Originally formed in 2006 by guitarist/vocalist Felipe Plaza in Chile's cultural heart, the coastal city of Valparaiso, Procession follow the path of tradition laid out by the masters Black Sabbath, Saint Vitus and Candlemass - without mercy, without compromise!
Receiving a glowing review in Germany's Rock Hard magazine, Procession's debut album »Destroyers Of The Faith« did not only take the doom metal scene by storm but also convinced parts of the metal mainstream. The band’s follow up record »To Reap Heavens Apart« was hailed as one of the best pure doom metal works since »Epicus Doomicus Metalicus«.
Main man Felipe Plaza has since relocated to Sweden. But according to him, this was not the principle reason why it took four long years for their third album »Doom Decimation« to be released: “One could say due to distance between everyone in the band, lack of time, inspiration ... but truth is this album came out somehow easier and clearer than any of the previous efforts. At some point music/concept/images just clicked and started flowing. Much of it I wrote on dead-hours on the road during all the travelling that I've been doing the last three years which made it much easier for me to be with my ideas and concepts and no other interruptions on some sort of obsessive/creative therapy. It has always worked that way in this band though, things just ‘happen’ and I'm glad they've done the way they did for »Doom Decimation«. It’s still the same line-up we've had since late 2011 playing on the albun, with me on guitar/vocal duties, Uno on drums, Jonas on guitar and Claudio (still living in Chile) on bass guitar.”
The new record was recorded in Chile, as Felipe explains: “I had this dream that was to record an album as much as old-fashioned as we could and see what we could get from it. That formula, total isolation and gathering up on the same place living as a band for a bit more than a month, worked pretty well to me on »To Reap...«. But since I didn't want to do the same album again, I had in mind taking things a bit further and I considered my and Claudio's land of origin, Chile, had the right elements to spice up a recording in the way many bands in the 80s did. To ‘live’ the album to its full experience 24/7. For a pessimist, dark record like this one it could only be ‘good’: the darkness of a country like Chile, with its abuses, uncertainties, dangers, temptations ... but also the ‘freedom’, since our regular lives were put on hold, just like almost every metal band did back in the day when they did their classic albums (plus you get a cool story with it!). I've heard or read about those stories and i needed to try that formula at a time when things are done the opposite ways and recording is somehow so ‘easy’. I needed the struggle and I was craving for it ... for an album that stands against the modern times, both conceptually and musically. So yeah, when I see in retrospective I'm glad the boys didn't hesitate and no, I don't think I even checked on studios in Europe at all. Plus I'm a bit tired of people calling Procession an ‘European’ band, being that the South American factor has been vital for its existence and development. An address means nothing, we ARE Procession from Chile.”
Sweden at the moment probably has the most (and best?) new metal bands on the planet. Being born in Chile and living in Stockholm, Felipe has both, an inside and an outside view... This is what he has to say: “Personally, I think that the concept of a ‘Swedish scene’ is a myth. They have many bands popping up all the time, all of great sound/musical quality, since playing music can be financed since school here. But I have seen the true concept of a ‘scene’ in Chile, in Colombia, in Peru, in Greece, in Germany and many other places. And they have one thing in common: unity. Bands do things together all the time, they speak of each other in interviews, they somehow ‘defend’ each other from the mainstream scene. In Sweden … well, I bet growing up with the possibility of becoming a full-time musician as a natural ‘given’ chance makes you overrate yourself too much. I mean, I stopped long ago, but have you read newer Swedish interviews? It's all about THEM, which can be a smart move to not lose the focus on your band … but ignoring the band next door and not talking about them, you won’t construct a scene like that. I think there's just no need or interest. Because you gotta see blood and sweat for that, not inflated names on the big magazines, where from the editor to the bands themselves, it is all about them, their egos and publicity. Times have changed so much and authenticity and hunger for originality are a bit lost up here, where you can be whoever-you-want, anytime … and the hunger? How can you be hungry if you're being fed all the time with opportunities? You see bands changing, morphing into something else all the time. Where's the compromise on that? There is of course exceptions … but unfortunately, the industry and the scene can't co-exist, because the industry will always dictate how the scene has to dress. Long story short … I am proud that Chile has probably the most fruitful, diverse and extreme metal scene in the world these days, I saw it at the shop, everytime I played bands like Force Of Darkness, Slaughtbath, Ripper, Hades Archer, Inquisicion (CL), Unnaussprechlichen Kulten, Communion, Ancient and many more, currently released by respectable labels all-over the globe, I always had someone coming to me asking what that band was called. I guess you can fool the ears, but hardly the heart!”
