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SWORDS OF DIS are no ordinary metal band. The English husband and wife duo challenge their listeners with epic black/doom metal compositions that are steeped in ritual and never straightforward. Shortly before the release of their sophomore album “MelencoliaRichard and Alice Corvinus gave us a generous glimpse into their mystical world. A conversation about musical influences, the fascinating power of art and female empowerment.

INTERVIEW BY: ISABELL KÖSTER

SWORDS OF DIS original

What motivated you to found SWORDS OF DIS back in 2009?

Richard Corvinus: SWORDS OF DIS was created as an entity for Alice and me to engage in both our love of music and to explore our individual belief systems. It was a vessel in which we can manifest and invoke spiritual conjuration and contemplate our observations of humanity going into the darkest parts within it, through the medium of music.

You hail from Birmingham, the birthplace of Black Sabbath and Judas Priest. Is there metal in the air? Or how did you get into metal back in the day?

Alice Corvinus: My mother was into metal, particularly Black Sabbath. And she was also an old New Romantic. We did have an upbringing that was alternative, and I think it was the same for you, wasn’t it?

Richard: Yes, it was. I remember when I was quite young, I woke up in the middle of the night and MTV was on, and I saw Carcass’ “Heartwork” for the first time. And I was just mesmerised by it.

SWORDS OF DIS albumrandAlice: For me, Birmingham itself has a definite sense of metal. I think it’s the whole community. It was founded on industry. Bands like Black Sabbath, they’ve even described themselves that there was this dark, industrial tone to Birmingham that formed the basis for how that sound developed. And let’s not forget, the soundscape of Black Sabbath wouldn’t be what it was if legendary guitarist Tony Iommi didn’t need to down tune his guitar because of losing both fingertips in a factory accident. And I think to this day the city is industrial, it’s diverse. You really get a feeling for the world in Birmingham. It’s a very good place to be.

Talking about influences: which bands are your all-time favourites?

Alice: Again, I have to pay respect to our forefathers of metal and say Black Sabbath. Without Black Sabbath, I don’t think we would have the sheer soundscape that we have today.

Richard: Tony Iommi was a massive influence on my guitar playing when I was younger and starting to listen to metal music. And he still is today in songs like “לִוְיָתָן, for example.

So apart from Black Sabbath, who else?

Alice: My all-time love is Primordial. I mean, A.A. Nemtheanga’s vocals are so powerful, so dynamic. “Where Greater Men Have Fallen” is my favourite album of all time. I can listen to it all day and will never tire. I also love The Devil’s Blood. Farida Lemouchi’s vocals are so soulful and reach deep within you. Selim Lemouchi’s writing was like nothing else. They were really a majestic duo and just so profound. I would also be doing myself a disservice if I didn’t mention Alice In Chains, because I do love Alice In Chains.

And for you, Richard?

Richard: Alice spoke about Black Sabbath, and while they helped me form my guitar playing at a young age, I’m not going to talk about them too much. My all-time favourite band is Nightbringer. They are one of the finest examples of a black metal act, both musically and conceptually. Naas Alcameth’s body of work is just incredible. His other band Akhlys’ album “The Dreaming I” is a perfect black metal album to me and inspired me a lot in my writing. Schammasch influenced me as well, they have pushed the boundaries of black metal into places it hasn’t been. Emperor is another favourite. I started out listening to bands like Black Sabbath, but when I found Emperor at a young age, it was a whole other experience for me. Ihsahn’s playing was profound and pushed my guitar style into the direction it is now, really. And let’s not forget Jon Nödtveidt from Dissection. Dissection is a mutual all-time favourite band of ours.

SWORDS OF DIS engravingYou have just released your sophomore album called “Melencolia”, like a famous engraving by the German artist Albrecht Dürer. Why did you choose that title?

Alice: I have loved Albrecht Dürer’s work for so many years. We’ve both been admirers of his work. My mother was an artist and so from a young age I’d seen Dürer‘s self-portraits and works like “Knight, Death And The Devil”, which were all deeply inspiring. But “Melencolia” took me somewhere and I would sit for hours just studying it, I just couldn’t let it go. One day I’d been sitting, and I’d been studying it again and the lyrics for the song “Melencolia” started coming to me. When I started singing the song, I started with the name “Melencolia”. It’s almost a battle cry. The song came before any other on the album. It was the beginning, and we thought it is just fitting to name it after this track.

Is there an underlying concept that connects the songs?

Alice: There is certainly a connection between the compositions. We imagine every single song as a ritual. Each song on our album is a dedication to Our Lady. They are connected through our musings and occult studies on the darkest traits of mankind. We’re about touching on the darkest traits within humanity and the divine as well. As artists, we’re in that place between.

The cover artwork is drawn in a similar style to Dürer’s painting and according to artist Dávid Glomba is an extension of it. Please tell me more about its creation and the symbolism behind it.

Richard: We worked collaboratively with David over an extended period and going from our initial vision of what the cover art should look like to expanding upon that. His creative process is brilliant and fascinating. It added a whole depth that another artist just wouldn’t have been able to capture. You can look at the artwork, and it sums up the whole album in one image, which I think is an amazing feat.

Alice: In Albrecht Dürer’s original, there is so much symbolism within the art. For us, we wanted it to be a genuine continuation of the original. On the left side of the cover, you can see a tall figure called the Lamassu who is very important in the artwork. It’s an Assyrian protective deity and a symbol of guardianship, freedom and strength. They were used to guard the Ishtar gates in Babylon. They were used to protect homes. When I’m singing on “Melencolia” it’s very much a dedication to Inanna/Ishtar, the primordial female strength. That is who I embody, even in a video like “Our Lady Of The Naked Flame”. That visceral, vicious character is also an expression of Inanna and all about female empowerment.

