Formicarius Interview

Formicarius Interview

Interview with Lord Saunders of Formicarius and Pete Devine of Pete’s Rock News and Views (


PD: What type of band are you?

Unsubtly and unabashedly black metal. As always with this genre this is a controversial topic – many seem to have a very conservative view of what black metal is and disregard the diversity which has always been present within the genre. That in itself validates such a claim. In my mind it’s really very simple; musically, visually and most importantly in attitude we are, absolutely, black metal.


PD: Tell us the brief history of your band.

Formicarius is made up of veterans of the scene; we’ve all worked together in various bands over the past decade. In early 2015 we got together and decided that we would continue our music together under this new banner, having learnt both from our triumphs and mistakes. We immediately got to work with recording our album ‘Black Mass Ritual’ and debut single ‘Lake of the Dead’. ‘Lake…’ was featured on the 7th edition of Sony/Music for Nations’ legendary series ‘Speed Kills’, at a time when we were playing support for Negura Bunget, Noctem and Hate. We spent two years touring to the furthest reaches of the country, spreading our sound far and wide and gathering a loyal fanatical fanbase. Finally in July 2017 ‘Black Mass Ritual’ was released, launching to a rabid audience at the Underworld in London as support for Tennger Cavalry. We shot and release a video for ‘May the Rats Eat Your Eyes’ so that folks futher further afield can finally see something of what we have to offer. That brings us to the present day; we are eagerly scoring and recording new material, playing shows and working hard behind the scenes to take ‘Black Mass Ritual’ to new borders.


PD: Who are your musical and non-musical influences?

There is such a wide variety of musical influences on display in Formicarius that people struggle to pinpoint them. It seems obvious to me; we simply wanted to blend the utter savagery of the past 40 years of riffing with the dark, twisting counterpoint and scoring styles of the classical and baroque periods of western music. Different bands have done this in different ways before us; Emperor, Satyricon, Sigh, Dissection, Dimmu Borgir have all worn their classical influences on their sleeve, yet sound totally different. We are drawn to this as fans of such music, seeking to continue this work as a new band in the present day. We’re not claiming to be revolutionary, but we are bring a fresh perspective to this music.

Right from the start our work ethic was and remains very high. When we got together we acknowledged and measured ourselves up to the very high bar of the biggest bands of the genre; Behemoth, Emperor, etc – those juggernaut bands with a globally acknowledged sound deemed to be of the highest quality. Achieving and succeeding that quality will always be our goal. Why bother doing a band at all if not to invest yourselves completely and do your calling justice? There’s no excuses, especially in this day and age, so we stretched, broke and rebuilt ourselves repeatedly over the course of making ‘Black Mass Ritual’ and touring as Formicarius. Really it is this philosophy to empower oneself and never accept a quality ceiling which drives and pushes Formicarius on and is, inevitably, the biggest influence on the music we do and exhibitions we play.


PD: What are your dreams and goals?

The goal is simply to be in the present and do the absolute best we can in whatever we do. The dream would of course be to be able to acquire and pour as many resources as possible into achieving this – we’d like to play bigger shows to more people in more places and make bigger, better albums, always. Shorter term goals to realise this dream are constantly being struck off a list and seem remarkably boring to discuss. Dreams are fine but don’t make or break us; the Formicarius machine will continue to grind and produce work which is utterly genuine for as long as we want to. At all levels that is what defines an artist.


PD: Who writes your songs, what are they about?

The core writing team has traditionally been myself, Nazarkardeh and Morath. An idea grows from a riff into an arrangement into more ideas connecting other ideas, then often adapting and rewriting the original ideas and arrangements… it’s a long, gruelling process of evaluating and re-evaluating to make the best songs and compositions we can until we arrive at a place where we are satisfied and able to move on. As the one leading the vision and production for our music, whilst all opinions are taken into account I often have the final say. This is quite common amongst bands of all genres – they typically have a band ‘leader’ and a democracy with a dictatorship. There is method to the madness at work here.

Lyrically each song on ‘Black Mass Ritual’ tells a dark, epic and bloody story. Often times they are an account or twist on history and mythology, other times closer to horror and fantasy. Always there is an underlying feeling, motive or message to take away. They can be empowering or utterly despairing at times, but even in despair we can find power. Certainly though, our band name is derived from history and this is the angle from which we are interested in telling stories in the immediate future. Since history tends to have parallels and cycles, and stories are told to put forward a message, I think this keeps our literary work relevant.


