If you ever find yourself wondering why mainstream music produces so many professional and well-produced acts while metal seems pasted-together in comparison, worry no more: Soilwork has invented a new form of radio-friendly metal that competes with the big bands you can hear on the radio. (more…)
Tom Stevens has been providing technical extreme metal since the 80s. Known as a virtuoso on guitar and owning the distro/label Nokturnel Eclipse, he’s been a supporter of the old school since it began. Though Nokturnel has gone through numerous line-up changes, Stevens has defied odds and kept the flame burning with an indomitable urge to shred.
Nokturnel is what I would deem “old school technical blackened thrashy death metal” (OSTBTDM).
DeathMetal.org is proud to present an interview with Tom Stevens about his music and businesses.
Howdy Tom. Thank you for your time. What was the mentality that drove you to form Nokturnel? Was there a frustration that you had to unleash? Why did you spell “Nocturnal” as “Nokturnel”?
Nokturnel was not something I really intended to do, my first band Savage Death fell apart and black metal was “out”…. the Satanic thing took a dive and believe it or not it was considered uncool. I had only begun to take Savage Death into what was considered technical metal at the time, and when it fell apart I wanted to take technical to a new level. The drummer of Savage Death was cool with that and he went on to meet Martin O’Connor. By then I was beyond frustrated with generic sounds, so the three of us made Nokturnel as different as we could; we chose to spell it that way because we knew many other bands would appear with the same name.
What are your thoughts on religion? You have previously stated that you believe in aliens. Do you believe that aliens created the human species? How about a mutual collaboration of humans and aliens to further each other? Have you ever seen any UFOs?
Religion is too complicated for things that must be valued with “faith.” It never struck me. The song Force Fed Fear is about the fear knowing you were told there’s a price to pay for not believing in religion. I do believe in Aliens and think they have been part of Earth’s history forever…. I could accept the facts if they were proven; easy for me to have faith in believing in the existence of life other than here on this planet yet I cannot have faith in religion…. I think there will be good and evil Aliens… some will wanna help, some will want us for our worst nightmares… I have no trust in government and think it is a long established fact Aliens have already played their role in where we are now and we were are heading…
I haven’t heard much on Nokturnel since your last recording ‘Ancestral Calling’. What have you been up to?
I managed to get that single recorded right before we played MDF. I had a lot of fan support at the time. It was amazing and heartfelt to be in the position I was in as an independent with no label support and I took it all very seriously. I had a lot of problems I would rather not get into but my stress level was at an all time high. I made changes as best as I could for Nokturnel. It was beyond maddening to be on the verge of taking things ot the next level and not have a stable lineup. I did two more shows which were clusterfucks for me…. the last one killed my drive to be on stage again until I have whoever is playing for me sounding exactly as I intended it to sound. With that mindset I chose to go into the studio alone for the third time to record “Shadows Alive,” I used Kevin Talley this time and it is my favorite Nokturnel song. It was redemption for my self…but unfortunately it did not get half the coverage “Ancestral Calling” received.
I am so fucking fed up with what the younger generation considers metal I feel obligated to carry on…Not enough people have heard any of my music. Many who do pick it apart and have no idea what I am going for. The truth is I have never done the same song twice, and I am working on several new tracks now, far beyond anything I have ever done. I don’t know how I am ever going to complete this project, but I am glad I began a few months ago, I always give it my all but this is going to be the most shocking work of my life… mark my words. It’s 666% Nokturnel!
You’re an avid snake breeder. How profitable is this trade? What are your favorite breeds of snakes? How many do you own right now?
Being a snake breeder is a lot like being a musician. You see bands selling records and touring like crazy and they bitch about being broke as fuck. Snake guys have expensive animals listed for sale on web sites and drive fancy cars and they too swear they are broke. Snakes have been very good to me. I am a hard-ass and price ’em high and tell people my animals are too good for them if they want to haggle. Like any business it has its ups and downs. After 10+ years into the game I have a solid customer base. Some are people you would never think would pay attention to a psycho like me, I take an online bashing once in a while for being that evil metal guy. It is fuckin’ funny!
But snakes are animals that require care. It is low maintenance but I insist on them being in above average condition or they are not for sale. You have to put a lot into to get anything out of it. I think I have about 100 here now. My favorites are Southern Pine Snakes, Bull Snakes and Florida Kingsnakes… that is what I have the most of.
You played with Incantation for a while. What was it like touring with them? Any highlights that you’d like to share?
It was like most tours bands do where a lot of it is kind of bad but as soon as you get home you cannot wait go back out. Highlight show was in Santiago Chile with Cannibal Corpse and Death… I met many cool people during my time in Incantation but it all soured for me. I did meet my wife because I toured through Texas back then so that is something I do associate with the band as of course a great thing that came of it. Musically I am not meant to play for other people. I should do my own thing. More than one Alpha in a band is bad news… it could have been something, probably should have been but fuck it all…. was not meant to be and I lost interest in that band a long time ago
I’m curious to see which genre you regard Nokturnel as. Is it Technical Metal? Thrash? Death Metal? Black Metal? Or all of the above?
I now prefer to call it death metal but I really do not care anymore. People have been trying to label me since ’85 and they are usually wrong and it is not worth my time to argue. Nothing But the Hatred era material is harder to call death metal especially due to some of the humorous lyrical content but I saw that as a mistake and left that behind. People should realize that the extra track on Fury Unleashed, “A Collision of Dimensions” was a song in between Nothing But Hatred and Fury Unleashed and it showed the direction I was heading…. more death metal. People talk so much shit… too many solos, the vocals should be this way… it is not death or black…. blah blah blah…. I have watched the “scene” turn inside out several times over the years. Very few people have my respect anymore. Therefore… I do not care what anyone calls it if they happen to like it. That is good enough for me,
Nokturnel Eclipse has been supplying metal warriors with leather and spikes for over a decade. How did you come to crafting leather? Have you always been talented in this field?
