In the 1990s, there dwelled a cabal of musicians in France called Les Légions Noires which specialized in basic, raw, occult black metal. Many of the LLN releases were superb, most however, were significantly less than appealing. One of the more exceptional records to be served out of this French cauldron is Mütiilation’s debut album Vampires of Black Imperial Blood.
Stylistically, this album is similar to Black Funeral in terms of both riffing approach and occult fascination. This release works on its ability to place the listener upon the fulcrum between terror and nightly beauty. Cavernous rivers of melody advance and collide in such a way that it plunges the listener through a gloomy current that fluctuates between those two sensations until they are indistinguishable.
Vampires of Black Imperial Blood is often eclipsed by the oppressively colossal Remains of a Ruined, Dead, Cursed Soul that would come later. This makes sense because their sophomore effort does indeed leave a more lasting impression. However, to skip over this album would be a mistake as it nails down the grisly basis for the mastery to come.
We covered Condemner’s Omens of Perdition recently and found quite a bit to like in its death metal stylings. When the band reached out to us for an interview, staff writer Corey M rose to the occasion and spoke with the band members.
CM: First, please introduce yourselves and describe your roles in making Condemner’s music.
PB: I am PB. I play guitar and handle drum programming, song writing, and, thus far, most lyric writing. JH : I am JH and I provide all vocals and bass.
CM: Can you give us a brief history of Condemner? What inspired you to write and play metal?
PB: As an entity, Condemner was formed in October of 2015, but the seeds of it date back to Summer of 2009. At that point, I had been playing guitar for a few years, but everything I wrote was black metal in a harmony-heavy style reminiscent of French bands such as Mutiilation or Haemoth. At the time, I felt that death metal was too limited; I had, incorrectly, perceived it as a sub-genre that was almost entirely focused on immediate facts of what we see in front of us in the world, entirely sacrificing the “spiritual” in the process; focused on the phenomenon, rather than the noumenon, for those who dislike such “religious” descriptions. What changed all of this was seeing Imprecation live for the first time in Summer of 2009. That band’s performances conjure the dark aether in the way that I had only associated with black metal. This revelation, combined with the fact that I felt like my black metal songwriting was a bit overwrought and emotionally overindulgent and needed more discipline, made the path clear to me, and I started writing death metal in the style that you hear on Omens of Perdition. “Reverence Towards the Pernicious Tyrant”, in particular, dates back to these earliest days. Originally, I didn’t have any plans to turn it into an actual band, and was just writing the songs for my own pleasure, with the occasional quick-and-dirty guitar-only recording so I could easily remember my own material, but a friend and mentor in the Texas metal scene who I have the highest respect for told me to turn it into something “real”, and shot down every excuse I made for not doing so, at which point I started learning drum programming, multi-tracking, and the rest of the things that would be required to make a proper recording.
As for what inspired me to write and play metal as opposed to something else entirely — I’m was a hessian before I was a musician, so I was obviously going to write what I love.
JH: I will only speak to my own history in Condemner: I was approached to record vocals on Omens of Perdition in late winter 2015 and took over the bass duties when the individual that was originally going to record bass dropped out of the project. I learned and recorded all of the bass parts on Omens of Perdition in less than a day and completed the vocals a short while later. The demo was digitally released in December and the reception has been very positive in the underground.
The initial inspirations for myself (assuming we’re starting from the beginning) were the usual suspects of ‘80’s Metallica, Slayer, and Sepultura as a teenager which led to bands like Voor and Slaughter (Can.) which led further down the path of death metal, black metal, etc. Inspirations as far as vocal performances for Condemner are Ross Dolan of Immolation, Nick Holmes of (early) Paradise Lost and Chris Gamble of Goreaphobia for their articulation of lower growls. Craig Pillard on the first two Incantation albums was definitely an influence for the demo as well. MkM of Antaeus is always an influence — although I am using my lower range in Condemner instead of my typical higher range, MkM’s intensity is something that resonates with me regardless of which range I am using. Finally, Rok of Sadistik Exekution is an example of the complete primal fury that every metal vocalist should attempt to channel.
CM: Condemner’s lyrics read like actual worship of death as both a real eventual experience and an abstract concept personified by an evil force. Is this on purpose? And if so, how specifically do the lyrics fit with the rest of the music?
PB: This is on purpose, but it’s a means, not an end. Speaking for the three songs I wrote the lyrics to, the key concepts are strictness and severity. Often in death metal, evil and Satan are seen as stand-ins for liberation and freedom, but there’s another side to this coin — not just opposer, but accuser as well. Black Sabbath wrote “Begging mercies for their sins/Satan laughing spreads his wings”, Slayer wrote “Bastard sons begat your cunting daughters/Promiscuous mothers with your incestuous fathers/Engreat souls condemned for eternity/Sustained by immoral observance a domineering deity”, Immolation wrote “Glorious flames… Rise above/Show us pain… And cleanse our world”, and Condemner follows along the same lines, seeing death, evil, and Satan as the whip that justly lashes across the back and the flames that rightly burn the flesh of weak, failing humanity. This is the source of the band’s name, as well as the lyrics — “Condemner” is an antonym for “pardoner”. No forgiveness.
As for how the lyrics fit with the rest of the music, the music is always written first (writing lyrics-first is part of what caused my older black metal works to be overindulgent), and then words are written to match the composition — first, more generally, as a song title, and then, more specifically, as actual lyrics. Some might notice the parallel between the lyrical topics and my own intent for the music here to be more disciplined than my previous works, but this wasn’t intentional; I didn’t notice it myself until long after I had already decided on Condemner’s concept.
JH: I can’t speak so much on the writing side of things, but I would say that I see death as a force to be honored and revered for its might. I prefer to not speak too much on the matter but the lyrics I contributed for the demo’s final track “Blood On The Oak (Death’s Wisdom Great)” are about an experience I had in which I was confronted with that might. It was a triumph of death, to say the least. I relate my own experiences to PB’s lyrics as well, although again I will not speak much on the subject.
I would completely say that the lyrics fit the morbidity of the music — any other lyrical topics would be monstrously out-of-place for an atmosphere like this. Interestingly enough, the lyrics for “Blood on the Oak” were initially written in late 2014 and were used in two different bands that each split up before the song could be recorded, but I would say that it has found a perfect home in Condemner.
