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THE METAL OBSERVER - Interview - POEMA ARCANUS - Online Jun 2006

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Poema Arcanus - Apocalyptic visions (Claudio Carrasco) - Online Jun 2006

POEMA ARCANUS is one of the most respected Chilean bands. The complex and original Doom Metal they play had made them highly recognized in underground circles, which in connection with deep and poetic lyrics make them a very complete band. As a long time admirer of them, I had the luck to meet personally their vocalist and main lyricist Claudio Carrasco for this interview. Somewhere in downtown Santiago, surrounded by the noise of the city's main avenue and crowned by a nice cloud of smog, it was just the most coherent scenery possible to talk to a man behind a band that with their last release became very, VERY apocalyptic... here we go.


Describe POEMA ARCANUS to those who have their first contact with the band through this interview.

Historically speaking, POEMA ARCANUS was born between 1992 and 1993. On 1995 we released our first demo (“Underdeveloped”), but before that we already existed, although just as a school band. The founders of the group were me and Igor Leiva (guitars). We had evolved a lot since the beginnings, when we used to play very brutal and raw Death Metal… then we became progressively more emotional, but always keeping some Death Metal elements, represented basically by the vocals and some destroyer riffs. We had incorporated keyboards and well, “Teluric Manifesto” is our top in terms of experimentation.


Conceptually, “Teluric Manifesto” is a very negative and pessimistic album. What led you to adopt such a dark path, especially by the lyrics?

Lyrics are a reflection of what I live, personal problems and that; and well, the time when I wrote them was rather tormented and that was materialized in the negativism of my own lyrics. But besides that they are dark, I would add a dose of irony too, so it’s important to give them a second reading. On the other hand, I was tired of the typical sweety song, but basically I tried to express that darker part of myself that I can’t exteriorize otherwise, so the negative lyrics were the only way to represent the sensations I was feeling. I don’t know if the words written by the other members are so dark, but I’m supposed to answer for myself.


POEMA ARCANUS don’t try to create a unique concept for the whole disc, then?

In “Teluric Manifesto” specifically… no. Well, we always try to build some relation between all the songs in one album, but in this one, in contraposition to “Iconoclast” the conceptual part was not thought before. When we were composing we discovered connexions between the tracks and began to build a general line with the last lyrics written, but this is certainly a less united disc than “Iconoclast”.


It’s difficult to label “Teluric Manifesto” as Doom Metal. Talk me about the new influences that inspired POEMA ARCANUS, musical or not and tell me about what principally affected the composition process.

It’s strange to talk about new influences, because we’re always listening to new shit, but I personally never stop enjoying what I had always liked. But well, about the two main composers of “Teluric Manifesto”, Michel (Leroy) and Igor (Leiva), I specially see new influences by side of Michel, the keyboardist. For what I see, the man began to listen to too much progressive rock, along with old stuff and all that hippie shit he likes. Igor, by his side, had always been a fan of VOIVOD and KING CRIMSON and that’s probably the origin of our more Prog side. It’s true that the composition process of the new album was really conflictive, because we had two opposite strong pillars that were Igor and Michel and I noted that each one wanted to impose his own ideas and because of that clash the songs evolved a lot from what they were in the beginning. There is a big difference between what “Teluric Manifesto” was as idea at first and the final result… well, I guessed that helped to make out of “Teluric” such a weird composition.


Tell me how Michel Leroy left the band

The big problem was the he just wanted to play other shit. The man evolved much faster than us… when we knew him, he was a die hard old-school Black Metaller and now he wanted to explore too different things. He felt too constricted by the rules put by POEMA ARCANUS, although they weren’t very strict. He wanted to write acoustic music and that was contrary to what we wanted to follow as band… unfortunately, that eternal conflict is exhausting and to reach the final version of the album was a long process. Sometimes I think Michel is a too close-minded person and it’s difficult for him to receive feedback, to adapt his ideas to others’ demands and I think maybe that shit was withering him to the point that he felt isolated from POEMA ARCANUS. We talked, we try to find solutions and everything was in good terms, but at last it was the only alternative left, because we were feeling very uncomfortable with what he was composing.


How do you personally feel with “Teluric Manifesto” as final product?

Fist of all, I think it’s a disc very hard to digest. I personally like albums that don’t show themselves at first listening, but for the same reason it was not very good understood as a sellable product. Musically I think “The Teluric Manifesto” is extremely rich, with different instrumental levels and complex… to be sincere, I would prefer it without some mellow parts but what was composition is great… and well, in terms of production it’s perfect.


How had been your experience with the label Aftermath?

It had helped a lot with diffusion, to make us more known in Europe. The treat with the man behind Aftermath is very simple, the contract is disc by disc and so we’re not bounded with each other… I would summarize it as a mutual help between the parts. On the other hand, the label had helped us a lot in terms of production in the last releases, but on the future I don’t really know if we’ll stay with it or look for other horizons. You know, we don’t have the ideal treat with Aftermath, but we’re not a big super-seller band so we can’t ask for much more neither hehehe.


Which is the future of your debut album "Arcane XIII", now that its original label Picoroco Records ceased to exist?

