The singular beauty of Krigsgrav and their latest Leave No Path to Follow is how it updates the template of classic Peaceville doom and forges a deeply personal connection with the listener – no easy feat in this day and age of instant music access. It’s no secret how much we dug the album, but the constant evolution between albums and the choice to look inward with the new one had us curious to dig deeper, so we reached out to Justin Coleman (guitar, vocals) to give up the ghost on the making of the album and the path the band has and will continue to tread. Be sure to check out the new album with the embed contained within and turn it up loud as we get into the details.
From the traditional black metal of Waves of Degradation to the more folk and gaze elements of The Carrion Fields no two Krigsgrav albums sound alike, and Leave No Path To Follow seems to further reinforce this progression. The new album evokes much more of a classic Peaceville doom vibe meshing with the black and death and (obviously) your personal imprint. What was the inspiration to move in this direction?
Our inspiration to create the sound we did on Leave No Path To Follow was to just do something different from what we’ve done before. That’s very cliche and not a super interesting answer, but it’s true. That rings true for all of our albums actually. I think, for me personally, if you’re not willing to challenge yourself as an artist or work with a different pallet then what’s the point? David and I both love doom metal and wanted to integrate more of that into our sound and figured it was worth a shot. Each Krigsgrav album is usually sparked with a single riff or concept/aesthetic between David and I. For example with Leave No Path To Follow, I sent David a portion of “Forging with Broken Hands” (the first song written for this album). I knew it was different from our other albums, but still had what we consider the core of our sound. He liked it, so I asked if he would be interested in writing an entire album in this style, as that was where my headspace was at the time. He agreed and the rest just came from taking that idea and working in that direction over the course of a year. Your evaluation of integrating early 90’s Peaceville/Avante Garde/No Fashion era influence is spot on and something that was a big influence when writing this album. Older My Dying Bride (Turn Loose the Swans/The Angel and the Dark River), Katatonia (Brave/Tonight’s Decision) , Dissection (Somberlain), Kvist, etc are very inspirational for us. There is still a lot of magic in those albums.
There’s always been a focus on nature and mankind’s relationship to it – particularly on The Carrion Fields – but Leave No Path… seems to emanate sorrow, loneliness and loss. While this could certainly tie into the current state of the world and our place in it but I get the sense there’s a deeper meaning or experience behind it. Can you elaborate on the themes at play in the album?
Sure. Leave No Path To Follow is a very personal album that is lyrically and musically from a very angry, depressed and somewhat hopeful place. It focuses on the personal journey thru those emotions and was written from the direct perspective of myself and David. The time period of writing this album was a difficult one that honestly could have led the end of the band. There was a lot of frustration and turmoil that we harnessed into the music and lyrics, so what you’re getting on the album is all of that. The prior two albums were very existential in the fact that they focused on man’s place in the world physically and metaphysically and our eventual demise as a species. This album is more about the personal downfall of an individual from a very direct and intimate point of view. The lyrics aren’t veiled in esoteric meaning or metaphors this time. This album called for pure honesty and openness with these topics personally. Not to say that the other albums were not personal, but this album is a direct conduit to what was going on at the time it was written. I think it has a rawer and more ‘real’ end result because of that.
The production of the album stands out like another band member, and to me sounds better than anything you’ve done in the past. Who did you work with during recording? Did you let them mold the sound at all or was it completely your decision?
We approached Jason Walton (Khorada, Ex-Agalloch, Snares of Sixes, etc), who runs Earth in Sound Studio, about mixing and mastering the album. David and I recorded the instruments ourselves but wanted someone else to mix and master the album. We enjoy our previous albums production, but we wanted to change things up this time. We wanted someone who would understand what we were going for. Knowing how personal this album is to us, we knew the production had to be something special. Something raw but powerful, while still being professional…just enough grit and polish, you know? I explained our vision to Jason, along with some examples. When we heard the first sample of our music through his production, We knew he was going to nail it. We had an open dialogue the entire time but we let him really have freedom to try out whatever idea’s he thought would work for our album. We trusted his experience and vast knowledge of this style music, and I think he exceeded our expectations.
