Nephelium Drummer Alan Madhavan Chats About "Coils Of Entropy" Album
Eventually all things break down and all life dissolves into nothingness: this is the message of Nephelium's "Coils of Entropy," a lesson in old school, brutal, and utterly soul destroying death metal.
The album doesn't officially drop until February 7th, but after hearing an advance copy I had to get ahold of the crushing death metal act to find out the story behind "Coils of Entropy." Drummer Alan Madhavan corresponded with me to share the tale of the band moving from the United Arab Emirates to North America, striking a balance between outright brutality and complex song structures, and to tell all upcoming metal bands to never surrender.
xFiruath: You guys were formerly in Dubai and are now in Canada, which obviously is a big difference in culture. How is the music scene in general over there and how is metal received in Dubai?
Alan: As far as metal and hard and heavy rock is concerned, the U.A.E. is what it is today because of a following we helped build when we were younger. Let alone playing heavy music; back then, you were lucky if you heard of anything musical going on. As the years went by, more and more people from all over the Emirates would come to shows and gigs that people in bands and fans would put on for the sheer love of it and such is how the word spread. Today live acts including Opeth, Machine Head, In Flames and Metallica to name a few have graced the Arabian sands.
xFiruath: Can you give me a brief history of the band from its formation until now?
Alan: We started the band amongst friends, however never as a hobby but rather with the intention of doing this for the rest of our lives. We went through several line-up changes, rehearsal spaces and other issues such as gear and getting our hands on music that we loved but never gave up and always persevered. Ten plus years and a six track album on another continent, here we are.
xFiruath: When did you write the music for the new album and how does Nephelium usually go about writing songs?
Alan: The majority of this record was written in 2006. Not all of us were sorted out with gear at the time so believe it or not, while Alex and Dan were writing riffs, I was there working on arrangements and drum parts on the back of a hardback book! Apart from a pretty orthodox approach to writing, where we concentrate on structure, phrasing, and the basic elements of composition, our writing process is pretty spontaneous. Most times, James sits there with a laptop next to his guitar to tab out any ideas Alex Flo or him may have that we feel are worth keeping so they are “banked.” I usually write my parts around the guitars and work on transitions and arrangements as the song progresses. I go home and write out the music on my computer for my ideas behind the kit so as to not forget them.
xFiruath: Nephelium’s music is more on the brutal end of the death metal scale, but there are also some progressive and melodic elements in there. How do you strike a balance between these ideas and do you prefer one type of music to the other?
Alan: When we write, we always make sure that everyone has an input. Because of our collective different musical backgrounds and education, we have a good mix of brutality and complexity amongst other elements.
xFiruath: Tell me a bit about the themes behind “Coils of Entropy.” What sort of ideas are present on the album and how is it all tied together? How does the artwork tie in to the album?
Alan: This is a thematic album that revolves/gravitates around one central theme – the stagnation of all life and the arrival of entropy. All moving forces in the universe eventually stand still and all matter dissolves back into quarks. And it is in such fashion that all life comes to a halt. According to the Second Law of Thermodynamics, the total entropy of any isolated thermodynamic system tends to increase over time, thus approaching its maximum value. Therefore, the entropy in the universe as a whole increases in a steady function of its various thermodynamic components. Entropy is the only quantifiable force acknowledged by the physical sciences, that “picks” a particular direction for time, sometimes called an arrow of time. As we go “forward” in time, the Second Law of Thermodynamics tells us that the entropy of an isolated system can only increase or remain the same; it cannot decrease. If life is viewed as a sound wave, then entropy is the decay after the resonance has died out.
As artists we felt compelled in venturing forth in exploring the depths of inevitability and gradual doom that leads to the end of each living thing. This album observes the signs of the coming end of an eon – the era of man is slowly dissolving into murky dusk. The key concepts that will keep returning throughout the album are spiritual decay as well as corporeal disintegration. We will serve as the heralds of the spiritual and emotional emptiness and numbness, as well as the physical apocalypse that will follow. Just as when life has departed from a body, its motor functions linger until rigor mortis sets in, so will our world experience a delay between its metaphysical and material death.
We may already be living in that period without realizing it – who knows? And as the machine that has ceased its functioning starts turning into dust, so do its individual components, no matter how small. This album is a celebration of the end of a cycle and the beginning of a new one – one we will unfortunately not live to see. The image of the eye is the travelers and what’s in it is obviously what it sees. The lyrics represent visions it receives from the memory base of a dying world and that it saves through means of the wire like attachment on its bottom right eyelid. The image of the tree is a mystical symbol and the only thing in existence at the time whose puzzle the traveler is trying to solve. Essentially, what the traveler sees is a conjured image of a failing mind.
xFiruath: Where did you record the album and how was the recording process?
Alan: We were holed up at Rouge Valley Studios formerly known as Aquasound in the NE end of Toronto. As a whole, the recording process was a very informative and humbling experience. I think we all came out better musicians after working with engineer/producer Darius Szcepaniak. We laid down our tracks traditionally (I didn’t have any scratch tracks, I prefer only the click): drums, bass, guitars then vocals. We worked days/nights and ate lots and lots of junk food…I remember one day we ordered 15 junior Whoppers between 4 of us, it was great! My kit had a total of 28 or so mics on it. All drums had both batter and resonant heads miced, my kicks had triggers as well as mics and the guitars were re-amped through various amps. The most fun was mixing though; actually hearing all your work spring to life!
xFiruath: Do you have any tour dates lined up for the near future?
Alan: We don’t have anything solidified yet but things are definitely in the works so check our social networks i.e. Facebook, Twitter, and MySpace for upcoming shows in and around your area.
xFiruath: Tell me a bit about your local metal scene in Toronto – do you play shows there often and what’s going on with the metal bands there?
Alan: We’ve played shows in and around Toronto, around Ontario. In our scene, metalheads are always active in trying to do their best to help. Whether it maybe organization of a show or help carrying some gear down a flight of stairs, you know they’re there because the love it and that’s where they wanna be and that’s what matters. Metal bands here are always forming and breaking up. One good point is that you’ll rarely hear of a band breaking up and the musicians not doing anything after. They’re always active either by joining another band or trying to start something new.
xFiruath: We’re into 2012 now, do you have any picks for best or worst 2011 albums?
Alan: Check out Dream Theater’s “A Dramatic Turn of Events” – definitely album of the year for me.
xFiruath: Anything else you’d like to share?
Alan: For the younger, upcoming bands, it’s hard work and will always be but never ever give up on your dreams. We’re still fighting the battle and we won’t stop!
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