by R.S. Frost
From the deepest darkest mountain caves to triumphant victory upon fields of battle, Italian one-man project EMYN MUIL delves deep into the lore of The Silmarillion, utilising dungeon synth and black metal to weave audible tapestries and tales from another realm.
I reached out to Saverio Giove, the man behind Emyn Muil, to discuss the First Age, conceptual dynamics and the resurgent popularity of synth-heavy offerings in the black metal community.
How did you first come about this blending of black metal with highly synthesised qualities, and what influenced your decision to start making concept-based music as a solo venture?
- I remember that period, I was exploring new bands. When I listened to FALKENBACH for the first time, and when I discovered it was a solo project, I immediately thought of trying a solo project myself. In the beginning, I had very limited tools to make something decent (I had no guitar, I used keyboards) and I started with a few less successful projects and experiments before Emyn Muil. Over time I learned how to better use recording software, bought a guitar and increased the quality of the production, release after release, keeping the will of the homemade recording.
When I started writing my first compositions I only did it out of simple curiosity, then I realised that this was the best way for me to express my sensitivity, my passions and my most tumultuous moments. So, first of all, I do it for myself. Then, the affection of fans and friends plays a fundamental role. With their support, my music is further valorised - this gratifies me a lot and pushes me to improve myself more and more with each release.
I’m from a region called Puglia in the south of Italy. As a whole country, we have been conquered by many civilisations throughout history. I think some of our monuments and castles have contributed to my inspiration, but also I have always been keen on Norse mythology and dark fantasy, so actually, a lot of elements have framed my music.
The band name refers to the treacherous labyrinth of sharp, rocky hills situated in the Rhovanion region of Middle Earth. It is in the eastern part of this region that Frodo and Sam first come across Gollum in The Lord of the Rings.
How did you come to be engrossed in the works of Tolkien and why did you decide to theme a musical project around his work?
- I started reading Tolkien's novels in conjunction with the release of Jackson's films. As I said, I was always keen on Norse mythology and before Tolkien, and I had already acquired some knowledge that I later found in his novels, based on real philological aspects and legends taken from various existing mythologies. Tolkien’s greatest merit was to create a universe of credible fantasy, and when this is shared with millions of readers, it becomes somewhat real. That pushed me to start composing, because I felt that was my alternative world.
In 2013 Saverio released the first album under the Emyn Muil banner titled 'Túrin Turambar Dagnir Glaurunga'. The title translates to “Túrin Master of Fate, slayer of Glaurung”; words which were inscribed on the burial mound of Túrin Turambar, a character from Tolkien’s posthumously published book The Children of Húrin.
Why did you decide to focus on the earlier sagas for your concept-driven musical output, and why Túrin in particular?
- Well, The Silmarillion is the bible of Tolkien’s lore and I consider it the main source of inspiration. I’m fascinated by the epic tales of the first and second age. When I read The Children of Húrin I was particularly impressed by the issues being dealt with; very mature compared to the trilogy of the Ring. I truly felt involved in the events of the character of Túrin and his tragic fate, and so I wanted to pay homage to this novel with the debut album. It was very inspiring for me.
Emyn Muil’s second album, 'Elenion Ancalima', was released in 2017. The title translates to “Brightest of Stars” and is conceptually relating to, and inspired by, Tolkien's ‘Akallabêth’. This tale appears as the fourth part of The Silmarillion and deals specifically with the downfall of the kingdom of Númenor.
Once again you’re dealing with quite a specific portion of The Silmarillion-era sagas. What was your reasoning for choosing this particular tale?
- Basically, with Emyn Muil I wish to create a first musical trilogy about The Silmarillion. Of course, it’s impossible to transcribe the whole book into music, so I decided to focus on some particular events. At the beginning I wanted to release the second album as a single since I did not have enough decent material, but then I thought that the short chapter about the fall of Númenor could be suitable for a relatively short album (if compared to the first). So, in accordance with the label, I decided to complete other unfinished tracks and release the second album as a full length.
