Witching Riffs: Behind the Sound of Columbarium

Introduction: Due to time constraints as regular individuals running Witching Buzz and focusing primarily on writing reviews, we are limited to publishing only one (occasionally two) review(s) per day. However, we strongly believe in providing greater exposure to deserving bands and musicians who have put in immense effort. As a result, we have launched a new section called “Witching Riffs: Behind the Sound.” In this section, we have crafted a series of intriguing questions that we pose to every band or musician who wishes to share more about their unique projects. While the questions remain the same for each participant, the diversity among bands ensures that the answers will be fascinating and diverse. So, sit back, relax, and enjoy this captivating journey as we delve into the minds and stories of these talented artists.

Columbarium / Belgium

What drew you to the immersive and hypnotic sounds? How do you aim to captivate your listeners with this genre?
It is not like it was really a conscious choice of ‘what genre are we going to play?’ … what we have in us comes out naturally and that is the music we create. We do of course like the heavy loaded stuff, enchanting, spooky and overwhelming, but as you might have heard we don’t fix us on the genre although it is our natural feel. We also have faster songs and passages in our songs. We don’t want to play slow all the time. I suppose, but you never know, that from Columbarium you will ever hear a twenty minute song that thrives on one riff and building it up from semi-acoustic to fuzzy and then real heavy like some other bands do. We like to change between instruments, guitars, keyboards and definitely between atmospheres. We didn’t intentionally wanted to captivate the listener, we just created what we liked and we have just been very fortunate to get incredible comments on our record, for which we are eternally grateful and humbled.

Can you share the story behind your band name? How does it reflect the essence of your music?
The name ‘Columbarium’ has a history that is very important to us. A columbarium is an urnwall in a cemetery, that is the literal meaning and it fits the atmosphere of the band perfectly, so we believe it reflects the essence of our music very well. We also really like the logo, which has been created by a Belgian artist and friend of ours. It also perfectly reflects the atmosphere of the band.
I already played in a band with Mille (our drummer) in the 90s under the name Columbarium. We were a two-man band playing a mix of grindcore and doom metal. We both sang, Mille behind his drums and I played bass with a guitar scrambler on it, so just the two of us. We never really released anything except an unofficial live demo and I also have a T-shirt from that era. That project lasted from 1994 to sometime 1997/1998. I don’t know if the name Anesthesy rings a bell, but it was a Belgian thrash band in the 90s, who released a few really great albums. Mille and I have been roadies for that band since the mid-80s. The main composer was Franky Libeert, we went to the pub with him almost every weekend after rehearsal, so he was one of our very best friends. At that time we played with Franky and the bass player of Anesthesy in Arachnophobia, which was then a side project to Anesthesy, with which we occasionally did support for Anesthesy. However, Franky died in a car accident in 1994. When Franky passed away, Arachnophobia also ceased to exist. We went to his grave at his funeral, with friends and his family. At one point we passed a ‘Columbarium’ sign in the cemetery where Mille said to me: “That would be a good name for our band if we’d continue with just the two of us.” Subsequently, Mille and I decided to continue under the name Columbarium, mainly as an ode to our deceased friend. And so we actually just took that name back out of the fridge in 2021. So that’s the full story about the name Columbarium, it is and still will always be very emotional to us.

What are some unconventional or unexpected influences that have shaped your unique blend?
You might be surprised but we have quite different influences in the band. The style of music that we play with the band is truly a mix of the genres we, with the four band members, listen to and are mostly influenced by. It is simply what comes out of our hearts, with the musical history we all have as band members. Mille and myself are influenced mostly by death metal, grindcore (going up to the extreme) and some heavy doom bands, but also the older raw stuff like old Venom, Bulldozer etc… That is where the heaviness and the raw vocals come from. Marc is somewhat ten years older than us and he is more influenced by classical bands like mainly Black Sabbath, but also some later seventies hard rock, so that’s undisputedly where some of our riffing originates from, yes, haha, you will hear some Black Sabbath -type riffing here and there, that seems conventional as an influence of course, but the influences that come from Mille and myself are rather unconventional, going up to extreme grindcore. Koen also has a great history of listening to hard rock, heavy, experimental metal like Rush, and more modern more complex bands like Mastodon and Gojira. He definitely has a weak spot for melody, experimental harmonies etc because of that. So, that is the combination that you hear in the music of Columbarium. Heavy riffing, raw vocals pimped with guitar harmonies, melodic keyboards and guitar solos, heavy passages like almost Obituary-like but then with added mellow parts, slow guitar solos and keyboards … Columbarium could not be the band it is today with all these different influences from every band member. We don’t hide from experiment, as long as what comes out sounds like Columbarium in our ears.

