by Niklas Göransson
Defenders of reality – after a decade’s absence, Québecois black/thrash band Thesyre have re-emerged from obscurity. Founder and frontman Eric Syre discusses the new album, Shift.
– After releasing “Résistance” in 2009, we made plans to work on a new album. Unfortunately, things ground to a halt when the two guitarists became fathers – meanwhile, Zvordz and I got a lot more involved in both our careers and personal lives. This was THESYRE’s first creative break since 2001, when the band was formed, so perhaps we needed to recharge the batteries? I got involved with PÕHJAST as lead singer and we put out a string of albums, then I experimented on the side with various other artistic outlets. Zvordz, who is a trained drummer, played in a jazz trio for a while.
Several years later, when THESYRE became active again, only two members remained. Eric Syre on bass, vocals, and keyboards – Zvordz remained the drummer but now also assumed guitar duties.
– The idea to record this album as a duo kind of imposed itself, because we didn’t want to work with anyone else than our two original guitarists. In their absence, there could be no better choice than Zvordz – he’s been involved in the song-writing process ever since our second album, “Duality”. His playing style suits the music perfectly and he has the best understanding of its entirety. We started recording the material in 2015 but soon abandoned the project and didn’t resume it until 2017. An additional two years later, after I’d finally managed to track the vocals, we had everything mixed and mastered professionally before wondering how to release it.
“Shift”, the fifth studio album by THESYRE, was released in June 2020 by Tour de Garde – an underground operation run by fellow Quebecer and long-time collaborator O. T. from AKITSA.
– Our contract with Osmose was up, so – seeing as how we’re neither DARKTHRONE nor BURZUM – we had to choose between reverting to a smaller label or doing it ourselves. I’ve long since learned that you must be a touring band if you want to deal with the big record companies, and this was always out of the question for us. We’re far from cultivating a high public profile, as you may have noticed, so something had to give. Granted, Osmose did help us reach a lot of people but most of them didn’t get what we were about anyway. I no longer care if I’m featured in the big magazines, if we get airtime on college radio, or if we appear on the right playlists; over the years, I’ve come to realise that we simply don’t fit in with the usual extreme music landscape. My main goal is reaching the right people, and they tend to find us by their own accord. So, when Tour de Garde offered to release the album, it solved everything: we retain all our rights, we get the music out there, and we work with someone we trust. O. T. has always supported THESYRE. Since we’d been gone for so long, having our new album released by someone who kept in touch with the scene was the best alternative for us.
My first listen to “Shift” was an interesting experience: I was just getting into the strange, digital “De Mysteriis…” vibe of the opener when it suddenly warped into something completely different. I rarely like music described as ‘black/thrash’, but THESYRE have very little in common with most bands from this subgenre. Vocals aside, many of the non-black metal parts remind me more of the violence-scented output from bands like KICKBACK, KORROZIA METALLA, or even NEW MODEL ARMY than anything from the Bay Area or 80s Germany.
– Interesting that you mention a “De Mysteriis…” vibe, I got that from another review. I also read references to ARCTURUS, which, like the MAYHEM comparison, was totally unintentional. The energy of thrash was always more important for me than the technicality of it. I was born in the mid-70s, so both the American and European thrash scenes were highly influential to me but not so much to Zvordz; for him, death and black metal are more of a direct inspiration. During the 80s, I was really into SLAYER, METALLICA, and MEGADETH as well as crossover bands like SUICIDAL TENDENCIES, EXCEL and D.R.I. – furthermore, I always liked the obvious MOTÖRHEAD influences incorporated by bands such as SODOM. Obviously, all of them have played a formative role in my songwriting.
How much has extreme metal impacted your life in general?
– Heavy music obviously helped shape who I am now. It showed me that being an outcast – as much as you despise it during your youth – is a blessing in the long term. The usual channels young people followed never appealed to me, so, from an early age, I had to rely solely on myself to discover who I am. It got me into reading a lot, I also developed a major interest in visual art and became fascinated by science-fiction. The music everyone else was listening to felt empty and vapid. At age ten, I remember seeing the artwork for IRON MAIDEN’s “Powerslave” and, without having a clue about how it might sound, feeling absolutely convinced that this was something for me. All those years of discovering how deeply involved some musicians were have helped me gain confidence in myself: I knew that even if most despised it, I was onto something with substance that meant a lot to many others. It proved me right several times. I also realised it was important for me to keep my creative endeavours and professional life separate, as one couldn’t adapt to the other without sacrificing a good part of its essence. Nowadays I am a strange mixture of underground arrogance and career professionalism… still an outcast to most, but always knowing where I belong.
