Interview / Opia: A New Force In Gothic Doom Metal

Gothic Doom Metal band Opia came into being very recently, in 2022, after Tereza Rohelova (ex-Agrona, ex-Wolvencrown) and Dan Tregenna (ex-Dystopian Wrath) attended a gig for the Finnish Doom Metallers Kypck.

They had been contemplating a fresh project for some time and, after being inspired by that performance, immediately reached out to some of their friends and former band members. They were joined by guitarist Phoenix Griffiths (ex-Agrona), keyboard player Jorge Afonso Rodríguez (Scandelion, ex-Dystopian Wrath) and bassist Richard Rees (Ofnus, ex-Democratus).

Now, with their debut full-length looming on the horizon and their first three-date tour with The Drowning imminent, MetalTalk’s Jools Green caught up with Dan and Tereza for a chat.

They have just released their first single, On Death’s Door, as a tantalising taste of what to expect, and it’s a stunning piece. It is superbly atmospheric yet dark, with eerie, haunting keyboards balanced alongside bleakly atmospheric guitar work. It’s a lyrically powerful and moving piece about love, wasting sickness and death that you cannot fail to be moved by.

On Death’s Door finds Tereza demonstrating another side to her vocal talents. Known for her stunning harsh vocal delivery, she displays her equally capable clean singing talents, adding an extra dimension to the sound.

“It’s definitely a challenge for me,” Tereza told us, “but one I enjoy. When I was a teenager, I was a trained classical singer, so after years of harsh vocals I felt it would be a good opportunity to implement both styles and come back to my roots as a vocalist.

“On the one hand, I am a bit anxious about performing clean vocals to an audience again after so much time, but I wanted the challenge so here I am,” she laughs. “At the moment I’m in the process of trying to find that voice again. I have regular vocal lessons to shake off some of that rust and develop my technique.

“This gives us a lot of opportunity for a broader range of music. There are things that singing clean allow us to do that brings a different dynamic and tone to the songs than we would get by sticking to the more extreme vocals.”

As a woman at the forefront of the Extreme Metal scene, Tereza says she has not really seen many differences in current times between the genders. “It’s great to see there are more and more talented women in the scene nowadays,” she says. “Years ago, it was a lot harder. When I was a teenager in the Czech Republic with my early bands it was definitely more challenging.

“I remember my first band even got rid of me for being female,” she laughs. “But I never gave up. I just don’t see why we should use the term ‘female-fronted’ for Opia. For me, it’s about the quality of the voice and our performance, not my gender. I’ve just never wanted to build something on the fact that I’m female.

“I suppose there is still some stigma around it, and expectations from the audience but I don’t give a fuck. For me, it’s about the music, the passion and the energy. It’s what I’ve loved doing for basically my entire life. The only thing I want is to leave something behind that touches people.”

After Dystopian Wrath split, Dan Tregenna concentrated his efforts on concert promotion, artist management, tour management and teaching sound engineering courses. He also has a Doctorate. “That’s definitely a bit of a shopping list of my day-to-day activities,” he laughs. “Juggling the different roles and responsibilities is definitely a daily challenge but so far, so good.

“I’m lucky that the people involved with Opia, Sidious and my doctorate are all very supportive and accommodating. When Dystopian Wrath ended, I was quite vocal that I didn’t want to be on that side of the stage anymore.

“There were a lot of reasons for it at the time. I’ve definitely been very comfortable working behind the scenes. I can be very introverted and private in nature, and I have an uncomfortable relationship with being visible in that way.

“I remember being recognised by a delivery driver who had seen Dystopian Wrath a few weeks before and feeling extremely uncomfortable and exposed. I definitely didn’t eat much pizza that month [laughs].

“To explain why I’ve come back to the stage requires a bit of a story. When I was 15 years old, I had a severe case of anorexia. I lost so much weight that my BMI was well below 15, and I was set to be hospitalised over it.”

Opia - Dan Tregenna. Photo: Konstantina Frasia
Opia – Dan Tregenna: “One of the key moments in my recovery was discovering the music of the Finnish Gothic Metal band Sentenced.”

“It was all tied to depression rather than body image and one of the key moments in my recovery was discovering the music of the Finnish Gothic Metal band Sentenced. The lyrics written by Sami Lopakka and sung by Ville Laihialla were so raw, visceral and honest that I connected to them instantly.

“It was a cornerstone of my recovery to know these five guys in Northern Finland understood what I was feeling on some level and that I wasn’t alone in that regard. There was an honesty and a truth in that pain they put into their music that I’ve never found matched by any other band.

“The chance to produce music like that was the lure to bring me back to the front of the stage. I have a lot of things I want to express in this same way and if a song we play can have even the slightest impact of this nature on another person’s life I think it’s all worth it.”

As for the name Opia, bassist Rich proposed the name. “It’s a concept that deals with the feelings of invasive unease and vulnerability that comes from eye contact,” Dan says.

“When we were talking about the concept of the band,” Tereza added, “we were largely discussing Victorian occult themes, and the eye is very important to that, so it fits well together. For example, the eye of the void or the Hand of Fatima.”

Having released their first single, On Death’s Door, an album is also on the horizon. “We’ve not confirmed a name for it yet,” Dan says, “and we’re still fine tuning a few tracks that aren’t part of our live set right now, but I would say that we have a diverse range of material on the album.

