OBSIDIAN TIDE: "About the more exotic instruments: we just felt like the music needed it"
Next up at "Prog around the World", we visit progmetal band OBSIDIAN TIDE from Tel Aviv. The trio caught my attention in 2019 with their impressive debut album "Pillars of Creation", and soon became an important part of my musical journey.
I had the great pleasure to chat with them about the band's development, their varied backgrounds, the beautiful cover artwork, and more:
Hey, thanks for taking the time to answer my questions today. Could you please introduce yourself to our readers?
Hi, thanks for having us! We are OBSIDIAN TIDE from Israel, and make progressive / death / post metal music. On guitars and clean vocals is Oz Avneya, on bass and harsh vocals Shachar Bieber, and on drums Erez Nadler.
Let’s start with a little time trip. When and how did you guys get together?
It was back in 2012 when Oz had several song structures (which later turned into the "Debris" EP), that he cooked for a while and felt it was time to take it all forward. This led him to find Erez in an online forum. After having practiced the material as a duo for a few months, Oz spoke to Shachar about the band, and also played some of the material for him when he came in for a visit. Shachar was immediately interested, and played some bass lines along (on a classical guitar haha!), so he joined them for a rehearsal soon afterwards, and that was it...
“Obsidian Tide” sounds mysterious. How did you come up with this name, and is there a deeper meaning behind it?
One day we locked ourselves in Shachar’s place and promised ourselves not to go out without having a name for the band. During the time we spent there, we looked for the name “leads” through some games we like, books, music lyrics, songs titles... and eventually, OBSIDIAN TIDE was the chosen combination. The name also fits well with the concept of "Debris", that revolves around a world and its inhabitants, who are on the verge of annihilation.
In 2019 you released "Pillars of Creation", your first full-length album. The cover artwork by Dixon Jong is stunning. What can you tell us about its origins, and how does it reflect the concept of the album?
After having looked through many artists’ portfolios, we eventually found our favorite - Dixon. We sent him a description of what we wanted to see, and he added some of his own ideas to create this great piece of art.
We thought about the cover for a long time. We wanted the art to reflect something from the album’s story, and settled on a moment from the title track, where something great is revealed for the main character, as if the sky is opening up in front of him. You can see pillars in the distance, which represent the more ethereal pillars of creation. The small crown near the protagonist is a nod to "King of a New Realm", but also represents the fact that the man is giving up everything he knows for a new journey, leaving his past behind.
What was the first pillar during the album’s creation process: the concept or the music? And could you dive a bit into the story-line with us, please?
The first pillar was the music. We always start with the music, it makes things easier and feels more natural. The writing for it began right after the release of the "Debris" EP in 2015. We already had two songs ("King of a New Realm" and "Portent of Betrayal") that we played live regularly. From there, we continued working on the structures of the other tracks, modifying them and playing them in rehearsals.
Story-wise "Pillars of Creation" is a concept album, which gives insights into a man's journey, who learns about truths and the state of things while his journey progresses. Some of the songs revolve around themes you can find in fantasy books, such as "The Kingkiller Chronicle", while in others they are more contemporary and deal with topics such as addiction or longing. The first and final tracks wrap the whole thing into one cohesive story: the first song shows the beginning of the character’s real journey, and the last one reveals his reflections and ultimate reaction on everything he’s been through.
Musically, you wander between the genres, mix up different styles: the darkness of melodeath with the incredible variety of progmetal, harsh and clean vocals, but also some classical instruments like flute, violin, or even a saxophone can be heard. Where does this come from, what are your main influences?
Oz: Music-wise, I tend to be all over the place and find inspiration in lots of metal acts, as well as post rock, prog rock, folk, and even electronic artists. Aside from music, what inspires me a lot as well are non-musical mediums, such as human emotions, places I visit, people, movies I watch (cinema in general), good food, and also personal issues / incidents I encounter in life.
Shachar: Musically I like both, old and new - my favorite bands are probably Led Zeppelin and Opeth. I'm into prog rock acts like King Crimson and Rush, but also contemporary bands like Black Crown Initiate. About the more exotic instruments: we just felt like the music needed it - that’s what it’s all about. Other than music, I’m really inspired by good stories like "The Kingkiller Chronicle", and beautiful views - Yellowstone and Scotland come to mind.
Erez: Personally I listen to a lot of jazz and indie stuff, like Louis Cole, Takuya Kuroda, Hiatus Kaiyote, Men I Trust - just to name a few. In every band, you have different people with different ideas and tastes. What's great about prog is the opportunity to be creative and mix them up into one song, and I think every genre needs this.
That's an interesting background indeed, and you manage to create your own, unique sound out of these varied influences. Could you briefly describe your writing process, please?
When it comes to the writing process, what usually happens is that either Oz or Shachar bring in an idea – anything from a guitar riff / intro to an entire song structure, and then, after reviewing them at home, we go over and develop it in the studio. This can get really intense sometimes... we could argue about a single note / chords progression for half an hour or so!
Oh, I see. But it's worth it :-) Do you have a favorite song on “Pillars of Creation”? And which one is your highlight to play as a band?
