OMNEROD: "Lyrically, Omnerod has always been about expressing very personal and real emotions or issues through metaphors of varying opacity"
On our over two years’ “Prog Around the World” journey, we haven’t had the chance to stop in Belgium yet, but the 3rd album of Brussels based progressive death metal band OMNEROD offered the perfect opportunity to change this. "The Amensal Rise" will be out on May 12th, and guitarist / singer Romain told me more about its lyrical concept, the stunning artwork, and their musical background.
It's my great pleasure to share our chat with you, welcome to dive in:
Hey, thanks for making time to answer my questions. How are you today?
Hi! Thank you for your interest in what we are and what we do.
I'm fine, thanks. There’s a lot going on these days, and trying to find balance between very time-consuming day jobs and music creation and promotion seems to be the ultimate struggle of most independent / underground bands and musicians! But it's a lazy Saturday over here today, so I’m not complaining too much :-)
Nice! So I won't keep you busy for too long ;-) Could you please introduce yourself and OMNEROD to our readers?
OMNEROD is composed of four members: Pablo Schwilden Diaz (drums and, occasionally, keyboards / synths), André Six (bass), Anthony Deneyer (on guitar and vocals), and myself, Romain Jeuniaux (also singing and on guitar). The band was formed back in 2009 and is based in Belgium, though we're very much internationally sourced (and always have been, even in previous line-up iterations).
What we do is probably best described as Progressive Death Metal, based on the fact that our songs are pretty long, usually don’t follow typical songwriting structures or conventions, and feel (hopefully) pretty dynamic overall. I’m sure our listeners would have a lot more perspective on what genre or sub-genre we fit in best than ourselves, though!
Haha, maybe - but I'd say this sums it up pretty well. You’re set to release your third album on May 12th. How do you feel about it, and how was the reception so far on the first singles?
Releasing a new album is always a very ambiguous process, emotionally. Having listened to the music in all its various forms over and over throughout the last couple of years, it’s hard not to get sick of it eventually. However, everyone in the band is immensely proud of how it turned out, and we’re super excited for "The Amensal Rise" to be released and for everyone to hear it.
Since the inception of the album and because of how dense and complex it is, it was very clear that making all of this come to life would be a very big undertaking, musically, technically, and logistically. We worked very hard for the end result to be as close as possible to the artistic vision we had in mind, and we’re glad it’s out of our systems now. By now some of us feel like never ever playing music again, but that’s the usual post-album cooldown period :-)
Reading and hearing our listeners’ reactions on the new songs is always very thrilling, and so far the feedback has been nothing but humbling and heart-warming. Hopefully, the rest of the album will elicit similar reactions!
It surely will... Let’s take a look at the stunning cover artwork: What can you tell us about its origins, and how does it reflect the album thematically?
The album cover was created by Bramhastra, an artist who I had been following online for a couple of years by the time I contacted him. I’ve always been fond of using surreal elements in minimalistic and somber contexts, as well as the clever use of scales and proportions to induce emotions in anyone looking at the artwork (such as confusion regarding the relative size of some elements, or sheer anxiety provoked by massive objects or beings). I think Bramhastra handles both of those things very well, and it was therefore an ideal match for what I had in mind.
Thematically, the artwork is very much in line with the music, as it represents a somewhat virtuous and naive element being obstructed and harmed by an external force, which is a very important theme of this album. I would say it’s also pretty fitting tonally, as I feel like it’s a very melancholic looking artwork, just like our music is, but also quite ambiguous and abstract in terms of motion and intention, almost suspended in time.
I had this visual concept in mind for quite some time. The only part of it which wasn’t always clear to me was how this surreal creature was supposed to look, and I think Bramhastra did a fantastic job in crafting a striking yet elegant figure.
Absolutely! Could you dive a bit into the record’s concept with us, please?
Lyrically, OMNEROD has always been about expressing very personal and real emotions or issues through metaphors of varying opacity. It’s probably a bit early for me to expand with perspective on what the album is truly all about, but it was the externalization of a challenging period of my life, mentally.
