Multinational progressive metal act The Contradiction have just put out a new album entitled ‘Legion: The Fall.’ Guitarist Nikita Tarassenko and singer Maksym Vulchyn talk in detail about this ambitious project.
Describe the musical frameworks your upcoming album “Legion: The Fall” explores.
Nikita: To be honest, we barely had any frameworks at all while working on this album. The only thing that’s been there is our desire to create something we would like to listen by ourselves, something we really missed in music in general. As a result, in fact this is a mix of all our beloved genres: new wave of progressive metal inspired by Periphery and The Korea, oriental vibes taken from Shokran or Shades of Black, black metal influences given by Deafheaven and Emperor, power of deathcore obtained after long-term consuming of Emmure and others. The list of our influencers for this record is huge: Machine Head, Dance Gavin Dance, Drake, Converge, Hans Zimmer, Paramore and others, and somehow, we actually managed to wrap it up in just 13 songs and make it sound as something whole, undivided.
Tell me about the ideas that inform “Legion: The Fall.”
Nikita: There isn’t actually any big message we wanted to spread through the lyrics of this album. It is our own so-called carousel, where we did almost everything one would ever want while being a fan of Warhammer 40k and metal music at the same time. The main idea thing we would like to tell with this release is creational unity. There was my personal purpose to make clear statement to this world: there are no limits and borders in art, no such thing as dominance or submission when one wants to create, no stigma. There are so many musicians who took part in making this album, people from Czech Republic, Russia, Ukraine, Israel, Finland, USA, Kazakhstan… We proved that no matter who are you and where are you from, we all can make something beautiful and proudly show it to the world.
How do the diverse, complex rhythmic and global musical influences serve the storylines of the album?
Nikita: This one is tricky since I’m not totally sure that a lot of people who might read this are even know about the Warhammer 40k setting, but I’ll do my best in attempt to explain it. You see, this album is dedicated to the Thousand Sons legion – a brotherhood of genetically modified warriors, who once fought for human race in a deep space and far future. As every other legion of so called “space marines”, Thousand Sons had their strong and weak spots, and for them it was an ability to obtain and use power of warp, Warhammer alternative for magic. As for another specific feature, Thousand Sons drew their inspiration from wisdom and culture of ancient Egypt, Mesopotamia and Arabia, which reflected on their image, way of living and ideology. While being the most powerful sorcerers and the most diligent scholars, crusaders of sword and scroll, they – and their leader, primarch Magnus the Red – didn’t even notices how they grew impatient and self-righteous, what led them to events their close ones warned them about: falling to corruption, ignorance and chaos. With music we created there was an attempt to show, how smoothly (and at the same time, pretty rapidly) those transformations went. With oriental melodies blended with complex progressive patterns I tried to reflect the mindset of those once perfect warriors. Sometimes progression had to go away to give some space to pure fury, blastbeats and breakdowns, showing their despair and uncertainty. Those changes and mixes should represent the mysterious and unstable nature of Thousand Sons, how complex they are, how good they are – and not just good – they are perfection itself, showing it in their own ways, which can’t be understood by weak or unprepared mind for their own sake. Sometimes there is storm and rage, demonstrating the full force of metal in my music, but also there is calm and peace: clean and acoustic guitars, meditative tunes led by some ethnic instruments. Sooner or later it’s all coming together and showing us the whole story.
What are the biggest challenges you’ve faced and lessons learned during the creative process for “Legion: The Fall”?
Nikita: Our biggest problem was distance. Since we’re operating in Czech Republic, but our vocalist is in a constant motion between Ukraine and Poland, it is kind of hard to catch up with him and to make a proper recording session. Most of the vocals were recorded God knows where, how and when. If I recall correctly, there isn’t a single room existing where we’d record vocals for at least two songs. Every of them has its own history and place of birth, especially when it comes to vox. Also we were pretty much screwed by the fact how much time we worked on this album – while doing something for 3 years, sometimes you get those thoughts, like “This song has been composed 2 years ago from now, I think now I can do better than this” and suddenly – boom! – you have absolutely reimagined song. And it isn’t totally clear if this song is going to remain like that or I will be redone into something else.
