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Adriano Ribeiro and Tom MacLean (ex-Haken) talk about their new metallic project with dark and elegant accents
DARIALYS - 17.11.2021 -
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Discovering by the greatest of chances a brand new and still little known band is undoubtedly one of the main satisfactions of the reviewer. So when I put my ears on the project of Adriano Ribeiro, a Brazilian musician I met at a concert in Paris a few years ago, without knowing what to expect, I must admit I was bluffed by the quality of the rendering. The compositions, the interpretation, the sound... This first opus has everything of a great one, and it is precisely what we are going to speak about today with Adriano Ribeiro, creator of the Athemon project, and Tom MacLean (ex-Haken), bass player of the formation.

Hey guys ! Very nice to talk to you as I’ve followed the project since the very first steps and I’m super happy to see it finalised ! ☺ This is your first album, baptised « Athemon », so let’s present your music to our readers. To me, it sounds like metal music of course, with a dark beautiful heavy tone, with Opeth-y dissonances, sludge buildings a-la Mastodon, groundbreaking backing vocals made in Alice In Chains. What do you think of this portrait, and how would you personally define your music ?

Adriano Ribeiro : Thanks man, we are very happy on doing this interview with you. Cheers ! Nice portrait, you get it right, there are a lot of interesting influences from those big bands we metal fans love. But in the end the music that was built came form within our body and souls. We are very happy with the final result and with the sound end result personality. We define our music as the seek to forge the perfect alloy of darkness and beauty.

Let’s get back to the roots of the project if you will. Adriano, we are friends in real life, so I know you’ve been playing music all your life, but always as a hobby. Why did you suddenly decide to create a solo project ? How did this spark come up in your mind ?

Adriano : Nice one ! I always had the dream of launching a solid album with a solid band, so we could say somehow that the spark was always there. I couldn’t do it earlier though. Finally at around 2019 I was able to concentrate time and dedicate myself professionally to music. The out coming was this great debut album. I’m really glad to become a professional musician now, and I can tell you that there will be much more to come.

Can you tell us what « Athemon » means to you and why it fitted to your music ?

Adriano : Athemon is a great name, and knowing that belong to a butterfly from Amazon (Dynamine-Athemon), made me suggest this name to the project, because when I think of the transformation process of a butterfly I come across with the difficulties we all have in life when facing the struggling of self-conscious-evolution. Somehow this subjective idea made me fall for the concept, naturally leading to the name of the band. 

Can you tell us about the concept of the record ? It seems like it’s about a man described to be a monster, but as time goes by, he purifies himself and ends up being some kind of a God. Do you confirm and what can you tell us about this concept ?

Adriano : Great eyes for catching the subjective behind the album lyrics, and even better way of describing it. The Self-Titled Athemon is a 50-minute concept album divided into nine songs, which tells a story about self-awareness. In ‘Whispers’ the character starts a conversation with himself about echoes he can no longer avoid. Along ‘Different From What Was Missing’, he has a grotesque expression of himself. A monster that he always tried to avoid, but that he now has to face out of the need to connect with himself. In ‘I Voice of Mine’, he understands that self-questioning becomes inevitable, and then, in ‘Reaching Deepness’, he learns that even if you know yourself better, there will still be many internal battles to confront. So our protagonist enjoys his existential dive, free-falling for more enjoyment. It is possible to reach more depth in himself. Finally, in ‘Greatest Understanding’, our character understands the power of self-transformation he has. Then he becomes a god of his own and starts to taste what is outside the cocoon he himself built, and so he flies !


Well, I guess it’s time to talk about the topic we just cannot avoid ! Athemon is now a 2-men band between you Adriano, and Tom McLean, very well known in the prog metal sphere for being Haken’s first bassist. Can you tell us how you got in touch with him initially ?

