EVOKEN "Wake To Sleep, To Wake No More" 

By Lord Randall

In which Lord Randall sits down with founding drummer/lyricist Vince Verkay to discuss mankind’s capacity and propensity for evil, the current state of doom, and – yes – EVOKEN’s towering concept album recently released on Profound Lord, Hypnagogia…

WORMWOOD CHRONICLES: After 25 years, you were there at the forefront of what would become known as "funeral doom". Thus far, pretty much every sub-genre of metal has had its time as part of "hipster chic", from grind to post-whatever to occult themed bands to retro-thrash. What do you think it is that has kept doom metal and funeral doom insulated from trends at the moment? 

VINCE VERKAY: First, thank you for supporting us and giving us the opportunity to do this interview. I think, depending on where you go, doom has crossed over into hipsterville. Certain bands seem to attract more than others, but you're correct. We're a society of instant gratification. Doom is the antithesis of instant. I've watched people either download or purchase the actual CD, hit play and listen to 45 seconds of a song, then move onto the next track. Try doing that with Doom metal. Some riffs last 4-5minutes long, but also eliminates any atmosphere dependent on what comes before and after any particular riff. Doom requires your full-attention and patience, so right there you're eliminating a huge percentage of audience.

WC: It seems that, even nearly 30 years later, there was something so special about the early Peaceville scene – ANATHEMA, MY DYING BRIDE, PARADISE LOST – that few have even tried to touch since then, much less been successful at honoring the legacy while injecting a bit of individual originality. What was it about those three back then, do you think? 

VV: They emerged in the right place at the right time. Albums were focused entirely on aggression with a in-your-face production. Yet, here were these 3 bands dedicated to a underlying atmosphere, drawing from the same source, but also found motivation and inspiration from the most abstract music. In addition to that, there are locations that are well-known breeding grounds for certain types of music. The UK is renowned for giving us some of the darkest music for decades. When we're young, everything is new, so when something really has a impact on us, it stays with us. Those three bands continue to have a massive influence.

WC: Granted, an EVOKEN album takes a fair amount of time to take shape. Was "Hypnagogia" in the works pretty much since the end of the "Atra Mors" cycle, or have you learned to just let things come as they do – or don't – and let the art dictate its own pace? 

VV: There are things that you can't control; its in the reality of having to work regular jobs. I would welcome [music] as a career, with open arms, but I guess the world we need to go sideways. Now, back to the point, there are a variety of reasons years can pass between albums. There's a impulse to write and release a new album immediately, but being too ambitious can backfire on a band. The art has to come naturally and without compromise.

WC: Once "Hypnagonia" did begin to take shape, was there anything you knew you wanted to avoid this time around, anything you felt the urge to focus on that maybe you hadn't before? Or is it a situation where, due to the extended time between albums, you feel you're truly starting fresh each time, trusting that whatever comes out, it's going to be EVOKEN?

VV: Ultimately, we never felt compelled to restrain ourselves. We never concern ourselves with making sure any riff stays within the confines of doom or EVOKEN. We all trust each other. Anytime someone has an idea, there isn't a concern that someone may ruin a riff when building around it. We also understand that our fans trust us and find us reliable when it comes to releasing a new album. Even though, for us, it's not about creating songs that fall under the definition of doom metal. It has to elicit a reaction between us physically and mentally. I believe we have developed our sound that is unique to us.

WC;"Hypnagogia" also stands as the first time EVOKEN has consciously embraced a concept over the span of an album. WWII has been often referred to within metal, via imagery, song subjects, lyrics, etc, but WWI is often left behind. I know you've been private about the details of why you decided to focus on this particular conflict, but, as much as you're comfortable, can you give us a basic framework, or catalyst?

VV: Lyrically, I've always used various events in human history as a metaphor. I don't think it would be fair of me to force a viewpoint by simply writing in a direct manner. For a majority, music serves as a vessel to escape their own daily lives. By writing in metaphor, anyone who takes the time to read the lyrics can interpret them as they see fit. The time-setting and subject are both dependant on the music in its entirety. For "Hypnagogia", its continuity was gradual. We never discuss any concepts before or during the writing. Instead of trying to adopt a particular setting, we allow the songs to guide us. Certain events were defined by the incredible suffering and misery society was forced to endure. Soldiers had to use makeshift cages in order to sleep. A crescendo of rats numbering in the hundreds desperately trying gain access to you as a source of food. In some cases, dragging the bloated bodies of the dead to places near their enemies in order to demoralize those soldiers having to witness a hill of rats devour their flesh. French soldiers fighting in the heat of mid-summer wearing wool overcoats. How these men were able to cope is almost supernatural.

