Legendarium – Partake in the Ritual

Sunday, 18th December 2022

The underground metal scene contains plenty of gems, especially on a self-released, DIY basis in today’s current market. Legendarium is one such act to pay attention to – a duo of musicians from the Netherlands and Italy, they’ve developed a consistent schedule of EP’s/albums that traverse everything from traditional heavy metal to melodic death, punk, gothic, and folk textures sometimes within the same record. Their latest album Death’s Hand in Yours is probably their strongest outing to date – adding in growl/extreme vocals and a sax solo to the already impressive versatility track to track. We reached out to mastermind Laurence Kerbov regarding his musical history, his outlook on the band, a love of Children of Bodom influencing the latest cover art, thoughts on staying DIY, the importance of artists like Judas Priest, Megadeth, and others to shape his metal views, and future plans.

Dead Rhetoric: What are some of your initial memories surrounding music growing up in childhood? At what point did you discover heavy metal, and eventually start picking up an interest in playing in bands?

Laurence Kerbov: As a kid, a really small kid, I was always listening to the radio. And then when I was 11 or 12, I saw a classmate of mine watching the video for “Through the Fire and Flames” from Dragonforce on the computer, it blew my mind instantly. It’s where I started to get into heavy metal. From there I went through all the classics: Iron Maiden, Metallica, Megadeth, and then also in high school we had a cover band with me and a couple of friends. We would play Overkill songs and stuff.

Dead Rhetoric: And what was the first instrument you picked up – as you have the ability to play multiple instruments?

Kerbov: Originally, I’m a guitar player. I originally started out on that instrument at age eight or something. And then when I got into metal, I was still playing acoustic guitar, playing Overkill songs on acoustic guitar. When I was 14 or 15, I got my first electric guitar, and when I started Legendarium in 2017, I was looking for people to play with. I live in an area though where there are not a lot of drummers, not a lot of bassists. I figure I could play guitar and that I could also play the bass. I started to learn how to sing a bit. And then I picked up the keyboards, so that’s how it all started with me playing multiple instruments myself.

Dead Rhetoric: Legendarium started in 2017 – what can you tell us about the initial concept of the group, did you know straight away the style(s) you wanted to incorporate into the band, or was it a feeling out process as you gained more comfort and skills?

Kerbov: Originally when I started the band, I was 17 in college. All I really wanted to do was play music, and I didn’t know how, or what, or why. I just wanted to make music. I started just messing around and seeing what fit. Initially I started playing around on guitar, trying to find riffs. And then all the influences, it got picked up from the things I was obsessed with back then. It still is now. Back then I was into the Misfits and Type O Negative, the first EP and the really early stuff you can hear those influences. On the newest album, I got into melodic death, In Flames, At the Gates, Children of Bodom, so that’s now really creeping into the sound. Legandarium the sound and influences are basically what I am into and listening to in the moment. It’s really varied.

Dead Rhetoric: Death’s Hand in Yours is the latest Legendarium album. How did the songwriting and recording sessions go, and where do you see the differences in this set of material next to the previous discography of the band?

Kerbov: One of the things that really stood out with this album is how fast it came together. This is the fourth album now, every album before that took a year to a year and a half. This whole album, all the writing, all the recording, all the mixing, came together in six months. And that was just like… I don’t know where it really came from. I just started writing riffs and they just kept going, and in a few months, I had the basic structure and the basic riffs for every single song. I always wanted to do harsh vocals and death metal vocals. A friend of mine Caylen from a local black metal band, they showed me a bit how to get that sound and then I worked on it myself how to do it. I could now do harsh vocals, so I wanted to write songs that would work well with harsh vocals. That’s where the idea to have songs with different styles, really heavy, really fast, and also put in the harsh vocals.

Dead Rhetoric: And where did you want to come across with the lyrical content on this album?

Kerbov: The lyrical content this time. Legendarium lyrics from previous albums have been really apocalyptic. It’s all about war, apocalypse, but with a melancholic twist in it. And that’s what I wanted to bring back with the harsh vocals, make the lyrics a bit angrier, a bit more evil. I tried to work that in the harsher songs as well.

Dead Rhetoric: How did the guest sax solo come about with Jared Archon within “Black Magic/Touch of Evil”? Have you thought about other possible outside the box instruments that would work within the metal landscape of Legendarium?

