Soror Dolorosa – Only the BraveThursday, 21st September 2017
It may be a little preemptive to hitch our wagon to this “cold-wave” thing, but if the scene can match Soror Dolorosa’s new Apollo, then there could be something. The Frenchman have been kicking around since the early ’00s, holding it down with a rather alluring blend of goth-on-new wave-hanging-out-with-metal-because-it-can. That sort of thing. Now signed to German independent Prophecy, the band’s discography is getting the reissue treatment to coincide with Apollo, which as previously suggested on this site, is one of the year’s most dramatic and atmosphere-driven albums. Playing off the aforementioned ’80s dynamics, Soror Dolorosa’s songs become cinematic, almost little movies inside of songs. With the easy-on-the-ears vocals of Andy Julia out front, they’re accessible…and addictive.
With this in mind, we sent some Q’s over to Julia, who was to kind to provide some rather detailed responses. Let’s have at it:
Dead Rhetoric: For a band that has been active since 2000-2001, do you think it’s long overdue that you’re exposed to a larger audience via Prophecy?
Andy Julia: Yes, kind of. We had two different labels before Prophecy, the first was Todestrieb Records from the U.K. where we released the first EP Severance in 2009. After that, we sent the EP and some demos to Northern Silence in Germany and they signed us for three albums. We released two records with them before Prophecy proposed to sign us for a new record and to add our back catalog to their roster at the same time. During the first period of the band, we composed a lot of songs that were recorded, but never officially released. We had lineup changes and musical evolution. At the beginning, the band was raw death rock — with a different singer — and I was behind the drums. Meanwhile, I was also drumming in black metal bands such as Nuit Noire, Darvulia, Celestia and Mütiilation. So, that was a kind of fertile period where a lot of things happened, but we can say that the actual form of Soror Dolorosa took shape in 2007 when we composed “Autumn Wounds” with me as singer.
I think real bands last longer because it’s a question of will that makes you able to get through the difficulties of making music and carry on the same way to get higher and higher with every new effort. Maybe Prophecy were sensitive to this pathway and they felt interested in making people “get it” through hearing all of our records, and following the line of Soror Dolorosa’s artistic way.
Dead Rhetoric: Prophecy, of course, seems a natural fit. You’re friends with a lot of the bands on the label, too. But, what do you hope to get out of this relationship?
Julia: Personally, the first album I bought with my own money at the time was A Wintersunset by Empyrium in 1996. I was 14 years-old. This record was Prophecy Productions’ first-ever release. What we really appreciate with Prophecy is that they are very careful with the topic of the band, they understand perfectly what their bands need as support as far as production and communication around the music and they help a lot the musical projects they sign to reach their audience while keeping this pure artistic aspect intact. Soror Dolorosa is not only about music, it’s a personal universe and each album has a specific color and feeling. It’s very important for us to have a good relationship with the label in order to work hand in hand to produce the brightest result possible for our fans. For now, the best element of our collaboration is certainly the Apollo – Rive Gauche Artbook, which is a real piece of art in itself, especially regarding the quality of the object. I always knew that Prophecy did a really great job creating collectors editions, but I think with our new album they raised the bar even higher!
Something else that Prophecy understood really well is that we don’t make metal music, but our sound can fit to the tastes of their audience and bring something new and interesting to the label. Formerly, we’re coming with inspirations and references from the post-punk, cold wave and goth rock Scene from the ’80s but today, the “crossover” musical styles is on the way and it appears that Soror Dolorosa is a representation of this.
Dead Rhetoric: Prophecy is also re-releasing your first albums. What can we expect from the reissues?
Julia: We were satisfied with the work of our previous labels, but we wanted to get on a bigger label to naturally make the band grow and reach a larger audience. Regarding the objects, the quality of the new disc is absolutely perfect! We took this occasion to reissue Severance with a bonus track (our first release that was sold out for long time which people were buying at very high price on the internet which is absolutely not our goal). Discs are made to make to music diffused and not only to be the fetishes of disc collector (hum, I’m a disc collector myself, so I can’t absolutely not say bad things about this fact!)
Dead Rhetoric: Soror Dolorosa isn’t necessarily a metal band, but you employ some elements that would at least be considered as such. How has the band been received by the metal scene in the past? And, do you think it’s a scene you can gain some ground in?
Julia: Since the beginning, we’ve always had good feedback from the metal scene. Maybe it’s more a question of intention than proper sound. We used distortion on the guitars and most of us have long hair, but I think it is more a question of intensity and emphasis of the melodies and not fearing to enter the darkest spheres of musical expression. Everybody in the band has listened to metal, since our youngest age. I think that’s why this connection is efficient today. Right now, we are interested in being pushed into metal scene, because the scene is really creative, evaluative and interesting in every way. I think it’s not the point now with goth/dark scene which is not so prolific at the moment. Actually we don’t care about belonging to any scene, because making music in front of the mirror is a personal creative gesture that, in my opinion, doesn’t really fit with the idea of belonging to any tribe.
