Needing very little introduction, Gene Palubicki stands upon a great legacy of black/death metal supremacy. Founder of the almighty Angelcorpse, Gene has since been responsible for a constant track record of total savagery with his current band Perdition Temple and past and present projects Blasphemic Cruelty and Apocalypse Command. The binding force in Gene’s body of work is utterly uncompromising consistency and mastery of a razor sharp sound. Having just wrapped up a massive tour opening for Cannibal Corpse, Gene is atop the world of extreme metal as a legend in his own right.
On October 30th, Covenant Magazine had the pleasure of sitting down with Palubicki after Perdition Temple opened for Cannibal Corpse at the Vogue Theatre in Vancouver. He spoke about his past and present dedication to death metal, plans for future domination, as well as his growing film career.
Modern death metal has gone through yet another resurgence of heightened invigoration in the last few years, with a particular concentration of perpetuating and reimagining ‘old school’ elements, and to magnificent effect. When death metal fans look back on these years, the likes of Necrot, Superstition, and Blood Incantation will likely ring true, but as this tempest of content rages, there are those bands who dirge in the abyssal regions of taste and experimentation, and who shunt away the spotlight in pursuit of the depths that creation can reach.
One year following the release of their debut full length, Permanent Destitution, Seattle sound violators, Hissing remain one of the most subversive and flat out difficult acts in modern death metal. Emulating the anxiety – inducing nature of a Pollock painting, smearing and splattering with raw waste in place of paint, it isn’t all that surprising that the band haven’t been as concentrated on by the masses as their label and genre counterparts have been.
And that is entirely the point.
To be honest, the music was consciously written to be as unpleasant as possible. – Z, Hissing bassist/vocalist
“It’s actively antisocial. Our guiding impulse was climax denial, I suppose. If something ever felt too satisfying or resolved too well, we would go back and “fuck it up”. We would add or remove measures or beats to make things more frustrating, but if it felt too “prog”, we would add something stupid and sloppy after to deny it a “technical” label. We wrote parts that were immensely difficult to play and we had parts that were frustratingly dumb and repetitive.”
Upon first listening to Hissing, Permanent Destitution in particular, the listener is placed in a position of abject discomfort. Nothing feels right. Constant shifts in tempo and chord progressions pull at them from every direction like a wanting crowd, while all the while they struggle to maintain their footing on a ground coated in filthy production. But given Z’s comments, the murk becomes a concentrated ray of intention and inverse vision. Much like the Dada movement of the early 20th century, in which creatives strove to avoid the shackles of sense and structure as a mode of defiance and exercising pent up rage, Hissing have built on a foundation of punishment and cruel deprivation.
“In post-production we added in additional harsh sounds at particular frequencies if a part felt too groovy after we tracked it… I don’t even know why we did some of the things we did, they just felt right.” Z adds further. “The entire project was driven by disdain and malice towards our listeners. Extreme metal is and should always be an inherently abrasive medium.”
Running parallel with their approach to sound, Hissing’s visual and lyrical representation is a conscious step away from what is commonly associated with extreme metal. The name, Permanent Destitution, alone speaks volumes to this fact. Rather than painted visuals of horror phantasm or the systematic narration of a body’s colorful violation, Z and his bandmates aim to conjure an aura of panic and trauma via alternate arteries of inspiration.
“The word “destitution” can mean a lot of things, and it isn’t meant to mean one thing here. The album deals with various manifestations of insanity, abjection, failure, things that I think are not only integral to life but are perhaps it’s only actively defining characteristics. Starting with the macrocosm of the failure of history and narrowing scope to the microcosm of the slow disintegration of the human mind subjected to the trauma of existence. A reversed Maslow hierarchy, perhaps. Humans fail to remember history and repeat the same wars and genocides. Humans love to distract themselves with garbage pop media spoonfed to them. Humans create great mountains of garbage. Humans act on their base desires without understanding why. Humans abuse the power they’re given without consequence. And in the end, human minds degrade and lose touch with reality and it was all for nothing. The more you understand the way human civilization has organized itself the more you find just how cold and ugly it is from top to bottom and the inevitable conclusion becomes that we are, in fact, in Hell.”
In his phrasing alone, Z reflects the spirit of Hissing: one of vitriol and loathing for the human being and/or being human. It is a conflict only as old as its sole combatants, and especially in times such as ours, Hissing’s well of inspiration seems limitless.
“The miasma of the human hive in the city we live in. Rather than active human malice and cruelty, I think we’re more interested in the dull violence of tedium, the slow corrosive way that modern life saps your passion and vitality day by day and we let it happen.” Z states, immediately bringing to mind the nature of our current, social media, mass marketed, politically correct and thought policed society.
“If death metal is about horror, in my mind there’s nothing more horrifying than simply being alive. Beckett, Bernhard, and Céline are some reference points for styles of expression. One of the songs on the record was deeply inspired by my brief obsession with Andrea Dworkin’s “Intercourse” – a truly bleak take on human desire. Sometimes I take lyrical fragments from lucid dreams and misheard sentence fragments. The subconscious is powerful and sometimes reveals the things we don’t dare think in our waking lives. I firmly believe that every human around me is silently screaming in buried psychic rage and our true selves come out when we find these moments of lost control. “Sanity” is a prison we have built around ourselves to maintain what we call civilization, where a few rich sociopaths profit off of misery and genocide. I don’t think we hold any naïve hope for a better world. Our music and lyrics are simply a natural reaction to the one we have been thrust into.”
So soon after the release of Permanent Destitution, Hissing stand on the verge of yet another release that, albeit of a smaller scale, represents a considerable turn (or return?) into the realm of industrial noise in Burning Door, which drops on November 22nd, on Utech Records.
“[Burning Door is] quite different, in that it was a much more consciously anti-musical project than before.” says Z when asked for some updates on the new EP. “We had ideas and reference points for what we would do, but it was assembled slowly using several months’ worth of improvisations and experiments in sound, as well as incorporating sound fragments leftover from the recording of Permanent Destitution. In my mind it’s more of a tangent than a continuation of the narrative of Permanent Destitution. I would urge uninitiated listeners to take it in as less a musical narrative as with our record, and more a psychedelic experience. I realize how pretentious this sounds, but the point is, it’s not a structured musical statement and if you go in expecting that you’re going to be angry at us and write pedantic, whining reviews on the internet.”
It’s sad that such a disclaimer is so necessary nowadays.
While Burning Door is a deliberate departure from the full length, the industrial realm is in fact rooted deep in Hissing’s origins.
“Two of us met at a Morbid Angel show through mutual friends and discussed wanting to start a project that ideally would have some longevity and potential to explore a variety of things that we were interested in. We initially were writing sort of pained, dirgey stuff with a drum machine in the style of Godflesh but found ourselves lacking the momentum we wanted so we added a drummer and suddenly everything became faster, more chaotic…[We] have been making noise music for years, although I only recently started actually playing it live and releasing it, partially because I used to live in a small town where no one cared and now live in a city where a few people care. Noise music (in the broadest sense) has influenced and been a part of every project I’ve been involved with, even my shitty high school grindcore bands. Rock music has always bored me, I’ve learned to enjoy “classic” rock and metal bands in recent years but for the longest time I disavowed anything I found too cathartic. No pain, no gain.”
Z went on to divulge his own feelings of appreciation for the less corporeal modes of sonic artistry:
“Improvised noise music can elicit some of the most pure, exhilarating audio stimulation if done right. There’s a kinship between noise acts like Incapacitants and jazz, where you’re creating something constantly unexpected, and your brain is being forced to try to make sense of something when it is being fed only disconnected scraps of rhythm, narrative, meaning. When you have three or four different layers of this musical anti-narrative happening at the same time, the result is overwhelming and powerful, like staring off a cliff into the ocean. There’s a project called Mastery from San Francisco that I think perfectly translates this dialogue between randomness and order into black metal form. Conversely, true industrial music emphasizes the machinic through endless repetition, pounding a single rhythm into your skull until it becomes all-consuming. Instead of the otherworldly, it creates anxiety, the existential misery of reality. Swans’ “Greed” – particularly the song Bastard (Time is Money) – has been a longtime influence and example of this.
“Hissing exists somewhere in a liminal space between these two ideas, the sublime chaos of improvisation and the ugliness and misery of repetition, vacillating in and out as needed.”
Going off of the topic of Hissing’s sense of belonging, when asked where he thought of the band’s existence within the current metal scene, even over email, Z’s shrug and sigh was almost tangibly evident.
“People don’t seem to know what to do with us. Either they get it or they don’t. Some seem to think we’re “hipsters” intruding on the war metal scene or whatever. I’ve heard that we’re too “artsy”. I don’t know what to make of all this, and the older I get the less I care. There is a small contingent of similarly unorthodox black/death bands like Suffering Hour and Succumb in the States that I’ve been discovering over the years and making friends with because I imagine they get the same stupid treatment. But honestly, the bottom line is: we’re not here to recycle Obituary riffs for you and sell beer. If you don’t like it, then fuck off.”
With the American death metal renaissance in full swing, it seems that at every moment a new band that one cannot afford to miss arises immediately to the forefront of the scene. With intuitively anthemic songs, exciting merchandise options, and legion of adoring fans, these bands seem to wield a growing notoriety that you would expect of old veterans.
With more interest in the genre, and specifically subgenre, than in many years, it often looks from the outside that a measure of success in this field is nearly a predetermined act of cause and effect simply through starting a grimy, slimy, crawling, drooling death metal band within the USA in this interstice.
One band uncomfortable with resting on their laurels is Denver’s Of Feather And Bone. The band has taken the professional and stoic stance of remaining suspicious of their own achievements. Born through years of musical gestation, independent touring, hard-grinding work ethic, and strong self-belief, the trio has gone from being a rising prospect to a legitimate contender. In what seems like short order, but after this simple conversation with frontman Alvino Salcedo, you will be convinced otherwise in no time at all.
We interviewed Salcedo in the weeks leading up to Of Feather And Bone’s first European tour as a death metal band, under the venerable Killtown Bookings banner, and alongside Ritual Necromancy, a favourite at the Covenant HQ, and Tomb Mold. Encapsulated within are the words of a band on a rapid upward trajectory.
At this point it should come as no surprise that Of Feather And Bone started off as a more hardcore/punk oriented band that would slowly morph into a death metal band over the years. This has left many people not knowing the band’s origin story or finer details. For a genre’s fans that are historically obsessed with detail and factoid, this is an extreme rarity indeed. With a blank slate situation before us, we prodded Salcedo to provide us with an explanation of this often controversial origin story.
The assumption that the band took up death metal overnight is patently false. Of Feather and Bone has been a band since 2012, and at that younger stage they presented a sound was very rooted in grind, crust, dbeat, punk and even death metal and black metal. Alvino claims, “We learned very early that it was hard for us to completely immerse ourselves in any scene. Hardcore hated every second of us. Again, we have always played blast beats and that always went over poorly.” However, the band continued touring, knowing that if they were to be respected it was going have to be in the live arena. Of Feather and Bone had to prove that they, “aren’t a flash in the pan or to be taken for granted,” with what they do best.
