1.For those that have never heard of you before, can you tell us a little bit about the band?
Crystal Coffin began in 2017 after two Vancouver bands, Destroy All and Caskets, ended. The three of us that comprise Crystal Coffin, Aron Shute, Lenkyn Ostapovich, and Rob Poirier, share a love for Wetton-era King Crimson, second wave Black Metal, and the haunting synth work of Fabio Frizzi/Italian horror cinema and wanted to see what could come from this new combination. The group began practicing and writing out of extended jams and over the next 2.5 years would write music that would end up on a 5-song demo and then later fully form our debut release, The Transformation Room, in March 2020. The debut album's content puzzled together some of the eastern European atrocities that led into the Second World War while creating its own mythology whereby a level of earthly suffering readies its players for the realm of the infinite. In late Spring 2020, with the global pandemic taking full grip soon after the release of the our first album, much of the follow-up was written during multiple lockdowns in western Canada and used the content from the first album, both musically and lyrically, as a jumping off point for inspiration. The Starway Eternal again paints a picture of suffering but this time one rooted in science fiction with the historical elements of the Reactor 4 meltdown of Chernobyl in 1986 acting as a backdrop. Through the black-inspired playing and doom-laden riffs, we always try to maintain an element of melody, intensity, and approachability in our brand of playing.
2.In October you have a new album coming out, musically how does it differ from your previous full length and demo?
The Starway Eternal shows a band gaining confidence. There is a heightened sense of confidence in the vocal delivery, in the dense layers of songwriting, and in the focus of the storytelling. By the time we had completed recording our first album, we had a pretty good sense of which tracks were working more naturally within a developing style versus others that maybe didn't feel so much like ourselves. The songwriting for the second album happened a lot quicker and, because of that, there is probably a better sense of compatibility between the tracks. The music itself is more traditionally black and uptempo from beginning to end with only a few spots here and there for doom breaks or interludes. We've also added many more layers of synth but have tried to keep their placements logical rather than to overwhelm the listen with them. We feel that it's a much more intense listen than the first album for sure.
3.The lyrics on the new album cover the historical realities of the Chernobyl power plant meltdown of 1986, can you tell us a little bit more about your interest in this topic?
I think that as a group we've always appreciated ambitious albums from artists that try to tell a story with their music and lyrics and so we've continually tried to pick something in world history from over the past 100-150 years to tether the themes that we explore. With the first album, it was the forced famine (Holodomor) during the 1930s in the Soviet Union that allowed us to combine images, descriptions, and words about a finite period in time to create a poetry that deals with our own individual mortality and placement within a supposed infinite. A lyric such as "...awake in grave, remember life, I am alone and dark where once was light." can resonate with nearly everyone as it's imbued with a darkness, sadness, weight, and regret that we all feel from time-to-time and conjures an image of a body beyond the physical realm sitting moments after that burial still uncertain of what to do with their [now infinite] existence. Regarding the lyrics on The Starway Eternal, we purposefully wanted to write a more aggressive and unforgiving album from beginning to end. Given our respective ages, we actually all lived through the tragic news of the power plant meltdown in Spring 1986 and had the horrific and confusing images burned into our minds from the TV screens. To me, there is a symbolism that can be pulled from such a catastrophe and applied to individuals: there is a fine line that comes with our ambitions that can work in our favor or ruin us, be it based in addiction, obsession, personal health, finances, war, or disaster, and sometimes the greatest of intentions end up opposite to where your ideals were pushing you to initially. We have a lineage to the people in Eastern Europe/Ukraine and given their decades of political and human struggles they're an example of having an undying spirit in times of unjustified despair. So we pushed these ideas and formed a story that we as fans of science fiction and horror genres would enjoy ourselves and created a central character who, while working at the power plant in Pripyat, Ukraine discovers a portalway into the hidden cosmos. With such an opportunity she begins a search for gods and/or angels - metaphysical beings that might help provide a sense of meaning to our world here below the mythological heavens - beyond time and space. During one such moment in space though, the portalway back to earth is closed during Reactor 4's meltdown and so the only path back to earth is to fall through the hellfire atmosphere. We've taken various historical elements - the nuclear program in Soviet Russia, the story of Vladimir Komarov who tragically burned during re-entry in 1967, the first female cosmonaut Valentina Tereshkova, the meltdown on April 26th, 1986 - and have posited that through a consistent earthly struggle a higher form of meaning can be ascertained.
