10 Horns with Josep Brunet of Helevorn
It’s been 20 years since Helevorn first started playing music in Mallorca, Spain, but listening to their new album, you’d never know they’ve been around that long.
“Aamamata” delivers an immediacy and passion that many bands half their age can’t capture. It’s a melodic and graceful gothic record that evokes feelings of melancholy, loneliness, and the perilous undercurrent of an ancient and unforgiving sea. Weaving in chants from the edge of the world, various vocal styles and instrumentation, and tragic tales from Mediterranean history, Helevorn conjures their most cohesive and emotional journey to date with “Aamamata.”
For this inaugural 10 HORNS interview, I asked Helevorn frontman, Josep Brunet, to talk about the writing and recording process for “Aamamata,” the state of the metal scene in Spain, and what it’s like to capture a feeling of inevitable death at sea through music.
1. Helevorn released "Aamamata" in January and I think it’s the most dynamic and intense album the band has created. What was the process like for writing the songs and recording this new album? Did it differ at all from previous efforts?
Thanks. We started composing the new songs two years ago, and we changed the way we did it for this album. Sandro and I recorded the base songs in the rehearsal room and we left some openings for the rest of the band to add their ideas. We all worked hard to create the album and it inspired us.
Once we had a good set-list (nine songs is enough for us) we recorded a demo to show Mega, our producer and sound engineer. Some weeks later we entered the studio to record the album. During the recording process we changed some things, arranged some parts and introduced different aspects to the songs. Mega did an awesome job and we owe him a lot for the final result.
I think “Aamamata” differs a little from our previous albums because we finally found a very solid system of working together.2. I read that the name of the album, “Aamamata,” is the song that Death sings every day in the Mediterranean Sea. Can you talk about this mythology and how it influenced the ideas on the new record?
Aamamata is a funeral chant, performed exclusively by the 'Are'are women in the Salomon Islands, a place far away. It’s a kind of a very primitive polyphony, eerie and almost alien. It fits the concept of the album perfectly. You can hear one of the few recorded 'Are'are chants at the end of the song, “The Path to Puya.”
We tried to establish a parallel between this chant and our Sibil·la, a 12th Century Catalan song that describes the end of the world. We adapted the song for the new album. It’s epic and tribal. We feel very comfortable with the Catalan language and we love real stories, especially if they describe the darkest side of humanity.3. The song "Aurora" is dedicated to Aurora Picornell, a freedom fighter who stood up for liberty and civil rights during the 1936 fascist coup in Spain. She was executed on January 5th, 1937 and her body has never been found. Why was it important for you and the band to craft a song that spotlights Aurora and the political persecutions of 1936?
Aurora Picornell was a young woman committed to the rights of all workers, and women in particular. As a consequence of the fascist coup of 1936, she fell victim to a military-sponsored, death squad. Aurora was seized, beaten, tortured, raped and finally executed with no trial. Her remains, along with the remains of many others who were exterminated the same way, have yet to be found after 81 years.
For us, the nameless and the lost should be recognized. They had lives and stories that suddenly became dust. We remember them and we dedicate this album to them, in loving memory.4. The cover art for "Aamamata" by Gonzalo Aeneas really captures a feeling of inevitable death at sea. How did the cover concept come about?
Poor Gonzalo... we were so demanding with him and he almost killed us.
There are a lot of magical and mystic elements on the cover, like old history has. You can see Sibil·la, the prophetess, singing the end of the world while people are drowning at her feet as they try to cross the Mediterranean Sea. The sun is turning red, a very big wave is about to crash down on them, the Scorpion constellation lights up the sky, etc. We wanted to show something deep and meaningful, and Gonzalo caught it perfectly.
Unfortunately people need taglines to describe their reality. So yes, it's Gothic Doom Metal or Melodic Doom Death Metal with gothic influences. I don't really know and I don't care, honestly. After 20 years I really feel we have forged our own personal sound. I find it curious that only the big bands get called unique. Have you noticed that? Some media still thinks we want to be like Swallow the Sun or some other famous band, but our sound has nothing to do with Scandinavian music. We are from the south. You can feel the dark waves of our Dead Sea brushing your ears when we play.
Fortunately our sound has changed, especially on the last two albums. It's more direct, intense and powerful, and at the same time more melodic.6. You use a variety of vocal stylings on "Aamamata." When you start to lay down vocals on a track, how do you typically approach the way you sing them? Do you have a process?
That's a very important issue for me. I ask myself questions like: How should I sing here? Should I sing during this section or just shut up? This part is aggressive… should I growl or is growling too typical for this kind of musical part? But in the end, the answer is the same – I try to connect with the sadness and sorrow, and try to make the songs totally emotional. I want to feel what I sing, and that's it. It's beyond Metal. I love to discover myself while we are composing in the studio. Mega knows perfectly what my limits are, even more than I do, so we work hard on the overall vocals and the vocal harmonies.
It also helps me a lot to sing about real things and real stories. I am able to connect with the essence of the song if it’s real. The Southern way.7. What is your favorite song from "Aamamata" to sing and why?
I never cried as much as when I was recording '”Aurora.” She was there with me; her spirit and her mighty power. I love “Goodbye, Hope” and “Blackened Waves,” but “Aurora” is unique and powerfully dramatic.
That's true. In Spain there are so many amazing metal bands. The bad thing is that there isn’t much of a “scene.” If it exists, it is very small. In brief, we have two important problems: first, the big Spanish promoters don't believe in Spanish bands, so promotion and visibility is weak in our own country. Secondly, there aren’t any young people in the scene, which means it will likely die in the near future. That's why it’s important for the media and promoters to support local and awesome metal bands. If not, we are all fucked.
And in Mallorca, we have a very small scene, but it’s pretty nice actually. We play every year, or every two years, in our hometown and it's cool. We played in front of 400 people when we presented “Aamamata” four months ago. It’s been great.9. Helevorn toured Canada this year. Do you have any plans to play shows in America?
The tour over in Canada was an amazing experience. We don't have any plans at the moment to go to America again, but hopefully in the future. We have some dates scheduled in Italy and Spain this autumn.10. 2019 marks the 20th anniversary of Helevorn. Congratulations on that milestone! What's it been like to make metal with the band for 20 years now?
I ask myself the same question every day. We are very passionate people and we need music to live, so we have found a way to express everything with Helevorn. We are experiencing the best moments of our career right now. Fourth album, awesome reviews, Canadian tour, healthy guys… what more can we ask for?
To listen to “Aamamata,” visit Helevorn’s bandcamp page at https://helevornofficial.bandcamp.com
To find out more about Helevorn, or to purchase “Aamamata” on vinyl or CD, visit the band’s website at www.helevorn.com
“Aamamata” was my Metalheads Podcast Album of the Month for January 2019. Check out all the Metalheads’ favorite records each month at https://wearemetalheads.com/aotm
Metal Artists interested in being interviewed for 10 HORNS can contact Markisan at firstname.lastname@example.org