“There’s definitely been ups and downs, that’s for sure!” An understatement if there ever was one - 2020 has been rough on many bands, old and new, but Yegor from melodic doom outfit Fires In The Distance doesn’t seem to have let that dampen his spirit. When asked about the impact this year has had on him and the band, he responds equally calmly that “the biggest impact is not being able to perform and go to shows.” It’s a grounded approach borne from years of lived experience, both in bands and from the trials and tribulations of his personal life.
Fires In The Distance initially intended to self-release their debut album much earlier in the year but as luck would have it, Prosthetic Records were very keen to lend a hand where they could; “linking with Prosthetic has been pretty incredible, everyone there has been very supportive and we’re certainly grateful for that.” This delayed the release of the album a few months but it’s a good kind of delay - rather than one forced by the extremely uncertain circumstances surrounding the year and the creative industries in particular.
The band has been gestating in some form since Yegor started writing back in 2016 when he was part of Archaic Decapitator (on indefinite hiatus as of April this year). Of the writing, Yegor said “ It was initially going to be a solo/studio band because I’ve never written this kind of metal before. Eventually I showed a few songs to Craig and Kyle... as well as our singer Kristian. They all agreed it’d be interesting to hear these songs played live so we gave it a shot and haven’t looked back since.” While they haven’t been able to play live - yet - the band are still tightly focused; “as a group we try to rehearse as often as possible, generally once every few weeks which helps.” Recorded with Dave Kaminsky, they’ve nothing but good things to say about him - “[this] is the 4th album we’ve recorded with him, and I doubt we will work with anyone else because we just work extremely well together” . It’s obvious from listening to the album that such high praise is well deserved.
Echoes From Deep November is a triumph, both critically and musically but it’s borne from a place of struggle; lyrically the album deals a lot with themes of depression and mental health. Throughout it all, there’s an undercurrent of learning to understand your own mental health better and learning to live with this. When we asked Yegor about the inspiration behind the lyrics, he was characteristically candid. “The lyrics are a reflection of my personal experiences. It’s not the easiest thing to discuss or convey because everyone’s mental struggles and depression is personal and individualized.” It’s a theme and project that means a lot to him - “this is the first project I’ve worked on where I was free to basically be as open as I possibly could.”
Just one spin of the album is enough to make this clear. Throughout its six melancholic tracks, Echoes… treats listeners to melodic death metal, atmospheric doom and lush, emotionally raw soundscapes that leave a lasting impression. The atmospheric element that lends such power to the album comes, again, from Yegor’s love of music in many forms; “I’ve always been a huge fan of atmospheric music, even outside of metal. I feel like it can be very moving when played live and creates a very unique experience.” It’s certainly a unique experience of an album, each track flowing into the next and the keys themselves lending another layer of complexity to the album.
Under all the melancholy, there is still some hope, or at least a glimmer of light at the end of the tunnel. When asked about the themes being addressed lyrically, Yegor responds “the cumulative flow of the songs centers around healing, giving yourself time to breathe, not giving up, and moving forward”. This comes from a very personal place - Yegor is open that he has “lived with major depression most of [his] life” and there’s a feeling of relief - that he echoed when asked - that he has been able to express this and the themes of healing and coming to terms with mental health through the album.
It’s not just the music that fits within the theme; a lot of care and attention has been paid to both the album title and artwork, also drawing on his personal experiences and how he sees the world. The album title itself comes, as Yegor describes it from his love of Autumn; “I have always been in love with the Autumn season. Some of the most memorable, tragic, and painful experiences I’ve ever had happened during these several months so It just felt fitting to incorporate that aesthetic into the album.” This aesthetic, of the gradual dying of the light throughout Autumn and into Winter is certainly present, as is the beauty found in Autumn with the golden colours of the leaves, a last gasp of the beauty of Summer before the coldest months take hold, but always with the promise of the Spring to come. The artwork, again, draws upon these themes with the daunting forest and closely-packed trees. The artwork comes from Caelan Stokkermans, who also handled the artwork for Archaic Decapitator’s final EP. Yegor is full of praise for him, stating “[Caelan] did an amazing job so we wanted to work with him again for this album. I highly recommend his work.” It’s a fantastic piece, simultaneously capturing the fragile beauty of autumn and the claustrophobia of the forest.
All the hard work has paid off in spades - not only did Prosthetic snap them up ahead of its release but the album has even hit the Billboard charts in the US. “It’s definitely a rush! And no, that was completely unexpected. I don’t think we ever expected for this record to be as well received as it has. The outreach and support from people has been almost overwhelming. I can’t fully express the extent of my gratitude for that” Yegor enthusiastically responds when asked about this and the overwhelmingly positive critical reception the album has received.
Lastly we asked that with the themes of mental health and survival running through the album if they had anything specific they hoped people would take away from the album. “I really hope that it makes someone's day better! I hope it brings people enjoyment despite the somewhat bleak atmosphere that it carries, and most importantly I hope it resonates with anyone who may not be feeling too strong at the moment, especially with how the pandemic has devastated so many of us, and encourages them to keep going.” Wise words, indeed.
Echoes From Deep November is out now via Prosthetic Records. You can pick up a copy here.