Nowadays that album is sold out and without a label to support it. So we are seeking for an interested label which can re-release it with a new artwork and stuff like that.


How had been for a band that comes from the last God-forsaken corner of the world to be recognized and respected in the international scene?

Extremely positive. This same fact of signing with a European label was a huge step for our career and it’s something we always looked for. I personally took care since the very first times of the band to send our demos abroad, for them to be reviewed in magazines and played in radios and always wanted our material to be distributed in the specialized media that I consider valuable. We always made efforts to produce abroad and to be recognized in foreign lands, especially in Europe, had been very pleasant for us. on the other hand, I had always written to the bands I admire so I have the letter-culture and the custom to keep contact with international artists… it certainly had helped to be known among Metal media and Metalheads I value.


We Chileans don’t love our cities very much and Chilean artists had historically looked for inspiration in nature and the country-side. How can be Santiago, the place where we live every day, a source in inspiration for you?

Inspiration can be positive or negative and in this case I see it by the negative side. The big influence comes from the concrete, the establishment, the rules and all that filthy shit is fed by personal problems that come with age, the new responsibilities… Santiago is not a very liveable place and that affects you.


Do you see some identity for the South American Metal scene?

I think there is not a big identity. Maybe now a bit more, because lots of South American bands are becoming know abroad and signing with European labels. But I see that unfortunately there is not unity… different countries are like isles and there is not exchange between them. What I see now is a mutual respect, as lots of local scenes are becoming stronger and I really hope we become more united because, being so close to different countries, it’s very difficult to play abroad because of the low interest. We had had lots of opportunities to tour through South America, but it’s complicated because of the tickets and because the Metal audience is small, organizers don’t risk to pay them.


POEMA ARCANUS is a band for which lyrics are as important as music. Then I ask you, as lyricist, what kind of literature had motivated you to write.

I’m specially into horror literature, authors like Lovecraft, Süskind or Barker. I don’t read much poetry only a hidden author called J. Massone, but Pablo Neruda had inspired us and we even had taken phrases of his poems for some songs in “Arcane XIII”. As long as I know Claudio Botarro and Michel Leroy had been really inspired by the called cursed poets (Rimbaud, Baudelaire, Verlaine) and other unknown ones.


In contraposition to the nihilism of “Teluric Manifesto”, “Iconoclast” was a very mystic album on its own way and it has a rather ceremonial atmosphere/concept. Which role play for POEMA ARCANUS religious or transcendental ideas?

No one in the band has strong religious ideas. Being Chile an ultra Catholic country, all of us passed through really strict religious teachings as kids, but all of us realized the farce at some moment of our lives. I am an atheist and I had rid myself of many transcendental ideas I once considered important… I received a strong catholic education and I grew with the fear of god and the fear to sin, but then realized that in sinning are the good things of life hahaha. Then I would say that religion has no influence on the concept of POEMA ARCANUS.


Leaving behind one specific religion, where does the ceremonial idea of “Iconoclast” come from?

That concept is related to an idea of dark celebration, more intimate and personal. The song “Rite” specifically, which is certainly our most ceremonial one, was written by Igor when he came back from Machu Picchu, in Peru and he was obsessed by the ancient gods of the Inca and other South American civilizations. Then he took all that and made an opposition with the monotheism that determines the occidental culture in which we live. “Chaman” and “Elixir” were songs that could be categorized like this, too.


Tell me about the origins of POEMA ARCANUS, that time when you still were called GARBAGE and played some primitive Death Metal so different to what you’re doing now.

On the early 90s we were classmates with Igor. There we realized that we shared our taste for Metal and began to trade demos, tapes and Metal stuff. I had some recordings of my voice over instrumental songs of other band and I showed them to him because I knew he played guitar and he liked it a lot. In those years there was a boom of the growling vocals and the first thing we done was creating a group to play that music that was what we most liked.


Did you have an idea of what Doom Metal was in that time?

The concept of “Doom” was a bit unknown for us except for CANDLEMASS and PARADISE LOST then. But you have to understand that in that time we were school kids trying to find our own way. We listened to lots of stuff, searching for something to mark us and we were in that mood when created POEMA ARCANUS. We began to adapt to the musical places where we wanted to be and well, logically NAPALM DEATH was the biggest influence but also all the brutal music of the early 90s.


Thank you for your time... as last thing, I would want you to talk about the plans of the band for the future.

In the near future we will playing a lot to promote “Teluric” stuff and composing new shit for a next album, we have already 4 tracks and one of them already with vocal lines. In October we will perform again an unplugged gig, so we will preparing the acoustic versions of several songs. In the far future we pretend to play in foreign countries, if it is possible.


1995: Underdeveloped (Demo)

1996: Innocent Shades (Demo)

1997: Promo Tape (Demo)

1998: Southern Winds - Live (Demo)

1999: Arcane XIII (CD, Picoroco)

2002: Iconoclast (CD, Aftermath Music)

2003: Buried Songs: The Early Times (CD, Rawforce)

2005: Teluric Manifesto (CD, Aftermath Music)

Daniel Barros

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