CHRONICLES OF CHAOS WEBZINE (February 2006) (http://www.chroniclesofchaos.com/articles/chats/1-907_darkness_eternal.aspx)
Darkness Eternal: His Will Be Done
Built from images and sounds that serve as a glimpse into alien worlds within, Canada 's Darkness Eternal returned late last year, once again crafting an obscure brand of progressive death metal. CoC looks into the mad visions and inverted melodies with lone creator, George Valaetis.
His Will Be Done
CoC chats with Darkness Eternal's George Valaetis
by: Todd DePalma
Built from images and sounds that serve as a glimpse into alien worlds within, Canada's Darkness Eternal returned late last year, once again crafting an obscure brand of progressive death metal. The sole design of one George Valaetis, a personable fellow with a rather sinister imagination, his venture's appeal lies in the unnerving display of mad visions and inverted melodies; attended to by a black sun and icy fangs of a spider-god. The story thus far:
"I have always been an artistic person from birth, I believe; it's something that has always been burning deep inside of me. I wanted to play music, particularly the guitar as young as six years old, but I could never convince my parents to buy me a guitar to start out; and by the time I got a little older, into my early teens, those were real terrible years for me emotionally, I had very low self-esteem during those years, and even though I wanted to do something musically real bad back then, I never pushed myself to pursue since I thought I would fail at it and I was very anti-social at the time. So I was real heavy into drawing and writing poetry at the time, again, since I had no self-esteem that was something I could keep to myself, I guess.
"A few years later, I was hanging with two friends from my high school and they would always jam, and while watching them jam I grabbed the microphone and started singing, you know, just for fun. For some reason that I still can't figure out to this day, they thought I was real good, and wanted to start a band with me on vocals (I couldn't play a note on any instrument at the time), and my two friends on guitar and drums. So my first band was born just like that, totally unexpected, that was about eleven years ago. So we got real serious and started writing songs like crazy in just mere days. Days turned into months and we started playing live like crazy and since we were playing out so often, we needed a bass player. On the demo we did our guitarist would play the bass with a bass guitar a friend let us borrow. So we searched for what seemed like an eternity for a bassist, and we finally found one guy who went to school with us, he was pretty much our only option at the time. During this time I started to teach myself to play drums and bass, just for myself and out of pure enjoyment, and I picked up on both rather quick. The bassist we had for the band didn't work out at all -- we had way too many differences with him and kicked him out. So then we were back to having to find a bassist for the band again.
"So one day I was at home playing bass, and the guys came to practice early (we jammed at my place at the time) and stood outside listening to me play for about fifteen minutes (unbeknownst to me), and when they came in they told me they found a new bass player for the band, and I was like "who?", and they were like "you, man!". So then I asked them who the hell is going to sing, and they told me "you are; you are going to do both!" I was like, "Are you guys crazy, I can barely play bass let alone play bass and sing at the same time!" But we went with it and I picked up on it quick. That band lasted for three years and at the end it just totally fell apart, I was very unhappy in the last six months of the band with pretty much everything, which is another long story in itself so I won't go there. But about six months before my first band ended, I started Darkness Eternal, knowing that I would finally have the opportunity to make my own creation how I see fit."
Weaving textures of dissonant chords ringing through the eerie clarity of clean guitar strokes, Darkness Eternal is a mass of contradiction whose eldritch tone seems to borough underneath the skin.
"I have no set way or formula to writing any riffs or music, be it clean, distorted, fast, slow, etc.", explains Valaetis. "Everything just comes when it does, I guess. Sometimes I will write an entire song in a day or a week. Sometimes I will just write bits and pieces of songs over a month. Sometimes I will write a bunch of riffs over months and find some work better with others and piece them together, which causes a song to be fully written / composed in four to six months. Sometimes I will write one amazingly killer riff, and then follow it up by writing ten shitty riffs. For every great riff I write, I write about ten or fifteen that aren't too good, or up to my dark standards anyway...
"The most important thing I have learned as a song writer is to never force anything. For me that is the absolute worst thing I can do, because every time I have tried to force myself to write something, I always come up with complete and utter shit. When I just sit down with my guitar and screw around and practice whatever, that is when the killer riffs come to me."
Indeed, it's been a full four years since those dark standards have come to fruition, yielding Valaetis' latest opus, _Misanthropic Annihilation_. Continuing where his previous effort _ Satanchrist_ left off, the new record conjures intricate pieces in the mold of Immolation and The Chasm -- one of Valaetis' more prominent influences.
