Velingor: When it all started in 2016 it was only Harald (guitars) and I (Velingor – bass, vocals) who were involved in the project. We haven’t played together for quite a while (more than 15 years, actually – since we were in SCALD together and afterwards for a short period of time in TUMULUS), but decided to risk it. By that time Harald had a lot of musical ideas which he could not use anywhere else, whereas I was interested in Northern shamanism (I planned to use this concept in TUMULUS but it never worked out). So I suggested we combine our efforts and see what happens. We had no definite plans as to our musical style, but rather decided to let it develop naturally.
The name INTOTHECRYPT was my idea – I had these words spinning in my head for quite a while , probably since the time I first heard the song “Into the Crypts of Rays” by Celtic Frost – only I wanted it to be written as one word, looks more original and cool in my opinion (laughing). And since Harald was one of the main composers in SCALD he is still influenced by BATHORY of their Viking period, by doom metal as a whole as well as black metal and a little bit of folk music – so what he started to create felt like a unique mix of it all. As to the lyrics we had a lot of help from Tatiana “Kedi” Krylova who translated the lyrics I suggested (the ones dealing with shamanism) into ancient Russian, using a lot of Finno-Ugric words as well – this way it all feels more authentic; she also helped us with our English translations. And finally, we were lucky to have Gervald, a highly gifted multi-instrumentalist, on our team (we had played together in an oriental black/death metal project called TURBATO CORDO when I lived abroad). It was him who managed to create the unique back sound of INTOTHECRYPT, full of mysticism and “dreadful fairytales of the North”.
As to the vocals – we had not much of a choice, so I offered my own version of growling and screaming vocals (I already had some experience with this). After having recorded the demo we decided that the project was working out and showing some promise, so we started sending the demo out to various labels while continuing to work on the full-length album.
Harald: After having lived in Rybinsk (a city not far from Yaroslavl) for several years I was back in my home town, and quite soon I felt the need to use my new musical ideas somehow. I tried to join various bands… not really worth mentioning, let’s just say nothing good came out of this.
But then Velingor was back in Yaroslavl too! And that’s when it all began…
First we tried to reanimate a project we had before, called Keremet – but we failed magnificently (laughing). Then Velingor suggested we do something completely new, what was only logical because I had a lot of stuff recorded already. It was also the time when Gervald stepped in. That’s when things got really exciting! We would create something, send it to Gervald and get something entirely different after he had worked on it. We completed a 4 song demo and published it online to see if we would get any response – and it was totally positive one! Then we have finished working on the album, inviting Ottar as our drummer and Marina Sokolova for female vocals. Finally, the long and boring mixing had to be done (to be honest I’m still not quite satisfied with it!), and – bingo!
2. In June you have your first album coming out, can you tell us a little bit more about the musical style you went for on the recording?
Velingor: After having recorded the demo we made a decision to continue in the same direction with our debut album. We invited Ottar to be our drummer, which was of a great importance to me in particular – since we played together in SCALD and TUMULUS and can really work well as a rhythm section. We also decided to make the music even darker and use additional shaman spells. We completely re-recorded all four songs of the demo, with me using a greater variety of vocals than simply growl and scream and Harald creating new musical elements which made overall impression more complex and fascinating. It took us another year to record the album, which was finished only in 2018.
We do hope that “Vakor” is something bigger than simple pagan doom/death with elements of black and folk metal. We had no intention of creating something highly experimental, but what we definitely didn’t want either was something trivial and hackneyed, something one can hear many other bands playing. Those who’ll listen to the album will understand what I mean!
Harald: All I can say is that I played the way I wanted to! And it turned out it was in accordance with what Velingor had in mind, too.
3. The lyrics cover Slavic and Finno-Ugric Paganism, can you tell us a little bit more about your interest in these topics?
