Mario Infantes Ávalos: Vocals
Daniel Þór Hannesson: Guitar, Composition and arrangements
Kristján Jóhann Júlíusson: Guitar, Composition and arrangements
Samúel Örn Böðvarsson: Bass
Kjartan Harðarson: Drums
"Necromechanical baroque", that is the province of Cult Of Lilith. A frantic collision of death metal, prog, complex classical structures and any other style they wish to incorporate, their debut album, Mara, is a restless, constantly shifting collection that is as imaginative as it is compulsive. "The intention was always to write a diverse record with a lot of different influences melded together in an extreme metal package," states guitarist Daniel Þór Hannesson. "We wanted the album to be a journey that never becomes stagnant and that keeps the listener engaged the whole way through. It is important to us as a band to not lock ourselves in a box and always keep options in diversity."
Founded in Reykjavik, Iceland in 2015 with Hannesson the sole member, the guitarist hired a session drummer and singer to create the Arkanum EP, going on to put together a full band that was cemented in 2018 with the addition of vocalist Mario Infantes Ávalos. "Stylistically, 'Mara' is way more diverse and refined than 'Arkanum', but still retains some of the essential ideas of composition. There was another vocalist at the time and since their styles are so different, it has made a big impact on the progression of the band. Mario has great range, so he fits very well with our diverse music. There is also a big difference in sound: 'Mara' is much heavier, in your face and beefier than 'Arkanum', thanks to the amazing Dave Otero, who mixed and mastered the album." Opening track "Cosmic Maelstrom" more than lives up to its name, kicking off with a harpsichord intro before exploding in a thousand different directions, while "Zangano" is brutality incarnate, a much more beautiful opening section heralding the arrival of "Atlas" before opening the door to crushing riffs. The agitated attack of "Profeta Paloma" unexpectedly gives way to an extended flamenco section, which is haunting. "Reynir Hauksson, who is a fantastic Flamenco guitar player, performed on that section. We only gave him the chord progressions and he then laid down this amazing guitar part," states guitarist Kristján Jóhann Júlíusson. "Fernando Pérez Cañada did the vocals, while all additional instruments in that part were composed and recorded by me at Krummafótur Studio - besides the fretless bass, which was composed and performed by our bass player, Samúel Örn Böðvarsson."
It's unsurprising that a band of such musical depth and complexity would choose a name that is rich with multifaceted meaning, and that merits further exploration. "The mythology of Lilith is so deep and fascinating with so many different facets to it and interpretations from different sources that I found it to be the perfect subject of a cult, and therefore the name of our band," explains Hannesson. "She is interpreted in many different ways and she appears in a lot of different religions and mythologies, dating back to ancient Mesopotamia, Sumer and the Babylonian Talmud. She is even referenced as being Adam's first wife and the mother of Cain. Unwilling to be submissive to Adam, she abandons the upper heavens and descends willingly to Earth. In Hebrew tradition, she is seen as a daemoness that attacked babies, causing their untimely crib deaths, and in other texts she appears as a night demon that influences men in their dreams or as a disease bearing wind spirit, while one of my favorite mythologies of Lilith is that she comes in the wet dreams of men and begets bastard Nephilim children from them." However, when it came to titling the record, the band looked to their native language. "'Mara' stems from the Icelandic word Martröð or Nightmare," Hannesson says. "According to old folklore, Mara is a malicious entity that sits on people's chests while they sleep, bringing on nightmares. The myth of Mara shares some similarities with that of Lilith, and with the lyrical content seeming like an assortment of different dreams and nightmares. it made for a fitting title for the record." Lyrically, it was down to Ávalos to find the suitable accompaniment to such turbulent music. "The lyrical direction of this album became perfectly clear to me as soon as the idea of this album started to take shape. I wanted to guide the audience into a turbulent journey through my mindset, experiences, feelings, stories, angers and delusions. I chose to use different languages in my lyrics because I'm passionate about linguistics, so you can expect more of this language amalgam in future albums." The themes of standout tracks "Atlas" and "Comatose" are linked, both making reference to feelings attached to certain events in the vocalist's life in the last two years, in which he experienced the most intense emotional anguish he had ever felt. "'Atlas' is an ode to guilt, one of the most powerful and recurrent feelings, one that keeps our feet on the ground, makes us humble and shows us the darkest sides of our being. Writing this song felt like a much-needed redemption at the time and still brings obscure memories to mind when we perform it today. 'Comatose' speaks of the consequence of processing intense feelings, suffering and false scenarios. Overthinking can be the biggest of afflictions, leading you to self-torture and the deepest misery." Drawing influence from a very different source, "Enter the Mancubus" was inspired initially by a video game. "Video games are a remarkable influence on me when it comes to story writing, they have helped me through difficult times, and they have a very special value for me. When I heard the first riff of this song, the first image that came to my mind was this deformed monster from a 90s game called ‘Doom'. Having this in mind, I started to weave this fictional story about a dark futuristic dystopia in which human beings have become morbid, disgusting creatures after decades of exposure to pollution, medication and adulterated nutrition."
Tracking was done at two studios: drums laid down at Dutch Ice Productions with renowned engineer Chris van der Valk (Hail of Bullets) with everything else recorded at Júlíusson's Krummafótur Studio. "Tracking guitars was grueling, as it always is for this type of music. Both of our guitarists are perfectionists and achieving a perfect result requires going overboard with tracking until execution is flawless. The whole process was challenging and difficult, but that is kind of the whole point. It makes it more gratifying when it all comes together," says Júlíusson. The results speak for themselves, and open a thrilling new chapter for a band helping establish Iceland's place on the extreme metal map.