Having first cut their teeth in the Denver metal scene, audiences stood up and took notice of their talent, live shows, drive, and intense motivation. Their specific sound became irrelevant in a scene as diverse as Denver’s, with no two bands sounding the same. He adds, “that diversity and openness made it easier for us to ease the transition of the new material.”
Up until that point, he continues that the earliest material was written in a, “formative period of the band where we were still figuring out where this band would play its role in all of our lives. We were still getting used to writing with one another for a style we were trying to form. By the time all of the old stuff and even the first LP was readily available to a larger audience, we had written those songs so long ago. We sat on those recordings for over a year. Then it was finally released and we had to tour on them.”
Not writing was not an option. The gears started to change and an evolution was afoot. “We were already in the skeleton stages of writing the Pious Abnormality demo. We were tired of playing the style we had. We evolved, which honestly, if anyone can’t understand that evolution aspect as an artist, then it must be a charmed life being born with Altars of Madness in your hand as you came out of the womb,” Alvino admonishes. The man has a strong point. In this light, he argues, the band has never disrespected death metal in any way. Rather, as he continues, “we have had to scrape from the bottom of the abyss to be where we are. We put our own take on a genre that can very formulaic and obsessive with a classic sound. We just want to play the music we like to listen to.”
ACCUSATIONS & NON-APOLOGIES
It’s eternally important to give a platform to the accused. Let the individual argue his case and let the chips fall where they may. Witch hunts have run amok lately, and the importance of putting a stop to an unjust one cannot be overstated.
There has, of late, been a large sample size of bands that formerly played hardcore transitioning into playing death metal, with varying degrees of both sincerity and success, of course. People who are deeply bothered by this could be accused of gate-keeping, or having a “nimby” attitude. There’s something legitimate to wanting one’s food to come directly from the source, and not from a processing plant catching on to the latest trend.
With the hot seat light on him, Alvino answers without apology, “I guess a lot of people could throw us into there if they wanted to. I understand wanting to keep your music genre community elite.” Understandable indeed, but he continues, “when one or a few bands are insincere in their motives, I feel that can leave the impression that all bands doing the jump to the next trend are also just looking to get popular or whatever motive they may have. I think I leave it all to the substance of the band. The caliber of playing and the creativity of the songs and riffs and structures. These true aspects can’t be hidden.” No they cannot.
In fact, there is a weakness that prevents true sincerity from ever shining through. “A lack of absolute and true visceral passion and sacrifice to this [music] is not for the weak. When those who seek to exploit don’t receive immediate praise and ‘hype’, it’s off to the next trend”. Essentially, the argument is that the scene should organically weed itself out. That’s the theory at least, and it’s a powerful one at that.
After giving the man a chance to fight back against the accusers and state his case, we are more than satisfied. So it’s time to move on and let the music speak for itself. The band’s seminal death metal debut, Bestial Hymns Of Perversion, was met with a rabid out-pour of support and has become an immediate favourite in much of the underground. It finally let the band do, “what we have wanted to do for so long. We wanted to just write punishing and unrelenting songs with a touch of somber and sad tones”, he tells us. Mission accomplished, as the album is intense, utterly merciless, and completely unforgiving, yet it remains difficult to place one’s finger on exactly what makes it so interesting.
What ingredients exist in the formula that made this take on a classic sound as potent as it is? Alvino responds, “the record is raw because that’s how we approached it. Just a blast of everything we have held in. We got criticized for the album being too blast heavy. Not enough dynamics. Not enough absolute cave man shit. We succeeded at what we wanted. We want people to feel uncomfortable while they listen to it. We don’t want to give gratuitous groove to anyone. We want you to stand there and become exhausted.”
Right, right – and it shows! Where does this rageful inspiration come from during this process, we wonder. There has to be a specific source feeding this beast. It’s always interesting to understand a band’s melting pot of influences specifically, but more so how it interacts with the artistic process.
Alvino indulges and reveals that, “if I had to say anything or anyone in particular; we turn to Temple Nightside, Impetuous Ritual, Portal, Dead Congregation, and Morbid Angel to name a few.” Really there should be no surprise there, however, more than just emulation, “it involves referring to them as a whole and how they tend to write.” Are there specific songs you can cite that speak to you? He mentions, “when it comes to writing lyrics or trying to do different dynamics with my voice, I do refer to songs such as “Serpentskin” by Dead Congregation (editor’s note: nice job, Tim!), “The Cornucopian” by Abyssal, or “Entrantment of Evil” by Incantation. It’s mainly the way the syncopation of the vocals to, in particular, blast and fast parts help me to try and stay creative and ensure not every blast section has the same type of vocals over it.” After a quick check of our recent playlist, yep most of those are there. We’re in good company.
RIDING THE WAVES OF DEATH
In an effort to touch on something earlier mentioned, we push to dissect how fever-hot the American revival of nasty, rotting, OSDM is right now. It seems every couple of years there is a certain sound that takes the epicentre of extreme metal focus. From the shuffling hordes of Incantation clones in the late aughts; to the swirly, technical death metal craze influenced by Gorguts, Deathspell Omega, and Portal; to the utter tsunami of so-called Nidrosian black metal sound-alikes, all micro-movements have yielded particularly potent results. It must be thrilling and challenging to be a band at the forefront of this movement at any given time.
Alvino echoes that sentiment, “some of the challenges of course are being under an intense scrutiny of every action you make. The music you write is under strict review in every action from tone, to approach, to arrangement, to every little bit of it,” he states. Nearly sounding exhausted already, he reveals, “You can kind of get lost focusing and thinking when you approach writing that you may want to write to cater to such punishment from people who aren’t even in bands. But with that said, it’s a centering feeling. It helps you remember why you started writing and playing in a band.”
Undoubtedly the benefits outweigh the hardships. Any band is lucky to be mentioned in the same breath as the greats, and this is not lost on Alvino, “we have made a name for ourselves and the people who do truly like us and follow us will hopefully be excited to see us evolve into new material. The support up until now has been amazing and we couldn’t be more grateful.” There’s a reason for this. He chalks it up to the fact that, “we try to define our own take on a genre that is being defined, so maybe one day someone looks back on our band and appreciates that we did it our way and brought a flavor to it that wasn’t typical or cliche or boring.”
As admirers and readers of the work released by Montreal based Anathema Publishing, it was a long time coming to finally form a friendly relationship with the man behind the operation. What started as a social media video on the Covenant Instagram to show off the utter brilliance of one of the PILLARS journals, developed into a correspondence and ultimately into this interview you see before you.
Gabriel McCaughry is a man of many, potent words, who publishes the works of other men and women of many, potent words. His small, but fierce, publishing house works with esteemed authors of many paradigms. The talismanic, ornate nature of these books often are the first telling signs that you are indeed holding an Anathema release.
Through the course of questions between Gabriel and Covenant’s Thor Dehr, we received more insight than we could have imagined! There is a deep wisdom to his words that feel beyond his years. We are privileged to preserve most of the conversation below. Steady the senses and dig in …
Origin stories are as varied as the individuals behind them. Nothing could be more true in the context of a small-batch publishing house dedicated to obscure tomes. To dig into the grassroots of Anathema’s manifestation, we prod McCaughry to divulge the spark of his fire. Consistent with our metaphor, he explains, “I’ve always been one to fan the flames of my creative impulses, and I’ve always enjoyed following my passions wherever they lead me.” Unrestricted to just the medium of publishing, this level of abandon extended to all areas of his becoming; whether “starting a metal band, designing a product, planning events, or rallying people around a certain plan or idea,” he carries that same passion. In that same vein, Anathema Publishing also came to be.
The whole idea and impetus behind Anathema really felt like answering a certain ‘call’ as a ‘duty,’ less so than just another pastime, or artistic project.
After several years of playing in extreme metal bands, beginning with Unquintessence and Trails of Anguish in the late nineties and early 2000’s, and touring intensely with Ion Dissonance and Vatican, Gabriel soon realized that as fun as it was, there was a creative and spiritual void that needed to be addressed. “Since I’ve always been hugely fascinated by the mysteries, I decided to start investigating the occult in a more serious manner … Enough so that years afterward, I was able to share my findings, deductions, and to a certain extent personal practice via articles I wrote between 2008-2009.”
This formative exploration culminated and exploded into a three-month trip throughout Asia Minor to discover first-hand the power behind the mysteries in their place of origin. “The circumambient spiritual quality of the place truly impacted me,” he reveals. “Then everything came together: the name, the intent behind it all, and the main seal/symbol I would end up using — everything.” Returning home, the work to bring it all to life began.
A sincere love of quality books has followed Gabriel throughout his life. However, the jump from book-lover to proprietor of fine pieces of literary art was another step entirely. Things had to start small out of necessity, “I had no clue how to start any business by myself, and knew relatively few people with relevant experience; I had no resources but my own to invest. However, what I did have was experience as a graduated and professional graphic designer by trade who’s worked in the pre-press field for over 20 years now,” he tells us. Not a bad start at all. Add in a fiery passion for collecting limited edition printed books, rarities, and beautifully bound books, and the path was cleared for his developing endeavour.
Before any beginning, there is a blank canvass of potential waiting to be painted by a wide range of influential colours. With any individual involved in matters of the spirit, the inevitable question arises: Whatbrought your curiosity to the subject of the occult as a point of practice and study?
“This may sound a bit dry, but often people are interested in knowing how it ‘starts’ rather than how things evolve, which I usually find more interesting; one retroactively embellishes and romanticizes how his relationship with the occult actually started to make it sound more epic than it truly was. This is something I’ve been guilty of doing more than once.”
It is true that most interviewers seem to want a list of arcane secrets and wild personalities to lump the practitioner into a neat compartmentalization. In fact, anyone can certainly name influences that made an early impact, although “for the most part, I probably have moved away from them as things unfolded and as my understanding of the material evolved”, he says.
Unsurprisingly, we find that some of the texts and authors that first left their indelible impression were “Andrew D. Chumbley’s corpus of work, Crowley of course, various classical grimoires (such as the Grimorium Verum, of the Book of Abramelin, etc.), some theological work by Blavatski, mystical poetry à la Rumi or Omar Khayyam, Gibran, various classical Alchemy works (Flamel, Paracelsus, Agrippa, etc.), numerous Gnostic texts (which I study to this day), along with Robert Cochrane/Evan John Jones/Shani Oates and the Clan of Tubal Cain’s material (which lead to me publishing Shani, of course).” Not so secretly, we wanted to be indulged with such a list, and after this revelation we know we’re in very good company.
