ZT INTERROGATION: NEW JERSEY’S WINDFAERER ANSWER BACK TO ZT
Windfaerer hail from New Jersey and, since their formation in 2006 they have crafted two full-length albums. Their second, self-released offering came this year under the title Tenebrosum (Latin for “of darkness”) and yours truly was left speechless. Whirlwinds of harsh black metal guitars and blastbeats give way to rhythmic passages reminiscent of early-90s heavy/thrash metal, atmospheric interludes, insane guitar solos and… violin parts?! Zero Tolerance contacted Michael Gonçalves (guitars, vocals, bass) and Benjamin Karas (acoustic/electric violins, vocals) for further information.
-ZT: What made you start the band and what is your goal as a band?
–MG: Windfaerer started out as a project to create music to honour the ancients. I was playing in other bands and felt that I had enough experience to follow through with starting my own serious artistic outlet. I was influenced by the sounds of Falkenbach, Moonsorrow, Mithotyn, and Vintersorg. New Jersey was not exactly a hotbed for this kind of metal, but I wanted to express myself in this manner. However, instead of focusing my attention on Norse mythology and Vikings, my heart was set on writing about the Iberian Peninsula; much of the lyrics include references Lusitanians and Celtiberians who rebelled against Roman rule. For example, In The Wake Of War (from the Glorybound demo and the album Tribus) is about the Lusitanian leader, Viriathus, declaring war on Rome. It was also the declaration of this band. Since then, Windfaerer has now become a full live band. The goal for Windfaerer is to continue on the path of creating music that elicits emotion.
-ZT: Your songs bring together elements from very different schools of metal… Some parts remind me of Arcturus, Enslaved, Taake, then Metallica, Nevermore, At The Gates… all under the same roof! What are your influences and how would you label your music? –MG: I think you nailed it with some of our collective influences, Arcturus, Enslaved, Taake, Metallica, Nevermore, and At The Gates are definitely among the long list. A huge influence for me were In Flames and Dark Tranquillity; the Gothenburg sound has deeply affected my playing, and before that it was Megadeth and Metallica. My main influences for Windfaerer, as stated before, were Falkenbach, Moonsorrow, Mithotyn, Vintersorg and other Viking/Folk/Pagan bands. Mago de Oz was a big influence on the music when I started Windfaerer. Their meaningful lyrics influenced how I approach writing and their use of violin is what influenced Windfaerer to have the instrument in the first place. Listening to Celtic music has also driven the compositions. Our myriad of influences is essential to what we do. Each album has been inspired by different artists. The sounds on the new album, Tenebrosum, were influenced by Dissection, Xasthur, Immortal, and Amesoeurs, to name a few.
–BK: I just call it metal. When I compose for Windfaerer, I will take influence from just about anything that really resonates with me; Black Sabbath, Return to Forever, Mayhem, Fritz Kreisler, Moonblood, Turisas, J. S. Bach to name a few. As the creator I see it as more of a fusion for the listener to label.
-ZT: Any sources of inspiration outside music?
–MG: Being from an urban area, there is always the longing to be in nature. The wilderness is a reset button to the constant movement of modern human civilization. It is a reminder that there is something bigger than your existence. As I mentioned earlier, history and the ancients inspire the writing for Windfaerer. I want the music we create to live on as an homage to the past.
–BK: The desire to create something that will outlive me. To make something that invokes feeling.
-ZT: How do you write and practice your songs? Do you spend hours in the studio or does each member practice/write on his own?
–MG: Ben and I work on our own respective pieces. As far as live goes, we rehearse a setlist a few times a month in order to stay tight.
–BK: Mike will send me a pre-production track which I use as a canvas to write my parts. For some parts he will have a specific melody for me to play which I will often embellish if appropriate.
-ZT: Why isn’t the violin used by more metal bands? How come you incorporate it so effortlessly into your music?
–MG: Windfaerer started using violin on the first demo (Glorybound) and since then, I felt that it was appropriate to incorporate it into the first album (Tribus). Ben joined the band during the recording of Tribus and my perspective of the violin changed. The violin is not only used in its traditional (acoustic) sense, but it is also used much like a guitar. Ben uses the violin as his vessel of expression which is probably why it comes so naturally.
–BK: I can’t say for sure why the violin isn’t used in more bands since it’s such a versatile instrument. Although I studied classical growing up, my first real musical influence was metal. Starting with Ozzy Osbourne and shortly after discovering bands like Cannibal Corpse, Emperor and Rhapsody. I found so many different things that I liked in all different subgenres of metal. When I write I often think in riffs but have the additional capabilities of the violin to further express what I’m going for. I can easily go from playing a clean, intense, sustained melody to kicking on the distortion and getting gritty with the guitars.
-ZT: You often use non-English words as titles to your songs. What is the reason for this?
–MG: Some feelings are better expressed in other languages. There are times when the English language does not capture the essence of what I want to express.
-ZT: What are your lyrics about?
–MG: The lyrics concern themselves with spirituality, hope, loss, longing, and melancholia. In order to drive the themes, the lyrics tend to use Iberian symbols. The lyrics tend to be romantic in the view of history, deeply longing for a return to a theoretical home in a lost time. This feeling that encompasses the songwriting process is summarized with the Portuguese word “saudade”.
-ZT: What is the importance of Mare Tenebrosum for you and what made you pick Tenebrosum as the title for your album?
–MG: The title of the album was inspired by standing at the edge of the Earth and staring into a vast unknown. When I read about the name I thought it would be perfect for the album. The idea of a stormy sea of shadows resonated strongly with the vibe of the album.
-ZT: Also, if I’m correct, by using the term Tenebrosa you have actually titled the album “Of Darkness”, right? This makes a nice contrast with your previous EP, Solar. Was this planned and, if yes, what is the purpose?
–MG: Solar was a dedication to the ethereal realm and an exploration of other-worldly knowledge. Tenebrosum as an album delves into the questioning and loss of faith. The sequence in the names just happened naturally.
-ZT: Having witnessed the high quality of this album, it makes me wonder why you’re releasing it on your own… Is it a matter of choice or an act of necessity?
–MG: We have done the previous releases in this manner. This album took longer than we originally expected. We did not intend to have such a gap between Solar and this release. Because of the amount of time (and frustration) we put into this album we feel possessive and want to have the complete autonomy from start to finish. The only thing we cannot offer ourselves is a wide distribution, but my hope is that the people who truly enjoy our music will come find it.
-ZT: Future plans?
–MG: We plan to never waver and continue creating under the Windfaerer banner. We are currently booking shows along the Eastern United States in order to perform this material in a live setting.
You can listen to Windfaerer’s song Celestial Supremacy off Tenebrosum on ZT’s covermount CD for issue 68.
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