Ofnus / From First Show to Bloodstock, the Thrilling Journey of a Rising Band

MetalTalk’s Paul Hutchings shared a beer and a chat at a local pub with Ofnus guitarist and founder member Alyn Hunter to find out a bit more about the band who will be gracing the New Blood Stage at Bloodstock Open Air Festival in a few short weeks. You can read Part One, here.

Alyn Hunter – Ofnus – Part Two

The last time I caught up with Alyn, which was earlier in the year at the Katatonia/Solstafir gig in Bristol, he had talked about nothing else but Ofnus. He was really energised. He is still just as vibrant. So, what about the band’s first gig, which took place at the JORVIK II: Bridge of Destiny festival in January?

“It’s not many bands that go and drive 250 miles to play their first show,” Alyn says. “We hadn’t released any material, but Gary from Reaper follows Ethan on social media, and Ethan used to put out a fair few drum videos and just playing and saying, ‘I’m practising this material’. Gary kind of cottoned onto that. We might have sent him a demo track.

“I can’t quite remember, but in any case, I think he probably wanted to be the first person to take the punt on this, so he offered us the show. Obviously, we had to be on quite early. We got offered to play the show, and there wasn’t an awful lot of promoting we could do beyond just saying, we hope you really enjoy us because we can’t show you anything.

“We drove up, we performed. We sold far more merch than we had a right to sell, so we had to make another order we got home. It was just a straight-up success. The other thing is, it just felt palpably different to a lot of other gigs that we played. All of us had the same thing. We just had a great time.

“I think we must have played something like four or five o’clock. It’s still quite early, and the crowd there was great. I recognised a lot of people, but most of them were fellow musicians who I had performed with at some stage. It was nice to have that degree of separation.”

Ofnus - The Junction- 30 April 2023
Ofnus – The Junction- 30 April 2023. Photo: Keith Conlin/MetalTalk

Two more gigs followed, at Fuel in Cardiff and then in Plymouth supporting Wayfarer. But the big gig in the diary will be the set at Bloodstock Open Air on the New Blood Stage. Only two of the band have played there before, Alyn twice with Agrona and James with Blind Divide.

Rich wasn’t in Democratus when they played in 2018. “I think Rich is looking forward to it the most,” adds Alyn, so he hasn’t got ‘I’m the only person In Democratus who hasn’t performed there’.

Surprisingly Ethan hasn’t been to the festival, so it should be a great weekend for the band. “We’re practising specifically for it,” explains Alyn. “We’re going to be approaching this PR side. We’re going to be ensuring that when we’re on stage, we’re not intimidated by this much larger floor plan than we are used to, rather than standing in a one-metre squared spot. There’ll be a certain measure of choreography and scripting to the set.

“You don’t really want to be overwhelmed by the opportunity or too excited. So those guys will still be excited, I’m probably gonna be a lot more level-headed, but that might very well change when I stick my head over and see that there.”

With a thirty-minute set and an album that has several long songs, how do you approach the setlist? They can’t play the hits, and they can’t play the commercial stuff because they don’t have either! “This is actually the most difficult part, trying to work at which songs to play,” Alyn continues. “We’ve got 30 minutes. So yeah, we’ve got two songs which are nine minutes. Yeah, so we can’t play both of those. This is a shame because we like both.

“So, one of the things we thought a lot about at the time when we’re starting up, we’ll have to do a 30-minute set. So, we had to write a short track. I think that’s where Fading Dreams came from. That’s about the four-minute mark. We should be able to slot that in there somewhere.”

Although Alyn reveals the set, it would be poor form to include that in the interview, so you’ll just have to get to the New Blood set to see what Ofnus play in their first Bloodstock appearance.

What about anything else at Bloodstock? A Saturday slot isn’t ideal, exercising restraint for two days before they play. But what about the show?

“We want it to rain so we can point outside and say we did that,” Alyn says. “We don’t want it to be as hot as it was last year, but we’re less fussed about the weather and more about clashes. Because we’re playing on Saturday, there’s Abbath, Triptykon, Tortured Demon, Urne, a ton of really good bands. We don’t want to be clashing with them.”

Ofnus - The Junction- 30 April 2023
Ofnus – The Junction- 30 April 2023. Photo: Keith Conlin/MetalTalk

Whatever happens, it should be a mighty fine afternoon, and I hope the band get a decent crowd. We move on to the album. Out on 30 June, Time Held Me Grey And Dying is, for me, highly anticipated. From what I’ve seen of the details and artwork, this should be a stunning package.

I’m sure it has been lovingly put together, and I’m even more sure that Alyn has been fussing over it like a controlling mother. “Absolutely,” he laughs. “I think I had it sent back to me about five times because I couldn’t get the templates right, but that’s my responsibility.”

What about the construction of the album? Alyn explains how it came together. “So recording, we did the drums over at Woodcroft Audio, which was Tim Vincent’s, but we used Romesh’s (Dodangoda) studio. Once we had the stem sent over, we then actually recorded it all at Chez Moir. So, I did everything. I recorded all the individual parts.

“It hasn’t quite got the finesse of a trained audio engineer doing it, but we like doing it because we didn’t want something that sounded manufactured. We wanted a raw element to it. That was the way to go about doing it. Whether or not we do that again, I don’t know. Once we had put everything on an external hard drive, all the stems were sent over to Will, who then recorded his vocals over the top them.