Adriano : I was about to enter a studio in São Paulo, when the pandemic reached us all. So with the lockdown I was needing an alternative to move further, when I saw Haken’s post on FB saying Tom was starting his Producer business (the Twelve Tone Studio). I get in touch with him, and luckily we start a conversation that never ended. As a result of a long period of hard work, we’re now more than happy to cross the finish line and to launch our debut album. Aside from the terrible consequences of a lethal virus and all the sadness around with death and fear it caused, I can state that meeting Tom was the best thing that could happened to me as a musician during the past year. I’m learning so much and getting solider as time goes by now.

From the moment you decided to become a 2-men band, beyond the excitement, did you guys get some more ambition for the project for instance ? Did the fact there was a famous prog musician in the band change something in the way you approached the release of the record, the promo, or just the future of the band ?

Adriano : Tom’s music history is amazing! His work at To-Mera and Haken shows how intense and passionate he is about music. And even being a fan myself, he never let this interfere on our relation. He is very much professional, and our approach was always towards the love for music.

There’s also another fellow musician in the band, Gledson, who took care of the drums for you guys, but rather as a guest than an actual member of the band. Did you find out about him online as well ?

Adriano : Gledson is an old friend of mine. We played on bands from the same neighborhood, but we never had a chance to play together. He become a professional drummer and I admire a lot his work. When Athemon started to show in shape, we thought a professional drummer was needed, so we agreed to bring ‘Gled' on board.

He did a great work on this album. Have you thought about « hiring » him officially in the band rather than having him as a « simple » guest ?
Adriano : Athemon is still a very young band, we were just born. There are still a lot of hard work to do before we start playing around. So Gled's preference is to keep as a session studio drummer for now, also because of his other great other projects too.

The album was mixed by you, Tom, at Twelve Tone Studio, your studio. Was there a particular challenge to extract the quintessence of the recordings ? 

Tom MacLean : It took a while to get Adriano’s guitar and vocal recording setup just right, but after that, everything flowed easily. He’s a quick learner! 

Then the album was mastered at Fascination Street Studios, with Tony Lindgren. For a first album, this is outstanding to be able to approach this kind of big fish ! How did you get to work with them ? Tom, maybe you knew them for being really active in the metal scene ?

Tom : It’s true that I’ve worked with Tony a few times, but the first time, it was with a completely unknown project, so I guess he’ll work for anyone who’s willing to pay the fee haha ! 

And the result is amazing, you guys all did a very good job. It even seems like there’s something unique about your music. We mentionned Opeth, Mastodon, Alice In Chains… But at the same time, it sounds like Athemon and nothing else, which is pretty rare for a debut album ! Did you guys work in that direction, and tried to come up with something really personal ?

Adriano : Thank you for putting this question like this. The unique sound is a result of a great relation from the three of us. This is a rare thing, and we treasure it a lot. All of our contributions was very truthful and driven to the music. As a result we made an album with a very strong expression. A excellent start for a debut band.

One of the things that really stroke me while listening to the record is the great coherence and the feeling of continuity from one song to another. It seems like this album was written a one giant 50-minute long piece, then cut off into 9 separated tracks. Each songs seems to stand where it belongs. Or did you try to find the perfect set-list, and then, you tried to polish the transitions in-between songs to make it sound as a whole ? 
Adriano : Good question! As a big fan of long musical journeys, I always wanted to work with concept albums, long songs and intriguing progressions. The songs weren’t build totally separated, they all come naturally from a comum core. The coherence and the feel of continuity comes from taking good care of important details. For example, sometimes a 5 seconds song passage can take weeks to be concluded. Well, I’m reading what I’m writing now and its sounding like there is a formula to it. Absolutely not. In the end it is all about expression and the desire to reach the ‘yourself’ right there, under of what’s beneath own existence. Another way of saying ‘full concentration mode’ Hahahaha. When I am fully concentrated, the concept of time goes away, there aren’t any negative voices floating around and what I see is the glow of the music, with endless possible mixtures and connections. 