Of course we require Gabriel’s take on the role of music in occult study. There seems to be a growing schism with some specific currents intertwined with musicians trying to distance themselves from music as a tool in ritual praxis. Meanwhile, other prominent writers have literally written grimoires with companion albums or expand their messages into specific albums themselves.
His opinion is just about as expected: “Music is an integral part of life, and quite the primordial tool for opening minds — which ties in to the importance of experience in the world of phenomena. Certainly, music has been a great passion of mine for years”, he explains. As the frontman and lyricist for many musical projects over the years, McCaughry sees music as “a vehicle moving emotions back and forth, and intuiting (or pointing towards) certain doorways warranting further investigation.” The musician can channel this energy in a very primal, quasi-shamanistic way to great effect.
… as a ritual aid, certain types of music can help regulate breath, help to focus during contemplative work (so long as one is able to sweep aside the imagery that may unfold during the listening of music), and in certain specific — dare I say radically-challenging — ritual works, music can enhance the overall ambience to a point of saturation, thereby strengthening one’s resolve to a breaking point and then bringing forth a subsequent clarity.
It is a very primal tool that we can see from the ancients, to the so-called primitives, to modern practice of all sorts. This is most readily found, “with certain drone-like rhythms of handmade drums, bells, singing bowls, liturgical chants, and the repetitive uttering of mantras, or galdrs (throat vibrations in specific words, runes, or ‘keys’), performed around a fire during a ritual.” Gabriel seems to speak from experience.
And your listening habits as of late?
“Personally, I have my favorites which I will listen to during times like my morning meditation. But these are neither required per se, nor do I necessarily advocate such a practice as being mandatory by any means. If it works for you, fine; if it is in any way distracting, perhaps it’s best to avoid it altogether.
Ambient music and some instrumental folk seem to be particularly conducive to proper mind states. I very much appreciate the work of: Sounds of Isha, Arktau Eos, Alone In The Hollow Garden, Sacra Fern, O Saala Sakraal, CHVE, and Visions.
Now, when it comes to music which can take you to distant lands, engages the very root of imagination, and stimulates inspiration (music I will often listen to during writing process, for instance), I very much enjoy the work of: Ulver, Goran Bregovic, Hexvessel, Cities Last Broadcast, Levon Minassian, Atrium Carceri, Gurdjieff/De Hartmann, Érik Satie, Beyond Sensory Experience, Marconi Union, John Coltrane, Death & Vanilla, L’enfant De La Forêt, and Wardruna… but admittedly these days I do listen to quite a lot of podcasts as well.”
Let’s not dance around the elephant in the room here (after all this is primarily an extreme metal music zine), and Gabriel gets us back on course. “It would be somewhat disingenuous of me not to mention black metal, or metal in general, since I’ve been part of that scene and have been very fond of since I first heard Necrophobic’s Nocturnal Silence in 1994.” Now we know we’re in even better company.
“My view on it, however, has changed through the years. I’ve been fortunate enough to have been part of bands that have toured extensively, recording numerous records in the studio, travelled and ‘lived’ off music for a while, etc. A couple of years back, I would’ve probably gone on and on about the revelatory aspects of music and of performing live.
But as things progressed, and my occult, or contemplative, practice developed, deeper considerations altered how I viewed metal music in the regard. The raw immediacy and sharpness of it all is quite efficient as a wind blow/breath enlivening the flames of Nigredo. And so, with proper technique and dedication one can use this art as a catalyst for ‘surviving’ the Calcination process. Of course, a lot of people get wholly consume by the flame and are bound to remain at this Nigredo level, but that’s another story in and of itself.”
Anyone interested in this wider world of oddities, spiritual conduits, and dark delights, usually can trace a path back to a teenagehood of heavy metal, industrial, goth, or punk worship. We love what we love, and we always will. Though we need to be realistic here, and Gabriel again brings us down to Earth:
“[L]et’s face it: most ‘occult-looking’ bands out there are just plastering symbols they do not fully understand one on top of the other. They present a facade of esotericism which is quite superficial at best, and plain fallacious at worst. That does not mean their music is not masterfully executed – and the whole aesthetic is pleasing to the eye, in a very idiosyncratic way.”
“But nonetheless, for younger people this music can open their eyes to the possibility that there is something more out there in the wild that is worth investigating further. For this reason, it’ll take more than engaging with the music or the imagery, or even starting your own project; it’ll require you to completely rehaul your life, re-evaluate your values, and push against your limitations — even outside of your ‘comfort zone’ of Metal music (or any kind of music or art done for the sake of enjoying art).”
At the moment Gabriel is the vocalist of BLIGHT, a black metal band who has recently finished recording a new album entitled Temple of Wounds – a direct conceptual continuation of his first book h)Aurorae. The record will ultimately bridge to what will be a second book, currently in progress. Something to keep a keen eye on.
ERECTING THE PILLARS
Anathema Publishing perhaps is best known for the unparalleled journal series PILLARS. Currently, the first issue of the second volume has been released, with the first volume having three issues itself, and each issue thus far having many different contributors. Each issue selects a greater focus topic and prompts writers to deliver their submissions free of restraint, be it time, opinion, or paradigm. It is a swarm of ideas and opinions from many of the most prominent, challenging, and unique voices in the occult zeitgeist.
With so many different minds approaching similar subjects, the clash of ideas must be inevitable and cause conflict on some level. The widely different viewpoints next to each other for the reader’s context is curious.
“I’d say that precisely the whole pointy of this exercise is to have a meeting of minds, which can harmoniously tie to one another — or clash and create an interesting dichotomy when exploring a particular facet of the Arte Magickal or mystical inquiry.”
The freedom given to authors must be a refreshing blank-slate. Gabriel further elucidates that, “the idea is not to direct the minds, nor to have a single viewpoint,” in fact, because of the general nature of the theme, “it is explored via the different lenses of the individual authors and artists, who of course distill a theme through their perceptual and practical filter: i.e. tradition, lineage, system, and philosophy”. Even among perceived duality and ‘clashing’ viewpoints, often there is a singular thread running across the whole, and further points of connection are made or realized.
Even in a niche subculture that attempts to shatter the ego, the lure of materialism and stamp-collecting is all pervasive. The world of 2nd hand rarity books has only expanded more aggressively as time goes on. On one hand, it seems some people see higher prices on used books as a signal of that specific publication’s Gnostic value and usefulness, while others see it as a source of profiteering.
In Gabriel’s opinion, the idea that higher cost could be indicative of a ‘greater’ Gnostic value is a sad thing to even discuss and wholly ridiculous. He tries to help us understand the ‘collector’s impulse,’ and, in fact, he is even guilty of “paying extraordinary amounts of money to complete a collection, or acquire a specific, hard to find tome. But of course, the second-hand market is often out of control and makes no sense whatsoever.” It’s based upon a rabid, all-too-human impulse perhaps.
Yes, beautifully bound books in small-run batches, with incredible materials and design, will fetch higher prices by default — these are harder and harder to make as time goes by and as printed and properly bound publications go out of style in the general populace. It is what it is, and should not otherwise impact primary or secondary markets, but in the Occult world it verily seems that presentation is often mistaken for quality of content as well.
To a publisher like Gabriel, both are equally important and should be complimentary. Prices often need to reflect production costs and support future projects. It’s as simple as that. The disrespect of reselling a piece of art for nothing more than profit affects the producers in the first place and the genuine seekers as well. Quite often this is case with books that are not even sold-out and still available from the publisher or first-hand distro. To him, this is a much worse practice.
What do we do about it? He tells us, “to eradicate this problem, buyers should go about truly researching more if ever they want to acquire a specific title and check with the publisher first if they know of a certain place where they can acquire it at a relatively fair price.”
Running a publishing house must be an incredible way to open the self to a stunning array of different esoteric influences, origins, goals, ritual settings, and so on. We are curious if this time and dedication to Anathema has altered Gabriel’s own path by showing him something he may not have otherwise seen.
“Absolutely, and irreversibly so, yes.” Having been in a sort of metaphysical isolation in Montreal, Gabriel as a self practitioner remained “singularly alone in having this deep interest and propensity for the mysteries and for esoteric studies.”
“Via Anathema, I was able to connect with much more knowledgeable characters as I ever was, and this ‘association’ (and given the fact that I often incorporate new material into my own), has propelled my writings and inquiries much further — deepening my devotion to a considerable degree as well.”
His pursuits were refined – sharpening the blade so to speak. “Being shown different methodologies, points of view, and philosophies, [revealed to] me that, in essence, specialization trumps generalization, but that at the most subtle levels, all such dichotomies and distinction vanishes — only language at the surface is different, and even then — but the ground of reality is verily all-encompassing and all-emptying.”
The opposite must be true as well. With such a flood of ideas and submissions of text, there must be a number of red flags that one knows to avoid.
In fact they are, “too numerous for me to list here. I get all sorts of manuscripts in the ol’ inbox, ranging from the purely fantastical, to the outright insane, but mostly, and sadly, they are just unprofessional and unfocused,” he reveals. “Which, at least, as a silver lining, makes it a bit easier to determine those that are genuine and interesting enough to warrant publication. Alas, these are very few and far between.” The cream always rises to the top.
To maintain a certain level of commitment to quality, whilst working on fresh material and finding new authors and illustrators to work with, is a struggle. It’s a challenge, but a welcome one, Gabriel insists. “As time flies by and the reputation of Anathema grows, then new exciting projects can emerge, and new relationships can develop.”
One of the best advantages that the small, passion-driven occult publishing house has is often a higher quality: clothbound hard covers, beautiful and simplified artwork, hand numbering, and other traits to make long-lasting, personally valuable works, let alone the actual content included. This must be a thrilling and daunting process. How on Earth do you keep up this high standard of quality?
Time is of the essence, money is always a stress and a gamble, delays are enormous, and every step of the way, whether it be editing/correcting, layout and design, revisions, proofing, artworks, promotion, events, all of it needs to be meticulously addressed whilst maintaining due course ahead, and making everyone engaged in the process (readers/customers included) happy and calm.
With each release potentially being a make-or-break situation for the company, every product requires the extra mile, the sleepless nights, the needed moments of meditation to stay sane, and the utmost high standards – that goes without saying. The catch 22 is that this required attention to detail is what makes it all the most challenging.
It sounds like a dangerous dance of balance that Gabriel masters tome by tome.
All currents have quite clearly defined methodology: days of the year, ingredients, mantras, formulas of calling, and so on. With these workings becoming more widespread, a person in Canada for instance, may not be able to gather an ingredient only found in parts of Africa or small parts of Europe in the original intended tradition.
With the opportunity before us, we ask Gabriel if he believes that magical traditions should hold fast, or is there room for development beyond the constrains of strict boundaries.
My opinion on the matter is quite irrelevant as I do not hold the ‘truth’ in the palm of my hand when it comes to such specifics. I do have a practice which encompasses various elements some people would agree should probably not be mixed, and yet I prefer holding a viewpoint that is perennial rather than believe in the degradation of the source by the very act of it passing through different vessels. But that matter is entirely personal for now and what matters for me is how the results shape and manifest in my life.
