The ultimate souvenir of While Heaven Wept

For over two decades Virgina's own While Heaven Wept been unleashing their own unique brand of doom metal. The band released their live and last opus for Cruz Del Sol title "Triumph And Tragedy". One listen to this fine opus you find yourself entranced by their musical landscape of doom mixed with a prog. This band is not your usual doom metal band. I recently interviewed singer Tom about the album, and the influence of Candlemass and Solitude Aternus. Recently signed to Nuclear Blast Tom give us a perspective of the future of While Heaven Wept.

Hello how you doing? Right now I'm checking out your latest opus.
I’m doing great, thanks for asking! I hope you’re enjoying what you’re hearing!

To get me up to speed can you tell a little about your band how long the band been together now?
The band first formed in 1989 but it was until 1991 that the While Heaven Wept moniker was implemented... we were all in high school at the time, and our previous band had just come to an end (which was more of an early Overkill/Metal Church type of thing). We set out to create something more unique and diverse musically, but also heavier as we were into everything from Doom to Prog to early Death Metal (as well as plenty of non-Metal styles from 70s fusion to Modern Classical). Over the years we’ve reportedly had the most line-up changes out of any band ever, and that is probably true, although most of this turmoil occurred earlier on. We have released many vinyl records, several CD’s, and have a appeared on quite a few compilations over the years.

How long has the band been on Cruz Del Sur Music and what's your opinion of the band's relationship with the label?
Well, first of all we’re currently signed to Nuclear Blast Records, but that news came out probably the same time you were developing these questions! But we had been involved with Cruz Del Sur Music since 2006 (though, I’d been in talks with label owner Enrico since 2003 or so), but it took a couple more years before we released anything on the label. We have always worked very closely with all of our partners, and CDSM was no exception. What I can tell you is that Enrico is one of the few truly honest guys out there in the industry and any band on the label should consider themselves fortunate because of this. I’ll continue working closely with Enrico on A&R matters (unofficially) and also regarding ongoing WHW business.

Is there any reason for the band to put out a live opus at this time? And does the band have any new material ready for the next opus?
Well, the main reason this recording exists is because the opportunity presented itself and we took advantage of that! That said, it actually is a pretty wise move in that it ties our entire career together for everyone that discovered the band with 2009’s “Vast Ocean Lachrymose” as the set was divided equally between all of our past albums. Add to this the fact that it is the current line-up interpreting the material, especially with Rain on vocals... I mean, a lot of people were curious to hear how he’d sound addressing the older songs, and I feel like he’s made them his own. As we make the transition to Nuclear Blast, I think "Triumph:Tragedy:Transcendence" really condenses the last 2 decades down to a single summary for everyone we’re new to. As for new material, we actually have about two albums waiting in the wings already... including the remaining archival material from over the years, and quite a bit of brand new music!

I like that you guys added the DVD as a bonus! Not only do the fans hear the music but also they get to see visual side of the band's performance.
For me, the DVD is the most important aspect of this release; there are a lot of people in a lot of places that have been wanting to see us live for years and years... places we haven’t been able to go yet... so the intention was to give all of them something to hold them over until we can visit their cities. Also, this release is really the ultimate souvenir for those who attended the festival and made it such as special night for us.

Where’s band originally from? The bio didn't state where you from.
We formed in Dale City, Virginia... essentially a suburb of Washington DC, but the current line-up is spread out between Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina and South Carolina. I guess it would be safe to consider us a Mid-Atlantic band!

I know doom metal is real big in Europe but in the USA it's a whole different story.
Yes indeed, it’s more of a cult phenomenon here than anything else, but the small and devoted following plus the family of bands is extremely tight knit... we all know each other, all the festivals are more or less interrelated (and travelling around from State to State, city to city it seems)... there’s usually at least one each year. I view the US events more as family reunions more than anything else, and now that the concept of Doom-B-Que has been introduced, it’s probably even more so!

What makes this band stand out from the other bands in your genre?
Really, WHW is a genre unto itself; we don’t truly sound like anyone else, and there’s not really anyone out there doing exactly what we do. We’ve never fit in truly comfortably with the Sabbath/Vitus style bands, we’re not like the Death/Doom bands, and we’re far more progressive than our closest relatives (Solitude, Isole, Solstice, Cmass)... and we are ever-changing to make it even more complicated! We’ll never release the same album twice that is for sure! Only Motorhead and AC/DC can really pull that off! The other thing that separates us from a lot of bands is that our songs are 100% rooted in real emotions stemming from real life events, relationships, etc. There is no fantasy involved, despite the metaphoric imagery we implement.

How much of an impact earlier doom bands like Candlemass and Solitude Aeternus had on the band during its formative years?
Well, without question Candlemass were a big influence on both WHW and Solitude for certain. The fact is WHW and Solitude formed within a couple years of each other, independently continuing down the path Candlemass had laid (that of Epic Doom Metal). Those guys have been friends of ours more or less since the beginning (we were always in the same fanzines together, and traded tapes, etc.), and in fact I was just hanging out with them a month ago in Germany! Interestingly both bands ultimately evolved past the point of being Candlemass clones, but we remain the only examples of Epic Doom to have come from the United States (although there was a project called Icefall that came and vanished later on too).

