Uruguay's black / death metallers Requiem Aeternam was the band that used to feature Opeth's rhythm section of Martín Méndez and Martín López. Now they have relocated to the USA and their second album "Philosopher" was released in 2004. Band founder and sole remaining member from the original line-up José Romero (guitars / vocals) took some time to answer the questions from our reporter Andres Castro.

First I'd like you to give a little background information on Requiem Aeternam.
Requiem Aeternam (RA) started up in Uruguay, in September of 1995, when our first promo was included in a compilation of a -today- non-existing Uruguayan zine. By that time, the line-up was Lopez (now Opeth's drummer), Mendez (now Opeth's bassist), Magallanes (guitar) and myself (guitar and vox). Right after this, these guys left Uruguay and I drafted and new line-up, with whom we recorded "Eternally Dying" in 1997, and it was out in 1998. Giving a very short information about RA's background, I came to USA about 2 years and a half ago. In the commencement of 2003, I met Kupiszewski (actual bassist) and, later, Hernandez (ex. Immolation drummer). With this line up we recorded "Philosopher" about 8 months ago, and now this work's gonna be out in Europe through Trinity Records Hong Kong in April -2005-.

How has been the response to the album so far?
By now, we just got quite a few reviews and one live show -release party at CBGB. So, the response has been very kindly with "Philosopher", especially over here in The States. That is, this album has been doing pretty well with the press, but we still need to know what the actual fans say about it. I guess that at the beginning of next year I would be able to truly answer such a question.

Ok, obviously you are the mastermind behind Requiem Aeternam, so what is your vision on the band from a lyrical and musical perspective?
RA is a mix of two disciplines: music and philosophy. With this album, I think we developed a very deep relationship between both matters. I would not be able to say that RA is just a band that does music. RA tries to change this established concept, and expanded it to literature. "Dialectical Metal" that’s how we have called our style, to begin showing this idea, that in a certain way goes against the standard vision of "heavy metal". I think that we cannot be labeled as a death or black band, or at least it is what we expect. Shortly, philosophy and music are very linked, for what to split it is like a like of oppression to our deed.

Philosopher is obviously a conceptual album and one thing that I find very amusing is the fact that every lyric deals with the thoughts of very influential philosophers in history, would you like to explain this to our readers?
The album contains 8 tracks. Every track is based in different philosophical conceptions, which is the say, in 8 different philosophers. "Rectitude" is based on the Dhammapada and other texts on Gautama's thoughts. "Wisdom" is based on selected essays by Seneca. "Liberty" on Rousseau's The Social Contract and The Confessions. "Logos" on Heraclitus. "Antichrist" on Nietzsche's The Antichrist and Thus Spoke Zarathustra. "Desperation" on the Treaty of the Desperation by Kierkegaard. "Philosopher" on my own book "Forbidden Writing" (sorry, because I'm putting myself as a philosopher, and this is something that just the time may judge, not myself), and " " based on Tzu's Tao teh King.

This brings me to a question I wanted to ask you, and it is the fact that you are Philosopher who had actually written a book. How do you gather and intertwine all this concepts from different philosophers into a whole with your own perception of life and the band and how do you manage to put it all together on Requiem Aeternam?
Between "Eternally Dying" -first album- and "Philosopher" happened about six years. Within this time, I was formally studying Economics, but informally, I got very involved with Philosophy. I did not force this album, even though I had the change to record it few years ago, I thought that this album needed time to be done properly, and this idea -now- may be seen in every song, in every lyric in every riff. Lyrically, I wanted to change, and "to change" -literally and deeply at the very time- is one the most difficult things to undertake in art. I truly spent a lot of time compiling bibliography, and specially writing my first book, which took me about three years. But, every song -lyrically- tries to respect all these guys. I just play as a compiler, humble, patient, sometimes unfair, sometimes-even tyrant!

Still, what's your perception on music and life?
To follow your destiny, but a destiny that cannot be mixed up with fate -fatalism-. Such a destiny is hidden in the deepest part of every soul, you just have to find it and put all your might to make it real, and everlasting. In my particular case, RA is the most accurate reflex of my own destination, beyond any possible mistake, beyond any feasible contradiction, foolishness... It is an attempt of realizing your doable truth, "doer", macabre, perhaps ridiculous, but never fruit of any following.

For many, the fact of having had former members who are now in Opeth and given the characteristics of your music, they might tend to compare you with them, what do you have say about it? Are you willing to live under Opeth's shadow?
I believe that our next album is gonna prove -without any doubt- that that is a splendid lie!

The best word I can find to describe your music is "Eclectic" but I'd like you to describe it in your own words so people can get an insight from you of what to expect from "philosopher"?
Every song is this album is different. You have to listen to it all, to understand it, and perhaps quite a few times. This is one the main points of our concept. Every song changes the rhyme, and every song itself changes. There are a lot of different tempos, and arrangements per song, and the parts tend to be short but effective. Also, every song has a particular composition structure, Hence, to grasp the way of composition you cannot follow one song and make an induction. This is a huge mistake. There are no obvious parameters, even though some songs may follow some already known ways, but this is part of a process that is getting more and more accurate in every work of RA.

One of my favorite songs is "Desperation" because for me it resumes what you guys are all bout: acoustic, chaotic, moody, eclectic, but there are some beautiful passages in Spanish that I understand but most of the non Spanish speaking world won't, can you please explain your Spanish words in it and the whole song, what it means and how it compiles "Philosopher"?
"In the middle of the song Romero recites a verse in Spanish, here is an excerpt translated into English (rough translation) I let myself take. I go without knowing where. It spends the time and I approach more and more in the end. All the forms appear and disappear. No longer I know what to think, what to feel, what to dream, what to shout, what to request. The impatience hands vibrate to me. The force that fights against the death, against my death, does not stop. I do not want to sleep! “Desperation” is definitely my favorite song off this record." (Pivotal Page) Let me go on, this verse is just a part of the poetic chapter of "Forbidden Writing" (a poem named "Madness"). I don't think this resumes "Philosopher"; it was only a verse that was written in almost existentialistic format, for what it looked cool to put in a song based on Kierkegaard, one of the most important exponents of the European existentialism.

Some of the thoughts you go through are very unique, from Nietzsche to Sidartha, is there any coherent message intertwined behind that or just thoughts put in there randomly based on your views about life?
Every philosopher is an individuality, and any individuality implies authenticity. Every of these monsters have been very specific in their ways of seeing life. I picked out some, perhaps my favorites, trying to globalize in 46 minutes, centuries of historical thought on Philosophy. But, even though there is diversity, I do not think that is random, because I did not have too much alternatives but the time I was selecting these thinkers.

When I listen to your music it makes me feel overwhelmed with my inner emotions, how do you feel when you listen to your music and what do you want people to think/feel with it?
I do like what RA has accomplished with "Philosopher", musically and lyrically -as a whole-, and I cannot be bored of it. When I listen to my music in a certain way I listen to myself, in fact, I learn of myself, about what can I do, what can I give, what can I destroy. I want the people to hear "Philosopher" and after that to sentence it, to death or, if not, to an eternal condemn of silence.

Thanks, for having shared your thoughts with us, you are definitely a smart band with a lot to bring to the scene. I would like to read the last words of an interview with a philosopher of life and metal...
I truly appreciate your interest in our work. My last words, my first plea... Don't judge before giving the change to be at least once... Thanks a lot...

Links of interest:

Requiem Aeternam