Living a Lonesome Life
CoC interviews Pim Blankenstein of Officium Triste
by: Pedro Azevedo
Officium Triste seem to be trying to bring Dutch doom back. After Celestial Season's excellent doom/death with violins in _Forever Scarlet Passion_ in 1993 and _Solar Lovers_ in 1995, the current Dutch doom scene is essentially made of melodic bands like The Gathering and Within Temptation, as well as Orphanage, to some extent. Not many more bands within that scene have risen in the past couple of years, and Officium Triste try to be the exception. Existing for almost four years now, their debut full-length _Ne Vivam_, which I reviewed in CoC #29, features competent doom/death. Despite some faults, _Ne Vivam_ has very enjoyable parts and the band showed potential, so I proceeded to interview vocalist Pim Blankenstein through e-mail.

CoC: What's the story of Officium Triste so far?

Pim Blankenstein: Okay, here we go. Officium Triste was founded in March/April 1994. We had been together under a different name and with different line-ups. Anyway, we weren't happy with what we were doing and decided to start all over again as Officium Triste. We recorded a demo in the summer of 1994 and a 7" EP _Mountains of Depressiveness_ in 1995. Due to some circumstances, we released it in 1996. Then we got an offer to release a CD on Teutonic Existence Records, which we did. _Ne Vivam_ was released in April 1997. Just recently we've recorded some new tracks which we will release as a split MCD with Cold Mourning (USA).

CoC: Please tell us more about the name of your band, Officium Triste, and this album's title, _Ne Vivam_.

PB: As I already told you in the first question, we came to a point on which we restarted in 1994 and Johan, our guitar player, came up with the name Officium Triste. We all felt it sounded very cool and it's quite original as well. He dug it up from a latin dictionary and it means something like "a last gesture of honour to a dead person." _Ne Vivam_ was part of the lyrics to the intro of our demo, and it means something like "I may die." We feel it says everything about the atmosphere of the songs on the CD, so it fits as an album title.

CoC: _Ne Vivam_ has a quite simple, yet very effective, booklet, based upon a black marble background and few embellishments. How important was it for you to have a package like this?

PB: We wanted something very sober as a cover. The idea behind it is a headstone, but we didn't want to use a real headstone, so we came up with the black marble background with golden lettering, which of course can be related to our band's name and album title. Because of this soberness, we stand out between the usual metal covers, which is exactly what we want.

CoC: Being a doom band, Officium Triste also have several lighter moments (or at least not as doomy), especially in "Stardust" and "The Happy Forest", which, in my opinion, don't fit the mood created by the rest of the songs very well. Why did you choose to include these lighter parts?

PB: I can see what you mean. I think "Stardust" fits the overall feeling of the album, especially lyrically. Musically it's not that different either, perhaps only the opening riff. "The Happy Forest" is a totally different story, though; we know it differs a lot. Therefore, we decided to put it on the album as the last song. We had a discussion about it -- whether we should put it on the album or not, but the reactions to the song were so great when we played it live that we decided to put it on the album. You should see it this way: it's a song to put you back on earth after listening to the album. We don't want our listeners to be totally depressive after listening to our music. It also seems to be a song people love or hate.

CoC: Holland has seen its share of excellent metal bands, and one doom metal band was remarkable a few years ago: Celestial Season, of whom, unfortunately, only the name remains, for the quality violin-filled doom/death found in _Forever Scarlet Passion_ and _Solar Lovers_ now belongs to the past. What is your opinion about this? Was this Dutch band an influence to you?

PB: It's cool that they have that success. If they can open doors for other bands then that's okay. Hopefully we can follow in their footsteps. I agree their first two albums are excellent. But I can enjoy their newer stuff as well, although you should see them as a totally different band of which, indeed, only the name stays the same. I wouldn't consider them as an influence, because at the time we started I was the only person in the band that had heard of them. The other guys got to know them a bit later.

CoC: I would risk saying that there are slight traces of My Dying Bride, Anathema and perhaps even Katatonia in your music, mixed with your own style. Do you agree? What bands would you mention as most influential for Officium Triste?

PB: Well, you answered this question yourself. Those are the bands we love. Old Paradise Lost and Chorus of Ruin have also been influential to us.

CoC: About your lyrics, you attempt something that isn't very common nowadays (at least not in my experience), as you frequently use rhymes in your verses. Why?

PB: I don't know. That's the way I write lyrics. I haven't thought about it, really; it's just the way I do it. I guess it's just a natural thing to me. I've got no further explanation. I know I'm not trying to copy anyone.

CoC: Your lyrics seem quite personal, especially in tracks such as the excellent "Lonesome" and "One With the Sea". Would you like to tell us more about the music and lyrics found in those two tracks?

PB: I think there are some personal traces to be found within the lyrics, but in general I write from the perspective of an imaginary person. I know for sure "Lonesome" definitely is personal, but I'd rather keep that for myself, if you don't mind. "One With the Sea" is about someone who can't cope with life in modern society and finally commits suicide, which I would never do. So that song is less personal. I always try to write lyrics that have the same feeling as the music -- you know it would be silly to sing about parties on the music we make.

CoC: In "Psyche Nullification", you repeatedly refer to suicide in several ways. What are your feelings on that subject?

PB: As I said in the previous question, I mostly write from the perspective of someone else. This particular song is about a person who has voices inside his head. He cannot deal with it and tries to kill himself. My personal view towards suicide is that I find it a very interesting subject to think about. I mean, what drives certain people to the point where they decide to end their lives? Personally, I would never commit suicide, for I think that you should try to overwin your problems, no matter what. I also feel that there's a lot in life you still want to do or see, so that would hold me from commiting suicide.

CoC: _Ne Vivam_ has very heavy guitars, strong drums and deep vocals; many doom bands, however, have been going softer lately (some of them succeeding, like Anathema with their emotional _Eternity_). Do you plan to become instrumentally or emotionally overall lighter in the future?

PB: No way. What other bands want to do is up to them. We want to stay as heavy as possible. Perhaps every now and then we will integrate some lighter parts within the songs, but we still want to be as heavy as we can. Our newest songs are actually more varied, with some uptempo parts, but it always will be heavy.

CoC: What are your plans for the near future? Is there a new album being prepared yet?

PB: We've recorded three new songs, of which two will appear on a split MCD with Cold Mourning, as mentioned before. We don't know what will happen to the third song at this time (it was supposed to be on a compilation CD, but that has been cancelled.) There are no plans for a new album at this moment, because we don't have a deal right now. We will keep writing new songs and we'll just have to see what happens.

CoC: Please add a final message, if you wish...

PB: First of all I have to thank you, Pedro, for this interview and your interest in Officium Triste. Anyone else interested in our music should get in touch. Doom on!!

Contact: Officium Triste, c/o Pim Blankenstein Belgischestraat 46 B 3028 TH Rotterdam, HOLLAND

(article submitted 13/4/1998)

7/31/2004 X Hoose 8 Officium Triste - Reason
3/10/1998 P Azevedo 6 Officium Triste - Ne Vivam
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