When it comes down to it, Gabriel sees all of these as, “equally superfluous as they can be most important — context often determines the angle of observation.” Overall, he tells us that, “I am more interested in the roots of it all — or rather rootlessness of it all — rather than seeing the mysteries through a certain lens. That being said, I have chosen to express the mysteries in a language which resonates with me at a deeper level, that is: Alchemy, Hermeticism, and Luciferian Gnosticism.” He stresses that these are not closed circles, and in fact, they are transparent systems, which in themselves have the capacity to colour the world with light in a myriad of ways. Similar to a prism. Without making claims of support to a particular tradition over another, he prefers to bring the whole of the work down to the direct experience level, to observe the spontaneous unfolding and outpouring of reality.
“In the words of the Emerald Tablet of Hermes Trismegistus, ‘to witness and accomplish the miracles of the One thing.'” Amen.
Vassafor have been at the forefront of NZ Black Metal since their return in 2006 with the 7″ Southern Vassaforian Hell which was shortly followed up with self-titled EP Vassafor in 2007. Both releases broadened the band’s exposure and established them as fixtures within the underground. Since then, the output has been prolific with the release of several splits, a live album, and two acclaimed full lengths, the 2012 monolith Obsidian Codex and 2017’s Malediction.
Covenant caught up with the founder and creative conduit VK to discuss the history of the band, the driving purpose, and their forthcoming full length.
Founded in 1994, Vassafor has existed in numerous forms and iterations for over 25 years. 1997 saw the release of Demo I, subsequently after the band disappeared into obscurity and aether for a further 7 years.
“Those first demo songs were initially only shared with friends and allies as dubbed tapes. Then subsequently it got to people either we came in contact with or who were given it thru those already infected. Certainly, it was primitive and made with terrible gear, but it was an eruption of our ideas of BM that was already completely out of step with anyone around us. As for the break, it was only due to no other suitable members around me after DL and I were in different cities. Only a handful of people here in NZ seemed actually interested in non standard BM back then and half of us already hated each other. Not so different from today in some ways.”
Vassafor’s purpose is blunt and singular “To presence the sinister and venerate our Patron.” Driven as a conduit to and the fulfillment of sinister vision, the channels and methodologies for evocation have continued to evolve. VK recalls these foundations and the path tread thus far…
“Vassafor is still driven in the same direction as always, which is to be an offering and gateway/conduit, but it definitely has a more focused path now than any time previously. Like any art or skill, practice makes perfect. We are here to presence the sinister and do it as best we can.”
“From first encounter to today, the progress is clear and building on itself as an egregore gaining more and more mana as it is conjured from unbeing into reality, from the void-soaked sunya existing between the Aethyrs. It eternally IS, we just had to develop eyes to see and ears to hear.”
EMANATION AND CODEX
Delving further upon the discovery, inspiration and initiative which caused the band to materialise…
“I wanted to do my own thing not long after I first started playing in bands. Everything I wrote was Black Metal, but I was playing in a Death Metal band and a Rock band not a million miles away from Birthday Party type stuff. So even though I would write a bit in these bands, I was writing a lot of music which didn’t really suit the bands I was part of.
VK Recalls “People here in Auckland in the early 90s wanted to play like Carcass or a heavier thrash style for the most part. I was obsessed with the tapes that came via the mail and the BM records that would turn up in the record store in town that would stock extreme metal imports, and getting records like the Incubus 7” or the Necromantia, Samael, Masters Hammer LPs were massively influential in the early period of Vassafor for me and my bandmate DL who was literally the only other person in Auckland I knew into that style of dark, evil metal.
One of the defining characteristics Vassafor is their elaborate composition style. Typically drawing less from the conventional structure of modern music, their tracks are known to become formidable, manifold beasts changing and mutating throughout. VK considers the impact from atypical influences, how they have shaped his compositions and the organic metamorphosis Vassafor’s music has undergone as it forms and maintains its own identity.
“I’d grown up with classical music and 70s rock like King Crimson/ELP etc so I was familiar with symphonic length pieces of music or album tracks that might be 20 minutes long, and that was probably a subconscious influence on not having to be constricted by 3 min song lengths or a verse, chorus songwriting paradigm. But certainly currently, and for a long time, we have less external musical influences and more literary or artistic influences that refract internally to set tone or mood for material. If that makes sense.”
Divulging further on musical inspirations which serve the sinister purpose “Hard to separate myself to enough of a degree to answer accurately, but yeah, I think our roots are always fairly recognisable in our style of Black Metal. There’s always that primitivism of old (BM era) Darkthrone or Graveland or Beherit mixed with the pursuit of audial darkness and evil that can take us into many forms. So long as its sinister then it fits the Vassaforian paradigm.”
This dedication to the sinister reveals itself throughout Vassafor with a codified foundation established and fulfilled through music, lyrics and aesthetic. How important are those three elements to galvanise the creative process, presentation and essence?
“To me it’s of vital importance, if it’s your own paradigm that you are codifying. These 3 elements should be a reflection of the spirit of the band and should remain indivisible from it. That’s why when people think of bands “selling out” it generally is a band breaking their own covenant and rings false to people following the band.”
“As for Vassafor each are intertwined enough that a song can be started from any direction. It might be a song title or scrap of lyric, or a concept, or a chunk of music. 1 generally infuses the other if the ideas are strong enough to end up making it to song stage. Plenty of small chunks on rehearsal tapes of part songs of riffs or written lyrics that never developed into strong enough material to become a song. We usually throw away quite a large amount of material, if it doesn’t make the grade then we don’t save it for later, into the bin it goes.”
Whilst intent has been singular with Vassafor, the bands delivery and tactics can vary to achieve this purpose, a rare feat to achieve whilst maintaining identity.
In May 2019 Vassafor commenced recording their 3rd album. Nearing completion, VK divulges on their forthcoming offering and provides pertinent details of what to expect.
“Yeah smashing through it now. There will be roughly 60 minutes of all new music. It will be released once again by Iron Bonehead who are the perfect label for us. There will be 6 main songs and a few intro and interlude pieces. We are at this time probably 2/3rds of the way through it all. We have a few outside allies involved in the record from the UK and Sweden that should change things up a bit.”
“I guess this record sounds more ancient than usual. The songs are perhaps a touch more primitive than usual in some respects and def more twisted in others. Probably more of our early influences like Temple of Full Moon/Polish BM style in places and in others quite old DM style. It should be completely out of step with current trend based cut ‘n’ paste, quantized click track, metal bullshit anyway!!”
With an impending album due from the eminent Iron Bonehead Productions in 2020, we asked what else lies ahead for Vassafor?
“Most important is the album. And doing a proper local ritual as opposed to gig in a bar supporting an international or whatever. Time for some Bones, Decay and Reverence the Vassaforian way…tentatively we are looking at early summer for it.”
EMANATION AND WILL
In 2016 Vassafor covered MZ.412 for Ancient Meat Revived, a tribute to seminal Death Industrial/Dark Ambient label Cold Meat Industry. Since, Vassafor was invited by the mastermind of that project to present an interpretation of Nordrvagr’s “At the Crossroads of Immortality” which featured on a collaborative album in May 2019
Whilst using disparate methods, it’s clear to see parallels between these entities and their respective genres.
“I’d like to think MZ.412 and Vassafor are essentially the same spirit via different instrumentation. Nordvargr is a total genius and it’s been great to strengthen ties with that conduit. I have always appreciated MZ.412 in particular from that wave of Cold Meat Industries and Death Industrial scene, but BP has come from that background rather than metal so has a much deeper appreciation for the musical sphere. He also has an industrial band he is part of currently that is working on material. That should be well worth checking out as the other guy he’s doing it with is a total maniac for that style as well.”
“These areas of Death Industrial and Black Metal seem to intersect especially when a dark spiritualism is involved. When looking at groups like Phurpa or Shibalba, they inhabit those same crossroads too.”
Audio engineering is another scope which VK operates within, covering his methods and criteria and the satisfaction of contributing to the achievement of a bands vision…
“As for criteria for engineering in terms of mixing and mastering, it generally depends mostly on whether I enjoy the music or not, whether I consider it worthwhile & want to try and do what I can to help the vision of the band, but also of course if I have time. Lots of bands I say no to and even bands I’ll start working with and they start talking utter bullshit or want mainstream engineering and I suggest they use others. Plenty of other engineers for that kind of sound. I’m not interested in being associated with that kind of shit. Fuck that. And as a result I’m getting to work with many great bands that I’d be getting the record of anyway, but this way I get to help realize their vision properly. Some examples of recent mastering jobs I got to work on were the latest Hellvetron album and Tetragrammacide compilation LP. Both don’t want clean and nice standard mastering but for the right master to enhance the uniqueness of the bands. I’m totally into working with groups that want to forge their own path. Such as the latest Funereal Presence LP which was killer as he knew exactly what he was after, so I could help nail it down exactly in line with the initial vision. Very satisfying to get these records back and enjoy listening to them on my stereo.”
The involvement within these domains has provided exposure and insight to numerous countries, music and people. We asked VK where the vanguards were and thoughts on global Metal.
“I’ve been able to play a few places in South America and each one has been full of total fucking maniacs. Chile seems especially virulent, as it certainly seems like it has been for many years now. The crowds are absolute die hard metal beasts. Fucking hell, just the range of T-shirt’s in the crowds is fully mental and is full of ultra metal bands playing ugly as hell hateful shit. Perfect!”
“Seems like Asian crowds are super harsh and passionate as well. I’m into the Sri Lankan and Thai extreme metal scenes and looks like India is spawning some monster bands as well. I would really like to visit Japan to either or just see gigs there too…”
Considering the isolation of New Zealand, VK has been involved with several prominent bands within Black and Death Metal spheres across the globe as a live and recording artist. We discussed how these allegiances eventuated…
BLASPHEMY – “This year is my 10th year playing bass in Blasphemy. This came about during my tenure in Diocletian after I had worked out Weltering in Blood for a 7” we did and then sent copies to the Ross Bay Cult out of respect and heard back that they were into it and was in contact from then. Cut to 2009 and for whatever reason they were down to a 4 piece and had shows booked. Next thing I know I’m answering the War Command and rehearsing in Vancouver for a few weeks before Montreal and then Helsinki deathstrikes. And been there for most since.”
SINISTROUS DIABOLUS – “When I was younger, I would play in certain bands as a mercenary session player, but learned fairly early that I don’t belong on a stage if I don’t believe in the material I’m playing 100%. So the bands I’ve played for that I haven’t written or been part of are only bands I respect and will help out. An example is Sinistrous Diabolus who are our oldest and closest brother band to Vassafor. When/if asked to help with a live lineup I would always say yes to that without a second thought.”