CM: The individual riffs on Omens of Perdition are relatively simple when compared to what a lot of contemporary so-called “technical” metal bands are doing. Was that simplistic approach something that you chose on purpose or did that style of having all your instruments playing melody in unison just come about naturally?
PB: The riffs on Omens of Perdition aren’t technical because I don’t like the music that most “technical” metal bands make. With a few exceptions (Demilich!!!), it’s all attention-grabbing pyrotechnics with little portent behind it. It wasn’t a conscious decision — there’s no way that someone who loves Profanatica and hates Necrophagist is going to make something like Necrophagist. As to the instruments playing in unison, that was simply a result of how the songs were written — as mentioned earlier, all of the music was originally written for a single guitar, so the other instruments were always destined to follow the guitar.
JH: For the bass, everything is kept simple and following the guitar parts for maximum force and impact on the listener. I see Condemner as following the Tom G. Warrior school of “less is more”, and I’d say that the end result was successful.
CM: Can you explain (in as great or little detail as you want) the process of writing a song? Does it begin by jamming until new riffs emerge or is there a more structured method?
PB: Generally, it starts with me coming up with a melody in my head, and turning it over in my head for a few days, silently humming variations of it to myself. Once I’ve done that, I can generally pick up my guitar and write riffs that complement the one that I had in my head with little trouble, and then I can work on expanding that narrative, writing contrasting riffs and looping the structure back on itself as is fit. The real meat of the process, though, is simply playing the song until there’s something about it that I dislike, fixing that problem, and then repeating that process over and over. There’s one song on Omens of Perdition that’s an exception to this rule — “Executioner’s Canticle” was built around a structuring technique I had noticed Morbid Angel using on “Maze of Torment”.
JH: Currently PB writes all Condemner material and most of the lyrics (I wrote “Blood on the Oak (Death’s Wisdom Great)”); an arrangement that is working well. PB and I are located several hours apart and lack a human drummer, so “jamming” in the traditional sense isn’t really an option.
CM: Being from Texas, are you part of a uniquely regional style or does your expression of death metal run counter to any regional paradigm?
PB: I don’t think there really is a “Texas death metal sound” in the way that there’s a “Stockholm death metal sound” or a “New York death metal sound”. That said, I think it’s obvious that Imprecation and Blaspherian had an influence on Condemner’s style.
JH: While Texas has some of the strongest contenders to the death metal throne in its ranks, I would not say that Condemner sounds like many acts within our region. I believe that the closest would be in the form of some of the Houston death cults such as Imprecation and Blaspherian, but we are far from clones.
CM: What are the plans for Condemner’s future? Do you intend to gather a full line-up for live shows?
PB: No live shows are planned. I’m not opposed to the idea, but JH and I live about four hours apart, so logistics for rehearsals would be difficult. As for what’s planned for the future, most immediately, physical versions of Omens of Perdition will be coming soon — ZKD, whose work you have seen on the cover of all three issues of “Under the Sign of the Lone Star”, has agreed to do the cover art. A second demo, “Burning the Decadent”, with four more songs written in the period from 2009-2015, is planned; I currently plan on beginning the recording process in the Spring, which means you’ll probably hear it some time in the Summer. What happens beyond that is unknown, and dependent on the resources available and how long it ends up taking me to write new material.
JH: The reception to Omens of Perdition has been killer for sure, and there will certainly be new material. There are plans for a physical format of Omens as well, as the cover art is still in progress.
It would be great to perform these songs on a stage some day, although PB and I are currently separated by a distance of several hours which makes the idea of rehearsal logistically complex. I also maintain a heavy schedule with other bands not named here (as I do not want Condemner to be any “featuring members of X” act – it stands on its own) which adds complications to the idea of getting together to play live. Still, I certainly wouldn’t rule it out in the future, especially since live session members wouldn’t be hard to find within my network.
CM: Any last words?
PB: Thanks to Deathmetal.org, both for the support of Condemner, and for keeping the flame of the DLA alive! As mentioned, physical copies of Omens of Perdition will be available soon– keep an eye out!
JH: Thanks to all who have supported this group in its short existence, including Left Hand Path Designs for the excellent logo. For the unaware, Omens of Perdition may be downloaded for free on the Condemner Bandcamp (a pay option is also provided for the inclined). Nothing more needs to be said — the music speaks for itself.
Serbian black metal group Zloslut received some well-deserved coverage on DMU in 2013 when they released their first album, Zloslutni Horizont – Donosilac Prokletstva, Očaja I Smrti, in which the musicians demonstrated a humble and patient method of constructing epic songs based around the simplicity of a few chord changes. This method contrasts (pleasantly) with the typical songwriting method of modern black metal bands, which is to hurl rapid-fire oppositional riff pairs at the listener with the intention of disorienting and distracting from the lack of any coherent musical thread. Zloslut’s music promises a refreshing return to the minimalist style that the best black metal bands of the early 1990s used to produce memorable and effective songs.
U Transu Sa Nepoznatim Siluetama moves at a familiar pace for the experienced listener, but the albums dynamics are generally so well-balanced that even someone not engaged in black metal would not be offended or confused by the aural layout. The average intensity of the music is nearer to that of In the Glare of Burning Churches than Pure Holocaust, which means that each song has plenty of room to breathe and the listener never feels battered or overwhelmed by density or speed. Songs themselves are built out of a handful of chord cycles that are aesthetically consistent and highly motivational; never does a chord cycle become so stale that you will actually desire its end to relieve boredom, but never is a riff so complex that it blows by and is forgotten for not having been catchy or repeated enough. Each segment of music is paced accordingly and results in each song becoming a miniature journey of sorts, leading the listener along a path through moments of surprise, anger, despair, hatred, and finally toward some appropriate resolution that can’t be described in text, only experienced sonically.
Zloslut’s success stems from the songwriter’s intuitive sense of balance and momentum. When a song picks up speed, the tension increases but is balanced out with slower-moving riffs played with more major intervals. After a song has expended its motivational energy, the guitars drop down and drag the melody through murky valleys of foreboding and loss. I want to be clear that the dynamic balance maintained throughout this album does not mean that the experience is emotionally flat; rather, that every peak is paired with a valley, and every action has an equal and opposite (or, is it complimentary?) reaction. The spacious feel of the album allows for stretches of melancholic introspection like one might find themselves amidst while listening to Vampires of Black Imperial Blood or the more recent When the Light Dies. But don’t make the mistake of associating Zloslut with the emo-leaning depressive style that has crept into the black metal canon over the last decade. U Transu Sa Nepoznatim Siluetama is ferocious and concedes nothing, sparks the listener’s imagination, and encourages one to seek out and confront the obscure biases and phobias that lurk in the far-flung corners of the psyche.
