tiistai 29. toukokuuta 2012

Watain - The Hollow World

I think it was in an interview with the Danish Evilution zine that Erik Danielsson stated that Black Metal and DVDs don't really match. About six years later, the latest drop from the grail that is Watain is precisely that - a live DVD. Not just any DVD, you might argue, but still a DVD. Don't get me wrong, I'm not trying to bitch about the band changing their mind and evolving. I for one respect Watain for following the path they've been called to follow.

However, there have been some things in Watain that I haven't been able to take at face value. But what appear to be commissioned and rather everyday photo shoots, awkward autograph sessions or plastic collector sets, are part of the holistic ritual for the members of Watain. And for anyone who might argue that, Danielsson is willing to expand his idea of a ritual to include beating up a journalist in the back alleys of Helsinki.


"The Hollow World"
An interview with Erik Danielsson of Watain
Originally published in Imperiumi.net, June 2010.

In a couple of earlier interviews you’ve spoken about “the trinity” of releases, the idea that many bands first put out three classic/great albums and then start to wind down somewhat. How did you make sure that Watain wouldn’t take the wrong path on your fourth album?

- The first three albums of Watain can be seen as a foundation, the completed triangle of Watain. We needed three albums to explore our own ability, to know ourselves and to erect our temple. A temple which stood ready with Sworn to the Dark, and that we can now use for what we came here to do; the Devil’s work. We have always aimed for being able to perform music and art with enough dignity to be linked with the power of our gods. This takes time, devotion and determination. As far as I am concerned, it took me three albums.

- The reason I can see for many bands loosing it around their third album is that the first phase of a band usually represent a vortex of energy and creativity, of emotions that demand to be expressed. For many artists, the end of that phase means arriving to a point of repetition, of stagnation or, in the worst case, to be drained of inspiration. Needless to say, it did not work that way for us.

The working title for Sworn to the Dark was No Return. What was the working title for Lawless Darkness and how did it guide your way through the writing and recording process this time around?

- There was no such working title I think, and neither was “No Return” really a lodestar as such. The way we compose is far more chaotic, like adding ingredients to a cauldron in which hell itself must eventually boil. Experimentation and experience in excess...

How much of a parallel is there between shedding skin musically, and the understanding that a Satanist will, little by little, destroy the restrains encoded in his human body? I mean, does Watain’s musical development necessitate religious/spiritual development?

- That parallel is constant and could not be anything else, since Watain has always been an outlet for our own spiritual experience and belief. Our own spiritual progression is always the reason for any relevant progression within the band, as an artistic outlet for the same.

You’ve stated in interviews pretty much from the beginning that bands like Metallica and Death SS, rather than usual suspects such as Darkthrone, are more of an influence on your work in Watain. Listening to some of the tracks on Lawless Darkness, I think that at times the Metallica influence comes through more than ever before. Would you tend to agree?

- Yes there might be a stronger traditional metal element to Lawless Darkness, which is nothing strange to me really. That aspect has always been a big part of our lives and it would be strange if it at some point did not show in our work as artist, considering how personal Watain is to us.

- However, to me Watain will always be a Black Metal band per se. The difference between a regular Heavy Metal band and us is that while they try to hide – or are unaware of – the fact that the Devil speaks through their music, while we are open about it.

There are definitely some soul-grabbing melodies on Lawless Darkness, especially on the closing track Waters of Ain. On the classic Metallica albums, one could pretty much memorize and sing along even the guitar solos, and I think that it’s the same with some of Watain’s most touching moments. What is the inner feeling like in studio or, especially, on stage, when this kind of melodies start playing? (I reckon you haven’t yet played Waters of Ain live, but there are earlier Watain songs and melodies that have a similar effect for me at least, The Serpent’s Chalice, for example.)

- Yes, I know the parts you are refering to, and they are indeed special. On Lawless Darkness we have got closer to the formula of creating them, and this is something we will always be striving for; Timeless music, worthy enough to place upon the altar of the Gods.
- The reactions in the studio are the same as those of any sane person hearing them; solemn delight, outbursts of madness, tears of pride, the urge to praise Satan.

In Sweden Rock Magazine you said that Waters of Ain is your “begravningslåt,” which obviously speaks volumes about the personal importance of the song. If you were to die tomorrow, would you be satisfied with the way Watain ended with Lawless Darkness?

