torstai 22. joulukuuta 2011

Jumalhämärä - Dawn Saturnine

Without a doubt the best black metal album of 2010, Jumalhämärä's Resignaatio, just got released on vinyl by the venerated Finnish labels Ahdistuksen Aihio and Hammer of Hate. With the possible exception of Blut Aus Nord's 777: The Desanctification, albums bringing something new to black metal were, unsurprisingly, few in 2011. They always are. Yes, we got some awesome Midnight madness, Antediluvian bestiality, Negative Planesque obscurity, and Archgoatic obscenity, but other than that 2011 wasn't a very good year in black metal, methinks. Causing quite the storm in a teacup with their slogan "adult oriented black metal," Jumalhämärä are the fitting interviewee for the Winter Solstice. -------
"Dawn Saturnine"
An interview with Jumalhämärä.
Originally published in The Serpent Bearer I, March 2008.

“Everything for the work / All is in the work” are two lines from the Jumalhämärä song Dawn Saturnine. Not a very promising start for an interview, one might think. Even though I think we didn’t always share a common language with Jumalhämärä, our discussion proved to be an interesting one. Saying that all is in the work might be considered self-explanatory, the one-0-one of reading and interpreting texts and other pieces of art. Nevertheless, some artists think that it actually is important or even necessary for the artist to discuss the meanings in, around and behind their art. Not if you ask Jumalhämärä.
– It’s not that interesting to discuss the lyrics with an artist in case the lyrics are printed or are available by request. I would be more interested in such a discussion if the lyrics weren’t available at all. On the Slaughter the Messenger MCD there’s everything you need to get the point and nothing more. Everything that we’ve put there has a meaning and everything that we’ve left out has been left out for a reason. “Work” that is mentioned in the lyrics of Dawn Saturnine doesn’t mean the process of making CD’s.

Nor do I think it did, I assure you. The drop of quicksilver that is Slaughter the Messenger eludes most adjectives, but to say it sounds devoted is one simple way of putting it. A black metal record made by modern Ulver featuring King Crimson’s Robert Fripp is another scratch on the surface of a more complicated truth. The Italian idealist philosopher Benedetto Croce – among many others, obviously – has stated that the art of music is the manifestation of intuition, and thus it is something pure in nature. Jumalhämärä state that the art takes its own aims, and the band just keeps the machine in order, adjusts the aims and pulls the trigger. Still, there is something about Slaughter the Messenger that screams for the definition “intuitive.” But what defines Jumalhämärä for the band members themselves?
– Jumalhämärä is defined by the people and the forces behind the people involved. We have no boundaries concerning our expression because the people in the act are few in numbers and all inspired by the transcendental force commonly known as Satan. Anyway, I believe that we’ll carry on with black metal.

Even though the new Jumalhämärä material is rather different from their older works the band still decided to call it Jumalhämärä. From what I’ve gathered they didn’t really even consider doing otherwise.
– Well, there’s a gap of six years between Slaughter the Messenger and the last activities with the old line-up. So it’s quite natural that we’ve evolved. Slaughter the Messenger was born in quite meditative conditions. Quite soon after we first time heard ourselves playing those songs we had a clear vision what Slaughter the Messenger would be about. Of course there was plenty of not-so-meditative work with arranging and recording the music in the form that it is now available for the herds via Hammer of Hate.

The passive-like constructions “was born” and “we heard ourselves playing” caught my attention. I think it was Victor from Enochian Crescent who once stated in an interview that a possessed being can’t have a will of his own. So the question is, did Jumalhämärä in any way feel like outsiders while building up Slaughter the Messenger?
– We weren’t outsiders. We were totally in it.

As you can well see, the band’s answers are decisive and to-the-point. None of that meditation and meandering that in some respect define Slaughter the Messenger and its creation process, according to the band themselves. What ignites this meditativeness, then?

– Whatever, wherever. But I can tell you that it’s not mandatory to take drugs, burn insence or stretch oneself to painful asanas in order to reach a meditative state of mind.