Kerbov: The saxophone solo is actually a funny story. The album, in September, was basically done. I follow Jared on Twitter, he’s a good friend of mine on Twitter. He tweeted out if anyone is doing a metal album and wants a saxophone solo, he would be up for it. This is the perfect opportunity. I went through the album looking for a gap, and I found that part in “Black Magic/Touch of Evil” was just perfect. I tweeted to him; in two weeks the solo was in the song already. It went together.

As for the other instruments and cool thoughts about other instruments, I have thought about it. Doing some more symphonic stuff, some strings, piano. I don’t know how to go about doing that so if I want to pursue that I will have to look for ways to do this. I definitely want to keep expanding the sound of the band, new instruments as well.

Dead Rhetoric: How does it work with the drum parts for Stefano? I imagine you give him a programmed idea of what you want to go for, but does he have the freedom to be expand on those ideas and inject his own creativity into those parts?

Kerbov: Yes, absolutely. And that’s one of the great things about working with Stefano. I am not a drummer, and I know very little about drums. I know beats, and the drum beats I want – I will have a drum idea and program in a very simple idea. When I have the song finished, I send it to him, he learns it and once it comes back to me, he will have added all these new parts, new rhythms, all kinds of fills. I think it’s really cool for me to see this basic idea in my head, and when it comes back it’s a fully formed, professional drum part with all these things that I never would have imagined would be possible.

Dead Rhetoric: Timon Kokott designed the cover art for the new record. How did the process work between you and the artist to arrive at the final piece? And where do you see the importance in cover art to making a good impression before people press play on your material?

Kerbov: I initially found Timon on a list of artists because of the magazine New Heavy. That was a list of all kinds of cover artists who do cover art for metal. I really wanted to commission cover art this time because all of the previous albums were old paintings I used. I wanted to have something custom made. I went through the list, and Timon stuck out to me. His art looked amazing, and I thought his art fit the vibe of my music as well. I initially approached him, and the process of making the art, I had a rough idea of the ritual in the middle and the warrior standing around it. That’s an idea I came up with when I wrote one of the songs, when I wrote “The Ritual of a Thousand Skulls”. He just came back to me with the idea of having it on a cliffside, all these mountains behind it and making it monochrome.

The monochrome idea was also really interesting, because a big influence on this album was Children of Bodom, especially the first few albums like Something Wild, Hatebreeder, and Follow the Reaper. When I thought about that, the cover art being monochrome, I wanted the color to match the shade of blue that was on Follow the Reaper. I sent Timon that picture, and I wanted that shade of blue. From there he made a couple of sketches, I picked out the best sketch and went from there. He’s an amazing artist, and he did a good job.

Cover art is basically the most important promotional material an album can have. I still do it the old school way, if I am looking for albums in a physical record store. 90% of my decisions of whether I am going to check out an album or not are based on the cover art. That’s the old way of doing it, but in the new digital era I think it’s also really important, because you are scrolling through Instagram or Twitter and see loads of albums, suddenly one catches your eye because the cover art is cool.

Dead Rhetoric: You’ve been independent with Legendarium since the band’s inception. What do you consider some of the advantages of this DIY philosophy – and what would it take for you to decided to sign a record deal, or are you content to remain independent?

Kerbov: One of the great things about being independent and doing everything yourself is of course I can release and write whatever I want, whenever I want. If I want to make a folk album next, I can do that, and nobody is going argue with me. That kind of stuff, I like a varied sound and if I want to explore one style more than another, I am free to do that. The lack of deadlines, stress, obligations – people being dependent on you to create something that fits into a box, basically. I’ve looked around for labels to release music, but a lot of labels are connected to one specific sound. A black metal label, a death metal label – if you sign to one of those labels, those labels are really there for the bands that have that sound. That’s why I don’t think I would work that well being signed to a label. I have worked with labels to release albums – the last album after it was released, I approached Marrow in the Pines a tape label, but that doesn’t really affect the creative process.

Dead Rhetoric: While embracing certain social media platforms like Spotify, Bandcamp, YouTube, and Twitter – it’s surprising to see you choose not to be a part of Facebook, Instagram, etc. Are there specific reasons why you pick and choose which platforms you want to engage with?

Kerbov: The reason I am not on Facebook is I was on Facebook for a long time, it’s really connected to the actual person you are. All the people you know in real life, will gather there, it’s like that. I didn’t want that, in the early days especially I wanted to keep a bit of anonymity with the music. Facebook wasn’t a good option for that, and Instagram – it’s not as active as Twitter. It’s not as fast, you have to post images – I think Twitter is perfect for fast engagement with other people, and that’s why I really like that. It’s also the reason why I stick with it.

