Karkaos – Toppling the Colossus

Sunday, 4th June 2017

It takes a lot of time and effort to get a band off the ground. So many options these days, and so much instant gratification demanded by consumers in seeking out new material that one can quickly lose an audience (or never gain one) without a committed force behind it. A problem that’s amplified without a stable line-up. Canadian melodic death metal act Karkaos has slowly risen up over the past few years, despite some struggles along the way, and their second (and latest) album, Children of the Void, setting a new standard for the band.

One of those buried gems that makes you want to continue to seek below the radar for new music, Children of the Void encompasses all that one could want in a melodic death metal act. The ability to move between intense, energetic riffing to catchy melodies and resounding epic vibes is just as strong as any of your more “renown” players of today. Certainly another important piece is that of dynamic vocalist Viky Boyer, who counts Void as her official debut with Karkaos after three years in the band. We were able to connect over Skype to discuss how she came to be in the band, line-up issues, the ins & outs of Children of the Void, and more.

Dead Rhetoric: How were you recruited into the band?

Viky Boyer: It was really unexpected. In 2014, I was living in Germany and teaching French there. I knew I had to come back to Montreal because I knew my visa was ending but didn’t go back to university so I was wondering what I could do with my life. I was putting things into perspective, and I realized from my time in Germany that the thing that was really driving me in life was live music. I really love concerts, and I loved traveling…and I’ve always loved singing. So I told myself that I should give singing in a band a shot. I started to record some demos and started spreading it across Instagram…nothing really serious; just for people to know that I could do extreme singing and clean singing at the same time.

After I came back to Montreal, I received some messages on Facebook. First it was my friends, telling me that Karkaos is looking for a vocalist and if I had any interest in that. I didn’t even have enough to get through those messages and Vincent [Harnois], the guitar player wrote to me and asked if I wanted to audition. So I was overwhelmed – it was my first experience in a band. I had been a keyboardist in a band in high school [laughs], but in a professional band…it was out of this world that I had a shot, so I went for it. They had a few auditions, but the chemistry and the overall vibe felt right with me. So in September [2014] they hired me and we’ve worked together ever since.

Dead Rhetoric: So you didn’t have any professional experience before – you just put some interest out that you wanted to sing and they basically came knocking on your door?

Boyer: Absolutely! I’m a really motivated person. If I see something that I want to go for, I go for it and I go all-in. I didn’t expect much when I went to audition, but I told myself that I was really going to give everything and they will see that…and if it fits, hell yeah [laughs]!

Dead Rhetoric: So what drew you to the idea of doing the extreme singing plus melodic singing?

Boyer: I’ve been singing since I was very little. I started playing piano and guitar to go with my voice and bring something more to it. Extreme singing came from being at gigs. I loved the rhythm and intensity that it brings to music. It’s something very strong and very particular. When I went to shows, I always wanted to scream my heart out as I was singing along with the singer/screamer. It quickly became a necessity – I had to learn how to do it. I had to master it and I wanted to do it for my own music.

Dead Rhetoric: The first time I had heard of you, it wasn’t through Karkaos but I Legion. How did you end up getting hooked up doing the one song [“Hollow” on Pleiona]?

Boyer: I was contacted by Fred [Riverin] as soon as the first single I had done with Karkaos was released. It was a rerecording of a song they had done with Karkaos’ former singer [Victoria Ortiz Rodriguez], so it was a casual release on YouTube/Bandcamp just to announce my place in the band. Two days later, I got a message asking if I wanted to join I Legion. It was very interesting and surprising for me because I had no experience. I hadn’t even played a show with Karkaos yet and I was asked to work with so many big names – people from Soilwork, The Agonist, etc…it was crazy so of course I went for it! I actually wrote my first song with I Legion before I did my first song with Karkaos.

Dead Rhetoric: That’s cool! I had followed I Legion because of their previous release and when the second one was announced I started looking up everyone who I hadn’t heard of before…

Boyer: They are really awesome people. It’s still an honor for me. I’m really excited to work on new stuff with him [Riverin]. He’s really busy with his other bands right now, but it’s cool. It’s still melodic death metal, but it’s different. With Karkaos we work with a lot of symphonies – I Legion is a bit different and I love it.

Dead Rhetoric: There’s been a lot of changes in the past few years within the band when you were coming into it – do you feel the line-up is stable?

Boyer: Yeah, I guess I can say that. Everyone who is in the band right now, we are here to stay. We are really hard working people, and we are team-workers. So we don’t want to let go of anyone. I don’t know if you heard because we didn’t make a big deal on Facebook, but our bassist Eddie [Levitsky] just left the band. It was a few months back, but his work on the album is still there. We are really taking our time and seeing all the options for the next member because there has been so much movement and we are tired of it. We just all want to work together and focus on the music.

Dead Rhetoric: I think I remember seeing a comment on some picture asking where he [Eddie] was but that was the extent of it…at least you can kind of move forward from here and stabilize.