I was seeing the need for a product and had a business that could easily carry it. My wife had made herself something that we felt we could take more into a typical metal armband. Osmose/Moonfog Black Metal was everywhere and people wanted Spikes. After some trials we introduced a few designs. Nokturnel Eclipse started by selling CDs which was destroyed by the digital shit we have today and now Nokturnel Eclipse focuses on Spiked Leather and Leather Masks.
Working with leather for yourself is one thing. Being able to sell it to customer after customer and build a reputation is another. We are now well known worldwide and have taken the whole process of creating what we offer farther than we ever thought. Years of experience make a big difference but making every single order perfect for every customer means a lot of hard work on our behalf. We are extremely busy which is great but it is delaying other new items we hope to add to Nokturnel Eclipse soon. We started in 1999 but things really took off for us in the past few years.
Please detail your contributions to Ripping Corpse. Are you still friends with Erik Rutan?
I became friends those guys early on in the Nokturnel demo days. We all got a long really well and were great friends, When they had shows booked out of state they did not want to miss and needed a bass player I was the go to guy. They knew I was capable of learning all their songs in a short period of time and I did just that including unrecorded new songs. They also stayed at my house during the recording of Dreaming With the Dead, I was there from the first note to final mix. I got to sing on all the backing vocals on the record and one other small part for half a second in “Glorious Depravity.”
I am friends with Rutan and consider all of them friends but it is Shaune Kelley I keep in touch with, I am a fan of almost any band any of my friends are in, of course that includes Hate Eternal but Shaune IS Ripping Corpse. The list of people I know in established bands is ridiculous. I do not speak to anyone on the phone often and do not go out of my way to keep up with any of them any more than any random person on the internet. I consider tons of people friends and we are happy to get together when they come through my area but I am a busy person and prefer the company of my family. My closest friends in bands get the invite to stay with us…. Rutan and Kelley would make that list.
You and King Fowley appear to be the best of pals. How many times have Nokturnel and Deceased played shows together? How long has your friendship been? There must be some crazy stories with you two in the early days of extreme metal.
Yes, we are. We agree on many things more so than disagree and know us older underground guys are a dying breed. I have known him and a lot of people since 1990 or earlier. Nokturnel and Deceased did quite a few shows together in the early 90s and I went to many shows down south where they were from on my own just to hang out. King and I are a lot alike but we are not by any means carbon copies of each other.
He is a unique personality and I would like to think people see me that way as well… One time I was with Deceased in Maryland we all piled into one hotel room. Long after everyone passed out I woke up to what I thought was a fucking gunshot. When I jumped out of my skin only one other person in the room woke up… I think it was King.. I looked through the curtain and saw some guy hauling ass through the parking lot, it was freezing during winter at the time. It turned out that some guy had bought a can of soda from a machine and smashed it through the window of the room next door. He was freezing out there and just had a freakout.
There’s some good babble [on this topic] in the book Glorious Times…One time in Cleveland we both played a show called Splatterfest. King misunderstood me and during their set invited the entire show to MY hotel. When I said see you there with everybody I meant Deceased… not half of Cleveland…. no fun telling carloads of people to go away that night, good times
You originally lived in New Jersey and relocated to Texas. I have noticed in previous statements that you have a disdain for your prior homeland. Why do you prefer Texas so much? Is it because Texas has the ability to secede if the US keeps twirling into nonsense?
Some people would consider leaving the area they grew up in a nightmare, for others it is a nightmare to stay. I much prefer the people of the South, not meaning metalheads…. they are the same no matter where you go, but people in general are easier to live with. NJ is a place I look back at knowing life for me got a whole lot better when I left. Some people refuse to leave and look for something better in life. I am not one of them. I moved to Florida around the time I joined Incantation which was no fun with the extra travel but even that was a massive upgrade for me.
Texas is fucking awesome. Great people, open minded and tolerant. Great weather, amazing food. When I met my wife she was living in Austin and it was a no-brainer for me to come to Texas instead of us staying in Florida. This is where we both want to stay. After living here and seeing almost everywhere you can think of…. I cannot see myself living anywhere else.
How long have you played guitar? You’re quite an amazing musician. What type of equipment, guitars, strings, etc do you use? What type of equipment would you recommend to new guitarists that are just starting out?
I began about 1980. I had experience playing piano when I was very young, which I blew off… I used to read complex sheet music and all this crap. I do not remember ANY of it. Matter of fact I only know the names of two guitar strings and one scale. All of my guitar [playing] is natural.
I took some basic lessons and was taught a few basic things before I was told I did not need any lessons and not to return. My teacher showed me “I Don’t Know” by Ozzy in the most retarded way imaginable. I showed him the right way; he was not mad. He made sure I knew how to tune the guitar and said I pick way too hard but I would be a great player some day… I was furious as I wanted to learn how to play lead. I figured it all out on my own. To these schooled modern shredders, they seem to pick me apart and explain everything I do in terms that mean nothing to me. “you don’t come all the way around on a this and don’t finish a that before you go into a….”…. I am thinking if I did that…. I would sound like you, and Nokturnel fans do NOT want that… so take your shred knowledge and tell someone who is easily impressed.
I am happy where I am in my own realm of demonic possession and appreciate others way more than they appreciate me. No sleep lost there. I am most known for using the Washburn EC29, but I currently play a Halo Inverted and having a Kahler Pro Series tremolo is mandatory. I only have one other V and am in the market for a new one now. I would appreciate it if you would link the Tremolo Torture video I did for Kahler. I talk a lot about why I need a Kahler tremolo.
I am a gain maniac. Crank a dual rectifier with active pickups and add more distortion and gain and noise and you are ready to create some noise, I think the two things a new player needs to help them gain confidence is proper reverb and a little delay effect. Best advice I can give anyone who wants to learn how to play… begin with Iron Maiden Piece of Mind, learn the riffs, learn the solos… you are now metal
How well was the single “Ancestral Calling” received? What inspired you to write it? The riffs don’t seem to differentiate much, but the technical ability is amazing. How did you approach this song? What was your mindset? How will Nokturnel top this song in the future?
