Special Feature: Albatross and Vestal Claret

  • Interview by: Vilasini Muralidhar
  • Date: July 11, 2011

This is probably one of the biggest announcements of the year in metal, and Headbangers India is pretty darn thrilled to make it on the site today! Horror metal band ALBATROSS will be releasing a split EP with U.S. based doom outfit VESTAL CLARET later this year!
Read on to find out more about this killer project!


HBI: Hey guys! Thanks for joining us on Headbangers India! How’ve you been? What’s been keeping you busy of late?

VC (Phil): Lots of writing and recording. Simons really taken the reins and ran with it. Immediately after recording the songs for our 7” for Sarlacc Productions we began recording our full length and right from there we started writing and recording 4 new songs we just finished for our split with Ungod and now we are looking to begin recording new material for the Albatross split. Lots of work getting done considering we’ve been apart for the past few years.

HBI: Let’s talk about the background of Vestal Claret. How did you come together? And what is the significance of the name?

VC: Seems like a long boring story at this point but it all began as a simple idea to create an occult heavy metal band in the tradition of bands like Coven (thrash), Angel Witch, early Onslaught, Running Wild and Stormwitch but also mix some elements of deathrock like Thelema and the Christian Death debut. The name by definition means “virgin blood”, there is a reoccurring theme throughout many of the songs referencing the power of a virgins blood whether it be a newborn or prepubesant male or female. Satan favors either equally.

HBI: You just released a full length album, ‘Bloodbath’. Tell us a little about the music and the theme of the album. How is the sound of this different from what we heard in ‘Two Stones’?

VC: The theme revolves around satanic panic and stories I heard of satanic cults growing up that were roaming the highways and kidnapping children. I lived in the suburbs and now that I’m older I realize it was just a way to keep us from straying to far from home. But as a kid it was a pretty scary thought and I wanted to bring that idea back.

Musically this record is drastically different from the ‘Two Stones’ EP but the songs from that record are included as well. The material written after EP became much more adventurous when Simon took a bigger role in the writing and arranging. Simple 3-4 minute songs blew up to epic proportions.

HBI: We’d love to know more about your collaboration with black metallers Ungod. How did that come about?

VC: Originally, Hour of 13 was intended to do the split with Ungod and for reasons unbeknownst to me that never happened even

though I continually questioned why? Then one day Schiekron opened a chat with me on Facebook and we were just talking shit and I mentioned how disappointed I was we never did the split and he said lets fuckin do so yeah were doin it. It turned out Ungod had been waiting this whole time to do it and already recorded their tracks someone just wasn’t telling me all the facts. I hadn’t spoke with Ungod directly until that day on FB. Schiekron and I worked it all out right then switching out Hour of 13 for Vestal Claret and we went to work finding a label to release it.

HBI: You once said that you felt Vestal Claret was “far ahead of its time” and “misunderstood”. Why did you think that? Do you think that has changed now?

VC: At the time of Vestal Clarets inception occult metal wasn’t where it is today. You had the raw NWOBHM worship like Heathen Hoof and the like or epic stuff like Doonsword. A lot of the stuff still had a strong black metal influence whether raw or atmospheric if it wasn’t more doomy like Reverend Bizarre. Vestal Claret was very clean and traditional sounding in comparison but people who were listen to clean metal wanted more of a power metal style.

Only recently has the scene progressed and got more demanding of its metal. Now people are accepting more straight forward mid-tempo metal again. And while still power metallars aren’t accepting of the style doom metallars are allowing themselves a faster pace on occasion. So I just feel now its time for a band like Vestal Claret. When the EP was released it was considered a B-side to Atlantean Kodex and everyone overlooked Vestal Claret in favor of Atlantean Kodex, I think people are finally ready for side B…

HBI: And now, about your collaboration with Albatross! What have you got planned for this project?

VC: Well, I’m letting Simon dictate that at this time as I no longer take part in the music end just the vocals and words. So I’ll see where Simon takes me this time. With the new tracks for Ungod we went back to the EP formula of verse / chorus which I think suits the record well as Ungod are a very raw straight forward and aggressive band. Albatross on the other hand are much more progressive in nature so it may call us to push things a little more, I think we were talking a bout one song of 3 parts last I remember.

