AN INSIGHT INTO PYTHIA'S NEW ALBUM 'THE SERPENT'S CURSE' WITH EMILY OVENDEN
Championing the cause of British Metal, the pursuit of pure love, the intensity of personal relationships, all created behind a backdrop of personal tragedy and life changing scenarios, the end result being a tidal wave of emotionally charged power that sets a new standard and raises the bar. That's 'The Serpent's Curse' by Pythia.
'The Serpent's Curse' was three years in the making and there was good reason why it took so long to complete, as Emily explains a little further down but first, an insight into how Pythia create their music.
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"The way we write, as a band, is we do most of it online. What happens is some riffs will be thrown down, usually by Ross but Tim did a lot on this album as well, then they will send it to drummer Marc Dyos who will put down the beat and then they send it to me and I fiddle around with it. Sometimes we chop it up and jig it around a bit, and then we use that as the foundation for the song.
"There's no real set rule though. Everyone can write their own parts and we can do it any way we like but that's usually how it works. I really like writing to melody and for something that is already there as that's a really good way of doing it."
There is a strong theme running through 'The Serpent's Curse', as there was on debut album 'Beneath The Veiled Embrace'. Neither were conceptual albums but there's obviously a link between the ten tracks on the latest opus.
"It's about the circle of life. We went through quite a lot of personal changes when we were making the album. Marc, the founder member and drummer lost his brother Vincent to pancreatitis. Then, in some horrible twist of fate Tim, our lead guitarist, got pancreatitis and nearly died himself from it. He was critically ill and in a coma for three weeks.
"Then I got pregnant and had a baby. So during the whole time we were making this album we were going through life changes; real life changing changes you know and that's why the album took so long to make. And it takes a long time to make a Pythia album anyway because they are complicated songs. A lot of thought goes into them and we want to be sure everything is just right.
"So really, that's what the album is about, the circle of life and relationships and love. Love is quite a big driving force in my lyrics. The pursuit of love, real, pure love...
"And the album has a lot of strong themes about God, whoever your God is, and that mankind has lost the ability to have faith, whether that faith is in God, or in each other, or in our ability to evolve and become better. The idea of Darwinism robbing us of faith. As a person I have always had a strong sense of God, whatever that is, and for me, it's a reassuring presence."
There's an intensity to 'The Serpent's Curse' that is evident not only in the precision and delivery of the music but in the lyrics, which are certainly not for the faint hearted. Emily expanded upon and revealed the meaning behind each song:
Cry Of Our Nation We will strike at every heart, that abandons us to pain. We will make you sing out loud, we will wash away your shame. God will not save you from the flame. God will not answer to your name.
"'Cry Of Our Nation' is a call to arms. British Heavy Metal is not where it should be and we want to put it back where it should be - at the very top. This is for Britain.
"It's a life philosophy that you have to make it happen. God wants you to be pro-active and God wants us to save ourselves. Your God is your motivation and we have to make it happen for ourselves."
Betray My Heart Though I beg for you to leave me, cut the cord that ties us true, still you weave your magic further, and I find I'm bound to you.
"'Betray Your Heart' is about a relationship that is so intense, so all-consuming that it burns your soul.
"Some relationships are very all-consuming and they are the most dangerous relationships you have. They're almost like an addiction and are very destructive.
"Every way you try to say it, you can't get out of it and you can't make it work and the more destructive it is the more consuming it becomes. Like a vicious circle.
Kissing The Knife The blade of the beast is a mighty fine spirit to host.
"This song is about dancing with the Devil. The song leads on from 'Betray My Heart' and the idea is that all games that start in the night end on the edge of a cliff. Like when you're playing with fire, I mean within sexual situations...
"The more you play with fire, the more you are going to get burned.
"Everything I write is based on personal experience, or about the experiences of others, as an observer. I write very much from my heart all the time.
"I wrote 'Kissing The Knife' quite specifically about somebody that I know, somebody who I spent quite a lot of time with and I would see problems of his, dramas, you know... so it's a love letter to a friend who was struggling."
Just A Lie I hate your silence. I hate the way you think you care. I hate tomorrow because I know you will be there.
"When I started writing this album I was having a tough time in a relationship for various reasons and this song is basically a case of 'get your act together or I am leaving'.
"It's that moment of anger that you often experience in a relationship and it had come down to that.
"I wrote 'My Pale Prince' from the first album for the same person and this is the follow up from a few years later..."
Dark Star Once there was a girl who lived, a thousand centuries, never found a friend to call her own. Soon she turned to ice, a mountain of indignity, Couldn't bare the awful years alone
"This song is essentially about loneliness. There was a time when I really wondered whether I was ever capable of loving someone really properly and I also got to a point in life where I never thought I was ever going to be able to have a kid.
"I'm the type of person who can be in a large group of people and have lots of attention but still feel lonely.
"'Heartless' is the simple version of this and 'Dark Star' is the complex version.