Oz: It's extremely hard for me to pick only one. However, I'd say my favorite tracks (yupp, can’t give you just one after all, haha) are "Pillars of Creation" & "Magnanimous". When playing live, for me "The Harbinger and the Millennial Vengeance" is the one.
Shachar: I really like long epics, so I guess my favorite would be "Magnanimous". When playing live though, it's "The Harbinger and the Millennial Vengeance" for me because we improvise the ending everytime - we do it and it’s really fun.
Erez: “Hiraeth” is my live favorite, because I get to explore the dynamics in a room. I can play very loud, and finish the song softly. On the album I like “Magnanimous” the most - it's the last song we wrote for it - and also “King of a New Realm”, which is probably the simplest one we play. The piano part is really cool, and there is some weird stuff happening (walking in the woods between piano parts).
Recently, you set up a crowdfunding campaign to release “Pillars of Creation” on vinyl. It ended successfully, so this will happen. How was this experience for you (also regarding of being an independent artist)?
Starting a crowdfunding campaign is a bit stressful, but to see all the support we got was really awesome. It was the best option for us, especially because we are independent. We don't have the money of a label that can make long term investments, and we are really excited it was a success!
All names of our backers will be written on the vinyl cover, and to interact with our fans like this was a very personal experience. We got the test press and it sounds awesome, the plant will start production really soon!
That's awesome, looking forward to this beauty :-) Let’s talk about OBSIDIAN TIDE live: What was the most memorable concert experience for you so far?
Oz: We had some very nice moments on stage since we started to perform back in 2014. For me though, the most memorable concert was one we did back in 2016 in a city called Haifa, up North. It was alongside our friends in Winterhorde, and a couple of other local acts. I remember the reactions and energies from the audience were very high that night, the place was packed during our set and there was something super special that felt awesome - that's a good memory! A “less convenient” one would be a gig we had in Tel Aviv, where the amp I was playing literally cracked due some sort of an electric problem, which led to playing the entire set on clean tones only... We also had to cut 2 songs or so out of our setlist that night, in vain!
Shachar: We had a lot of good concerts (our last three before covid all had an attendance of over 100, which is crazy in the local scene!), but the one I would call the most memorable was not a very good one, to say the least. It was in a really tiny venue, and we suspect it was just the living room of a couple of people who lived in the top floor, because the sink in the restroom (which had no light, by the way) had a couple of toothbrushes on it, and the fridge where they stored the beer also had stuff like milk and butter in it. The stage was really rickety, I remember we were afraid it would break below us, so we tried not to make any sudden movements while playing. It was July, so it was very hot (over 30 degrees), and there was no air conditioning! Instead, there was one medium-sized fan (like one you’d use at home) in the whole venue that we had to share with the crowd, and they opened the back wall of the stage - so behind the drums, there was a large “window” to the street (with cars going through the entire time), which Erez could have easily fallen out of!
Erez: Years ago we did a show in a tiny place called "The Basement", I broke a drumstick, so I threw it to the crowd (thinking I am a rockstar). I remember hitting someone with the stick, he was really mad. Sorry bro.
That's some crazy stories! How would you describe your local rock/metal scene in general? And did you notice changes over the past years?
The Israeli metal scene is absolutely packed! There are probably more bands than listeners, so most of the time you’re just performing in front of other musicians. There are a lot of great bands here, and when there isn’t a pandemic around, there are at least a couple of shows every week, and sometimes there’s even double booking - two different metal shows only a couple of kilometers apart! The scene is still lacking in the attendance aspect though, it’s very hard to get people out of their houses, sometimes even for international acts!
In the past years, there's been a great uprising in the number of prog bands in the scene, but it caused a weird phenomenon - many bands who don’t play prog started to brand themselves as such because they saw that there was an above-average attendance at these shows. That’s just misleading!
How did you make it through the pandemic so far? And what impact had the restrictions on you as a band?
The past year was challenging for us and totally affected our rhythm when it comes to finalizing material and such. We had some long periods of lockdowns over here, and every time we finally had some sort of "a breather", it was frustrating to slow things down again due to new restrictions. However, we tried to maintain our focus and effort around additional endeavors, such as the "Pillars of Creation" vinyl campaign. We did some bonus recordings for it, and also a live stream cameo for "Magic the Gathering", so it wasn't all dull and grim after all.
What can you tell us about your future plans?
We have album number 2 almost all written out, and we are currently finalizing what would be the last song on it. So after this, we’ll get into the pre-production, recording and all this stuff.
Touring is still somewhat impossible unfortunately (even though we have a gig booked for October 2021 in the Netherlands’ ProgPower festival - FINGERS CROSSED! haha), but this is definitely a thing we would like to do once things will get better with the pandemic. We can’t wait to get on the road and take our music overseas!
Great news! Curious to hear what you're working on. Do you have any further thoughts you'd like to share?
Yes, get vaccinated for this covid thing, so we can come and play for you soon! The three of us are all vaccinated.
Come and chat with us on our Instagram & Facebook page :-)
Thanks again for your time. All the best for you and your musical plans! \m/