TEMPLE NIGHTSIDE – “Since then I have been part of various bands but generally as a full member. One of those being Temple Nightside where I can focus on evil Death Metal guitar and not think of lyrics of vocals at all. TN is gearing up to record our next record which is the first to feature songwriting from all members of the band. So its been excellent going through the writing and demoing process of all the songs for the album. “
Artists, theologians and philosophers have contemplated belief and ideology since time immemorial. These regimes of truth have been painted for us in many colours but, ideological or spiritual, all ultimately come back with the same motive – domination of the individual. Absolving us of personal responsibility through fate, diminishing the range of our free will through doctrine, eminence through order.
New Zealand’s Heresiarch explores a chaos world devoid of these bodiless structures, where hope is rejected and the divine is meaningless. “Our scenarios are set in the fray of a power vacuum, amongst the twilight of beliefs, faiths and philosophies which have been made redundant. In their wakea new path is forged, detached from the aforementioned. It is a world of struggle, chaos and lawlessness where force and death reign supreme.” tells founding member and vocalist N.H. “It is situational to a world where the sacred cows have been put to pasture, so to speak. The twilight referenced reduces us to instinctual, animal survival from which an intangible, conquering way emerges as a consequence to this. There is no name or identifying tenets for this other than power itself. As it is far removed and has not yet occurred, it isn’t explored or described further.”
Heresiarch’s vision has honed since their first releases in 2011, a demo and EP (Obsecrating the Global Holocaust and Hammer of Intransigence, respectively). In these early days the annihilation of the gods and the rejection of hope and belief were already dominant themes in their work, drawing from concepts such as Ragnarok and over time fleshing them out further into their own narrative world on later works Wælwulf and the cyclopean sound of their 2017 full-length Death Ordinance. “There’s a continuation throughout which metamorphosises with each release – Wælwulf and Death Ordinance are set 1000 years apart. ‘Lupine Epoch’ references some of the earlier themes but is more solidified in the identity we have forged, which was built upon earlier Heresiarch narratives. Heresiarch means ‘a founder of heresy’ and is reflected through our music, lyrics and purpose. The death and conquest of gods within physical and metaphorical forms is a statement of absolute power. This conquest and murder of gods was built out and emphasised from our relatively primitive foundation, particularly with Wælwulf.”
“There are themes in our music relating to the conflict and balance of individual experience against the wider macrocosm,.” says N.H. “Our most recently released track ‘Dread Prophecy’, is a scenario where two adversaries fight to the death whilst the sun implodes. The outcome is futile but their action and conflict is the paramount objective and central focus. The defiance and conquest of faith, destiny, hope and belief itself is a part of this balance and by extension, struggle. Those phenomena mentioned are viewed as weapons of manipulation and control used against the individual, recurrent throughout history in numerous manifestations, environments and methodologies. Zealotry and wilful ignorance lauded as virtue aren’t exclusive to spiritual realms and are viewed as symptoms rather than the cause. Whether through doctrine, organised religion or other mass movements, people are validated and encouraged to seek refuge from their own limitations. ”
Throughout this time, Heresiarch has morphed slowly into the creature that it is today, under the guidance of N.H., the remaining founding member. “Though I consider the band as an entity outside of myself, it has been under my direction with contributions from key collaborators since formation,” he says. “Throughout, members have come from a range of personalities, backgrounds and perspectives working towards the common purpose and vision of the band. Line-up changes become less of a concern as this vision and identity is further established. Whilst ideas, methods and execution may change, consistency and honesty in the approach is most important. Early on, our music was inspired by the bands we drew immediate influence from, esoteric topics, warfare, mythos and the recurrence of conflict throughout history. Seeing and drawing parallels between those topics built the foundation of our themes which were documented from a cold and detached perspective, presented as timeless and universal, occurring throughout existence and to continue once we cease to exist. Outside sources became less important as the identity and purpose of Heresiarch is solidified and becomes self-propagating.”
“Self-evolution is a part of the journey. Whilst having my own principles, goals and motivations, many of my perspectives and outlooks have changed throughout the years. Continued challenges, trials and evaluation bring about purposeful change and improvement. Heresiarch was my first “proper” band, founded in my late teens so naturally there will be some growth and discovery, the last 5 years have been particularly significant in terms of this.”
He continues, “The above is applicable to the creative process as well as individual outlets. The ability to self-assess, critique and identify ways to improve is an important aspect of the band. This is paramount to the creative process, one of the few areas where an individual can truly have some semblance of control over their lives. With that, Heresiarch has continued to evolve with different iterations of members, collaborators and new objectives. To “settle” on our musical output or fall into the trap of absolutist belief, submission and obedience to scenes, ideologues and dogma would be the death of self-growth, stagnating creativity and contradicting the purpose of the band itself.”
Heresiarch’s music is reflective of their thematic universe, titanic blackened death metal bedlam that takes you into a desperate and irredeemable world. Their newest single, “Dread Prophecy” was released through Indian label Cyclopean Eye Productions on Scorn Coalescence to be released in late September by Dark Descent on LP, a vicious four-way split alongside Sri Lanka’s Genocide Shrines and Serpents Athirst as well as NZ compatriots Trepanation. This collaborative effort was conceived on a visit to Sri Lanka and took years to come to fruition.
“I travelled to Sri Lanka in 2016 and spent most of my time with the members of Genocide Shrines and Serpents Athirst as well as meeting the wider Pannipitiya collective,” says N.H. “We’d been in touch since 2011, shortly before the Genocide Shrines EP came out which I’d recommended to Iron Bonehead at the time. As such, we had a strong connection between both bands in our formative years which had strengthened since, so they were always a natural ally.”
“We had been considering putting out a short release of new material at the time to coincide with Death Ordinance planned for the following year. We discussed and agreed on a split release with Genocide Shrines and Serpents Athirst representing Sri Lanka with Trepanation joining us from New Zealand. 4 bands with different timelines didn’t work out as intended, the track we originally recorded was also on Death Ordinance and with shows, touring, line-up changes and other commitments we didn’t get to finish recording until returning from our second US tour in 2018.”
Over the years we’ve seen an influx of impressive extreme music coming from the scantily populated New Zealand. Being physically isolated from the rest of the world comes with its own set of challenges, but has made the sounds endemic to the island nation stand out amongst the crush. “The geographic isolation, relative youth as a nation, the intense nature of the New Zealand Wars (Kai Tangata was a key inspiration for ‘Carnivore’) and our surroundings have all been a source of inspiration,” he says. “How much so is intangible since I can only reference growing up in New Zealand and Australia but the differences are certainly noticeable when travelling abroad.”
“The logistics of touring and travel requires a lot of planning and coordination when looking outside of New Zealand and Australia. Potentially this has improved the standard of bands which have made it out of our country, particularly across Death and Black/Death Metal as it requires bands to be more purposeful, willful and self-determined,” he continues. “Living in Wellington had some more tedious obstacles, especially with forming a line-up to perform and record with. There were very few people interested in this type of music then and it was difficult finding suitable musicians within New Zealand. For the first 3 releases all other members’ lived in different cities to me.”
“Discovering and physically buying music at the time was expensive, having to pay ridiculous prices for imported releases and merchandise from retailers. Eventually I started Internecion Productions and began distributing, promoting and releasing material myself within NZ and abroad. One of the key points I’ve noticed about worthwhile New Zealand bands and people is an initiative to seek out and actualise what we want to happen ourselves.”
The shift in extreme music towards bands having a comprehensive and total vision for their œuvres is not entirely recent, though we have come to see a lot more of this in the past decade, giving artists more of a guiding hand in how their work is taken in and perceived. Heresiarch’s partaking in this kind of artistic direction seems to have been innate, evident in the thread that runs through their music, artwork and presentation. “We are involved with all components of a release from artwork, writing, recording and mixing process. Initially this was with some brashness due to youth, limited reference, perspective and experience. Later this was achieved with a clearer vision and more focus, particularly with Wælwulf, Death Ordinance and material we have written since,” says N.H. “Ideas are fleshed out from the root level with a ‘holistic’ view of all mediums such as the broad lyrical content and narrative as well as delivery, role each instrument plays, atmosphere, aesthetics and how they all interrelate.”
“Our music is often primitive to compliment the blunt and cruel nature of our topics, and the artwork should represent this on a grand scale. It’s important to envision how each component of the release represents itself, identify the suitable artist and then direct the vision until completion. Whether or not what we achieve is “ground-breaking” is of little concern. We write for our own satisfaction and have control, through that there is honesty and integrity to the vision which is crucial.”
After their performance at Covenant Festival III, Heresiarch’s 2018 US tour was their last stint on the road – besides the aforementioned split, they have been at work forming what’s to come. “We recently finished another split which is anticipated to be released 2020, whilst being true to our sound and delivery this also delves into newer territory for us. We are composing our second album with the conceptual direction and purpose of the release outlined; it will coincide with Death Ordinance but will be more bleak and violent. What we have set as objectives and written to date is a natural progression from previous releases though there will be emphasised regressions as well. This will be our primary focus for the foreseeable future. South East Asia and Europe have been in our sights for some time, but we won’t be addressing this until after the second album.”
As they continue to dilate the abstract of their work, Heresiarch speaks to the confrontation of the individual against the powers of mass submission, and the many ways we’ve found to obscure true existence – a confrontation that we may never see to fulfillment.
“Countless slaughters have occurred throughout millennia from those who believe they possessed knowledge of absolute truth and were wholly justified in their means and actions. The control that despots, hegemons and cults had in the previous centuries shattered power dynamics, resulting in myopic perspective, loss of individual autonomy and mass death via their ‘true believers’.”
“It’s a recurrent theme throughout history and is highly likely to continue. Ultimately we are a Black/Death Metal band documenting the scenarios mentioned previously. Our ethos is much more detached and not directed towards a utopian ideal. As a witness to the last man and destruction of all life; struggle, force and death are the only truths Heresiarch can objectively see.”
Evading the specific confinements of any genre, To End It All are often described as death industrial, though ex-classical, dungeon synth, and harsh noise all make their appearance as well. After a pleasurable haunting by their performance at Covenant Festival V, we decided to reach out to see what’s behind the enchantment. Joy Von Spain and Masaaki Masao’s 12 year relationship as collaborators allows for a beauteous synthesis of artistic vision and aural inspiration, while maintaining distinct individual contributions.
I was fortunate enough to Skype with Von Spain and Masao of To End It All, based out of Seattle, Washington. What follows are segments from the transcript of this real-time dialogue.
Indu Iyer: Seattle is so renowned for grunge and rock, like Soundgarden, Mudhoney, Nirvana – is there any influence there for you?
Joy Von Spain: Not so much for me. I actually moved to Seattle in 2004, and I was more involved in the electronic and noise scene there, and you [Masao] were making electronic music mostly. I feel like there’s definitely the ghosts from the 90’s around, but like any city that has a lot of new people moving there all the time, the face of it changes every few years.