There is a growing tendency for some musicians nowadays to play in as many (different) bands/projects as possible. If you think of people like Alan Averill, Chris Black or Nergal ... How would you judge this development? I mean, isn’t it far better to put 100% effort into one band only? What would have happened for example, if Cronos had had a Hair Metal side project alongside Venom say back in 1983? The fans would have gone mad... Felipe reflects: “Mmm, that’s a hard one, since I'm not too aware of the ones you mention. I only know that Alan has Dread Sovereign and they do some killer doom stuff. I know Alan is a doom freak himself and still remember some late night nerd doom-talks on the last tour we did together. So I dunno, man ... I guess any musician can do whatever the fuck they want if they actually have a clue of what they're doing and the consequences of it? Consciousness is the key? I do, personally, prefer a low-profile even though I'm active most of the time, I think there is more power to that. And yeah … luckily Cronos was busier at-war-with-Satan back then... Aaaaaarrrrghhh...”
What does Felipe think about bands like Candlemass, playing live without Messiah (obviously) and without Leif. Candlemass without their two key members? Does that make any sense at all? Isn’t that like Maiden minus Bruce and Steve...? Felipe Plaza: “I've come to think that old bands that've done classic albums can do whatever they want and owe nothing to no-one, so to say. I mean, I personally ain't really a ‘fan-of-bands’ anymore, even less interested on what happens with 'em off stage. I am a fan of albums instead since they mean to me a specific time and place that just doesn’t belong to this dimension, if you know what I mean? The fan is only in control with the album, as you can go back to it whenever you want. That's what makes record-collecting so fucking cool. Albums are timeless, albums are certain, there ain’t no bullshit around ‘em, no song turning a Christian believer the morning after or another song saying something stupid on TV, you know? You can only trust the album, because the album ain't human … The album, the songs, the story … are out of this world! And humans walk constantly on the thin line of dissapointment if you start believing/worshipping humans, so skip the human factor and problem solved! I guess it’s up to the fan to decide what kind of fan to be. I personally won't miss any Candlemass concert I get the chance to see, because for me if there's something I do admire then it’s Lasses guitar skills, tone and performance. Janne's heavy pounding and that irregularly slow tempo-touch-swing so hard to achieve, Mappe's heavy riffing and overall laid back cool presence on stage … dunno man, to each its own, for me is still a great fucking chance to sing along fave timeless tunes performed by people that know what they're doing and who knows, they might be taking their ‘last’ chance to do it. I'd do the same! And come on, they still sound heavier than any occult-doom newcomer.”
Certain circles like to make people believe that nowadays it is not necessary for a new band to be signed to a record company. Does Felipe agree? I mean who is going to be more well-known: a totally D.I.Y. band organizing everything through the internet or a band being supported by a big label like Nuclear Blast? What’s a record company good for nowadays and what can bands take care of all on their own? “It depends on your goals as a band,” answers Felipe. “But true fact, bands can’t enter the ‘business’ thinking they'll be as big as their 80's underground heroes even if they copy everything right: look, instruments, sound, image, songs … labels just ain’t seeing bands the same way as they did before. The industry saw the decline of the whole metal thing in the past and many of them, survivors, had to go through the ugly-errative-nineties to get to the new dawn of old school metal in the mid 00's, so they won’t do the same mistake again of thinking ‘we can make this young talented group of cool looking guys as big as Madonna’, because metal ain’t and will never be, the next big thing. So there you go, labels these days are only paying for a new album on the market, almost in a desperate fast food chain way and renewing their roosters every 2-4 years, think of all the coming and going in the last 15 years: it’s not rocket science. And you can’t really say that the bands ‘sucked’ … but again, it's gotten so easy to record, release and tour that even if you ‘got it’, you won't get the special treatment. By the way, ain't that the same way the newer generations listen to music? In and out, while doing thousands other things on their screen, disposing and moving to the next one asap. And that's just a reflection of the consumist times being and how desperate we are for having ‘more’ before the end-of-times we're being promised everyday. So which label's gonna make a deal with a band on a long-term working plan all the way up when not even the people listening to the bands are taking that risk? That's just stupid and throwing your money down the drain … better to keep on producing 1 Euro cheeseburgers for the masses. People are just getting what they're asking for.
So yeah ... the only damn thing that'd make the difference is indeed how hard you work by your own hand and it's always been like that, industry or not. There's quite an inspiring documentary I watched the other day about Rat Skates and the beginnings of Overkill that everybody should watch.”
Let’s finally come to Procession’s new album proper. What is the album title »Doom Decimation« supposed to mean? Felipe Plaza: “It's an album that deals with the duality of man as creator/destructor from the moment of birth as well as the actual condition of the world, from the awakening of this man and the journey towards the doom of its own kind. A kind that seems to overrate themselves so much that every generation has insisted they're the privileged ones, the chosen ones. You know how many times your grand-grandparents might have heard of different sorts of apocalypses by now? Fear of nuclear power in the 60s, drugs in the 70s, machines in the 80s, the change of millenium in the 90s and so on so on ... I do believe humanity, as matter, never dissappears only transforms themselves and for that every generation sacrifices a share of its kind. So the worry ain't the present, the problem and main worry is what's to come, what are we sacrificing for on the current ‘decimation’ ... and history has proved that in the end it only quenches man's thirst for creation and destruction, because that is the nature of man.”