- Yes, I’d say I would. But on the other hand I would have been “satisfied” if we ended with Sworn to the Dark as well, since we always give our everything. All I can say is that there are still an abyss to discover within Watain, that still yearns to be expressed through us, and that we still yearn to express. Many depths are yet to be ventured...

To what extent are you interested in leaving a legacy with Watain? I mean, what would it mean to you if Watain would be recognised alongside the likes of Mayhem, Celtic Frost and even Slayer one day?

- As far as I am concerned, Watain is already a legacy on it’s own. To us it has become a brotherhood, a holy mission and the very center of everything that Black Metal ever meant to us. If other people will look upon the band like that in the future, that would mean they reached an understanding similar to ours. But understanding of other people has never been our goal in the first place, and neither something we have been regularly blessed with, so to us it matters little. This is not a popularity contest, it is the relentless transcendence of the Devil’s sons.

Another question about the worldly dimension of things. You’ve stated that if people want to see the works of Satan in this world, all they need to do is look around, look to covetous world leaders and natural disasters. I can understand the natural disaster part, but have some difficulty with the world leaders part. After all, they’re mostly driven by very mundane desires like money and fame. How do these “vices” represent the transcendent nature of Satan?

- Sometimes I really regret even opening my mouth about these kind of things, because to speak about the nature of religion to people who are either non-religious or even anti-religious, is truly throwing pearls for swine. It is like trying to explain color to the colorblind. Singing songs for the deaf. Who then happily nod in confusion and misunderstanding.

- Of course it is not the mundane, pathethic desires of the puppets of the earth that i refer to when I speak of the manifestation of Satanic energy. “World leaders” equal “worms” to me, and there is as much of Satan in them as there is in my coffee. What I am refering to is of course the glowing dominance of true Tyrants and Executioners of history, the great white-eyed butcherers of mankind, who, in the name of religion, ideology or whatever it might have been, have carried out the Devil’s work. When the lust for dominance and will to eliminate your foes is driven to such degree that it reaches godlike qualities, then you can see the Devil shine in the eyes.

You state that rather than seeing people’s souls being fed with plastic shit culture, you prefer filling people’s souls with blood. How does a box set limited to 1,000 copies including a black candle fill souls with blood?

- Your childish and arrogant description of the Lawless Darkness box does not deserve an answer other than “Fuck You”. But, doing my best to ignore your inborn finnish stupidity, i’ll try to explain, as I would explain it to any child; Metal thrives on quality, determination, vision and strength. This is what I refered to as “blood”. Metal is however broken down and made insipid by unintelligence, weakness and lack of vision. This is what I refer to as “plastic shit culture”. You, and many other individuals and bands constituting todays scene, represent the latter. We, Watain, represent the first. The Lawless Darkness box is an attempt to bring about quality, thoughtfulness and artistic vision. The ideas behind the contents of the box are many and intricate, and I would gladly have explained them if you would not have revealed your lack of respect in the question. People who fail to see the value of this release are too caught up in their own false metal world where things such as box sets equals attempts to make money and satisfy collectors. But that is your ignorant and self-reflecting conception of things, not ours.

In the midst of soundchecks, traveling, the Bathory cover gig and exclusive photo sessions for Sweden Rock Magazine, Zero Tolerance and what not, so it would probably be easy to let it all go and just ride the wave of routine. Also, no matter how holistic the nature of Watain is, things like exclusive photo sessions could be seen as extracurricular activity at best. To what extent are you willing to serve the needs of, say, music magazines? In other words, can you justify things like the exclusive photo sessions to yourself on a deeper (spiritual) level?

- Everything we do with Watain, be it a photosession or beating up a journalist in a back-alley of Helsinki, is an extent of our artistic (=spiritual) expression. We would not do a photo-session if we did not have an idea for it or did not feel like it. However, we have many ideas, and we often feel like having them manifested. That is why we have a band, to be able to manifest our artistic ideas, no matter what they be. Without magazines wanting to publish photos, labels wanting to release albums, and magazines wanting to do interviews, the ability to have our ideas carried out and take their toll would be rather limited.

Is the path to world domination paved with good intentions?

- Not as far as I can see.

I was reading a slightly older Watain interview in Close-Up Magazine, where you talked the incidence that you’d had after the photo session for that interview. That is, when you were walking through the town after the photo shoot in your full gear and smeared with blood, you referred to the people’s (non-)reaction in the lines that even though people see a demon walking on the street, they don’t react, because “det blir på något sätt för mycket att ta in.” Do you ever get that same sense when you’re playing live, that even for the people who come to see you live, it’s somehow too much for them to take?