Even though THESYRE never espoused much of the second-wave black metal aesthetics – corpse-paint, spikes, and so forth – Eric was heavily involved in the genre itself for many years.
– My relationship with black metal is one of love and hate. The genre captivated me at an early stage – it offered an alternative to the jaded state of thrash as well as the ongoing commercialisation of death metal. Black metal was something new and fresh, it dared go where no music had ever ventured before. Bands were expected to be original and challenging, thus serving us legendary albums I will cherish forever. This explains why I got so involved at some point: I believed it was worth the effort and had something important to offer. Yet the genre was plagued by the same problems as any thriving subcultural movement: most notably, it drew mainstream interest. For me, the core remained but everything surrounding it rotted away. Bands turned into businesses and the touring industry swallowed the greedier of them; they became travelling circus acts, selling junk wherever they stopped. I simply lost interest. I still cherish the classics and have fond memories of what once was, but I’ve moved on. I’m older now and the idea of belonging to a clique and being part of a movement no longer holds any interests to me.
The thematic content has very little in common with either black or thrash metal – nevertheless, it’s an important part of THESYRE. There’s clearly been a fair bit of effort plied into not only writing them but also properly translating the French prose to English.
– Some of my early lyrics were written to trigger reactions, but most of them are the result of me filtering events happening around me. I often felt as if many musicians are lazy on the lyrical side, treating it like just some mandatory addition to their music. I’ve always liked bands with fascinating lyrical content, so this was very important to me when I started making my own music. I recently decided to expand my lyrical field and touch upon very different topics – some of which appear on “Shift”.
Different indeed. I was just thinking how artificial intelligence is not a topic one comes across in extreme metal very often, but then remembered that Edmonton’s BLACK DEATH CULT recently made an entire concept album about it.
– As a modern society, we already deal with AI on a daily basis – this will only keep increasing with time. I think it will play an important role in our future, depending on how we allow it to affect our lives. As with all technological innovations, most of it relies on profits and gaining control over the population. I personally think AI might be our best option to help humanity move forward: we’ve now reached a civilisational plateau, one that requires major technological advances to expand and break out of our physical limitations. Artificial intelligence, robots, automation, the internet, transhumanism, and renewable energy might be our best ticket to the future; we could truly embrace change and reach new heights… or screw everything up and return to the Stone Age. A realist view resides somewhere in the middle of all this and it’s up to us to choose wisely.
Judging by his lyrics, Eric is clearly not what one would call a spiritual person. His aversion to theology is driven home with the rather firm stance seen in “Rational Enemy of all Religions”. Now, Sweden is one the most secular countries in the world – at least in terms of the native population – and it would be hard to argue that the absence of religious worship has brought about much of an enlightened and rational society.
– The thing is that secular societies forget to develop a new set of values to replace the old ones. We’re left with a void opening the door to a lot of alternatives which won’t serve us any better than Christianity. Therefore, we witness the rise of outrageous political correctness, extreme leftism, alt right, radical feminism, and cancel culture. People need something to hold on to in their lives and since we’ve neglected to offer them an alternative, they come up with this nonsense – all of which causes a lot more damage than good. This is an era of profound turmoil, but one that will pass, luckily. I think it’s important to rally on common ground so we can develop our own personal spirituality without it interfering with our daily lives. I am not averse to religion itself as long as it doesn’t evolve into an organised cult. However, I think that you must be able to put aside your feelings and opinions to be able to perceive reality; you need a clear mind to gain perspective and observe how everything works around you. I think this partly explains why we find ourselves trapped in a spiral of nonsense: most people are centred around their feelings instead of trying to have a broad view of the world.
What’s next for THESYRE?
– “Shift” kind of renewed our interest, so we recorded a two-song EP, “Echo Chamber”, and released it digitally back in August. We’re working on new material now, but still don’t know whether it will lead to a physical album release or if we’ll make it digital. I plan on integrating synthesisers a bit more into the new songs; moreover, the lyrical topics will be even further removed from the usual clichés of the genres we’re linked with.