Scream & Dream Again: an interview with reliq

Words by Daniel Jones

 

When you think of the word “metal”, “beauty” is a term that rarely follows. With a sound that incorporates elements of crunchy sludge, melodic post-hardcore, and experimental spoken word, reliq transcend genre limitations to rise into a realm of harsh, ritualistic, and soul-snaring energy. It’s been a year since the Berlin-based group has performed together, and in that time they’ve expanded their sound into a far more lurching and lurking beast. When they took the stage at this years’ CTM.13 festival, nobody knew what to expect; some were hushed in reverent expectation, while others seemed tensed, ready to mosh—or flee. Whereas earlier tracks like “Herkules” saw them using their power to thrash, now they soar. It’s clear that they’ve found new muses within themselves (and each other) when you see how they feed off each other’s energy, and when you hear their recent soundtrack work for London director Claire Kurylowski’s short film Greed. To better grasp their personal philosophies, I abased myself before the magick of drummer xorzyzt, vocalist Grayl, and new guitarist Niko.

 

What new aspects have you worked into your music in the last twelve months?

xorzyzt: The instrumentation isn’t so different. There’s no longer live synths, but we use omnichord, sampled synths, and occasionally saxophone now.

I can really hear how these new aspects have informed the music; it’s aggressive but less in-your-face, more textured. Like a matured version of itself, a prince become king.

Grayl: The new songs, at least lyrically, focus more on dreams that I have. Collages of dreams that I put together to represent different states of mind: the tired mind, dreaming mind, and the mind that reflects upon waking. It’s definitely more conceptual than the older songs, which would evolve in the practice room through jamming and intuitive lyrics written based on what I felt at the moment. Every time we performed live, I would change the lyrics or create new contexts for existing words in the heat of the moment by just being taken by the energy of the room and people.

x: You’re bringing us more fully-formed ideas to work with, so that everything evolves together instead of at a bit of a distance, so that it’s more about composition than jamming. It’s evident in the soundtrack we composed for Greed as well as for our own video teaser. The palette of sounds we create and use, the way we combine elements is more sculptural. We often don’t repeat movements; we consider the new material more like individual stories.

So, it’s almost operatic.

x: In a less traditional way.

 

 

What new aspects are influencing your work? I definitely hear a lot more industrial influence and even medieval, especially in the Greed soundtrack—this sword-clashing, hypnotic repetition that reminded me of Dead Can Dance’s “Chant of the Paladin” as re-imagined by Neurosis.

x: We’re definitely experimenting more with field recordings. We’re working a lot from images as well, using pictures and film to form moods.

N: Movies have always been very inspiring for me, but with little genre distinction–I love Godard and Tarkovski as much as Ridley Scott. This cinematic quality is slowly seeping into our way of storytelling. This is just instinctive to me. For the first three days of my life, I didn’t open my eyes at all due to the drugs they gave my mom—I was born in a world of sounds, behind the theater curtain.

G: I met Niko in the practice room last summer, and thanks to him I recently discovered a curiosity towards tarot cards. By reading them, sharing each others dreams, fears and fantasies, and by analyzing and interpreting we built up a strong non-musical communication which helps me personally to become more confident trying to use other potentials of my voice. Growing up, musically anyway, I was driven more by the poetics of PJ Harvey, Nick Drake, Patti Smith and Fiona Apple as well as more melodic hardcore like Isis, and I’m overwhelmed by what Diamanda Galas and Meredith Monk do with their voices. The idea of composing massively epic vocal-based pieces is something I find very exciting.

x: Even though we started out coming from a more post-hardcore/post-metal inspiration, we’ve moved on. Aside from a few bands like Wolves In The Throne Room or Liturgy, I don’t listen to metal much anymore. Labels like Blackest Ever Black and PAN are far more influential to us now. We’re much more focused on creating atmosphere and worlds than tracks for headbanging.

What about music videos?

x: We’ve actually been discussing a hypothetical short film that would incorporate one or several of our songs, but a more straightforward music video isn’t so interesting to us. Our songs are quite long, and I think a video would need to incorporate a storyline. It would be more rewarding to us to do more ambitious, conceptual film work around the tracks.

Does that mean you plan on working more with directors or soundtracking?

x: I can definitely see soundtrack work as a direction we could go into, and something that would feed back into our songwriting. Should the occasion arise, so would we. ~

 

reliq will be performing live with King Dude on February 23rd in Berlin.