Divine Eve has been one of those elusive obscure bands that has in it’s fragmented existence conjured some of the best doom laden death metal with every recording. Here we catch up with Michael Sleavin (Rhythm guitar/vocals) and Matt Killen (Drums). Discussed is the bands principles and ideals as well as their past, present and future endeavors.
Bulldozer: In 1992 Divine Eve described it’s influences as Black Sabbath, Celtic Frost, Motorhead and Sodom amongst many others. Being influenced as it has and now in 2012 how would you say the Divine Eve sound has evolved?
Michael Sleavin: First, I would like to say I apologize to the many interviews and other press I’m in the process of finishing. We have been very busy with DIVINE EVE and the focus is the material and content of the record… Which of course consumes most of our free time on this planet. To those journalist’s around the world I will get to this when possible… Ten Thousand Eternal Hails for your patience! Those principles and ideals of the bands that you name are still among many others part of which has always been the seed and root of what we strive to do. Divine Eve has evolved cause of time. We were young at the time we were active in the 1990s, and the fact that we were broken up for so long that life experience is also a part of what influences Divine Eve. Musically we have evolved because of age and time on this planet.
Matt Killen: I agree that the principles of our earlier influences are very much evident in our more recent material. Technology has really enabled a lot of material to be recorded with a decent production value, and the music industry is much different from the days of our first iteration. The availability of music now is unbelievable, and having access to music has to of had some influence, I’m sure. That being said, the influential bands you mentioned are still influencing us and are a major part of our lives these many years later. In some ways, the “old standards” will always be the best music I will ever hear. Obviously there’s some nostalgia listening to these bands as well, which just further reinforces in the high regard I place on the music.
Bulldozer: Divine Eve was silent for a long time after ” As Angels Weep”. Why did the band disappear for so long?
Michael Sleavin: Actually we broke up shortly after the second demo was recorded. The band disappeared because of individual personalities clashing and going in different directions. We were very young and growing up at the same time as this was going on. So one could say this was also a part of us falling apart. At that time, the underground metal scene was changing. The second wave of black metal was eclipsing death metal. As was with death metal bands; they were changing the music that they created to try to stay relevant. We didn’t feel any pressure but saw other bands, and some that we were actually friends with, put out some really mediocre records. Divine Eve was always about creating music that never compromised or tried to fit into any sort of relevant state of popularity. With us as individuals that showed up in our interpersonal relations and the result was chaos.
Matt Killen: I think we disappeared for a couple of reasons. First, we were so very young and tempers tend to flair when you’re that age. Second, individual personalities in the band at that time ultimately conflicted to a point in which it just wasn’t possible to continue. Having some perspective now on the music we created, I don’t think we fully understood what we had achieved back in the 1990s back then. Because of that, maybe it was too easy to discard it. Though we didn’t have any regrets at the time, and really don’t have any now either. Especially since the scene was changing so much during that time. I personally became very apathetic to the business of underground music, and the control labels had (or tried to assert) over the bands. In a way, the disbanding of Divine Eve may have helped retain the integrity of our music, and let us remain true to our influences and musical ideas.
Bulldozer: Even with the band in hiatus there were efforts of activity. In 2007 Tarot Production released “Upon these Ashes Scorn the World” a kind of Divine Eve anthology. Can you tell us what material is contained within this recording?
Michael Sleavin: In 2007 Tarot Productions released “Upon the Ashes Scorn the World.” It is the body of work that we recorded when the band was alive in the early 1990s. It contains “The Last of the Sunset Faded” Demo, also known as “As the Angels Weep.” It also includes our second demo that was untitled, and contains “Essence of Dawn,” “Velvet of the Godless,” “Innocence Lost” and “Witching Metal” (Sodom cover). Also included was the Celtic Frost cover “Visions of Mortality”, which was from ”In Memory of Celtic Frost” compilation released in 1996. Back to “Upon the Ashes…,” it was initially released on CD by Tarot Productions, and later released by Iron Tyrant Records on vinyl in 2010.
