Emerging from Galician landscapes SARTEGOS music grows strong like a dark force of nature. The debut full-length, the mighty “O Sangue Da Noite” is about to be released. Rou, helmsman of this project told us about the new opus and abouth the dark path traveled so far. Drink the blood of the night, hear his voice…
The idea of creating Sartegos was born in 2008. First it was an idea that me and Karles from the Apokatastasis zine had, but for some reasons we couldn't start the band together at the end, so instead of putting that idea to ice, I carried on by myself and created the concept and chose the name of the band. It was not until late 2009 that the first tracks were recorded and released in 2010 as the first demotape of the band. The idea back then was to play Black/Death Metal in the vein of classic bands like Profanatica, Demoncy, Mortuary Drape, Mayhem, Varathron, Acheron, Archgoat, early Rotting Christ etc. I guess at some point in my life I had the urge to create something dark, aggressive and mysterious in the form of music.
I did not have the opportunity to listen to the debut demo, and I could only hear a song from the Second one, which seemed a rawer and more primitive version of what Sartegos is today. How do you look back at these recordings today, what were your influences back then?
I am still totally satisfied with those two demos. Of course nowadays I would have done some things in a different way, but I’m still satisfied with them. They are sincere testimonies of how was that period in Sartegos so there would be no point in wanting to change anything or regreting things. The style and the recordings are rawer compared with the later Sartegos stuff but that’s a normal thing. If you look at all Sartegos recordings since the first demo, there’s a noticeable progression or evolution even if the style still remains more or less the same.
Inspiration back then came from, as I said above, Demoncy, Varathron, Profanatica, Acheron, Mayhem, early Rotting Christ, etc. Many bands too be listed here actually but I think these are the most obvious. I wanted to achieve a mysterious and dark yet aggressive atmosphere with the music. Needless to say that those influences are still there nowadays and at the same time there might be some other hidden influences back then that are more noticeable now. I always said that almost everything I listen to and I like (or liked at some point) can be an influence for Sartegos, another different story is that many influences I have can not be traceable in Sartegos music.
Do you have plans to re-release them in the future? Would you like to see them in a cool vinyl edition?
Yeah there’s a plan to re-release the two demo-tapes on CD format alongside with the tracks from the split with Ysengrin as a kind of a bonus, probably next year (2020). Actually this plan has been in the making for a long time now, but for some reasons it didn’t materialize so far.
In general I’m not a big fan of demos pressed on vinyl, to be honest. Well, a compilation pressed on vinyl could be ok, but still and in this case I would prefer to re-release the demos on tape or CD format. I’m not quite sure what you exactly mean with “a cool vinyl edition” by the way, but if that means an edition with all kinds of extras like for instance a poster, coloured 180 gr vinyl or a really nice-looking gatefold (for only 1 vinyl) with a polished layout, I’m not into it. I think it is too much for a demo re-release. Apart from this, I have to say I’m rather fed up with how many vinyl editions are being handled nowadays. Vinyl became a huge fetishist trend and we are paying the price now. (I agree, there´s no need for a pink coloured or lilac splatter kind of shit, but a black vinyl with original artwork and early stuff would be nice. And by the way, to some "black metal bands", what´s the point in releasing a BM album on yellow, purple or turquoise vinyl?!!! What´s next? black metal bands playing in a cruise ship in the Caribbean? - Chris)
Why did you chose SARTEGOS as the name for the band?
Why did you chose SARTEGOS as the name for the band?
Being translated into English as sarcophagus, the Galician word Sartegos encircled many of the things I wanted to convey with the music. A “sartego” is a type of old sarcophagus made of stone that you can find here in Galicia at many old churches and cathedrals so as you can see the first and most obvious connection here is the connection with death, the beyond, the unknown, the past and darkness.
Another thing that made me choose this moniker was also the sonority of the word itself and I also knew from the beginning that I wanted a name in Galician.
