The 11th Hour - Burden Of Grief (Song by Song)
|Conducted by:||Marcel Hubregtse (e-mail)|
The 11th Hour
|Album info:||Burden Of Grief|
01. One Last Smoke
02. In The Silent Grave
03. Origins Of Mourning
04. Weep For Me
06. Longing For Oblivion
After having been a drummer for most of my life I started playing guitar a few years ago, mainly because I wanted to be able to contribute more to the writing process since I had so many ideas and no means to express myself. I ended up writing 4 songs on Gorefest's La Muerte, by the time we got to the next one I was responsible for 75% of all the song material. In the meantime I'd become the main songwriter for my other band Hail Of Bullets as well, but I was pleasantly surprised to find that I had enough inspiration for yet another project. Meanwhile I had met my future partner in doom, Rogga Johansson, on the Global Domination forums and he expressed the desire to make some doom together. We ended up making a Demiurg album instead, but the idea inspired me to start writing on my own and eventually this turned into Burden Of Grief. I also came up with the lyrical concept, but the lyrics were a joint effort as I had never written any lyrics before.
I decided to play all the instruments myself since I had a very distinct musical vision that I did not want to compromise in any way. I also recorded and engineered the album myself, except for the drums which were done at Excess as usual. It was an at times decidedly brutal learning process that gave new meaning to the concept of trial and especially error, but I'm glad I did it this way as it makes the album even more valuable to me.
Thematically Burden Of Grief is partly based on my own experiences, such as the deaths of my parents, the disintegration of my first major relationship and the disease of my sister… I took these highly personal subjects and wove them into a fictional story about a dying man with massive guilt issues about a tragedy in his past that won't let him die in peace. Originally I wanted to go in a more clichéd, gothic/horror direction, but Rogga felt it would cheapen the music and convinced me to go for a more realistic approach.
The actual songs:
1. One Last Smoke
The first song I wrote for The 11th Hour, still heavily influenced by Candlemass and Krux as evidenced by the main riff and the use of Mellotrons in the middle (one of my favourite parts of the album). Here the main character has just learned that he's going to die soon. His lungs are fucked from a lifetime's worth of cigarettes, and he reacts to the devastating news by lighting another one. Incomprehensible to a non-smoker like myself, but I've seen people at this stage do the exact same thing. The disease in question is not cancer, but emphysema. When you have this your lungs lose their capacity to process oxygen, so you breathe but can't get enough air, basically asphyxiating very slowly unless you get additional oxygen. Both my parents and my sister suffer(ed) from this disease, and eventually it's a terminal one.
2. In The Silent Grave
Here our hero is starting to think dying isn't so bad, actually looking forward to being put in the ground and thus released from his lifelong grief. But a nagging voice in his head says that he will not find peace in the grave until he deals with certain things in his past first. The final part (some critics misinterpreted the mercilessly repeating riff as a lack of ideas) is where he drives himself mad thinking about this, eventually building to a "madness crescendo". This is the only instance where I used female vocals, as I was adamant to avoid any gothic leanings.
3. Origins Of Mourning
This to me is the black heart of the album, the centerpiece if you will. Here we learn what happened all those years ago, how a happy life turned to utter misery in a single, fatal moment. A gun-related accident, a child's funeral, our protagonist's subsequent emotional withdrawal and eventually the break-up of his marriage. Musically this is probably the heaviest song, with lots of layers in the guitars, sometimes as many as 8 going at the same time.
The scene in the middle is based on the recollection I have from my father's funeral in 1995, I was so numb from the blow of his unexpected death that I couldn't cry, no matter how hard I tried. The solo piano/vocal bit is something I really wanted to do, and I'm very proud of how it turned out. The lengthy guitar solo is another piece-de resistance that I'm very proud of, presenting myself as a rhythm guitarist was already quite a stretch for me, but actually playing an extended lead is, well… ambitious, to say the least!
4. Weep For Me
This one deals with nightmares and painful memories, once again including a lot of autobiographical elements such as fear of the past. Memories and relics from the past have an almost mythical importance to me, although I forced myself to tone this down over the years in order to deal with certain things. He dreams that the past is reaching out for him, clawing through the veils he's created to cover the most painful bits. Each morning he awakes exhausted and broken from yet another night of horror, the nightmares getting worse and worse until he decides to do something about them.
I'm very pleased with the sweeping string arrangements on this one, my "Who Wants To Live Forever" moment, haha! The suffocatingly heavy chugging riff near the end is an absolute joy to play.
By now he's become convinced that in order to save his soul he has to visit the grave for the first time since the funeral, many years ago. Once he gets there he encounters an ominous looking raven, and in its creaking he imagines hearing a voice which tells him he's searching for forgiveness in the wrong place and that he should visit his estranged wife instead. Somehow he finds his way to her house and he expresses his bitter regret over how things turned out, hoping her forgiveness will allow him to die with a clear conscience.
The heavy riff with the pounding delay-driven piano notes is inspired by the gorgeous soundtrack to Jörg Buttgereit's Nekromantik 2. It plays over a very slow, surreal sequence where someone is roaming a graveyard in broad daylight, looking for a particular grave. That scene impressed me more than those of carnage.
6. Longing For Oblivion
The final chapter, his final exertion has left our guy on life support and all he can do is wait for death. Fortunately a lethal dose of morphine is administered to bring about a timely passing. As his consciousness goes a red sun rises, the last thing he sees… During the morbidly beautiful middle section (I was going for a Keith Emerson feel here) you can actually hear the heart monitor flatline and our hero breathing his last breath. The ending where the strings kick in never fails to move me to tears whenever we play it, it's so powerful.
So there you have it, 6 pieces of art imitating life, or rather death. I don't intend to go this deep again for the next album, but it will inevitably contain many of the same elements. Death has left such a mark on who I am that it permeates my melodic and thematic sensibilities, I can't stand happy music or other kinds of entertainment, favouring the miserable instead. All of this might paint a picture of a sad, moody guy, but that's not the case at all. The somberness only comes pouring out when I write music, preferably during the wee hours of the night…
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Grumpy Old Fuck
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