Adriano, at a time, I know you were not sure about being the right guy to sing in the project and you hesitated to ask someone to sing in your place. But finally, you decided that after all, and after working a lot, you could be the vocalist for this album. Where did this awareness come from, what made you think you could do the job as you were not really confident about your voice a few months ago ?

Adriano : Yes, Athemon represents not only the debut of a band, but also a debut of a professional musician, ie, myself. I don’t have a solid music background and to be sitting with great musicians around I knew I need to go over my expectations, face self-confidence and beat the self-saboteur. The first round of singings were far from good, and I had the opportunity to sit with the guys and discuss what would be better to do. We had the idea of bringing someone on board to assume the singing position, and we started planning a world-wide casting for it. In between I kept working on the melodies, and for my pleasant surprise the right fit came in naturally. The guys were really supportive and for me the choice to become the singer came naturally. I guess in the end was the right thing to do.

And in the end, after hearing the whole album, what do you think about the result of your voice ? To me it’s outstanding, you have like a powerful voice coming from the depths of your chest, as we can hear it on ‘Whispers’’s chorus for example which is really amazing.

Adriano : Thanks man, the ‘Whispers’ chorus is great indeed. This vocal chorus was really important like a watershed to the right spot and balance for the singing process. I’m very proud personally with the end result of the singings. Funny thing, I got my family astonished saying they didn’t know about this great singer sitting inside of my chest… But you know, family is always family, hahaha!

Actually, the clean vocals are superb, but I was a bit surprised by the harsh vocals at first that sound more than an angry clean voice rather than some actual growls. Was it a deliberate choice from you ? Or as you once were not really confident in your voice, was there some kind of modesty, reserve behind these growls ? I have the feeling the songs could be even more demonic with some deep low growls. 

Adriano : Curious enough when I was drafting the melodies I got this ‘middle term’ thing. Not a growl, not a neat vocal. I was checking on how the melodies were combining along themselves, and I caught myself enjoying the ‘angry voice’ as you said. It was like a ‘without wanting to’ result that in the end fit nicely into the music Athemon is bringing. As for the growl, we already have so many gifted artists on the metal scene… you name it.

To me, the vocals seem to stand in the core in the record. You have a wide range of emotions, from whispers to bombastic powerful vocals. In the prog scene, it makes me think about Daniel Gildenlow from Pain Of Salvation that has a very lively approach, or sometimes a crazy way of singing also. Is he an influence for you ?

Adriano : Thank you for comparing my vocals with Daniel’s. He is incredible, and he has a vast range with such power. I guess what makes you say this is the intensity of emotions expressed during the singings from both of us…. BUT let’s not forget that as a fresher I’m still learning and yet have a long road to walk… Yes, Daniel is definitely a big influence.

Tom, you have a different background than Adriano’s. As I said earlier, you were known for being Haken’s first bass player which is a prog metal band swarming with lots of crazy ideas. Athemon being a heavier and darker project, has this album open doors for a new way of approaching your instrument for example ? 

Tom : I actually never thought of playing bass for a darker, heavier band, as usually there’s not a lot for a bassist to do other than follow the root notes. But Adriano leaves a lot of spaces ‘between the notes’ for me to do the self-indulgent prog-bass thing, so it fit like a glove. Probably the main difference in my approach to this compared with my work Haken is that I used to always prefer finger style playing, but this necessitated a much more aggressive style, so I use a pick a lot more, plus some heavy distortion (which again contrasts with the super clean tone I opted for on previous recordings). So it does indeed feel like new ground for me. 

And it seems like you really found your place and found the right balance between some crazy bass licks and some more punchy simpler bass lines to support the guitar riffs. Adriano, did you give carte blanche to Tom so that he could express all his potential, or did you have some very precise ideas of what he should play ? 

