Music Extreme #29, July 2004
Interview with Joseph Vargo and William Piotrowski of Nox Arcana
How would you describe Nox Arcana's music?
Joseph: It's very dark, classically-based instrumental music, or as we like to describe it "music from the shadows for creatures of the night." The idea was to create a moody and melody-driven gothic soundtrack, very much like I did with Born of the Night, but with the addition of Gregorian chanting. Our goal was to compose a blend of darkly haunting melodies that encompass the complete gothic spectrum—the romantic, the mysterious, and the horrific.
William: The Darklore Manor album is a mixture of morbid sonatas, pulse-pounding orchestrations accented with some creepy narrative interludes. Tracks like "Music Box" and "Remnants" convey an eerie and melancholy feeling. Likewise, the song "Belladonna," which is the theme for one of the ghosts that is said to haunt Darklore Manor, is a very sorrowful and lonely melody. Other pieces such as "No Rest for the Wicked," "Nightmare" and "Resurrected" are much more ominous and foreboding.
How were the tracks in Darklore Manor conceived?
Joseph: Darklore Manor is based on the tales of a legendary haunted house near Salem, Massachusetts. We researched the news articles and rumors, and took all things into consideration when creating this storyline, which centers around the disappearance of three teenagers who set out to hold a séance in the accursed house on Halloween night several years ago. The concept of the album is our version of what took place in the house on that fateful night.
William: The story itself is somewhere between Edgar Allan Poe's The Fall of the House of Usher and H.P. Lovecraft's The Case of Charles Dexter Ward. It's also reminiscent of Shirley Jackson's The Haunting of Hill House. This real-life ghost story has all the elements of a classic horror tale—an old mansion with a dark history, a cursed bloodline, tales of black magic, murder, and vengeful ghosts.
We based our musical themes on the various ghosts that have been reported in the mansion throughout the years. These include the spirit of a young woman dressed in a black shroud that haunts the manor grounds, a ghostly music box melody that was reported by paranormal investigators and otherworldly voices that whisper grim messages from beyond the grave. Several of the songs also have a pounding rhythm that sounds like an ominous, reverberating heartbeat, conveying the feeling that the house itself is alive.
How is the process of creating a Nox Arcana composition?
Joseph: As composers, we're completely in tune with one another and we collaborate on every aspect of every song. We begin with one idea from the concept of the album, then create a melody that conveys that particular mood. It's really important to begin with a strong melody, otherwise the compositions just end up sounding like background music. Our basic melodies are composed on the piano, then we determine what instruments would best fit the theme of the song.
William: Since Darklore Manor is the tale of a haunted Victorian mansion, we utilized instruments from the period, such as pipe-organs, harpsichords, violins, and tolling bells, then accented the compositions with ghostly choirs to capture the perfect haunted feel. Once the musical tracks were complete, we recorded the chanting, narrations and ghostly whispers.
How important is in Nox Arcana the combination of the dark music with the visual aspect contained in the booklet and illustrations?
Joseph: Being an artist, the visual aspects of a project like this are just as important to me as the music. It amazes me when bands put so much effort into making their music sound as good as they can, then put absolutely no thought or effort into making their packaging or websites appealing or even interesting for their fans. We worked closely with Dark Realms art director, Christine Filipak, who shot the photos, gathered the articles and put the whole thing together. Christine and I also created the gothic look and identity for Midnight Syndicate.
William: The Nox Arcana website and cd booklet are filled with some great gothic visuals that take the music to another level. There's also a complete storyline that offers a tour through a haunted mansion while telling a classic ghost story.
Where comes the inspiration for the darkness in Nox Arcana's compositions?
Joseph: We're not trying to make any social statements with our music. It's purely gothic fantasy from the shadows of our imaginations. We love horror films and are fascinated by the supernatural. Our music is simply an exploration of the darkside.
What can you tell me about the Monolith Graphics The Gothic Tarot? Which is the concept in the works that you do with Monolith Graphics?
Joseph: I established Monolith Graphics in 1991 as an outlet to market and distribute my gothic fantasy artwork as posters, calendars and t-shirts. Most of my paintings depict gargoyles, ghosts, vampires and other creatures of the night. The Gothic Tarot contains 78 of my most popular images and represents over ten years of work. The response has been overwhelming, and the deck itself has received acclaim from Tarot card readers and fantasy art collectors alike.
What can you tell me about Necronomicon?
Joseph: Necronomicon is a dark symphony based on H.P. Lovecraft's legendary book of shadows. The album will be a musical opus with gothic choirs chanting the forbidden rituals contained within the pages of this ancient tome. The themes basically center around the Great Old Ones, the forgotten race of beings that inhabited the Earth long before mankind existed. They were ancient sorcerers who were imprisoned deep within the Earth and banished to distant dimensions by the Elder Gods, and the Necronomicon holds the key to releasing them and summoning them back to our world.
How different will it be from Darklore Manor?
Joseph: Some of the tracks such as "The Haunter of the Dark" have the same traditional gothic sound as Darklore Manor, but other tacks such as "Alhazred's Vision" and "Temple of Nyralathotep" have a more exotic, dark fantasy flavor, in keeping with the various themes of the Necronomicon and Lovecraft's Cthulhu Mythos. We also utilize various primitive-sounding instruments and rhythms to achieve Egyptian and Middle-Eastern melodies. The album design is patterned after ancient spellbooks and the artwork has much more of an H.R. Giger look to it. We can't wait to unleash it.
Anything more to add?
Joseph: We have several ideas for future concept albums. We don't want to reveal all of them too far in advance, but I can say that each album will have a completely unique concept and storyline, centering around various gothic themes. We still have several dark visions to score.