Overwhelmed with it really. It was incredible for me. I set out to do something I had not done in 20 years. A song based off only a few simple parts like Savage Death did in the 80s. I also wanted a song where the vocals and storyline dominate and that it did, Playing that song at Maryland Death Fest was the greatest moment for me in all of Nokturnel history. Seeing the crowd respond and even sing the words with me was just unbelievable. I was worried I kept it too simple, had feared Nokturnel fans would just not be into it. I was wrong, they fuckin’ flipped over it and I gained a ton of new fans. I feel I did top it.
The followup was “Shadows Alive” which is completely different. It is also based on real life paranormal experiences I was cautious about sharing with anyone. It is a very personal song for me and also much more furious than “Ancestral Calling.” Finding myself standing alone again after the last show I played and passing on other opportunities I chose to turn my back on everything and go back into the studio.
That song for me is a personal triumph. Not content with the few offers I got to play in 2013 and all the hassle to get the line up going I am now doing the same thing. Back in the studio alone, writing. “Shadows Alive” surpassed “Ancestral Calling.’ The new stuff I am working on now is way beyond that material, and believe me when I say I love all my music. This is why there are only so many Nokturnel songs as opposed to 10+ CDs worth. I am striving to make the best music…. not the most.. Every song counts.
Thank you for your time. If you have anything else that you’d like our readers to know, please share.
I think you did a great job with these questions. I managed to keep it short for a change, Thanks for that! I do intend to play shows again but I have a lot going on and much more work to do on new material. This band means more to me than anyone could understand, I have a lot more to offer and will fight to the death to make it happen.
Feel free to check out Tom’s businesses and music:
Inspired by Bosch, Dürer and Caspar David Friedrich, Kristian “Necrolord” Wåhlin has painted album covers for shiploads of underground bands since the early 90s (Therion and Dissection among others), but his most important and most striking contribution is probably the cover of Emperor’s In the Nightside Eclipse (1994).
Some of its style and composition takes me back to Albrecht Altdorfer’s anachronistic oil painting The Battle of Alexander at Issus (1529), but true to the bleak genre of black metal the cover of ItNE is practically monochrome, which is rather typical of Wåhlin’s paintings at large (as seen in his paintings for Sacramentum’s Far Away From the Sun and Dark Funeral’s The Secrets of the Black Arts).
Wåhlin nevertheless manages to capture much of the grandeur sought by Emperor in those days. He allows us to delve in a detailed landscape of rugged forests, cold mountains and an army of monsters seemingly popping out of the ground in a setting of strange angles and charmingly inconsistent perspectives. High above, emanating from a crack in the clouds, Death sweeps his scythe across the sky, resonating the lofty keyboard phrases in the music of this album. The whole scene is awash in the light of the moon, gazing at us like a gate to eternity (try to outstare it during the finale of Inno a Satana …). The incorporation of Death seems to have been a way of providing a sense of iconic continuation, referring back to Emperor’s début EP which depicted a section of Gustave Doré’s engraving Death on a Pale Horse (Revelation). (The use of old engravings – especially those of Doré – seems a favourite means of visual expression in the universe of Emperor.)
I always assumed that the otherworldly castle and the winding path leading to it were reminiscent of that of a certain bloodsucking count. This is probably no coincidence: have a look at the lyrics of the song Beyond the Great Vast Forest. Not only does it refer to Werner Herzog’s film Nosferatu (1979); parts of the story of the over-the-top film Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1992) – which was immensely popular around the time of ItNE’s inception – had also found its way into the lyrics, and the solitary structure of that film’s castle and its inspiration, František Kupka’s The Black Idol (1903), somewhat parallels the idea of the castle on display here.
Ultimately, the cover of In the Nightside Eclipse confirms the nature of its music as slightly cheesy yet chillingly sincere, a satisfying visual representation of one of the best albums of the genre.
The Hessian Studies Center was founded in late 1994 for the purpose of creating an atmosphere for study and respect of the Hessian tradition, folk art, and philosophical background. Over the next year it struggled off and on with authenticity and funding but eventually opted to remain underground because of the freedom given to respect metal’s traditions as independent, rather than integrated, with the western world’s containers for those philosophical and political entities. Additionally, the liberal policies of the Center regarding drug use caused ostracism and exile from the benevolent gaze of the herd.
The work of the Hessian Studies Center consists primarily of materials acquisition and content authorship, as well as think tank work in the continued architecture of Hessian history. Its members have authored numerous documents for this and related political efforts and continue their efforts to this day, striving for an independent Hessian state and the corresponding benefits of legal power (decriminalized recreational substances, an end to loudness ordinances, legalized crime).
The following is a reproduction of the original Hessian Studies flyer that kicked off the chaos back in 1994:
What is Hessian Studies?
Hessian Studies is the academic study of Hessians, Bangers, Metallians, Metalheads, death rockers, and other adherents to the genres of metal and grindcore. The Hessian Studies Department believes that any truly diverse multicultural population will contain representatives of this world-wide underground culture, with its rich and spanning historical and social contributions.
What are the aims of the Hessian Studies Department?
The Hessian Studies Department seeks to establish a presence of Hessians on campus and in campus events, as well as to create a comfortable environment at The College that suits the specific needs of Hessians at a small liberal-arts college. To this end, we have presented a List of Demands to the Administration:
That there be Hessians hired to faculty and staff positions, and that all hair length rules and any form of drug policy regarding Hessians hired be abrogated, as Hessians have a religious need for some currently-regulated substances.
That there be a Hessian Studies Center, complete with both audio and textual libraries and lounge area, for the study and advancement of Hessians.
That the community radio station play more music favorable to the tastes of Hessians during prime-time shows.
That the inscription at the gate of the college be changed to either “Fuckin’ Groovin'” or “You Suffer (But Why?)”.
That discrimination against Hessians as a group of drug-addicted, drunken, long-haired incompetent losers destined for parole at best be eradicated from campus literature and mindset.
That there be Hessian cultural events on campus, including concerts by noted Hessian bands and festivals related to various organic products enjoyed by Hessians.
That the Hessian Studies Center be funded to provide late-night pizza and beer snack breaks.
