As far as debut records go, you won’t come across a more ambitious, polished and beautiful piece than Caladan Brood’s ‘Echoes of Battle’. The American two-piece have taken their love for fantasy-inspired black metal and built a truly immersive 71-minute masterpiece, thematically based on the ‘Malazan Book of the Fallen’ – a fictional fantasy series written by Canadian author Steven Erikson. I interview mysterious members Mortal Sword and Shield Anvil for SoundShock Webzine, to find out more on the band’s love of fantasy, Summoning and the recording of their untouchable debut album.
The whole of ‘Echoes Of Battle’ really engulfs the listener from start to finish, taking them to a fantastical land completely removed from reality. Was it your initial intention to invoke this escapism for the listener? What kind of atmosphere do you want to craft with your music?
Caladan Brood: Yes, absolutely. Our music is fantasy-themed, and as such, escapism is integral to the atmosphere. If you found the music immersive, then we achieved what we set out to do.
When did Shield Anvil and Mortal Sword realise their ambitions with Caladan Brood? How did the band come to fruition?
CB: Caladan Brood was really just born out of our mutual love for bands like Summoning and Elffor, and for Malazan Book of the Fallen and fantasy literature/gaming in general.
What was it about the ‘Malazan Book Of The Fallen’ that inspired you both to write about it?
CB: It is a truly immersive, gritty fantasy world, with a deep, rich history, diverse cultures, and an enormous, colourful cast of characters. The story itself is truly epic, spanning a vast, war-torn world comprised of multiple continents, complex societies, gripping battles, and plot arcs that, as readers, we found ourselves very invested in. It provides us with a lot to explore thematically, and we feel that ‘Malazan Book of the Fallen’, with its dark atmosphere and massive scope, provides a perfect backdrop for this style of music. We are passionate about these books and we hope that fans of the series enjoy our musical tribute to it.
You took the Caladan Brood name from the warlord of the same name. Why this particular character?
CB: Caladan Brood is a character who wields a vast amount of power, but whose background remains largely veiled throughout the series. We liked this dichotomy of might and mystery, and once we toyed with the idea of naming our project after him, it just sort of stuck.
Obviously, the album is directly inspired by the Malazan Empire and the extensive war-torn tales that Steven Erikson writes about. As far as the fantasy fiction genre goes, are you interested in any other series of fantasy?
CB: Absolutely. Both of us are insatiable readers of fantasy and science-fiction; Tolkien, Moorcock, Jordan, Cook, Donaldson, Howard, and everything in between. We are also avid gamers, and our experiences with the soudtracks from games such as the Elder Scrolls series, Diablo I & II, Warcraft II: Tides of Darkness, Heroes of Might and Magic, and similar titles have influenced our music to no small degree.
Musically, there’s so much going on in ‘Echoes Of Battle’. There are layers of melodic black metal riffage, sad but expansive orchestral sections, gentle folk twists, beautiful piano and gorgeous vocal harmonies. How did you put all of this together in the studio?
CB: Well, the ‘studio’ was really just a home computer, haha. The vocal recordings and final mastering were done at a friend’s home studio, and we feel that he did wonderful job taking our mixes and giving them an extra dimension of richness and quality. He worked very closely with us during this final mastering process and we are very happy with the result. As far as the music itself goes, we just wanted to pay close attention to the arrangements. With songs as long as the ones on the album, it can be tricky to keep everything cohesive and interesting; in some ways we succeeded, in other ways we probably failed. Either way, we learned a lot throughout the recording of ‘Echoes of Battle’, and we had a lot of fun putting it together.
In your music, there can be some brief and very general comparisons to Summoning. Judging by ‘Echoes Of Battle’, Caladan Brood definitely cannot be mistaken for anything other than Caladan Brood – you have created an entirely new realm of fantasy-based music. How much inspiration did you take from Summoning?
CB: It is self-evident that the primary influence heard in our music is Summoning. They are a band that we respect deeply and we really just wanted to try our hand at creating something that that is rooted in their style but which has its own little flourishes here and there. We didn’t set out to create anything innovative, new, or different; we just wanted to create more music in the Summoning vein. There are, of course, other influences as well, which are evident in the parts of the album that aren’t quite so blatantly Summoning-esque. That being said, we are fully aware that we will never escape the Summoning comparisons – and it isn’t something we are striving to escape anyway. There will, of course, be people who cry foul of the fact that we took so much influence from such a unique band; but, on the other hand, there are a lot of people who are happy to have more bands creating music in this style. We do feel that what we ended up with is an album that does a bit of its own thing with the foundation laid down by Summoning, which was our intention in the first place. We have never and will never make any claims to ‘originality’ or ‘innovation’, because that’s simply not our goal. We’re just channeling our favourite influences and having a great time doing it.
With regards to Tolkien-inspired metal, there have been many, many great bands. But there’s not been many projects that are so thematically focused on the ‘Malazan Book Of The Fallen’. In the same way that Tolkien’s works have incited hugely ambitious projects like Summoning and Elffor, do you think that you could well be creating renewed interest in Erikson’s works and are perhaps pioneering a new form of fantasy metal?
CB: Well, we certainly aren’t pioneering anything, haha. Fantasy-themed black metal is nothing new, and we aren’t really doing anything innovative with it – but, as mentioned above, that wasn’t our goal in the first place. But it would be wonderful if, through exploring our music, people take it upon themselves to look into Malazan Book of the Fallen. We have actually received a number of emails from people telling us they have been reading ‘Malazan…’ thanks to discovering it through listening to our album, and that’s a very rewarding reaction to hear. Since ‘Malazan…’ hasn’t been around for as long as the works of Tolkien, Moorcock, Howard, Lovecraft, or many of the other writers whose bodies of work are oft looked to by metal bands for inspiration, its impact on the genre has been much smaller; however, that doesn’t diminish the quality of the works and the superb world-building presented by Erikson and Esslemont, nor how well-suited the books are to providing a thematic backdrop for metal music in general.
What other sounds, artists and bands have inspired you both?
CB: Besides Summoning, we are influenced by the likes of Elffor, Nazgûl, Graveland, Vordven, early Nokturnal Mortum, and others. There are also touches of bands such as Viking-era Bathory and Moonsorrow at times. We also pulled a lot from medieval/fantasy ambient such as Mantle of Dust, Lord Wind, and the like, and, as mentioned above, game soundtracks have left an indelible mark on our music, particularly the likes of Elder Scrolls, Warcraft II: Tides of Darkness, Diablo I & II, Heroes of Might and Magic, and others.
How would you feel about doing the soundtrack to a film?
CB: It would be a fun experience, but not something that would really be suited to Caladan Brood, haha.
Would you ever be interested in bringing in a drummer?
CB: No, not particularly. The sequenced drums lend a certain atmosphere to the music that we actually enjoy. It would feel out of place to us to use acoustic drums.
Would it be a fair assumption to say that Caladan Brood will never be a live touring band?
CB: Yes, that is fair and correct assumption.
We’ve heard that you’re already working on new material. How is it shaping up?
CB: It’s shaping up well. We have quite a bit of material that was recorded during the ‘Echoes of Battle’ sessions but didn’t make it onto the album, so we are reworking some of those songs to either use as an EP or to build upon for a follow-up full-length.
What plans do you have for the rest of the year?
CB: Essentially what was mentioned above; reworking some of the songs that never got properly finished and working toward putting together another release.
‘Echoes of Battle’ is out now on Northern Silence.
Interview by Calum Robson.