HBI: How familiar are you with Indian metal?

VC: Not very in all honesty but last year watching Global Metal it really peaked my interest and it seems like India is the new hotbed of heavy metal like Japan was in the 80s and South America in the 90s-2000s. It looks from my perspective to be a very exciting time like the early 80s awakening, I’m actually quite jealous as I miss that excitement about heavy metal as I have become so jaded. India probably has the most enthusiastic and honest outlook on heavy metal in the world right now and should be considered the new pride of heavy metal and I’m not just sucking dick here. From what I’ve seen and heard lately in India versus the the rest of the world, India will be the metal stronghold over the next 5-10 years I would have to guess.

HBI: After this project, are you guys planning to make a trip down to India to play for us sometime?

VC: We would abso-fucking-lutely take that opportunity in a heartbeat if ever offered. That would be a highlight for me to be sure. But that is easier said then done. If there is one show I would like to see happen for Vestal Claret that would be India. Like Hour of 13 in Ireland “one and done”!

HBI: What else is coming up for the band in the next couple of months? Any other announcements/ gigs/ projects that fans can look forward to?

VC: Simon, Mike and I are always involved in so many other projects the list would be too long to mention. As for Vestal Claret just keep a look out for these 4 new releases.

Vestal Claret – Virgin Blood 7”
Vestal Claret – Blood Bath dbl lp / dbl cd
Vestal Claret / Ungod – split
Vestal Claret / Albatross – split


HBI: Hello again! Congratulations on the big news! Tell us how this came about…

Albatross (Riju): The story actually begins with Biprorshee(vocals) listening to “Bohemian Rhapsody”, tweeting ‘goodbye everybody I’ve got to go’ and going to sleep after switching off his cellphone. This simple action prompted his friends to go into panic mode and buzz me asking if he’s killing himself. As much as I tried to console them saying ‘relax, it’s a song by Queen’ they wouldn’t relent. It was around 5 am at this time, and people you don’t ordinarily see on Facebook chat(because of massive time differences) were online. One of them was Phil Swanson, who’s my 5th favourite vocalist of all time(after King Diamond, Niklas Stalvind- who’s also singing on this record, Geoff Tate and Bruce Dickinson) and I’ve loved almost every band he’s been in. Thankfully an Albatross fan(hey Hamza Farooq) had made a Youtube video for ‘In the Court of Kuru’ which I linked to Phil, which he consented to listen to. Minutes later, he was asking me if I’d want to do a split record with Vestal Claret. My jaw hit the floor. The problem was, we were working on a full length record at this time, and I didn’t have a story for a split EP. 48 sleepless hours later I did, and it’s called ‘Here come the Kissing Flies’. The rest as they say is a grim piece of macabre history. Cheers to people who haven’t heard “Bohemian Rhapsody”, we love you all :).

HBI: Give us details on what exactly you have planned for this. How many songs are you working on, what’s the theme you will be dealing with here and so on.

Riju: It’s a 4 song EP (from our end that is, obviously Phil and Simon will send across some insane tracks of their own) and is called ‘Here come the Kissing Flies’. We will release album art, a part of the story and maybe a promo from the album in the future. Kissing bugs are actually creatures that exist, which we’ve highly demonized in this story. It is a much better concept than ‘Dinner is You’; which was a story where we were just about creating our sound and getting our footing in place. We have two insanely twisted minds helping us write the music- Murari Vasudevan from Rat King and Niklas fucking Stalvind from Wolf; and we can’t wait to hear what they bring to the table. We’ve pretty much finalized on a label; but the owner has forbidden us to take his name. So everything’s going smoothly as of now…phew.

HBI: To Riju- Workshop recently called it quits soon after you announced that you wouldn’t be part of the band anymore. Tell us a little about what happened there.

Riju: Albatross has always been my pet project, and there came a time when Workshop wasn’t doing it for me anymore. I don’t regret being in Workshop one bit, those guys are my best friends and I love them to death. In fact Albatross is recording with Sahil and Hamza (Demonic Studios) as we speak. Moreover with work commitments, I couldn’t focus on 2 bands. Sahil and Hamza had planned to audition new members, like we did with Devesh after Raj left; but soon after Sahil decided to call it quits as he didn’t feel it anymore. It’s quite a sad affair really. We might do one last special appearance soon, let’s see.

