Interview with Sol Sistere – Atmospheric Black Metal from Chile

This week I spoke to the guys in Sol Sistere – Atmospheric Black Metal from Chile – we talked about South American UFO hot spots, The Chilean Black Metal Scene, surviving some serious Earthquakes and much much more – read on!

* So you guys are from Santiago Chile right? Chile has had a great and long history of classic Death metal bands – but is there a very strong Black metal scene there at all?

Yes, we’re from Santiago, the capital of Chile, which is located at the very center of the country.

As you mentioned, the Chilean death metal scene (same as the thrash scene) dates back to the 90’s, and it’s still strong in the whole country, especially in the old school sound. Regarding the black metal scene, it’s quite rich now, but it’s kind of new, something that has been developing in the recent years, and it’s mostly focused in the center and south of Chile. The sound of the black metal bands is very diverse, you can find mostly dark and raw oriented music, but also some melodic and very few atmospheric projects.

* How did you first hear about Black metal and what was the first band that really won you over? For me it had to be either Burzum or Darkthrone
Actually, I don’t remember the exact moment I first listened to black metal, but I do remember the first band and album that I was addicted to was Darkthrone’s Transilvanian Hunger. I think that album is relevant until today and somehow, even when our music is mostly related to newer or more melodic stuff, you can listen that influence in the speed of our songs or the type of sad melodies of the guitar. Also, other bands that were important back in the day were old Ulver and Emperor, but I’d like to highlight the Swedish bands I later got to know, like Sacramentum or Dissection, which is still one of my favorite bands, and Dawn, who created one of my favorite albums, at least on of my top 5, which is Slaughtersun. In our music, you can hear a lot of that stuff, while trying to keep a modern approach to black metal.

* How did you get your record deal with Hammerheart?
Well, we got the deal in the simplest way: writing an email and asking. Actually, the process of looking for a label was long and it implied writing to a lot of labels of all sizes to see if they were interested in our album, which was already finished. Most of them ignored our emails, as you can expect, but we got a few replies. Of the ones who replied, most of them told us they weren’t accepting new bands or they simply weren’t interested, but even when it took them some time, Hammerheart Records were the only ones who got interested and wanted to hear the whole album. After a while, they told us they thought the album was very good and they were interested in releasing it. That was great, because HHR was in fact the biggest label on our list, so the fact that they accepted us was a big success.

* Have you been pleased with the promotion of the album so far?
Yes, we think HHR did a great job because we’ve gathered more than 40 reviews and a level of notoriety we couldn’t have gotten ourselves. It’s hard to enter the global scene when you come from South America and are actually still based in Chile, so having the support of a European label, especially an old and renowned one, helps us a lot to get noticed. We are still a very small act, but we feel that the reach of this first full-length was a great start for our career as a band.

* You guys sing a lot about life death and rebirth – do any of the band have any pagan beliefs? Wicca? Odinism? Incan?
Not particularly, but those are all interesting topics. Also, when you read a little about the beliefs of different ancient cultures, you see a lot of things in common, like praising the sun, considering it as a deity or a symbol of birth, death, and the cycles of life. That’s in part what inspires our band’s name.

* Is there much religious repression in Chile like many other South American countries have?
Well, there’s a lot of Christianity here, mainly Catholicism. But I wouldn’t say there’s really repression now, there’s freedom of religion, even when there’s basically no other religion besides Christianity, e.g., the number of other believers, such as Muslims, Jews or Buddhists here is so low that it’s probable you won’t see any of them more than once a year. The different churches (catholic and protestants) always raise their voices when it comes to decide on important matters, such as abortion, gay rights, things like that, but I wouldn’t say it’s different from what happens in the US, I mean, they can’t do anything besides propaganda and try to persuade their believers.

I remember that a catholic priest wanted to put pressure on the authorities to cancel a Deicide show back in 2005 because he was worried about the lyrics, the album covers, and the whole satanic gimmick. I recall he even wanted to forbid their entrance to the country, but he obviously didn’t have any right or authority to do so. He thought he would see a black mass on stage or something, but after the gig (which obviously wasn’t cancelled or anything), he then realized it was all just a music show and nothing more. I bet there are guys like him everywhere, but he just had access to the press.

