With their monolithic guitars, melancholic melodies, and blackened atmospheres, Germany’s Phantom Winter create a devastatingly heavy and foreboding listening experience. Since the release of 2015’s CVLT, the prolific “winterdoom” outfit have been on a steady path to all things dark and dreary. Each subsequent release has seen the band become heavier and more dynamic while staying true to their roots. Their newest release, Into Dark Science, sits at the apex of this evolution and shows that the band’s creative fuels have yet to run out.
In this recent interview with Svbterranean, guitarist and vocalist Andreas Schmittfull to discuss the new record, Sylvia Plath, and witches.
Could you please introduce yourself and your role in Phantom Winter?
I am Andreas, I play guitar and I scream in Phantom Winter.
How did Phantom Winter come to be?
I planned Phantom Winter as a side project of Omega Massif. About a week after I showed Christof, our drummer (PW and OM), the first two Phantom Winter-songs, Omega Massif ended. So Phantom Winter became our main project.
Compared to your previous band, Omega Massif, how do you approach writing for Phantom Winter differently?
In Omega Massif everyone did his part in the songwriting. In Phantom Winter I do all the writing, all instruments, vocals/lyrics, samples. It is more work for me but it is very effective and the songs all follow one vision and music, vocals, everything can be composed as a unity.
While Omega Massif was an entirely instrumental band, Phantom Winter utilizes vocals. What influenced the decision to include vocals in the music this time around?
When we started Omega Massif, there was only one band I knew that did an instrumental Doom-Metal-album…Pelican with Australasia. And I wanted a more extreme version of that kind of music. So we were kind of pioneers in this genre. After nine years of Omega Massif, so many bands tried to do the same thing, that I lost the interest in that kind of music. I wanted to try something new. Very extreme, dark doom with very high, witchy vocals on the other side and deep growls on the other. New challenge, new game. I have still found no band that sounds like Phantom Winter. And I like it.
Do you feel that having vocals affects the way the music itself is written? If so, how?
Yes. Now the music does not stand for itself. Now the music supports the vocals. There is always an idea, text fragments or a text first. Then I write the music to give the words a body and a spirit. It is like a poem where context, style, tone, mood, rhythm and language become one.
In general, how has writing and performing in Phantom Winter pushed you as a musician?
I am so happy that I found four wonderful friends and musicians who trust me 100 percent and give me the possibility to unfold. This band is a big family, and even if I write the music everyone can say whatever he wants, everyone puts all his energy into it, besides the songwriting we work together as one organism where every organ knows what to do, we can talk about our problems, we have a lot of fun, we give everything at shows, what is exhausting but satisfying.
What can you tell us about the writing and recording of the band’s newest full-length, Into Dark Science?
Writing is a difficult thing as art never appears on demand. I was lucky as there were melodies and lyrics that wanted out of my brain so I could proceed with the writing very fast. And I am happy that all our albums and the songs have similarities but also show some kind of process in our work. The sound-finding-process was not easy this time. We never worked that long on mixing and mastering as we did this time but we love the outcome a lot and Henner and Role from the Tonmeisterei Oldenburg did one hell of a job not losing their shit over our wishes and the lists we sent them in order to change something about the sound.
How do you feel it compares with your previous recordings?
Cvlt, Sundown Pleasures and Into dark Science are a trinity of darkness and hope. They belong together (Artwork by www.hummelgrafik.de) but also express some kind of progress. With the song “Godspeed! Voyager” we end this trilogy and move on to new grounds.
What is the meaning behind the album’s title?
I think everyone has her or his dark science, goals to achieve, things to fight, wrongs to make right. We still try to fight our demons. Dark Science is a metaphor for the forces we use during this fight, for the demons we summon and the battles we fight in everyone’s daily struggle that tries to beat us down.
Metal lyrics often touch upon themes of religion, existence and the occult, as do the lyrics of Phantom Winter. How do you feel the band approaches these themes differently?
If there is a difference it must be the mixture of artists like Sylvia Plath with these occult themes and metaphors. I never was into plain “satan, darkness, evil, aaaaaah” stuff, I always loved music with purpose, meaning, effort.
Throughout the band’s discography, including Into Dark Science, there are various mentions and depictions of witches. Where does the band’s fascination with witches stem from and why do they play such a big role in the band’s music?
Witches were people who were loved when they helped somebody with their knowledge and got tortured and killed when a scapegoat was needed. I think most of them were kind of early scientists who tried to help people (not all of them of course), or misunderstood outcasts nobody wanted… and they got used by the church and other groups that wanted to hide their own failures and problems. And when I look at our world I see a few witches on the one side that I adore and a lot of other guys with white shirts the other side whom I deeply detest. We are team witches.
On Into Dark Science, and the records that preceded it, there are lots of references to poetry (Sylvia Plath’s “Witch Burning”) and film (“The Witch”, “The Master”, etc). How do you feel these different artistic mediums influence the music of Phantom Winter?
Well, everyday’s life influences a musician and I read a lot, I adore dark and special movies and that in a way takes place in my writing and the lyrics. Everything I see, hear, feel influences my writing and these films, books and people influenced my life in a way that I liked. Sylvia Plath was such an outstanding person, she is one of those I would love to meet. But it is not possible as she took her life so I try to show her work to others by my music and I hope more and more people get into her.
What do you want listeners to take away from the new record?
There was a time when I wanted people to read the lyrics and to understand, what we are singing about. Nowadays I am happy if people do so, but it is no must. I am also very happy when people enjoy our music on a long drive or to get their minds clean or simply to bang the shit out of their heads. Like at Roadburn festival…we really enjoyed the moving crowd for one hour! Thanks to everyone who attended at Cul de Sac!
Any final thoughts?
I am really sorry it took so long to answer your questions! These times are so busy and I really hate it. Thank you for your interest and for interesting questions!
Read our review of Into Dark Science here.