Boyer: Yeah…he brought great things to the band; he’s a magical music writer and I wish him the best but it just didn’t fit in the band anymore. With the new album coming out, we were a bit lost as to how to bring the subject up and we decided to focus on the album release itself before looking for a stable member. For now, we have session bass players, but next time we take someone into the band, we want them to stay. We are really tired of the rolling in/out of the band. We like each other a lot and we are like a tight-knit family, so it would be a shame to take someone who would leave a few months later.

Dead Rhetoric: It has been a while since Empire was released. There’s lots of big names in production (Christian Donaldson, Marco Frechette) and a solid video for “Kolossos”…are you trying to make this album your statement moving forward?

Boyer: Absolutely. For me, it’s the first stuff I’ve written for Karkaos. It’s been three years since I joined the band, and everything we do live…it’s all stuff the former line-up wrote. It’s awesome – I’m really glad we have this material but we were looking forward to having a new sound and go into a new direction. To be able to make a statement, as you said, and say that this is what Karkaos’ sound is all about. It’s really complex and goes in many directions, but it’s our style. We invested a lot of time and money – we worked a lot to get good contacts, like Chris Donaldson. We were really lucky to have him and we are really proud of the work we’ve accomplished so far. It represents us really well right now.

Dead Rhetoric: Likewise, how did Morgan Lander and Lindsay Schoolcraft end up getting involved with the album?

Boyer: It’s no secret that they are really good friends of our drummer Justine [Ethier]. She is also the drummer for Blackguard so she has done tours with Kittie and Lindsay before she was in Cradle of Filth. So when Justine got involved in the band, we of course asked them if they liked our material and if they’d like to collaborate with us. They went right for it. They are really cool people and super down to earth. They were really happy to do it with us, so we got really lucky with them.

Dead Rhetoric: I was looking at the band’s promo pictures and one thing that stood out on your pictures were that there are three lines on your nose. Is there a deeper meaning behind it or was it just because it looked cool?

Boyer: A bit of both I guess [laughs]. To me, metal music is a really tribal thing. We go on stage, we shake our heads like it’s a ritual going on. Everyone gets really intense with each other. Going to a metal show is not like going to see any pop music act. And I’m a big fan of pop, I’m not trying to put anyone down, but to me, metal has this tribal feel to it. I think it goes along with war paint. Something that makes you look even more aggressive, and something more symbolic. I wanted to have something on my face that people could remember – like a trademark. It’s very tribal – like going to fight or something. But there’s no deeper symbolism to it with the three lines or anything.

Dead Rhetoric: Do any songs on Children of the Void have a special meaning?

Boyer: “Kolossos” definitely. Vincent is the one who started writing that song. When we write a song, we always have the skeleton and then we send it to the other musicians. Samael [Pelletier] writes the lead guitars, Sébastien [Belanger-Lapierre] writes his keys, I do the melodies and lyrics, so we all work together on a skeleton. But for me, what I really like to do when I get sent a song is to ask the person who wrote it what the song is about. Tell me about it and how you felt when you wrote it. Do you have any vibes/colors that can help me feel out what you want it to say in the music, so that I can put it into my lyrics too. With “Kolossos” for Vincent, it was having to face this huge black cloud over you that is depression. When you feel that you have this huge weight on your shoulders all the time and you feel like you want to fight it but you can’t because it’s way too big for you. At the end, something comes out with your own will that makes you get out of it. Connecting with people, it helps you fight the Kolossos.

I took that huge depression metaphor and I combined it with the Colossus of Rhodes in Greece. It was a huge statue, it’s considered one of the seven wonders of the ancient world. It was at the entrance to the city, and every time that people wanted to go to war with the city, they couldn’t. They were too scared because the statue was so immense. The city was surrounded by this huge colossus. But in the end, despite all the wars and everything that was directed to the colossus – nothing destroyed it. But there was a huge earthquake and the colossus was destroyed. That was the end of that empire. The end of the song, it says, “Kolossos, the Earth has spoken/Kolossos, the Earth has shaken” so it all goes to that epic victory at the end, which represents the colossus falling and also the victory of going through something with people that are with you.

At the end of the song, we put a link for suicide prevention, so it’s a bit deeper. We don’t expect people to see the meaning directly in the song, but if they see the sign at the end, they can understand somehow. It’s the song that has the most meaning to me. There’s also “Bound by Stars,” which is a song that I wrote for my loved one. It’s super cheesy with a German intro and everything, but it has a lot of meaning to me.

Dead Rhetoric: Do you feel that studio vlogs and behind the scenes videos (for “Kolossos”) add a different dimension to the band as far as what fans can perceive?

Boyer: Absolutely – we wanted to make sure that everyone knew the kind of people that we are. In Karkaos, we are really not serious people. The only thing serious about us is the music. As you can see in the vlog, we are always doing nonsense. It was important for us to have people see the way we live in the band together. We have this photographer, Mihaela Petrescu, who is from Montreal and works with us a lot. She follows us everywhere and it’s such a beautiful opportunity. I know not everyone has that so we are trying to offer up as much as we can to the fans.

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