Masaaki Masao: I’ve lived in Seattle for 21 years and did listen to some of that music, but I don’t know how much of that has influenced what I’ve ended up making. I was making Noisy Drum ’n’ Bass when I met Joy.
JVS: I was doing a lot more synthesizer oriented music [when we] started playing together. At some point I started doing some vocals which I hadn’t done for a really long time. I would say that there’s another vein to the Pacfific Northwest, extending down to the Bay area. There’s a whole Vancouver-Seattle-Portland-Oakland-San Francisco connection of harsh noise, experimental, industrial. We have more influence coming from that kind of scene.
II: Do you feel like the weather and the climate have any influence over the type of music that’s come out of this region? Compared to the rest of the US and Canada, it’s just so grey, so dark.
JVS: Absolutely, but I don’t know if it’s necessarily a matter of influencing from within. I myself was attracted to the place because of that. [Masao’s] basically from the desert, I’m from Florida originally, so we kind of gravitated here because of the climate in some ways. And that’s why we stayed…there’s something to be said for the actual sound of the rain in the Northwest in that it creates this wash in the back of your mind.
I consider the difference between growing up nestled in a suburban cul-de-sac, versus the bustling mainstreet where I currently dwell, and the constant sound of traffic is akin to Von Spain’s rain-wash. The Pacific Northwest, though renowned for its scenic beauty, is known by locals for perpetually monochrome seasons and drab vibrance, something akin to London greyness. The dense forests have allowed it to be a hub for forestry, and its various waterways allowed for many port cities and trade centres. Noisy places of industry. Just as environment influences sound, environment influences economy, which links back to sound. Informal instruction from the world.
II: What’s your background with music and art? Do you have formal training, did both of you study music by yourselves, a bit of both?
JVS: We definitely both have a background in studying instrumental music. I studied voice a little bit and I did some theatre when I was younger. A little bit. I feel bad even saying that [laughs]. I studied music composition and theory mostly, big nerd on that front for sure. It’s kind of nice because when you learn the language of rehearsal as a young person, it makes it so much easier and faster to communicate and collaborate with other people in that environment. I don’t think it’s necessary because people have many different ways of communicating. [Masaaki and I] had enough of that background where it’s just easy for us to communicate our ideas quickly and try a lot of different things, than to try and reinvent the wheel.
II: Language of rehearsal, that’s interesting. I feel like intuitively I know what you mean, but how would you describe it?
JVS: Being able to try many different things in a short amount of time, or repeat the same thing. It’s kind of like a scientific experiment, you keep repeating it to see if you could get the same result, or if maybe some new information comes to you.
II: It requires a lot of openness and experimenting. You have to be willing to throw out an idea even if you like it, to cooperate a bit, things like that.
JVS: I think that’s definitely one side. Another side is the ability to not be irritated or upset in the repetition. I think that’s the discipline of the rehearsal. The language but also the discipline, both of those together are necessary.
I have flashbacks of navigating creative terrain in theatre school, largely similar for any collaborative process: the frustration when others denied the necessity of repetition, or the shame when I looked lazy in thinking five from the top’s were enough. Then the shock and awe when improvised bullshit actually turned out better than anything rehearsed to supposed perfection. Honing the ability to move from dog-and-tennis ball type focus to open receptivity is but one challenge of the artist.
II: What do your lives look like as artists? Is all your work in music?
MM: Pretty much [laughs]. That’s all we do.
JVS: We have to make money with jobs, but then after that, there’s usually rehearsal a few times a week. We’re totally engaged in writing, performing and rehearsing, and going to other people’s events as well.
MM: It’s basically working on music for a few different projects and then going out to shows and then figuring out other aspects like videos and the visual element.
JVS: We’ve also worked a lot with Butoh dancers. About 11 years ago, we started working with Vanessa Skantze, who’s a very interesting movement performer who has studied Butoh extensively and works with other practices as well, so some of that is present in our work. I did a modern dance minor when I was going to school, but I was mostly focusing on the collaboration between choreographers and composers and how dance and music work together. The field of study of dance expresses the same kind of emotions that we are doing with To End It All.
I gasp at the mention of Butoh, and we share a moment of enthusiasm for having found fellow admirers of the avant-garde Japanese dance tradition. Butoh emerged post-WWII, and it’s founders Tatsumi Hijikata and Kazuo Ohno sought to rebel against the subtlety of traditional Japanese dance forms like kabuki and noh. Though very diverse in how individual practitioners personalize Butoh, it is often performed in only white body paint and a loincloth, and involves a juxtaposition of slow, delicate movements, accompanied by sudden bursts of wild energetic displays. Thematically, Butoh explores the grotesque and taboo, something very inline with To End It All’s interests.
II: How about Scourge of Woman? It has such an amazing title and album cover, very evocative to the experience of being a woman, and has really powerful, visceral song titles like “Burning Rapists” and “In Cases of Incest and Rape.” Where does the conceptual side of things come into play?
JVS: I write lyrics or snippets of things, and a lot of things can’t be expressed properly with our other band, Eye of Nix. It needs a different kind of intensity that’s a lot more personal, or even political in nature. There’s many, many, many things that we’re extremely enraged about, and have been our whole lives, so when we see these same things coming up over and over again, I don’t really know what else to do about it. Those are the sort of pieces that we’re reflecting with this music. With the album art for this particular album, I worked with Anima Noctura, who’s an artist who we work with a lot for album art and photography. We would just listen to the music and then look at the imagery we had created, and this was the perfect expression. It was like the Cassandra myth from Greek mythology. She could see the future, but no one would believe her. I feel very close to that story, I think all of us women do.
Daughter of the royals of Troy, Cassandra was gifted with clairvoyance by Apollo, on the agreement to be his. Shortly after being bestowed with Sight, however, she revoked this promise, and he cursed that her prophecies never be believed. The story is told as betrayal on Cassandra’s part, but who knows. Perhaps Apollo had a Weinstein streak, and merely used Blue-Balls rhetoric to silence a woman.
JVS: A lot of us have grown up with [beliefs like] we have the right to reproductive freedom, we have the right to autonomy, and to go around saying “hey, if you don’t do this, or if you let this happen, this is what’s gonna come come next. I see the future.” Then, to not be believed. That was her curse. I feel like a lot of us walk around in our daily lives in that state. People, regardless of their gender, if they happen to be identifying as male or happen to be identifying as female, feel the same way. The alliance that we create together in our anger can be expressed in the sound, can be expressed in the visual representation of it. That’s the long answer of it.
Clearly moved by turmoils of the American zeitgeist, and by the private witnessing of the world around them, To End It All takes the scum of sexism and creates a bizarre yet resilient paste with which they mold meaning. The long answer is great.
II: And what is it like for you Masaaki, what’s your experience or perspective as a male working with what Joy is talking about?
MM: I just try to support what she’s trying to say and get out there, and I completely agree. I try to be there to support the art of it.
II: One thing I’m curious about is what it’s like to collaborate. Joy, do you strictly do vocals, and Masaaki, you strictly do the instrumental side of things? What’s that process like for you, do you both direct or influence each other?
MM: We definitely work together on all the music, but she comes up with all the vocals by herself. We talk about deciding which types of samples and how it’s going to be played, so we collaborate on music. All the keyboard parts.
JVS: Sometimes he’ll be delving for sounds out there in the world, and I’ll hear something and then want to record it, or he’ll hear something and go “oh we should use that sound.” Then we go to the rehearsal space and figure out how this sound is best showcased to be the meat of this piece. And then our keyboards are kind of … the supporting role a lot of the time. I feel like a lot of the time [Masao’s] doing the whole rhythm section and at times creating a whole environment. Then the voice will be one character walking into this whole space.
There is a theatrical quality to their sound, and it makes sense when considering this perspective on their work. The variety present in a set is like watching Chekhov: First Masha enters, then Olga, then Irina, each with their own worries, frustrations, sorrows. A single voice plays many characters, while still being part of a greater story-line.
II: Something that struck me most was the vocal variety. Plain speaking, operatic singing, screaming, everything in between. What inspires or necessitates this?
JVS: It’s impossible to stick to one range, to one formula. It doesn’t seem possible to fit what we’re hearing in our minds into one cube.
Instead of a cube, a multifaceted crystal. To End It All is the kind of salt-of-the-earth artist that often gets lost in pretension and self-importance that contaminate the creative sphere. Articulate, passionate, and completely committed to their craft. If there was any hope to end Cassandra’s curse, this is it.
Consummation proliferated with vigour and malice from Brisbane, Australia in 2012 with their self-titled demo, followed up with several live appearances and then sporadically vanished into obscurity. This silence was not unproductive however, with the band continuing to solidify their craft in solitude …
The fruits of these endeavours were the 2017 Ritual Severance EP (Invictus Productions) followed by the full length album The Great Solar Hunter released June 2019 by Profound Lore Records.
We spoke with band founder Craig about catharsis through creation, underpinning philosophies, mythos, and literature which inspire the vision and future of the entity known as Consummation.
– I discarded at least a dozen names between the project’s conception and the recording of the first demo. The title Consummation came to me unexpectedly as an instantaneous thought one day followed by an instinctual resonance, that ‘knowing’ you get when you’ve got something right. The definition, ritual of completion, seemed a more than apt ethos to apply to this endeavour. First as a creative ethic and secondly for the personal catharsis that I am seeking through this project.
Prior to Consummation Craig was involved in several seminal bands within the Brisbane metal underground as a drummer. Upon founding the band his focus soon became inward, devoted solely to the pursuit of composing Consummation on guitar, driven by passion and the reward of the creative process.
– I started playing guitar not long after I began drumming and it wasn’t long before it took over as my main instrument. Originally, I think this had something to do with easier access, you can play a guitar until the small hours and not be inhibited by people within your proximity. Not only that but once you start creating riffs that you actually like it ignites a similar passion that’s experienced when you first start discovering bands in your early years. That’s the way of it for me at least. I’ve also found song writing to be the most rewarding aspect of being involved in music so the shift from drums to guitar was an inevitable one.
Existing as a way to “challenge myself creatively and to successfully create an amalgam of my favourite elements of extreme music.” Craig sheds light on the importance of sacrifice, challenges and having a creative outlet to deal with existential mundanity.
– First and foremost, I’d say it’s my own personal need to have a creative outlet. There’s a dull, grinding sense of ennui that grows into something much harder to tolerate when the creative aspect of living is ignored. Music is the only outlet I have found that can combat this ignoble sensation. Granted the countless hours of solitude while pursuing the creative process can bare its own rotten fruit, persistence through the chosen sacrifice can produce a satisfaction that can’t be found anywhere else. It’s a very good way to challenge the more base elements of your own nature.
Considerable time and effort have gone into the crafting of Consummations sound, lyrics and objectives. Craig delves deeper into the philosophies that inspire the band, how they relate to and are reflected in his music and by extension his own life.