"We really want to play this live but not in our short set. It needs to be in our hour and a half set as it's too much for the short set."
'Dark Star' is also connected to Emily's novel, 'The Ice Room', which we discuss below.
Long Live The King "So we stand against his pride, we can never run and hide from the dragon..."
"It's my love song to Ronnie James Dio and the dragon in the song is cancer.
"I loved him and I cried like a baby when he died.
"I'd like to do something for Wendy's Stand Up And Shout Cancer Fund. I have something in mind which I am hoping to bring to life a little further down the line."
The Circle These are the words we never will write, These are the pictures we hide in our heads, These are the thoughts we
strip from our minds, We are all bound to the circle of flesh
"That particular line is about people's fear of talking about religious matters because of the fear of offending.
"This is about the idea of Darwinism clashing with Creationism. Darwin's ideas of how the world was created totally goes against everything in the Bible. I think that there were some very great men, Ghandi for example, who was an amazing thinker and he was very religious so if it's good enough for him, it's good enough for me.
"Religion is really about putting spirituality into a box.
"It's an acknowledgement to the circle of life - birth, life and death and everything that that encompasses, especially including marriage and childbirth."
My Perfect Enemy My worthless dignity is burning in your flame. I long to dance in your final retribution.
"Ross and myself fight a lot and this is all about how he manages to get the best out of me by winding me up, how we have a creative chemistry and how we act is really the backbone of Pythia.
"I'm a pretty strong, tough woman and I don't let anybody push me around and Ross is the only person who tells me off and he gets the best out of me by doing that.
"As soon as the album was finished and he heard the end result, the first thing Ross said was 'that's about me, isn't it..?"
Heartless It's not your fault you cannot love me, You are not to blame, I never told you, I was heartless, I'm heartless
"The idea of love and the idea of spirituality and going back to the idea that I often wondered whether I was capable of ever loving properly.
"I'm saying to everyone in my life, friends, family, everyone that it's not your fault that you can't love me. It's because I'm heartless.
"Maybe the type of person I am, my determination and bravery might be just covering a huge weakness...
"To be truly happy you need to truly love and in order to have everything we need to give up everything.
"The song is not actually about a particular situation, it's more about life in general."
Our Forgotten Land We buried our children, we planted the barren sand. We were faithful, we fought for our kingdom, we fought for you sword in hand, our forgotten land
"Heavy Metal has left the shores of Britain and gone to Europe but we're coming back to claim what is ours.
"The ancient spirit of Heavy Metal has returned. We're coming back and the whole idea is that an army - The Pythian Army: those who will endure and arise - are returning and conquering."
And more power to them as well. The Pythian Army are a very loyal and dedicated fanbase who will be out in force at this year's Bloodstock Open Air as Pythia have just been announced for the festival.
"Bloodstock is a fantastic festival that truly embodies the spirit of Heavy Metal in the UK", says Emily. "We are delighted to be playing there for the second time. I can't wait to put up my tent and enjoy a long weekend at the world's most friendly festival and treat the Bloodstockers to set of Pythia's fastest and heaviest tunes."
Emily's aforementioned novel, 'The Ice Room', elaborates on some of the themes on 'The Serpent's Curse' album. It bristles with passion and repression in equal measure.
Set in the mid 1980s against a backdrop of impenetrable ice and snow, the novel unfolds as an evocative and menacing piece. A man of considerable wealth and self-discipline, Marcus Montifrant finds himself consumed with conflicting emotions when he falls utterly in love with his best friend's new wife, the brilliant but manipulative pianist Madeleine Trevoski.
On the slopes of the French ski resort, Champagny En Avoriaz, their affair is set upon a startling path which will have devastating consequences. Through the inter-weaving of personal tales, the reader is seduced into a haunting realm, inhabited by the intriguing emotional and sexual lives of two men and the woman they both desire.
Emily elaborates: "When you're writing songs, you don't really have a big opportunity to go into massive detail. You get roughly six minutes to get your point across and 'The Ice Room' was an opportunity to make a long statement about my ideas of love and romance.
"It's about how I feel about those things. I would never behave like the characters in the book but actually, I'm all of those characters."
Pythia next hit the road for a couple of dates with Serenity at Bogiez, Cardiff on March 24th and The Underworld, London on March 25th. If you haven't enlisted to the Pythian Arny yet, then this is the perfect opportunity to do so, along with the aforementioned Bloodstock appearance and several more live dates for 2012 that will be announced in the not too distant future.
Emily concludes with a thought provoking statement: "As a singer you have to go where your voice takes you."
Our prediction is that this voice will take Pythia right to the very top and play a major role in the mission to put British Metal right back where it belongs.
"This is the last word we will say. This is open war. And it's time to pay."
Emily is also a patron of Music Heals, a charitable organisation which helps children and young people with cancer and other serious illnesses through the powerful tool of music. You can check out more on Music Heals by clicking here.