In 2013 you released “As fontes do negrume”, which gave you international recognition. How important is this ep for you? What did it mean in terms of evolution in sound, composition and artistic concept?
The MLP “As Fontes do Negrume” was indeed a significant step forward for the band and even if it is not a full album, it appears to me a bit like a debut in a certain way, taking in account its importance for the band’s history. All became more solid and inspired with the MLP: the sound is better and more powerful, the style is more defined and the compositions are also better than before. I remember I dedicated way more time for recording and mixing this than what I did for the previous 2 demos. Also, this was the first time I worked with Moontower Studios (just for the mastering in this case) and the first time Sartegos had a release pressed on vinyl and on cd with a proper and pretty good distribution around the world.
The cover, if I´m not wrong, depicts a picture of Highgate cemetery, why did you choose that picture?
You are right, the picture used for the cover was taken at Highgate Cemetery in North London. It was used because, apart from that one being a really outstanding picture in my opinion, it is in perfect consonance with the album title and with many concepts you can find in the lyrics. There is, above all, that strong play there between light and darkness, depicting balance between them. That picture is also connected with my personal life and that is like a requirement I try to comply with all pictures I use for any Sartegos layout, I mean, using photographies that are connected with my personal experience in some way, taken by people close to me or by myself and not picking up any random picture from a person I don’t know.
Then you released two Splits, one with Ysengrin and last year with another Galician band, Balmog. How did you work on these releases? What can you tell us about those songs and about the bands?
I think in both cases it was the other band who proposed to do a split release and I just had to agree. In the Ysegnrin’s case it was right after we traded some stuff in 2013 I guess, and with Balmog… well, I have known the guys for many years and the idea just came up one day. Needless to say that I like both bands. They are different in style and I think Ysengrin connects more with Sartegos style than Balmog, but Balmog has at the same time some other features that make the split also special and unique.
The stuff I included in both splits was composed and recorded specifically for those releases so the tracks are not some discarded stuff from previous recordings or anything like that. They shine by themselves. The recordings for the tracks included in “Resvrrezionespiritval” (the split with Ysengrin) were a bit difficult because at that time I was living in London and I came back to Galicia for some days to record all my parts. Then I mixed all in London. It was a bit chaotic but at the end the result was good. These tracks included some new structures and there is some style progression as well whilst the track included in the Balmog split has a first part that is more in tune with some of the early demo-stuff and a second part showing again that move-forward, including for the first time some clean “backing vocals”.
Now let´s talk about the new stuff, your debut full-length. How long did you work on this material, how was the writing process?
There are a couple of riffs that were maybe composed in 2013 and all the rest aren’t in any case older than 2015. But the hard work really began in 2017/2018. That’s when the majority of the stuff was composed, arranged and finalized. The lyrics were all written in 2018 and early 2019.
The writing process was actually very similar to the ones for the previous releases but with the difference this time that I first programmed the drums and then passed them to Jordi (the drummer) so he could know how all goes. In the past I used to go to the rehearsal place with the guitar line structured and the drum parts and basic patterns in my head and just tell the drummer.
How was the studio experience this time? What method of work do you follow once in the studio?
I always record my parts (guitars, bass, vocals and keyboards) on my own at my “home studio” which nowadays is no other thing that some basic recording gear placed in a kind of a rehearsal room in a house in the mountains here in Galicia, so this time it was more or less the same, but it obviously took way longer to get all recorded than with previous Sartegos recordings. Once in the studio I try to be as focused as possible and try to not fuck around and not second guess myself too much. Regarding drums, Jordi got them recorded at Moontower Studios in Barcelona and he was extremely quick and efficient, I would say. Then all was mixed at the same Moontower by Javi Félez and then mastered at Resonance Sound by Dan Lowndes.
It was the first time drums were recorded in such a professional way and it was the first time also the mix was done by a professional in a proper and decent studio. All the previous stuff was mixed by me and I think now with the album you can clearly notice the difference.
How would you describe the music on this album and how would you define the evolution so far? How do you compare it with the previous works?