The album follows a very deliberate direction and story. In that regard, it is focused on the process of facing hostile emotions and situations, and dealing with them in a very chaotic way by completely shutting off to the world. This is done through a cathartic, comforting and admittedly pretty nihilistic realization that our actions and feelings have little to no significance or influence in the grand scheme of things, which obviously leads to a certain loss of empathy and humanity.
Overall, I feel like the lyrics are a bit more visceral and intentional than what we may have done in the past, and closer to the actual message they’re meant to convey, relying less on analogies (thus more personal as well).
Your music is epic yet detailed, varied but in an incredible flow, coming along with serious musicianship and a good pinch of craziness in the song-writing, which is a mesmerizing mix for me :-) What is your musical background, and where do you draw your inspiration from?
Thank you very much for those kind words!
Musically, I think we all benefit from having very diverse tastes, individually but also collectively. Of course we find very strong influences in the metal genre, notably on the proggier side of things. Most of us do listen to progressive music in one way or another, and of varying degrees of “progressiveness” and musical experimentation.
However, everyone in the band listens to a lot of very different genres and styles of music. For instance, Pablo listens to a lot of classical music as well as Japanese music (made by film or video game composers, J-Pop bands, etc). André listens to a fair amount of pop and rap, and also has more of a punkish background. Anthony enjoys more vintage and classic rock and prog bands, as well as some more “direct” metal influences.
I myself listen to a lot of avant-garde music (metal or not), as well as a fair amount of jazz and electronic music. In addition to that, I think I identify a lot with bands that showcase a lot of dynamics and versatility in tone, specifically. To name a few, acts such as Devin Townsend, Mr. Bungle, Between the Buried and me or The Dear Hunter handle this very well in my opinion. Adding levity or cynicism in some sections of a song or album adds a lot more gravity to the more somber and emotional passages. They’re also very strong coping and defense mechanisms for me as a person so it’s probably only natural that it comes through in the music we write.
That's a great mix indeed! Could you briefly describe your writing and recording process, please?
The writing approach is a bit different for every release we’ve put out, but most of the times I work on my own on the foundations of each song, including its final structure, guitar parts, arrangements and vocal lines. I also write some ideas for bass and drum parts, which are then discussed with André and Pablo respectively, who then bring a lot of their personality, perspective and creative input to the table by reworking those parts with me. Similarly, the harsh vocal lines are discussed with Anthony (who handles those parts on the record), and he usually has a lot of very relevant feedback about the phrasing and intention behind those lines.
For this album specifically though, I had a fairly clear idea of what I wanted each song to be, and how I wanted the album to evolve over all. The tracklist order was very deliberate, and everything was composed in order for the tempo to gradually increase throughout the album and within songs. Hopefully this helps give a subtle and underlying build-up of intensity when the album is being listened to front to back. Additionally, each song was composed having in mind a very specific vibe, and a musical “challenge” so to speak. "Sunday Heat" was intended to be a very doomy and dense experience; "The Amensal Rise" plays around quintuplet and 5/4 variations of a main theme; "Towards The Core" is basically a shuffle pattern approached through varying musical lenses (rockabilly, progressive rock, industrial metal…); etc. The songs are then built organically around those ideas.
As far as recording goes, we have a very homemade and DIY approach. We record bass, guitar, and drum parts in a home-studio setting through digital interfaces, each time spending a significant amount of time dialing in sounds we like. Though this might affect the character of some aspects of the production, it also allows for a fair amount of flexibility during production and mixing. In parallel of the recording and production of an album, Pablo and I sit down on a weekly basis with the songs to come up with additional arrangement elements (such as synths, keyboards, samples, transitions, etc). Those are usually very creative and fertile moments, and they’re often pivotal in giving songs their musical orientation and originality.
Let’s make a little time trip please: When and how did you guys get together?
The band was formed in 2009. Pablo is the only remaining member that was part of the original line-up. I joined them shortly after, in 2011. Back in 2014 we released our first (very homemade) album "Ivory Dune" as a trio, alongside our good friend Daniel. He left afterwards, and we were joined by Anthony and André in 2019 when our second album "Arteries" was released, as they both helped us recording and produce it (Anthony as a guest vocalist, and André as the main producer and mixing engineer).
How did you come up with your name, and is there a deeper meaning behind “Omnerod” for you?
It simply stands for “Opeth Must Never End their Reign Over Death metal” !