“We’re hoping to renew our partnership working with Abraham Fihema and Timothy Vincent (Woodcroft Audio) again as we had a great working relationship with them on the single. Their work together on the latest albums by The Drowning, as well as working with Tereza and Rich on the Agrona and Ofnus albums, speak to their immense skill. We’re looking at a release sometime next spring if all the moving parts come together properly.”

“Most of the songs on the album are actually about very intimate experiences from our own lives,” Tereza says, “but portrayed in the Victorian era in the lyrics and the imagery. The songs are all very personal in that way. I’m very excited to share what we’ve been working on.”

Opia - Tereza Rohelova - "For me, it's about the music, the passion and the energy." Photo: Konstantina Frasia
Opia – Tereza Rohelova – “For me, it’s about the music, the passion and the energy.” Photo: Konstantina Frasia

With the advent of the internet, it’s never been easier for band members to collaborate from different continents. But does this cause much difficulty, logistically, when it comes to rehearsing and touring?

“It’s absolutely a challenge in many ways,” Dan says. “We practised with Jorge our keyboard player in June when he came over for a photoshoot, and he’ll be back in November for the tour of course. We do need to pick and choose our battles on this front because it is a 4-hour flight from Gran Canaria to the UK, and Jorge is a teacher in his day-to-day life, so schedules require some navigation.

“Even the UK-based members are spread out between Plymouth and various parts of South Wales, so every show offer is a matter of ok, if we’re gonna set the gears in motion for this, then how does this offer benefit the band?

“I wouldn’t trade it, though. I think the combination of musicians, talent and personalities works really well and more than justifies the difficulties. It helps significantly that we’re all friends as much as bandmates.”

On a scale of 1 to 10, how excited/ nervous are they about their first tour?

“I don’t really suffer stage fright in all honesty, so maybe about 3/10 for nervousness,” Dan says. “For Excitement, maybe an 8/10. We’re all very keen to get it out there into the live domain, and the set we have prepared is sounding phenomenal. I’m also very keen to get out on the road with The Drowning and Denali. Both bands are made up of good friends of mine, and it’ll be good to see them all again.”

Tereza says she is a solid 9/10 for nervousness and 9/10 for excitement.

The lyrics for On Death’s Door are superbly emotive. I say that I felt quite affected by them. “So far, I’ve written most of the lyrics myself,” Dan says, “and that was a big thing for me. I’ve always enjoyed writing lyrics but I’ve never really had the opportunity to contribute lyrics in the past.

“I tend to present a first draft to everyone. If we have a song we think fits the vibe that doesn’t have any lyrics yet, Tereza and myself sit down and workshop the vocal lines to the song. At this point, we kinda work through syllable counts and what feels natural to sing. Usually, I have to redress lines completely to fit better.

“That’s how we generally arrive at the finished versions. However, I absolutely have to point out that the lyrics to On Death’s Door are currently the one exception to that rule. Phoenix (guitars) wrote both the song and the first draft of the lyrics himself.

“We have a lot of songs that are rooted in history and historical themes, particularly from the 1800s. Topics like the occultist movement and stories from history itself. On Death’s Door, for example, on the surface, deals with the subject of ‘wasting diseases’ in the 1800s.

“On a deeper level, it deals with a range of topics from body dysmorphia to love in the face of death. It also touches on issues around loss of control. After all, the woman in the song’s greatest fear is about how she has no say over how she will be remembered by others. A concept more terrifying to her than her inevitable death.

“The lyrics were written by Phoenix about the death of a family member. Whilst these lyrics tell a story set on a historical framework, they are ultimately extremely personal in nature and are merely a vehicle for expressing that pain and grief. I’ve always felt that whatever we write about it should be honest, and it should be real.”

november

10nov7:00 pmThe Drowning - Denali - Opia | PlymouthUnderground

11nov7:00 pmThe Drowning - Denali - Opia | CardiffFuel Rock Club

12nov7:00 pmThe Drowning - Denali - Opia | LondonThe Dev

With shows in the UK in November, you can sense that the excitement is building for Opia. “I love the fact that I can experiment,” Tereza says, “and that through this band I’ve started enjoying playing music again. Also, it’s a big thing for me that all of the members are people who are close to me, pretty much family.

“We work together well, even though there are some sparks sometimes from so many different personalities. But I need a kick in the ass once in a while [laughs], so all this works really well for me.”

“It’s nice to work with everyone involved in this one for sure,” Dan says. “I would suggest that my favourite part other than this is to have the opportunity to play a style of Gothic Doom Death that is really not common in the UK.

“We’re the nation that gave rise to Paradise Lost and My Dying Bride but for some reason, the British scene kinda forgot about that movement. That’s not to say there are not some fantastic bands in this style, such as The Drowning, Denali, Halveksia, My Silent Wake, Godthrymm and Edenfall, for a few examples.”

With the new single On Death’s Door out now, a new album on the way and shows booked with The Drowning and Denali, you can keep an eye out at MetalTalk and on Opia’s Bandcamp pages for further news.

“We look forward to seeing everyone on the road in November,” Dan says with a keen smile.

Opia’s debut single, On Death’s Door, is available to listen at Bandcamp.

The Drowning - Denali - Opia - UK Tour 2023
The Drowning – Denali – Opia – UK Tour 2023

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