I think the music in “O Sangue da Noite” is still Black/Death Metal, like before, but this time there is even more Black Metal into it. There is also way more, let’s say, emotion and epic riffing in general and there is more variation as well. I would say all is, in a sense, more majestuous, mysterious and epic now, without forgetting the aggression and dark vibe the previous stuff had. Those features are still there of course. Compositions in the album are a bit different from before, more changes, a bit more elaborated, etc.
I also included some new things like for example clean backing vocals in some of the tracks. Well, not so new as there were some clean vocals on the track included in the split with Balmog, but anyway, in the album I used them again and gave them more presence.
You said that the concept of the album is about the dark side, the night and its essence. What´s your source of inspiration? What motivates you to embrace the darkness?
Well that was a metaphorical way of describing the album in general (the music, the layout and also lyricwise) but that doesn’t mean that it is a concept album at all and neither all the lyrics deal with those specific topics. Some of them do, some others don’t.
My source of inspiration comes mostly from within myself, from my experience and things I read, I contemplate, things that speak to me or I’m interested in, in one way or another.
There is light and darkness inside of me and to explore and delve into the latter is a really enriching effort. Darkness is an essential part of the being.
I really like the album cover, where has the photo been taken?
The picture was taken at the top of a hill during a wonderful and eerie sunset. We went up there on purpose to take that picture for the cover (and some other used in the layout). The place has some special meaning for me and it is called “Eira dos Mouros”.
Tell me about the lyrics of “As Desvesas som dos Lobos”, that, apart from being one of my favorite songs on the album, I like the lyrics and as far as I know, it has a special meaning for you. Please tell me more about it.
I would say that lyricwise, that song is a bit cliché in the sense that I use the Wolf to present some concepts like spiritual independence, opposition, defiance, rebellion or wild erness which has been a common ground in many Black Metal lyrics since its conception. But that is not a negative thing for me: I always wanted to use the strong symbolic carachter of the Wolf and its attributes to create a Sartegos song so here it is.
The words in the song title are not mine, though. They were spoken to me by a half-blind old woman at some place in the mountains in Galicia. I met her by chance on my way to a forest and when asking which was the best way to go there, she answered that: “As devesas som dos lobos” (“the forests belong to wolves” - a “devesa” is a type of forest we have here). That sentence stayed in my mind since then and resonates inside of me everytime I remember that.
By the way, the Wolf has always been very important in Galician lore, sometimes associated with the Devil.
In other songs like “Solpor Dos Misterios” and “Poço e Serpe” you talk about legends, myths, local folklore of which Galicia is very rich. I think it is important that this part of the culture is kept alive and that it continues to be spread through music and other forms... what do you think about the this subject and the way it is managed nowadays?
Not exactly. I do not simply tell a story or a legend, I mean, the lyrics are not only about the legend in question. What I do is using the myth or the legend to present or talk about other things, trying to put all in common. For instance, in “Solpor dos Mistérios” I link the local legend of a vampire-witch with Lilith and her, let’s say, carachteristics. In “Poço e Serpe” I do the same but with the local legend of a giant snake in a river pool and Leviathan.
Yes, I think it is important to keep that part of the culture alive but all has changed so much in the last decades that I’m afraid all will be reduced (if it’s not already) to books and songs. Nowadays, utterly decadent western societies are so proud of their technologic and “scientific” way of understanding the world that they forgot completely how to interact with the nature surrounding them and how to read the signs, so to say. All is going down the drain.
You have stated and emphasized that Sartegos chooses not to be labeled as a Spanish band. Sartegos itself is a Galician word, and all the letters of Rou are in Galician language, so labeling Sartegos as a Spanish band would be a mistake. I interpret this not as a political issue but as a matter of cultural roots, something very misunderstood many times today, and which unfortunately is lost by global fears and pressures…
Well, honestly I don’t feel comfortable at all when somebody refers to Sartegos as a Spanish band and this comes first and foremost from the facts that I think Galicia is an identity of its own and different from Spain and that I do not consider myself as Spanish. Saying this is already political but that is the most political I will go now if you ask me about this matter. Of course personally I do have my political ideas (everyone does, even if they say they are non-political) but I think there is no point in discussing that here.