On a small ship in the Sea of Sardinia, I watched my companion cautiously. I had just seen him kill two men, one with a silenced pistol hidden under his battered sweater, and the other with his bare hands. We had changed cars five times since I left the airport, walked through a dozen train stations and busy stores, always leaving through the back door with a whispered command: Hurry!.
Now our journey had taken its final stage, leaving the coast on a small boat and nipping through a series of coves, always watching land, water and air for any who might follow us. As I wondered this, a ripple on the horizon announced another small boat approaching. On it was a solitary figure, menace and fire in his cold eyes.
I gathered up my notebooks and prepared to meet the obscure and sinister personality behind Italian black metal cult band Infamous…
Is there any point to making black metal — or any music like it — in 2015?
Black Metal is a radical form of expression and, in my opinion, the most expressive form of musical art. It is an essential need to express myself!
It is my belief that this form of art can be conceived and understood only by “particular” souls. Surely, if you try to get rich or famous with this music genre, you have done everything wrong! Black metal is not for the masses and not for the bourgeois defeated by their lives. Black metal is a fire that burns inside of you! It is a weapon against weakness, a spiritual enlightenment, and the hammer that smashes this world of worms and disgusting merchants.
If you don’t feel this inside you, maybe you should change genre!
Your latest, Rovine e Disparazione, seems much closer to traditional black metal than previous works. What prompted this change?
I think that the reason of this “change” is linked to the departure of Alessandro. With his keyboards, he created a great amount of “mystic” atmosphere in the first releases, especially in Of Solitude and Silence. The guitar riffs and the other songs structures, instead, are born from the same inspiration and move in the same way of the previous works.
So far, there are three Infamous releases — Of Solitude and Silence, Abisso and Rovine e Disparazione — of which this reviewer is aware. Can you tell us what you intended to do with each one, and how it turned out? For example, did you hope to create a new style of black metal, refine your own style, or expand upon earlier ideas (of your own) or introduce new ideas?
Each song which makes part of the three different Infamous releases is born thanks to a precise inspiration aiming at translating my emotional state in music.
I have no ambition to start a new subgenre of the black metal style. What I really like is the most traditional way in this kind of music and I’m going to follow this traditional path, but with my personal sense of melody and “aesthetic.”
Many times, some reviewers have compared my project with other bands of this world. What is interesting is the fact that, at the end, they have recognized that Infamous sounds personal!
I mean, what is important is not to create a new style but a good and emotional song in a traditional way. In short, the creation of a perfect synthesis of traditional and personal music, which is not necessarily innovative!
This is sort of a silly question, but people will wonder, so I ask. There seem to be two versions of Of Solitude and Silence: a CD-R with an excellent cover, and a pro-CD with a more “regular” black metal cover that looks like a quicker job. How did these two editions come about? Is this album still in print? If not, will it be re-editioned?
The first edition was published by a small underground Italian label (Novecento Produzioni) and limited to 200 copies. No one wants to print a Pro-CD in Europe in this small quantity. However, this first edition is definitely sold out. The second edition was published by the excellent German label Obscure Abhorrence in Pro-CD, limited to 500 copies. It is true that the artwork looks different from the first one, but the reason is that they were created by two different persons… I prefer the first artwork but also the second is not bad!
The second edition is still available from the Internet site of the label or directly from me!
What I really like is the most traditional way in this kind of music and I’m going to follow this traditional path, but with my personal sense of melody and “aesthetic.”
In addition, recently, the Italian label Bylec-Tum has published, on limited tape format, the third version of this album with a series of exclusives bonus tracks.
Can you tell us where Infamous was founded, by whom, and who is in the band? Do you perform live or is this a studio band only? Do you choose anonymity for any reason other than longstanding black metal tradition (musicians calling themselves Quorthon, Warrior and Angelripper)?
Infamous was born in the Sardinian hills in the torrid summer of 2009, with the recording of the first demo “Torrid Summer Misanthropy.” Infamous is a one man band, obviously it is impossible to play live…
I choose semi-anonymity; S.A. is the acronym of my name and surname.
I thought that it would have been more serious to avoid the grotesque nicknames typical of the Satanic B.M. scene.
What are the influences on your style, both metal and non-metal, and both musical and non-musical? Are there influences from any punk genres in your work? Since the question will inevitably be asked anyway, is there an influence from Ildjarn on your work?
I’m surely influenced by “modern” Finnish Black metal. For me, this is the most important scene and I’m heavily influenced by the sense of sinister melody which is typical of their style.
But this is not my unique influence. When I was more young I listened to tons of Oi!, R.A.C., and other metal sub-genres. I think that Oi! and R.A.C., in particular, have forged my compositional style and my sense of “melody.”
Now, I turn my attention to your question, concerning Ildjarn. I was really shaped by his previous works, especially by his first demos and the first full-length. I listened to his art hundreds of times… Together with other Norwegian 90s bands, Ildjarn is one of my preferred bands!
In line with the non-musical influences, I think I am influenced by all my open-air activities like mountains or woods trekking, fishing and sports in general. I consider myself as hunter of natural landscapes. Obviously, this aspect has a huge impact on my music!
Do you listen to Ottorino Respighi, an Italian composer from the last century? The style of Of Solitude and Silence reminds me of his most popular work, “The Pines of Rome.”
Um… no! This is the first time I have heard the name of this composer.
Maybe, at the time of Of Solitude and Silence Alessandro took his inspiration from this composer, but I don’t know…
Why did you switch to title(s) in Italian? Abisso and Rovine e Disparazione are in Italian in contrast to Of Solitude and Silence which is in English. Do you write lyrics in Italian as well?
Of Solitude and Silence, outside of the title, has songs half in Italian (“Rex Verminorum” is in Sardinian language, a local variant of the ancient Latin) and half in English.
Abisso has only the title in Italian language. Each song, in fact, is written (from the session musician WLKN, not by me) in English.
Starting with Rovine e Disperazione, I have begun to use only Italian language because it is more easy and spontaneous for me; while, English language is more “melodic” and easy to insert in the music but, obviously, is not my language.
