ORYAD are a new star in the metal sky: with deep roots in symphonic metal, they nowadays describe themselves as a progressive doom opera project, hailing from the Appalachian and Rocky Mountain ranges of the United States. After the release of the EP “Hymns Of Exile & Decay” in 2021, the Americans now present their debut album “Sacred & Profane”. It shows that ORYAD‘s sound has elevated to a broader level, with a strong emphasis on dramaturgy, ritual and dance at their live shows. I had an extensive chat with creatress and soprano Moira Murphy about the concept behind the music, nature and literature as ever-present sources of inspiration and her challenges as a singer.
INTERVIEW BY: ISABELL KÖSTER
You just released your debut album, “Sacred & Profane”. How did you come up with the title?
It’s based on the title of a book called “The Sacred and the Profane: The Nature of Religion” by Mircea Eliade. He was a ground-breaking Romanian religious anthropologist. The book talks about the similarities of rituals in religions throughout cultures and people’s need to create sacred spaces. It describes how this generates two selves: the sacred person and the profane person. And how profane doesn’t mean what we think it means in our modern connotation, but just means not sanctified, not consecrated. Eliade really delves into the similarities across humanity of how we create these rituals, how we create a sacred space for ourselves and how often those usually fall into circles. More precisely, how often they fall into patterns that follow directions like north/south, east/west, or how they follow the moon. In his work he shows how that has gone through every religion and has been adopted by later religions and Abrahamic faiths. A lot of the poetry I write comes from that place of finding a ritual or understanding cyclical patterns. So, the title just fit well.
Is there an underlying concept that connects all the tracks?
Yes, I tend to be pulled towards mythological figures because I like that their stories, carry lessons and metaphors that can be related to the human experience. It’s always nice for me to filter things through that lens to understand either something that I’m going through or something that I feel society is going through. And that’s kind of always been the way I’ve written and understood things. I come from a pretty religious background, so when I discovered world religions in college, it just blew my mind open. So, whenever I write about a mythological character – because on the album we have Eve, we have Lilith, we have Eurydice from Orpheus and the Underworld – I use those figures to talk about either losing communication in a relationship or gaining a sense of confidence as a woman in society. Understanding and owning feminine power is a big theme. And instead of just saying straightforward “I feel this confidence as a woman”, I want to talk about Lilith instead. So, it’s not like a straightforward concept album with a storyline, but it is connected via these themes.
Was it planned that way from the beginning?
Not exactly, I didn’t have in mind an overarching concept narrative. But when we were putting the songs in order, I saw that they followed a life cycle, which is another reason that I kept coming back to the circular idea and going back to Eliade. Moreover, the album begins and ends with two arrangements of the same piece, but with different lyrics. It begins with the sun rising and ends with the moon setting along this path. So, I decided to order everything around that idea.
The first video you released for the album is “Eve”. Where did you shoot it and what is the story line?
We had a lot of fun with this, because I was working with the awesome director Hannah Maddox. I told her about my vision and she got it. The song has doom elements, but it also has stoner and even some black metal elements. We just played around with rhythm. However, I really wanted that dream like feeling to it. I have always been really drawn to stuff from the 60s and 70s, and so a lot of the influence on “Scorched Earth” was very heavily 1970s. And so, for this one, I wanted it to be psychedelic but not stereotypically psychedelic. So, I got to play these different Eve selves: There is Dream Eve, Endless Eve and Corporeal Eve. Corporeal Eve, who is representing Eve’s physical part, is mainly the one doing a lot of the exposition like speaking the story. The story is this monologue that she’s speaking back to the Tempter and being kind of cheeky about speaking back to him. Location wise, we shot at Horsetooth Reservoir, which is a state park in Fort Collins, Colorado, an hour or so north of Denver. There’s this giant lake and there are these rocky shores up against it. We used the studio for the dream sequence, but we used outdoors for the other two. It was very cold, but worth it. I really wanted Endless Eve, who is this primordial myth, to be in the water. Because to me, having read a lot of creation myths, the mother comes from the waters. Water is the regenerative birthplace. And I really wanted that to be part of the vision.
Talking about artistic visions. Where do you find inspiration for your songs?
From a few things, nature being the biggest one. Being out in the woods, hiking and feeling yourself. It’s a very spiritual thing for me. I always take a journal with me and write in it. Sometimes nothing comes of it, sometimes a whole song comes of what I’ve written down. That’s a big piece of the inspiration. But artistically and aesthetically, I’ve been influenced by poets like Edna St. Vincent Millay, who was a renowned social figure and feminist in New York City during the Roaring Twenties, and Frenchman Charles Baudelaire. I love his most famous work, “The Flowers Of Evil”. Both St. Vincent Millay’s and Baudelaire’s works are beautiful and sometimes pretty dark. Another of my favourites is American poet and novelist Stephen Crane. Many people don’t know him, but at the end of our EP “Hymns Of Exile & Decay” you can find one of his poems. He lived in the 19th century and published a volume called “The Black Riders And Other Lines”, which is apocalyptic, nihilistic and not typical of the time at all. It was those three poets I’ve really been drawn to and who keep inspiring me.
Which song was the most challenging for you as a singer?
I would say “Slice Of Time”. The reason I do, is both pedagogical from a vocalist perspective and emotional. I was very silly when I chose how to write it and what key to write it in. I have it sitting up higher on the belt, where my voice changes. It’s called your passaggio, your transition or break. And when you ride it all the time, that can be very difficult. I did that to myself and I lived with it, because I liked the key and how it sounded. But it also artistically works because it’s uncomfortable. And the themes I address in the song, insomnia and anxiety, are uncomfortable. The last chorus and vocals are so emotionally charged that I would get very upset singing it when I was recording. I’ve dealt with bad insomnia for years. And to be able to put that into a song and feel the release of the chorus was just extremely cathartic.
The cover artwork is beautiful and does have a mystical feel to it. Who is the artist and what is the idea behind it?
It was created by Tony Midi. He’s an illustrator and he’s done work with Chelsea Grin and Dimmu Borgir. I had him do some different illustrations, some layout designs and place them in different parts of the album. I envisioned these symbols in my head and how they related and he put them together for me. The frame has the stag in it because it’s important to my whole cosmology. Moreover, I wanted to make sure that I had some sort of concept of vision or prophecy, like a third eye. That’s why I had him place the eye on the blessing hand in the centre. That blessing hand has been used a lot recently with images of Baphomet, but it goes far back. It was used a lot in the Byzantine Church. And if you look at orthodox art, illuminated art triptychs, saints ate often shown giving that same blessing. And so again, I love the fact that these symbols go across human culture. The CD itself has the wings on it for Lilith, flying away. Those were the big pieces that I really wanted to be represented. Furthermore, I wanted to make sure that there were a lot of lovely, beautiful filigrees to give the artwork a sense of something ancient.