"I am so proud and honored to know Daniel [Corchado], let alone call the man my friend and brother. He is an influence to me as a musician, as an artist, and just as a human being in general. Anyone who knows him knows that he is the most metal person walking the face of the earth today. He has such a strong will and has such strong dedication to everything that he does, and that is a real inspiration for me, it really makes me strive to always improve and keep fighting through all the bullshit, and that really helps, especially being the dark pessimist that I am", laughs Valaetis. "Just seeing what he has gone through with The Chasm alone should be inspiration for anyone out there. There is an old saying that goes, 'no matter how bad you have it, sometimes someone always has it worse' and seeing all the bullshit he went through in the earlier years with The Chasm, and as recently as a few years ago with some stuff they went through, it just really made me realize that as bad as things sucked for me and I wanted to just quit and give up, I thought about his struggles and his will to never surrender, and that was a real inspiration to me. His talent both as a musician / song writer and an artist is unparalleled."
Viewing death metal not just as a collection of notes or something so easily copied, Darkness Eternal's concerns shift towards the very methods used to produce that sound.
"I've used the same drum kit for every recording to date thus far, which is a Pearl Session series kit; it's more than ten years old but still sounds absolutely killer! Anyone that knows me knows how much I can't stand fake drums or drum machines on recordings! To me, DE is very much about passion and soul, those are human qualities, and using a drum machine for DE would have taken the soul out completely... I'm also not a big fan of "triggered" drum sets (again, very few exceptions exist), since I can't really see what the difference is between that and electronic drums."
But Darkness Eternal's bread and butter, as it were, remains the distinct interplay between guitar lines.
"I used three different guitars for the newest record, and it was the first time I used three different ones as opposed to two, which I used on the previous two records. For this one I used the "Hellbeast" Beast for the first, which is a custom American handmade neck-thru BC Rich Beast with a Floyd Rose tremolo and Seymour Duncan pick-ups, the "Serpent" Warlock, which is a custom shop BC Rich Warlock with a Kahler tremolo (don't see those around too often anymore), Dimarzio pick-ups, and a custom snake skin paint, and the "Demonaxe" Mockingbird, which is 1999 NJ Series BC Rich Mockingbird with a licensed Floyd Rose tremolo, and the factory BC Rich pick-ups on it... I get a bit of a different tone and sound with each one, and to me it really helps give that feel of two / three different guitarists on the recordings, even though it is just me recording all the guitar tracks. Especially with the some of the clean / acoustic stuff on the new one, using the different models really helped get a bit of a different tone and warmth that really can't be achieved as well tweaking the dials on a mixing board."
He would know. Often plagued by lesser production quality, the search went on for the right studio to capture each nuance of those bizarre riff patterns, finally placing a call to Bob Moore.
"Well, when I had moved to South Carolina, and had _Misanthropic Annihilation_ fully written and ready to be recorded, I started looking for a good high quality studio that wouldn't cost me a fortune. At the time I was still quite unfamiliar with SC and the surrounding states / areas, so I found about three good studios that I was looking to use, one in Atlanta, GA, and the other two were in Columbia, SC, one of which was Bob's studio, Sound Lab. So it had hit me that Nile and Dark Moon had both recorded there, and I remembered that they had a real good sound to their records. Nile have recorded all of their full-lengths there and they got a good sound on all their albums, in my opinion; I especially liked the drum sound on _In Their Darkened Shrines_, and since I am real anal about drum sounds, that played a big role for sure. My metal brother Krieshloff, the guitarist for Lecherous Nocturne, had told me about the studio and how high quality it was, and after listening to various different death metal albums recorded there I decided that was definitely the studio to go to. So I called Bob and we talked about all the elements that go into recording an extreme metal record, and I had also told him that while I liked the production the Nile records, I didn't want that sound for Darkness Eternal; I didn't want the sound to be too polished, but I didn't want it to be too dirty either. So after a few long discussions I was completely sold, he put me at ease and really assured me about everything, from how to get a great drum sound to a killer guitar and bass sound, and it turns out that going to Sound Lab was one of the best decisions I had ever made."
According to Valaetis, as a mentor and self-styled artistic director (recall the insane concept laid out for the cover of The Chasm's _Spell of Retribution_ album) Corchado also lent his assistance in packaging the latest Darkness Eternal disc.
"To me, his role was just as important as anyone else's on that record, because even though I came up with a lot of the concepts and ideas for the layout, he was the mastermind that made them come to life, and he did several things that he thought of on his own that I would have never thought of. A perfect example is on the inner tray card where the CD goes, the image behind that of the burning planet and the DE logo over top of it, that whole inner tray was completely his idea."
Though for the grand details, the help of legendary Texas skin-artist Jon Zig was once again enlisted, contributing a richly configured gestalt image of world downfall, reintroducing for the cover those nightmare figures born from previous collaborations.
"Working with Zig has been nothing short of a pleasure every time, he is without a doubt one of the sickest and best artists out there today. He just has a way of taking my darkest and most morbid visions and making them reality, more so than I ever could, even if I had his amazing artistic ability. The collaborations with Zig regarding both records were actually pretty much the exact same process. I would give him the concept of said albums, give him a few ideas, and he would come back at me with his translation of what I wanted. He would send me various proofs as he was going along, and each time he would send me something new he would add to the pieces and make them a hundred times better each time, until he could do nothing more."
