De Profundis - Ethereal Reflections
By: David E. Gehlke
An up-and-comer in the United Kingdom extreme metal underground, De Profundis's stellar recording output is matched by their attention to detail, the kind of sort you'd see from a much more high-profile act. These are the foundations for a band that in good time should be a major force on a global scale, as evidenced by the inherent strength of their third opus, The Emptiness Within (Kolony Records). A fearsome blend of technical death and black metal, De Profundis also finds it within themselves to weave in the occasional jazz interlude, drawing comparisons to progressive death metal legends Atheist and Death. And when combined with professionalism, a strong conceptual base, and a tireless touring load, De Profundis should have little problem rising up through the ranks, something that was top of mind when we grabbed guitarist Roman Subbotin for a chat...
Blistering.com: After you released A Bleak Reflection, you did quite a few live shows/touring. How did those go, and how critical were they in terms of laying the groundwork for album #3?
Roman Subbotin: Absolutely, we toured a hell of a lot for the A Bleak Reflection album. We played in over 20 countries and did three international tours across Europe and India. On the whole, the experience of playing across so many places and meeting many new people was great. Of course, some shows were disappointing - it can be quite frustrating to spend many hours travelling to a venue only to find out that the promoter has not done any promotion and no-one even knows that the show is on. I'm sure most touring band have been in the same situation, but the important thing for us to learn from such experiences. Most of the shows have been excellent, however, with the crowd reaction being very strong. Quite often we get people coming up to us saying "that was great - why haven't I heard about you before?" Hopefully more and more people are getting to hear about De Profundis now.
Touring really motivated us to write the new album in a way that would come across as well as possible played live on stage. Live shows are a great test for any new tracks, so we used this environment to test the new songs once we were happy with them to see how they translated on a live stage. We realized some of our earlier songs took too long to get to the "point,” so on the new album we made a conscious effort to make the song structures as concise as possible, and ruthlessly cut out any arrangements that we thought were not necessary to the songs.
Blistering.com: Music as complex and atmospheric as yours can get lost in translation in the live arena. How do think the band comes across, or are you still a work in progress on the live front?
Subbotin: In my opinion, De Profundis is at its best as a live act. For us it's always been more of a question as to how to capture this in the studio. As I said before, the songs are written with the live performance in mind, and the new tracks seem to be going down very well with the audiences. We've played to all sizes of crowds - from 3 to 30,000 - and the band always gives our all. For us it has always been more of a question how to capture the energy and atmosphere of our shows on record. I think we are getting better and better at this with each recording, but I still feel that we are a better live than studio band. We all love playing live - there's an amazing energy at our live shows. We have a really good chemistry now and the band really plays tight as a unit now.
Blistering.com: There’s this distinct air of professionalism in everything you do, from artwork, to production, all the way to band photos. As a band on a small independent label, describe all of the legwork that goes into making the band appear so professional.
Subbotin: It's not easy. First and foremost we do everything to a standard that we set for ourselves. It does not matter what anyone else thinks of what De Profundis does - as long as we are happy with it, then this is the only thing that matters. We all love creating music, and we are very passionate about what this band does. We try to work with like-minded people who also give it their all. We don't settle or compromise on the quality of anything that the band puts out. This can be very tough - financially but also time-consuming - but really it's only about creating something that we are proud of ourselves and working with the right people.
Blistering.com: A Bleak Reflection was rather impressive, but The Emptiness Within takes it to another level. Is that how you were feeling after wrapping up the album?
Subbotin: I think that's a fair comment. We strive to progress and improve with every album. Certainly the feeling in the band has been that we have improved as composers and as musicians and were able to capture this with the new songs. We purposefully tried to make the songs have more impact and more "hooks" - if the listener cannot remember any melodies after listening to the album, then what was the point of it? Of course, some things did not work out perfectly on this album. Without going into detail, I think it's fair to say all band members had to compromise. From a personal level, there are some things that I know we could have done better... but I'm happy enough with the final product and I'm sure we will do even better on the next record. After all, if you think you have made your perfect record and you can't do better - then it's better to retire and go out on a high. I wish some of these older bands would do the same as opposed to tarnishing their legacy with half-baked crap.
Blistering.com: What was the writing process like for album #3?
Subbotin: In a way, it was quite different to the previous albums, as we worked a lot in Shoi's (other guitarist) private teaching/recording studio. The whole band plugged in directly into a computer with multi-tracking program, using guitar processors and electronic drums. We recorded ideas at almost every rehearsal and took them away to work on individually between rehearsals. Because the ideas were captured on demos very early on, we were able to spend a lot of time and attention on arrangements. If you play in rehearsal studio at loud volumes, it can be easy to miss certain notes clashing or rhythms not working. Writing in a recording studio environment at quieter volumes, everything was very clear. As a result, we have been able to come up with some very cool arrangements.