An Interview with Hezaliel (Evocative and Surreal Dark Ambient Story Telling)

Hezaliel is a project from the mind of Steve Fabry. It is one of his three. This is his dark ambient endeavor whilst the other two, The Nighstalker and Sercati, are carved of melodic black metal and gothic/dark metal, respectively. Every release from this Belgian artist focuses on a protagonist bearing the name the Nighstalker, be it from any of his three projects. Each album, each song Steve writes and records builds the world he feels and experiences in his dreams and casts light—however dreary and dim—on the character of the Nightstalker.

Hezaliel sprouted from the confines of Steve’s mind when he realized his aforementioned projects could not clearly articulate aspects of the Nightstalker story. Where instruments and traditional song structures were able provide powerful and vibrant backdrops for him to explore and flesh out his character, they in some sense fell short in capturing the swells of emotion underlying pivotal story moments. Thus came Hezaliel’s first release Falling On Earth in early 2016 and just over a year later, In The World Of The Anesthetist.

While the story elements need not be reveled in feverishly to understand what Steve is doing with Hezaliel, the cinematic luster oozing from his albums begs for attentive and engaging listens. In this interview, Steve takes us deeper into his latest release and illuminates his growing body of work surrounding the Nightstalker. Thank you for reading and your continued support.

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Steve and The Nightstalker

What spurred you to begin your dark ambient project Hezaliel? Is it a project you established because there were specific sounds and noises  in your mind you couldn’t fit into the bodies of other projects you’re currently apart of?

In my other project (Sercati and The Nightstalker), I tell the story of the Nightstalker—a fallen angel who decided to help Mankind. But in the story, there are a lot of parts I can’t explain with lyrics or melody. All the missing parts take sense with sounds and textures, something more organic. And I really have to tell all these parts of the story. That’s why I needed to create Hezaliel.

What does Hezaliel represent for you personally?

All the stuff I have in mind and I can’t explain with words. And a lot a research. Choose the right sound for the right feeling. Trying a lot of stuff before I find the right one. I’m a sound designer too so I think this project is really close from my vision of the sound.

Could you tell us about the moment you knew you wanted to begin crafting dark ambient music? Was there a specific album that sincerely compelled you to begin producing as Hezaliel?

The moment was when I understood than my other project have some “limits”. Not in the way of writing music but in the concept. I really needed to have something different to be free to experiment with sounds. So I wrote and recorded the first record of Hezaliel, Falling on Earth, and it was a really good experience. I have a lot of fun and some part of the story was finally out of my mind.

When did you begin writing or conceptualizing your new record, ‘In The World Of The Anesthetist’?

I think since I wrote this part of the story (2 years ago, I think), but it took a really long time to find all the sounds and ideas. I was really busy by my other project and I needed to take time to find everything I need. I prefer to work on one concept for a long time and finish it as I want rather than rush everything and go to another one. And I play a lot to role play. So one of my friends just launched a playlist when we were playing and I heard the Cryo Chamber compilation and it was amazing. The sounds just help me to have some pictures in my head. It was the right way to do it for the empty place.

The record has quite a clear cinematic trajectory that reads and sounds like a horrendous opiate nightmare where nothing is felt and listeners are helplessly subject to terrifying spectacles. From where did your idea for this record arise? Does it relate to a personal nightmare or harrowing experience of yours?

Oh no, I really hope to never make some nightmare like that. All this comes from my book, Le journal du Nightstalker. It’s a part of the story when the hero is in his own nightmare and must defeat his own fear. His enemy – The Anesthetist – injects him with some drugs in his veins and plunges the Nightstalker into the world of nightmare.  I try to stay closer than the story because I see the movie about the story in my head. It’s like the soundtrack of a movie but the movie doesn’t exist.

Could you give us a synopsis or some insight into the overarching story you tell on ‘Anesthetist’ beyond what the song titles describe?

The Anesthetist is an enemy who came many times in the story. It’s not the true opponent but it’s a slave to his master: Lucifer. He forced The Nightstalker to be stronger. In the album, the main character suffers because he killed his first opponent, The Hound from Hell, when he arrived on Earth. And in his nightmare, the spirit of The Hound from Hell helped him to find his path. It’s a way to accept his mistakes and finally live with them. It’s a journey with himself. A way to better understand every feeling, fear, … It’s more violent because the Anesthetist forced him but he succeeded to defeat the bad alone, just because he accepted his own dark side.

How did you approach composing this record? Did you have a clear image of the story you wanted to articulate or did it develop in unexpected ways as you wrote and composed it?

Unfortunately (or not, it depend the point of view) I have already written all the story so I’ve clearly outlined each part in my mind. But I choose the part of the story that I want to explore with Hezaliel. I’ve got a lot of possibilities to find which part need to be explained with sounds and textures. And it’s really helpful to have any idea of where I can start and stop. Hezaliel is the kind of project which I can lose myself in too much too easily in composition and research.

Your track “Return Of An Old Enemy” blew me away (and also startled me some). I don’t think I’ve heard another dark ambient track like it in that it’s comprised almost solely of a droning organ. Where did you get the idea to craft a song like this? And how does it fit in the context of the story you’re telling?

It’s a very nice song. First you need to know that I love church organ. It’s an instrument very dark, very deep and there is something very sacred. I needed this kind of instrument for the return of The Hound from Hell. Something dark and stressing and solemn. It’s my favorite opponent against The Nightstalker. He disappears too fast from the story but he becomes the spiritual guide of the hero. But he needed something very huge, colossal (I think he deserved it).

How do you go about acquiring the field recordings you use?

I’m sound designer so, I record a lot of stuff and I like to destroy, change, and crush them to find some news sounds or textures. I like experimenting with different instrument (my favorite is a bow on a lot of stuff) with different mics. It’s always trying and sometimes it works and sometimes not. I like this kind of “luck”. I like the feeling when I find something interesting by accident.

Is there a balance you aim to strike in your songs with respect to use of field recordings?

The balance between what I’ve got in my mind and what I want to reach is very difficult to keep equal. But it’s always a battle to have when you create, I think. You need to stay focused on your goal even it didn’t sound like you want at the beginning. It needs working hard and searching. And at the end, you will be satisfied by your work. Maybe because your ears are accustomed to this sound or you vision changed without realizing it or maybe you have reached your goal. I like this very thin frontier.

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What did you learn about yourself through the composing process of ‘In The World Of The Anesthetist’?

The most important thing I understand is that I really like to work like this. I took a lot of pleasure to record this album. I learned some new ways to work the sound and a lot of stuff. I realized too how I discern the character and their importance to my eyes in the whole story.

What do you want listeners to experience and feel when they submerse themselves in your sound? Is there something you want listeners to understand about you as an artist, a human, from your work?

I think it’s not about me but about The Nightstalker. I would like the listeners to make this journey with him and want to know more about him, about his feelings and his universe. And I hope, like him, the listeners will learn something about themselves. As a human, The Nightstalker wills my hopes. As an artist, he will deliver the message I’ve got in my mind. And I would like the listeners to take the same pleasure with the listening as me when I was recording the songs. Enjoy the journey…

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Thank you so much for reading this interview with Hezaliel. We discuss In The World Of The Anesthetist in more detail on Voices From Corners Unknown, Episode 4. You can follow/like Hezaliel on Facebook to stay up-to-date on new tracks and upcoming releases. You can additionally grab a copy of Hezaliel’s latest record for rather cheap over at the Kalpamantra Bandcamp page.

 

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