De Profundis – Ethereal Reflections

Sunday, 31st March 2013

(This content originally appeared on Blistering.com)

An up-and-comer in the United Kingdom extreme metal underground, De Profundis’s stellar recording output is matched by their attention to detail, the kind of sort you’d see from a much more high-profile act. These are the foundations for a band that in good time should be a major force on a global scale, as evidenced by the inherent strength of their third opus, The Emptiness Within (Kolony Records). A fearsome blend of technical death and black metal, De Profundis also finds it within themselves to weave in the occasional jazz interlude, drawing comparisons to progressive death metal legends Atheist and Death. And when combined with professionalism, a strong conceptual base, and a tireless touring load, De Profundis should have little problem rising up through the ranks, something that was top of mind when we grabbed guitarist Roman Subbotin for a chat…

Blistering.com: After you released A Bleak Reflection, you did quite a few live shows/touring. How did those go, and how critical were they in terms of laying the groundwork for album #3?

Roman Subbotin: Absolutely, we toured a hell of a lot for the A Bleak Reflection album. We played in over 20 countries and did three international tours across Europe and India. On the whole, the experience of playing across so many places and meeting many new people was great. Of course, some shows were disappointing – it can be quite frustrating to spend many hours travelling to a venue only to find out that the promoter has not done any promotion and no-one even knows that the show is on. I’m sure most touring band have been in the same situation, but the important thing for us to learn from such experiences. Most of the shows have been excellent, however, with the crowd reaction being very strong. Quite often we get people coming up to us saying “that was great – why haven’t I heard about you before?” Hopefully more and more people are getting to hear about De Profundis now.

Touring really motivated us to write the new album in a way that would come across as well as possible played live on stage. Live shows are a great test for any new tracks, so we used this environment to test the new songs once we were happy with them to see how they translated on a live stage. We realized some of our earlier songs took too long to get to the “point,” so on the new album we made a conscious effort to make the song structures as concise as possible, and ruthlessly cut out any arrangements that we thought were not necessary to the songs.

Blistering.com: Music as complex and atmospheric as yours can get lost in translation in the live arena. How do think the band comes across, or are you still a work in progress on the live front?

Subbotin: In my opinion, De Profundis is at its best as a live act. For us it’s always been more of a question as to how to capture this in the studio. As I said before, the songs are written with the live performance in mind, and the new tracks seem to be going down very well with the audiences. We’ve played to all sizes of crowds – from 3 to 30,000 – and the band always gives our all. For us it has always been more of a question how to capture the energy and atmosphere of our shows on record. I think we are getting better and better at this with each recording, but I still feel that we are a better live than studio band. We all love playing live – there’s an amazing energy at our live shows. We have a really good chemistry now and the band really plays tight as a unit now.

Blistering.com: There’s this distinct air of professionalism in everything you do, from artwork, to production, all the way to band photos. As a band on a small independent label, describe all of the legwork that goes into making the band appear so professional.

Subbotin: It’s not easy. First and foremost we do everything to a standard that we set for ourselves. It does not matter what anyone else thinks of what De Profundis does – as long as we are happy with it, then this is the only thing that matters. We all love creating music, and we are very passionate about what this band does. We try to work with like-minded people who also give it their all. We don’t settle or compromise on the quality of anything that the band puts out. This can be very tough – financially but also time-consuming – but really it’s only about creating something that we are proud of ourselves and working with the right people.

Blistering.com: A Bleak Reflection was rather impressive, but The Emptiness Within takes it to another level. Is that how you were feeling after wrapping up the album?

Subbotin: I think that’s a fair comment. We strive to progress and improve with every album. Certainly the feeling in the band has been that we have improved as composers and as musicians and were able to capture this with the new songs. We purposefully tried to make the songs have more impact and more “hooks” – if the listener cannot remember any melodies after listening to the album, then what was the point of it? Of course, some things did not work out perfectly on this album. Without going into detail, I think it’s fair to say all band members had to compromise. From a personal level, there are some things that I know we could have done better… but I’m happy enough with the final product and I’m sure we will do even better on the next record. After all, if you think you have made your perfect record and you can’t do better – then it’s better to retire and go out on a high. I wish some of these older bands would do the same as opposed to tarnishing their legacy with half-baked crap.

Blistering.com: What was the writing process like for album #3?