Have you managed to make any new discoveries as the time passed during the creative process? Do you think that at some point of that process your writing approach changed drastically?
Nikita: Sure, as a composer I faced this issue a lot of times and, to be honest, always with anticipation. This is so exciting, to notice how you evolving as a composer, all those new moves and riffs you’re coming up with and which would never appear in your mind until you get to know another, new music. For me it was very visible change from the very beginning of writing process, when I loved Shokran, Shades of Black or Sezaam a lot and wanted to make some kind of perfect mixture of oriental grace and masculine energy of metal, giving it my best efforts and practicing a lot. Years passed by, I found out about bands like Thy Art Is Murder, Darkthrone, Second to Sun, Emperor, Trivium, right after that I started to dig death and black metal way more than I used to before and I noticed that new pattern in my composing: tritones, tremolo, power chords I almost never acknowledged before. My next transformation began with Vildhjarta and Humanity’s Last Breath crawled to me simultaneously – after digging and analyzing their music for quite some time it became so unique for me, unapproachable and distant, that I wanted to obtain that forbidden knowledge. Songs like “Rubric of Ahriman” or “Welcome to Sortiarius” are full of “thall” elements I’ve picked up from those two bands.
Tell me about the complexities of creating “Legion: The Fall.”
Max: The whole creational process was pretty complicated, in one way or another. Just like every other band, we came into this game with no background or tutorials whatsoever, we just had to explore that whole “industry” by ourselves, with no teacher alongside who would point on our mistakes and say us how to make it all right. Pretty often the main problem was just an occasion, turn of events. Just as it was said before, due to long-term creational process some of our songs became kind of irrelevant, what led us to re-composing, re-recording and complete reimagining of some of them.
What types of change do you feel this music can initiate?
Max: I don’t think that music has to change things, at least ours don’t have such purpose. This is a piece of art, like a painting, a musical narrative, it’s been created to reach for human’s heart and to bring him emotions. For now, we don’t make music to point with it on some problem, we aren’t quite sure yet if we’re ready for it.
Nikita: I’d like to hope that our music might inspire other young musicians not to just create and spread music, but also to work hard, to grow and develop in all possible ways and skills and – the most important – to actually love and appreciate music itself.
Do you tend to follow any pre-defined patterns when composing a piece?
Max: Usually, in the beginning we are trying to make a concept for our song, to reflect our perception of particular events into music. When the idea is ready, we are starting to think about its motive, mood, lead melody and right after that we are working on a song base. And we never know what it can be until it’s ready. There are a typical verse-chorus-verse songs in our repertoire, sometimes there are tracks with more volatile structure, and as in case of Legion: The Fall, there can even appear a 3-in-1 type of song, which blends a few different pieces in it which are glued together with common idea.
What evolution as musicians do you see across your recorded works?
Nikita: For now I don’t consider this piece as revolutionary for us, personally. We haven’t learnt much as musicians from this record, but at least we learnt something. To make more daring composing moves, to blend more interesting genres, to create more aggressive guitar riffage than we ever made, to be brave and speak freely with other musicians and discuss our points of view on different things, to make compromises between our musical preferences and to appreciate teamwork.
What non-musical entities and ideas have an impact on your music?
Nikita: First thing’s first, the main non-musical idea is that popular dark/sci-fi setting of Warhammer 40000. The second thing I drew inspiration from is Middle Eastern and Indian cultures I always found fascinating and mysterious to me. Damn, I even graduated from the University recently as archeologist just to be closer to those entities! If this isn’t dedication, what is then?
What advice or philosophy might you impart to other musicians, be it in forms of creativity, technical stuff, the business side of it, or anything else?
Max: To give advices, one has to have some kind of a solid background and real experience, which we don’t have yet. Although there are a few simple things which we learnt, they’re very simple, but still a lot of people are forgetting to take them into consideration. Use all available resources and methods out there, because being in a band nowadays isn’t just about making and playing music. You have to obtain as much knowledge as you can in as many fields of activity as you can even imagine, like online marketing, law, graphics and design, communicating skills, psychology and many others. You must know what you are doing, you need to understand what you have to do to reach your goals, which you also have to make correctly. Understanding of your audience is the key.
Nikita: Work hard or go home, boys.