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Interview with Celestial Waters

Celestial Waters has unpredictably burst through the scene of black metal, and the musical quality of their release is underestimated at best. Their debut EP is a soul-searching collaboration of astral melodies and hammering rhythms, counteracted with guttural lyrics of sci-fi and horror. You’ll hear synth-driven ambient sections with eerie spoken-word from H.P. Lovecraft followed by powerful yet chaotic bass and guitar riffs to draw out a multitude of musical dynamics.
“...inspired by the abysmal music of Blut Aus Nord , with all their peculiar folds. Disturbing, neurotic, schizoid and dream , a journey that leads directly into the deep, touching the right button of the psychic ego” - Francesco Scarci (The Pit of the Damned)

The concept for Celestial Waters first began in 2013. Vocalist (known as J.M.) and instrumentalist (known as J.S.) had been collaborating on previous Black Metal influenced projects (Disablot and Tower of Nihasa) for well over a year. It was in this musical cultivation that an interesting concept was birthed. With the influence of other black metal groups like the LLN and Austrian Black Metal Syndicate, it was decided that a moniker would be created for the musicians that had their musical influences within the bands. Thus The Cult Of The Gray Light was created to further define the musical influence within the group. Each member of the cult would take on a personal project, while all the others would help in it’s writing and production. While J.M. did most of the writing for Disablot, J.S. would take on the writing for Celestial Waters.

In the spring of 2014, Tower of Nihasa dissolved, and the logistics for Disablot to practice together became nearly impossible. By this time, Celestial Waters had written and recorded an entire EP conceptually based on the science fiction novel A Wrinkle In Time by Madeleine L'Engle. However, the destruction of Towers of Nihasa and hiatus of Disablot had created a rift in the artistic collaboration of the cult, thus dooming the release of A Wrinkle In Time EP.
Shortly after the strife within the cult, J.S. began writing an entirely new EP.
“It was a way for me to collect my thoughts, and to express all the crazy shit that had happened within the cult in a constructive way. I really consider this EP a direct reflection of what I was feeling at the time. I had all these confusing emotions, but nothing to do with them. So I picked up the guitar and began writing riffs.”-J.S.

In April of 2014, Celestial Waters took the new EP to the studio. After two months of recording and producing, Celestial Waters had an EP ready to be released. On July 18th, Celestial Waters released their first EP titled “Insentient” through Exalted Woe Records.
“The lyrics for the Insentient EP are about crashing on an alien world and discovering various horrors in an ancient temple. Unlike our previous material, Insentient isn’t about a specific story. Instead it’s an original story influenced by the themes from the Metroid series, the film Prometheus, and H.P. Lovecraft.”-J.M.

Since their release in 2014, Celestial Waters has put together a live lineup to play the EP live, as well as working on concepts for a new full length. Celestial Waters in expecting a full-length release in late 2015.

Hi Jeremiah, as promised the interview with Celestial Waters is finally possible. I have to say thank to you for having pushed me to do this. We have opened a new space in The Pit of the Damned, aimed to give a “voice” to the underground bands. As Celestial Waters is an underground and mysterious band, could you give us more details about the band? What is your background, when did you start playing together? You are actually a duo, correct?

Celestial Waters is a duo. JS does instruments, and JM does vocals. We started making black metal together in the summer of 2012 as Disablot. JS played drums, while JM wrote guitars and vocals. As mentioned in our biography, we were part of a group of musicians called “The Cult of the Grey Light”. The cult really spawned the whole idea to create Celestial Waters.

How was 'Insentient' born? What was your spiritual journey that lead to the composition of this EP? How is a song by Celestial Waters born? How have you managed the songwriting process?

In the spring of 2014, we had written an entirely different EP that was ready for release. Unfortunately, the cult dissolved right around the same time. We decided not to release the EP, and I (JS) felt like everything we had worked for in the past year was a waste. Writing the EP was a way for me to collect my thoughts, and to express all the crazy shit that had happened within the cult in a constructive way. I really consider this EP a direct reflection of what I was feeling at the time. I had all these confusing emotions, but nothing to do with them. So I picked up the guitar and began writing riffs. Writing the EP was definitely a spiritual journey for me.

Our writing process starts with discussion of a concept. Everything we have written is based off of some kind of literature. We have used concepts from H.P Lovecraft, Madeleine L’Engle and other science fiction based mediums. Once a concept has been decided, JS begins writing all the instruments. Usually guitar is written first, then drums, followed by bass. JS records all the guitars/bass using amp simulation software as a demo, and then programs drums using a keyboard. Once a demo is ready, JM takes the demo and writes lyrics over top (usually with the help of lots of alcohol). Once everything is written, we take it to the studio to record everything with real amps and drums to capture a warm studio quality sound.

In my review, I have mentioned Blut Aus Nord and Darkspace as influences for your sound, even though it is possible to detect a progressive feeling, am I wrong? What are your real influences? How would you define the music of Celestial Waters?

There is definitely a progressive influence within the instruments. JS listens to a lot of progressive music. The name Celestial Waters actually comes from the lyrics of the song “Cosmos” by progressive band Cynic. Some of our other influences are Wolves in the Throne Room, Woman is the Earth, Burzum, Darkthrone, Crystal Castles, Nargaroth, and (you guessed it) Darkspace.

If we had to describe our sound in a few words, we would call it “Interstellar Black Metal”. But we aren’t considering ourselves a new genre by any means. A lot of black metal bands who use sci-fi and space related themes as a concept, tend to have a lot of industrial elements. We wanted to capture this sci-fi theme, but still have an organic and old-school sound by using live instruments. There is definitely an ambient influence, but not so much to define it as ambient black metal. We really like creating atmospheric interludes in between songs, so there is definitely an atmospheric influence as well as a progressive influence to create more dynamics within our music.