– As far as an overarching ethos goes, lyrically I tend to focus on subjects and themes that I’m exploring in my free time, whether it’s philosophy, mythology or religion. My greatest interest lies in the point where the three meet so this is generally the area that I try to operate in thematically.
– Books that I’m reading at the time directly influence the themes that are injected into Consummation’s music. I don’t really seek reading material out to try and find ideas as I maintain reading as a steady habit. Usually there are more ideas floating around in my head than the number of songs I have ready for application. You could say that this is the connection between the lyrics and my personal life.
Further delving into literature and philosophers which have influenced him – While not exclusive, Frederick Nietzsche, Carl Jung and Joseph Campbell certainly played a heavy hand in influencing the themes for this album along with my own inclinations and tendencies. It wasn’t deliberate from the onset but reflecting on the thematic current that runs through the album – seeing as I’ve had to write about it in interviews after its release – it could certainly be said that at the core of each track you will find The Will to Power. By this I don’t mean some romantic, misconstrued perversion of the Overman – like what Elizabeth Förster helped introduce to Germany – but rather a strong sense of overcoming and expanding heavily laced with metaphor and sometimes, religious subtext.
The title “The Great Solar Hunter” gives a strong sense of a timeless and universal archetype of heroism and conquest. This was further reflected in the artwork, lyrics and confirmed by Craig himself who details the nature of a hero as both a champion of life and death itself.
– The Great Solar Hunter is actually a line taken out of Joseph Campbell’s book The Hero With a Thousand Faces, which is a phenomenal read for anyone interested in hero mythology. The song itself takes a look at the romanticised idea of the Hero archetype and the shift in paradigm when examining actual historical figures remembered as heroes. There is an inseparable relationship between the change that they bring and death on a large scale and yet mankind has always had an overwhelming affinity for these figures. To worship the hero is to also worship death, which is good and natural for some, but western culture definitely seems to shy away from this in modern times.
– Heavily inspired by the previously mentioned names, alongside particular religious texts, the album covers multiple topics that all relate to the shadow nature of man such as acquiring power through a developed capacity for suffering, self-initiation through individuation and ascension through violence (a topic already touched on in The Weightless Grip of Fire). As I mentioned above, these can all be viewed as thematic incarnations of the will to power.
SUBSTANCE & SUBJECT
Further expanding on the above, how do these philosophies correlate with the lyrics and the process of composing music with Consummation – which inspires which?
– I consider each track as an individual piece first and foremost. Once the songs have taken shape, I then consider their relationship with the others. How the material sits together will dictate how it gets released. Each song has to have its own flow first and then the songs are arranged in a way that allows the release to flow as a whole.
He further reiterates the importance of the music setting the direction and details the trials of creating lyrical concepts which reflect the music.
– So, the music comes first and the lyrics second. I want each song to tell its own ‘musical narrative’ first and foremost, then the lyrical content is considered afterwards. The themes and lyrics present on album were given very careful consideration and presented one of the most challenging aspects of the album’s creation. Personally, I find extracting concepts from books or formulating an idea from knowledge acquired over the years to be a very natural thing. This can happen deliberately or unexpectedly when going about something mundane.
Drawing from the prose of other writers for inspiration was not without complications, especially in the initial approach. – Fleshing out an idea into a set of lyrics and moulding it in a way that will compliment an already existing song is quite a challenge for me seeing as I had very little experience with this at the time. In the beginning I was looking to poets like William Blake and Charles Baudelaire for inspiration, which actually proved to be a hindrance. Their command of language can cast a suffocating shadow over someone who is just starting out. In the end I decided to keep my mind away from the writing of others and just focus on fleshing out the concepts to the best of my ability. The end result was hardly poetic but it was something I was quite satisfied with.
For Consummation, creating the foundational track is often a solitary endeavour of chasing an ever elusive “spark” of creativity and grasping it when it is attained with varying results.
– I thrive on extended periods of solitude, especially when approaching the creative process so I’ve never really enjoyed trying to write material as a group. I find it can be frustrating, but I think a lot of this stems from my severe lack of musical knowledge. Most of the time, when writing, I’m fumbling around trying to find that ‘spark’ to kick off momentum. Sometimes this can take days and other times it can happen before I’ve even touched my guitar. Once it’s there I ride it out for as long as I can.
– Sometimes this spark can lead to an idea that becomes an entire song, for example Apotheoses was written from scratch in just a few days. However, most of the time a few segments come together and then I try and see where I can take them. Songs like the title track were written over a much longer period of time. There is material on the album that was written over 6 years ago. Once the songs are structurally sound, I hand them over to Joel and let him do whatever he wants to them. I have complete trust in his taste and ability.
Despite tracks gestating for up to 6 years, Consummation had no releases between 2012-2017 and for a time it seemed to the outside world that the demo would be all that would materialise. Craig provides insights about the perceived silence from the band during these years.
– Fundamentally it was a lack of time and struggling to find the right line up. The demo was very easy to produce. There were no group rehearsals, no drummer and structurally, the material was a lot simpler. Most of the material for Ritual Severance was written shortly after the demo but I was heavily involved in Impetuous Ritual and several other projects at the time and we were also rehearsing with people who were involved in multiple other projects.
It became a massive struggle to get any momentum, so Joel and I decided to scale everything back to focus on writing and recording. I parted ways with the other bands I was involved in, invited Dave into the band to take care of the drumming, and then began focusing on recording the EP and completing the material set aside for The Great Solar Hunter.
After suitable members had been identified and recruited, this new lineup would go on to form the basis for recording “Ritual Severance” and “The Great Solar Hunter”.
Joel and I had worked together in other bands prior to Consummation. He stepped in to write and record the bass parts for the self-titled demo and has been involved ever since. Even though he isn’t involved in the initial writing phase, being as musically educated as he is, he brings a whole new layer to the music that I can’t find myself. His ear for detail compliments the music perfectly.
Dave joined us after a couple of years of jamming and performing with a line up that never really worked out. The decision to disband the live line up and focus on recording material became glaringly obvious after a while. In that time we recorded and released both Ritual Severance and The Great Solar Hunter so now my focus has shifted back to taking this project live. I’m sorry to say that Joel won’t be joining us on stage as that’s not where his interest lies but rehearsals have begun and things are starting to take shape.
Listening to the EP and album consecutively, there seemed to be a current or continuation between both. The similarities were most notable with the endings of “Weightless Grip of Fire” from the EP and “Phosphor Libation” on the album. On whether this was an intentional recurrence or coincidental.
– Initially the EP material was intended for our first full length. The original plan was to go straight for an album after the demo, but things can change in the writing process. A lot of what is on TheGreat Solar Hunter existed before we recorded Ritual Severance but, to my ears, there was a bit of a gap between the older material and the new. We decided to split the material and do an EP first. This also gave us the opportunity to ‘test run’ the recording process seeing as we have a drummer that lives in a different city.
Craig further states – any similarities weren’t necessarily deliberately intended but half of the album material was nearly going to be released alongside the EP tracks. There were two other songs recorded for the album that we decided to exclude because they didn’t sit well with the others. In retrospect we should have included these on Ritual Severance. Maybe they’ll see the light of day eventually, who knows?
Having members in different cities can have limitations, specifically with regards to recording. Whilst both Dave Haley (drums) and John Gossard (leads) are not strangers to this process, recording components independently has the potential of impacting the overall vision and output. Craig’s perspective on this recording process:
Both the album and Ritual Severance were recorded in the same fashion. We approached the recording of Ritual Severance as a kind of ‘warm up’ for the album. It would seem a little messy from the outside looking in, but it is a pretty straightforward process. The technology is there to be used if you’re willing. After the writing is done, everything is recorded as a demo and passed on to Dave who goes into the studio without us to record the drums. The drum tracks are passed back to Joel and I. We record all of our parts and hand the near finished songs over to John for him to add leads to. When all of that is done Joel and I will add the finishing touches. It’s rather mundane really, but it works for us.
Of note is the clarity and definition of this release whilst maintaining a sharp, harrowing, almost shrill and nightmarish tone. The bass sits in the back and reinforces the choral nature of the riffs, allowing room for the drums to dominate the centre, overall it comes through as heavily mid-focused. As such, there is not much of either “air” or “bottom end” to the release. This lends to a stifling atmosphere and an atypical sound for this style of music in reference to other bands as well as previous Consummation releases.
The end results proved satisfactory for the band, achieving a sound which was complimentary to the writing and vision.
– A lot of time and thought was put into crafting the guitar parts for this release. The majority of the sections on the album underwent a drawn out evolution from their more primitive inception. Joel also gave careful consideration to the underlying rhythm guitars and massively enhanced the underlying obscurity of a lot of these passages. We opted for clarity as a means to not obscure our efforts behind a murky production. It would have been a waste of carefully executed nuance. A small amount of pride could certainly be added to the reasoning along with straying from the expectation of bands who lean towards dissonance.
Aside from the drums – which were recorded by Dave’s brother Joseph – and John’s leads, all the recording and mixing was handled in house by Joel. I sat on the side lines and observed for most of this process. We didn’t really start out with an end game in mind other than to create the album with the best tools at our disposal. Joel spent a long period of time mixing, trying to get the best outcome from what we had recorded. I believe he achieved this.
With the completion of their album and the foundation of a new line-up, Consummation can now direct their vision and will towards live audiences once again. Following years of reclusion and contemplation, what atmosphere and experience will the band look to convey?
Consummation hasn’t appeared on the stage for over four years now. There are many reasons for this, some being mundane and others having to do with what I mentioned previously – line up changes and juggling multiple bands etc. A decision was eventually made to put shows aside to allow us to focus solely on writing and recording an album. I can assure you that this is only temporary. Rehearsals have begun now that the album has seen the light of day. As far as future live performances go, all I’ll say is that I hope to deliver something honest that will do the songs justice.
True to their name, Virginia black/death duo Antichrist Siege Machine has been carrying out iconoclastic raids upon the metal underground since their 2016 inception. Following several successful campaigns throughout the United States, their 2016 demo, EP Morbid Triumph, and last years Promo MMXVIII, they are now poised to unleash their debut full length album Schism Perpetration. The coming onslaught is due on LP by Stygian Black Hand and CD by Krucyator Production on August 24th.
Today Covenant premieres “Prime Mover” from the aforementioned Schism Perpetration – an album that sees the band exceed previous outputs with a more developed execution and sound, enhancing upon the barbarity of their formative releases.
From their foundation, there has been a singular purpose to Antichrist Siege Machine’s blunt force approach to music. We talk to drummer/vocalist SB about Antichrist Siege Machine’s past, their imminent album, and future strategems.
“ASM has been a project I wanted to form for many years but could not find a like-minded musician to write with. Z moved to Richmond and we immediately started working. We both wanted to create a sound channeling our influences and to bring an aggression not seen as often with modern acts,” states SB.
