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Ophis uit Hamburg heeft een nieuw album uit. Aangezien wij erg te spreken zijn over ’The Dismal Circle’ en er de afgelopen periode veel dingen zijn veranderd binnen deze band, voelden wij zanger/gitarist Phil even aan de tand.

Door: Pim B. | Archiveer onder doom metal

Hi Phil, new album, label and line-up, so let’s catch up a bit. Let’s start with the new label. It was quite a surprise to see you had signed to F.D.A. Records as they are known for being a death metal label. Still I can totally get it you started working together. You fit their roster well with your style even if you differ from the other acts on their roster. How did you actually end up on F.D.A.?
Hi Pim, our switch from Cyclone Empire to FDA was a last-second decision, as the new album was originally done for CE, and the recordings were already finished, when Cyclone decided to re-negotiate our deal regarding the LP-version. We could not find a proper agreement with the label, when we remembered that FDA had offered us a record deal some years ago. So we asked them, if they were interested in releasing the vinyl-version of the new album. Understandably they were not, but they were interested in doing the complete record. So we talked things over with Cyclone Empire, and we all agreed it would be best to not split the album to several labels and just change to FDA. Cyclone were cool enough to let us go, and we are very grateful for that. With FDA, we are in a better situation now in terms of handling things.

Your precious album ‘Abhorrence In Opulence’ was released by Cyclone Empire. I noticed quite a few bands have left them and signed to other labels. It seems things aren’t going that well. So, what is the reason you left them? Did you actually have a multiple album deal with them or was it just a one album deal you had with them to start with?
The situation is that Cyclone are both a label and a distribution shop for other labels. In the past, they ran both branches with the same power, but these days the distribution has a lot more priority, as it earns them more money. I can understand that, they are professionals and have to survive. I am not in the position to talk about the economics of Cyclone Empire. All I know is that this change of priorities affected the deals with several bands, and Ophis was one of them, so we all agreed to the decision I mentioned above. We were not dropped, to which we are thankful. We had a one album deal with the option of several more albums. And they drew the option, but as I said, wanted to re-negotiate the terms of vinyl.

Another thing that has changed is your line-up. Oliver and you are still around, but Martin and Nils have left although not at the same time. They have been replaced by Simon and Steffen. Can you tell us a bit more why Martin and Nils left and how you ended up recruiting Simon and Steffen?
Martin wanted to spend more time with his son, and since he also plays in Fäulnis, he decided one band is enough for him and left. That was a swift decision and came suddenly but not that surprisingly. Nils however slowly disassociated himself with the Doom scene during the recent years, and in the end it started to affect his role in Ophis. Sometimes he gave 110 % for the band, sometimes he rarely showed up for rehearsals and had some issues with being in the band. You can handle such a situation well for a while, but on our last tour in 2016 it became obvious he felt alienated and out of place. We did not fire him, just had a talk and asked him to think about if he really wants to be in the band or not. He took a while to think things through and then decided to quit. That was a tough decision, but we all agreed it would be better. We knew both Simon and Steffen for quite some time from many gigs together with their other bands, so we just asked them. We tried several different drummers, but Steffen was clearly the obvious choice. There was also talk of our old drummer Richard of re-joining the band, but nothing came out of it.

I know Simon was also in Crimson Swan when he replaced Martin on guitar in Ophis. In the meantime Crimson Swan seems to have undergone some changes too. Can you tell a bit about that?
Crimson Swan still exists, but the complete band except band-leader Robert left. All at the same time. Kaboom, haha. All the ex-members formed a new band together, called Voidhaven. As a matter of fact, I joined that band recently, so the incest is even more complete, haha. Crimson Swan seem to have a full new line-up, but I do not know any of those guys and have no contact with them.

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Now ‘The Dismal Circle’ has been released and as far as you ask me I would say this album turned out a lot darker with lesser emphasis on melody but more on haunting chord progressions. That of course is the way I see it. So, how would you say the new album turned out compared to your previous efforts and would you say that the change in the line-up had anything to do with this? Or maybe other aspects in your life?
I agree with you, the new album is darker and has less emphasis on melody, even though those typical Ophis-melodies are still present. But they are a bit less obvious. This was no conscious decision, it just happened to be. I don't think this has much to do with the new guys. They were of course involved in the song writing, but the basic sketches for every song were already done when they joined, and some songs were already complete. I can tell that the last 2 years have not been good ones, both regarding the overall word-development and our own lives, and I guess this just is shown in the music. It might be putting off some casual listeners and thus being not the best development for a career, but we just do what we feel.

What didn’t change is the studio you used. You once again went to Blastbeat Studio in Kiel to record with Oliver Carell. A case of never changing a winning team perhaps?
Yes, pretty much. We never have huge budgets, so we never have much time to record. Usually we book nine days in a studio to record an album. That's a VERY short time, most bands need more to just finish the drums. Such short times tend to be a lot easier and less stressful when you know your producer and he knows you. With Oliver Carell, we know what we get and how to achieve it. He may have a very different musical background, but he understands our music and what we try to achieve. So he can adjust very well. And sometimes his different background is even helpful, as he has some ideas regarding the production we would never have. A fresh approach, so to say.

Another thing I really like about the new album is the artwork by Evelyn Steinweg. Can you tell a bit about the cooperation with her?
We knew her for some years, as she is a professional photographer and she sometimes took pictures of our shows. We did not know she was into painting too, but somehow Olly found out about this, and we checked out her pictures out of interest. We liked her style very much, so we asked her to paint an artwork for our new album. By then, we already knew the title of the record, so we gave that info to her and she started working. It is the very first time she ever did an artwork for a band, so maybe this is even a new career for her, who knows.

In what way does the artwork reflect the lyrical content of ‘The Dismal Circle’ and can you tell a bit about the lyrics?
The artwork has no deeper meaning other than visualising Evelyn's interpretation of the title. We did not give her much input, as we thought it'd be more interesting to see what she would make of it.
As far as the lyrics go, the album is a little more personal than the last one, which had some strong political undertones (at least for a Doom band, that is). Actually, ‘Shrine Of Humiliation’ is the only song here that deals with strong socio-cultural topics, in this case media-exploitation and prostitution for attention. I think that song features one of my best lyrics. The other songs deal more or less with personal stuff. Like ‘Engulfed In White Noise’ is about people who have dementia and autism. I sometimes work with such people, and I did put some of my experiences into the lyrics. And ‘Carne Noir’ is a strong criticism of myself.

I’ll keep this a short one this time around. Anything else you’d like to get across tom our readers? Any plans to tour for instance?
We will be back in the Netherlands next year, so come around and be doomed to fuck. Thanks for your support.

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