Not much seems to happen in the Canadian Metal scene, other than a few Brutal Death Metal manifestations every now and then. Thus, Transcendence and their brand of Atmospheric Metal managed to get my attention...
(A small excerpt from the interview featured in full on Dark Oath #6)
I understand your name has a certain conceptual meaning attached to it. Could you tell us about that and how the name relates or portrays your music and your attitude/goals?
Transcendence is the fact, state or art of being transcendent, which in turn means going beyond normal limits, beyond the limits of possible human experience, about the limitations of the material universe. With that definition, I can tell you that our ultimate goal is to go beyond the limits of possibility We try to reach into the threads of the material and immaterial universe to gather the essence of existence which is Transcendence. To name is also related to the concept which has hidden mystical meanings within it. The story of Dolric is but a key that leads into the realms of our transcendent thoughts, it is the foundations on which everything that surrounds Transcendence is based.
You seem to have a wide array of influences. How would you say that they come together in the band and how would you describe your music?
We tend to describe our music as 'Progressive Atmospheric Metal'. It is a tag or a name which IS easy for people to relate to. That description is the basis of our sound, the roots of Transcendence. But I believe that being categorized (especially for Transcendence) in a specific field of music restrains the image or the accessibility of a band. I even know some bands who want to stick to certain description of the sound so much that they limit themselves with the music they play. As you mentioned, we do have a wide array of musical influences ranging from Death, Thrash and Black Metal all the way to Gothic, New-Age, Industrial, Rock and Classical music. What we feel free of doing with Transcendence is using those influences whenever the need for a special ambiance is required by the concept and the story. All our influences are combined into our music, but we are ever changing. This element of variance allows us to grow and to use our music as the flowing river or the stream by which the concept drifts and evolves. The music is the essence of our thoughts and the result of all the passion, the energy and the work we put into this album.
I see no reference to any demos on your press-kit, so I presume that "Eternal Stream" is your first release ever. Don't you think that a band should create a certain background before releasing an album? How did the chance to work with Gaļa Disk came up and could you tell us some more about the label?
Well, if a band's got a chance to release an album, I think they should go for it. Obviously, if they get signed by a record label, it means that in the eyes of that label, this specific band is good, therefore should sell well. Of course it is easier for a band to reach more people if its name is already known, so we must work twice as hard as those other bands to build ourselves a solid reputation and we must do that with our first album instead of a demo. But I think that proves that we have reached a certain level of maturity in our music. Look, bands like Moonspell or Paradise Lost built themselves a good reputation very fast with their first albums. I guess we intend on doing the same with "Eternal Stream" and looks like things are already in the process of being so: the responses we get are very positive! I must also stress that the fact that we are from North America and not Europe also has something to do regarding our 'no demo' status. A demo is, to our point of view, a complete waste of time, money and effort in our continent. There are less labels signing Metal over here (they are usually also very slow to sign - you get tired of what you play way before that!) than in Europe and Europe, submerged in demos from European bands, has nothing to do with bands from here.
Concerning Gaļa Disk, Benoit Lapierre, the president, saw us live while we were doing our last show with the first members of the band. Later, he heard our rehearsal tape and showed some interest in the band. But it wasn't until he heard that we had changed our style that this interest really showed up. He came to see us at our rehearsal place and a few weeks later he called me to offer Transcendence a record deal. Everyone at Gaļa Disk takes good care of us. They work very hard for us and for the few other bands they've got. We get a lot of feedback which is very important to know where we are going. They are perfectionists and only looking for the best, they know what they want and how to get it, and they expect the same from us.
Something which I found curious about you is that you don't fear the term 'commercial' or avoid it when referring to your music. However, a commercial approach sometimes implies compromises and changes in order to fit commercial moulds. How do you feel about that and how does that 'commercial approach', as stated on the flyer, is applied to Transcendence?
Well, the flyer states two words: 'commercial approach'. This means that our music has a commercial touch, a sort of 'catchiness' that you can remember easily and fast. That is the meaning and parallel drawn to commercial music, but we don't fear the term as Transcendence has no limits. We use the feelings we like and the sound of different styles to portray our story and commercial is only one of the many styles. Besides, doing lengthy epic songs in the eight to ten minutes realm is not what I would call commercial music. The term in question is only there to make people aware that it doesn't take two thousand spins to begin to be appreciated. So, for Transcendence, 'commercial approach' inspires 'catchiness' and an ability to appeal to a wider range of audience, from Gothic Rock to Death and Black Metal and beyond...
Phillipe, you are also one of the individuals responsible for Gaļa Disk, the label which released Transcendence's debut album and you're taking a marketing course from what I have read here. How has that experience helped in the promotion of the band/label? What would you say are the most important things in order to promote a band or label properly?
Before I formed Transcendence, I was, among other things, manager of three local bands of the Montreal area. So I was aware of how to evolve and to work in that particular scene. That also helped me avoid all the traps and potential mistakes that a new band tends to make. To promote properly a label, professionalism and a good band are two of the things you need. When I say a good band, I don't refer to the style of music or to the orientation of that band, but rather to diversity, concept, musicianship, innovation and all those things that make a band special or different from others. To promote a band properly, you need lots of things like publicity, touring, reviews, distribution, etc., but in general terms, you need a good label who believes in a good band and who will push it as much as possible.
Transcendence "Eternal Stream"
CD 1996 Gaļa Disk 9 songs/48'
Canadian bands are usually known for their brutality and aggression more than anything (think Blasphemy, Kataklysm, Cryptopsy, etc.) hence I was quite surprised to get something like Transcendence from Canada. Hopefully you should have taken a look at the interview by now so you might have figured out that there's a lot going on on "Eternal Stream", not only concept-wise, but also musically. Some of the writing and performance could use a tinny fine-tuning (or perhaps a better production would suffice?!), but nonetheless the disc should make any debutante band proud. Referred to as 'Progressive Atmospheric Metal', Transcendence have found great use in the addition of keyboards and female vocals to their music and these elements have come to provide their half melodic Swedish Death Metal, half Gothic Doom Metal-laden Death Metal, a much wider scope. Things usually move at a vivid and catchy moderate pace on Transcendence's territory, although all-out atmospheric/acoustic passages and interludes are also common use - the music holds an ethereal and lighthearted essence that can offer the listener a relaxing listen adorned with plenty of gentle and serene soundscapes created by the fine keyboard work (which at times is almost close to New Age music) and by Sebrina's and Phillipe's vocals. Just the same, the somewhat elaborate and varied guitar work which allows Transcendence to explore Prog Rock grounds on occasion, as well as the scarce though good fancy arrangements (flutes, violins, congas, etc., and in particular the Gregorian choirs used on 'The Pool of Skies'), are, of course, also valuable aspects of Transcendence's music. It's a shame that the guitar distortion tends to become somewhat thin every now and then, but nonetheless, "Eternal Stream" should be a worthy addition to any Atmospheric Metal fan's collection. $15US (Can/US) $20US (R.o.W) to Gaļa Disk.