Like in Dürer’s original, your cover artwork also shows an angel. She looks very different, though.

Alice: In the original, she’s resting on her hand, compass in the other. Almost waiting, contemplating in melancholy. And for us, she’s raised in a fever of exaltation. Clothes shredded, revealing her form. And you get the female empowerment feeling here. She’s owning her femininity. There is no shame there. She’s not hiding anything. She is awake and she’s free. And that’s important for us. She also has the Chalice before her with the Eternal Fire.

How would you describe “Melencolia” musically?

Richard: Melencolia” is diverse. We never shackle ourselves. We create purely through our own intent and never to please. I think the resulting soundscape can certainly be described as black and doom metal. But I think everyone will take their own opinion, and I certainly think everyone should listen, even if you don’t believe you like a particular genre.

Alice, which track was the most challenging for you as a singer on “Melencolia” and why?

SWORDS OF DIS firstalbumrandAlice: For me, “Melencolia” was so cathartic. Every single track was a joy. As a singer, I was like the figure on the cover: free! I felt that freedom. I mean, especially when you compare it to our debut album “Tides Of Malediction”, which was released in 2013. On it, I did something that probably any singer doesn’t really aspire to do. Singers want to soar; they want to give their best. I wanted to oppress. I wanted to restrict my vocals. It’s purposefully to make you feel uneasy, which for a first release probably is a very unusual move. There’s almost an angelic quality to it, but it never lets you go there. Like with some singers, the music soars through you and I don’t let you go there with “Tides Of Malediction”. But that was extremely difficult for me as a singer. For example, in “Torn And Suffering” I do sweeping notes at the beginning that I purposefully cut. It was hard at that point to not let yourself go and raise my vocals up. But for “Melencolia” itself, the most challenging song was probably “Oculus Diaboli”. The pacing is so different from any of the other tracks. I had to get in a zone to instantly punch in with the vocals. That was quite intense and required some effort.

 


Melencolia
Track-By-Track with Alice Corvinus

Orison” is the introduction to our album and sung exclusively in Latin. It literally means “prayer” and should start to let you take those steps into our world. I’m a massive fan of the Souls game franchise (Bloodborne and Dark Souls). In Dark Souls there’s this painted world of Ariamis and you can step into that world. And I feel that that is how we want to be with SWORDS OF DIS. You’re stepping in and this song will lead you in there.

Next, we have “Mask Of The Myriad”. It instantly punches in. It’s a track around the fact of how we have people in the world using their power positions for destruction, for corruption, and how we should fight back. For people in power have used this mask of the myriad to cover up their true intentions. There’s quite a bit of Hebrew spoken in that song, and that is part of the ritual to ask the divine to cleanse that scourge.

In “Sea Of Storms” I almost come in with a battle cry, a very ritualistic vocal again, connecting with the divine. There’s such power within that song, such darkness. And at the end there is that light again. In the video, the shots of the castle are drone footage from Turkey that we felt really fitted the vibe of the song. But the rest of the shots of us, the play with the light, the dark, the sea of storms that was done on our land. It was a dedication to the band Dissection and to their song “Starless Aeon”. We wanted that homage to them.

Melencolia” is a primal and dark song discussing Melencolia herself and in referencing the line “they gazed at the corruption bred in Man” it pertains to her protector, the Lamassu of the Primoridal Power. In short, it discusses the happenings surrounding her at the end of days and the moment when the earth is reborn anew.

Our Lady Of The Naked Flame” takes you on a journey. The video takes you on a different kind of journey. But it stays within the same kind of realm. It’s a dedication to Our Lady Of The Naked Flame, Of Noctilucent Light and for us that would be the goddess Ishtar, in Mesopotamian religion, goddess of war and (sexual) love. When we refer to the Morningstar, for us, it’s the planet Venus, which is the planet dedicated to Ishtar and to femininity, and to Lucifer.

There’s “Oculus Dei” and “Oculus Diaboli”. They are counterpoints to each other. Again, I don’t want to dictate how people should feel necessarily in any song. I certainly want people to take from these what they feel and let them have their own opinions. But, I mean, “Oculus Dei” is deeply personal. It’s a softer track on the album. Everything about it is softer, the way I sing is more flowing. It’s very powerful, especially towards the end of the track. And “Oculus Diaboli” is instantly hard hitting. It’s got that fever, that ritualistic feeling. For me as a singer, I had to be in that zone to perform. That song instantly comes in with a very powerful metal vocal. That also has some phrases of Hebrew in it. In that, I’m asking the primordial power to destroy the corruption within the heart of humanity and devour it in the depths of chaos, of darkness.

Eclipsing The Deathless Sun” is my favourite song on the whole album. I love singing the whole of that track. It was just pure enjoyment throughout the whole piece, but particularly when I sing “The Pillars of Life lay crackled and as dust now”, there is such movement in the guitar work. I would recommend that track to anyone to listen to. That is the track for me, the standout on the album.

לִוְיָתָן” which translates as “Leviathan” leads you down, the vocals, the melodies take you on a journey. And you can really hear how we are touching on that place that I described, the darkest of humanity and the divine. It’s also the track where you can hear the most influences of Black Sabbath in our playing.

Palimpsest” is in my opinion our darkest track. It’s the instant close, it’s the end, quite literally. I mean my first words are “for I have bathed in ash, I have ridden across the seas”. It takes you somewhere. There’s a dissonance, there is discord. It instantly takes you to that place, which I hope at the very end people can find still, despite the darkness that we do conjure. The place where there is light.


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