H. O. L. Y. Crap! Just when you thought Ocean Grove couldn’t evolve more than they …
Illyria is another new band from the wellspring of prog that is Perth, and their second album is strong enough to set them up for big things on the national stage.
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Beginning life as a creative side-project for guitarists Ilija Stajić and George Blacklock several years ago, since its first faltering steps Illyria has grown to include another three full-time members and produced a new full-length recording. The Carpathian Summit is the second album for Illyria, and introduces the contributions of drummer Matt Unkovich, bass player Daniel Hacking and third—yes, third—guitarist James Warren. Unfolding over more than an hour, The Carpathian Summit expands on the band’s already diverse musical oeuvre as it moves further into the world of progressive extreme metal. The day his band’s latest clip premieres on Hysteria, Ilija Stajić puts aside the rigours of his regular job for a couple of weeks, giving him time to concentrate on the release of the album and tell the world a little more about it.
Wilderness is a particular stand out on this album because it reminds us a lot, especially the vocal and atmosphere, of a band called Maudlin of the Well—are you familiar with them at all? Your music moves in a lot of interesting directions.
That’s a new name I haven’t heard. To be honest, Wilderness is definitely inspired by a French band called Amesoeurs, who I think were inspired by rock bands from the 80s and 90s like Divinyls and Cranberries and stuff like that. So, we definitely took that sort of influence, but for me, I’ve definitely got a soft spot of British rock … alternative music from region of the world. So that song definitely had that spark of influence.
Your band has been slotted into genres like post-black metal and shoegaze, but the reach of your music is so broad that it seems more to just go into the general sphere of progressive extreme metal.
It’s interesting because the genre question always comes up. We’re afraid to write what we want. We don’t want to bottleneck ourselves. If we want to write this, let’s write it! This is the first album we’ve done together as a five piece, and all of us were allowed to draw on our influences together. It’s taken a bit of time to craft these songs so that we enjoy it first and foremost. With regards to genre like shoegaze and black metal, I guess where that “progressive” word comes in. I think we’d like to transition to being a progressive rock/metal act. That way, there’s less titles and label later on. Because of the first album, a lot of people have put us in that black/post-rock sort of sounds—which is totally fine! That’s where it started, at least for me.
The way we write is that it just keeps growing and flourishing and we don’t really know when to stop writing!
[ Ilija Stajić ]
There’s obviously been a musical progression from the first release. You’ve grown as a band, so how to feel the band is progressing from where it began?
We can comfortably say that we are a band now. When it was just George and I writing the first album and the other members came along afterwards, we were asking “Is this really us?” Now that we’re a five piece and we’re actually a band and this has become my main project—because I was still in another band at the time … that first album was really just an experiment at the time, a test, and I was content enough to say “Ok, let’s keep this going,” and I was ambitious enough to get some live members and turn this into a band, and I guess that’s what I would say: we’re a band now, and this is the first release that, as a five piece, I can comfortably say, “Yes, this is our sound now, and we want to keep on growing it.”
It’s a very sprawling album too. Eleven tracks, all of them quite long. It’s not one for those with a short attention span.
It goes over an hour, I’m pretty sure. Quite positive, actually! We never really thought, “Let’s make a forty minute album”. Whatever happens, happens. It just sort of grew, and a lot of the songs connect together. The way we write is that it just keeps growing and flourishing and we don’t really know when to stop writing! [laughs] We have to force ourselves to structure it! I wouldn’t say it’s just a bunch of ideas put together, but we have a lot of fun writing.
Mikael Akerfeldt once said that the way Opeth wrote was that they would just start jamming on ideas and suddenly they would have an eleven minute song on their hands. Is that anything like what it’s like for Illyria?
As a 21st Century musician, I wish we could jam together a lot more than we do. Everything we do is programmed, then we send it to each other and construct it. That doesn’t mean we can’t play it. We try to make sure it’s playable though, but that’s something we sacrifice because we only get to jam together once a week. It’s us acclimatising to the conditions of music right now, using stuff to help us with a way of writing non-stop, trialling and testing. That’s the nature of it.
You must be looking forward to a time when you can start working on an album for a long time, and doing nothing but that, and see where that goes.
It’s definitely on the list. We definitely want to do that, because that’s how it used to be and obviously it’s something we’ve never done yet.
So what else is on the list for Illyria?
There’s two lists. There’s the live show list, which is a blank slate. We’ve left it really open. We don’t know what’s going to happen. The other list is the songwriting list. That is quite full. We’ve got a lot of material that we’ve just been banking up over the years. We’ve been going for half a decade, and we’ve actually been sitting on these songs for quite a long time, so we’re already looking forward to album three and album four, and beyond. For the live show perspective, we’re really looking forward to playing these songs live. That is still a passion of ours. We want to show the world these songs on a stage. We’ve finally got a comfortable mojo now where we’ve got a good amount of material, but we don’t want to saturate ourselves!
You don’t want to end up being like King Gizzard then?
I was just thinking of them actually. What have they done, three albums in a year or something? We really want to respect the listener and let them appreciate it for quite a bit of time before we hand out another treat!