Adriano : Music is free expression with invisible but flexible boundaries that moves across the development process. The end compositions credit is for the band itself and not one individual. The final result is directly proportional to the connection between the individuals involved.
I remember listening to Tom’s compositions and jumping high of excitement! As a HUGE fan of strings I always get delighted when the right combination comes across. When I started realizing what the final result from our encounter could be, I got very, very emotional. And this is because I’m a huge fan of Athemon too, so I listen a lot to the songs and I’m always being surprised with so many outstanding details and interactions from strings, for example. It is no coincidence that the final result is mind-blowing. In my opinion Tom is one of the best bass players of the present time. To be able to play an instrument is not only about technique, but about a combination of personality and execution. Tom is blessed with both. It’s one of those guys that never spill a ;)

‘Birth’ closes the record with some new ingredients : strings and keyboards. Is that symphonic aspect an element you’d like to dive into in the near future ?

Adriano : Interesting question. I’m a big fan of the possibilities that a keyboard can bring to the whole of the music. There are so many incredible bands exploring it so well… Who knows someday? For now we can say that the 'rawness' of two guitars and one bass (combined with such powerful drums and beautiful vocal melodies) are doing the job incredibly well!


Today, we’re lucky enough to have the opportunity to record, mix and master an album totally online. But haven’t it be difficult for you guys no to meet as bandmates, not to rehearse, work on the arrangements while jamming in the same room ? Especially for a first album where you need landmarks to help you build something around ?

Adriano : That’s magic, isn’t it ? Hahaha, no seriously, we were able to adapt really good with the tools we had in hands, and keep focusing and hard working. The desire to create music with the right professionalism can break every barrier possible. I guess that’s what happened to us. As far as we are fiscally I can tell you that I never felt so close to this guys.

Now the album is out, have you thought about making tours or is Athemon supposed to stay a studio project ? If you think about playing gigs, does it mean you’d probably get to recruit some musicians in the band ?

Adriano : We have plans to build a more solid base first, special working on making a couple more of albums, for example. With that we’ll be able to learn more, to reach more listeners and to bold our name finding a cozy place inside the metal scene. After that we’ll definitely be willing to start going on tour and playing on festivals. As for the other two musicians needed, I’m sure we’ll be able to accommodate it nicely when the night time comes. But as one wise man once said, first things first with a brick at a time ;)

As this project was born quite late in your musician life, does it mean you have some songs you put aside or songs you saved for some upcoming albums ? Are you already looking towards the future in terms of songwriting ?

Adriano : The songs from the self-titled album are very fresh. All of the music was started being composed back in 2019. We already have some new compositions for the follow of the self-titled album. All under a raw situation, so to say, but with very promising results. Our goal is to launch the second album by the end of 2022, but that’s too early to make an oficial statement. For now, we’re enjoying a lot the debut moment. I am 100% looking towards the future in terms of songwriting, as there’s nothing more pleasant than seat, grab a guitar and challenge your own demons :) I like the thought that this is only the beginning.

Are there other projects you’re currently working on you’d like to tell us about ?

Adriano : Yes, I do have a more death metal style-ish thing project coming along too, with shorter and more straight forward songs. I’m doing this with Gled (the drummer) and it’s called BRUTTA. I’ll be working with Tom (Twelve Tone) to produce this side-project, as I'm astonished with Athemon’s quality result, not to mention the incredible experience I had with him on our self-titled Athemon record.
Tom : I’m looking forward to working with Adriano on that. In the meantime, I do have a couple of other long-term projects in the pipeline besides Athemon, as well as some production work lined up with some young new bands. Each of them are still kind of top-secret for now though, so I guess you’ll have to wait till I have something to reveal. 

Guys, thanks a lot for your time ! All the best for this new release. I hope it will get the success it deserves ! See you some day on stage in France then ? Bye guys !

Adriano : All right, thank you very much for the opportunity man, it was a pleasure diving into your questions, and yes, we’ll definitely be seeing each other in stage in France some day

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ATHEMON: Athemon (2021)

Combining beauty and darkness, Adriano Ribeiro and Tom MacLean (ex-Haken) enchant us in this "Athemon" with intense and varied metal.
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