Velingor: My personal interest in this goes back as far as 20 years ago. I read a lot on the subject, mostly scientific literature. Shamanism is the most ancient, the most basic form of communication with spiritual world that is known to mankind. After Christianity became dominant the people who still had this knowledge were accused of witchcraft and forced into exile. Why Finno-Ugric paganism in particular? Because here in the Yaroslavl region Finno-Ugric tribe called Merya used to live (it is mentioned by the sources as late as in 14th century). There are still a lot of objects here (lakes, rivers, villages) which bear Finno-Ugric names. One of the songs from “Vakor” album, called “Mga”, consists entirely of such names. As a person responsible for the lyrics of INTOTHECRYPT I intended to make a shaman the central image of our songs. He is an outcast who lives in his own frightful worlds, using Meryan shaman practices and combining them with some Slavic pre-Christian beliefs. He terrifies the common people, who regard him as a wizard. So all our lyrics are written from the point of view of this shaman – and it’s nothing like mere fairytales, it is an alien, horrifying world, full of appalling creatures of the forests, living tree stumps that tear apart those who tread upon their ground, spirits of the swamp, incantations addressed to indescribable monsters (who don’t fail to appear when summoned)…
Harald: Well, it is related to our native land, the place where we were born and have lived our lives. Everybody is interested in their roots! Ask SEPULTURA about it! (referring to SEPULTURA’s album “Roots” – laughing)
4. All of the INTOTHECRYPT members played in SCALD, what is it that you bring into the music of INTOTHECRYPT that you were not able to bring into your other group?
Velingor: I believe that, sure, SCALD and INTOTHECRYPT have a lot in common. So some ideas could probably be used in SCALD as well – for example, the melodic guitar parts composed by Harald, which are easily recognizable in both bands. But still, there is a great different between the two as well: SCALD is epic music filled with majestic vocals whereas INTOTHECRYPT has ritualistic, out-of-this-world like atmosphere, and is of course much more extreme than SCALD.
Harald: I would say almost everything what INTOTHECRYPT is musically could be easily used in SCALD. Well, except for the growling vocals, obviously.
5. What is the meaning and inspiration behind the name 'Intothecrypt'?
Velingor: I already mentioned (when answering the very first question) where I got the idea from. As to the meaning – it means “inside the sacred place”. Crypt is here a place which only the shaman has access to, a secret place only he can visit.
Harald: And I loved the idea and got used to the name, creating, however, my own version of it – which we only use privately and which is hardly translatable anyway (laughing).
6. Can you tell us a little bit more about the artwork that is presented on the new album cover?
Velingor: At first I was trying to create some images myself, working in Photoshop, but what actually worked out was only our logo (which was approved by Harald and the others). Later, while working on the album, by mere chance I found some works by Andrey Andreev, a professional artist, and we were all impressed with mystical atmosphere of pagan fairytales which could be felt in his art. So we asked him to work on the cover for “Vakor”. The central image of it – the Vakor itself, a live tree-stump, – required a lot of work: I kept finding it looking not evil enough (laughing). Another key figure of the artwork is the shaman (on the right side of the Vakor), looking half-man and half-bear – it symbolizes bear-worship that was characteristic of both Slavs and Finno-Ugric tribes in our region.
We also felt it necessary to publish all our lyrics: for those of them that were in Ancient Russian we made English translations and even created a sort of a “Shaman dictionary” in order to explain certain obscure words we used.
7. I have read that this band started out as a studio project, are you open to expanding into live performances?
Velingor: Not at the moment. We’ll see how the interest to “Vakor” will be developing. If we get some interesting offers – we’ll consider them, but for now we see INTOTHECRYPT as a studio project only.
Harald: We want to take it easy – transforming INTOTHECRYPT into a live band is somewhat complicated. Let’s see what happens though!
8. On the new album you also had some guest musicians, can you tell us a little bit more about who they are and also their contributions to the recording?
Velingor: The most important contribution was made, of course, by Gervald. It is him who managed to create the profound and rich back sound for us – the songs would be completely different without it. With his help it turned out to be a true Northern tale of horrors! Gervald has a classical music background so he is extremely skilled in choosing the right sounds for our purposes, combining them the way we need in order to create a truly mystical atmosphere. Sometimes we would change something in the songs to make them fit better to what Gervald suggested. By the way, he lives in another country so we can only work with him online.