From what I’m hearing so far there's a little of the Candlemass influence in your sound.
Yeah, sure, that’s in there undoubtedly, but I think the early Fates Warning influence is quite prominent too... and also the Japanese artist Kitaro; those were the three primary influences in the beginning, and they remain as such today. That said, there’s a lot of other influences that occasionally surface in passages... Bathory, Slayer, Rush, Arcturus, Devin Townsend, Holy Terror, Pink Floyd, of course Sabbath, hell even some AOR like Journey and Styx... and there’s a lot of Bach, Wagner, Beethoven in our orchestrations too.

I love the vocals on this opus it's strong and powerful in a way it reminds me of Rob Lowe of Candlemass/Solitude Aeternus.
Yes, Rain is definitely a world-class singer, and we’re very happy to have pulled him out of retirement (the last professional recording he was a part of was Altura’s “Mercy” in 1996!). I am not sure if hear the Rob Lowe aspects personally, but it’s not a huge leap either... maybe in part it is the sweeping melodies? Rain has an uncanny ability to sound like many great voices from the past from Klaus Meine to Devon Graves to John Arch... and even myself (I sang on all the WHW releases until 2009’s “Vast Oceans Lachrymose”).

Are there plans for a tour in support of the album? If so is the band planning to make a trek though the USA?
We won’t be touring for this release as other plans are already in motion, and we really don’t perform in the USA very often to begin with. We’ve never really promoted the band domestically, and all of our labels throughout the years have been of European origin. That said, we’d be open to a good package tour if the opportunity presented itself, however our focus remains on Europe, where we have always been embraced first and foremost.

What’s your opinion of the current doom metal scene?
Well, first of all, though we’ve long been associated with the Doom Metal scene, and we embrace that, we’re not really a pure Doom Metal band at all anymore... we’re too progressive, quirky, and ever-changing to really fit into a single genre. That said, there are a lot of great newer bands that are doing very impressive work... Atlantean Kodex, Procession, Griftegard, Lord Vicar... and other bands that are kind of on the fringe of the scene (but nonetheless related) Sinister Realm, Cyrus, Argus, etc. There are more bands than ever before, but thankfully the quality of the music is maintained or even at higher standards than when we started over 2 decades ago. Some of the early releases were a bit rough to say the least, our own included!

Can you give me a little info on the Hammer Of Doom festival? How long this festival been going?
Hammer Of Doom is a relatively new festival that has only taken place over the last 2-3 years so far, but it is co-organized by Oliver who has been doing the famous Keep It True Festival for several years now. While Hammer Of Doom isn’t the longest running of the Doom-themed events, it is quickly becoming one of the very best! Plus Der Haus 150 Biere is right across the street from the venue!

Whose idea to record the album at this fest?
Bassist Jim Hunter and myself had been discussing for some time the concept of recording all of our shows, especially since we’re getting ever-deeper into 70’s Rainbow-inspired improvisations... meaning every show truly is a one-of-a-kind event. We weren’t really concerned with whether or not it was pro audio or self-bootlegged, we simply intended to capture these one-off performances, and then offer them up on our websites. The Hammer Of Doom festival presented a different opportunity given some Metal TV shows would be there filming the whole thing; it was more or less decided immediately that we needed to capture this event professionally, particularly because Germany really is our strongest bastion of support. Another aspect is the fact that we are so spread out across the States and thus rarely perform live, but are feeling as if we’re in our “golden era” so it was important to capture the band at its peak. There are so many examples of bands that never had a professional live recording when they were at the top of their game, and we didn’t want to be yet another.

What other bands played at the fest along aside you?
We co-headlined the event with Saint Vitus and Asphyx (who performed a special Doom-oriented set). We also shared the stage with Lord Vicar, Old Season, Atlantean Kodex, Centurion’s Ghost, Ahab, and The Wizar’d... many of whom are long-time mates of ours... so it was something of a “family reunion”.

What are band's plans after the release of this album?
We’re already in the studio recording the next album “Fear Of Infinity” which will be released on Nuclear Blast records in April 2011. We’re confirmed to co-headline Up The Hammers 6 in Athens, Greece in March, Hammer Of Doom 5 in Wuerzburg, Germany on April 16th, and are developing tour plans for the EU for after these events. We’re also performing at ProgPower USA XII in September, and I’m sure there will be several other events coming up as well!

Thank you for I would wish you a happy holiday season I also hope the next will be just as prosperous as the last!
Cheers! All the best to you and yours this season as well! Thanks for the opportunity to talk about the band, we really appreciate it!
Interviewer: Paul Lewis
Nov 19, 2010

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