That Hessians be given equal time to speak at multicultural events, and the right to develop their own curriculum of Hessian Studies Courses.
Hessian Studies Center
Hessian studies is academic analysis of the international subculture of alienated heavy metal listeners and followers of intense music and noise of destruction. Our vision includes tolerance for all people and the right to individual autonomous direction and an end to compulsion and normative behavior.
Since its inception in 1994, the Hessian Studies Center has supported the international metal subculture through collection, analysis, and dissemination of the music and philosophy of thrashers, metallions, headbangers, metalheads, Hessians, longhairs, cruisers, piledrivers and others who comprise a virtual ethnicity of people inspired by the power of heavy metal, speed metal, black metal and death metal music worldwide. We achieve our ends through peaceful and herbological methods.
In addition to supporting the pantheon of academic and cultural programs above, the Hessian Studies Center aids with time and equipment as well as money the Dark Legions Archive, a repository of analysis concerning the music of the worldwide metal community. Headbangers, metallions, metalheads, longhairs, stoners, and other social rejects apply through means of this email link.
The United Hessian Front
The United Hessian Front exists as an extension of the Hessian Studies Center that seeks to find adherents to the subculture of heavy metal music and philosophy internationally and unify their voices in a forum for communication about future generations of metalion thought. Our goals are to acquire and disseminate information about the Hessian subculture in this process while reinforcing its objectives through our actions and treatment of others.
In order for Hessian culture to accelerate its own growth toward the future it must be aware of its past as well as the likely environment into which it will develop. As the world spirals closer to oblivion, entropy, and genocidal apocalypse, the vast suicide cult that is modern society seeks further methods of denying darkness, chaos, and destruction. Hessians exist so that this may not be so.
The objectives of the UHF are as follows:
Establishment of an Independent Hessian State.
To ensure freedom for Hessian development and minimal intrusion from normals, sober people, and authority figures the creation of an independent and autonomous Hessian zone under self-rule is a primary objective of the UHF.
Religious Freedom and Controlled Substances
The complex sociomystical structures behind the art, aesthetic and mindset of a modern Hessian lifestyle requires the stabilizing influence of chaos-generating psychoactive substances in order to remain efficient and content.
Equal Air Time for Nonconventional Music
Current media tendencies exclude all but the most soothingly inane and simplistically melodic, leaving a void of contemporary music for the intellectual connoisseur or musician, generally attenuating the intellectual readiness of the population; for this reason alone we request more air time for metal and other non-mainstream forms of music.
Injunction Against the Christian Right
Given the evidentiary state within science that concludes that so far agents of discreet brainwashing have not been found to be able to influence humans to extreme behaviors such as suicide, assault, or murder through the simple method of stereophonic amplification, it’s time to call off the Christian right from attacking metal and rap as “promoting violence and depravity.”
Flier for Public Distribution and Chaos
Our reprehensibly straightforward and dissonant fliers bring all of the alienation and some of the isolation home to those you can dupe into reading them, as well as providing hours of family topics for discussion. Spread this bad news everywhere to deconstruct society the networked way!
Our vision is of a world where Hessians can be recognized as a virtual nation of headbangers, metalheads, and thrashers and will eventually be treated with respect to their specific needs and inclinations. Through mutual tolerance we can live together or we will surely die together.
Hessians come from the tradition of subculture, or resistant counter-culture embedded within a much larger cultural container. They have been spotted in almost every country in the world where electricity and a relative amount of personal music technology have been distributed. Most cultures have learned to recognize them and write them off — at their essential nature, they are a pacifistic culture of alienated and/or intellectualized rockers looking for truth in extremity.
Society encompasses their culture, but they treat it with dissonant indifference, realizing that its actions are beyond their control and are mostly ignorant attempts at control or manipulative, fearful and destructive compulsions to duty. The desperate impulse that is afraid of silence (as in silence one must think within) drives normal social activities to be centered around events and to aim at providing comfort. Hessians reject these ideals and instead favor indirection, mayhem, destruction and other chaotic acts in their free (not enslaved by school/job) time. Often they can be found gathered around a bong for interpersonal time, or gathered in small groups to become intoxicated and raise some hell. The heavy party culture that underlies all rock carries its extremities also in the extreme rock arena, where brutal concert violence and fastidious drug abuse are signs of successful interaction.
Beneath this fury of strange behavior a philosophical foundation supports but does not attempt to justify these acts. The naturalistic philosophy of the Hessians prioritizes justice and ideal at the same time it encourages chaotic fantasy; its essential communication is to live well through freedom from the clutches of neurotic thought, and to spend time in whatever liberating activities can be fashioned from the elements available. The nature of this in the trapped, suffocating world of commercial society (narcotic of the one true herd) is a relative overemphasis on intoxication and freedom from plans, morals, karma, memory, or the will of other people; the consequence is often an overindulgence in rebellion without a clear direction for self-preservation. However, Hessian philosophy as revealed by the metaphors within the music reveal a fascination with information, with fantasy, with power, with destruction, and an obsession with honesty and spiritual power to speak the apocalyptic truth.
Drugs and Mysticism
Hessians tend to believe in both the psychological/mystical power of drugs as well as the spiritual power of their music, although this belief is not shared by all. Often Hessians can be found gathered around a stereo consuming large quantities of marijuana, hashish, or other less-refined forms of drug. By liberating the mind in intoxication the Hessians believe they achieve a stable plane of nihilistic consciousness, where they are closer to the dark gods of winter and more able to comprehend the profundity of death. In this morbid ritual metalheads develop a comprehension of reality that supersedes all other methods of processing life and frees them from the drug of mainstream life, fear and consumption. In this more spiritual state they feel they can comprehend the complex messages transmitted through rhythm and metaphor in the music. Other parts of this ritual involve simple spreading of chaos in the fertile order of society, a mystical act of supreme rebellion and refreshing spiritual heresy.
Conventional social ideals would cast aside the non-ideal, the non-quantifiable and stay with the symmetrical and symbolic, fearing the ambiguous world of obscurity and metaphor. Double meanings, they say, balking in horror like the sheep they are. But what does the Hessian say?
