Article by: Kira Schlechter ‡ Edited By: Leanne Ridgeway
Three is a number that pops up in all sorts of things — in philosophy (the idea of Thesis + Antithesis = Synthesis, for example), in religion (from the Maiden, Mother, and Crone of Wicca to the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost of Christianity to the Trimurti — Brahma, Vishnu, and Shiva — of Hinduism), in urban mythology — “third time’s the charm,” or “bad luck comes in threes.”
Three in music is the tritone, the “devil’s interval,” and of course, the power trio — Rush, Cream, Motorhead (for most of its history, anyway). Include in that company now the three women of the Spanish doom band KABBALAH — guitarist Alba DDU, bassist Marga Malaria, and drummer Carmen Espejo. All three sing and write to just-about-perfect effect on their brilliant second album ‘The Omen‘ — which, by the way, runs a tad under 30 minutes, if you really want to go nuts on the “three” thing.
Carmen called their number “(a) very conscious decision.”
“Marga and I were sure since the beginning that we wanted to be three,” she said. “I think (it) is the perfect number for a band.”
Two of the three women spoke about the band and the album via email; the following are the questions posed and the answers given:
Riff Relevant [Kira]: How did the three of you meet and come together; when did that happen? What musical backgrounds do you have in terms of education, if any, how long have each of you been playing?
KABBALAH [Carmen]: Marga and I met in a previous band, called Las Culebras, long time ago! When that band split, we decided to continue playing together, as we already had ideas in mind that didn’t fit in that band’s type of music. We tried with a few guitar players, and recorded two EPs with two different ones. After “Primitive Stone,” we asked for a guitar player on Facebook; Alba answered, she was perfect in all senses, so here we are!
I studied a few years of music and clarinet in the Conservatory of Music, then I took drum lessons, and later I became a teacher in a music school, but I’m not teaching any more. I started playing in a local band with friends about 20 years ago.
KABBALAH [Alba]: I started playing classic(al) guitar as a kid and then moved to electric guitar when a few friends thought we could make a band, when I was 15.
[Kira]: Marga mentioned Black Sabbath in previous interviews as an influence, of course, and Carmen spoke of White Zombie and Danzig (and I definitely get a little bit of the latter in your music) — what I’d like to know, though, is how did you become interested in the doom/stoner genre, in particular, was there a reason for you going toward that feel?
[Carmen]: I’ve always liked doom and stoner. I used to listen a lot to bands like Anathema and My Dying Bride in the 90’s, later Kyuss, and more recently, Om, Yob. When we started Kabbalah, we weren’t thinking on a genre, as we have many different influences and likes. The music just turned out the way it did, and I think our music is dark, but has brushstrokes of many music styles.
03. Night Comes Near
04. The Ritual
[Kira]: What’s so cool about your arrangements is that they let each of you shine — in my review, there are moments where Alba’s guitar is predominant, but there were just as many where I noticed Marga’s bass and Carmen’s wonderfully light drumming — talk about songwriting in this way, about the importance of giving each of you space?
[Carmen]: When one of us brings an idea, the others always add more ideas to it. The three of us always take part (in) the songwriting of each song, and of course we are all free when creating with our instruments. It’s great that I personally quite always like what Alba and Marga do.
[Kira]: The other thing I noticed was the length of the songs — they’re short and they leave you wanting more as a listener — where does that sensibility come from, to keep things brief?
[Carmen]: I think we don’t like to be repetitive, and the songs last what we think is enough.
[Kira]: There’s no distinction made between who sings what with you, it seems like there’s no real “lead singer” — do you agree, and how did it come about that you’d share singing duties?
[Carmen]: Normally the lead singer on a song is the one that brought the original idea for the song, and also (wrote) the lyrics. Then we add voices if we think that (is) going to work.
[Kira]: You said in that interview on Ripple’s Blogspot page that lyrics are the last thing you do, and obviously even from the start with “Stigmatized,” they are really minimal — so how do they come about, in general, what in the music, or what around you, stimulates lyrics? And in particular, with this one, what inspired the whole feel in general, because it feels much like a concept album, if a loose one?
[Carmen]: Maybe (they) are so minimal because English is not our mother tongue? We try to write lyrics that match the music, so it makes sense if all the songs in the album have a similar vibe.
[Alba]: We certainly didn’t think about “The Omen” as a concept album at all, but in hindsight, maybe there are similar themes on the songs. I guess what we’re trying to do with our music is explore the darker side of each of us and our surroundings, so you can say that’s a thread that links all that we create.
[Kira]: You all mentioned inspirations in that same interview (Carmen, you spoke of your daughter being one — how old is she? Alba and Marga, you spoke of art, literature like Poe and Lovecraft, and your love of visiting cemeteries) — are there songs here that might tie into those particular inspirations?
[Carmen]: My daughter is the most important thing in my life, so she has to be an inspiration! She is turning 3 very soon. Her name is Duna, and there is a song for her in the album.
[Alba]: Also, I wrote the “Liturgy” lyrics about an ossuary/cemetery I visited in Naples called Cimitero delle Fontanelle. So there you go!
[Kira]: Like Danzig, there is one theme, the occult, that’s very apparent in the album, and it seems like some tracks are tied together or are a cause-and-effect type of thing (I’ll get into that later) — where did that interest come from?