One might think, moreover, that in the recording process there’s always the possible downside that the music, once in recorded form, becomes less meditative in a way, as recording usually is to some extent mechanic and executive, so to speak. We could make the same assumption about Jumalhämärä’s rehearsal conditions where they’re forced to rely on the drum machine etc.

– I don’t think the process itself affects it, but we have to tone it down a bit for practical reasons while recording. Jumalhämärä is not a rehearsing kind of band. We just make music when we share the urge to create something. And for composing we usually just exploit some guitars and maybe pen and paper. I have GarageBand on my computer and it can be abused if it’s just necessary to demonstrate some rhytmic ideas or somehting. But with computers it’s rather boring and it quickly gets complicated when going beyond the usual 4/4, 3/8 etc. We would like to keep it organic.


On Slaughter the Messenger the lyrics are somewhat unconventional, for black metal at least. To be honest, it is a bit hard for me to think that some conscious provocation didn’t go into phrases such as “our papa below.”

– I can’t really see how the term “our papa below” out of its context would be somehow provocative in itself. I think that all art should at least provoke some thoughts and feelings but it’s a bit useless to chat about a single word or phrase appearing in our lyrics, don’t you think? Every detail on Slaughter the Messenger is influenced by something else than “black metal conventions.” Jumalhämärä is not a blackmetal-metal band. It’s a black metal band.

While I’m still not entirely convinced that “our papa below” wasn’t there for a specific reason, I gladly acknowledge the last-made statement. Another “wrong” reading I made was about the intro of The Swing, which includes children’s voices. As childhood is also alluded to in the second song, Discover the Pigtail, I started thinking that childhood might be a part of the concept of Slaughter the Messenger. Actually, what was your childhood like?

– Well Sigmund, my childhood was very pleasant in every possible way. On Slaughter the Messenger the pigtail would be more important and interesting than the particular children who are having a time of their lives in the aforementioned intro. Slaughter the Messenger is not about childhood. It’s about slaughtering the messenger, so to speak.

Alright, I might have given Alcest’s latest album too many spins after all. I blame that for inducing this, shall we say, childish reading. Let’s pursue the path of over-interpretation, however. “You’re not able / to entertain / our papa below / if you’re listening / to the droning of flies / when the carrion talks.” I do confess this is a rather narrow and mundane reading of those lines, but one of the interpretations I think is available from these lines from The Swing is that certain black metal bands are outdated – have lost their relevance, in other words – and have nothing to offer to the One they address their offerings to.
– Quite a mundane interpretation indeed. Anyway, this idea could, and should be generally applied to almost any field of life including black metal. I don’t consider black metal culture in itself worthy to be commented on in black metal music. At least not in our music. There are more appropriate medias for that.

The statement that Jumalhämärä is not a blackmetal-metal band still stands. Many bands put into their black metal music/lyrics what they get from black metal music/lyrics, in other words they work within a closed circuit. I have to admit I was first lost when I read a Secrets of the Moon interview (Kaleidoscope #4) where S. Golden stated that he doesn’t care for an ideology in black metal, as “serious ideology should be rooted elsewhere.” The key word here is rooted. As it should have become clear by now, Jumalhämärä gathers few of their musical or lyrical influences from black metal. I’d say Jumalhämärä still is black metal. They’re not too keen on analysing this closed circuit paradigm further, however.

– It’s not our mission to preach how things should be. It’s quite apparent that black metal is inbred, if youngsters making it are only listening to black metal and the only thing they read is black metal lyrics and maybe some Tolkien, Redbeard, Nietzsche or whatever seems to be easily linked with the black metal clichés they've learned from the booklets of their CD’s. Of course it becomes spiritless and boring, but we don’t have time nor interest to get worried about such issues. There will always be crappy music and there will always be some worthy too. We’ll stick with the worthy.

I somehow come to an understanding that Jumalhämärä deems the underground as the habitat for the worthy, but then again they want nothing to do with the unwritten rules of the underground. What makes the underground important for Jumalhämärä, and what sickens them about it, then?