How do you approach creating expansive and atmospheric soundscapes? What techniques or methods do you employ to achieve that signature vibe?
We are not that typical doom band that creates large and vast soundscapes. As told I am quite sure that from Columbarium you will ever hear a twenty minute song that thrives on one riff and building it up from semi-acoustic to fuzzy and then real heavy like some other bands do. We are just not that type of band. We thrive on experiment and highs and lows in our music that might surprise the listener. As told Koen has a background in blues and we learnt him bands like Saint Vitus and the kind of solos that Dave Chandler plays. He didn’t like it at all at first, as his shredding sometimes sounds more like noise rather than clearly defined soloing, haha. He was not really known with playing like that. So, he started to use his tremelo more to create that kind of spooky riffing type. It seems to be quite blurry at first, but as a technique it is not that easy, but we love what comes out. That is one of the specific techniques that we use.

Are there specific themes or emotions you seek to convey through your music? How do alternative music help you express those concepts effectively?
We are not seeking specific emotion. It is important to us that a new song sounds good in the ears of all the band members and sometimes we can really experiment a lot with riffs before we actually approve it as an effective new song. Everyone in the band has to blend in and feel good if we create new music. In the slower songs automatically you get a feeling of sadness or grief, but we are not seeking that consciously. Sometimes it can be the other way around. That emotion leads to music. The other day I watched a TV-show where someone testified about the death of his brother when he was 23 years old. He declared that at some point there was a certain sadness, he called it the ‘the black color of sadness entered into our family’ … and I was struck by his story and got even emotional. That’s the exact moment when a new riff came to my mind, created by the sadness of that story. Very bizarre. We are now working with that riff to create a new song while it was really born from someone elses sadness and story. It’s bizarre how emotion can create sometimes.

Share a remarkable moment or incident from your journey as a band that exemplifies the spirit of your music.
Some of the songs on our album were written a long time ago, but during the corona period we of course had nowhere to go and everything came to a standstill for us, like for many bands. We were seriously bummed about that. We rehearse in a rehearsalroom of the local municipality and there was absolutely no way to get in there with those strict rules during those times. I think we haven’t been able to do anything at all for a year and a half in total. Many bands have split up in that period, but for us it was just the other way around. We got more excited to play, because of the lack of rehearsal. At one point we decided to rehearse at Koen’s house, under the strict rules. Koen, Marc and myself were playing guitar outside under a shelter and we sent everything through a console so everyone only heard sound through headphones. We didn’t use amplifiers at all, so there was no sound outside the headphones. Mille, our drummer, was inside playing an electronic drum, with his back to us and his face to a closet inside, which was a hilarious sight and we only heard him play through our headphones. The one thing we couldn’t mute, of course, was the vocals. So, I was standing outside roaring while you couldn’t hear all the other instruments, haha, I don’t know what the neighbors must have thought, hahaha!! So, this is our spirit, I guess, our will and urge to play, we just can’t live without it. We thrive on it.