The Hessian rejects insecurity and underconfidence and plunges ahead no matter how insane the project in conventional ideals. By denying the doubt of the people around them and aiming for loftier ideals than the simple “feed thyself” command of society’s trough, Hessians have created some of the most extreme and beautiful music ever to hit planet earth.
Their rejection of neurosis and mocking anti-idolization of society’s scapegoats make them a terror to the unstable and fragile balance of deception that allows our modern society to function.
“Turn off that fucking noise!” — every Hessian that has ever lived has heard it. Many people every day seem not to think about how unoriginal their comments are and tear into the usual insult of how Hessian music is “noise” and not music because it does not fit conventional classifications. The wily Hessian only laughs, and mocks back with even ruder noise — for the Hessian knows that human boundaries are only impositions of human understanding, and not inherent to the outside world — a place known for its nihilism and aggressive destruction as well as its nurturing instinct.
Through their addiction to noise Hessians have discovered a method of chaotic, spiritual, dark and naturalistic living that rejects the distinction between music and noise as it rejects government, religion, control and commodity as frivolous arbitrary containers of human invention for the purposes of competitive success. Who knows why humans think that way? But the Hessian only blasts louder, breaking down distinctions as his music breaks down assumptions and suggests a darker vision for art than the kitsch and design of mainstream consumer tastes.
The anarchistic views of Hessians rest in their fundamental choice to have will, rather than reaction, as their response to life. To be informed and to be of mental presence to make decisions, they say, is a fundamental part of the valuable capacity of being alive. Society is here to make room for the individual to create and to be, they say, not to glorify the process of society and to make it more demanding, more greedily afraid of its own destruction.
Through the needs of our industrial machinery we have enslaved ourselves to bureaucracy and the weakness of human need in the power-deprived state of an anonymous modern individual. We have seen, they say, the order of our grandparents and parents grow stronger every day to enforce its arcane social restrictions yet it cannot stop the problems it bemoans, but only makes them stronger as symbols against its rule. We have seen how soon all was suspect, and anything outside the norm became fearful — we have seen also how easily the scared will run to this strong will of order, begging for their dose of power from the dominatrix, doubt.
A civilization that worships fear is nothing to us, they say, as we like the ancients choose a broader, faster, freer life. We choose our will and our dreams over fear.
Naturally this runs against the order of society: sit down and be sensible, provide for yourself or you might become lost (sheep without pension must retire in poverty, and sheep without property may be beaten by the sheepdogs of the herd). For this reason to most in society Hessiandom is an Icaran falling into the abyss of fire, consumption by internal angst (although most of the inner tension is caused by the external internalized), but to Hessians it is the freedom in the one honest voice they hear, which affirms the nihilism of survival, the degraded state of the human race, the victory of destruction over life, and the uselessness of civilization as conditions of existence.
More than the violence of punk rock or the dissidence of political music, this scares the public because of its ambiguous but menacing message of deconstruction. But ineffective control has led to anarchy anyway, an anarchy of a different sort: the equal response to suppression is rebellious destruction; the power of denial cannot file this off the walls of our memory. And so metal is denied, as it has not yet been broken down into enough of a mainstream consciousness to be accepted as anything other than aesthetic.
In the shadow of this denial Hessians have had to find a new way of understanding their existence, when it is not often acknowledged and never given any credit for being as intelligent and architected as it is. This enforced internalization has reached its peak in the romantic but morbid subgenre of Black Metal, which encourages a fascistic love of self and misanthropic hatred toward the world. Alas, Hessians in this world are tainted by its virus, and this over-extension is sometimes as much reaction as independent direction. However their metaphor speaks its truth plainly, and rebellious deconstructs any rules or beliefs that it can lay a hand upon.
But were there only silence, the spirit of the Hessian would continue, in the same proclamation that life makes oblivious of its communication, a nihilistic acceptance and aspiration toward the light as if to become the world rather than consume it. This translates, through the voices of memory and individual personality, to a universal level of thought that refines to a simple message and harmonizes in the medium of chaos. In this arena, the medium delivers the message: with no order, it is free, and it has proclaimed itself so with the organic complexity of chaotic recombinance.
The dark nihilistic rage of the winter gods of thunder presents the looming possibility of spring, of death beyond life and life beyond the living death of modern society. In the combination of musics at modernistic minimalism and romantic construction, metal brings forth a future that may offer more answers and less emptiness than our current adaptation of our collective existence.
I would assume that living in Salt Lake City, Utah would drive one mad. I’ve spent some time there last year, but I wouldn’t be able to maintain my sanity living around Mormons. Salt Lake City also has restrictions on alcohol content, with most beers having 3.2%. One way around such an obstacle is to sneak onto Hill Air Force Base (granted, if you have a military ID) and utilize one of their shoppettes to obtain normal booze. In my scenario of having a moody woman dictating my time while there, much booze was consumed. At least the mountains in the area are beautiful and I had the opportunity to go hiking away from the dreadful Mormons.
During my stay there I was acquainted with Dyingnysus from the bands Iconoclast Contra, Gravecode Nebula, Odium Totus, Krieg and others. I was invited to go to the recording session for the Odium Totus EP Nullam Congue Nihil, but I was unable to attend (conflict: moody woman mentioned in the previous paragraph). However, Mr. Dyingnysus sent me the cd after it was finished and the final product is quite good. It’s a nice strain of meditative black metal with a rather militant concept behind it.
After hearing this release I figured that it’d be suiting to pick Dyingnysus’ brain about his exploits.
Howdy Dyingnysus. Thank you for your time. First I’d like to inquire about the city that you reside in. How horrible is it to live in Salt Lake City being that it’s the Mormon capital? Is Black Metal well accepted there? What about the lackluster alcohol content in beer? Do you disappear to the mountains or salt flats when the Mormons drain you of your sanity? Or do you wage war with them?
