2017 was a stellar year for death metal. It saw releases from genre pillars like Incantation, Immolation, and Morbid Angel. It visited the cosmos with The Chasm and collapsed into a black hole with Succumb. It explored its wildest extremities with Venenum and dove into chaos with Ascended Dead. Among the best of them, emerging from the darkest shadows of Portugal, was The Ominous Circle.
Wielding their own brand of cavernous-yet-rhythmic death metal, The Ominous Circle’s debut album Appalling Ascension made plenty of waves for several years to come. In late 2019, The Circle’s descent upon Vancouver’s Covenant Festival was announced for the following year, before it was known that the plague’s descent was imminent instead. Finally, after 3 long years, Covenant Festival rises from the ashes on July 7th and 8th with a triumphant lineup that invites The Ominous Circle back. In anticipation for their long-overdue appearance, guitarist A.C. kindly spoke with me to shed some light onto their mysterious project.
First of all, it’s very exciting to hear you’re finally able to play Covenant Festival after 2020’s plans were cancelled (for obvious reasons.) As far as I can tell, The Ominous Circle has never played in Canada. Is there anything you’re looking forward to doing while you’re here?
A.C. – It is very exciting for us, too. As you probably know this show has been booked since 2019 and it should’ve been done already if it weren’t for the global circumstances we faced in the last two years. We’re very looking forward to experiencing the Covenant atmosphere and, above all, to check all the bands from the amazing line-up the organization has gathered for this edition. We only heard great things about the festival and the scene there, and it will be our very first time in Canada, so I’m sure it will be one for the books.
What does The Ominous Circle wish to achieve with the live experience? Are there any visual, literary or film sources you draw inspiration from for the intimidating aesthetic?
A.C. – The aesthetic itself is a visual representation of the music we play, on the one hand, and an attempt to clear the way for the audience to experience the atmosphere it is supposed to create. No egos, no individuals, no contact whatsoever. Just pure raw energy.
I’d like to talk about your 2017 album, Appalling Ascension. At the time of its release, which was a great year for extreme metal in general, the album managed to stand out among a sea of “cavernous death metal.” These really bright solos and leads float above the murkiness, carving out melodies from the rhythm section in a way that wasn’t en vogue, shall we say, for that particular strain of death metal. What inspired you to take this approach?
A.C. – Nothing more than our blind devotion and utter addiction to extreme and dark music. As simple as that.
Could you describe the song writing process utilized by The Circle? What role do each of the members play and what is the role of the collective group?
A.C. – I think the writing process is more or less the same as in every band. Riffs are created, gathered into structures and then slowly shaped into what later becomes the final song, each individual contribution leaving, inevitably, a strong mark in it.
I’d say that in the 6 years since The Ominous Circle released Appalling Ascension, there has been an even greater uptake in digital media consumption. Do you think this might affect the way you approach a new release, be it from The Circle or with other projects? What are your thoughts on many listener’s tendencies to prefer singles instead of experiencing the album as a whole?
A.C. – The “spotification” of the music industry has been a solid reality for some years now, so I don’t think a possible follow-up will be affected by it, just like “Appalling Ascension” wasn’t. To be completely honest, that is something we don’t even think about to begin with. We write the music we like, the way we like it, to be consumed the way we want, so that kind of reasoning will hardly be a conditionat of whatever we do. Personally, I’m not a client of streaming services but I respect anyone who dedicates time to music, either through singles or experiencing full albums – the important thing being that people keep listening and supporting music. However, we are all “traditional” (if we may call it that) music consumers, and we do prefer to take our time and understand/assimilate the whole picture, since that, for us, is the only way to truly perceive the magic within the individual pieces and layers that compose an album. It doesn’t even have to be a conceptual work, or a “single track” 40 minute opus. It’s the spirit captured in the recording session, the moment of the composition, the feeling of that moment when each individual contribution collides to create the final piece. It can only be captured and perceived when listening to the creation in its entirety. And that will inevitably have a reflection on the way we create music.
So, with that said, can we expect new material from The Circle? And if so, would you intend to expand on the themes explored in Appalling Ascension?
A.C. – When that happens, we will absolutely continue the path previously set on the first album.
Speaking of the themes, does The Circle as a collective share the same spiritual perspective of Death?
A.C. – Yes, both of Death and Life. Otherwise it wouldn’t make any sense at all. Philosophical cohesion is needed to honestly bring forth any kind of art.
Portugal has a really intriguing metal scene, including some of my favourite raw black metal out of the Aldebaran Circle and no shortage of kickass thrash. Are there any bands from Portugal you’d recommend readers check out?
A.C. – Our scene is getting better every year and it can be surprising for those who don’t know it. I strongly recommend Pestifer and Monte Penumbra. Different styles, same oppressive, aggressive, obscure atmosphere. Both outstanding acts and devoted purveyors of the extreme arts. It will undoubtedly be worth your time.
If you would, please indulge me by participating in an entirely arbitrary exercise and rank these five albums in order from most influential to least influential to The Circle:
A.C. – Let me tell you that this is a very ungrateful exercise. But if I had to do it, it would be something like this:
- Morbid Angel – Altars of Madness
- Immolation – Dawn of Possession
- Dead Congregation – Graves of Archangels
- Incantation – Diabolical Conquest
- Sepultura – Morbid Visions
Do you have any final thoughts to leave us with as we wait in anticipation for your set at Covenant?
A.C. – Thank you for the chat, Hope. We just want to reaffirm that we are anxious to be in Vancouver and live the Covenant experience. Eager to see you all in a few months!
Witness the terror and unbridled madness at the resurrection of Covenant Festival this summer. Purchase 2-day passes right now, or suffer a fool’s curse!!