Perth based Post Black Metal outfit ‘Illyria’ have just released their much anticipated debut self-titled album. Tomatrax caught up with Ilija Stajic, guitarist and vocalist from the band, to ask a few questions.
How did the band form?
The whole process of becoming a band nearly took 2 years. Originally, Illyria was a 2-piece Internet project between George and I during 2013/2014. We released our debut single ‘Cold Summer’ publically a year later which gained interest in the scene. After a few months of scouting and negotiating we managed to snap up Matthew, Daniel and James in the process.
Where did the name Illyria come from?
I was studying History in high-school, Ancient Rome to be precise. There was a Roman province called ‘Illyria’ in the Balkans and it really captivated me as a band name. It sounds similar to my name which definitely helps in a biased sense.
You’ve just released your debut album, what’s it like to have it out?
It has taken a very long time, fortunately it’s our debut and we could take as long as we want. It’s a beautiful and rewarding feeling. Looking back at all the hours of composing, rehearsing and recording… it’s taken three years and when you think about it the journey has only just begun. We aren’t going into this debut album showcasing period with high-expectations; we want to continue to keep working hard and progressing as musicians.
Why did you decide to make the album self-titled?
We love the album artwork so much that we implemented an artistic concept to it. The artwork is hand-drawn and it is very pristine, we decided to create an exclusive logo for it. We believe that provided enough content for the album and that self-titled was the way to approach this.
What made you pick ‘Sarim’ as the album’s single?
Sarim is very different to the other songs on the album, it’s more post-rock than the more-so black-metal sound people were expecting. We wanted to show listeners that we can play other styles of music too; thankfully listeners took this very positively on the chin. We are advocates of musical diversity and Sarim was the perfect candidate as a single.
You’ve said that the album is best enjoyed in its entirety, was it written as a whole piece rather than a collection of song?
It isn’t conceptual at all. It’s definitely a collective of compositions but we arranged the pieces in an order we believe that provides a roller-coaster of aural fixation. At one point it can be chaotic and monstrous and then another it can be calm and melancholic, we like having the flexibility and freedom of writing what we feel.
You’ve said that your goal is to capture and build on the gracious melodies and pulsating rhythms of the hybrid genre whilst pushing the accessibility of the genre to new listeners around the world, is it hard to get the balance right between the different parts of this goal?
Absolutely it is difficult! There have been many debacles between us as a band on what approach to take in our songs all the time. A great example was how we created our song ‘Origins’, it is all over the place dynamically, emotionally and compositionally. The original demo and recordings of that song were totally different to how it turned out in the end. It was originally a very soft song that only went for around three minutes. We managed to add an extra eight minutes worth of music to it and Origins turned into this enlightening post-black metal journey. We want to sustain and implement a good contrast and balance in our future music.
What was the inspiration behind the album’s cover?
A young artist named Jade Hewton crafted it while she was still in high school! We are thankful to be able to use it for our album because we believe it symbolises the music of our album perfectly.
When writing what comes first, the words or the music?
The inspiration comes first, then the music, then the words. All these songs on this album have all begun from moments I have experienced fictionally or in reality. I gather the emotions from these experiences and then I translate what I feel to my guitar. Everything that I create I firstly write and plot to on my preferred composition software ‘Guitar Pro 6’. Every composition begins through writing on my computer but something has to initiate me to write in the first place. Whether it is something I watch on the news, socialising with friends or playing video games – these kinds of moments initiate me to create what is on the Illyria record.
Do you ever listen to your own music?
This is a tough question to answer because ultimately yes I do listen to my own music but do I voluntarily? No because I don’t want to over-exhaust myself listening to my own songs however I absolutely love performing them and that’s the best compensation you can ask for.
What other music do you listen to?
Oh dear… Post-album release I have been bombarded by my girlfriend’s radio playing all the top-40 hits at the moment, fortunately it can somewhat be quite the refresher for me to not have to listen to so much metal all the time, and due to that I really like The Weeknd’s album. When it comes to the music I love listening to it is mostly metal and rock obviously, it spans from Italian 70s prog rock to obscure Eastern Bloc slam bands. Recently I’ve been worshipping the new Fallujah and Slice the Cake albums – absolutely fantastic musicians. I’m streaming those two constantly on repeat whilst studying.
Now that the album is out what do you plan on doing next?
One thing is for sure is that we aren’t flat-lining as a band. We are determined to keep writing new material and solidify ourselves in our own home, Australia firstly. We definitely want to endeavour into touring around the country, it’s quite difficult being so isolated here in Perth but we are ambitious to really give this a humble shot.
Check out Illyria’s Facebook page to find out more!