Matt Killen: Yup, “Upon the Ashes…” was a compilation of every Divine Eve recording as of the date of the release.
Bulldozer: What brought about the bands reformation a decade or so later?
Michael Sleavin: When Tarot Production gave me the physical copies of the release, Matt and I felt that Xan and Tyson (the original bass player) deserved their copies. Having stayed in contact with Matt and Tyson for all these years, getting copies to them was no problem. Xan was the one person I had not spoken to since the band initially broke up. I felt strongly that of course he deserved his copies as well and sought him out. Within a very short time, I found out he was now living in Dallas after moving back from Los Angeles. I called him up, and we actually met that day. I gave him his copies of the release. At that time, Rape Pillage and Burn (another band that Matt and I are members in) were seeking a lead guitar player. Initially Xan auditioned, but we chose someone else who eventually didn’t work out either. During this time that RPB was in a kind of “on-hold mode.” Matt and I began to speak about the unfinished business of Divine Eve, and in 2008, we decided to explore the idea and see if Xan was interested in reopening the door to the unknown. With his instant reply of yes, we of course began this work and since then things have been moving forward and progressing in an otherworldly fashion.
Matt Killen: Yeah so Mike and I were involved in RPB when “Upon the Ashes…” was released, and Mike found a contact number for Xan so we could give him his copies. There was no question that he and Tyson deserved to have copies of the release. It was what we achieved together. Much to our surprise, Xan was living back in Dallas. At the time, RPB was looking for a lead guitarist, and Xan came out to our rehearsal space. In the end, it wasn’t a good fit for RPB, but with Mike, Xan and I in a rehearsal space with our instruments, it was just a matter of time before some Divine Eve material was attempted. At that point, I pretty much knew the Divine Eve anthology just released would not be complete. Divine Eve had unfinished business in the form of a full length album to come.
Bulldozer: So after a long wait we get “Vengeful and Obstinate” a mighty superior Death/Doom product. What can you tell us of the concept behind the recording and where there any rituals performed in the creation of this record?
Michael Sleavin: At that time, we felt very strongly about the first material we composed as the reformed Divine Eve, even though it was only three of the original members. The material on Vengeful and Obstinate is exactly what we thought was fitting for our first recording in a long time and was exactly what we had said in press statements it would be. The songs would be short-hand as opposed to what would appear on the actual first full-length record. However even though primitive, Vengeful and Obstinate is very elaborate, esoteric and magical. The music press somewhat mixed in a sense that we as a band really don’t pay any attention to it as we care more about what likeminded bands and journalists our age understand. But overall the response has been very positive from people who get this kind of music.
Matt Killen: I don’t think there was an overriding concept or theme with “Vengeful” but rather individual concepts for each song. I think the process of teardown in the rehearsal space and set-up at a different location for a live show or recording in of itself is the beginning of the ritual. Perhaps it is slightly different perspective as a drummer, but I feel like each time we play a live show or record in a studio, from arriving at the rehearsal studio for tear down, my mindset begins the change as I mentally prepare and focus on what’s to occur over the next several hours. Of course, once the music starts, the real ritual begins. At that point, it is all about the music and connecting with my comrades in creating it. There’s nothing else like it. I will say “Vengeful” was our first offering after a long interval, and it was an avenue for us to reintroduce ourselves creatively to each other and the world.
Bulldozer: John McEntee, his band Incantation and his label Ibex Moon seem to be good allies with Divine Eve. How are Divine Eve and John McEntee connected, how far back does this friendship go?
Michael Sleavin: Incantation and John McEntee go back for a very long time. John was one of the first American members of a band from the U.S. to hear Divine Eve. Most of the people that had heard us before were tape traders and other underground bands from Europe. Incantation played in Dallas in the early 1990s. It was a school night for me as I was so young, and Matt and I went to the show and met up with John. We played “The Last of the Sunset Faded” demo (later known as “As the Angels Weep”) for him in the parking lot of The Basement, a local metal dive. Being a school night, we were unable to see the show. But since then our friendship has been strong. We toured with Incantation in Europe in 2010, as well as playing shows with them in the early 1990s.