There is no homage to Galicia or anything like gloryfying the culture in Sartegos, no national proud or things alike and no intention of doing so. The band is not about that (not at all, actually) and I think it is clear if you read the lyrics.
I think this thing should be treated naturally and as you said, Sartegos is a Galician word, my native language is Galician and lyrics are all in Galician so labeling the band as Spanish would be wrong and can lead to misunderstandings.
How is the deal with I Voidhanger and Blood Harvest? How about the album being released in three formats? What format do you like most?
The deal is that I, Voidhanger will be releasing the CD and Blood Harvest the vinyl and tape versions. Personally for a full length I prefer vinyl and cd but Rodrigo from Blood Harvest wanted to release also the tape and I had nothing against that. In general I like the three formats, I grew up with dubbed tapes and cds and for me vinyl came afterwards (my parents didn’t have a turntable so I had to buy one myself with my first salary) but I’m ok with all three.
What is your point of view about the Galician scene? What do you think about bands like Balmog, Dioivo, Lostregos…
There seem to be some bands and projects around here, yes. Some of them I like, some others not so much. I do not socialize much with the people in the “scene” (if you can call it that way. I think there is no scene…), just from time to time so I’m not wery well informed about what is going on, to be honest.
From the bands you quoted I think Balmog has been the undisputed reference in Galician Black Metal in the last 10 years. Lostregos are very good doing their pagan thing as well. Dioivo… well, they are bit too weird for me (and I like weird music in general). You could name other very good bands like Xerion, which is a classic by now and still going strong, Suspiral or Marthyrium. There is also one band not to be missed, originally from Cuba but now relocated to this part of the world, and named Narbeleth.
Now give me your vision of the Spanish scene and the global scene, how important is it for you to be part of a scene? Do you agree to promote the motto "support the scene"? And how do you interpret it as a fan?
There were and there are very good bands in the Spanish “scene” and in the global “scene” as well, but in my opinion, if before 2010 all was already saturated with worldwide bands and releases, in the last decade that situation got even worse and all is at a point beyond saturation now. It is impossible to pay attention to all that comes out. At the same time, saying that myself could sound contradictory, because I have a band and put out releases from time to time but from the fan perspective, I think all is over saturated, without a doubt. Then there is that other thing about the internet, which I think definetly killed and ruined the atmosphere, the feeling and the magic many releases had in the past. All that is gone… Nowadays all is based on social networks and people even don’t reply to e-mails anymore. Even that is becoming outdated now, it’s ridiculous... All is so exposed with lots of information in just one click, that it becomes boring and meaningless. It is like fast-food but with music and information.
Underground trends spread so rapidly now and many of the bands follow them so blindly (well, trends are nothing new of course but anyway…) I guess I’m a bit sick of the lack of personality, sincerity and good and own ideas in many bands. I’m not saying you have to be super original, trying new things all the time or anything like that, don’t get me wrong, but too many bands just repeat ideas, topics and imagery others created before them without adding nothing of their own. Again, nothing new, but it reached ridiculous levels in the last years.
All this draws me out from checking new bands and releases. I still do it and still buy albums, of course, but in much less quantity than up to 8 years ago. I’m much more selective now.
So, to conclude, for me it is not important nowadays to be part of any scene, as underground is almost finished and destroyed, and I will only support the bands I like. (I can only agree with you with every word of this answer - Chris)
Besides music, I’m mostly interested in literature and cinema, but to a certain extent in the case of cinema (it’s been ages since I last watched a movie). Apart from those, there are other forms of art that I can appreciate even if I’m far from being an expert on the subject, like photography, architecture or painting.