You’ve worked with Naturmacht Productions and Bindrune in the past but you’ve released this one independently via Bandcamp. Besides the digipak from Narcoleptica Productions, any specific reason you chose to break free from labels for Leave No Path…?
To be perfectly honest, we didn’t chose to break free from being on a label. I say this with no hard feelings, but Bindrune was not interested in releasing further albums from us. They’re a label, and releasing albums takes time and costs money. I can certainly respect that. We sent a few samples of Leave No Path To Follow to labels to check interest. We didn’t get any interested responses back and basically said ‘fuck it’. We’re a small drop in a huge bucket and we don’t tour or play live regularly. If something comes along, great, if not, no problem. One nice thing about how things are done now, you can control (to a degree) where your music goes and get it released to the people who want to hear it. Narcoleptica approached us and offered to do a limited digipak release. They have a professional reputation and support the underground, so it seemed like a no brainer. The one big benefit of having a label is it makes doing a vinyl release a bit easier because of the financial backing. We’re going to attempt to self finance a vinyl release Leave No Path to Follow in 2019, but there is no time frame for that yet.
Last time we talked (2016) you mentioned not having a true vision of what Krigsgrav should sound like in the beginning but that you evolved into a firmer identity after The Leviathan Crown. Would you say this is still the case and have you settled on any particular vision?
Absolutely. Since The Leviathan Crown, David created the core essence of what Krigsgrav is and it’s something we discuss often. We both have a firm idea of what the nexus of Krigsgrav should be, which is why I think we can add different elements to each album and it still retains a sound that is ours. We don’t settle on anything beyond that. Basically we have what we feel Krigsgrav should be and we integrate in idea’s around that, so I won’t say we’re settled on one style, but I can say they generally revolve around black/death/doom/atmospheric basic sounds. We try to capture the moments of ourselves at the period of writing and make them work in the confines of our foundation of the band.
What was the thought process behind covering Katatonia’s “Brave” and how do you approach tackling a cover versus your original material?
We love the song and when we were writing the album I was listening to Brave Murder Day a lot, so I pitched the idea to David and he thought it would be cool. The most important thing for me when considering a cover is: will it fit with the other songs on an album? I thought “Brave” fit the other songs on Leave No Path To Follow in every way, so it seemed like a perfect choice. Plus it’s fun to play. When it comes to the execution of a cover it’s important to know your own skill set as a musician, so we try to also keep that in mind, because if we ever play the song live it’s probably best to be able to play the thing and not disrespect or ruin it.
Have you had a chance yet to play these new songs live? If so, how’s the reaction been?
Not yet, as we’re on a hiatus of playing live currently, but 2019 may see that change…
I’m always interested to know how an artist personally feels about their work. Now that the album is done do you feel you accomplished what you set out to do with it? Have you been able to disconnect from it far enough to form your own opinion of it in relation to your earlier albums?
I think I have at this point. It is very hard initially to be objective because a new album is something you cherish early on, but can diminish easily with self critique and external influence. I think Leave No Path To Follow is Krigsgrav’s most consistent album in terms of concept, song continuity and song quality. When I discussed this topic with David not long ago he said something to the effect of “no song stands out, but each song has something special about it that keeps you interested” and I thought that was spot on. I think on our prior albums I have favorite songs, but Leave No Path To Follow is my favorite album as a whole work. It feels like a finished thought.
What does the next few months hold for the band?
We’re currently writing new material for a split with Texas badasses Giant of the Mountain and possibly looking to start up playing live again…
It may be early, but what do you think the next iteration of Krigsgrav will sound like?
You will hear it in 2019 on the split, but it will be moody, atmospheric, emotional and definitely have all the elements of Krigsgrav in every way.
Thanks for taking the time to do this interview, anything you’d like to add?
Thank you so much for the interview. Thank you to all the people who have given their time and listened and supported us, we appreciate it. Enjoy Leave No Path To Follow and we’ll see you soon.
Many thanks to Justin for his time!