Matt Killen: I definitely remember meeting John for the first time at The Basement. I could be wrong, but that club may have been 18 and up, which might have prevented us from getting in the door that night. So, that would have been about 20 years ago. One of the shows from the 1990s with Incantation was in Juarez Mexico, and that was quite an adventure.
Bulldozer: Should we expect another Divine Eve release through Ibex Moon?
Michael Sleavin: Unfortunately, it is unlikely to happen as Ibex Moon is closing its doors. I have yet to speak to John about it, as we are both completely consumed with what we do. But Divine Eve is talking with a very good label and home that will be soon to be announced. News to come on this very soon.
Matt Killen: At this point, it doesn’t seem to be possible for a relationship between Divine Eve and Ibex Moon to continue with regard to new releases. That being said, Divine Eve has always (and will always) have great respect for John McEntee and the other members of Incantation. Long may our friendship continue. The paths of Ibex Moon and Divine Eve that once crossed are now just headed in different directions at this point for a variety of reasons. Obviously John is the person to speak about what the future holds for Ibex Moon. For Divine Eve, we are in the midst of recording our first full length album, and an announcement regarding the details of our newest efforts will be forthcoming.
Bulldozer: I caught a Divine Eve show in Los Angeles at a small cavernous like venue some time ago in the mid 90s. I remember a feeling of doom while Divine Eve played. It really impressed me how the atmosphere was so ominous. Just recently I again witnessed Divine Eve in Los Angeles and even though in a much bigger venue again the feeling was one of grim despair. Is this a goal for your live shows to fill the room with dread no matter how small or big the venue?
Michael Sleavin: Divine Eve always will strive to give a sense of menace and atmosphere in our live performances. We try to expel energy and emotion with our instruments and our movements. As individuals, we dig deep within ourselves to those places that our rarely gone. Our live performances or our rituals are more important to us than the audience, not to be arrogant. But we get more from each other from a dark energy aspect than we do from the humans watching us. The show that we played with Sadistic Intent in the early 1990s was quite memorable. The festival we played this year in Los Angeles was again a milestone in the marks on the world that Divine Eve is leaving in its path.
Matt Killen: We played several shows with Sadistic Intent on the California coast including LA, and I agree the air that night was particularly ominous and the best show of that West Coast excursion. Honestly, the size of the venue and number of people in the crowd is secondary to what we achieve as a band through our live performances. For me, each show is a personal experience with the music. My focus is on band, the music and the feeling as of that moment. The feeling is indescribable really.
Bulldozer: Work, family and every day responsibility are things all bands have to consider when playing out of town. Is Divine Eve bringing their brand of Death/Doom to the US or Europe soon? Any plans for a tour or one off shows?
Michael Sleavin: Divine Eve is a band that will always try to do things that are suitable to us. Of course there will be tours, shows, festival appearances and other opportunities we will always take if positive for the band. So Yes, once this record is released, Divine Eve plans on staying active recording, performing and causing trouble anywhere in the world we can.
Matt Killen: We’ve played some live shows locally over the past few months. Right at this moment, live shows are less of a priority, as we’re very focused on recording sessions for the first full-length Divine Eve album. There have been some interesting offers of late to play what could be (and likely will be) great gigs, but the album is first and foremost on our minds. I’m sure there will be many performances after the release of the album to support the material and expose our music to those that are willing to listen.
Bulldozer: Thank you very much for answering my questions. Any last words?
Michael Sleavin: We look forward to the future. Thank you for this opportunity to express our ideas and the new Divine Eve record will be the judge. Eternal Hails.
Matt Killen: Indeed, thanks for the opportunity. Be on the lookout for news regarding our first full-length album. Ride the Wings of Armageddon.
Interview By Jon Mastra