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An eruption has occurred within death metal over the past years where bands have been attracted to the linear phrasal riffing of old Incantation, Demoncy and Havohej and have hybridized it with the ripping war metal of Angelcorpse, Conqueror and Perdition Temple, producing a sound like the roar of battle from within a cavern.
Leading this charge is New Zealand’s Heresiarch, whose Hammer of Intransigence introduced a stunned world to this new assault two years ago. Currently, the band prepares to release its Waelwulf EP and embark on a new series of combative adventures to further saturate the world in its violence.
With this in mind, we pitched NH of Heresiarch a few questions about the band, its direction, and the volatile ferment of motivic forces that provide a warlike impetus that is able to avoid destroying itself. His answers, which demonstrate the raw visceral approach of both this style and its existential attitude, follow.
What made you choose to make the style of metal that you did?
It was the sound that resonated most with me and reflected what I wanted to present effectively.
Why was your US tour recently canceled?
Line-up issues have plagued the progress and possibilities of Heresiarch since the beginning and this was no exception.
The main priority currently is completing the album writing and then preparation for recording, touring will be re-addressed when it’s pertinent to.
You say that Heresiarch is “esoteric leaning.” What does that mean?
Heresiarch takes influence from several esoteric paths, the most noticeable being from Indo-European branches; the upcoming Waelwulf EP is heavily influenced by Anglo-Saxon and Germanic literature, warfare, symbolism and worldviews with my own interpretations.
How do you compose?
Central to Heresiarch are visions of war, death and victory, on a grand apocalyptic scale with the aim to reflect the dread, violence and atmosphere attributed to such themes.
There is minimal melodic motivation behind any of the writing and writing generally consists of bludgeoning the guitar to the aforementioned themes, from there the songs and riffs are refined and eventually materializes the atmosphere I aim to convey. If the song or the riffs do not reflect this they are discarded.
Do you write on guitar, bass or vocals?
Composition is primarily done with guitar but always with an idea of how everything else should go with it; drums, bass and both guitars are written close together to compliment and reinforce each other.
Vocals and lyrics are generally the last thing to come since the content is already decided on within the writing process.
Will you be recording more material as Heresiarch?
The Waelwulf EP has been recorded, I am yet to finish the vocals but it should be done in its entirety by the end of October.
I have been working on a full length which will be released by Dark Descent records; around 25 minutes of the album is written to date. The theme, composition and the general layout have been completed and it will be the most “complete” release from us.
In your view, what are the bands today to watch in the underground, meaning the people who produce interesting music (who cares if it’s “commercially successful”)?
Besides the obvious ones there is IMPETUOUS RITUAL and GRAVE UPHEAVAL (some of our closest allies) from Australia.
SABBATIC GOAT, SINISTROUS DIABOLUS, VASSAFOR are all worth listening to from New Zealand. VESICANT is a new band I am drumming in; there will be recordings of that in the next year. Also TREPANATION are a relatively new band taking an interesting direction with what I’ve heard of their new material and BLOOD OF THE MOON from NZ now have a lineup again.
Also check out PAROXSIHZEM and ADVERSARIAL from Canada, IMPOSER from Italy and GENOCIDE SHRINES from Sri Lanka.
Will you tell us which musical works were your biggest influences in creating Heresiarch?
CONQUEROR – War Cult Supremacy is the most essential album of this style in my opinion.
Besides that: Realm of Chaos by BOLT THROWER, Fallen Angel of Doom by BLASPHEMY as well as some classical such as Lizst, Wagner and Holst.
Your newest track, “Endethraest,” sounds familiar but I can’t place it. It’s highly rhythmic and military, like a real war being prepared. What influenced this?
The initial influence for the track originally stemmed from Gustav Holst’s “Mars Bringer of War.” It’s a good indication of the new direction Heresiarch is heading, with less regard for speed like on Hammer of Intransigence and a focus towards creating a dark, martial atmosphere.