What influences your sense of melody? It seems unique, like a mixture of black metal, folk, Oi and sentimental 1980s Goth-pop, but also with its own inspiration that’s nowhere on the map.
As I have mentioned above, I’m influenced by Oi!-R.A.C. and Black Metal, but not by “1980s Goth-pop.” I think the Northern European Oi! scene of the 90s is my second main influence, obviously after Black Metal. Maybe, a little bit by Neo-folk but in my music, at the same time, there are not large spaces where I could insert neo-folk. It is possible that in the future this component will be increased.
What do you attempt to capture, express or communicate through your music? Or… is this even the goal of music? Is music communication or decoration? What is the goal of your art?
When I started, I was interested to vomit my hate and my need of destruction for this rotten world.
Infamous was born to give voice to this emotional war, misanthropic destructive hatred and the contemplation of nature, especially its beauty-purity.
Now, everything is evolved into an anti-modern propaganda and into a search of values for resist to this decaying world!
Do you think there is a sound in black metal that is specific to Southern Europe? And to the countries individually such as Greece, Italy and Spain?
In my opinion, each population has its land and each land has its traditions, sensibility and so on… According to this view, it is perfectly normal that every nation or geographic area has a common way of expression. Generally, everyone can distinguish a Norwegian disc from a French release, and a Swedish album from a Greek one!
I consider myself as hunter of natural landscapes. Obviously, this aspect has a huge impact on my music!
I think that Italy has developed its own personal style which is not very similar to the other Southern European scenes. However, it is undeniable to admit cultural and stylistic convergences with the rest of Southern Europe.
Personally, I love old and contemporary Greek Black Metal!
Do you have a long-term plan of what you want to achieve from album to album and as a body of work?
Ahaha, absolutely not! Inspiration to create music comes suddenly and, for me, it is impossible to have a long-term plan!
Rovine e Disperazione consists of five tracks named after either “Rovine” (ruins) or “Disperazione” (despair). Why did you decide to do a sequence like this? Are these numbered tracks part of the same song, or impressions of the same thing?
Rovine e Disperazione is comprised of different songs about a single concept!
The concept of this album concerns the disgust for the modern world, its spiritual decadence and the ideology of materialism (“Disperazione” I, II). It is the rebellion that has the aim of embracing a superior and heroic way of life, based not in the cult of the decadence, but in the traditional (pre-Christian era) values of Honor, Strength and Spiritual rectitude (“Rovine” I, II, III)!
This is my manifesto for the maximal resistance against the modern decaying world!
In the booklet, there are two important phrases (written in Italian) to understand this concept:
“Lascia agli altri le vie dell’infamia” = Let the others go through the ways of infamy
“Vi siete inchinati abbastanza davanti ai mercanti, ora ergetevi! Sfidate i ratti e i vermi che stanno ai vostri piedi!” = You have bowed enough to the merchants, now it’s time to stand up! You have to defy rats and worms that are at your feet!
Do these have any influence in your musical world? Ancient, Varathron, Burzum, Sentenced, Sacramentum, Landser, Summoning, Kvist, Eucharist.
Each band that you have mentioned has had an influence on my music. However, the most important influence comes from Finnish bands like Sargeist, Horna, Satanic Warmaster, Hammer, Nekrokrist SS or non-Finnish bands like Drowning the Light, Mutiilation, Xasthur and many others…
How do you compose a song? Do you start with a melody and develop structure/arrangement from that, or do you start with riffs and add melodies to them? Or is there an idea, lyrical or visual, before you start even making the music?
First of all, I compose music, starting from a simple riff and then slowly, or sometimes very fast, the rest emerges spontaneously. When a musical composition is definitely ended, I start writing texts; generally, each text follows a concept!
This is the path that allows me to recognize immediately if a riff has the emotional power to be part of a song…
For people new to your music, how should they get to know Infamous and how should they stay on top of band news, contact, and music?
You’ve just recorded a new album, Tempesta. What is the theme of this album? How does it differ from the past? Where did you record it, how long did it take, and did you have other musicians involved?
About the concept for Tempesta, in the booklet you can read this:
Tempesta (Storm) is a radical hate declaration against all the subhumans defeated from the disvalues of this decaying modern society. I hope, therefore, a “Storm” that will destroy everything that continues to infect our blood and our minds.
The main enemies in this concept are the economicist view, the bourgeois way of life and modern human weakness in general!
Tempesta follows a natural and spontaneous “evolution” of the classic Infamous style!
On this album you can hear a more powerful sound, an atmosphere of struggle and victory that extols to the revolt! The recordings lasted half a year at various sessions, and I used the voice of Filippo Magri in “Tempesta II”, who is a friend and someone I respect!
Your previous album, Rovine e Disperazione, seemed to take a more Ildjarn-influenced direction as opposed to earlier works, which had longer melodies and remind me of Varathron Walpurgisnacht if it were expressed with a stronger, more naturalistic mentality. Does Tempesta continue this pattern?
In this album I think that the Ildjarn influences are implemented, especially in “Tempesta II” where percussion is heavily influenced by the Norwegian artist. Also for the harsh sound and radical extremism of disgust against the modern man, Ildjarn represents a landmark!
From the progression from early works through Tempesta the general atmosphere of mysticism, which refers to the idea of a primordial nature in its purest form, is partially changed. I have radicalized certain sounds and the general attitude and probably now everything sounds more agressive. This is a natural and spontaneous evolution.
As I understand it, this release is limited to 100 CD-Rs. Why did you choose to go this route, as opposed to a larger label? Will you ever seek a label to do bigger re-issues of your discography?
Yes, only 100 copies!
This is a radical anti-commercial choice!
I’m not interested in big productions!
This is the path that allows me to recognize immediately if a riff has the emotional power to be part of a song.
I consider that nowadays those who want to listen a CD, generally, can download it from internet…
Then I took a radical decision and I chose to produce everything by me; every step is taken personally and the choice of the number of copies to be printed is now proportionate to the copies that I can sell. Simply, if I had printed 1000 copies, 900 would remain collecting dust in my basement.
Few are willing to buy original CDs, especially for bands not yet known. This happens a bit “everywhere” but in Italy the situation is even worse.
Why do you think black metal is in such a slump these days? Vattnet Viskar and Myrkur get a ton of publicity, and good underground bands get ignored; is this related?