It’s probably an exaggeration to speak of »Doom Decimation« as the “difficult third album”. But will it be the deciding album for Procession? “This has been the easiest album to date,” smiles Felipe, “from music to lyrics and concepts, so yeah, it might be a deciding album, in a way that I can't wait for a music revelation like this one to hit us this way again. I mean the single ‘Lonely Are The Ways Of The Stranger’ was composed just a couple of months after recording »To Reap...« and kind of decided which way this new album was gonna go ... like having the soul of an entity but no face, nor arms ... and it was only two years after that other things started popping up ‘ok, we have something here!’ Being that we can't rehearse too often, might be the only way to come up with the next album: sit back, observe and wait for it to hit ya ... while never stopping the metal hunger. Since I’m constantly hungry for new metal music, and since I am a fan of my own music ... Does it make any sense? It will come and it can't be stopped!”
What were the biggest hurdles to overcome in writing, recording and releasing »Doom Decimation«? “Well it got a bit stressy when it came to catch up for studio rehearsals pre-recording,“ says Felipe. “And leadership skills were tested. It's pretty hard not being a studied musician myself, to try put into words things that in your brain and inner ear seem so clear, you just wanna move forward and I never had that patient teacher thing in me so ... and then on top of that, man, seemed like a curse but there were things happening all the time, we had to change apartment due to some plague, there were fires all over town (common in the Chilean summer) which made the air unbreathable most of the time as the skies turned red every dawn, people got sick, etc ... most of it is a bit blurry already but I'm proud we had group strength and a killer sound guy with experience with ... people, ha, ha. It's all pluses now to the sound and vision of »Doom Decimation«. I wouldn't change a thing.”
At least in parts »Doom Decimation« leans a bit more towards normal heavy metal than doom metal per se.Think of a song like “Admidst The Bowels Of Earth”, that’s a cool traditional heavy metal riff dominating this song, and some great guitar solos as well ...
“Yeah, it's something I've heard many times already from friends I've played the album for”, laughs Felipe. “I think heavy metal is and must be one of the strongest elements in doom so the fact that this album is ‘heavier’ in that way can only be good to me. Many songs I pictured them in the way that late 80s to mid-90s doom bands handled things and the least they were doing was getting stuck on one stringed riffs for a minute or more. I can't but think of bands like Solitude Aeturnus, Revelation, Orodruin or Unorthodox among others: they were struggling constantly for the song, with some killer heavy metal riffing all around but you could never say that the ‘doom’ feeling left the songs because of that. And that combo made some of the most original and entertaining doom metal music ever. So whenever someone says ’heavier’ for »Doom Decimation«, it’s a goal achieved. If someone'd say ‘happier’, then we'd have a real problem ha, ha...”
»Doom Decimation« begins with an instrumental called “The Warning”, which is pretty unusual ... “I do enjoy the open-the-gates feeling on albums since I see my music lineal, both on the song as much as the group of songs itself,” explains Felipe. “There has to be a starting point. With ‘The Warning’ I even think I considered making lyrics for it once but the riffing was a bit un-singable and that would've defeinitely sounded weird and un-doom ... the harmony or symetrical space that voice and riff need to leave for each other was missing. So it was easier to come up with new riffs developing from ‘The Warning’ and that's how ‘When Doomsday Has Come’ was born, they're strongly connected with each other.”
To be honest, most vocalists of modern doom metal bands are pretty interchangeable but Procession’s vocals are quite easily identifiable ... how comes? “I guess I never tried to sing like anyone else?,” states Felipe. “I started because iI needed vocals for my songs and didn’t have the patience to scout around for a singer ... so I guess that ‘need’ makes me sing with a sense of unawereness and naturality. Meaning my vocals are pretty less based on technique and much founded on the way I speak and breathe and that's just unique for each person.”
“As They Reached The Womb” is a bit of a doom banger, isn’t it? That’s the kind of song where Messiah Marcolin stood on stage and announced to the fans “let’s do some doom dancing”... it’s a great number! Maybe the catchiest on the entire album? “Yeah, I agree, a total doom-banger!,” confirms Felipe. “Maybe we should give Messiah a call and bring him along as doom-dance-interlude roadie? That'd be cool, ha, ha. This was the only song composed as a ‘band’ at the rehearsal room for »Doom Decimation«. I guess you can hear a bit of that jam feeling in the quite obscure instrumental middle section, so yeah, very proud of that one! But my personal faves (today at least) are definitely ‘When Doomsday Has Come’, ‘Amidst The Bowels Of Earth’ and ‘One By One They Died’, those will be the bomb to play live on next's November tour with Italian doom masters Epitaph. Heads will roll slowly but heavily!”