Rumor has it that Heresiarch uses some members from Diocletian and Witchrist as session musicians. These bands are apparently part of a ‘Doom Cult’ which is trying to brand itself as a certain type of metal. Are you part of that movement, or heading in a different direction?
Heresiarch has no members of Diocletian or Witchrist present in the current line-up and we never have been a member of Doom Cult.
What’s next for Heresiarch?
The aforementioned album is intended to be released by Dark Descent Records in 2014. All further intentions will be announced when suitable.
You say the band is based around war, death and victory. Why do you choose these topics? What do you hope to express? Do you intend to create change in the world?
There is no “hope” to express anything, the music does the talking and is the expression itself.
Do you think war metal carries with it a big of a stigma in that so many bands are seen as humorless and self-important?
Do you think most people accept war as necessary, or think of it as an evil to be purged? Why or why not?
I don’t care what most people think or believe in.
Extreme ends always attract extreme people, usually regardless of goal, doctrine or outcome.
It looks like the old school metal has lost out to the metalcore/indie-metal types. Is there any hope of rolling back the clock and getting to the days of better music? How important is it when the majority takes over a genre or a country and turns it into the same old stuff?
It’s not important. The “majority” as you say will always manifest their interests in trivial activities, beliefs and art in one way or another.
I guess the next logical question is, if you have no notion or desire for changing the world, what is your purpose in creating the music of Heresiarch?
I lost interest in all facets of politics and society a long time ago and from a logical perspective, a Black/Death Metal band is the least likely candidate to rally the masses towards changing the world.
In some respects that attitude is militarized in Heresiarch as an expression of contempt and disgust for all morality, faith and social structures which is a valid view for one to hold in today’s world… Essentially Heresiarch exists because it needs to and when that need ceases, so will the band.
If you could change the world, in what direction would you take it?
It’d look like the gatefold of Hammer of Intransigence.1 Comment
Originally this was to be published on Examiner.com, but they censored it for reasons unknown, with no explanation given.
One minute it was there, and the next minute it was all deleted as if it had never existed. Never mind the work that went into putting the interview together, formatting it in Examiner’s arcane system, working around their software, etc. Just deleted. I use Examiner.com because, since most of what they publish is pop culture, it’s a good place for links to underground death metal and black metal bands to exist, but it makes me wonder how professional they are to simply delete work without an explanation or even notification.
I was able to restore most of it and at the band’s request, we’re republishing the uncensored version here.
In a time of just about any style being called “black metal” if someone shrieks during the recording, Sammath stay true to the older ideal of powerful, melancholic, evil and naturalistic music.
Their archly elegant Strijd kicked off a promising career, and since then, the band have experimented with a more warlike outlook. We were fortunate to catch a few words with founder Jan Kreutwagen about the band’s fifth album, yet unnamed, which will emerge this year.
What can you tell us about the new Sammath? When will it be recorded, on what label, what’s it like?
It’s turning out just like I wanted Sammath to sound back in 1994: a fine-tuned combination of total chaos, aggression and the right dose of melody. Every time we started to write tracks for this album something good popped up.
The new album is only 34 minutes. I can’t see myself creating a better album than this in the near future. The work Ruud (bass) put into Sammath over the last few years is probably why it all sounds this way. He has a good ear to weed out the weak parts and most of all filter out the bullshit. His dedication and experience, and also that of complete nutcase drummer Koos Bos, have made Sammath sound like this. I write all the music, but what Koos and Ruud deliver is so damn aggressive and intelligently thought out that it takes it all to a new level.
Folter will be releasing the CD at the end of this year or maybe early next year. I get enough offers from other, smaller and larger labels, but I will never leave Folter Records. What others think or how big the band is doesn’t really concern me. Jorg is a underground maniac and he was the first to give me a recording contract in 1997.
The demos you’ve been posting are admirably raw. Will the production and adornments remain this minimalist, or will there be more guitar solos, production tweaks and other refinements as there were on the last Sammath?