For this record you joined forces with drummer J. Farre, is he a permanent member? Will you keep Sartegos as a studio project or do you plan to get other musicians to play live in the future?
Jordi was a session member for the album. I wish I could have him as a permanent member but we live quite far from each other so that’s not possible. Anyway, I would definetly like to continue having him as a session member in the future, no doubt about it. He is just an awesome drummer and he did a hell of a job behind the drumkit for this album so I can not be more grateful for that.
Answering to your last question, Sartegos will stay as a studio band/ project and I have no plans to take it to a stage. There is no need to.
You play a variety of many different instruments, which one do you enjoy playing the most?
The instrument I enjoy the most and the one I play often is the guitar. Despite that the first demo and half of the second one were composed all on bass, from that moment on I only played bass for the recordings. About keyboards, I have to confess I have no idea of how to play them, or piano, but I can manage the instrument for the easy synth-based introductory compositions I need.
Do you usually go to concerts? Which are the best and the last you have seen?
Yes I like concerts and although I attend less gigs nowadays than in the past (for several reasons) I still enjoy a good live concert. One of the last I attended was King Diamond in summer 2019 and it was one of the best in my fucking life. It is my favourite heavy metal band and I had been waiting for years and years to see the band playing live. It was great! I just hope I can attend any of the Europe dates Mercyful Fate are announcing these days!
Other incredible gigs I can recall now are Sadistic Intent and Morbid Angel in 2008, Iron Maiden, Sabbat (the japanese) or Motörhead alongside with tons of other great gigs I’m forgetting now, for sure.
Which or what have been the albums that you have bought or that you are listening to lately? What do you think of the latest of Rotting Christ-Possessed-Nocturnus and Darkthrone?
In the last couple of days I’ve been listening to the last Blut Aus Nord album apart from some Motörhead and Thin Lizzy. Last albums I bought were Hertogenwald (it is actually a demo-cd and it is a band where Guido from Ysengrin is involved in), Aethyrick - Praxis, Tymah - Zuhanás, Evohé – Deus Sive Nature and a couple of cd’s by polish Moriturus. I also received this week a Diabolus Flagellation tape as a gift from my good old penpal Antti (greetings mate!) but I didn’t play it yet. Apart from that I recently bought some old hard rock and prog classics on vinyl like Perfect Strangers by Deep Purple (a true gem, I love it - Chris), Camel – Moonmadness and ELP’s first album.
I haven’t checked the last Rotting Christ, Possessed or Nocturnus albums. I like the bands quite a lot and I heard really good things about the Possessed one in particular, but haven’t checked them yet. About the last Darkthrone, I listened to a few tracks and it didn’t catch my attention. The only one I liked since Cult is Alive was The Underground Resistance, to tell you the truth.
What´s the strangest place and the most shocking place you have been?
I don’t recall now been to any specially shocking place, to be honest. Well, I visited Auschwitz in 2007 and although I know some people get emotionally affected when visiting the place and they certainly would consider it as a shocking place, it didn’t have that effect on me. It has a dark and gloomy atmosphere indeed but personally I would not define it as shocking.
About the strangest or weirdest place I’ve been to… well, if we talk about landscapes, I would say certain parts of Iceland where you could easily think you are in Mars, because of the volcanic activity there and the landscape it creates. If we talk about culture, I guess the strangest place I’ve been to is China.
What will be the next steps for Sartegos?
Right now, just wait for “O Sangue da Noite” to be released and see how it goes. The next step will probably be the release of that Cd compilation I mentioned above and then, at some point I guess I will start composing new tracks again.
Thanks you for your time, last words are yours…
Thank you very much for the interview and your interest in Sartegos.
Anyone who is interested in the band can contact me at email@example.com or visit the bandcamp page sartegos.bandcamp.com
The album will be released on the 29th of November 2019 through I, Voidhanger Records (https://metalodyssey.8merch.com/ ) on Cd and through Blood Harvest (http://shop.bloodharvest.se/ ) on vinyl and tape so people can contact them directly.