Dead Rhetoric: What would you consider three of the most important metal albums that shape your outlook and philosophy on the genre? And what’s the best concert memory you have, purely attending a show as a fan in the audience – and what made this stand out so well to you?

Kerbov: First one I am going to go with, I discovered about a year and a half ago which is Follow the Reaper by Children of Bodom. In my blood and bones, I am a guitarist. It’s one of the greatest metal guitar albums ever, all the riffs, all the solos, are so incredible. It’s crazy to think that Alexi wrote and executed that stuff when he was just 21. I would recommend everyone listen to that one. Then I will go with Screaming for Vengeance– Judas Priest. It’s really the blueprint for what heavy metal is. When you think of heavy metal, this is the style you are thinking of. It’s also a really good reminder of all the things that are great about metal – all the riffs, all the production, the campiness that still works. The third album I will go with is Rust in Peace– Megadeth. For the longest time that was just like the perfect album. Every song is stellar, even for the people who don’t like thrash metal, it’s just one of those albums you have to have heard. It’s so great, so many legendary songs on there, that other sounds of metal have been built on.

One of the favorite concert memories is going to Dynamo Festival in Eindhoven, in the Netherlands in 2017 or 2018. We saw Annihilator and Overkill, in a big ice stadium. You could go all the way to the back, 150 meters from the stage, and it was so loud. That still sticks with me – every time you took a step, you could still feel your shoes shaking. That kind of stuff, I have had that experience at other shows, but never as big as there.

Dead Rhetoric: Where do you see the state of the heavy metal movement on a global scale? Are there specific aspects you enjoy, and what changes (if any) would you like to make?

Kerbov: I think heavy metal is not as big as it once was. You will never get a band like Metallica again who sells like thirty million records and goes number one on the charts everywhere. One of the things that is cool about metal still is the number of different styles and genres. Especially now in the internet age, you can go on Bandcamp and find literally any kind of metal. One of the changes I would make is there seems to be a lot of bands that just go for one sound a lot. It seems there are a lot of bands who say they like death metal and make a death metal album that’s old school. Or they like Darkthrone so they make a second wave black metal album just like them. A lot of bands would benefit from diversifying their sound, pulling influences from places that you would not think could be done. You could get some interesting results if you don’t care about the labels that are on your music, do whatever you feel. If you like the Smiths and can put that into your music, why not put it on a metal album?

People need to be freer to how they think about music. Not let themselves be defined by a single label.

Dead Rhetoric: What do you see as some of the biggest challenges in establishing Legendarium more in the underground (and above) scene at this point in your career?

Kerbov: That’s kind of funny. I know I have been going on about having varied sounds on album and in metal. It is one of the biggest challenges for Legendarium, because I don’t have a single term to define what I do. It makes it harder to promote, market the album, labels who want to put something out. I am not able to describe in one sentence the music that I make. Another challenge is that we don’t play live. A lot of bands build themselves on the live shows, the audience they are able to gain. For me, I don’t think it’s an option. Where I live, there isn’t a metal scene, or any people who play bass for metal or drums. It’s hard to get a band together and find gigs. I want to do this in the future, play live, but it’s going to be really hard for me right now. Seeing as how I have built the band and sound for six years, to get new people in, adjust, and play live. That may inhibit Legendarium in getting a bigger audience. I am really willing though to work on it and try it out.

Dead Rhetoric: What are some hobbies or interests you have outside of music when you have the free time and energy to pursue them?

Kerbov: Outside of music, I do sports a bit – fitness, free running, and I have kickboxed for a while. I also like gaming, watching Netflix. Mostly playing video games, hanging out with friends.

Dead Rhetoric: What can we expect from Legendarium or any other bands/projects over the next year or so?

Kerbov: I think the main thing you can expect is the upward trend for something new. I don’t think anyone will disagree with me that every single new Legendarium album has been better than the one before it. And I don’t see why this wouldn’t continue going forward. From album to album, nothing changes besides the fact that I’m becoming a better singer, a better guitarist, a better producer. I’m really just going to continue doing what I am doing and continue to make better albums. As far as music in the future – I don’t know what I will be listening to a few years from now. It will just as much as a surprise to me.

Legendarium on Bandcamp

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