?

It was actually Greg's idea. We had a few rough ideas of potential names but that was the one that just seemed to suit. Although there is that interpretation, it's also kind of ambiguous so it suits what we wanted to do so people could make up their own mind as to what Strigoi perhaps means to them in this context. But it certainly suits some of the subject matter that goes along with some of the songs that we do so it just seemed ideal. It was one that just jumped out of the page and that would certainly suit the the type of thing that we were attempting to do.

M.I. – So, in 2018, you and Greg started this project and you both played in other bands. Did you have ideas that didn't fit into the bands you were playing in and you needed a new project?

From the perspective of Vallenfyre, that was purely Greg's project and purely Greg's idea and he felt that that he'd pushed that as far as he wanted to push. It was always going to be three records and that was what he wanted to do but we were always talking about other bands that we liked and older bands or perhaps more obscure bands and different things and both of us still wanted an outlet for that side of music... With Greg, with Paradise Lost everything is... it's almost beautiful... the melodies are all there so he needs to have something as an output for everything that isn't that and I think I felt the same because I need to have some sort of artistic output. I do the lyrics and Greg does the music and that's how it's been, how I presume it will continue, so we just found this sort of format that worked for us. That was really where it came from and also it didn't have the connotation that Vallenfyre had to Greg. So although there are still elements within the lyrics and the songs of Strigoi with regard to personal loss that both of us have experienced, that's not the main catalyst for its existence. So that's perhaps the difference between the two projects and also the reason why we wanted to continue doing something that was extreme in that regard.

M.I. - Which extreme bands do you enjoy?

It's very varied. Of course, things like Celtic Frost, Napalm Death, then some of the earlier hardcore bands, like Amebix, or Negative Approach from America... it's quite a mixed bag of different bits and pieces. It was Greg that actually introduced me to Candlemass. I'd seen the band around as you see in patches and different things but I never listened and... I mean, are they extreme? I wouldn't perhaps say that they're extreme, but it’s the production, I'm just blown away by, so I'm still going through the back catalogue of Candlemas now. I played in another band called Extreme Noise Terror so I’ve always been around more the cross punk side of things. Actually Vallenfyre featured the bass player from a doom band, I was really excited about that because I've been a fan of doom since I was a kid so it's more that side of things as far as extreme music goes for me.

M.I. – “Viscera” is the new album and the second album is always very important to make or break a band. How confident are you with this new album?

It's difficult to say... isn't it pride before a fall what they say?! I'm immensely confident! I really like it and, for me, through the music that I've done, if it's something that I like, then I think that the job’s kind of done. The feedback that we've been receiving now... the album has actually been out there for journalists and even for friends of mine that work for different labels and they've heard it, everything's just been awesome, everything's been not the usual “Oh it's really good”... it's that they will cherry pick certain things that they really like. I'm immensely confident and it's difficult to be so when you've been living in a bubble for two years with these songs and slowly crafting them... I mean that was perhaps one of the plus points that we actually had, we were afforded the time because there was nothing else to do really, think about these songs and really consider what we were doing so I just hope if people get a percentage of what I get out of this record, then it'll be a success! I just can't wait for people to hear it.

M.I. - The two singles available “Hollow” and “King of all Terror” have great comments on YouTube. I don't know if you read those but it seems fans are really appreciating these songs, so I guess it will be great for Strigoi. Was this album somehow influenced by covid?

I think it would be impossible to say that it wasn't, because I'd certainly never been through anything like that and Greg hadn't either, so even if it's subconsciously there would have been an influence from the solitude and the confines of being in one place. I must confess I did find initially, from a writing perspective, it was difficult to be inspired because nothing was changing, week on week on, but I managed to find my stride. There are versions of the songs that ultimately ended up on the record that were sitting for a while and then we completely wiped the slate clean because they just weren't working, they weren't appropriate for this and then they were and so we changed them. So having the time I think influenced it as well, because you can sit and you can listen to something 10 times and then you can leave it for a week and then you can come back to it again with a fresh pair of ears. There was a lot of self-reflection in that respect of actually writing the record and the sound that we wanted to achieve and the full concept, all those elements, so yeah covid definitely played a role. I think in the end result I hope for positive as opposed to negative. None of us have ever been through that before, have we?! People are asking me now about it but I hadn't considered it previously, it was more about getting the record done and getting it to to the level and the quality that we wanted.