4.The band has also mentioned an interest in history, science fiction and horror, what influence does this have on the musical style that you play?
Those influences come through via the layers of synths typically which help provide an atmosphere. We've had some references to Hawkwind and so that's a perfect example of something we're striving for: a space sound that is heavy, disorienting, declarative and beautiful! During parts of the song, Console of Horror, there is a balalaika that be heard, so that points to the region and histories that we're leveraging in the aforementioned themes and a lot of the tones used during the synth parts are taken from Fabbio Frizzi or Goblin pieces since those bodies of work have had such a lingering impact on us, both sonically and visually!
5.What is the meaning and inspiration behind the name 'Crystal Coffin'?
We actually started this band with the name 'Butchers' for a while. It was only later during the preparation for recording The Transformation Room that we changed our name. A lyric in our first single from that album, As We Pass, contains "for years I've used crystal coffins to send shepherds away...". Within the context of that song, it's an idea that there remains a visibility within death, but as far as becoming a band name we just thought it had a visual appeal to it along with an alliterative quality that felt like something timeless and curious.
6.Can you tell us a little bit more about the artwork that is presented on the new album cover?
The visual nature of this band is important for all of us and so we want to continually build a family of materials that work together in a larger sense while still representing an immediate need for each piece in its moment. I provide all of the illustrative and visual/layout work for Crystal Coffin and so it's relatively easy for us three to chat together and come up with a shortlist of ideas to iterate upon and execute. If you're familiar with our first LP's cover, it's easy to see the shared style of The Starway Eternal's cover. Previously, subjects were being sent down into the earth but now we now have a subject rising into the cosmos; it's a similar idea of "escape" from our world. This passageway is moreso a symbol than an actual reality being committed then and there in the room, but thankfully such lofty visuals have a tendency to lend themselves to such spacey themes.
7.On a worldwide level how has the reaction been to your music by fans of black metal?
We've been thrilled with the international reach of our first release and with pre-orders/pre-saves for The Starway Eternal so far! I suppose you never know where your music will resonate and so it's been hugely rewarding to have fans develop across Europe, South America, and throughout the US and Canada. The amount of LPs we've had to ship overseas to places in Germany, Denmark, and The Netherlands has been great! We believe that the music represented in the second release is stronger than on the first so hopefully that support will continue to spread.
8.What is going on with 'Koma' these days, which also shares a couple of the same band members?
Koma is currently on hiatus as one of the keys in that group, Kevin Grindon, had to temporarily relocate. They have a really impressive following due to their intense live shows over the years so hopefully once all the guys find themselves together in the same city a similar creative energy can continue!
9.Where do you see the band heading into musically during the future?
Our first two albums treaded upon some pretty lofty images and themes and tried, for better or for worse, to execute those ideas into a seamless thematic tracklisting. These days, when we get together to rehearse and write we are trying to write the best songs we can with less concern for anything beyond that. I expect that over the next 12 months Crystal Coffin will continue to release new music with a few back-to-back EPs. Musically, we will continue to pull the melody out of the aggressive, straightforward black metal stylings and continue to experiment with multiple vocals and layered synths. Also, it's long been a goal to incorporate further percussive elements into our music and soundscapes.
10.What are some of the bands or musical styles that have had an influence on your music and also what are you listening to nowadays?
The three of us share a love for King Crimson's numerous iterations, for the aggressive prog/space sounds of Hawkwind, Jean-Luc Ponty, Gong, Magma, and Amon Duul II, and memorable horror soundtracks from the 1970s and 80s. This summer we've enjoyed 'Cascades' by Vancouver brethren Ulvik which is an incredible and emotive listen from beginning to end and recently have had the latest from Wolves In The Throne Room and Full Of Hell on repeat.
11.Before we wrap up this interview, do you have any final words or thoughts?
We just want to thank everyone, both near and far, who has supported us during such a rough year and a half and hope for everyone's health and safety from here on!