Everything is for sale in this world and if you try to be famous you have to spend some money! This is the only key to a successful career! You have to consider your band as a company and your music-art as a business. I’m about to throw up as I write this… But this is the truth!
Obviously I am not interested to take a part in this circus, I never dreamed the fame and do not want to look like a rock star. All this is so pathetic! I would destroy all this! I use my music to sing my hate against those that spoil the Black Metal and trying to making it a cute, harmless and fashionable music genre.
Since ancient times man has looked into both himself and nature around him as a portal into dimensions our species’ abilities are not adequately or readily prepared to perceive let alone understand. This is why and the sciences developed their theory and instruments which became increasingly specialized and compartmentalized, to the point that the ulterior workings of, for instance, chemistry and physics are not even truly understood by any single person but that have been recorded and detailed so that theories can be devised to model them. This is both a weapon for more precise understanding and a blindfold that prevents us from seeing the big picture. The ancient occult sciences attempted something contrary to this, which was to grasp at the phenomenon as a whole, not by measuring bits here and there, isolating them and attempting to harness them for mundane tasks, but rather seeing how everything interacted and describing it through metaphor and accepting that knowledge concerning reality cannot be taught or communicated: the path can only be hinted at but it is for each person to take.
“We do not know it because we are fooling away our time with outward and perishing things, and are asleep in regard to that which is real within ourselves.”
Music can be used as a way to contemplation, as a window of what is in front and within us. This is a way towards the self, towards one’s nature, the species’ nature, and our place in the planet as life springing from it. When done correctly, it is not an escape from “reality” as materialists would have it, but rather a search for the experience and understanding of actual reality through human eyes. This includes an accepting of the limitations we can never truly overcome and yet trying to capture visions and feelings of what the universe beyond us is like. Music can convey this by acting as a conduct, taking the mind to a certain state. This is much more than the “setting of a mood” of pleasure-oriented music, and requires an active engagement by the listener, a locking in the senses, a voluntary stepping-through to the unreachable umbra of that-which-is. This is not about salvation or reaching out for a different world, it is a discovery of the cosmos as it is in reality.
“Could one that’s damned stand in high Heaven, even there He’d feel within himself all Hell and Hell’s despair.”
Underground metal and its related genres (dark ambient, for instance) as a mystical experience may lead us through a variety of paths, up to mirrors, dead-ends and upside-down positions which may seem incomprehensible at first but whose value is appreciated in retrospect as a lesson. At the end of the day, no vision reflects reality, we can only dip into experiences that transmit flashes of this or that aspect, but nothing that encompasses everything which is far beyond our capabilities. It is like trying to capture the infinite in one’s mind, or simply trying to imagine not being human.
“To reach something good it is very useful to have gone astray, and thus acquire experience.”
The following are a few album recommendations that the author feels are strong and sure passageways from whence grand sights a piercing eye may descry. Though each of these may follow a slightly different path, they all shine light into particular corridors and avenues by virtue of different methodologies and philosophies. Each kind of experience is in the eye of the beholder and is ever partial and incomplete, but the truth behind all of them is one and whole.
In view of our recent emphasis on the fact that post-1994 metal landscape is a desert of creativity with very few well-realized projects, most of which were pretty underground efforts. By the turn of the century, death and black metal aesthetics had been absorbed into the mainstream mindset and so we can not automatically consider bands with said genre tags as underground. But the ones recommended below are, indeed, high-quality efforts (in the way of music writing) that were never hyped to any wide audience.
The turn of the century itself was one of the darkest moments in metal history when there was no relevant innovation being worked into metal. In place, a superficial re-mixing of styles done by the thousands became the obsession of scenes. Something had happened: Metal had reached its young adult life. Until now, childish enthusiasm and creativity had been enough for it to keep making discoveries. A spirit of rebellion had propelled it in the search for a deeper romantic meaning that drove it forward. Once this bottomed out with with mid-nineties albums by projects like Burzum, Ildjarn and Summoning, it was evident that metal would have to rely on a refinement of its technical approach that could keep feeding the aesthetics needs of its spirit.
In the following recommendations, we have thrown some worthwhile non-metal releases that are also strongly recommended. The reader is encouraged to explore each of these with all their attention and in reflection of the trails that the golden era left that are only in recent years fully crystallizing into promising proposals for a real re-start and future based on the previously mentioned refinement applied to a study and digestion of the older spirit in order for the genre to continue. This future is precisely what metal needs and not a return to anything. The past is the past. Metal must look ever ahead if it is to be an artistic movement with life. This post is in part to honor those releases and to offer a glimmer of hope that although metal is suffocated, it is not dead.
Summoning – Stronghold (1999)
Mütiilation – Remains of A Ruined, Dead, Cursed Soul (1999)
Worship – Last Tape Before Doomsday (1999)
Tenhi – Kauan (1999)
Jordi Savall & Ton Koopman – J.S. Bach, Die Sonaten Für Viola Da Gamba Und Cembalo (2000)
I was listening to Antaeus’ Cut Your Flesh and Worship Satan the other day and found myself thinking “This is pretty awesome metal coming from France!”. After all, France is not a very metal country, so the surprise is not, itself, surprising. At best, that country has produced a few flukes like giants Massacra and obscure Mutiilation, a product of Les Légions Noires’ elite circle. It is my contention that true metal art loci arise in such elite circles in very particular conditions and in reaction (metal is, to a certain point, what detractors of realism in a deluded society call “contrarian”) to different but at some level similar kinds of environments in which strong and perceptive minds fight an intellectual battle against a modern, peaceful yet poisonous complacency. Therefore, we may also clarify that metal proper is not a protest music. Protest belongs to a class warfare, while metal abstracts itself from both the futility of human rejection of reality and the petty strife caused by ignorance and incomprehension of our relative place in an uncaring universe. Not an evil universe as some fairy tales say, but an indifferent universe that could only care about humans as much as we care about a microbe that dies on the surface of our skin without ever even registering in our conscience in any way.
What does it take to be infused with the primordial essence of metal? Individual paths to a certain illumination over which we do not have total control? Metal is, after all, not made of the same matter as intellectually and experimentally-driven traditions such as classical music. We may learn certain methodologies that will better focus inspiration and drive, but the metal way is the way of the mystic, the way of spiritual transcendence. As with any opposition to esoteric affairs, there will be outcries against the allusions to an ultra-physical dimension in the wording, perhaps pointing out that metal has traditionally been strictly realist to the point of nihilism. But for those who understand what it means, mystic references will carry the point home without there being any suspicion of a contradiction. The mystic way is the use of images as passageways to vantage points that are unreachable through common language and from which we can see behind the frontispiece of human constructions.