M.I. - All tracks have intense titles. Which topics are addressed in them? Who writes the lyrics and what did you focus on?

For the most part the lyrics come from me and I'm kind of loathed to really point to specifics simply because I'm not overly comfortable with coloring the listeners’ preconception of what it might be. Some songs might be a bit more obvious than others with regard to the subject matter of course. Even from looking at a logo you know how we feel about organized religion of any sort. That's always going to be present and the same can be said with certain humanistic subjects. We're very pro-human and very anti-religion, but I'm more interested in what other people are going to think about things. Case in point would be the video for “Hollow” because the wonderful director who produced that for us, we sent him the lyrics and the song because he didn't want to know anything else, he just wanted the lyrics and the song to listen to... and his interpretation of that song is something I would have never thought of and I wrote the words but that's what's wonderful about it... if you don't give too much away, then people can come up with their own ideas. I get emails from people, whose english isn't their first language, with their interpretations of things, their translation and I find it really engaging because it always proves they might have some idea but they've also got a completely different view and I really like that! The subjects are there but have a listen and I hope people listen to it in context, from start to finish, listen to it and then you can let us know what you think it means.

M.I. – Okay, then, so why is “Viscera” the perfect title for this album?

You could take it from a perspective of self-reflection, you could take it from... once again, if I say too much it's going to give the game away and someone might suggest that we're being deliberately obtuse with regard to what we'll say and what we won't but I hope that this actually leads people to listen and to make up their own mind.

M.I. - But can you tell me how different, in your perspective,is “Viscera” from “Abandon All Faith”, when it comes to composing, producing and everything else?

From the composition stage there’s no difference, we found our format and it was very similar. It was just Greg and myself. I suppose the only slight difference was that our drummer Guido, on this particular one, he was actually in touch with us and he was making suggestions on a few songs. He's very artistic and definitely somebody that we're really, really glad to have involved with the project and that was something different to actually have a third pair of eyes. That's sort of a change but ultimately it was the same format but in regards to what this record means in relation to “Abandon all faith”, I think we always knew that “Abandon all faith” was going to be a transitional release because there were certain expectations from people who were big fans of Vallenfyre and we didn't try to keep anybody happy. We just did on “Abandon all faith” what we wanted to do at that time. With “Viscera” we have realized this is what Strigoi is, because it took us time to fully understand what this project was ultimately going to be. So I would say the difference being that with “Viscera” the band fully realized the concept, now we fully understand, we know what we want to do! I'm already writing ideas and bits and pieces for a potential third record as it stands, because I’m very much inspired again. And of course I know covid is still about but things are a little bit easier now and every time the inspiration hits I'll always write it down because you never know when you're gonna come up with something. So I would say that the main difference between the two is we were afforded the time to finally nail down what Strigoi is as a band.

M.I. - Tell us about the cover and the two people eating viscera. What's the meaning of it all? Is it like we are all eating our hearts out to pay our bills and all that?

I mean there are so many... you see what I mean though?! Isn't that wonderful? That could potentially be your interpretation and I'm so loathed not to say because...

M.I. – Okay, okay!!

This is engaging and I hope from this interview that people might get the same thing that when you entrust your art to somebody else to interpret. It's the same for the wonderful artist that we had, we threw some ideas to him and he said “I like your ideas but I’ve actually got an idea of my own and I want you to trust me” and so we did... that's what's so important here that when you find the right people and when the record is finally released, people can actually see it in context, see those photographs, those wonderful photographs as they progress throughout the entirety of the inlay, perhaps they'll have a better understanding. Somebody asked me the other day what's the perfect situation for somebody to listen to this record. And I said, on vinyl, preferably alone in a room and just with the cover in front of them, read the lyrics and just absorb it. That's what I did as a kid. That's what I still do if a new record comes out that I like, it's straight on my vinyl player and I like to just sit there and enjoy it. We're definitely trying to have this sort of musical cinematography with what we do, to try and create this atmosphere. I understand people who listen to it on their phone or on their earbuds when they're on public transport, whatever it might be, and that's absolutely fine but, if you have the opportunity to listen to music in this particular way and then see it in a live environment as well, you know those are obviously the most preferred ways for any artist to have their art consumed so that's what I hope will happen and then people can actually look at all the photos.

