Raventale is an Ukranian one man project commanded by an artist that goes by the name of Astaroth Merc. His amazing works are a perfect fusion of black and doom metal which result in awesome masterpieces that will delight listeners around the globe, especially now that he finally managed to find the members to have a full line-up. Raventale have caught Pest’s attention so we thought it would be interesting to get Astaroth Merc’s intake on some topics.

Raventale is a one man project. Why did you decide to embark on such a journey all alone? 
As a sole member of the project I can totally overlook the whole process – from the composition of songs and till the booklet design and the release itself. So in such a way I can control my creation. 

Why Raventale? What kind of tales do you explore?
The title Raventale was all about the structure and mood of the first album. Autumn forest, lonesome raven and its croaking – that’s all one can here in backwoods. Later I decided not to repeat the topic as the concept of net albums, but the title stayed.

Though you are all alone, you have been quite active over these past years. Where do you draw all this inspiration from?
Inspiration’s everywhere; one just needs to understand it. You inhale it every second. I don’t stuff my brain with various social trash, politics, religion… I take only that energy flows and information, which I need, so maybe that’s why my inner space for the inspiration is quite big. 

Raventale don’t seem to have consensus among fans because the project is considered to be atmospheric black metal and doom metal as well. In your opinion, what is the best way to define Raventale’s sound?
I never intended to refer to some particular genre. When looking through the whole discography, one can see influence of many styles, inspirations and moods. So it’s difficult to label Raventale with some strict style. In case I need to do it, I mostly define my music as Atmospheric Blackened Metal, and the latter album just stresses upon it. 

"Transcendence” was reviewed in some places with the highest score possible. How does that make you feel?
I’m totally satisfied with the release and happy with the impression it made on people. Nothing to add…

Most of your album covers have autumnal colors like light brown and orange. In fact, on the "Bringer Of Heartsore” artwork you incorporated the works of Russian painters Aivazovsky and Levitan. Are you a fan of their works? Why do you use these colors?
These paintings were the best match to the albums mood. Autumn hues, sunset… There are also verses by A. Blok used as lyrics for the songs. All these together completed the atmosphere of the passed century and colors of past. So I think it’s quite untypical. But to understand it totally one should know Russian language – all songs are in Russian. 

What are your main musical influences? How big is their influence in your sound?
I listen to lots of music, not only metal styles. Sometimes it’s Ambient, EBM, old Hard Rock, and Black Metal. I stay with music "on” 24 hours per day and of course it influences what I make. Thus, in different albums of Raventale one can feel the influence of some bands or some styles. On early albums I can see more of doom metal, the last one is likely to have a slightly hypnotic atmosphere of Wolves In The Throne Room. I’m not sheer constancy – in music as well. 

Are you currently exploring any new ideas/concepts for Raventale?
Nowadays I’m making a big compilation – that will be totally rerecorded early songs. The reason mostly refers to technical option I didn’t have in those times. But now I want that some of the old songs sound in their full swing. Thus it will be a really interesting compilation, not just "best of”.

The fact that Raventale became so "popular” was key for you to start writing in English instead of your native tongue. How does the writing process happen now? 
Switching to English language made my music more open for the people abroad. That’s just my wish. The fifth album is an exception. All further works will be done in English. 

You are a confident musician that doesn’t trust his vocal skills which demands that you find a vocalist each time you record a new album. How does this search happen? Do you know beforehand the type of vocalist you want or do you "discover” it as time passes?
I know my abilities well and think that there are things I’d better ask doing someone. This refers to vocals in particular. Different people recorded vocals for all the albums and I intend to work with session vocalists in future. I start searching when all the music is ready and recorded. 

Is there a vocalist in particular that you would like to use in one of your upcoming albums?
I don’t think that far and wouldn’t like to give any hints about it. I try to do first and then tell. Nowadays the recording’s in progress and soon there will be news about it. All in its time. 

You use the nickname Astaroth Merc and, these days, many black metal bands have decided to drop them. What’s the meaning behind your nick? Why do you hide your real self behind such an entity?
I don’t hide myself – I just show that part I think I need to show. If give a name to some project, I don’t’ title it "Project of citizen X, who lives in city X…”.. so why the use of the pseudonym provokes so many questions? If you want, you can call it my personal world, where I give the names to everything. I don’t refuse my name – but I can choose one appropriate for me, because I have the ability of thinking and selecting. There is no desire to give myself some artificial mysteriousness – those are normal things for those who have reason and understanding of life. 

Though you’ve been alone over the years, you seem to be interested in gathering a full line-up. Have you started searching for the right musicians already? How’s it going? 
Well, you’re a bit late with the question. I have band member since autumn of 2012 and we had first-eve live show in Kiev. They’re amazing guys and Raventale’s waiting for the next gigs to play.

Why are you now interested that Raventale is a full band? Is it to play live and all that stuff? Do you believe it is important to spread your message?
There was an interest in having a live band since 2007-2008. I didn’t have an opportunity to find all musicians I needed then – I mean not only technically skilled, but also those who will understand the music. Ordinary musician is a mechanism, but one who understands what he or she plays is totally different thing. Such people I managed to find now. 

It seems your parents supported your creative growth and your devotion to music. Do you think things might be any different if they had reacted in any other way?
My parents always supported my interests. I’m grateful that in my childhood there was no despotism in their parenthood so that I could grow up as a complete personality, but not as a mother-dependent student. My parents divorced when I was 12-14, I don’t remember clearly. I think this helped me to become stronger and more all-sufficient. I had nearly full freedom of choice and that’s due to music that I didn’t choose another path. 

How’s the metal scene in Ukraine? Is it easy having access to metal cds/merchandise and concerts? 
We don’t have some European top-level festivals but the live gigs of local bands and also A-list world stars take place regularly. Definitely a lot can be said about our local people mentality, but I wouldn’t like to speculate upon this topic. Personally I regard our situation not as hopeless, but demanding more European rethinking. 

Astaroth Merc, many thanks for answering this interview. All the best for Raventale and that your objectives come true soon. Cheers!
Thank you for interview, stay tuned for the news of Raventale – they are quite soon to follow! 

Interviewed by Sónia Fonseca
Answers by Astaroth Merc

March 2013

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