Howdy to you as well and thank you for your time and efforts with the interview. Well, to start off obviously living in a place like Salt Lake City presents certain challenges that can seem difficult to handle. I know some folks who cannot whatsoever and have fled and never looked back. I’ve grown up in Southern California personally, so I know what else is out there of course, and of course I have come to realize in my travels just how really different Salt Lake is from other cities in the country. Honestly the reason why I stay here, well besides the obvious; family/friends, work and the bands etc, but there is some other reasons, cost of living is reasonable, I don’t have to worry about traffic, crime or other things I consider in other bigger cities to be quite substandard; the absence of ghetto’s/projects here is a big plus. I mean we have shitty neighborhoods but nothing like what you see in other cities. The liquor laws are a bit strange here, I’ll explain. The beer alcohol content is 3.2% by volume per can (which Utah is not the only one with 3.2% beer, there are 18 what they call “controlled liquor states” out there). So, in other states they measure by weight and if you were to measure Utah beer by weight it is actually 4.3% per can. Our local micro brews here are quite good too. All in all the beer is not as drastically weak as people are lead to believe. I mean you can get drunk drinking it. Another quirky thing is that if you want to get hard liquor or an out of state style beer, you have to visit a Utah State Liquor store and the prices are marked up quite a bit, especially on brands like Jack Daniels etc. Plus they close early, around 10pm and are closed Sunday, although you can visit a bar to get a strong drink on Sunday, last call is 1 am.
I don’t have too many dealings with Mormons or LDS people as you would think really, a lot of them live out in the suburbs and I live in the city, which only the wealthy Mormons live around the Salt Lake City proper really. I mean yes, they are all over the place though, and you’ll see them that is for sure. They are some of the most diluted happy go lucky idiots I have ever had witness to. I mainly just steer clear and don’t care to engage them often, or at least seek to. It is strange living in a religious capital at times, but that being said, I think if anything it benefits the music as we really have something to rally against. You are right in some of your assumptions that it can make you fairly agitated and pissed off to deal with the LDS influence and church here and some of the other quirks. I do not seek direct aggravated confrontation with Mormons typically like I said but I do try to make them uncomfortable in public, like in social situations hahah, that’s really about it. Black Metal is not a huge part of the music scene here really too much, and there have been bands come and go over the years. Still there is a small, albeit dedicated scene.
Congratulations on your Odium Totus EP Nullam Congue Nihil. I was rather enthralled by it when I first heard it during my commute to work. How did the concept of this project start? What are your goals?
Thank you, it is much appreciated! I’m pleased you were able to get a good connection with the music even whilst doing an activity we all do mostly every day, the morning commute! Odium Totus pretty much came into existence after a few rehearsals with the drummer Rick and me in May of 2011. At that point I believe we were at an impasse with other bands we were playing in, so the idea to just start something new seemed intriguing and I had some material that was sort of in the back of my mind and I also wanted to play in a band that owed more stylistically to the traditional black metal I grew up with, but also mixing in some of my more untypical influences, which basically includes a lot of classic, psychedelic, progressive and death rock stuff. I was also interested to start singing in a band as well, because I had a ton of lyrics written that I never got to use for anything and that sort of kicked the whole thing off more or less. Soon after these initial rehearsals we had gotten a few songs written. At this point my wife Kate joined on rhythm guitar and our bassist Micah as well. Overall goals are to keep playing live shows, and in fact taking our music to the people and to be a tight live band is a actually a very big goal as well as develop some more visual aspects to the show and to keep challenging ourselves to come up with darker more spacey tripped out music. Other goals include more shows; especially in other cities, more new music and records etc. We’ll see where the road takes us basically!
I noticed that the riffs on the EP are somewhat primitive, but have a meditative quality to them. How did you approach the song compositions?
I like that you take notice of that particular approach, in so much as keeping things simple in a sense. It is usually the best way for me to compose riffs on the guitar keeping that principle in mind. I think when you are more concerned with virtuosity as opposed to the moods and feelings that you are trying to convey with your music, the more the music loses that sort of atmosphere. So with that in mind, a lot of our riffs seem pretty straightforward in some respects yes. I mean, typically I just pick up a guitar and start strumming chords, sometimes I have an idea I am trying to get out of my head, but sometimes not, and whatever seems to work; if something particularly catches my ear I’ll file away for use in a song we are starting or working on etc. If it doesn’t seem ready though but has some quality I still think is worth pursuing, then I’ll work on it some more. Typically I will have at least 2-3 riffs prepared, before I work with our drummer. Although in some cases I have brought in fully written songs. Now at this point, usually it’s just me and the drummer at first to write the core of the song and then we bring in the rhythm section and flesh it out more. Some of the riffs come from that process as well, improvised or on the spot.
As of the genesis of this band, I have written a good deal of the guitar riffs, although our drummer is starting to come up with more in the newer material, which is always welcome. I am a very willing collaborator with the other people I play music with. I do not always want to be the one writing etc. I think the meditative quality you speak of comes from some of the stranger chords I am using these days, certain jazz chords as well as ideas in chords that were used by some bands in the 60’s and 70’s. You notice that in those decades, bands like Pink Floyd, King Crimson or Hawkwind for example had to figure out a way to build a big space with their music with the limited boundaries of the equipment they were using. Now you can have a lot of that with a push of a button, but we try to approach it the way those bands did. It seems you just do that by layering the instruments in such a way that it comes across strong and full of dense atmosphere. Of course a lot of echo/delay helps too don’t get me wrong!
I sense a rather nihilistic underpinning in Odium Totus. What are your thoughts on Nihilism? Do you think metal is the best weapon to encompass nihilistic themes?
Oh for certain, there is a common theme along anything I do creatively and Nihilism is always at the heart of it. It’s hard to characterize my thoughts on Nihilism in a sense, since when you think of it as a concept, it’s hard to wrap your head around really overall as it is quite multi-faceted. Does Nihilism mean for some people that, anything goes? For certain it does, and does it also mean that you do not believe in one simple tangible thing? Possibly!