In what ways do you envision your music progressing or evolving in the future? Are there any new elements or experimental approaches you’d like to incorporate?
We have always been very open to integrate unconventional sounds into our music. That’s also where Koen comes in with his keyboard, he also has a weak spot for analog synthesizers. We are sometimes literally trying to find a new sound with him using his keys. It could be anything, a whistle, the sound of a flute … as long as it fits the song we are happy with it. No boundaries really. I have the impression that on our first album ‘The Morbidious One’ we unconsciously have grown in that over years creating our songs, using external elements. Until at some point where we have expressed that to each other, that we like experimenting with stuff like that and we will openly do it more and more consciously. So, on a second album I am quite sure that you will hear more of that. We now know that we want to work with multilayered guitars also, rather then all playing the same riff. We know better what we want now and know better in what direction we want to go musically, where in the years before ‘The Morbidious One’ we learnt to get to know each other musically and we were really seeking and trying to find out what we wanted, we were really feeling each other out. So, there is definitely an evolution in us creating music.

Is there a particular song in your discography that perfectly encapsulates the essence of your music? Please elaborate on its creation and significance.
That is really hard to say. I’d have to say ‘Rivers Of Blood’ when the album came out, because that song came mostly to life during rehearsal, just jamming, so that is really what Columbarium stands for, because the song was created from our hearts without any pre-occupation or someone bringing a riff he created at home to rehearsal. But we have evolved a lot in the meanwhile. We now know better what we want as a band. A lot of songs on ‘The Morbidious One’ came to life while we were still searching for ourselves as a band to be honest, that is what we see now, but didn’t know back then. We are working on songs for a 2nd album and we just sense that we know much better what we want now in our music. We have also evolved as songwriters and musicians, so if I now would have to tell you which song encapsulates the essence of our music, it would be a new song from our new album in creation.

Are there any emerging or lesser-known artists within your music genre realm that you find inspiring or deserving of more recognition? Feel free to share their names and what you appreciate about their work.
As explained we have a lot of different influences in our music because of the quite different musical backgrounds of the bandmembers. I would have to ask the other bandmembers but for me a record that is in my top 10 of all time is the self-titled debut album from the French band ‘High Power’. It was released in 1983, but you should listen to the song ‘Offerande Charnelle’, they were so very much ahead of their time. This song has it all, the screams, piano and guitar twin melodies, incredibly daring lyrics, dark atmosphere, gut feeling … If you listen to the song, you will definitely see what I mean. This is simply incredible and I have been influenced by this kind of music without any doubt. On the other hand I also like extreme music, the feel of a record like ‘Where’s My Lunchpail?’ from Stikky’s, Extra Hot Sauce, Wehrmächt, Sore Throat … This has all been very influential to me.
10. What do you hope listeners experience or feel when they immerse themselves in your compositions? Is there a specific mood or sensation you aim to evoke?
We can just hope listeners like the music as much as we do, because this simply is what comes out of our hearts. We are not particularly seeking a specific emotion, we want to diversify in our music, that’s for sure. One could remark that there is a dark and doomy atmosphere in a lot of our songs, but then we also feel like playing somewhat faster at another moment, as on ‘A Cure For Everything’ … hard to explain really.

Turbo Regime:
– Fuzz or distortion? Overdrive!
– Analog or digital effects? There is no ‘must be’ in the band. In fact we use a mixture of both. The biggest part generally spoken of our effects are digital, but also some analog. Our amps are mostly older tube amps. Our two guitar players Koen en Marc have very different sounds, but when they come together, it blends perfectly and that’s the guitar sound of Columbarium. One could not do without the other in our case.
– Sabbath or Zeppelin? With all do respect, but for us that’s simple: Sabbath all the way.
– Heavy riff or mind-bending solo? Pffffff, this is to hard a decision …. Both!
– Vintage gear or modern equipment? It doesn’t really matter to us. What comes out in the end is most important for us, our sound as being Columbarium. As said, our effects are mostly digital, but also some analog, on the bass I play an old vintage tube amp from the seventies, Marc uses a tube Marshall amp and Koen plays in stereo, with one way a Kemper and the other way a tube amp. What comes out all together is the sound of Columbarium and that’s what’s most important to us.

Label: Argonauta Records
PR: Grand Sounds Promotion

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