The tracks on the internet are just pre-production demos; all drums and guitars will be re-recorded in the coming months. I decided to throw some tracks online and the response has been overwhelming. I really want this release to sound as basic and raw as possible but with a great production that does not sound thin and weak like most black metal releases. Before we enter the studio I want the entire album finished in demo version.
Peter Neuber (Axis of advance, Severe Torture) will once again be doing the mastering. He knows exactly how to get Sammath to sound its best — a review for the last album stated that it sounds like it’s all going to cave in at any moment, raw, loud and filthy. This time there are no guitar solos, production tweaks or other bullshit; the tracks have enough energy already. It’s all very primal and blunt. I don’t think todays black metal fan will like it. The last album is still fucking killer, but this will make it sound like an ABBA release.
These songs strike me as the best expression of the direction you’ve gone since the first album. How has your direction and intent changed?
Finally I am achieving what I’ve always wanted but simply could not do. It’s not technical, it’s just all very blunt and straight forward aggression. But the combination with the new chainsaw bass sound, the over-the-top crazy drums, without triggers or any bullshit, makes it all sound very alive and dynamic. Someone told me it sounds like a combination of all previous Sammath CDs. I also think experience and creating your own sound is something that takes years to achieve.
Problem is that, unlike in 1994 when we started, we all have families, kids, so most of our days are filled up with watching over the kids or getting enough money together for them. I usually only have enough time at night so I get up in the middle of the night to work on new material. I now have the opportunity to record whenever I want, seeing as I have my own primitive little hellhole to create music at dangerously high levels without anyone being able to hear it.
Sample tracks posted so far sound like a cross between APOCALYPSE COMMAND and first album SETHERIAL; they’re blasting black metal with death metal influences, on the edge of war metal, but they have actual melody and structure so it’s not as monotonic. What are your influences and what style do you want to express with the new songs?
You have described it brilliantly. Those bands are fucking great! I had never heard of Apocalypse Command (shame on me, just ordered all I could find). I didn’t really have any plans before I started recording; I just began and it ended up like this. After a few months I got the feeling that this was going to be very stripped down album, blunt black metal — no remorse. A big influence on me the last few years are Blasphemy, Revenge, Brutality, Incubus (now Opprobrium), and Autopsy. And some new bands like Portal, Impetuous Ritual.
Do you think black metal is still alive, or has it been absorbed into something else? How do you describe your music, now that we’re entering into black metal’s second decade?
I really don’t have a clue, at concerts I see less and less people I know, but then again I don’t go as frequently as I used to. I only have time in the winter, making sure to go to the Nuclear War Now! Productions fest this year again, the scene is great when you see over a thousand maniacs from all over the world there. Last year there were a group of about thirty of us creating havoc outside and I think there were twenty different nationalities.
Black metal has always been a strange scene; people tend to get too serious, no fun, no humans, to me that’s absolute weakness. I think black metal died when all the suicide-kill-people self-mutilating fags appeared. All this anti-life gayness stands for the depressed little boys who simply can’t get laid and feel like the world hates them. There used to be a great gap between gothic and black metal, the way some bands try to combine these two are what’s raping the scene the most.
For me, and I can also say this for everyone in Sammath, black metal stands for arrogance and power. My grandfather taught me this, fuck everyone’s opinion, never listen to other people, always follow your instinct. Screw religion, never trust anyone, and above all, don’t give a shit. Even if people think I’m wrong I’m right. This might sound irritating, but I don’t look down on people, I’m a pretty easy going person, I just don’t bow down to anyone (except my wife…). The new Sammath sound is black/death/war metal, nothing new, but it will fuck you up.
Thank you for your time, and good luck with the new Sammath! Based on the promo track you sent us (attached in video form), this is going to be a great addition to the Sammath catalogue.
- Sammath homepage
- Folter Records
- Censored article on Examiner.com
- Archive of Examiner article in case it gets censored again