BY JORDAN MAINZER
For the many who thought Deafheaven’s Sunbather was the best album of 2013 (myself included), depressive black metal project Woods of Desolation’s 2014 opus As the Stars should have ranked just as highly in last year’s year-end lists. It didn’t, however, receive the same recognition as Sunbather, likely because its scale, in terms of everything from scale of release to the lo-fi sound, was so much smaller. What As the Stars did not lack was ambition, especially considering that Woods of Desolation is a one-man project. The man behind the project, known simply as D., has never taken Woods of Desolation to the stage. What he has done throughout his career, and especially on As the Stars, is combine the bedroom aesthetic with black metal, post rock, and shoegaze, the last of which takes its name from what band members do during a live performance. In other words, As the Stars’ success comes from the fact that despite its constraints, it manages to transcend its environment.
I got the chance to conduct an email Q+A with D earlier this month. Read the interview below, edited for length and clarity.
Since I Left You: What’s unique about As The Stars as compared to your past albums?
D: What makes it unique would perhaps be a question for the listeners. What makes it different to past albums would be the fact that it is a much more guitar-driven record. Before commencing recording, I knew I wanted to create an album that had the guitar melody carry the songs forward.
SILY: Were there specific events in your life that influenced As The Stars?
D: The album was the result of 3 years of writing for Woods of Desolation but also for various projects/ideas that never really got off the ground. However, when the decision came to work on what became As The Stars, much of the material seemed to fall into place. I understand this may be a rather unorthodox way of creating an album, but I am content with the outcome.
SILY: Do you consciously try to write hooks when writing?
D: Haha, are there hooks in my work? I don’t know. I guess I have never been one to shy away from using melody when writing—quite the opposite in fact. For me, personally, when listening to other music, melodies are often what make songs interesting.
SILY: What emotions do you hope to convey in your music?
D: I never try and intentionally convey any fixed emotions; whatever comes out in the writing process is what it is and then left up to the listener to gather his or her own meaning, whatever that may be.
SILY: What influenced As The Stars’ title?
D: Personal studies, as well as the desire for an ambiguous name to represent the overall album concept.
SILY: What were some of the artistic decisions behind the album art?
D: The primary decision was to move away from the previously used artwork options and try something different. Thankfully the label (Northern Silence Productions) knew an artist by the name of Lucas Ruggieri who did a fantastic job bringing my idea into reality.
SILY: With what genre(s), if any, do you identify? Is your music more hopeful than what the term “depressive black metal” conveys?
D: Well, I have actually never attributed any genre tag to my music; such things are usually used by the label when promoting the release. Ideally, I would like to just let the listeners go into a release without any preconceived genre tag, but of course that may be somewhat unrealistic. I don’t think the term “depressive black metal” fits at all to be honest, perhaps even to the point of being somewhat misleading at times. But, ultimately, however people wish to categorize and label the music is up to them.
SILY: Who are some of your influences?
D: I have always listened to a wide range on music, though what bands have a direct influence on my work I am not too sure. I generally try and avoid taking direct influence from other bands.
SILY: Who do you consider your contemporaries?
D: I usually don’t really listen to too many (shall we say Black Metal) bands, other than what friends show me of their own projects/bands. The exception would probably be Drudkh, who I think are one of the better acts currently, hence one of the main reasons why I asked Vlad (Drudkh) to perform drums on As The Stars.
SILY: What’s next for you going into 2015 and beyond?
D: At the moment, there are no definitive plans for Woods of Desolation in 2015; things will naturally occur when the time is right. There is never any immediate rush when it comes to working towards new material. However, on a personal note, 2015 marks the 10 year anniversary of Woods of Desolation, so it is pleasing to see it last this long!