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The self-destruction key of evolution

As if DARKMOON's tenth anniversary wasn't reason enough for an interview, the Swiss release their second longplayer "Apocalyptic Syndrome" punctually on this occasion. Besides the accurate statement that "good melodic death metal doesn't necessarily have to come from Sweden" vocalist Matthias Borer takes us on a journey through the ups and downs of the band's history and comments on lyrics which shouldn't leave anybody cold...

There is only one line-up change in the band and it's a long time coming. Matthias (vocals), Pascal (bass and backing vocals), Chris (guitars) and Richy (guitars) are members of DARKMOON since the beginning but drummer Hubi leaves the band after eight years. "Hubi's exit was a painful experience but didn't harm our friendship. On the other hand Laurent's joining the band must be seen as a highlight for he's a very talented and diversified drummer. And we get along very well, the friendship within the band is unique." Also thanx to these circumstances DARKMOON can look back onto a continuous development. "We are satisfied with what we have reached so far, indeed. When we started, we were bloody beginners and never thought it possible to get a record deal and evolve so well musically. If somebody played "Apocalyptic Syndrome" to us back then we would have never believed that this will be us one day... We had many highlights in the past ten years. What must be mentioned are the numerous live shows both in Switzerland and abroad as well as the partly enthusiastic reactions of the fans. We love to perform live and turned into real pulling focuses over the years. Of course, the record deal was as much of a highlight as the participation in the 'Unerhört' compilation of the Rock Hard magazine. Then we realized that we do not have to balk at any international comparison. Needless to say that we see the friendships we have established with other bands like Dark Age in a very positive light, too. The negative aspects were first of all a bunch of blithering idiots who deceived us with cant promises." So far, the reactions regarding "Apocalyptic Syndrome" are consistently positive, no matter if you look at musical journalism or opinions in the personal environment. The cooperation with CCP Records pans out and once again producers V.O. Pulver and Franky Winkelmann are in authority for the production. With these producers and the Little Creek Studios DARKMOON rely on proven means instead of going to Sweden or other countries to get the ultimate graftage for their songs as many bands do nowadays. So they seem to have found their ideal production team - or would such 'experiments' like choosing other producers be optional for the future? "Sweden? And who is going to pay for that... Seriously, the main reason for our choice is that V.O. and Franky are doing an extremely well job. Their sound is powerful without being overproduced or sterile. They are great guys and they know how hard metal has to sound. Besides you won't find such a good price performance ratio elsewhere. The working atmosphere is very concentrated and you always feel that they both love their production job. Furthermore the Little Creek Studios are only a half hour drive from where we live so we only need to 'sacrifice' a few vacation days for the recordings until the basic structures of the songs are in the can. The guitar solos as well as the vocals can be done after work. As you see, we simply don't have another choice, hehe..." Another thing that hasn't changed is the songwriting process. Chris and Richy create the riffs as the basic structures which are converted to songs by the band collectively, leading to minor arguments at times as everyone has the right to outtell criticism. "It can always happen that a guitarist doesn't like my phrasing or that I, as a vocalist, wish for another cue of the drums. But in the end we are agreed, and once the song and my phrasing are done I start writing the lyrics whereas I occasionally find some valuable support in Richy who wrote the lyrics for 'Black Domain' and 'Before The Storm'. The lyrics for the title track 'Apocalyptic Syndrome' have been written by Richy and me together. It is important that the song is the centre of attention, we are not into this as an end in itself. For instance, if a song doesn't need a solo, then it won't have one in the end." The major changes on "Apocalyptic Syndrome" compared to the debut album can mainly be found in the development of the band. While "Of Bitterness And Hate" presents some kind of 'work exhibition' of DARKMOON's history - some of the songs are seven to ten years old - "Apocalyptic Syndrome" shows the band today. "Apart from two exceptions all songs were written within the past two years. I still consider our debut to be a strong release but the new album is more compact and represents a more determined and evolved band. We wouldn't have been able to create a groove monster like 'The Hate Still Burns' back then. Also the lyrical side of the new album is more convincing."

