Guitarist Paul Allender doesn't sugar coat the bitter truth. Asked why he wanted to drastically change directions with symphonic metal outfit White Empress, he bluntly replies, "In all honesty, I got bored with the sound of the band and it needed to change." But the long-time Cradle of Filth axeman isn't resigned to just swapping out vocalists and adopting a one-off horror concept. With his film/video production company Era Horrificus Films, Allender's ambitions for White Empress earn the ludicrously overused qualifier "epic." With his sights set on cinematic extreme metal that sounds more like an audiobook than a traditional record, Allender also plans on creating a film to accompany the album. We're not talking some EP-length run-time either; Allender's early estimate clocks in at 150 (!) minutes.
But "Revenant" is the first step. In 10+ minutes, the Allender-directed short film introduces the project's concept and a blast back to musical extremity. With macabre imagery and his signature shadow-soaked riffage, Allender's short creates a world of star-crossed bloodlines, demons, and reprehensible crimes. From the identity of the song's narrator/vocalist to the song's central curse, there's a sense of mystery following the film's characters into the woods. If you're expecting bearded DiCaprio, an unintelligible Tom Hardy, and a CGI bear - look elsewhere. But if you're looking for neo-Hammer horror and White Empress' re-dedication to dark 'n' heavy, press play on "Revenant" below. After that, check out Allender's thoughts on boredom, and supernatural horror VS. torture porn.
What lead to the decision to change the direction of White Empress from the approach on Rise of the Empress?
Paul Allender: In all honesty, I got bored with the sound of the band and it needed to change. It did nothing for me and was a bit of an experiment. So I had to do something different, and completely turn it on its head. Both Jeremy [Kohnmann, guitars] and I discussed making it darker, so going back to my roots was the obvious decision. [But] just changing the sound wouldn't be enough to make it stand out from the sea of bands out there now. After thinking about what to do the idea came up about removing all vocals, replacing everything with narration, and releasing a cinematic horror short. "Revenant" was the test to see if it would work, and Chela [Harper, bass] mentioned about doing the whole album like this if it worked. It's different, which makes me very happy, and the response for this new direction is extremely positive.
You've mentioned that the next album would be a sort of "audiobook" in form, and would be accompanied by a film. What sort of scope are we talking about?
Allender: Ideas are always coming and nothing is final until it's recorded and on film. Right now Era Horrificus are working on a script and storyboarding the whole film. It's looking like it's going to be around 150 minutes for the whole next album. The way we're adding the narration and dialogue it will be like a horror audiobook. "Revenant" has introduced how the main narration will sound, but this time there will be more voice actors to play different parts. The album is a concept, and will be a prequel to the "Revenant" story. The narration was written to the horror short and to the story so they fit perfectly.
Who handled the narration/vocal duties on "Revenant," and how were they recruited?
Allender: An acquaintance of mine hired a voice actor to play the part of the priest in the film, to tell the story from his point of view. To be honest I have no idea who the hell it is, he won’t tell me (laughs).
As the founder of Era Horrificus Films and the director/editor of the video, when did your passion for horror and cinema begin, and what influences do you bring to your work?
Allender: I met our exec producer, Keith Allen - a four-time Emmy award winner - purely by chance. He contacted me and wanted to chat about guitars. In conversation I mentioned my ideas about the new "Revenant" film, not knowing what he does for a living, and he wanted to be a part of it. We kept in constant contact and I told him about the story line. From there we recruited his son, Jared Allen, an extremely talented producer and camera op.
I’ve always been into horror films but not the splatter stuff, that shit bores me. I like the paranormal kind of movies like Insidious, Sinister, The Omen, The Conjuring, and The Exorcist. some of the influence in our film came from a lot of films like this. I’m really into very creepy stuff, the kind that make your hair stand up on the back of your neck, it's damn awesome.
Hammer Horror was always on at home when I was a kid, my dad loved that stuff. I remember sitting there watching Hammer films with him at night before bed. I was scared shitless, but it led me to starting cinematic horror of my own.
What's the status of the album and film?
I’m going to spend next year writing the album and shooting the film, and the idea is to release everything by the end of . Right now I’m getting visual concepts together for the film and the direction it will go; it’s going to be damn nasty. While the script is being written, even though very minimal, the story board will start at the same time. I have a very visual image in my head how it’s going to look and feel.