The fact is that Prophecy were interested in us and they’ve produced metal for 20 years now, and the time has come for all the dark subgenres to meet each other and make the music of today more open and uplifting in many senses. I think the metal scene of today is much more constituted by images or gimmick more than a proper scene, like black metal, death metal or heavy metal scenes were divided before the internet era. Soror Dolorosa can represent this bridge between goth rock and extreme metal scene, because it’s made without any compromises and tries to express something very far-reaching compared to commercial pop or variety trends. There is an image, and a clear intension behind everything we do or any track we write. We can speak about a heavy soul inside an ethereal melodic kaleidoscope.
Dead Rhetoric: Furthermore, you used to be in a black metal band. Did those experiences have any effect on SD’s approach?
Julia: Yes, especially with the stage. I used to wear corpse paint, leather or spikes for years and I continue it with Soror Dolorosa in a more aesthetic way. Strong appearance for me is a part of the show, it’s a way to push up the artistic purpose to something more unique and far for the everyday boring life. It is also a way to express feelings; the way you choose to appear to people, especially during the show is very important to me and it changes sometimes with the occasions. I always recognized myself in the extreme behavior of black metal purpose, since the beginning of my path into music. Despite of this aspect, I cannot say that black metal had a direct influence on my role in Soror Dolorosa, musically. With the voice, I feel something much closer to a ’70s or ’80s vibe like David Bowie or Depeche Mode. I never practiced harsh vocals in Soror Dolorosa, although I used to do it in Nuit Noire, one of the black metal band I was involved with. But sometimes, with the energy of the show, I scream like a banshee under the moon on the stage. I cannot explain it, but I think this is something coming from my black metal heritage.
Dead Rhetoric: Apollo is simply fantastic and perhaps your defining work. It’s noted the band took its time creating it. What did you find useful about this approach?
Julia: I think it is important to not repeat yourself when making albums. A record is a mark in time, a precise picture took of a band at one moment and it has to stay like this to keep the authenticity of the music. We took time with Apollo because our inspiration came to be more mature, with a lot of reflection put in the mixture of the songs. In a sense, Apollo is more complex that the other albums and complexity in art takes time to measure every aspect of a record. I also speak about a “spiritual pathway” in this album. This kind of evolution takes time, time to see, to feel to get some retreat to what you’ve done and get back to work. This album reflects all these elements. Apollo contains 14 tracks and lasts for more than one hour. The structure of the disc is made by up and down waves and mood changes. It’s like a long journey.
Dead Rhetoric: You’ve certainly established a mood across the album; however, a song like “Everyway” really stands out. What’s the story behind it?
Julia: “Everyway” appears like crunchy melodic pop song and finishes in the loudest chaos possible. It’s a bridge between the different universes of the disc which have been composed like the passing of seasons. In the story of the album, it’s the beginning of the summer. Meanwhile the first track of the B side, represents the precise moment when you take some distance from the year that passed and don’t think about consequences anymore. This feeling of liberty that can be mortal in some ways. At the end of the song, there is a brutal cut who opines on the summer nights’ infinite beauty. It’s called “Night is Our Hollow.”
Dead Rhetoric: “Another Life” is both dramatic and alluring at the same time. It’s a true throwback to the ‘80s. Would you say this is a fair representation?
Julia: Yes, it’s a crazy song with no boundaries and a very specific contrast in between each of the parts. Maybe it’s the most disturbing song on the record because I think people will not wait for this in the following of the track listing. I was inspired by vocals from a-Ha, Bronsky Beat or Kim Wilde! It’s a kind of far from our usual influences I must say, but think it is something that came from the bottom of our hearts and we dared to add these ideas to the album because if not, we would have been frustrated. We really enjoy the craziness and the unpredictable side of the ‘80s; this blessed time when there was no limits in creativity. “Another Life” is a hymn to this liberty and freedom in life experienced during the warmest days of summertime.
Dead Rhetoric: The band has always had its own image; you look like a “gang” of rockers rather just a set of guys thrown together. How important is it to establish your identity?
Julia: This is the substance of the band, it’s just what we are when we’re gathered. A rock band is more than just the addition of people, it is an entity in itself, something that you can’t really measure in a way. It is like in alchemy; sometimes it’s just a missing thing, a little detail that will make everything explodes or change the lead into gold!
Dead Rhetoric: Finally, what’s on the band’s agenda for the rest of 2018?
Julia: 2018 will certainly be a high touring time for us and the moment when we will reach a new audience. In between time, we’ll [have] composed songs, so maybe the next record will not take as much time as Apollo took to rise up from the clouds. Blind Scenes, No More Heroes and Apollo are a trilogy, 2018 will be the year to celebrate the unity of it all and the effects this artistic expression had on us as people. Maybe it’s time for the maturity, but don’t expect us to be too mature, life is too short for that!