WC: My PawPaw (still living) was in Korea, and both he and my Granddaddy were in WWII, father in Vietnam. Not a one of them cared about the politics of the wars, and my PawPaw has said he'd enlist tomorrow if they'd take him back. To hear him talk, it wasn't about Democrat/Republican, or who was in the White House back then. Of course there's no such thing as a noble war, though the reasons FOR the war may be of noble cause. On the battlefield, though, nobility for the most part goes out the window. Do you feel as if your character writing the journal in "Hypnagogia" has lost his humanity, had his "Kill the pig!" moment, in reference to Lord Of The Flies, or is his pact simply the only path he saw to a black sort of freedom?

VV: Both. For him it's quite simple. In order to have complete closure when taking his final breath, he wants the entire world to suffer as he did. 

WC: Artwork has been a key element within EVOKEN albums, at least (I feel) the past 2-3. Do you view the cover art/imagery in the layout as part of a whole, or as able to stand on its own, independent of the music? 

VV: It has to be part of a whole. The wrong artwork and layout can utlimately confuse people. Everything has to tie into each other. I've always believed when a band releases a album, it's essentially telling a story. You want fans to find a connection with the music. If someone has yet to hear a band's music, the coverart ultimately determines a person's decision. Humans are visual beings who base majority of their decisions on appearance. I highly doubt a Tom Jones fan will see the cover for Leprosy with the giant DEATH logo and decide to buy it.

WC: Back to Lord Of The Flies, there's a definite parallel where once-civil beings descend into savagery, and what war does to the psyche of the warrior. The cover art this time reminded me of the scene in Golding's novel where the Lord is talking to Simon. Of course, Simon goes on to be murdered, but...

VV: As we see time and time again, men that possessed compassion and restraint discover they are capable of commiting atrocities. Would this individual resort to something of such an extreme nature if he never joined this war? Was this sadistic god-like entity a construct of his own mind? Was it a lack of civil behavior and zero bounderies? Did he find this hill to be his own sow head on a stake?

WC: 'Too Feign Ebullience' and 'Ceremony Of Bleeding' have really stuck with me since first listen, and I feel as if I'll be finding new bits within the album for awhile now. The choral section of the latter was captivating. If you could, speak a bit about the lyrical inspiration for each?

VV: I like to leave that open for the fans. To me, once you release an album it's no longer yours. It belongs to the fans. Its meaning belongs to the fans.

WC: Have you had a chance to immerse yourself in the album as a listener yet? If so, what feeling were you left with at the end? As a creator/vessel of "Hypnagogia", your reaction is likely to be parental, at least in some sense. What emotions do you hope the listener is left with if they simply turn off the lights, disconnect, and let the album do its work? 

VV: Well, these are songs we started recording a year ago, so I have listened to them in stages. As the recording progressed, so has the atmosphere surrounding them. I have tried to listen as someone outside of the band, but I usually start finding flaws, things I could have done better or ideas we backed away from. 

WC: Europe has always been a stronghold (some would say the stronghold) of doom in all its regalia, and I honestly can't remember the last time a doom band of known stature from anywhere mounted a full US tour. Symptom of the music industry, economy, or simple logistics in that it's easier to play the handful of Summer fests in the US and tour EU due to being able to play many countries in a few days? 

VV: All of the above. It's far easier to tour and play the Summer festivals in Europe. Europe's different cultures within a certain radius who are far more open-minded when it pertains to music is incredible. I'm not trying to misrepresent metal fans in this country. We have people who are just as passionate and open-minded as their European counterparts, but you have to travel some extreme distance to play these cities. It's also very expensive for bands to come here. Work visas are exuberant in cost. There's also the concern a member of the band being prevented from entering the country because the US Government has its head up its ass. To put things into perspective. When you have bands like, SATYRICON and MY DYING BRIDE avoid the U.S because they lose an incredible amount of money. Imagine the amount of money a European extreme doom band would lose? The only way a doom band can do a full US tour is by linking up with a bigger tour or a band that does very well here. Surprisingly, a doom band can attract new fans here by finding their way onto a significant tour. 

WC: Plans for the remainder of the year?

VV: Let the new record come out. Do as much press as we can to call attention to "Hypnagogia". We're coming up with some ideas for visual stimulation to our live show. Basically, to set an atmosphere. We've started to plan around when to tour. We have 2 shows coming up. November 3rd in Montreal and November 16 in Brooklyn, NY.