I also mentioned before Marina Sokolova (folk music band SEDMAYA VODA) who has a unique, crystal clean voice. She used it brilliantly in “Deko po Markushe”, giving this rather dark song some suggestion of erotic (which was necessary for this song since it is about sexual and at the same time magical interaction between a shaman and a witch). And in «Tako rassekayut i na udy…» (“Thus they are cutting him to pieces…”) she helped to create the atmosphere of shaman’s resurrection after his having been cut to pieces by evil spirits.
Finally, both Harald and I wanted pure doom-style clean vocals to be present on the album (as a contribution to SCALD), so we asked our old friend Ilia “Judas” Kasatkin (SANTERNO) to sing such a part. And even though he himself was never a fan of doom metal, Judas agreed and made his contribution to “Yavi sya, Merek” (“Show yourself, Merek!”). In this song one can also hear an incantation performed by Masha Chirkova of ROS, who also sings on “Incorporeal Navya” (along with our two friends from TUMULUS – Kurbat and Kuchma).
Harald: I just would like to add that these people are not just guest musicians but our friends and we are really grateful to them. My special respect goes to Judas – who really tried to sing the way we asked him to!
9. The new album is going to be released on 'Ordo MCM', can you tell us a little bit more about this label?
Velingor: Ordo MCM have already released another re-issue of SCALD as a double LP, which caused a great reaction of the fans worldwide. That is why we decided to work with them, since our project is created by SCALD musicians and there are similarities in the music, too.
Harald: The guys are really good at what they do! I wish them luck in this quite unpredictable business.
10. On a worldwide level what has the reaction been to your music by fans of pagan, folk, black, doom and death metal?
Velingor: By now we only read a few reviews of “Vakor”, and all of them were positive. All the reviewers talk about the unusual overall atmosphere, original concept and memorable melodies. And, what pleases me in particular, some of them think highly of my growling vocals (laughing).
Harald: From what I have read the reaction is enthusiastic but everybody is waiting for the album to be officially released (which should be happening quite soon).
11. Where do you see the band heading into musically during the future?
Velingor: We do not have any particular plans at the moment. There are some new musical ideas and drafts of lyrics, of course. But that’s it.
Harald: Because of the SCALD reunion INTOTHECRYPT is temporarily on hold. But I can’t help having some ideas which I record for the future use in the project.
12. What are some of the bands or musical styles that have had an influence on your music and also what do you listen to nowadays?
Velingor: What had influenced us is BATHORY of Viking period (and some later bands that played in this style), oldschool doom/death metal, partly black metal, too, Northern folk music (Mari Boine is worth mentioning here), and, of course, the style of SCALD’s “Will of the Gods is Great Power”.
Personally I prefer oldschool metal of the 80s, no matter what style – I might listen to hard’n’heavy, thrash and so on. When the mood is right I also listen to the classics of doom metal, and sometimes black. I also like Bijelo Dugme – a 70s folk rock band from Yugoslavia. And of course BATHORY’s “Hammerheart” is among my favorites for almost 30 years now.
And I can answer for Ottar that he prefers progressive metal, but can listen to pop music of the 80s, too.
Harald: Well, Quorthon can be definitely heard in my music! And Michael Oldfield has influenced me as well. What do I listen to now? Mostly some stoner, Enya and Slayer…
13. What are some of your non-musical interests?
Velingor: As to myself – well, meditation (when I’m close to nature), sometimes even shaman practices (actually it’s more correct to say trying to engage in them – on some occasion it really works though)... Also walking among the quiet residential areas of Yaroslavl where a lot of buildings of 1930-40s are still preserved. But most of my time is unfortunately occupied by my job – which is not my interest but a way of making a living.
Harald: Cats! I love cats! (laughing)
14. Before we wrap up this interview, do you have any final words or thoughts?
Velingor: INTOTHECRYPT was not something we have planned, it developed naturally from what we felt was the right thing to do, so we didn’t expect ourselves that something as complete and interesting as “Vakor” would be the result of it. We do hope that everyone who’ll buy our CD and listen to it will find it fascinating, mystical and find oneself suddenly in the world of the shaman – ancient, terrifying, but spellbinding.
Harald: We do hope you’ll love it!