Haha, glorious! Let’s talk about Omnerod live: What was your most memorable show so far?
This will probably sound very cliché, but I would say our very first show, in Brussels, back in October 2019. Because of line-up issues, we never had the chance to play live before the release of our second album in 2019, 10 years after the band was created. Our first concert was pretty rough but a very emotional moment for us, especially for Pablo and myself who had been in the band for a pretty long time without having the opportunity to play the material in front of an audience.
I see. How would you describe your local rock / metal scene, and is there anything special about it? Did you notice changes over the past years?
I’m not the most educated person on the Belgian music scene as I unfortunately only recently became more involved in the local rock and metal scene. I would however say there has been a lot of evolution in the last 10 or 15 years. As in a lot of other European countries, metalcore was a very big thing in the early 2010s, and a lot of new metalcore bands emerged in that period. I believe there has since then been a shift towards “grittier” genres, notably post-rock or post-metal, stoner or sludge, led by amazing bands such as Stake or Brutus. In my opinion, the Belgian rock and metal scene is mostly characterized by a very raw and visceral approach to music. In that regard, Amenra is and has been a big deal for a while as well, rightfully so.
I also feel like a progressive scene is starting to develop in Belgium, which is an awesome thing to witness. We had the pleasure to share the stage with young prog bands such as ourselves (Winterblind or Entheogen, to name a few) that showcase a lot of potential and a very clear musical identity, as well as amazing chops. There have also been quite a few prog-oriented bands coming out of Belgium and making some waves recently, such as Hippotraktor, Psychonaut or Cobra the Impaler. Hopefully this is just the beginning of a big prog resurgence in Belgium :-)
As an independent artist: What are your experiences with today’s music business regarding the biggest chances and challenges?
Unfortunately yet unsurprisingly, I would say the challenges are many. In general, there is a lot of noise, mostly online but also in the local (live) scene, that makes it very difficult for an underground band like OMNEROD to be heard, especially when the songs are on the longer side of things and not exactly catchy or easily approachable. There are very few spots available, and every band needs to work very hard to be ready to grab every opportunity that comes to them, even though said opportunity might never come. This represents not only an important financial and musical challenge, but also a big mental and psychological effort.
I would say the biggest challenges as far as we’re concerned however are, firstly, finding a healthy and efficient balance between full-time day jobs (which we all have) and managing this musical project, and secondly, finding relevant gigs that will help us grow as a band, in line with the resources and time we have, and with the bookers' and venues’ aspirations.
There are many advantages in being a young underground band today though, the most notable of which being the ability to create very original and fairly good-sounding music in your bedroom, with relatively affordable gear and without the financial and scheduling implications of studio recordings. We’re very grateful that we get to make our crazy ideas come to life with the help of a few very talented people, a couple of computers and a bunch of plug-ins.
Which is highly impressive actually. What can you tell us about your future plans?
For now, we plan on learning some of the songs of "The Amensal Rise", and incorporating them in our live shows (which is definitely not an easy task). We have a couple of shows planned in the fall, including an appearance at the ProgPower Europe festival in The Netherlands alongside some very good friends and some bands we love and admire.
We do feel like we need to recharge batteries a bit, as working on this last album has been pretty exhausting, so we will try and be mindful of that in the upcoming months.
2024 will be the ten year anniversary of our first album "Ivory Dune". We’re obviously much more experienced and a bit wiser today, so we might want to revisit some of it in one way or another. We do intend to release an EP before our next album, after all :-)
Sound very promising to me, and I'm really excited about the PPE line-up as well - Counting the days :-) Before we wrap things up, do you have any further thoughts you’d like to share here?
Thank you for your attention and support, and thanks to anyone reading this who has at one point been curious enough to check out what we do, and has stuck around. We’re so grateful for every bit of love and support we’re shown, and we do not take it for granted.
This project was born out of intense love for music and artists that have made our lives so much better, and our main objective today is to try and give back a tiny fraction of what we’ve benefited from. In that regard, we’ll always feel deeply honored and humbled whenever our music is seen in the same way by anyone.
That's a wonderful closing! Thanks again for your time, and these amazing insights into your work. All the best, for you and the release \m/