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. “