Vigilia Septima – a mysterious sounding name, a mystery drawing band. Out of the haze of Berlin, Germany rose an ensemble, which not only seems to like keeping secrets, but also to be a solitary soldier on the misty fields of German Doom Metal. So, be kindly introduced to Vigilia Septima – the Atmospheric Doom Metal band for the gloomy times in life…
You’re probably yet unknown to the majority of Metal fans… Could you lighten up your band’s history, how did things get started and for those who skipped Latin in school – what does your name mean?
Jochen: The idea to found Vigilia Septima goes back to the year 2003. After months of testing different sounds we decided to connect Doom Metal music with classical instruments like the violin and piano. Because of musical and personal problems we had to change the line-up many times during the years, but the “heart” of the band remains.
Fabian: Because of the good feedback on the first concerts we decided to release our demo “Drowning” in 2005. Soon afterwards came very hard times for us, with many problems in human relationship between the band mates. So we had many line-up changes. But we never gave up and finally we released “While We Sleep” in December 2007.
Sven: Vigilia Septima means “The Seventh Night Watch”.
How would you describe your music for people who don’t know Vigilia Septima, how would you generally label it? Which kind of audience might be interested?
Jochen: I don’t like musical pigeonholes. We don’t create music you should hear when you’re cleaning up your room or preparing for a party. For me there’s a beautiful deep melancholy in our music. I’d rather leave it up to the audience to create their own opinion about the music.
Thomas: Doom. Despair. Melancholy. And a gleam of hope.
Fabian: Well, I would say: people who like dark, melodic and guitar-driven Doom accompanied by a voice that varies from clean melodies to deep growls, should give it a try.
You recently released your new output “While We Sleep”, a 4-track EP, or how you call it “a follow-up concept album” to your long-player “Drowning” (2005). It seems that you’re not one of those bands, who randomly spread three demos a year, instead you take your time to come up with quality. If you compare those two releases, what has changed or hasn’t changed? In how far do they differ / are similar?
Sven: You said it: quality. We never wanted to create two or more CDs a year. That’s not the way it works for Vigilia Septima. We play with ideas, change it, and scrap many song fragments to live up to our own expectations to create a high quality CD, which satisfies every single member in the band.
Thomas: I think you can’t compare “Drowning” and “While We Sleep”. There is a long time between the both CDs and with time people and musical interest change, too. So I would say, that “Drowning” was a very well produced demo with six gorgeous songs, but “While We Sleep” concludes a long way of progression and sounds much more grown up.
Fabian: “Drowning” was a great start. The music includes different styles of Doom, from very soft melody-driven songs like “These Silent Hours” to rather progressive parts with heavy guitar riffs and apocalyptic grave grunts like “Deliverance (pt. 33)”. “While We Sleep” on the other hand is much more structured. It sounds like one piece of music.
How is the musical life in Germany as a band without a record contract?
Jochen: Very relaxing.
Sven: (laughs) How is life, when you have a record contract?
Thomas: I think sometimes it’s hard without a contract. You can’t play concerts without paying for it. You have to finance recordings, merchandise and equipment on your own. But on the other hand, you have given no commitment to anyone. So you can do your own cup of tea. Then life can be really relaxing.
Fabian: But a record contract that respects musical freedom of a band couldn’t be the worst thing. Sometimes things could be easier having one.
Doomy sounds are currently undoubtly popular – Saturnus, Callisto, Candlemass, Cult of Luna, Swallow the Sun, Hanging Garden – all bands who play some sort of Doom Metal with a twist. In how far Vigilia Septima is outstanding? Or do you rather see yourselves as a part of the whole scenery?
Jochen: I actually haven’t thought about this, yet. I respect all of these bands and eventually listen to their music, live and on CD.
Fabian: Internationally spoken, we certainly are part of the scenery. As stated above it’s difficult to put these bands into boxes. Every one of them is outstanding in a very individual way. This applies to Vigilia Septima as well.
Thomas: One outstanding part of our music might be the violin – at least in Germany.
In Germany on the other hand Doom music doesn’t seem to have settled yet, let’s just compare the scene of Berlin with the one of Helsinki. The German capital pretty lacks movement and motivation. How do you see the scene that surrounds you?
Jochen: We honestly don’t know if there’s even a scene for our kind of music excisting in Berlin. Even popular Doom acts don’t seem to fill a concert hall on a gig (just take a look at the Swallow the Sun gig in November 2007). In so far we don’t really know too many musicians who even want to perform Doom. But probably there are more people than we think who would listen to a Vigilia CD on rainy days…
Fabian:…but they are so busy wallowing in self-misery, that they do not dare to leave their homes (laughs).
The spheres you create are deep, hopeless and drag you down into abysm. Still, it’s no abrupt “Downfall”, but a floating, deliberate sinking. Just like there’s no tomorrow, therefore the last night on Earth is tainted in beautiful shades of black. It’s a feeling between “leaving this world with a smile” and sticky, sad truthfulness. This deepness and beauty of hopelessness isn’t often to be accomplished, you seem to be on a different level than most Atmospheric Metal bands… Your music is really immense, with a small input.
Sven: I’m afraid there’s no magic to it. We just meet in our rehearsal room, dim the lights and just do it – after drinking some good German beer.
Jochen: Just imagine we would utilize thunder, wind or rain… this would drag the mood down into spheres you couldn’t escape of.
Fabian: Well, we just suck up all our misery and use it as dark desperate clay to form a musical golem for our emotions.
Another specialty perceiving your sound is the violin. Currently one can hear the use of this instrument in the music of bands like for instance Turisas or Korpiklaani, but already My Dying Bride used it as an element. Concerning your band, when did the violine enter the spotlight? Usually the violine is a joyful instrument, but in your case it increases the apocalyptic, sad vibe and functions as the “heart of music” so to say.
Fabian: I entered the band in the summer of 2003 and felt at home right away. Compared to other violinists like Olli Vänskä (Turisas) I’m rather on an “amateur” level. But I think I know how to play sad melodies… it just feels right.
Jochen: I love the sound of the violin and of course the way Fabian plays it. In my opinion it should be used more often. The violin steps into the spotlight when it comes to telling the story of the song.
Thomas: That sad violin perhaps is that outstanding item which makes Vigilia Septima unique.
Your current EP “While We Sleep” is a concept album with an interesting artwork, which perfectly accompanies the music to be found. Please elaborate…
Thomas: First of all, sleep is an unbelievably important part of life. You give up conscious control of your body to let the unconsciousness heal your emotional wounds. Sometimes it’s like a phase of reincarnation – the soul dies just to be filled with new life again. Finally everything ends… with eternal sleep. We wanted to express this connection between sleep and death.
Fabian:…take the bird in the booklet for instance: can you actually determine whether it sleeps or has already vanished?
How does Vigilia’s future look like? You surely are still having musical ambitions…
Fabian: Of course we do! Recently we are working on a new record. Besides we are planning several concerts for 2008 – time will tell. Maybe we will get the chance to perform outside of Germany one day?
Alex Zischow is the chief editor of great metal webzine www.tuskasi.com and as a good friend of the Steel Mill, she provided us with this exclusive opening report for the Metal Grinder series. Vielen dank und Stammappen!