M.I. - Despite the goreness of the image, having people eating viscera... it's a beautiful one really! Guido and Ben joined the band last year. What did they bring into Strigoi? How have they impacted the band and its sound?

Guido is a remarkable drummer and really understands the process. He's very much one of us, he likes the idea of a proper top-down mix, allowing the drum space to breathe. He uses a very small kit, he essentially uses a ringo kit like a snare, a top, a rack tom, a floor tom kick drum, that's it and his cymbal. He's quite an artistic guy, he certainly threw some ideas, some opinions on the format of some of the songs which was really helpful. Ben has been in since the recording, so he came in to do the rhythm guitars... he's very new but thus far he's been very proactive, he's very experienced, a very good guy. It all seems to be going very well with him and he's very good in the studio as well. We just seem to be very fortunate. For live we have our friend that was also in Vallenfyre, Sam, he's in to do the live rhythm guitars. So yeah at least now we can get out there with a good group of people to actually fully play the songs. For the shows that we've done everything's gone well, I couldn't be happier. I am just looking forward to the next body of shows when we finally decide exactly what we're going to do!

M.I. - This album is going to be released by Season of Mist and the first one was released by Nuclear Blast. Why the change of label?

I think Season of Mist is a more suitable platform. We did very well with Nuclear Blast, we had a great relationship with them, there was no bad blood or any of those things. Everybody agreed that this was just perhaps a better situation for the band to move forward and it has proved that it has been. I want to be very respectful to Nuclear Blast because honestly the team there bent over backwards, they were really good and I'm still in touch with them and everything was great. But, I think, from our perspective, if you can move to a label that specializes more in the type of thing that you do, that works for the better. When the choices came up and there were numerous labels that were actually bidding for us, it was quite gratifying we landed with Season of Mist. The deal was great but it was a personality thing as well, they were so passionate about what we were doing and that's something you can't buy. If you've got a team that are so committed to your vision and what you want to do, we would have been foolish to not take that opportunity so that's the reason why we moved. But, like I say, we're still very in touch with everybody else that we've worked with for the debut record.

M.I. - This summer you did your debut live performance at In Flammen Open Air and then you also played at Bloodstock and Brutal Assault. How was the experience of Strigoi live?

For me, it was beyond cathartic. I’d been dying to get these songs out there and the reaction was amazing! We've been inundated with people just so happy to finally be able to see such misery because that's the thing I love: the juxtaposition between how happy this has made people considering the subject matter and how brutally miserable the band can be. I absolutely love being able to play the song “Abandon all faith”, which is a very personal song to me, and the slowest circle pit that's ever existed erupts in front of me and I'm just smiling and I'm trying not to but it's very much an honest experience and an honest performance from ourselves so... I love all those elements of live and it was such a long time coming! But yeah it was brilliant, and In Flammen was a great place to start because it feels like home. We've done it with Vallenfyre before, we know the organizers incredibly well, they treat us really well, we played on a day with a lot of friends. In fact, Memoriam were playing directly after us. Every experience has been absolutely brilliant, even the colossal heat of Bloodstock which was beyond... I don't think I've ever felt heat like that but we did it and we smashed through it and everybody was really happy. So yeah it's all been great, it's been a really good summer for Strigoi.

M.I. – But did you play the first album or did you play this new one?

For In Flammen it was the first record because “Hollow” hadn't been released yet. Then for Brutal Assault and Bloodstock, we played the two singles “Hollow” and “King of all Terror” but we didn't play anything else because ultimately we don't want to give the game away! Obviously the first record sold really well so we don't want to shortchange that because when the new record is out we are still going to be limited to perhaps a 40-45 minute set and we've got two albums to pick from so there will be some songs that people have seen this summer that potentially they'll never see again. We were very keen to try and give as broad a spectrum of the first record as we could, because we know that for headline shows some would come back in but when you've got like 24 songs, that's a lot so we will always try and mix it up but
we had to make sure that “Abandon all faith” had a good last sort of hurrah live before we move on to “Viscera”.