PD: How do you promote your band and shows?

The internet is a powerful tool and it would be foolish not to take advantage of it. We announced ourselves to the world this way and told of our coming to the far corners of the country. People showed up and it has spiralled out of control in one big, viscous cycle. We are definitely proactive with putting ourselves out there, you can find us in all the places you should expect to.


PD: What do you think about downloading music online and what’s your outlook on the record industry today?

It depends on what we’re talking about; illegal downloading or downloading in general. In the case of the latter it’s a lot more simple; I’m all for it. I want our music to spread far and wide and I want anyone who chooses to enjoy it to be able to enjoy it in any way they can, whatever the format. How one person chooses to enjoy the experience doesn’t bother me and we don’t have a chip on our shoulder about physical media.

In the case of illegal downloading the lines are more blurry. I do think we are past this topic of debate as an industry, this has been a thing for well over a decade. I would obviously like to see some return on what we do for the reasons I spoke of earlier; being able to do more with Formicarius. Money is a resource which enables us to spend more time on our band. People actually hearing of this band from this tiny Island in the first place is one of the biggest obstacles to overcome too, which is also tied to money but also to people sharing music with eachother. In the year 2017 really I think this is more about the tech companies in the middle – your streaming services and paid for downloading services like spotify, apple music, youtube, bandcamp, etc. I think it’s easy to use downloading as a blanket excuse for the failings of a band, rather than accepting that perhaps the ‘band’ business model (because yes, that’s what bands are: businesses) from the late 20th century might be out of date. Ultimately I want the music, performance, image, interviews, everything we do to be good enough to sell itself. If people want to buy our stuff they will. A stoic attitude is the only one to have; wallowing in self pity is the most classic self fulfilling prophecy and absolutely not what we’re about.


PD: What song do you wish you’d written and why?

I can’t say that I’ve ever really entertained this thought. Everything a musician does draws elements from the music they have experienced up to that point. The same could probably be said about any artist across any medium. What we’re doing as artists is balancing those elements and trying to be better and better at this balancing act in an effort to be original, to do something we haven’t heard in quite this way before and to really express the feeling and excitement that comes with that. I think it makes sense then to desire to surpass anything you’ve heard before and get on with creating the music you want to hear. I think this isn’t talked about enough, creating the music you would want to listen to. You will find satisfaction if you do that and never find yourself thinking wishfully.


PD: What are some of your pet peeves?

People being lazy at explaining what they mean or think. It’s great that anyone can get stuck into the metal community and create content in the way of reviews, videos, music, whatever. But I do think there is a lack of quality control which limits our industry and in turn stops us from being taken seriously and, more importantly, being better. This is prevalent music and other content – just get into a habit of considering what you’re doing! I am a firm believer in holding oneself accountable and to a higher standard. I have encountered too many yes men and, the other extreme, too many people quick to call something out for the sake of being an edgelord. That oversensitivity and that obstinate anti-intellectual poser attitude are quite literally the opposite of what draws me to metal and specifically to black metal. I have absolutely no time for any of it.


PD: What is your proudest moment in music?

Finishing and, in turn, releasing ‘Black Mass Ritual’. It’s been great to be recognised by a wider community, picked up by our label Schwarzdorn Production, have our single released by Sony and Music for Nations and to share the stage with influences and giants Negura Bunget, but for me the best feeling was coming out from making ‘Black Mass Ritual’ and proving to myself that I could do it. We went through hellfire and stretched ourselves to our absolute limit in the creation of this record, no detail was left unchecked. And we’ll do it again and again, burning the fat and stretching ourselves to new heights. Nothing is more addictive than the satisfaction you can get from making a record you know represents you at that moment completely.


PD: Tell us about your next shows and why we should be there.

Currently our next and only scheduled live performance date will be Friday 13th October at Fuel in Cardiff. We’re headlining and are working hard to deliver a performance worthy of that accolade. If you’ve gotten this far with reading what I have to say you should by now be certain that when we do something, we go all the way. We are metal fans and understand why you’re going to a metal concert – we will deliver because we have this in common with you. Witness and you shan’t be disappointed.

Formicarius links:

Band location – London England

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