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Ecstatic Vision on Crossing the Astral Plane to Krautrock and Psychedelia from Hardcore

Douglas Sabolick formerly of A Life Once Lost moves on from groovy-metalcore to hand drums and psychedelia. Stream the new track "Journey" available for the first time.

Ecstatic Vision’s music is meant for a journey. In fact, the first track on the Philadelphia heavy psychedelic band’s debut album, Sonic Praise, is called “Journey.” And throughout the album, there are references to other types of traveling, whether literal or metaphysical (“Astral Plane,” “Cross the Divide”). In its most ambitious moments, Ecstatic Vision songs can stretch out up to 12 minutes at a time, layering on one swirling, effects-treated sound after another, their cosmic odyssey ending seemingly hundreds of miles away from where it began.

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Formed last year by former A Life Once Lost guitarist Doug Sabolick, Ecstatic Vision bears no resemblance to that long-running metalcore group, instead incorporating elements of various global sounds: American and British acid rock, Eastern ragas, Krautrock and African hand-drums, to name just a few of the various, disparate influences that pour into the band’s debut album, Sonic Praise. It’s a heavy album, for sure, though it sounds like few other records released by Relapse, with the possible exceptions of Zombi and Nothing. It’s atmospheric, heady stuff, and it’s the result of a long and meticulous process of finding just the right groove. “It wasn’t like I just went into a room with my bandmates and this is what came out,” Sabolick says. “It took a long time to meld it all together.”

One month ahead of the release of Sonic Praise, we spoke with Sabolick about his African influences, the spiritual nature of music, and why the band probably won’t tour with any black metal bands anytime soon.

Noisey: You come from more of a metal background, but Ecstatic Vision is more of an eclectic, psychedelic rock band. How did you arrive upon the mixture of sounds on Sonic Praise?
Doug Sabolick: Basically, I wanted to make a record that I would listen to. If you look through my record collection, besides the classic metal albums from the ‘80s, like Mercyful Fate, there’s not much metal in my collection. So it really stems from listening to a lot of ‘70s Krautrock, Hawkwind and that kind of stuff. And my personal spin on it is just merging a lot of sounds that I like, and bands that I like, and making that into a record that I’d want to listen to.

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There’s also a pretty pronounced Afrobeat influence on the album. What pulled you in that direction?
That basically came from listening to a lot of Afrobeat. I’m a record collector, so I was on a Fela kick a couple years ago, pretty hard. And I was listening to a lot of hand-drum music, Olatundje. So I basically wanted to make a rock record out of these Afrocentric beats. I took what I liked about that, the vertigo-inducing drum beats, and melded that with what I would call Krautrock-isms.

Some of the songs on the new album also appeared on the demo you released last year. Is Ecstatic Vision’s music a constantly evolving thing?
Yeah, well, the demo was made about a year prior. There wasn’t even a band, really, when the demo was made. It was just the drummer and I — I made this demo and then got Jordan to play on it. The demo was my initial vision, and then you get Mike Connor and Jordan Crouse. And I’m not them, and they’re not me. And so something different comes out, because it’s someone else’s artistic expression.

I don’t want it to be a band where it’s gotta be … perfect. Or it has to be played exactly like this. Every player is different, and when you get different people involved, you get a different sound out of it.

Ecstatic Vision

It’s hard not to hear a spiritual aspect in phrases like Ecstatic Vision or the title of the record, Sonic Praise. Is that intentional?
It’s definitely meant to be spiritual. It’s not a Christian rock album or anything like that. But I am spiritual. I think the fact that you’re even interested in interviewing me for the record is a special thing. I think that music, and my guitar playing, is a spiritual thing. When I play guitar, I try to get a feeling out. It’s not just a showcase for my abilities. The whole vibe of the album is supposed to be uplifting, and hopefully bring people together to enjoy a feeling.

Earlier this year, you toured with Yob and Enslaved, who are more unambiguously metal. Where do you see Ecstatic Vision fitting in with other heavy music?
To be honest, most metalheads don’t really like me. [Laughs] I’ve kind of felt that way for a while. I love metal and I grew up on it. I have a lot of respect for it. I don’t necessarily see Enslaved touring with Ecstatic Vision again. It might have something to do with the Relapse connection. Also, Mike Scheidt and I have known each other for a while. He was one of the first fans of Ecstatic Vision — when he heard the demo, he emailed me.

So, you know how when you’re 20 years old, and you’re into metal, you’re very wide-eyed and you’re into all these bands? And then 10 years later, most people come in and out of these music scenes. They come and go, and eventually do what they consider growing up or they move on. I think that people who have been into metal bands or have been into heavy music for a long time might appreciate our record because maybe they see what we’re touching on, in a way. It is a heavy record, but not a metal record by any means. Unless maybe you’re tracing it to the early origins of metal. So I’ll always be connected to that.