Dirge | Interview With Stéphane L.

French post-metal group Dirge have recently released an EP titled “Alma | Baltica”, which sees the band moving away from the monolithic heaviness of their early works to explore more ambient and atmospheric sounds. Yet as guitarist Stéphane L. explains in the following interview, “Alma | Baltica” is just an experimental release and their forthcoming new album planned for later this year will see the band going back to their usual heavy and riff-based post-metal.

Your previous album represented what many consider a gem of “post-metal” music, the new release Alma | Baltica though is very atmospheric and built on massive and ambient soundscapes. What inspired that change? Was there a conscious effort to break away from genre standards?

‘Before we go any further, and since there seems to be some confusion about the real nature of Alma | Baltica, you have to know that this is a totally “off” project. This means that, while still being Dirge's music, A | B represents more a creative break in our career, something like an experimental project (full of ideas and themes that wouldn't really fit in a more regular album), but in no way should be seen as a totally new artistic path. Even though we strive hard with each of our albums to remain as creative and audacious as possible, the purpose with Alma | Baltica was to dig further certain atmospheres and structures, trying another kind of liberty. But this EP cannot be considered as an album. So there was no real effort to break anything from any genre...’

So you could say “Alma | Baltica” is more an experimental release, not exactly the direction you want to explore in the future?

‘We've just finished the recordings of our brand new “real” album and I can tell you it has very few formal connections with Alma | Baltica. We have spent something like two years writing all the new materials, but this creative period was less about experimenting atmospheres and sounds than it was about working on how to reinvent what Dirge is all about in its rock structured formula.’

...Even though we strive hard with each of our albums to remain as creative and audacious as possible, the purpose with Alma | Baltica was to dig further certain atmospheres and structures, trying another kind of liberty...

Tell us a bit more about Alma | Baltica. What was the writing and recording process like for this release, the end result can be attributed to a team effort or did any member take the role of principal songwriter?

‘I'd say it was pretty much a team effort but mostly driven by Marc and myself. It was quite different from the writing process on our “regular” albums and there was a lot of experimentation etc, so the primitive matter came as a personal effort. Then it turned into a collective work at the very end of the process.’

How would you describe the overall mood of the album?

‘Floating and roving, wide open spaces and tiny cells, textured dreams and foggy reality, all of these ideas, feelings infused this EP.’

Your music’s very atmospheric. Do you feel like there's an ideal setting for people to listen to it?

‘I guess that the best setting for properly dive into A | B is the same as for all demanding and immersive music: being emotionally “available”. A good headphone is cool too. And vinyl even better!’

When you’re performing live shows, how does the atmosphere of the music translate? Are there things you can and can’t do in a live setting?

‘The five tracks from Alma | Baltic haven't been created with a view of a live execution so I can't tell. These works were designed to be frozen on a recording, which is another big difference with our albums, where songs continue their existence on stage. But to answer your question about the rendition of atmospheres in concerts, let's say it flows naturally from the songs themselves and from the DNA of our own sound. This is the combination of both that allow us to recreate the studio work on stage but in a more visceral, wild and vivid way (recreating the exact same copy of our records would be pointless). Assuming, of course, that no technical problems interact and parasite the whole thing.’

If you had to pick one song from your discography to introduce your band to a new listener, which song would it be?

‘It is a hard question because an obvious lack of objectivity and perspectives... But if I had to introduce Dirge's old school work (well, not the first era but let's say the 2000's albums), I would choose a track like “Epicentre” from Wings Of Lead Over Dormant Seas (2007); it represents the more experimental, organic, progressive and extreme aspect of our music (very long and crushing pieces, sonic corrosion, blighty atmospheres...). And concerning the last albums, I'd pick “Hyperion Under Glass” or “Morphée Rouge” for the more melodic, ethereal and melancholic curves that embodies the most our music today.’

Finally, what’s next for Dirge?

‘As I told you earlier, our seventh album will be released (surely on Debemur Morti again) after this summer. We're also working on a French/Spanish tour for September/October together with fellow Throane and Ovtrenoir.’

More info at: https://www.facebook.com/DIRGE.fr