* Are you familiar with this American TV show Ancient Astronauts? If not the tv show is about the belief that Aliens came and influenced the evolution of humanity many times in the past. Many of the historians on the show belief that the Aliens spent much time in South America – do you have any thoughts on this?
Some sectors of Chile and South America are known for being ‘hot spots’ (places where a lot of UFO sightings take place). To a large extent, this is due to the nature of our geography, our climate, and our location on the planet, that’s why we are very privileged to have a quality sky for astronomical observation. This way, indigenous peoples of South America were nourished from this same sky, and through the observation of it, they developed beliefs expressed through their myths, legends, and ceremonies, which altogether created a very special and powerful world view. These beliefs were related to a power and knowledge that come from beyond the stars, and they have been passed on in one way or another for generations, and even though this ancient world view has been lost in modern society, there is still a lot of interest to study phenomena which are hard to explain in a rational way. This is a topic so rooted in our blood that, for instance, in Chile there is an organism called CEFAA, (Committee for the Study of Abnormal Aerial Phenomena) that is an official governmental agency and part of the DGAC (General Direction of Civil Aviation), which is dedicated to the study of aerial phenomena categorized as unidentified flying objects (UFO); and among all case studies, there is a great number referred to openly as UFO (as in the ship meaning of the term), because there seems to be no other explanation. If we are talking about extraterrestrials or beings from other realities, that’s a separate issue, but if we can conclude something for sure, is that it seems to be clear that something is going on in our sky since ancient times until today.

* I remember Chile has had some serious earthquakes in its time – have you or any of the band ever been caught in any?
Yes, we have a lot of earthquakes, and it’s so common, that we usually consider the non-catastrophic ones as simple tremors, even when they’re actually stronger than the ones in Nepal, Haiti or Italy. Chile holds the record of the strongest and worst earthquake in history (Valdivia, 1960. Richter scale 9.5), and the country is really prone to telluric movements, so we, who were all born before 1985, have lived at least three major earthquakes. Our buildings are pretty well-built, though, with anti-seismic technology, so the damages are mainly in rural areas and/or near the coastline, because of potential tsunamis. Santiago is not near the coast, so we’ve never been caught in a tsunami. Luckily, all of our homes have resisted the different earthquakes.

* How often do you guys play live shows?
Quite often, actually. During 2016 I think we played a gig every month, sometimes twice. We tried to play in different cities. But now we’re resting from live gigs and we’ll work on our next album. We have several songs and we have to rehearse them and look after every detail before entering the studio, which is not scheduled yet, there are no specific dates, so I guess we also have a lot of planning to do, and temporarily stopping our live presentations is important to do it right.

* Do you have any plans to tour countries like Brazil, Argentina and Peru?
Currently, there are no specific plans, but it would be great and we’re definitely interested. We have talked to a couple of Argentinean guys, and I think that’s probably the first place we’ll visit, especially the cities of Argentina which are closer to the Chilean border, but it would be awesome to play in Buenos Aires, which is a massive city. Regarding the other South American countries, I think we have more fans in Colombia than in Brazil, for instance. So maybe that’s another possible destination for a tour.

* Any plans to tour the USA?
Again, we’d love to do it, but we don’t have concrete plans yet. So maybe there are promoters reading this who are interested, and if that’s the case, we’re open to discuss this and actually we would be very exited.

* Do many of the big name Black metal bands Dimmu Borgir, Watain, Mayhem, Marduk etc ever play in Chile?
Yes, all of the bands you mentioned have played in Chile and we have this kind of concerts all the time. In fact, Mayhem was here last October playing the whole De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas album, and it was pretty solid. And Borkganar is playing for the first time in Chile next March.

We haven’t been able to share the stage with any of these big bands yet, but the bands we’d really love to play with will probably never come here because they’re not that big, I’m talking about names like Der Weg Einer Freiheit, Wode, The Great Old Ones, Void Omnia, and a long etcetera.

* What can we expect from Sol Sistere in 2017?
We are planning to record our next full-length. As I mentioned before, we don’t really have dates for our new album, but I can tell you it’s going to be similar in style as our first one, but more diverse at the same time. We’ll keep all the atmospheric and melodic elements, and we’ll show a few new tricks.

We’re also planning a short European tour in mid 2017, mainly in Eastern Europe. I can’t give you details by now, but we’re still working on getting dates and talking to promoters.

* Any final words to your fans?
Thank you for this interview and thanks to all the fans who support our music in one way or another. We’ll give you a great new album and we hope to see you on the road.