Lordran and the Art of Quiet
"The goal was to tell a story through all the dynamic changes within each song as opposed to the album as a whole," says Harrison Stivarius of Firelink.
Firelink's debut full-length record, The Inveterate Fire, comes as patiently as the game upon which it is based. The genre-bending melodeath duo have put together forty-three solid minutes of adventure based on the Dark Souls video game series, a series renowned for its punishing, oppressive atmosphere.
The first track creeps in with an ethereal, undead-like air whisking the listener to an unknown and unpredictable world of music. Setting the stage with blast beats, strong albeit simple melodies, and harrowing vocals, Firelink leads the way to Lordran, the land of Gwyn, Lord of Cinder. The sound is as epic as the setting itself.
The second track, "Kindled," is where the real adventure starts, however. The first three and a half minutes are spent in somber melody before the bonfire is lit. An explosion of sound strikes the listener unsuspecting. It's the contrast here that sells the emotion. Much like its namesake, the band catches the listener off guard over and over again, not just through this track, but the entire album.
It's in these grand moments, the hair-raising bursts of sound, that the album distinguishes itself. The ebb and flow of dynamics are a fundamental aspect of the songwriting. The mix of emotions put forward by the contrast of tranquility and cacophony becomes the leader in a tour of the game world
When asked about the sound, Harrison, the sole instrumentalist of Firelink said, "The writing and song structure was more based around the feelings present during a play through... It's about the moments like roaming around Lordran, or the anxiety of the Tomb of the Giants, or the epic end area of the Kiln of the First Flame."
The vocals, from band-mate and close friend Adrian Davis, come in the form of banshee-like wails, mournful and longing. When he drops into his guttural bellow, it feels as if it echoes through the walkways of Undead Burg.
Each track moves with ease in growing and diminishing volume. While not all tracks have a specific moment in mind, there are elements resonant with characteristics of the game. "'Kindled' was a way to personify the feeling of triumph once I finally 'got gud' at Dark Souls for the first time and finally was able to have a solid murder spree in Lordran. That moment in 'Beckoning Sun' does resemble Solaire's odd and misplaced sense of positivity you could say."
While the album doesn't retell the story, it does navigate the same emotional trajectory: the confusion having been thrust into a punishing universe, the overwhelming gloom of death, the encumbering isolation, the false majesty of the sunlight, the unbridled heroism of conquest.
Find the full interview below.
Can you tell me about yourselves? How’d you meet?
Harrison here. I've been playing instruments for about 15 years now. I started with cello, then moved onto guitar. Later on I picked up drums by then dropped everything to pursue guitar full time.
Adrian and I are based out of Atlanta, Georgia.
We met by chance. An ex girlfriend saw Adrian post his vinyl and CD collection online and thought to get us in touch.
What other kinds of games do you like? What platform do you play on?
I love horror games. Dead Space is one of my favorites of all time, and we both love and thought The Evil Within was a very captivating experience for me. We also enjoy some of the Resident Evil games, and I am currently playing through Amnesia and Soma. Other than horror games, I loved being apart of the glory days of Halo 3 and occasionally indulge in PUBG or Apex Legends to socialize with my friends. I always, without fail, fall back on the Soulsborne games, as does Adrian.
Mood is obviously very important to the album, just as it is in the game. Do moments like at 3:30 in “Kindled” or at 5:47 in “Beckoning Sun” correlate with any specific moments in the game?
I can't say anything too specific. "Kindled" was a way to personify the feeling of triumph once I finally "got gud" at Dark Souls for the first time and finally was able to have a solid murder spree in Lordran. That moment in "Beckoning Sun" does resemble Solaire's odd and misplaced sense of positivity you could say.
Aside from lyrics, are there motifs or riffs you wrote that you had moments or characters from the game in mind while writing them?
The writing and song structure was more based around the feelings present during a play through, particularly the first time I ever played DS1. It's about the moments like roaming around Lordran, or the anxiety of the Tomb of the Giants, or the epic end area of the Kiln of the First Flame. Just all those emotions. We are almost done with pre-production for album number two which is a lot more character based. It's more "specific/focused" if you will.
Were dynamics something that you made a conscious effort to write?
Yes. This is the first time I had ever scaled back on the stupid fast tech death kind of stuff I normally wrote. It was also the first time I wrote a song longer than 4 and a half minutes long. Longer songs have never been my favorite thing to listen to unless it tells a good story, so that was the goal for the album. I did not want to artificially lengthen the song by adding in extra content just for that extra minute of song. That's why the goal was to tell a story through all the dynamic changes within each song as opposed to the album as a whole. Hopefully that makes sense.
How many times have you played through the game(s)?
Estimates here buuuuttt
DS1 - 10ish
DS3 - 12ish
BB - 9ish
and DS2..... - I've killed Nashandra 3 times and that's more than enough
Adrian: Honestly have lost count but multiple times across 3 different consoles.
At what point did you feel it was right to write music about the game?
First I had to finish the games Adrian has been almost forcing me to beat for as long as I've known him. After that it was pretty immediate, especially upon realizing we wanted to write a long-song kind of album
Why melodic death? Did you experiment with other genres first?
There was no reason. Well, initially it was a goal to be a raw black metal sound but almost immediately that idea of exclusivity was abandoned. After that, however, there was also no attempt to be any genre. If the song called for a black metal rift, or some sweet melo-death harmonies, or relative technicality and speed, it would happen as long as it aided in the overall story and feeling of the song.
We used to be in a kind of blackened melodic death metal band together. Hopefully that will get a return when time allows.
What bands inspired your sound and what are your favorite things about them?
Dark Funeral, Downfall of Nur, Deafheaven, Opeth, and a few others.