Simple statistical scans of data from bands in different countries and at different times that it is also not a the healthy “scene” that brings about excellence. Scenes bring about scenesters and poseurs, not better music. For the better part of this last week, I had been on a mission to try and discover lost gems from among Central American bands (that means Guatemala down to Panama, for the geographically impaired). The task is not so easy, but I thought I might cover a lot of ground by first heading to Metal Archives (a very useful resource worked tirelessly by the plebeian masses of metal underlings that think any third-rate metal band around the corner is worth documenting) and looking at the entries of lists by country. Although the number of entries per country varied wildly in relation to their sizes (from 30+ in Nicaragua to almost 200 in Costa Rica), after scanning the lists and listening to songs from each of the bands in the lists, one finds out that only a similar number of bands from each country would pass the high-level standards of metal we espouse here. That our “judgement” is suitable or not is not the point and is irrelevant to this point. The point is that a comparatively huge scene like Costa Rica’s did not yield more quality music in terms of composition than the meager offerings of Nicaragua or Honduras. Costa Rica’s larger scene, in great part fomented by a larger population and improved economic conditions, boasts of many albums with European-level metal production, abundant professional musicianship and and more gifted performers. All that is for nothing, at the end of the day.
This is also true for classical music, but it will not be discussed here for it requires a little more research about its particular condition to assert anything further. Metal flourishes not from fully-formed scenes, but rather from individuals in intellectually-challenging or adverse landscapes that choose not to fight social convention or status quo as such from within, but seek to escape it altogether after recognizing how nonsensical it is to submit to human imagination is if it were reality. Our minds are innately equipped with the machinery to see things in terms of illusions, essences and constructions. In the end, it is unavoidable. But it is in the individual to decide whether the illusion will dominate him or he will use it as a tool to carve his path through the uncertainty of chaos. Scenes, as human social circles that promote tolerance for the mediocre, are completely unfit to give birth or nurture creators — only perhaps shadows of them that bring more of the same or complete nonsense that does not amount to music.
Does this mean that we should stop trying to make metal as individual artists if we do not consider ourselves to be chosen? Not at all. Those we could consider somehow chosen (the patriarch Iommi, Hanneman, Quorthon, Warrior, Vikernes — frankly, I do not think death metal produced any such luminaries) were not self-referential assholes who believed themselves to be some sort of Messiah. Rather, they worked single-mindedly at their craft. While they were immersed in that and that goal remained the sole focus of their efforts, their music grew and expanded, building ever higher towers whose tops penetrated and seared the stratosphere in spite of scorching winds and burning ice. Experimentalists, retro-acts and self-professed proggers with no direction, on the other hand, kept running around in circles chasing their tails in a puddle of filth. Besting the destructive cyclones of hail that make short work of feeble-minded, the true leaders crossed boundaries and opened doors that were locked. But these accomplishments are built on two equally important pillars. The first is the struggle in the midst of intellectual adversity. The second is tradition.
An experienced music listener who is new to black metal asked for a doorway into the genre. This raises the question of how to appreciate black metal, which like most things in life is mostly mental preparation. Without context, black metal seems like any other loud genre, and it becomes harder to distinguish the newer tryhard junk from the original.
The best way to gain context is to walk through the history of the genre from oldest to newest. This approach, common in art, literature and philosophy, allows people to see what developed from what and what the reasoning for that was and therefore, what the reasoning is behind what is here now.
The result of this query was a simple list to urge people to explore this genre further. This list originates in the history of black metal music, but also in influences that can be identified among the bands as immediately relevant. Toward the end it extends more into general conjecture based on what shows up later in highly different form among the black metal works of relevance listed above it.
I. Proto- Metal
Bathory – The Return
Slayer – Hell Awaits
Hellhammer – Apocalyptic Raids
Sodom – Persecution Mania
Sarcofago – INRI
Merciless – The Awakening
Blasphemy – Fallen Angel of Doom
Von – Satanic Blood
III. Black metal
Immortal – Diabolical Full Moon Mysticism
Mayhem – De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas
Burzum – Burzum/Aske
Emperor/Enslaved – Split
Darkthrone – Under a Funeral Moon
Beherit – Drawing Down the Moon
Varathron – His Majesty in the Swamp
Havohej – Dethrone the Son of God
Impaled Nazarene – Ugra-Karma
Samael – Worship Him
IV. Second Wave
Gorgoroth – Antichrist
Graveland – The Celtic Winter
Ancient – Svartalvheim
Sacramentum – Far Away From the Sun
Ildjarn – Forest Poetry
Summoning – Dol Guldur
Zyklon-B – Blood Must Be Shed
Gehenna – First Spell
Behemoth – From the Pagan Vastlands
V. Extended Contemporary
Demoncy – Joined in Darkness
Sammath – Godless Arrogance
Mutiilation – Remains of a Ruined, Cursed, Dead Soul
Absurd – Asgardsrei
For immediate death metal background to black metal:
At the Gates – The Red in the Sky is Ours
Carnage – Dark Recollections
Godflesh – Streetcleaner
For heavy metal background to black metal:
Mercyful Fate – Don’t Break the Oath
Venom – Possessed
Angel Witch – Angel Witch
Destruction/Tormentor – Demos
For hardcore punk background to all metal:
Discharge – Hear Nothing See Nothing Say Nothing
Amebix – No Sanctuary
The Exploited – Death Before Dishonour
Cro-Mags – Age of Quarrel
For electronic music background to underground metal:
Idolatry creates basic black metal with a flowing melodic inner structure despite its raw exterior. The strikingly morose atmosphere of the music is what appealed to me the most. The mood is sometimes reminiscent of the sounds of Les Légions Noires with hints of early Norwegian Black Metal.
Songs consist of basic structure and interestingly well-executed rhythms evoking the aura of death. The vocals here are throaty rasps displaying the deepest soul-tormenting hate, accompanied with heinous war cries to add to the overall dynamics. Drums set a fluid but standard pattern, yet are skillfully implemented and complement the tempos, mostly going from slow to mid-pace. Idolatry proves that blast beats are not a requirement in creating an intense atmosphere. Nothing here pushes any boundaries but competently executes a variety of black metal at doom metal paces. Of note are the vocals which expand beyond rhythmic and acoustic frame to rage all over the place, sounding more like a commentary on the song itself from a nearby mental ward than an integrated part of the music.