HBI: Now that you have Albatross completely in focus, are you thinking of doing something more with the band? For example,you haven’t played too many gigs, so do you have any extensive touring plans?

Riju: We do. We were supposed to play Ladakh at the end of this month, but that show is tentative because of political issues in the region. We aim to play shows in cities we haven’t been to primarily such as Delhi, Nasik, Nagpur, Chennai, Hyderabad and maybe Bangalore again, where we hopefully don’t suck as bad as we did last time. We’ve been planning to get a proper live act in place but there are very few venues around the country which can accomodate actors. But yes, lots more gigs for sure.

HBI:‘Dinner is You’ was a very well received album, especially by critics! Is the concept and sound of Albatross the same as we heard on the album or can we expect something different?

Riju: Thanks. It’s hard to say how well received it was, because we’ve heard as much criticism as praise :). But the lack of universal acceptance just means we’re doing something right. Or we’d just be like Delhi Belly, which everyone likes but is quite meh.

The concept is the same; it’s a horror story told through music. But the story is different, so the music will be radically different too. The biggest difference this time around is that Rajarshi is no longer on board with the band, and we have a team of amazing guitarists- Shrikant ‘the scarecrow’ Shrinivasan and Vignesh. They happen to be the most incredible guitar unit I’ve ever worked with because while The Scarecrow is a complete feel based guitarist, Vignesh is all about technique. And together, they create some real magic, or should I say black magic. Shrikant has definitely brought about some old school thrash elements to the table, and Vignesh some progressive elements, which can almost be musically unpleasant at times. But hey, no one said horror music is for the weak of heart or the narrow of mind.

HBI: Working with Vestal Claret is surely going to get Albatross a lot of international attention! Will you be cashing in on this and looking at playing abroad or scoring some record deals?

Riju: No plans as of now, but never say never. We do dream of one day playing Rock in Rio and being Century Media artists; but that is a distant dream for now. Exposing Vestal Claret to our audience and being exposed to theirs is fucking cool though!

HBI: What about the art-work, production, release date and other particulars about this collaborative project? Give us the details…

Riju: We currently have Imran Ladak, the man who designed the Albatross logo designing our cover. The split is planned for this winter, and should be out late December or January. We have enough material for another split post that; and I’m currently working on a full length concept as well. The future sounds exciting.

HBI: The Doom metal scene in India is at quite a nascent stage. Give us your views on that. Do you think there is potential to grow? And will projects like yours, open up a lot of doors to this genre of music?

Riju: We’re not doom per se, although we might have the occasional doom song in our records. But because of the lack of even a handful of doom bands in the country we’re grouped with Bevar Sea and Dormant Inferno (who’re actually probably my 2 favourite bands in the country). But the scene is expanding, as are minds…and I can see people liking more and more doom as time goes on. Personally speaking, give me 50 BPM over 250 BPM any day of the week. Shout out to all the old schoolers out there, thanks for keeping it real!

HBI: When one thinks of Albatross, one of the first images that comes to mind is lab coats and of course, the blood! Do you think building this kind of a visual image helps establish the band better?

Riju: That’s been our biggest criticism so far. Why am I the only member dressed in a labcoat and not the others? Thankfully our brand new guitar duo is working on an outfit and we should be ready in a new garb in almost no time. One reason we don’t play live that often is because I don’t think our live shows do justice to the music. Until the day Biprorshee is not singing ‘Among the Cannibals’ while being carried around the venue by a bunch of actors dressed as cannibals, I’ll never be happy.

HBI: Is there anything else Albatross has in store for us in the coming months? Any other huge announcements that we could at least get a preview of here?

Riju: Nothing concrete yet. Just a lot more destinations. Lot more horror. Lot more weird sounds. Like what you’re hearing right now. Is it in your mind? Is it outside? Is it a chainsaw? Worse yet, is it a fly?

For details and other updates on this killer project, visit Albatross on MySpace.

Photography credits:

Albatross- Prashin Jagger
Vestal Claret- Jim Altieri