The UK black metal scene is in healthy shape right now, so the entrance of Onlihtan is not unexpected. Daring to tread a progressive and genre-defying path where only a few may walk, this excting new band release their debut album 'The Sentinel' via Clobber Records on October 26th 2018. We caught up with the driving force behind the record. Lythre, and discussed the concepts that form the journey through this unique album.
First and foremost, thank you for giving us a few minutes of your time to answer some questions. You are about to release your debut album ‘The Sentinel’…how long has the journey to this point been and what has it involved for Onlihtan?
My pleasure. Ideas for Onlihtan had been floating around in the ether for about 2 years. I’d always wanted to release a concept black metal album but certain factors held me back from actually making the project come to fruition. The main hurdle I faced was that I wanted the album to sound consistent, but still have an air of surprise in each song. I feel that, in metal especially, it’s very hard for bands to tread outside of their usual sound. Whether that be due to what the industry “demands” or personal tastes of each artist.
But once I actually sat down and bit the bullet, with about 10 riffs I was certain were good enough, the whole album only took me about 3 months to make. I suppose by building up to it for 2 years, it made those 3 months very special and helped create an album that sounds fresh.
Where does the name Onlihtan come from? What does this represent?
The name comes from Old English. It basically means “to enlighten” or “to illuminate”. The name was actually an after thought, and as I said previously, the 3 months working on this album where very enlightening to me and made me understand the idea that inspiration can strike at any time, you just need to be ready to embrace it.
‘The Sentinel’ is a concept album. Tell us more about this and how you discovered it?
The concept of the album is complex but simple at the same time. As is the music. There are many layers which I hope to leave for fans to interpret for themselves. But the basis behind it started from the idea of someone wanting to escape society and modernisation in favour of a more natural existence. I think that most people, in one point in their lives, have dreamt of living free from technology or even civilisation in general. The album is in chronological order based on the over arching story. Each song is a chapter that follows a protagonist who is trying to escape the modern world in favour of living a more natural, clean life but eventually being succumbed to evil that lives inside us all.
You describe ‘The Sentinel’ as ‘merging many styles’. Can you elaborate a little more on the styles you are influenced by and whether there is a single style of music that provides the backbone to all the others?
I suppose the back bone is black metal. It’s obviously one of the most interesting and diverse sub genres within metal. However, I am inspired by a lot of different genres. I love progressive bands like Tool, Rush and Jethro Tull. Pink Floyd were masters of lyrical concepts. Queen incorporated many styles but you always knew it was them. There’s even a few riffs on the album where you can hear the Pantera influences, especially with the use of whammy bar in the song V: Unrelenting.
As much as this is a black metal album, I didn’t want to hold myself to that genre. I wanted it to be an amalgamation of all genres that I love but direct it to extreme metal fans.
A key moment on ‘The Sentinel’ is the track ‘IV: The Hands That Corrupt’. Can you give us a little more of an insight into the themes of this track and how they fit into the concept of the wider album?
This song probably is the dark horse of the album. It stands out in comparison to the others. Simple music with clean vocals throughout. I wanted it to be like that because it’s the chapter of the story where the protagonist realises their new powers and abilities. The song before it (III: Evocation) is probably the most emotionally driven song on the album, the song after it (V: Unrelenting) is probably the darkest and most extreme song on the album. The fact that “IV: The Hands that Corrupt” is in the middle of these songs really brings to light how life can change in the blink of an eye with no regard to what came before or what will come after that moment in time.
Can you explain a little more about the processes that you go through to create your art? How do you gather your ideas?
There isn’t a process really. I listen to music all the time and try and set an hour of alone time in my home studio for each day where I can just experiment with different styles of guitar playing or midi plug-ins. I record every idea which means I have a catalogue (of sorts) of riffs, vocal ideas and lyrics that I can always go back to. Very often, I’ll write a riff, won’t think about it for a month, then realise it fits perfectly with something else.
I like to walk a lot. I’m lucky to live near areas of natural beauty and I try to spend a few hours a week exploring to organising my thoughts and ideas. The album cover, for example, is inspired by an old oak tree that is within 200 metres of my house. It stands alone in a field and dominates the landscape. It’s beautiful, yet foreboding at the same time. Upon reflection, I believe that that oak tree inspired more of the ideas for than album than I would have previously thought.
In a world where it’s far easier to follow than to think, is true creativity more important than ever?
Absolutely. I believe that a lot of people create their art with the best intentions, but then edit it or themselves due to fear. Fear of what others may think if they “break the mold” of what the standard consensus is within their chosen scene.
Even though the album is (simplistically put) about someone wanting to escape technology and modernisation, I’m very optimistic about the future. I feel that if AI were to be incorporated more in to our lives, it could potentially allow artistic endeavours to flourish as people would have more time to pursue their dreams. However, the downside to technological advancement can already be seen; people of all ages staring at phone screens for up to 5 hours a day. Which we’re all guilty of from time to time.
But, overall, I think it’s a very exciting time for humanity, I know that’s not what a black metal musician is “supposed to say” but I truly believe it. Scientific, philosophical and artistic advancement has never been so widely accepted and pursued by the general population.
If you could take Onlihtan out on the road as the main support to any band/solo performer of your choosing, who would it be and why?
I originally wanted to take Onlihtan live but keep it as a solo performance. I wanted to make it more of a visual spectacle and live art show with the music being more of an accompaniment than the main focus. However, I don’t know how much interest in something like that there would be and I can’t think of any bands who’d that would suit as their “warm up act”.
I suppose Winterfylleth would be a band I’d love to tour with, mainly because of the atmosphere they create during their live shows.
What’s next for Onlihtan? Do you plan ahead or is your strength found in chaos as opposed to order?
As I said before, I’m always writing. So, I may start work soon on a follow up to this album but I really don’t want to rush anything. I want to let people explore this album and their interpretations of its concepts first.
Thank you for questions and allowing me to talk more about the album. I’m very excited for the album’s release on the 26th of October.
THE SENTINEL - ONLIHTAN IS OUT ON 26TH OCTOBER 2018 ON CLOBBER RECORDS (CD/DIGITAL)
BUY THE CD DIGIPAK HERE