Production creates a “raw” Finnish second wave texture and through some form of sonic sorcery retains a clean delivery of the work despite this acidic texture. Imagine Mütiilation (Vampires of Black Imperial Blood era), Graveland (Carpathian Wolves era), Mayhem (De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas era), involving some more recent touches from the likes of Craft and Pseudogod, melted together into an album with the pace of Samael.
Xasthur’s reclusive and asocial Malefic gave us a few moments of time to ask some esoterica and rewarded his listeners with the following interview, in which he gives some analysis of the interconnectivity of thoughts inside and outside of the black metal “scene.”
When you first started Xasthur, what factor of the project made you most uncomfortable?
Hmmm, that’s a real good question. There were two times when I ‘first started Xasthur’, the first time was a failure…constant losers,liars,trendies for bandmates; I was very upset. I felt that nobody believed in how serious I was in bringing forth a horrifing aura of blackness. The second time was just the same, but on the other hand better. I had totally given up on people, I admit I was uncomfortable when I decided to get a drum machine and do it all on my own, I didn’t know if it was possible,and still alot of poser fuckers didn’t believe in me, they thought their party heavy metal parking lot bands were more meaningful..well,the good news is that I’m planning on, and will have the last laugh!!! Another factor was the vocals, I had never done that before, but I knew that I would have to force myself to…it was never in my plans, but as a one person band, it had to be; other than that, everythng fell into place and I learned how to overcome certian difficulties such as drum programming, vocals, humans etc…
Had you been in any bands or musical apparati before Xasthur?
Yes, a couple death metal bands, back in 94-95 here in So.Cal..didn’t really work out. There was always some differences, they wanted to be unoriginal, and at the time I thought it would have been quite possible to mix death metal with darkness and doom. I can’t really get along with anyone in a band-like environment.
At the time, what bands inspired and/or motivated you? Writers? Visual artists? Movies?
Mütiilation and the black legions, Burzum, Graveland (Thousand Swords), Manes, Shining, Forgotten Woods, Funeral Winds and too many to mention. Hmmm, I don’t watch movies much…my favorite movie is Carrie (the old one from the 70s) as far as Visual Artists are concerned, whoever made the Aphex Twin video, what a perfect vision of the remains of an apocalypse, I always have that video in my head…but like I said ,I don’t watch TV really…
Where were you when you first thought the project had longterm potential for you?
In my house, as usual…looking out my window and there was nothing there, When I was finishing a song and it actually disturbed me. That was like looking into a mirror and not liking what I saw….when it refected a nightmare, I thought it had some potential…but for what?”
Does anyone else work with you? Why or why not?
The only other person that really helped in the past was a good friend of mine, Mike/Draconis, but that was in ’99, before I just did this band on my own. Maybe it’s where I live that I can’t rely on ANYONE to help out…I don’t need anyones input, people here want to be famous like Cradle of Filth and write safe-normal riffs to impress their friends, get girls etc…that is all I have EVER seen…I don’t need that kind of input.
There is an obvious Burzum-influence (this is something of which to be proud, but hopefully you’re not going to be annoyed by it) in Xasthur’s music; what did Burzum do that no other bands have done?
No, I’m not annoyed by that…actually, thanks. Burzum is darkness, or has that word lost its meaning? All I know is that Burzum can take you anywhere but where you are…and it’s usually somewhere cold. I don’t want to be where I am, or anywhere for that matter.
A soldier once remarked, “we had to destroy the town to save it.” F.W. Nietzsche once offhandedly said that if Christianity had not existed, it would have been necessary to invent it. Do you think all things on planet earth are bound up in their opposites?
Yes, that F.W. Nietzsche quote makes sense to me…just cause something doesn’t exist doesn’t mean it needs to be invented…we would still have a broom, if the streetcleaner or vaccum wasn’t invented, the broom cost only 4-5 dollars and the others several dollars more, plus they’re noisy and don’t save that much time…according to that quote, I’m not disagreeing with it, the quote to me is just based on human nature and what people will predictably do….or…maybe I have no clue?
Most black metal bands seem to aim for linear expansion, namely, riffs that stretch out of 2-3 notes across 3-5 frets within the same chord form. This produces a very clear pattern that requires a counterpoint. Burzum and others, including Xasthur, seem to structure counterpoint within a recursive phrase, more like a fugue. Is this true in your view?
I try to not have such few notes per song/riff. My instincts tell me when or when not to have such few notes, when to be this simple or not to be,there’s a time to be repetative. For example, something with a hardcore upbeat (like you mentioned somewhere else in this interview) shouldn’t be repeated 8-12-16 times ect…Across 3-5 frets? I’d say you’d better add a bunch of other ideas to accompany that kind of simplicity or its gonna get boring…but like I said else where, there are no rules. Slightly rehearsed, last minute improv can not only fool thyself, but the listener as well…or at least I’d like to think. Don’t wanna come across as someone trying to be an expert, ’cause these are just instincts talking here…there’s not much theory behind what it is that I do, ’cause I basically had to learn anything I know on my own…on my own, that’s what life really comes down to, and death as well.
How much of the black metal community do you feel is social time for wayward youth? How much of it is artistic?
Too much social time! To play this music and make it as dark as you can, one has to give up alot…like friends,sleep,money etc…Alot of people will be too busy being a part of “life” to take it further than bass,guitar,drums,vocals,pentagram and then they’re done! When this kind of work is done, I’ll be social with others who are into what I’m into..who the hell am I?
Negativity seems to me like a mental forest fire; with everything reduced to ashes, any new ideas seem fresh and hopeful. What have your experiences on this topic been?
Well, negativity is all around, weather you want it or not…how can one rebuild when only ashes remain? Whenever I look at my scars…I remember where I’ve been and where my state of mind always takes me.
Many view Varg as duplicitous in his representation of his own beliefs, but in the first interview I have with him, he refers to himself as a theosophist, and on his first album, he has a lyric making reference to his socially unacceptable political views. Do you fear the same thing with your own music and later, views? is there any way around being called “inconsistent” as one grows?
is there any way to summarize what you’ve learned about music since starting xasthur, or to find a few central points of change, and if so, can you list them here?
