DESERT NEAR THE END (for Metalegion #2/2017)

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RICARDO AZEVEDO (for Metalegion #2/2017)


The new album “Theater of War” closes the chapter of the trilogy started back in 2011 with your debut “A Crimson Dawn”. After all these years working under a well-defined concept, how is the feeling of the band now that this chapter is closed? 
“Yes we finally made it! It’s a big relief actually, especially for me because I wrote the first songs for this concept back in 2006 when there was not even a band let alone a trilogy of albums in my mind! It was just me and Alex writing songs. So to see all this completed is a very big thing. Also it fills me with anticipation because apart from all the differences between them in song-writing or in production, l think of them as one big album or even better, like three chapters of the same book! So I look forward for the next step, I’m curious about what it will turn out to be!

The trilogy talks about the story of a man’s search for himself, something that most people can also relate to. Can you explain us in more detail the whole story starting in your first album? 
“Difficult question, you know everything is clear on my mind but when I try to express it I really don’t know if any of it would make sense to anyone else. It’s basically a symbolic story about a quest for things that anyone can relate to, as you said. Everyone’s life, at some point, can look like an endless desert and everyone searched for a guiding light, or a Sun if you want, to light his way. That’s the beauty of art I suppose, you create by fighting your own demons and other people can relate even if they don’t know you or what you are really talking about. So the story that we unfold in our albums is the story of a man who wakes by the sea without any memories of his past and finds himself wondering in a desert world under a Sun that never sets. He renounce the burning star in the sky as not his own, because nothing can survive under such blinding and all revealing light, and embarks on a quest to find his own Sun. And by doing so he made a legend out of himself and people looked up to him to lead them, to become a “Sun” and reign over them. But he refused and in secrecy walked beside mankind and became a fellowman to all. He choses to be an example rather than a messiah, not to enslave people but to become a “mortal Sun” whose light inspires and guides and not only blinds. As for his own Sun, he finds it in the end, but just in time to see it sets over the sea. But as they say, it’s the journey that counts.”

The idea of creating a trilogy was something that preexisted even before the composition process of “A Crimson Dawn” or it was consolidated during that process?
“Actually it was born when I completed the song writing for “A Crimson Dawn” and looked back to what we have done. As I said in the first question I had written the first story based songs back in 2006 but there were not complete and they were never meant to be included in our first album. I thought they were great songs and I didn’t want to rush them. The songs were “Road to Nowhere”, that ended up in our second album, and “Season of the Sun” and “Theater of War” from the new one. So I had the end of the story and when I looked to the lyrics of “A Crimson Dawn” I realized that they were describing the beginning! So two things happened then, first the idea of a trilogy was born and second that “Desert near the end” became the name of the band.”

I suspect that the band name Desert Near The End also has some sort of connection with the story itself, right? 
“Absolutely! It describes all the ideas and thoughts behind the concept and express ourselves in a unique and original way, it’s something personal that was born from our lyrics not just a band name. As for its connection with the story it describes the place in which our hero finds the false sun that never sets, in a desert where everything is visible, naked and endless. Nothing can survive under such an absolute light, At least nothing with a human soul. That’s where the story and our hero turn their back on this star and hunt for the real sun, one that guides and not only blinds, one that sets every day to rise the next. And that’s what our name stands for: hope. Where everything seems endless and you seem to know where every road leads, you have nothing but hope! It’s like Pandora’s box!!”

The band has evolved during the years and “Theater of War” is the culmination of that process where not only you have built a more personal sonority but also cut some of the chains with the Power Metal/Iced Earth influences that were present on the past. This third album feels like you have given another step towards a slightly more extreme and thrashier sonority... 
“Yes indeed “Theater of War” is heavier than the previous two albums and that happened for two reasons. First of all the story reached its climax and the music should underline and support that, and second, and maybe even more important, is that the way I perceive progress and evolution in Metal is that for as long you are able and with inspiration the heavier road is the right one! With your own “words” and “colours” of course but somehow you must always at least try to be more intense than your previous work. As for our influences, they are still there, just more assimilated. I’ll never cut the chains with the bands that made me love metal I’ll just keep adding new ones!”

Tue Madsen, who already worked with bands like Holy Moses, The Haunted, Kataklysm, Vader or Moonspell captured perfectly your essence and “Theater of War” shows a band with an intensity and slight edge of modernity not found on the previous records. If I’m not mistaken this is your first experience working with a renowned producer, so how did this possibility come about and tell us your thoughts about the final result? 
“First of all I agree with you totally, he gave the songs an edge and a punch that our previews albums lacked. In fact he made them sound exactly how as I imagined them when I was writing the album and that’s a very big thing. And indeed it’s the first time we worked with a producer of his class and we couldn’t be more happy with the result. We knew from day one that with this album we have something big (at least for us) in our hands and we wanted a serious upgrade in our sound. And Tue Madsen was the first that came into my mind because I’m a huge fan of his work with Heaven Shall Burn, so we approached him, we send him a pre-production demo and luckily he agreed to work on the album and the result was the best sounding Desert Near The End album to this day.”