I think one of the facets of Nihilism I value the most is that is pretty open ended and doesn’t need answers unto itself to be defined. I was talking with someone about how it is pretty hard to offend me deeply and truly, I mean other than my own petty selfish things that I get offended about, but I mean on a much larger scale with I guess just existence in general and the bullshit we have to deal with day to day. I don’t get too offended by the actions of a great number of people, past and present. Sure, I can certainly laugh or be disgusted with the absurdity and effrontery of such things, but usually I just shake my head though. It’s like the only way to keep my sanity, because if I started to care too deeply or to take it all at face value like many do, I’d go absolutely fucking nuts! That also helps in regards to people around me; I don’t care too deeply for what other people think of my outlooks and such, just as I don’t really care too much for theirs a lot of the time.
Philosophically, Nihilism is rooted in skepticism overall. For some, it means a total break from what is real or not real for that matter. Truth is not an absolute. So that part of it appeals to me too. When considering a Nihilistic view point in society, meaning all structures, organizations, whether they are religious or socio-political in nature are meaningless, or at least are rejected outright, that is kind of like a comfort in a way too ya know? It’s basically saying fuck everything, and everyone! No one has gotten it right. Also you can come at Nihilism from a destructive angle as well, like senseless destruction is considered to be nihilistic in nature right? At least we are kind instructed to think that way. Overall, it’s stark, strong and its cold, it’s really almost too realistic, without caring about reality. It’s really the only salvation for humanity, and thus, not a salvation in itself at all. Why care? Why concern ourselves with Utopian discourse? There is no point. I certainly do think that any sort of thoughtful music can convey Nihilistic messages and musings, philosophically or hatefully in the manner. Whether it be metal/rock, blues/jazz, classical, noise/electronic music, (I omit popular, hip hop and modern country music as I think it is counter-productive to include them as musical art forms).
You’ve done session work with Krieg. How would you define the American Black Metal scene? Which are your favorite bands?
I have done several live performances with Neill and Krieg now yes, even a short tour down the west coast (which Odium Totus did some dates as well) but no recordings yet, we are working on that, eventually we will do a EP. Hmmm, hard to define the scene overall, as some days I don’t even care to be associated with it. I don’t look at “American Black Metal” as phenomena stylistically unto itself as you could with say Norwegian or Finnish Black Metal for example etc. Still, it doesn’t matter on a level to me, when some people are interested in saying “the scene.” Really, truthfully, like everything in America, it is but a melting pot, a hodge-podge of several different musical styles, death, thrash, doom, heavy metal. It all came from Europe first, the basic heavy metal right? That much is true! That is what I find pretty ironic is that the Europeans, the British especially, took all this great music that was originated in American heritage and folk tradition, and just fed it back to us a little heavier and with fuzz pedals! It all comes from old Country, Jazz, and the Blues right? The rock and roll, and metal music, the blues especially was the catalyst for all of that music. The first doom metal is the blues jack, and that is the truth. Anyhow, bands I like from America (and none of these are blues and/or neo-psychedelic bands) are (the) Krieg, Ritual Combat, Nightbringer, Evoken, Grave Ritual, Velnias, Icon Of Phobos, Kommandant and many others. I can’t keep going on naming bands, because someone gets offended if I miss them. I’m sure I’ll lose friends all the time, so sad really (yes, being sarcastic)
Your other band Iconoclast Contra is reminiscent of War Metal more than Black Metal. Which genre is it? How would you place in juxtaposition the themes displayed to your personal beliefs? Do you believe humanity is worthy of extinguishing through war? If so, why?
As of now, I have resigned with Iconoclast Contra. We can get into all the reasons why, but it is nothing sensational, I just lost interest in participating, and truth be told it really wasn’t active enough to keep me interested anymore. Musically you are right; it is the war metal sound, with elements of thrash/death stuff. While a lot of that music is great and I dig a lot of bands of that style no doubt, it’s just not what I am into playing anymore. I just think I am more partial to playing my best when I do stuff like Odium Totus or the other band I am in, Gravecode Nebula, which is like the music that I think identifies me personally much better. The whole concept and ideas with Iconoclast Contra, for my part certainly, was a sort of heretical diatribe against humanity, and cleansing humanity with destruction, total and utter destruction, which goes back to a lot of the nihilistic beliefs and outlooks I possess.
As for humanity being extinguished completely? I think a catastrophic event is necessary and around the corner probably! War is probably what will happen, but be it war, or more of a natural phenomenon as long as it has the chance kick human beings back into their place or to eradicate them completely I’m fine with it if that is how it goes down, nothing can prevent the end of something if it is set in motion to happen. I will say that it would certainly make us more respectable beings if we survived a great catastrophe I would think, can’t be certain on that either though. Time will tell.
You previously played with Ibex Throne and released two albums. Why did the project stop? Was there a line-up issue, or did you conceptualize something new that you wanted to unleash? The original vocalist of Ibex Throne killed himself. Did this change your outlook on the band?
Ibex Throne was my first main band that really consumed a large part of my life (little shy of 10 years) we released two demos, and two albums. It was like my boot camp and where I cut my teeth ya know? The group towards the end was musically and ideologically/philosophically all pointing to different directions, and to me, it was time to move on especially. I didn’t have anything more to offer those guys, and vice versa. It wasn’t personal issues that came into it too much; I mean not that I can say. I think we all were just tired of that band. It was good while it lasted, and there were some memorable times for certain. I don’t care to comment too much on details of the member who committed suicide. It’s very old news for me now, and I’ve moved on. I will just say that it didn’t affect the band with our music or lyrics at any point, we never used it is a selling point and/or gimmick, and it is not in any way a reason as to why we are not together now; he killed himself very early on in the beginning of the group when we are all very young.
What’s ahead for your projects in the near future? Will Odium Totus come out with a full-length album?
Gravecode Nebula has an album coming out on Baneful Genesis Records this year called “Sempiternal Void.” We also are playing the Denver Doom Fest III in Colorado with tons of killer bands, and I think after that, it will either cease to exist or continue to create, I can’t say as of now. Odium Totus has time booked in May to record for a 7” EP called Let It All End. We hope to have released this summer, which will feature two new songs. Right now we are currently working on a full length record as well, we have about 3-4 songs in the works, and 3-4 on the way after that and we are currently on hiatus from live shows so we can focus on songwriting and rehearsals for the next few months, then it is back to the stage this summer, looking to get some shows setup right now, you can always keep an eye on our exploits via our Facebook pages:
Thank you for answering our questions. Anything else that you’d like to share?