I have learned alot,I have learned things that I already knew and felt. I have learned that playing music is like solving puzzles that have no direction and are certianly not flat like puzzles usually are. I learned that many riffs of songs have infinite possibilities for harmonies/dis-harmonies with all instruments, having 4 or 5 different sounds in different octaves (yet all slightly similar) coming together finding a way to let out all the thousands of ideas in my head…painting a mix of sounds with the most bleak of colours, what to do, or what to add that will reflect the exact mood….I learned that being unpredictable with the changes in the song can work for me, instead of against me i.e, one of my friends used to tell me that 2 certian parts wouldn’t/didn’t go together, I say bullshit, I’ll find a way, and the best way i possibly can…there are no rules, no rules…its the one thing that can keep it interesting to me…I don’t know if this is the kind of answer you were looking for…
What do you think – if any – is the relationship between radical, terroristic environmentalism and black metal?
Hate!! Downfall of urban culture (or lack there of)..if I’m understanding the question properly.
Do you have a preference for type of equipment? In your mind, how important is equipment to the production of music?
I’ll tell you that it makes a difference. When getting a good guitar sound, that’s when just anything WON’T do. On some old recordings,I used a dist.pedal and all it picked up was alot of noise I didn’t even know I was hearing, plus it was very weak ad thin…then I switched to an effects processer rack mod. and that really helped take away all the noise and added some fullness…a way of mixing is important too. A 4track with mixing capabilities included, the effects processer and a cd-r burner for bouncing tracks…these are all the essentials and main ingredients.These things made a difference and made recording easier for me.
When you first conceive of a song, or a riff, is your starting point a boundary or a direction?
Neither. I don’t want a limit, and boundary makes me think of that…if there was a direction then it wouldn’t come from within,plus predictability in music makes it boring to play after a while.
What are your thoughts on Hegel’s theory of dialectics, namely that each thing (“thesis”) has an antithesis, and eventually a compromise between the two leads to the next thesis?
As in hypothesis, an educated guess? A part of being psychic? A mathematical algebra-like theory of prediction? If 2+ _ = 8 then what’s blank? If someone/something does 2, but is hiding the truth, that being blank, then why does their face have 8 written all over it…I don’t know,I’m so tired right now I don’t even know…
Many people are saying “black metal is dead” right now, and, while I understand their saying so, it seems to me like they mean “most of black metal is dead” when they declare its demise. What do you think is the difference between “living” and “dead” in this context?
Yes, I agree “most of black metal is dead” because if it was all dead,I would have one of the last significant reasons not to live. There are still some bands out there that can save at least the feeling or that bring back some nostalgia of the way it once was. I don’t think war metal does…war metal is just some kind of retro protest towards the norweigians?? This negativity of black metal is the only thing that brings me any pleasure or excitement anymore…ironic,or a contradiction?? It was “living” in the early 90’s when it was more of a threat to society, I suppose.
What were your earliest metal influences?
In the 1982-84 era, is when I first discovered metal, I was a bit young at the time…I liked Motley Crue,Iron Maiden,Quiet Riot,AC/DC ect…I rarley listen to those bands anymore..sometimes. Later on in the later 80’s I got into Mercyful Fate,Dark Angel,Megadeth,Slayer.. then death metal,black metal then…??
How much of metal do you think is derived from hardcore?
Hmmm, some of the drum beats are similar to hardcore. However, I think metal bands did alot more with hardcore beats than the hardcore bands did themselves..
The gentleman from Axis of Advance probably thinks I’m a fag because so much of this interview does not address metal itself, but abstract and possibly unrelated thoughts. Do you think there is a link between the sound that is produced and the thoughts that occurred to prompt the attitudes, values and ideas expressed?
Well, talking about real life is probably more grim than death itself….and metal too. Axis of Advance?? That link you talk about, yes I think there is…that is, if you’re talking about a persons mental state of mind, if you can hear a persons mental state of mind…I could probably hear where the guys in Axis of Advance are coming from when I hear their songs and I would hope that one would be able to hear where I’m coming from with mine, also these are from two different planes….
Do you believe it is necessary, as Keats did, to desire the end for its cessation of the activity of life, before one can see what is of value remaining?
Darkling I listen, and for many a time
I have been half in love with easeful death . . .
Now more than ever seems it reach to die,
To cease upon the midnight with no pain
If we could see the world through philosophical photonegative states of mind, what do you think would be the seat of evil? Would those who believe still conceive of “god” as an entity outside of this world?
Do you have any mystical belief?
Energy…hateful. Energy taken from souls. Believing in yourself,cause you can’t have faith in anything or anyone else
Many in black metal advocate a “fuck everything, do nothing” type political attitude that is more bitterness than ideology. Others overcorrect by becoming very-unliberal people with the liberal attitude that one “must” change the human situation. Where do you stand?
How about change the human situation for good by mass genocide since there’s no answer to everyone’s/anyone’s problems and everyone hates being alive, whether they can admit it or not. I’m sick of humans having so many rights…they just piss and shit on all that is given to them. To me, this is bitterness AND ideology.
What drugs do you think anus.com should explore as possible nutritional supplements for its writing staff?
“Explore the world of medication”
Please drop in here any additional comments, final words on this interview, or jokes about sodomy that you feel would fit.
Knock,knock. Who’s there? Clint. Clint who? Clint Torres….get it?! I am in the process of copyrightng this joke.
Thanks for the interview, Prozak…whether people know it or not you’re a pessimistic guy that goes back a long way…thanks to anyone that wastes their time reading this… suicide can be a relief.
Did we speak about “end” and “totality” in a way phenomenally apprporiate to Da-sein? Did the expression “death” have a biological significance or one that is existential and ontological, or indeed was it sufficiently and securely defined at all? And have we actually exhausted all the possibilities of making Da-sein accessible in its totality?
We have to answre these questions before the problem of the wholeness of Da-sein can be dismissed as nothing. The question of the wholeness of Da-sein, both the existentiell questiona bout a possible potentiality-for-being-a-whole, as well as the existential question about the constitution of being of “end” and “wholeness,” contain the task of a positive analysis of the phenomena of existence set aside up to now. In the center of these considerations we have the task of characterizing ontologically the being-toward-the-end of Da-sein and of achieving an existential concept of death.