With The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit being the most well-known portion of Tolkien’s works, it is a mere fraction of his collective works, with thousands of years’ worth of lore and legend predating the adventures of Frodo and Bilbo. Having spent the better part of a decade meticulously exploring the vast canon of John Ronald Reuel Tolkien, I was overjoyed when I came across Emyn Muil. Rarely is one faced with such well-researched and accurately depicted subject matter within the setting of Tolkien-themed black metal.
Although Saverio is not the first to venture down this road, he is one of the few who has done so with such a well-rounded and all-encompassing end result, retaining the essence of the base literature not unlike the works of Austrian legends SUMMONING.
I’m curious to know if you take any inspiration from any Tolkien-themed musical counterparts and what your thoughts are pertaining to the recent rise in popularity that dungeon synth has been enjoying?
- If we speak exclusively about Tolkien themed bands, my only source of inspiration is Summoning. They have managed to hold all the essence of what I have always meant by "dark fantasy" in the music world and they have allowed me to travel to other worlds and stimulate my own creativity. From this starting point I felt the need to vent my imagination, to tell what was going through my mind, and to share this journey with an audience able to appreciate this genre. And, in my small way, I am really happy to have many fans accompanying me throughout the creative process!
Among the bands that have influenced me I cannot fail to mention Robert Fudali's dungeon synth side project, LORD WIND, as being fundamental to me as an admirer of blockbuster ‘80s soundtracks. Many of my instrumental arrangements are inspired by Lord Wind, along with the soundtrack of Peter Jackson's The Lord of the Rings films.
I do not have thorough knowledge regarding the trend of the dungeon synth or ambient genres, as they are relatively new to me as well. I can only assume that after the release of Jackson's LOTR trilogy first, and TV series like Vikings later, the epic/fantasy genre, in general, had a media resonance that pushed several artists to try their hand at this type of music, such as WARDRUNA, HEILUNG, FORNDOM etc.
Maybe this genre is still not so widespread, and as such, it fascinates people more. Another reason for its rapid diffusion can be the fact that it is a genre that lends itself well to home recording, so it gives everyone the opportunity to express themselves with few tools, provided they have good ideas.
Prior to creating Emyn Muil, Saverio has been involved with various other projects. In 2008 he released the ‘Hrímþursar’ demo under the project name YMIR, followed by the full-length ‘Tumults in the Absence’ in 2010. He then released the album ‘Verinen Saagat’ (2011) with another project called VALTYR.
In all of his projects, Saverio has been responsible for every aspect of the creative output, from writing and recording of instruments and vocals to lyrics and artwork. He also started a label to cater to his varied projects, NARTUM ART.
- It all started when I discovered the “one man band” concept for the first time. I wanted to create five projects as part of an all-encompassing bigger one called Nartum Art - Music Projects; a mark and a symbol that could contain them all. Each project represents my favourite black metal subgenre: Viking, epic, space doom, old school and ritual ambient. I wanted to explore and dedicate myself to all these musical styles because they are part of my personality and all projects are connected to each other.
Ymir is the project where I explore the most introspective part of my mind; it’s a kind of primordial space travel. I have always been keen on sci-fi horror movies.
Valtyr represents my passion for Norse mythology and that historical period, so it’s my personal homage to that culture and world.
Emyn Muil represents my love for Tolkien’s lore and his epic stories; it is connected to Valtyr in some way, and also with the future ritual ambient project. That’s why all of my projects are so important to me.
What can we expect to see coming out of Nartum Art in the future?
- This I don’t know since the future is unknown; I prefer to focus on the present. Of course, I would like to dedicate myself to other projects I’ve had in mind for a long time, but at the moment my thoughts are focused on other aspects of my life that do not allow me to make long-term projects, so we’ll see...
This interview is featured in the print edition of Inner Missive #2, alongside discussions with THY DARKENED SHADE, WOLCENSMEN, THE ANTICHRIST IMPERIUM, ART AS CATHARSIS, ALTARS, GRIFT, ALTARAGE, ADRIAN BAXTER, PRIMITIVE MAN, COSMIC PUTREFACTION, GIGAN, BYRDI, SLUDGE, ULCERATE and ÖXXÖ XÖÖX.