Subbotin: In a way, it was quite different to the previous albums, as we worked a lot in Shoi’s (other guitarist) private teaching/recording studio. The whole band plugged in directly into a computer with multi-tracking program, using guitar processors and electronic drums. We recorded ideas at almost every rehearsal and took them away to work on individually between rehearsals. Because the ideas were captured on demos very early on, we were able to spend a lot of time and attention on arrangements. If you play in rehearsal studio at loud volumes, it can be easy to miss certain notes clashing or rhythms not working. Writing in a recording studio environment at quieter volumes, everything was very clear. As a result, we have been able to come up with some very cool arrangements.

Blistering.com: You were able to keep the same lineup between releases – how beneficial was that when putting the new album together?

Subbotin: I think the fact that we had a stable line-up for a few years now really helped as we are all very comfortable with each other and know each other’s playing styles. Everyone was able to contribute as much as they wanted to the writing process, and in fact there are a lot of very subtle nuances in the arrangements as a result. There is “chemistry” on this album that you can only get from a band that has been playing together for a while. We’ve toured fairly extensively over last few years, so know well what our respective influences and interests are. Ideas just bounce off each of us when we write – we have a real understanding now as a band. This takes time to develop, so having the same line-up for several years now has been hugely beneficial to writing and playing live.

Blistering.com: Clearly, the band has its own sound, but it’s not like you’ve settled into one particular sound/style. What’s the ingredient to keeping things fresh?

Subbotin: I think we have a pretty unique way of composing the songs – putting together the ingredients, if you will. We may take ideas from different genres but the way the music is ultimately structured follows the same philosophy and way of creating music. I would say that THIS is our sound. As our albums have progressed, we have explored different genres to varying measures. The reason for that, I guess, would be curiosity and interest for many types of music within this band. We all like different bands, so each band member brings in their own ideas into the mix. Also, I just don’t see the point of releasing the same album again and again. If we do an album, then it has to mean something, and say something different. Stagnation is not an option.

Blistering.com: There’s a noticeable progressive metal influence on some of the songs…are you prog nerds by chance?

Subbotin: Yes, we are big fans of many different acts, and “progressive” bands are some of the ones that we find the most interesting. Likes of King Crimson, Rush, Pink Floyd, Queen, Cynic, Atheist and many more. Our bassist and drummer are huge 70’s prog rock fans, so I’m sure there’s an influence there on our sound. We don’t try to recreate the 70’s though… I think there are two types of influence – one is imitation – for example PLAYING something in the style of (name a band), and the other is sub-conscious / mental influence – THINKING according to the influence of an artist. Each band has a unique message, and that’s what their music is about. Understanding that is engaging with the artist…. it’s inevitable that some sections of our music will remind the listener of certain bands, given there’s only a limited number of notes, chords and so on – but I like to think that De Profundis shows its influences in the way of thinking, and developing ideas, rather than just imitating.

Blistering.com: Also, gotta love the Death Individual Thought Patternsinfluence too. How has Chuck Schuldiner influenced your music?

Subbotin: I think Human was the first really heavy record that I got into. Certainly there’s some influence from Chuck’s riffs and the Death aesthetic – the way that Death arrangements were put together – on what we do, especially on the more “death metal” sounding sections of this new album. It’s probably fair to say that because The Emptiness Within is a faster record than our previous two, we have got some riffs that sound closer to the kind of super-tight picked riffs that Chuck was famous for, however his influence has always been present on De Profundis. I’m glad you’ve picked up on that. I’m a big fan of Symbolic too – some really great ideas and songs on that album.

Blistering.com: The band has played some rather exotic places over the years. Any particular favorite of yours?

Subbotin: India has to be one, since we played there to 20,000 supporting Iron Maiden in 2009, and also we returned there for a headlining tour in 2010 – when we got to play to 30,000 people in a single show. The fans there have been really great to us, and we’ve had such a great experience there. It’s very different from the UK, so it was incredible to see new cultures and meet new people. I wrote a blog about the tour – you can find it via our official website. Closer to home, we’ve had really good responses to our music in Netherlands and Belgium, so always keen to play some more shows there. To be honest, we love playing live and would tour the world and play as many shows as possible. Obviously we are limited by financial resources available to us, but we’re always keen to do any show – anywhere.

Blistering.com: Finally, what’s on the agenda for the rest of 2012?

Subbotin: We will be aiming to tour even more for this album and hopefully get the band’s name out there. We think we have something good going and we’re keen to show it to the rest of the world. Onwards and upwards.

www.deprofundistheband.com