M.I. - Yeah because you didn't have many opportunities to promote the first album, right?!

No, not at all! In fact, we finished the press in late January and then covid hit in February so... we've never played a show, we couldn't, there was talk of doing a live stream but we're both very loathe to do that because I certainly didn't want my first show to be in a studio situation. It's better to do it this way and then if there are options to do live streams and things in the future, fantastic, but it has to be done live, you have to see the whites of people's eyes and do it properly!

M.I. - You've mentioned the slowest circle pit at Brutal Assault. What happened after all?

It's actually something left over from Vallenfyre. You know the premise of the circle pit that everybody runs around as fast as they can and this happens in the slowest song of the set and it is ridiculous, of course. We don't want to be seen as some novelty band but I suppose when you're dealing with such horrific subject matter, really heavy substance, it's kind of quintessentially British perhaps to also have some sort of a wry smile about it and although I'm not trying to be any sort of nationalist in any way at all in that respect but I do find that in the British temperament and, particularly the more north you go in the country, is that humor does play a great role when dealing with any sort of serious subject and it's fun. So if you can imagine people running but in very, very slow motion that's just what happens. In fact, I remember from Bloodstock there was a guy who had a bag of crisps or something, he was eating them slowly and that song is literally so dark, it really is a very serious song. It's such a cathartic thing for me because I stand there and I watch this happening and I think if this is turning real life negativity into something positive for somebody else, that's great. We were hoping perhaps that happened that one time and then it happened kind of organically at Bloodstock and I think this is going to be something that continues. We have to talk about it if people want to do it and if that's going to help their gig, as long as it doesn't turn into full pantomime, I think we'll be all right with it. It's just fun and it's good to have a bit of fun, so I certainly enjoyed it.

M.I. - Any plans for Strigoi to tour in order to promote the new album as headliners or something? Are you coming to Portugal?

Oh I’d love to, I haven't been to Portugal in years, I would love to come back to Portugal! There are already offers. It was good that we could do these festivals because promoters can see what we do, they realize that it's a fully fledged band that we weren't just going to keep it to the studio. The offers are coming in and we're just ruminating on what's going to be the most suitable way to go about this. Obviously Greg has Paradise Lost as well, Nick has Bloodbath so we have perfect spots where Paradise Lost can't do anything but we can all still do things so... we're all very good friends anyway but we’re just trying to pick when are we going to do something, what format is it going to be, how can we hit the most amount of people because obviously we want to make up the time... it sounds horrible but we did lose time through covid, so we want to see as many people as we can, we want to play where we can. At present I've got no other news on that to tell you that I can announce. We have all the social media platforms that I run so we will let people know. It's definitely a priority now to get out and to do as much as is physically possible and is of the correct quality and format so people get the best out of us.

M.I. - Bloodbath are about to release a new album as well, so Strigoi and Bloodbath could go on tour together!

You said that, not me! I must admit I am very much a fan particularly of their new record, the first single was an absolute banger, it was really good to me, it was a real return to form. They're good guys, Nick is a very good and very funny guy but I don't know... maybe that will happen in the future maybe. I have a list of people that I would love for us to do some shows with. I would really like if we could do something with Triptykon, I'd be really up for that but that hasn't been talked about, nothing's been said, that's just me being a bit of a fanboy!

M.I. - Anyone else?

No!! [Laughter] Just Triptykon! I just want to hear those those Celtic Frost songs!

M.I. – Okay, Chris, thank you for your time! Do you have any last words to your portuguese fans and Strigoi fans?

Well, yeah, I just want to say I really appreciate everybody’s support during this difficult time. People have still been very much in touch and now that things are easier we're going to do our level best to try and come and see you all! “Viscera” is out on the 30th of September so make sure you check that out! Thanks to everybody for the support, it's very gratifying, we never take it for granted! We hope to see you soon!

Listen Strigoi, on Spotify

For Portuguese version, click here

Questions by Sónia Fonseca