Martyria is a rather new dark/ritual ambient duo formed in 2015 and hailing from Greece. They use ritualistic instruments and their chants are based on eschatological texts, these two are the primary elements that define their music. Martyria is a path of studying the origin, nature and destiny of the human psyche. Want to know more? Well, I had a chat with Lena Merkouri and George Zafiriadis regarding their project, their recently released debut album and their views, thoughts and everything else surrounding their art.
Karl Grümpe/Toneshift: Lena and George, thank you for your time and this interview. For starters, could you please give a brief info/history of Martyria?
Martyria: We started our project in 2015 by recording only our voices and created our own chants that sounded similar to Byzantine hymns. We soon realized we had something special, thus, Martyria was born and it became a very important part of our lives. We create mainly environmental art and dark ambient music with ethereal chants and traditional musical instruments such as bendir and didgeridoo. What we try to achieve as Martyria is to create the right atmosphere, which will help the audience and ourselves to explore our inner world.
KG: In Greek, martyrs are those who were killed for their faith. Martyria refers to either testimony or to tortures (plural), depending where the accent goes (to letter “I” or to letter “y” respectively). What is the meaning your Martyria?
M: The suffering of people for their religious beliefs is something that inspires us. We admire the dedication of the first martyrs to their spiritual beliefs sacrificing their ego and physical self on earth in order to embrace death and salvation in the spiritual realm.
KG: You have stated that the use of ritualistic instruments and chants based on eschatological texts are two of the primary elements that define your music, which are used as a way of studying the origin, nature and destiny of the human psyche. Can you please elaborate more on this?
M: The chants and some of the music instruments we use produce vibrations that flow through the body of the performer from the neck to the head which, in combination with the right breathing techniques, help us enter an altered state of consciousness. What we try to achieve by entering this state is to sacrifice our ego and become one with everything that surrounds us. Then the ultimate goal for us is to discover the knowledge that is engraved on the human soul and to remind our consciousness of this knowledge.
KG: What is the origin of the eschatological texts you are using? Furthermore, does Martyria have a spiritual/occult aspect in terms of an apocalyptic view of the world and a forthcoming absolution?
M: The eschatological texts that we are using is the Apocalypse of John. Spiritual obscurantism, as described and condemned in the Book of Revelation, has inspired the music in our album. Spiritual obscurantism is responsible for the suffering of humanity. Through our ritualistic music, we as creators attempt to record the dark side of the human psyche in order to properly explore and comprehend it, so that we can confront and redeem it. One has to make deep research in order to understand the metaphorical language used in the Apocalypse of John. We of course, do not agree with all the beliefs of Christianity but through our personal research we are willing to find the deeper meaning behind the symbols used as a form of artistic expression.
KG: Your music is dark, strongly dark. Can you please describe that darkness? In your perception, is this a binary subject, like yin and yang? Furthermore, is this a conflict of extremes or a complete circle, where in the end everything will be merged within?
M: In our opinion, without darkness, light cannot exist. This is happening all around us. The darkness expressed in our music, acts as a way for us to embrace the light. It is a constant metamorphosis rather than an eternal conflict.
KG: Which are your influences, both as artists and regarding Martyria?
M: Our biggest influences are nature, ritualistic music from around the world and a few books, like James George Frazer‘s Golden Bough for example.
cassette version by Urtod Void
KG: Your debut album, Martyria (Toneshift review), recently released on cassette, vinyl and CD. Can you give more details, like recording process, feedback from the audience, etc.? How you came into an agreement with the record labels?
M: Malignant Records released our debut album in CD format. They believed in us from the beginning and their support is overwhelming. The cooperation was excellent. Besides the CD format, our music has also been released as vinyl edition by Hammerheart Records in two different versions and we are really happy with the outcome. We are also very proud of the special screen printed wooden box cassette tape released by Urtod Void containing the music cassette, a metal pendant designed by us, a small jeweler bag and a little piece of blue moss collected in the forests. A lot of people seem to like what we released from those labels which makes us really happy. It is very nice to see that all the work we have done is appreciated.
KG: Your track titles as well, have a strong religious/spiritual relation. For example, Logos: in the beginning was the Word (Logos), and the Word was with God, and the Word was God, so begins the Gospel of John, Pneuma: spirit, Eschaton: theological concept concerning the final events of history, or the ultimate destiny of humanity and so on. Can you please comment on this?
M: We wanted to express the path we follow in order to accomplish a goal. Logos, is the reason behind everything that happens. With the power of Pneuma comes the death of the physical self, Nekros (dead), leading us to Nyx (night), the darkness. Through darkness comes the final destination, Eschaton.
CD version by Malignant Records
KG: The artwork refers to Byzantium or at least to Christianity; even your logo has a specific reference. Can you please share more details and the story behind your imagery? Why you chose this painting and what is its origin?
M: The painting represents the death of the human ego as it is depicted in the old Christian Orthodox icons that describe the torment of the first Christian martyrs. We consider these martyrs a symbol of all those who suffered in the material world for their commitment to their spiritual beliefs and finally conquered the darkness of the human psyche. Part of the artwork was created in the forests as part of the Nature Art side of Martyria. It is a collage of Old Orthodox Christian icons we made in order to express the transition from the physical self to the spiritual self as it happens with our music. From Logos to Eschaton. The Dragon is not an enemy but a power about to be tamed, the power of nature, the hidden wisdom, is showing us the path towards Enlightenment.
KG: Well, that was revealing. Any last thoughts or anything you would like to add?
M: Thank you for giving us the opportunity to talk about our art!