Darkmoon Band
Picture provided by CCP Records

In 'The Hate Still Burns' DARKMOON pick up the subject of child abuse within church in a very direct and emotional way. "Most of our lyrics are written in the 'I' or 'we' perspective which means that we try to put ourselves in situations or other people. Therefore they are very subjective descriptions and quite emotional. I do not want to write about child abuse in a deliberate and distant way. I do not want to deal 'decently' with a subject that tears down the walls of reason in any way. 'The Hate Still Burns' is written in first person and drenched in hatred, desperation, sarcasm and vindictive feelings. Just two years ago the Catholic Church in America 'invested' approximately 60 million USD to bribe victims to quieten them... The contraveners have to face ridiculous penalties while the victims are condemned to lifelong suffering." In other lyrics gleams hope in turn as Matthias confirms. "You've read the lyrics very attentively. 'Black Domain' is not an homage to the horned one but describes the air of change prior to a revolution, the revolt against the ruling class and the oppressors. The riddance of the chains of nescience and propaganda has taken place repeatedly in the past, and it will happen over and over again in large as well as in little scales. Hope can also be found in 'Caravan Of The Dead' which gives attention to the Holocaust through the victims' eyes. With horror I have watched the pictures of deathmarches from the concentration camps on TV. I have seen these figures, emaciated to just skin and bones, with their dull eyes as they were driven on. And I asked myself what keeps these broken people still alive? How much strength must someone have in such a situation in order not to break physically and mentally? 'Caravan Of The Dead' is written in the 'we' perspective as a form of rallying call with a spark of hope in it. It was important to me not to see 'only' the victims in this whole indescribable misery but also the hidden fighter in each and every one of them which drives them on and on. I did not wish to draw the attention to the agony alone but wanted to incorparate also dignity and hope into the whole tragedy by this additional battlesome aspect. Everyone who reads these lyrics attentively may decide for him-/herself if I have achieved this, and I hope that I did somewhat justice to this sensitive and grave issue... But on the whole hope is more scarce goods in our lyrics. The lyrical inspiration can mostly be found in the daily madness of the world affairs, in books and movies as well as in personal experiences. And, of course, my profession as a male nurse in a psychiatric institution leads to repeated confrontations with the dark abysmal depths of human existence." As Matthias asked for a precise and unabridged wording of his statement regarding 'Caravan Of The Dead', you can find the orginal German statement here . For DARKMOON the lyrics are as important as the music and have therefore been printed in the booklet. The Swiss quintet exerts itself for not only presenting good music but to offer corresponding lyrics which challenge the fans to think.

Back to the music. The Swiss metal scene is considerably big for such a small country and features a good coherence between the bands. However, in some old interviews one can read that Basel is a 'dead' town regarding metal events. "Yes, there are extremely many metal bands and coherence among each other is mostly pretty strong. Also there are a fistful of good and dedicated concert hosts and a few really ingenious webzines. What causes acid regurgitation at times is the way some local hosts or press promoters treat Swiss metal bands. Obviously they think that national acts categorically don't know their stuff as good as bands from abroad. At least the treatment and the ignorance lead to this conclusion. Damn it, where do bands like Celtic Frost, Samael, Cataract, Gurd, Coroner, Requiem, etc. come from? And sometimes someone suddenly wakes up, gets rid of the Sleeping Beauty remnants and is surprised, oups, this band seems to be good... just because he read it in a foreign magazine. By the way, Eluveitie have just signed a deal with Nuclear Blast... and fortunately there are also others who really support the Swiss scene and don't just exploit it. The situation in Basel is slowly improving as we have some promising newcomers like Total Annihilation, Arcturon, Coilcry or Violence In Perfection." One band which originates from Basel and has been around for many years is Atritas. Already the release party for DARKMOON's debut album "Of Bitterness And Hate" lists also a performance of Atritas, and on November 24 they will join in again when DARKMOON celebrate the release party for "Apocalyptic Syndrome". And once again this will take place in the Sommercasino in Basel. "We have been knowing Atritas for more than ten years now. Both bands were founded at about the same time and come from Basel. So it's no surprise that we met soon and played shows together. In the beginning we eyed each other critically, and the contact was rather frosty. Imagine, this was at the end of the 90s, almost ten years ago, metal wasn't 'hip' back then, there were only three metal newcomers and we were all under 20 years old. I think you can best describe it as pre-pubertal top dog behaviour. Over the years we met again and again, and by now we are interconnected by a good friendship and respect for each others' attainments. We both belong to the metal dinosaurs in the Basel scene and have now signed contracts with the same label. As our release dates are only three weeks apart it suggested itself to arrange a double release party which will be rounded by the participation of Wolfchant at the CCP festival. A release party must be a home game and the Sommercasino is a really noble club which unfortunately rarely offers metal shows." While doing this interview no tour plans are known following the release of "Apocalyptic Syndrome". All they can offer for the moment are three shows in Switzerland and France in 2007 as well as a show with Fleshcrawl and Bitterness in early 2008. "We have applied assiduously for the festival season in 2008. Of course, we will try to look in on Germany for shows although nothing is planned yet. Or submit a good offer and simply book us..."

For further information check out the DARKMOON website or their myspace page.

Interview done by Endrew. November 2007.

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