Svart Crown – Thermageddon RisingTuesday, 25th February 2020
From their more evil and blackened beginnings through their evolution to the point of today’s blackened/deathly mix, Svart Crown have been a French act to watch. Always engaged in some form of brutality, yet still being able to make music that was memorable. Much has happened with the band since 2017’s Abreaction, which saw the band really tweak their sound. The entire band was gone except mainman JB Le Bail, who enlisted two former members and a new bassist last year and put together their new album, Wolves Among the Ashes. An album that again sees the band furthering their approach into fertile new directions. We were able to speak to Le Bail about all of these things, as well as the French scene and what’s next for the act.
Dead Rhetoric: How do you feel about where Svart Crown is right now?
JB Le Bail: I’m really happy about it. It’s like a new beginning. We were pretty happy about how things turned out with the new album and new sound. We got back old members, but they brought in some new, fresh things. I’m pretty happy about the direction we are taking. It’s a bit more open, and we are exploring new things. It’s pretty exciting.
Dead Rhetoric: As you just said, you had two former members return to the band for this album. What’s the chemistry like?
Le Bail: It’s kind of like they never really left the band. They have always been around, even when they quit the band. The guitar player [Clément Flandrois] has been one of my best friends since high school. It was a bit heartbreaking when they left the band. But even when they weren’t in the band, I had asked them for some advice on some things. It was pretty obvious to me to call them back when the other dudes decided to leave the band. They wanted to come back – to do music together. I think we grew up a little bit more. We grew up as a band, and we still fight a little bit, but it’s okay. We’ll see how the touring goes – it’s always a challenge when you are out on the road. But yeah, I’m really happy about our old members returning to the band.
Dead Rhetoric: What do you like the most about Wolves Among the Ashes?
Le Bail: I think it’s really ‘us’ now. For some people, this record may be going in too many different directions, but for me it’s a trip and it’s something really special. It’s really diverse and unique. That’s what I really like about it. We’ve pushed our boundaries quite far – I think it’s a really ambitious record.
Dead Rhetoric: How’s the reaction been so far, given some of the changes within the sound of the band?
Le Bail: It’s pretty cool. Of course, there’s always people complaining, but no matter what you do people are going to complain. If we were still doing the same music and same album each time, people would be saying that we were just making the same album. We take risks, we try new things, and we are pretty open minded about new music. I just want to make music that I want to listen to. I do whatever I want, and I can’t keep an eye on what people are saying but it doesn’t really affect me. I am sure of what I am doing. But the reaction so far has been cool. Maybe the old school fans are a little disappointed – they may have been thinking that we would go back to the really evil and dissonant things, but for now, we don’t want to do that anymore.
Dead Rhetoric: What is your writing process like when you sit down to make music?
Le Bail: It’s always a little bit similar – I am writing most of the riffs and song structure on my own. I need to be alone and in my comfort zone. I mostly write at night. When I am really happy about something, I try to put riffs together and when I’m really sure about it I send it to the other guys. I usually show it first to the other guitar player to get their thoughts on it. Then we start working together and at the same time, we try to work on the song structure more. We then work on the drum structure and the bass. The last thing before recording is to do the lyrics, usually just before we go into the studio.
Dead Rhetoric: Could you discuss some of the lyrical themes of the album?
Le Bail: It’s really diverse. It’s like a big introspection of personal things and some global things in the past few years. I’m talking about the new apocalypse coming, due to human behaviors and global warming. “Thermageddon” covers this. I also speak about sexual domination on “Art of Obedience” and those power relationships you can have with people. A lot of spiritual stuff too – “Down to Nowhere” is talking about the few roads that you can take, spiritually-speaking. The good and the evil – at the same time, they are not really distinct. There are a few things that really make the difference. On the last song, “Living with the Enemy,” it talks about the introspection you have, and what you can do to fight your own enemy – yourself. It’s hard to sum up in one answer, but that’s a lot of what is on the record.
Dead Rhetoric: What can you say about the “Blessed be the Fools” video? I thought it was kind of cool and mysterious.
Le Bail: It’s a pretty enigmatic thing. We wanted to keep it that way, and we got a lot of reactions about it. Some people asked if we were doing something related to Nazis or Antifa. We just wanted to show something brutal and crazy at the same time. With a lot of people together, they can do some crazy stuff. We also wanted to show something with a guy who could have some pleasure about having some pain. In the end, he is getting into this big fight with everyone – it’s weird to describe the feeling.
I had the idea to do the video a month ago, and we released it in a week. We set it all up, with the concept and direction, and shot the video in two days. It was pretty spontaneous, so at the end, I think we want to keep it a little bit secret. It’s kind of cool that people are making some theories about it. Some people think we are talking about some Internet things. That the masked people are the crowd in general, and beating a guy is like talking shit about someone one. I thought it was pretty funny, because that wasn’t really the idea. But when you do something more enigmatic, there are people that are going to make up their own ideas.
Dead Rhetoric: What can you say about the French extreme scene?
Le Bail: I think the French music scene is still pretty relevant. About ten years ago, we had this pretty big rise from the Parisian black metal to Deathspell Omega, as well as Gojira. I think bands like Gojira really put France on the map when it comes to metal music. It’s pretty cool because now all of the bands get more exposure and the French scene is taken more seriously by people abroad. Whenever we play abroad, people are always talking to us about the French metal scene, which is pretty cool. There’s a ton of really super nice bands. When it comes to the dark and extreme scenes, and dissonance, I think the French scene is pretty good.
Dead Rhetoric: What keeps you interested in extreme music?
Le Bail: It’s like, when you have a crush on that kind of stuff it’s kind of hard to explain it. When you are dealing with dark things and brutal stuff, I think it’s something that you have within you. When you like that music, it is touching a deep part of your soul. It’s pretty hard to come back. I don’t listen to extreme music like I used to when I was a teenager, or 20 years old. But it’s still in me, and every day it still helps me to put out all of this anger, frustration, and negativity that comes into my life. It’s pretty cathartic to have this. I think I would be way more violent in my daily life [laughs] – it’s really good therapy. Also, being able to meet people and play shows, it’s really healthy I think.
Dead Rhetoric: What goals are you looking at with the band right now?
Le Bail: It’s always growing and projects are coming. I hope with this new album that we are going to tour a little bit more than usual. I think the band can do more things now, and we have a stable crew/line-up and we are working on the live show. I just came back from a three day tour pre-production, and it’s really cool. I can’t wait to get back on the road and show off what we are working on with the guys.
Dead Rhetoric: What’s coming up for Svart Crown this year?
Le Bail: So far, we have one European tour planned in February and March. We have some festivals planned for the summer, and maybe some other shows. We are in that period now where we are receiving and dealing with offers. We are figuring out what we can do, and we are also discussing coming back to the US but it’s a bit complicated. With all of these visas, it’s much harder to get into the US and you need to apply months and months in advance or it’s hard to make it.
Even if we get some cool offers, the visa thing makes it difficult. It’s too much money to invest, and we need to really be sure it will work, or its money wasted. It’s not that we don’t want to come, but with the visa thing plus the finances like flights and backline, it’s really hard. At the end of the day, it’s the fans that are frustrated because they can’t see a band they like from abroad. In the last few years, it feels like it is getting much more difficult.
Dead Rhetoric: That seems to come up quite a bit. It sucks, but I think most people understand that side of it too.
Le Bail: It’s crazy, because I don’t think that it’s the same process for American bands when they tour in Europe. It’s pretty unfair. But that is the way it is, and you have to deal with it. But we are still talking about trying to come back.