In addition to seminal bands in multiple destructive genres, he cites witnessing the destruction of surrounding natural resources, a scorn for religion, and the onset of wars as influences. Whilst many of the topics are not limited to specific events and instead focus on the phenomenon, ideas, and principles, they do draw from personal experience and observation. “As far as music influences, we draw from classic death metal, hardcore punk, and industrial music,” he continues. “We revere the progenitors of this genre: Conqueror, Archgoat, Proclamation, and others. For non-musical influences, I draw inspiration from atrocities committed by the Christian church and the onset of war. I work in land conservation and pull many themes from the carnage I see across Appalachia being perpetrated by monopolized power companies.”
Much of ASM’s material wrestles with ideas versus the recounting of specific periods in time. While something could have happened in 1138, it could also occur in 2020 because the mindset is still there. “As for me saying, ‘onset of wars’ I am referring to the moment or spark in which the flames of aggression burn. That moment is what I seek to draw attention to; not the following violence and not the carnage left over, but the catalyst that triggers the action,” SB states. “I can only draw from my personal experiences for ASM and those are somewhat unique at least among those I’ve encountered in aggressive music. Being raised in a highly sheltered environment sowed the seeds of dissension and rebellion much deeper than those of my peers. I grew to loathe the church and all its co-conspirators. ASM has given me a voice to criticize and blaspheme these crimes against humanity. Abuse is something many are forced to reckon with and I challenge the victims to viciously attack their abusers without mercy.”
Their lyrics draw from the themes mentioned with the execution of the music further sustained with inner conflict, aggression and scorn. “The driving forces behind ASM are warfare against Christianity and the triumph of secular will. Lyrics have taken on a deeper meaning as we have progressed. Initially, the drum parts dictated what the vocals would be as I wrote the words to fit within specific parameters,” he clarifies. “The band has refined this process through each release with growing importance, in itself creating the driving force behind the band.” SB also adds that, “now, ASM’s lyrics reflect much of my own inner conflict and aggression.”
Wielding aggression seems to function as an essential tool in ASM’s creative process. “Aggression is absolutely mandatory for ASM songs. We cannot create without it. Writing these songs requires being in a specific state of mind and if both of us are not there, we cannot work on the band.” Cultivating the mind-set to compose, so to speak. SB proclaims that, “it involves isolation and peace to channel it. Physical fitness is a big part of this band. In order to even be able to perform these songs live, I’ve had to adjust my own breathing habits while drumming and learn new techniques. Cardio is paramount.”
It doesn’t take long for SB to elucidate where exactly this eternal source of fury generates. “Through my work, I witness a lot of tragic sights regarding deforestation and destruction of open-space for human defilement. It is difficult to not become enraged at what this part of the country is undergoing.”
Being a two piece has benefited the band with forging their sound, the creative process, and playing live with minimal disadvantages. From this approach they are able to retain control over the vision without compromise, with an agreed singular purpose and organic writing process – further aiding their productivity. Reflecting upon this arrangement SB adds, “to us, the advantages greatly outweigh the limitations. We precisely target the sound ASM requires. Our writing process is fluid. The difficult part is that we are both involved in many other projects and unfortunately cannot practice very often.”
“Many of our songs have been written from the drums,” he mentions. “Z writes proper [stringed] parts to convey the violence inherent in the drumming. The rest of our songs are the result of collaborative efforts. When writing together we typically will create 15-20 minutes of chaos. The songs make themselves apparent and we split them into cohesive attacks.” In terms of taking this hellish sound to the live arena, he clarifies that, “ASM did not begin as an entity that would play live. It was after the large interest garnered with the 2016 demo that we decided to attempt to play the songs live. It took a little while for my body to adjust to drumming and singing, but now it is somewhat second nature. As far as future ambitions, we would like to continue to tour when able to and visit as many countries outside the United States as we can.”
Antichrist Siege Machine’s first album will be out very shortly, and clocking in at 29 minutes of raw barbaric black/death, it is a purposefully concise salvo. During the writing and recording process for Schism Perpetration, the importance of being selective with their material was paramount. “We felt we were able to convey our intention within that span of time. As far as future records are concerned, it will depend on the way we write the material. Much of Schism Perpetration was written in a short time and when we both feel inspired; we try to write as much as we can. We reject much more than we accept as far as songs go. They will be reworked many times before being performed live as ASM has a distinct sound. If a song sounds good to us but does not fit within ASM’s other material, it is often scrapped.”
Our writing process was somewhat protracted because our schedules didn’t permit us to meet as much as we had been able to,” SB recalls. A move that actually could have been a blessing in disguise, allowing the visionary to further delve into the topical inspiration for this release. “Since this album took much longer, much more time was spent constructing the message for Schism Perpetration,” he reveals. “I had the album title in my head two years ago. It came to me when studying the split within the Christian church in the 11th century. Much of the themes of this record have to do with spreading blasphemy and invoking righteous violence for one’s beliefs.
The album was once again recorded with the band’s trusted ally BQ, responsible for harnessing the Antichrist Siege Machine sound thus far. “He recorded Morbid Triumph and our 2018 promo tape. I have worked with him for many years and he understands what ASM is communicating. ZLAL of Heavy Breathing and Predation fame has also been a collaborator on every effort following our demo. He brings a vast knowledge of analog sound equipment and enables us to recreate the aggression of our live performances for the recorded tracks.”
The topic of spiritual zealotry is recurrent through history and as the band alluded to previously, but it is not limited to a specific time or historical circumstance. “Religious extremism is still driving much of the conflict seen in the world. Especially in the Middle East, we know that this violence will not cease in our lifetimes,” he deftly admits. With the growth of secularism within society, we’re genuinely curious if the phenomenon would cease or whether it is inherent to human nature, likely to be supplemented by a whole new beast of delusion. “America has been moving in a secular direction but people are still looking for ideologies to force upon others. I think religion will always be there. It may not be what we call ‘religion’ today, but, throughout time, it has proven to be a shapeshifter used by influential people to dominate the weak-minded. Some need to cling to religion for perceived salvation. Others need an entity to eternally wage warfare against. The duality of these things is what ASM seeks to identify. Without darkness there is no light.”
“I am apocalyptic despair and Utopian hope. I am you, therefore I kill”
8/24 Richmond, VA record release show at Wonderland with Abysmal Lord and Vimur
—–Tour with Bog Body—–
8/25 Atlanta, GA at 529
8/26 Gainesville, FL at Durty Nelly’s
8/27 Charleston, SC at Big Gun
8/28 Raleigh, NC at The Maywood
8/30 New York, NY at Union Pool with Impure, Ordeals, and Bog Body
In the heavily saturated world of extreme music, it’s easy for artists to fall within existing lines and hope that they’re exceptional. However, those that truly experiment within the genre have given prolific listeners a chance to be challenged and drawn in by sounds that don’t feel the need to follow the formulas determined by people before them, allowing for more acute attention to atmosphere and the conveyance of the less tangible.
In the case of Edmonton’s Antediluvian, what is conveyed in their music is to become smothered by something amorphous and inescapable – the sounds of something being unwillingly ripped from another plane of existence. Made up of a core of two members (Haasiophis on vocals and guitar and drummer Mars Sekhmet), Antediluvian first achieved recognition in underground circles with a series of self-released demos. The simple and relentless drums prepare the ground for primitive vocals and disorienting guitar work that lays somewhere between old school death and black metal, while rejecting any clear structural confines.
“Several events coincided that made the birth of Antediluvian possible,” says Mars. “I was emerging from a period of a few years where I spent almost all of my waking hours by myself. Before Antediluvian, I only had interest in working on solo projects. I had decided I would finally learn to play the drums. I connected with Haasiophis exactly during a time period where his previous project was starting to fall apart, and the two of us played together within the first few weeks of me learning drums. He had ideas for a new project that formed the conceptual basis of Antediluvian, but I don’t think he had any expectations that someone just learning drums would be appropriate for that vision until we actually started playing together. Our first demo was released only a couple months later.”
The development of the band into what it is today is clear over the chronology of their work. From their first demos, to full-length Through the Cervix of Hawaah, to λόγος and their most recent EP Septentrional Theophany, the pieces and ideas that make up the project seem to amalgamate with each release. “Haasiophis and I are still the core members of the band. Antediluvian exists only with our combined forces,” says Mars. “Throughout the project, the two of us have done almost all of the song writing. I would not say that it has been confining artistically. If anything, I think it’s the opposite: because we have very different interests and ideas, and are both creative and driven people, we can sometimes be opposing forces. But with only two of us, we manage to create something with minimal compromise. At first, Haasiophis did most of the writing and conceptual framework. But through my birth as a drummer into this project I grew to have my own style, which I am always pushing for in the band. These factors together have caused Antediluvian to become something neither of us anticipated or planned.”
When asked whether the chaotic nature of their songwriting is spontaneous or an artistically conscious decision, Mars replies: “Both, or neither, depending on how you look at it. We are obviously consciously aware of it, as we struggle to master each song. We never outlined consciously how to write an Antediluvian song, but at the same time, when I write, I am writing specifically for Antediluvian. And that does involve always pushing the material to surprise me, so that it doesn’t become formulaic.”
Much like the music itself, their lyrical work evokes imagery of a perverse and deranged universe. A current of cosmic and protocanonical biblical themes run throughout, calling back to the era that is their namesake and shine a harsh light on the unlit parts of our mind that we might only experience during a fever dream. “I think what makes this band work is that there is a shared connection in the interest of exploring the unconscious mind. Specifically, we explore the way we, as humans, experience and evaluate the world in a way that is very detached from the moral guise of normal life. It focuses on the biological part of being human that has not changed much since antediluvian times. Outside of the realm of metal, people typically know me as a scientist. There too, I focus on the biological aspects of what it means to be human. And as someone who does art and science very seriously, I know that the two are highly connected. Antediluvian is an artistic exploration of our understanding of the human experience,” she says. “I am not involved in writing the lyrical content of Antediluvian. If I did, the underlying themes would be the same, but the form would be slightly different. Haasiophis has always been fascinated with the parallels in religious thinking across cultures.”
Their approach to art is holistic, with live shows, artwork, and lyrics all acting as parts of the bigger picture that is Antediluvian, rather than being afterthoughts to the sound they create. Taking in the band as a whole, one gets the impression that every part must exist simultaneously – almost like a living organism. “Take for example the Septentrional Theophany EP,” says Mars. “I wrote all the music for this EP, Haasophis created the artwork, and Jason Campbell wrote the lyrics. Despite the very modular roles we played, the EP came together in a way that is very unified.” She continues, “I think intertwining music, art, and personal philosophy isn’t really about responsibility, but about listening and studying your own work. In that sense, I resonate with the whole ‘black metal is serious’ thing. Putting on a show only works if you fully embody your own creation.”
Witness the primordial chaos lurch forth from a period of great dormancy as Antediluvian headlines Friday July 5th at Covenant Festival V in Vancouver, BC.