'Insentient' is a 4-track EP and it is your debut album: why have you decided to release an EP as your first album? And why only 50 copies of the cd, using the dolby surround 5.1? It is an unusual choice.

Originally, we were considering writing a full length for our first release. But we didn’t want to rush into things. We were using this EP to test the waters of our creativity. The EP was a way for us to search our sound, and really define who we were as a band.

We chose to print 50 CDs because we wanted to be realistic. We really weren’t sure how many people would enjoy this music. We figured we could always print re-releases in the future. Also, it’s always cool to have an original print of a CD. There is sentimental value in original copies that we wanted our fans to have. It just feels more genuine.

I (JS) am a producer at heart. I record lots of local metal bands around our area. I wanted to release this EP in surround sound because I wanted to challenge myself with the mixing. I really don’t expect anyone to download the EP in surround sound, but I think it shows how much we care about the sound quality of our releases, even if this one is just an EP. Mixing this in surround sound was really fun, and I think it makes our EP unique. You can expect to see more surround sound releases in the future.

It seems that your music has a philosophic approach. What is the concept of your lyrics? Why the decision to name the song I, II...?

The lyrics for the EP are about crashing on an alien world and discovering various horrors in an ancient temple. Unlike our previous material, Insentient isn’t about a specific story. Instead it’s an original story influenced by the themes from the Metroid series, the film Prometheus, and H.P. Lovecraft.
We used Roman Numerals for the songs because we wanted it to feel like one big song and to stress the idea of this EP as an entire concept instead of four individual songs.

You are from Rapid City (South Dakota): has the place where you lived influenced, in some way, your music and the lyrics of the 'Insentient'? What are your sources of inspiration?

Honestly, my (JM) lyrics have very little do with the environment. Most of the inspiration comes from stories and emotion. The lyrics are limited to those two, mostly. I kind of imagine 'Insentient' as my own short story.

I really don't know much about your State: how is the scene in South Dakota? Could you give us some hints about interesting bands in your place? And what do you think in general about the US scene? It seems that in the last few years, there has been a strong increase of the black metal scene, what do you think about this phenomenon and about Cascadian black metal?

Well, we can be honest and say that the metal scene in our area is pretty sad. It’s hard for us to find metal shows because everyone plays hardcore and punk influenced music. However, there are a few good bands that we really enjoy. Woman is the Earth is definitely one. We’ve enjoyed all three of their releases. Another great band from the area is Pandemic. Dr. Rex Napalm is even playing guitar for us live. Dark Nation pretty much rounds out the list.

The scene in the U.S. is pretty mixed. A lot of the black metal scene (and really the entire metal scene in general) is pretty forgettable. There are a few good bands here and there, but in general it’s not amazing.

Specifically, the black metal scene in the U.S. seems to be split into two different groups. Cascadian and that “post-black metal” shit seem to be geared towards transforming the definition of black metal while the second group is mostly Darkthrone and Burzum worship.

I (JS) like some Cascadian black metal because of the nature themes and melodic nature of the guitar riffs. I would consider Wolves in the Throne Room to be a major influence on my writing, however, I don’t think it defines my music.

I (JM) am not a huge fan of Cascadian black metal. I appreciate how it celebrates nature but it bores me. Plus I feel like its surname could be “Vegan black metal.”

What do we have to expect from the future of Celestial Waters, a plan for a full length? A new contract, what else?

We have the first stages of an upcoming full-length already complete. We have a lyrical concept and musical ideas for the album ready to go. JS is currently working on some riffs in his spare time, but nothing too serious. JS will probably start doing some serious writing in December, and hopefully have an instrumental demo finished by April. No official date for release, but we are shooting for a late 2015 release.

We are also considering recording a cover album in our spare time. Something to be released independently without going through a label.
We have also been looking into making a live music video, but this is just an idea at the moment.
We aren’t really a fan of contracts, so we will probably stick with independent labels.

What are you listening to at the moment? Is there any underground band you would like to recommend to the Pit of the Damned readers?

I (JS) am listening to a lot of ambient music recently. Bands like H.U.V.A Network, Solar Fields, Carbon Based Lifeforms, and Ephemeris. Also, I have been dabbling in some progressive rock classics like King Crimson and Pink Floyd. As far as black metal goes, I really liked the newest releases from Monarque, Behemoth, and Woman is the Earth.

For me, (JM), it’s mostly been Katharsis and Craft, those types of really evil and minimalistic Darkthrone inspired music done the right way. For a more recent release, I’ve really been digging Lana Del Rey’s newest album. Also really looking forward to the newest Satanic Warmaster release.

And now, finally, there is a simple and recurrent for The Pit of the Damned readers, “Desert Island List”: three books, three records and three movies you can’t live without.

JS: I don’t watch a lot of movies, but my top three movies would be Lord of the Rings: the Twin Towers, The Dark Knight, and Spirited Away

My top three albums would be: Cynic-Traced in Air, Crystal Castles-Crystal Castles (III), and Wolves in the Throne Room-Two Hunters

My top three books would be: The Lord of the Rings, Fahrenheit 451, and Of Mice and Men

JM: My top 3 movies would be, in no particular order: Reservoir Dogs, The Return of the King, and The Last of the Mohicans.

My top 3 albums, once again, in no particular order: Strength & Honour by Satanic Warmaster, Crystal Castles (II) by Crystal Castles, and Phoenix Rising by Deströyer 666.

Top 3 books: Anything by H.P. Lovecraft, All Quiet on the Western Front, and The Magician’s Nephew.

Thanks a lot Jeremiah. Hope to listen to a new album from Celestial Waters soon...

(Francesco Scarci for The Pit of the Damned)