[Carmen]: I think it’s something that has been growing since our first EP, in a very natural way. At some point, we realized that our music was getting darker, and we just liked it. Same thing with lyrics. Of course, it comes from our personal tastes in music, films, and books.
[Kira]: For example, like with “Stigmatized,” it seems to be about a cursed building with a bad history (“It was some incidents/ In the building of this place” and “There is something inside the walls/ That makes the ceilings bleed/ Thousands and thousands of flies/ Looking for flesh to lick”) — can you talk about that?
[Carmen]: Marga wrote those lyrics. I remember she told us she had lyrics for a song about a “bleeding house” way before the music was written, and our reaction was that the idea sounded cool. I think (it) is just something that she imagined … or not? We´ll have to ask her!
[Kira]: Obviously I think your mention of nature comes up in something like “Ceibas,” which has a definite theme of environmental destruction (in the chorus, “Falling ceibas, singing blind bats, digging graves for sacred trees/ The raising black fume, deadly perfume/ all infected with disease/ What comes after natural disasters/ from Nostradamus’ prophecies?/ Fatal black fume, deadly perfume, human race is the disease” — and in the verses, which talk about extinction, the ravages of fire, “prehistoric beings gone”) — was there a certain event that inspired this, where did the idea come from?
[Carmen]: I wrote this one while those big fires were devastating Australia. As you say, it is about nature and humans destroying everything that is sacred. I think this one is very explicit!
[Kira]: So here’s where I think two songs are tied together, with “Night Comes Near,” which is the coming of something evil (“The night comes clear/ Secrets revealed/ Our fate is sealed/ As the night comes near” and the line in the chorus, “dark omen rising”) and “The Ritual,” which is the result of “Night,” or the next step in the story (“Seven witches, around the fire, singing and preaching” and “A spell of immortality is the ritual) — is that what you intended with them?
[Alba]: It’s not what we intended at all, but this is what’s great about putting out music/writings, where the external view can bring a new perspective and meaning to anything.
[Kira]: “Lamentations” has just that one line of lyrics: “An old man came and said to me, ‘I’m your regrets and things you haven’t fulfilled/ So take my hand and walk with me, Until the end I’ll whisper in your ear’” — could this be the devil?
[Carmen]: I had two verses for “Lamentations” — I still remember the other one! (It’s) not the Devil, but our regrets personalized in an old man, as that’s how I pictured it in my mind. The song says they will be there forever, as we cannot change the past, so we have to “walk with them.”
[Kira]: The lyrics for “Labyrinth” are very specific (“Spiders crawling/ They’re building their web/ At the temple of evil” and “Snakes devouring/ Their bodies in pain/ A labyrinth ending” and “Secret doors lead to the shrine/ A portal to the unknown/ Sacred horses, blazing dagger/ Serpents under two suns”) — is there a source for them, mythology or something else you’d read?
[Alba]: Totally. The lyrics for “Labyrinth” were inspired by different readings on Jungian psychology and symbols, while also reading Kerenyi studies on labyrinths. With this in mind, I conjured different images that were to be found at the heart of the labyrinth.
[Kira]: “Duna” is a cross between doom and surf, it sounded to my ears — is that accurate, where did that quality come from, perhaps in what you might have been listening to? It’s obviously about a place (“A place to be/ Nothing as beautiful as this” and “it’s so addictive, the warmest landscape”) that perhaps has something unpleasant hidden within (“They say, there are so many dangers, it’s worth the risk as long as She exists”) — so what place is it?
[Carmen]: The place is my daughter, Duna. I made that parallelism with Dune, the planet from the book, because of her name. That surf sound you talk about might be because this one couldn’t be so dark. That something “unpleasant” is all the fears you have when you love someone that much, and the “She” refers to her.
[Kira]: You spoke of being from a conservative Catholic city, and I think “Liturgy” addresses that directly — it seems to be a commentary on Christianity (“Bear the cross/ The crown of thorns/ Dirt and blood/ All is lost” and the idea of worshipping the dead in the chorus, “Blessed be their blood and souls/ Liturgy of skull and bones”) — is that accurate?
[Alba]: The lyrics here are really about the interior meanings that all these symbols move and provoke — what it means to “bear a cross” and how this religion understands pain as a necessary passage. In the chorus, I tried to write a sort of funerary mass for those buried at Cimitero delle Fontanelle who were collectively buried after a plague and then a cholera crisis in Naples in the past.
[Kira]: Are there any indications of your being able to play live any time soon; what is the Covid situation like in Spain? The album has gotten such a good response (congrats for being number 1 on the Doom Charts!) — so what will the next steps be leading up to hopefully playing it live?
[Carmen]: We have a live show in May that we’ll announce soon. (The) Covid situation here is affecting very much live shows, and (it’s) not under control yet, so we haven’t planned touring yet. We also are going to record a few live videos so people can experience how the songs sound live. And that first position was awesome!! About next steps, we haven’t announced it yet, but we are re-releasing “The Omen” on a beautiful gold splatter color vinyl, and also re-releasing our previous album, “Spectral Ascent” with new artwork. Very exciting!!
KABBALAH‘s new album ‘The Omen‘ was released in January 2021, out now from Ripple Music on vinyl LP, CD, and digital. ‘The Omen‘ is also available on Cassette through Stoner Witch Records. Order through one of the following locations:
Kabbalah Direct: Bandcamp
Stoner Witch Records: Cassette
Alba DDU – Guitar
Marga Malaria – Bass
Carmen Espejo – Drums