– The value of the underground is in the people willing to use their time, money and contacts to promote something worth promoting. On the other hand, the underground BM scene is a dirty little sandbox with scenesters and fanboys. It’s becoming more and more like mainstream pop in this sense. The exception to mainstream pop being that in the black metal underground every fanboy with nothing to achieve with their lives has his own band and its sideprojects, label or something like that. I myself have gained lots of memorable experiences and good comrades – not those in myspace, but real existing people, you know – in underground circles. Jumalhämärä will always be an underground band.

But what is Jumalhämärä, besides underground and black metal. With a request of being a little more elaborate than the usual “we don’t give a fuck” I ask whether Jumalhämärä would like their band to be considered intellectual, progressive, meditative or profound?

– We haven’t set any goals considering our public image as musicians or as a band, since the music may take different shapes between releases. Like car manufacturers, we’d prefer linking words like quality, innovation and progression to our products. As private persons we don’t have nor do we need to have a public image, so from this perspective I guess we really don’t give a fuck. Sorry about that.

– Speaking of other people, they see what they are able to or want to see. Even the fundamental idea of black metal music can include all the “virtues” you mentioned. But after all everything – I mean everything – is just so damn relative. And naturally most subjects are highly subjective too. So it wouldn’t break my heart if someone told me that the new Nargaroth – or whatever, you name it – was more intellectual, progressive, meditative or profound than the work of ours.

There is a saying “more metal, less brain,” which is to say that, in some people’s opinion, metal should have nothing to do with intellect, progressivity, meditation and, in general, profoundness as regards both the music and, especially, the lyrics. According to Jumalhämärä, it’s natural to serve their metal with some brain and spirit. But there are times to deal with the profound with Arvo Pärt’s Litany quietly stirring in the background, and there are times to drink beer with friends listening to Motörhead.

Then again – and don’t take this as one-dimensional now – is it brain work that black metal demands from its creators and listeners? Many people consider black metal to deny any hint of light and life. Rather, it’s a formless black void, a vacuum of hate, even. The purpose is to go into the core of things where the core is Nothing. Such a state of being, such a place, undoubtedly is impossible for the human brain to understand to begin with. Where does Jumalhämärä stand in this?

– The light and life are still here in varying colors, and in my opinion it’s somewhat dull to praise total darkness and void, since it kinda means that there’s nothing at all. Trying to make art about nothing would be pretty much useless. We don’t place or waste ourselves in the vacuum you mentioned. We’re enlightened by Darkness and therefore very alive.

Let us finish off the interview with a verse from Baudelaire’s poem, “Benediction”:
“Of Light, of Light alone, it will be fashioned, Light
Drawn from the holy fount, rays primitive and pure,

Whereof the eyes of mortal men, so starry bright,

Are but the mirrors, mirrors cloudy and obscure.”
To me this poem parallels with both Slaughter the Messenger and Jumalhämärä’s somewhat decisive and explicit answers in this very interview. We already discussed the purity and intuitivity of Jumalhämärä’s music, and one of the questions also touched upon the interpretation of the musician as a mere mirror in the creation process. “Light,” on the other hand, can be seen as something transcendental, the ultimate source of inspiration – Satan, as Jumalhämärä name it. Yet another parallel in this poem and in my interpretation of Jumalhämärä’s music is the concept of primitiveness. So does the band consider their music or lyrics primitive as such, or as rays coming from a primitive source? Do primitiveness and intellectuality go hand in hand in the concept of Jumalhämärä?
– On this very release we prefer to call the musical and lyrical concept minimalistic rather than primitive. This, however, was the concept particularly on Slaughter the Messenger and we might come up with something way more complicated in the future. The outcome will most probably be as intellectual or as primitive as the people behind it.

– I admit that Baudelaire there does somehow share a similar point of view with the themes on our MCD, but the point in the poem you refer to is not the point itself in our case. Just to make it clear enough, we don’t consider ourselves to be merely obscure mirrors on the walls of expression. There’s always our will and intention and we’re well aware of them and we know how to handle and direct them, and in the end, how to reflect what we want to be reflected. Our own will and intention are a necessity. They’re a necessity in the process of getting possessed. You know, we don’t want to get possessed the way Riku Rinne [a Finnish flim-flam evangelist -ed.] does. And back to the poem, let us also keep in mind the fact that Mr Baudelaire was a romanticist to the fuckin’ bone.

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