Valaetis' suggestions have created a menacing portrait of the end times, one used to panel the album's entire booklet as robed zombies stalk among skull ruins; pallid eyes stare from a distorted likeness of Christ; and once again the crowned king of this death feast, a soul devouring arachnid looms above the world.
"Every image that is used for each specific song is used purposefully, and each one represents the theme of the song. Everything came out even better than I had expected, so I couldn't be any more pleased in that sense. I have to say that I really didn't think Zig could top the work he did for _Satanchrist_, but he proved me wrong in a big way with _Misanthropic Annihilation_ -- he really took it up a notch with the artwork he did for the record and I have to give him infinite hails for that. If all goes as planned, I definitely want to continue to work with Jon Zig, as I feel his style of art fits my visions the best, and he is just so cool and easy to work with."
Despite the variety of skill that allows the personal nightmare of this all to emerge, other humans seldom figure into the musical aspect.
"The main benefit of being a "solo-artist" is that I have 100% total creative control over everything to do with the band. This isn't to say that I am a control freak in any way -- I want to make it very clear that I am not; in fact, if you ask anyone I've ever played or worked with, you'll find out that I am the complete opposite. But when it comes to my music and my vision, and the key word here is "vision", it has most definitely been the greatest benefit for me. I was in situations in the past playing with bands, where there were just too many conflicting opinions and ideas on everything ranging from riffs, to even styles of music, and I just got sick and tired of always being the one to compromise. This way I never have to compromise anything, and that is real important for DE, because I know how I want everything to come out, and so far on that front, everything (music wise) has come out exactly how I wanted.
"Doing things with the band on my own schedule has also become a huge benefit, especially in the last few years, where my life has become very busy and hectic outside of metal. Another benefit is the fact that I will always put 120% into DE no matter what; no one will ever care about DE more than I will, so I don't have to worry about others letting me down, or the band ending to due line-up changes or losing all my members or whatever other scenario most bands go through -- Darkness Eternal will die when I decide it should."
As opposed to black metal, a one-man death metal performance is still a kind of rarity; but Valaetis is adamant that such stigmas and prejudices no longer concern him.
"When I first started, and especially when I was gearing up to record the debut album _Dawn of the Suffering_, it did weigh in on my mind a bit, because at the time I had no help whatsoever -- "business-wise", for lack of a better term, I did absolutely everything on my own when I started, I funded everything to do with DE. Now, not that the plan was to make money of course, but I didn't want to completely lose everything I spent, I wanted to make something back, even if I was still going to lose money. So I figured that people wouldn't even give DE a chance because they figured it would be totally sloppy and shitty sounding bedroom black / death metal or whatever the term people use today before even hearing it. I'll be the first to admit it's not the absolute tightest sounding stuff, but not one person that has heard DE ever knew that it was one person doing everything unless a) I told them it was just me, or b) they read it in the booklet.
"Eight and half years later, I don't give a shit anymore, because even if DE is nowhere near being a "big" band so to speak, it definitely has enough credence in the underground after all this time. After three full-length records out, it is obvious to see how much I have done thus far, so now I could care less whether people discriminate against DE because it is only one person doing everything or not. I'm sure that a lot of the bigger labels probably frown on it, and that's just fine with me. I've always done DE for myself first, to fulfill my own heart, soul and passion for true metal and darkness. I release the music because there is still a demand out there for people to hear it, so as long as I can keep doing that then I am definitely content that way. For the people that will assume it is shitty sounding, off-time, drum-machine recorded bullshit, check out the MP3s on the DE website, and if you are too lazy to do that and still want to judge, then all I can say is fuck off."
Apart from Darkness Eternal, George Valaetis has periodically joined in the live assaults of The Chasm as well as defunct hellragers Ouroborous. The question often asked in the wake of the new record, he says, is whether or not his own band will take to the stage. Of this, he remains undecided.
"The answer to it is yes and no. I have always loved playing live in front of an audience, ever since I started playing instruments; it's been something I've loved to do. I've done it with every band I've ever played with except my own band. So I do often wonder what it would be like to play my music live."
The hold-up is simple: requiring an offer to tour as well as dedicated musicians that share his own vision and drive has halted the prospect significantly.
"I can assure you that I will not change my sound and style for anyone, no matter what! Not many people understand that metal is a way of life for people like me, not just a "cool fad" or something I've been into for years and it will one day just go away -- and there is a very small percentage of "metal heads" that comprehend this. So all I can say at this point is we'll see." He adds, "I don't want to say that it won't ever happen, but like I said, unless there is an overwhelming demand to see DE live and I get tour support from somewhere, then I don't see it happening anytime soon -- which in a way sucks, because after just coming back from MN with The Chasm, I was just getting used to headbanging like hell on stage again."
(article submitted 24/2/2006)