If you mix the sheer intensity of Katatonia with the manic melancholic anthems of Joy Division, you are only beginning to comprehend the artistic reveries of Isolation. One of the most compelling bands to arrive from the German metal/hard rock scene, Isolation’s stunning debut Closing A Circle (Eisenwald Recordings) is a grim yet volatile masterwork that is well worth discovering. We recently had the opportunity to interview Isolation member Johannes Schmid to find out more about the darkness and intrigue which surrounds their atmospheric tapestries.
Introduce yourself, tell me what you do in Isolation, and how long the band has been together.
My name is Johannes and I play guitar and sing in Isolation. We’ve been around roughly since the end of 2004. So far we have released three demos and a split with Austere from Australia. With Closing a Circle we have finally managed to release our debut album.
Where is the band base out of and what is the local music scene like there?
We are from Lübeck, which is in northern Germany and that’s where the band started and we still have our rehearsal place, although nowadays only our drummer Albert still lives there. The local music scene is rather small I would say, but I am probably the wrong person to ask. I mean, I sometimes hang out with people who also play in bands, but I am no part of any scene or whatsoever. I don’t go to many concerts as well.
Is there is any story or concept behind the CD title Closing A Circle?
The story behind the title isn’t very sensational at all. Closing a Circle was the first track we wrote for the album and we thought of it as one of the strongest songs on the album, also it represents the different elements that we use in our music. That’s why we took it as the title track.
As an album title it also stands for a chapter in our band history coming to an end. We’ve tried to develop our music towards a unique style and it was important to us to have achieved something like our own sound before we release an album.
The lyrics of the song itself deal with the feeling of repeating your failures again and again without being able to do things different. You know, these deja-vu moments in life when you find yourself being stuck in places that you been in before and you ask yourself why. Like for some reason you don’t seem to get ahead but rather run in circles.
Select two songs from Closing A Circle and what inspired the lyrical content.
The song The Wasteland is inspired by the book The Dark Tower by Stephen King. Basically the lyrics aren’t very deep. They describe a journey through the desert where you hunt for a maybe illusional goal and that’s of course a metaphor for life itself.
This Moment is probably the closest that I’ve come to writing a love song so far. Without getting too personal: it is based on the memory of moment where I felt so closely connected with someone that I felt that all the world around us didn’t matter anymore and the ages could pass just as long as we stood there embracing each other.
The spoken word at the beginning definitely sets the mood for the entire album. Do you pursue other avenues of creativity such as poetry or acting?
Yeah, I liked it a lot myself. It’s a sample from a Charles Bukowski poem. I am very interested in literature, but so far the Isolation song lyrics are my only output.
What is a live Isolation show like for those of us who have yet to see you play?
We don’t play live actually. We are not really fit to perform the songs onstage as we have recorded them since we are only three guys. We have played some shows in our earlier years and it was always quite exciting for us. But back then already we always had the problem that we had to make a lot of compromises to perform the songs in front of a live audience. I don’t know if we will play any more concerts in the future. I’d certainly like to, but I wouldn’t want to make any compromises like I mentioned there.
Are you inspired by 80’s alternative bands such as Joy Division or The Church? Just curious about that as your music definitely goes beyond the black metal boundaries.
Oh yes, the band name actually refers to the Joy Division song. It’s simply a great band. I also like The Cure a lot. All three of us have a broad interest in music that goes well beyond metal.
How does Closing A Circle compare to your earlier releases, and will Eisenwald be releasing your earlier work?
Our earlier releases were certainly a lot more (black) metal. From our first demo onwards we moved away from that, though. Also I think we have improved our song-writing a lot by now. But still our earlier releases have a certain charm to me. They are very chaotic and not very well played sometimes, but they are very violent and emotional. Probably black metal as it should be, hehe. But we’ve moved away from that and gradually shifted towards calmer and more atmospheric compositions. Maybe it’s also because we are a little older now and listen to a lot of different music now. But also when we started we always wanted to push the limitis of our own sound.
Eisenwald has already released a compilation simply called Isolation which contrains our second and third demo, but it is sold-out at moment I think.. I don’t know if it will be repressed any time soon, but there should be some shops out there, where you can still get it. The same applies for our first demo Striding on the Path of Nihil which was rereleased by Sun & Moon Records a couple of years ago. Our split with Austere called Bleak is still available on CD, but more importantly Eisenwald has recently released a very, very cool 2LP of it. I can only recommend this release to anyone who likes elaborate vinyl releases. It has three-panel gatefold made out of cardbord with gold-ink on it and it features one black and one golden LP. Nico (the owner of Eisenwald) has really done a fantastic job with this release, it really is something special.
Who did the artwork for the Closing A Circle cover and how much input did you have on it?
I did the cover artwork myself, actually. We had someone doing the layout for us and he also contributed additional graphics, but I did the general artwork on my own. It’s a bit funny, at first we really wanted to hire someone else this time to do the artwork, since for the debut album we wanted to have it done in a more professional way. But it didn’t really work out. So doing it myself was rather a plan b solution initially. But in the end I am very happy with the looks of the album. The blue tone matches the the sound and the atmosphere perfectly. So it’s a very good thing I ended up doing it myself.
Are you involved with any other bands or musical projects outside of Isolation?
No, not at the moment. Our bassist Andre also plays in a black metal band called Allmacht and he keeps him self quite busy with varying other projects.. As for me I have been thinking about starting some kind of sideproject for a very long time, but in the end my whole creativity goes into Isolation cause that’s where my heart is.
What is it you’d like a listener to remember the most after hearing the Closing A Circle album for the first time?
If you downloaded it and like it then please remember to buy an original copy, hehe. Well, I guess a listener should be prepared to give the album a couple of spins before you can really enjoy it. So if you are not too euphoric upon first listening, maybe you should give it some time. That’s what we got from a lot of people who wrote reviews. On the other hand most people who wrote negative reviews seemed to have listened to it only one time. So I guess the album can be challenging at first, it certainly isn’t so very “entertaining” right away.
Any final words of wisdom?
No wisdom here, I am afraid. If you are looking for wisdom go read a good book!
(Interview by Kenneth Morton)