“Will did the mixing job with me over his shoulder. It’s turned out well, given the fact we probably didn’t spend very much money on it at all, and we used the expertise we had in-house. Like I said, whether we’ll do it again, not too sure. And I think the only regret is we probably would like the drums a little louder because we didn’t realise, in particular, if you put something on YouTube or Facebook, the video compression hits the audio pretty hard.

“So, you’ll notice a lot of modern records have quite hefty, powerful drums when they get hit by the compression. With ours, it’s subdued a fair bit if you listen to it on Spotify; if you listen to the video on Bandcamp, it’s a lot more.”

Ofnus - Time Held Me Grey And Dying album cover
Ofnus – Time Held Me Grey And Dying. With elements that dive deep into the inner soul, this has Album of the Year written all over it.

It’s always a challenge for bands with regard to the mix and production. For Ofnus, this is part of the challenge for the kind of music they make. The raw elements need to be limited to ensure that it’s a product that doesn’t just appeal to the old-school tape trader. “Exactly,” says Alyn. “You don’t want something that’s sounding like it’s recorded through a Fisher Price cassette player.

“It’s okay. We’re not true Black Metal. And we’re not trying to be true Black Metal. We do need to have an element of modern production technique applied. Do we want it to sound like the most recent Lamb of God or Metallica? No, we don’t want that kind of finesse to it. We want something to have a bit of authenticity.”

Early days, ten days to the release of the album at the time of writing, and a couple of reviews have trickled in so far. You can read the MetalTalk review here. How have they been? “Quite favourable,” says Alyn. “We had one hilarious one, which was as factual as it gets and basically said this is Atmospheric Black Metal, the guitarist plays guitars, the bassist plays bass etc. But typically, they’ve been overwhelmingly positive. And we are expecting a few more to come in soon.

“We’re more than happy. A funny story, though. We originally named all the tracks after oven brands because in Norwegian, it means cooking stove. So, I keep thinking that that one’s called NEF. And the first track, now, it’s called SMEG. Another was called Bosch, and this made it easier.”
There is now an obvious heckle for that Bloodstock show! Get your white goods manufacturer list ready.

Does Alyn have a favourite track to play and listen to on the album? “I love the nine-minute tracks. Favourites. It used to be Grains Of Sand because I enjoyed having that heavy release at the end. But the more we play it, it’s now A Thousand Lifetimes. The main reason for that is it’s the kind of Post Metal or repeating buildup structure we get to play.

“I’m playing the same thing about three minutes, and I don’t care because you have the building of the drums, the changing over of the lead guitar, the vocals coming in. You’ve got the sense of it constantly building up, and then you got that final release moment with a big swell before the end. And that one just feels like a real progressive number.”

In my review, I picked out Echoes as one of my favourites. Apparently, I’m not alone. “We will work that into the set because you’re not the only person who said so. It’s been picked up as one of the better ones. I’m not sure where that will really sit in the spectrum. It’s a weird one.”

Which is probably why I like it, with the muddled genres – Back Metal, Post Metal, a bit of Symphonic Black Metal and then Post Metal again with a doom drone underneath it all.

Whilst Alyn has been through an album release before (Agrona’s Realm of the Fallen), none of the other members of Ofnus have been in a position where they are having music released on a label (Black Pyre’s album Winter Solstice was self-released). Does he see it at a different level now?

“I see it as a start of a different level,” he says. “I think it’s very much the same kind of opening gambit which has grown already. It’s because of the combination of experiences taken from several different bands. We’re going about it in a slightly better and more efficient way. I think that could open the doors to a better second release.

“I think you said earlier about what the benchmark is, and a first album is a great benchmark. The proof of the pudding’s always in a second, always, because you can get one album out. The number of bands that have released one album and then disappeared into obscurity is huge.

Getting that first album out the way and then getting a second one is a proper sign of longevity. I think that’s what we’ve got as a goal in mind to work towards. So, we’ll tour the current album. We’ve got a tour in the works. I’m happy to share that. As far as album two goes, we’re going to aim to get that worked on and recorded and hopefully out as fast as possible, but obviously still trying to keep the quality controls and check.”

With a teaser about the tour, it would be rude not to probe a bit more. Alyn explains. “It’s not really going to be like a full week tour or anything. It’s going to be a case of doing a couple of weekends, so we’re gonna be doing some dates in the north, which will include a Scotland date, which I’ve never done before. And we’ll do a weekend down south because obviously, you must hit the capital at some point.

“And I can also say it’s going to be with Post Metal / Black Metal band Ba’al. We’ve been speaking with Joe Stamps a lot recently. He’s been nothing but supportive, and it just kind of it made sense for us to go ahead and do that.

Once we got the offer to do a tour with them, alternating headline dates, it made sense. We want to do as much of the album as possible live. So, having that opportunity to go and immediately headline makes more sense.

And finally, as we finish our drinks and I prepare to cycle home, is Alyn excited? “Yeah, I’m excited just because it’s something that I’ve put a lot of myself in. But I think more anything else relief just because it’s been so bloody long.”

Time Held Me Grey And Dying is released on 30 June 2023 through Naturmacht Productions.

You can read Part One of our interview, here.

Bloodstock 2023
Bloodstock 2023

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