Technical death metal band Cyaegha released their debut Steps of Descent in August via Canonical Hours. As the band name suggests Cyaegha is heavily influenced by the literary works of H.P. Lovecraft and being fascinated of the Lovecraft universe myself it only made me appreciate Steps of Descent all the more. Some days ago I had the chance to ask vocalist Daniel Cooley some questions. He proved both talkative and elaborate in his answers.

Daniel Cooley interviewed by PSL

How did the band form and why the name Cyaegha?
The band formed back in 2001, with the original intention of playing thrash/punk; but like most musicians, we ultimately chose to pursue a different style of music. Since we decided to play darker more technical music, we wanted a name which would accurately reflect our newfound playing style. We have always been fans of H.P. Lovecraft and the Cthulhu Mythos, so we decided to pick a deity from that pantheon as our band name; the deity which we finally settled on was Cyaegha.

I hear some inspiration from Cryptopsy and Necrophagist in the music. Is there any band or bands in particular that have inspired you?
Each of us have different influences, but the ones which we collectively refer to the most -other than old Cryptopsy and Necrophagist are: Decapitated, Deeds Of Flesh, Dying Fetus, Emperor, Nile, and Spawn Of Possession. For me personally, I take a lot of inspiration from Behemoth and Amon Amarth. The first time I heard Nergal of Behemoth; I was immediately taken with commanding nature of Nergal's voice and his mythological/occult choice of lyrics. Johan Hegg also has provided me with inspiration, because of the way he tells a story through songs, almost like some sort of Nordic rhapsody.

Lyrically you find inspiration in the literary works of H.P. Lovecraft. Are there any of his works that have been more inspiring than the rest?
"The Doom that came to Sarnath", is the most inspiring story for me; simply because, it was the first Lovecraft story I ever read. The amount of symbolism within that story completely enthralled me with Lovecraft, and eventually led to a great appreciation for his writing style. Of course stories like "The Call of Cthulhu", "Nyarlathotep" or "The Shadow over Innsmouth" also have become influential to me. How could you not be inspired by tales of extra-terrestrial beings with power so horrific and unimaginable, that the shear thought of their existence drives most men to insanity?

How big a role do the lyrics play for the band, and music?
When we write music, we try to not let lyrics dictate a song's composition. It is much easier to rephrase or rewrite lyrics than to rewrite a melody. The lyrics are actually the last component added to a song when we compose a song. This actually works in our favour, because Steve, Tweed, and Wells are able to write some intensely brutal music without worrying about constraints. When I write the lyrics, I try to compliment the song by both verbal and rhythmic means, so the music and lyrics work seamlessly as parts of a whole. Music is obviously the most dominant part of a song, but lyrics can aid the listener in visualizing the songs' meaning or content - this is my own belief. I try to lyrically recreate/draw the listener into the provocative Lovecraftian world through our songs. Although not all of our songs are formed into a poetic synopsis of Lovecraft stories, the songs themselves are fables influenced by Lovecraft's philosophies and mythos. When I write a song, I will conceptualize a fable, and then transcribe it into verse form. I attempt to write like Lovecraft, but I believe I fall drastically shy of this aspiration.

Who mostly writes the music? Is there a certain process or does it come out during practice?
Our song-writing actually is done through a series of steps, although this does not mean we are confined to this sequence. Steve will first write a guitar riff/melody with Wells providing a drum beat. Tweed then writes a bass riff/melody, and I will finally add lyrics. Often, this does not mean the song is finished, because we will rewrite parts until every person is satisfied.

You recorded at Karma Productions. Could you say something about what made you go for that studio and what type of production you were looking for?
We decided to record at Karma Production because we wanted the best quality recording for the most affordable cost. When we recorded our previous demo, we ended up spending too much money on a recording which did not meet our expectations. In order to prevent this from happening again, we wanted someone who had a history of producing great metal albums -this is what made us seek out Cory Smoot of Karma Productions.

How prepared are you when you enter the studio? Is there room for spontaneous inputs when you record?
We were actually very prepared when we entered the studio. Because of this was to be our debut album, we practiced for weeks ahead of the scheduled recording date. During this time we rewrote and added part to particular songs. Both the intro of "Ulthar's Decree" and outro of "Obductio Sapientia" were completely done at Karma Production. We hadn't really thought about specifics, but we knew roughly what we wanted at each particular part - thankfully, Cory was quite patient when we were discussing ideas during the session.

Contrary to many bands the bass in Cyaegha is audible. Did you intend it to be so from the start or is it something you discovered along the way?
The bass was intentionally made audible throughout the album. I've had this discussion with Tweed about this particular topic, and it's his belief that an audible bass is lacking in most metal albums. Because of this, Tweed thought having an audible bass on our album was fundamental.

How did you team up with Canonical Hours? I noticed you're located in the same town.
Teaming up with Canonical Hours was almost out of coincidence. The owner of Canonical Hours had been a long time friend of ours. Occasionally, he would hang out and listen to us practice, see us play locally, or just to have a drink or two. Then in 2007, he said he was going to create a music record label which explores all types of extreme/dark music. From there, it was a strategic decision to sign with Canonical Hours. We wanted to sign with a label which would not completely dictate what we could or could not do, but would give us the support necessary to realize our debut album.

You had John Coulthart do the artwork and layout. What made you pick him and not someone like for instance Tony Koehl or Mike Hrubovcak?
I've always been a fan of John's work, and I thought his style would be perfect for two reasons; he has drawn Lovecraftian imagery before, and he has not done many metal albums. Both Tony Koehl and Mike Hrubovcak are very skilled artists. Tony even designed our logo, but we wanted someone who had previously done work with Lovecraft imagery.

Besides Cyaegha what else are you busy with?
Cyaegha keeps us all quite busy with the constant practicing, writing, promoting, and playing shows. However, this doesn't mean that we all aren't involved in other project. Wells and Steve are also in a band called Twin Paradox and it's concurrent side-project Cribtopsy.

What next do you have planned for Cyaegha?
We're all ambitious with regards to our plans for Cyaegha. As a young band literally, we are all only 23 years old - we hope to refine our music to create something completely unique within the metal genre. Many bands say similar statements, but I believe it is the ultimate goal of any band to find their niche. Because of our subject matter, we have almost complete freedom to create our ideal sound/style. With that in mind, our next album will be completely improved upon from concept to composition. On our debut album, Steps of Descent, we received some criticism about how we did not meet expectations of what a Lovecraftian based death metal band should sound like, but that's alright, the album didn't meet all of our expectations either. For our next album, which we've already begun writing, we will definitely attempt to surpass our debut, both musically and thematically.

Anything you'd like to add to conclude this interview?
Thanks for the interview; thanks to everyone who has picked up an album or seen us live, and thanks to everyone who read this interview from start-to-finish.

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