Did you had the opportunity to travel to Denmark to Antfarm Studio and personally follow the mixing and mastering process with Tue Madsen? 
“Unfortunately no, we would like that very much but it was very difficult. Thankfully the work was done very easy through the internet. He send us samples during the mix and we send him back comments and that way the mix and the mastering was ready in 15 days.”

One of the aspects that I also liked during the release of the three albums was that you not only had a lyrical concept but also a strong visual approach that interconnects them. I guess it was a main concern to have some sort of guiding line between all three albums? 
“Definitely and thank you for noticing! I wanted the covers to follow the concept and maintain an aesthetic continuity between the albums and provide a visual background to the music. In “Crimson Dawn” we have a barren wasteland full of fire and ash under a sunless sky where in “Hunt For The Sun” the cover shows a celestial desert and in “Theater of War” we see the end of the journey at the shores of the sea and a world consumed by flames in the back. The big difference between them obviously is that the first two are photos and the new one is beautiful handmade by Panagiotis Vlamis an artist and a friend of mine.”

Most of the music and lyrics on the new album were written by you. During the creation of the trilogy, the composition process has suffered any sort of modification or evolution? 
“I’m responsible for the music and most of the lyrics for Desert Near The end since day one. It’s not some kind of dictatorship, its just the way we’ve always worked. I’ve been writing for this band my whole life even before there was even a band. I know our DNA and which way and how we should evolve or change, better than anyone else. And all this came very naturally by the plain fact that I write more than everyone else in the band. So in this album too, I wrote the music and the lyrics for most of the songs. Alexandros wrote the lyrics for “point of no return” which is our video for this album and Thanos wrote the music for “at the shores” which is the epilogue of the album and the story, and it’s a beautiful song for which I had the lyrics but I couldn’t find the right music.”

I’ve seen a few live footages of some of your past gigs and you usually use session musicians to fill the spots and for that extra dose of live energy. Have you ever consider adding a second guitar player to the band? In fact, I heard some rumours about a new addition to the band already... 
“Exactly! After a long long time we have a second guitar on and off stage! Panos joint the band just before our show with Flotsam and Jetsam. Just in time actually because it was the live debut of “Theater of War” and it was great to be able to play the new songs with a sound closer to the one we have on the CD. We were always meant to be a band with two guitars, we just haven’t found the right guy! You know, someone who could play the songs but without being a member in two or three more bands! That was the problem with all the guitar players we tried over the years.”

Lithras has been your live drummer since the beginning I guess, is there a reason for him not joining the band as full time member? Don’t you think that a real drummer would withdraw some of the limitations and difficulties of having programmed drums? 
“George or “Lithras” is our live drummer since the beginning and the reason for him not joining the band is that, if you are a full member in a band you have to share the good and the bad, and with bad I mean the expenses. And he is already a full member in two bands, Among Ruins and IceCrown, and he can’t afford being in a third! We have already made plans to have someone record the drums live in our next album so that we can have that extra human feeling and creativity of a real drummer. I only wish we could find a full time member behind the drums until then! But even if we don’t, the drums will be live next time, one way or the other!”

You have opened in Greece for Flotsam and Jetsam. What can you tell us about that experience? Flotsam and Jetsam belong to that lost Power/Thrash Metal era that we all love. 
“Great experience in many ways, first of all it was our first show with songs from “Theater of War” and the first one with two guitars since 2013! And also we had the chance to meet Flotsam and Jetsam which was an honour for us! Everything went great that night. As for the long lost Power/Thrash Metal that we all love, yes, we love it, we were born as metal fans into it and we continue to serve it! And if I may share a thought here, I don’t think it’s real lost, yes it went off the grid for some time especially in early 00’s but it emerged again. And I mean that, they may have a little more extreme touch on the vocals, but many bands who are considered to be death or core or black are in fact power/thrash bands when it comes to music. They may not even know it yet and that goes also for many of their fans! Which is fine by me, I always liked extreme metal and that gives me the opportunity to hear some great and new Power/Thrash Albums.”

“Theater of War” is the second album for the Ukrainian record label, Total Metal Records. Are there any plans for the future and how are things going on?
“We are totally pleased with Total Metal Records, we don’t have any complaints, everything went very smooth since the beginning of our collaboration. As for the future we don’t have any plans yet, it’s very early! We are already working on our next album but it’s too soon to think about its release.”

To end, the last song ‘At The Shores’ really feels like the closure of a chapter, besides being the most melodic song on the album has a sort of melancholy really reminiscent of a goodbye... Was that a concern for the last song in the trilogy?
“Yes, you captured it perfectly! It is the closing of a chapter, a last goodbye to something you chased for so long! It describes the last moments of the story when our hero returns to the shore, where everything began three albums ago, as he finally reached the sun but just before the sunset. It is out guitarist contribution in the album and exactly what we needed as an epilogue for the concept. I had the lyrics for the end of the story for many years and I knew that they wouldn’t fit in an aggressive song but I couldn’t find the right music, maybe because they are my favourite lyrics and the most personal! So when Thanos came and told me that he has the music for a song, but it doesn’t fit with the rest of the album, I asked to hear it, and when he played it I knew immediately that it was exactly what we needed! Very quickly I adjust my lyrics upon it and the album found it’s fitting epilogue!


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