Hey no problem, thanks for taking the time to prepare an interview for us, we appreciate the support and the chance to spread some awareness about Odium Totus, Gravecode Nebula and The Flying Burrito Brothers etc. Keep an eye out for more new records, and more shows from Odium Totus, we will be coming to play near you, in the near future! You can fucking god damn well be assured of that!! Diehard and kill!
As reported by The Telegraph and other news sources of quality, “intelligent teenagers often listen to heavy metal music to cope with the pressures associated with being talented,” according to new research.
The original research from the University of Warwick surveyed 1,067 students for their attitudes about family, school, leisure time and media. They found that students who ranked metal above other genres tended to have “lower self-esteem and ideas about themselves.”
Following up on that, the researchers interviewed gifted students to find their attitudes about heavy metal. These gifted students identified heavy metal as a source of catharsis and the release of pressures associated with school. More than a third of the top 5% of students in the UK rated heavy metal as their favorite type of music.
The study suggests that people listen to heavy metal because they are under pressure from what they perceive of daily life. As the researcher in charge of the study stated, “Perhaps the pressures associated with being gifted and talented can be temporarily forgotten with the aid of music. As one student suggests, perhaps gifted people may experience more pressure than their peers and they use the music to purge this negativity.”
This contradicts the notion that heavy metal causes the anxiety, depression, low self-esteem, and other behaviors with which it is associated. Furthermore, it implies these behaviors may be the result of higher intelligence people attempting to integrate with our modern world and its declining social standards. Most likely, the research suggests, these are not problems but rational responses to the world around, and are the product of not a lower mindset but a higher one.
As another article pointed out, heavy metal is “a favoured music of 11-19 year olds with lower self-esteem than their peers” but that the “youngsters said they could connect with metal’s ‘politics’.” In other words, this is in response to the world itself and not the internal makeup of these people.
It could just be that if you notice enough of reality, heavy metal is the only music and corresponding sociocultural identity which can make sense out of what a smarter child can perceive.
With the arrival of A Blaze in the Northern Sky, Darkthrone presented a new musical evil with the help of a new visual evil. The first four of Darkthrone’s black metal albums depicted a sole band member in a state of aggression, triumph and/or despair, in black-and-white photos stripped of all decoration, reflecting the intentionally unaesthetic music of the band.
This minimalist approach culminated both visually and musically with Transilvanian Hunger, showing a photocopied, grainy picture of Fenriz dehumanized beyond recognition, holding a candelabrum and presumably screaming his lungs out in the night. Some of its appeal lies in its ambiguity; feelings of futility, anger and power are intermixed, widening its significance.
Although Darkthrone’s visual idea was immediately inspired by Mayhem’s Live in Leipzig, its monochromatic, Xeroxed quality also has an eerie resemblance to Black Sabbath’s Vol. 4 from twenty years earlier and its anguished enigmatic quality to Edvard Munch’s The Scream even further back in history. The parallel is not entirely farfetched: it echoes the troubled mind of Fenriz himself, who reportedly loves art that comes from “the exhaustion of easy life”. To black metal fans the Transilvanian Hunger cover is presumably the one archetypical image of what “necro” signifies, much like The Scream is still very much considered the face of existential anguish.
The “necro” imagery, however, may have been unintentional: In Precious Metal: Decibel Presents the Stories Behind 25 Extreme Metal Masterpieces, Fenriz asserts that mere photocopies from the TH photo session were the only thing he could find at the time to send to Peaceville Records, implying that the same picture could have been reproduced in a more polished fashion. But it doesn’t seem entirely unlikely that the use of a photocopy was inspired by Peaceville’s 1992 compilation album, Peaceville Volume 4, spoofing both cover art and title of the famous Black Sabbath album mentioned above and containing one of Darkthrone’s pre-TH songs, implying that the use was deliberate after all. (Rabid speculation is any fan’s right, right?)
In any case, the cover of Transilvanian Hunger effectively summarized its music by a single iconic image and was later emulated by hordes of lesser bands and is to this day worn on t-shirts by serious music lovers and the occasional hipster alike.
If you can imagine a hybrid between older Grave and Centurian, you have the essence of the new Sinister, which like side project Houwitser specializes in fast, simple riff-fests that evoke ancient feelings of ornamented function like the spires of historical castles.
Like fellow high-speed metal legion Angelcorpse, the songs on this album rush forward with unrelenting speed and battery but slow down for moments of melody or artfully-suggested pauses, like a knight resting on the crest of a valley before battle. Many of these riffs will be familiar patterns, not just from death metal but types of melodies famous in other ages.
To keep that from being overwhelming, The Carnage Ending features many of the fast and aggressive chromatic riffs that build tension and heighten energy in the way they did on the first three albums. While this album is not as carefully put together as Cross the Styx, and has more redundancy among riff types, it maintains its memorable moments in a sea of high-energy blasting.
The Carnage Ending erupts from a pure old school death metal background and does a more than credible job of rendering itself. Some of the chaotic material on here seems offhand, but the songs have been trimmed back so that they are expressive and not disorganized. The result is hard-hitting, raging death metal from more than one former age.
Tolkien ambient black metal project Summoning have unleashed their latest recording, Old Morning’s Dawn, via Napalm Records. The pre-order links are now active and the final product will be released June 27, 2013.
Napalm Records promises that “Despite the long break, the congenial duo Silenius and Protector did not stray an inch from their patch. Their distinctive melodies are the heart of all the songs on the latest longplayer, and bring the listeners directly into the fantastic world of Middle-Earth.”
Old Morning’s Dawn follows up on 2006’s Oath Bound, which united the epic spirit of power metal with the gentle melodic atmosphere and inner savagery of black metal, making the ideal soundtrack for medieval battle or spiritual occult warfare against the modern world.