- The live shows is yet another outlet which we use to make the fire within our hearts come alive and manifest upon this earth. This is why they become very powerful experiences. To me this is nothing strange, Black Metal the way we perform it is very powerful and should not be underestimated. It has the power to alter ones state of mind and body and should not be approached lightly. I have seen people vomiting and crying during our performances. I respect their reactions fully, because at least they have been opening themselves enough to take in our art! I much rather shake hand with someone who has tears in the eyes after a concert, than some proud idiot who was too narrowminded and stupid to realize what was going on. Watain is a band for those who want something more than a regular concert experience, for the people who live and breath for the passion and the fire contained in the heart of the genre, the very fire of Satan.

If there’s anything you’d like to add, feel free to do so here. Thank you very much for the interview!

- Fuck you.

perjantai 18. toukokuuta 2012

Averse Sefira - All Fled, All Done

Averse Sefira is no more. Founded in 1996, the band recently decided to fold after releasing four full-length albums, the latest of which was Advent Parallax from 2008. This interview was done in the wake of that same release. While I've seldom listened to the band's records in the past four years, I remember being totally blown away by Tetragrammatical Astygmata when it came out. Will probably have to check tomorrow if it has stood the test of time, although I'm somewhat discouraged by the double-10" format already. Anyway, here's to Averse Sefira!


"All Fled, All Done"
Interview with Wrath of Averse Sefira.
Originally published in Imperiumi.net, March 2008.

How would you go about introducing Averse Sefira to a person who’s already well acquainted with black metal? What does Averse Sefira mean to you personally?

- Averse Sefira is the path to the void, a key to finding divinity within the self, the means to the end. It can sometimes serve as black metal for those who do not like black metal, or else as a key to truly understanding the nature of the art. We are black metal and in the end this is enough.

The US has of course had its share of black metal bands (at least) from the days of Von, Profanatica etc. onwards, but with Leviathan, Xasthur et al. in recent years, there’s been an excess of (mostly one-man) BM bands from the States. Bands like Averse Sefira, Krieg and Absu, however, would seem to share a closer affinity with European bands – because of your dealings with Ajna, you’ve even been considered one band in the “elite” orthodox movement. Anyway, what are your thoughts on the current USBM bands if you compare them to European ones?

- Are we considered elite? I have no way to evaluate such things. But you are right, we are much more firmly aligned with the European movement because our sensibilities and goals resonate with many of those bands. We have been asked repeatedly about the USBM movement and I hate discussing it because to me it draws a distinction between us and the rest of the world. We do not identify with any one location. Wherever our work reaches like minds then we are home. We are also often asked about the one-man acts in the US, and all I can say is that this is not what propels the movement forward. Burzum was effective because Varg was proactive. He did not play live but his impact was certainly broad in drawing an unprecedented amount of attention to the genre through his actions. In general I find that one-man acts are problematic because they operate without the checks and balances of other members and as such the content tends to be random and meandering. Some like that kind of thing, but I am not one of them. I prefer clear intent and obvious termination points in my music.

In an interview with Dragonland from 2003 you stated that European black metal scene owes a lot to the European cultural heritage, whereas there’s no such backdrop for American bands. If you still hold this opinion, would you care to elaborate on it a bit... Do you mean that such cultural heritage “gave birth” to the BM scene in a way, or was BM more an anti-movement against the culture this heritage had brought about?

- I would say it is a little of both. Europe has a vast history and it engenders art and culture that is unparalleled in the rest of the world. Black metal could be viewed as a reaction to this heritage in some ways but look at any band that had something intriguing to offer and the mark of their forebears are obvious. Propensity for music and art are inborn like anything else, so it stands to reason that a land with a lot of history would continue to produce people to whom those gifts come very naturally.

I’ve read some of your tour blogs from the current tour with Rotting Christ, Immolation and Belphegor, and it would seem the saying “no-one’s a prophet in his own land” at least partly holds true with Averse Sefira. With this tour now (almost) over, is it ever a reality shock to go back home after a month’s touring? Would you please give our readers an anecdote or two from the recent tour?

- I wouldn't say that the above adage really applies. We are still working to establish ourselves in the US since we did not have the means or desire to do so until we began working with Candlelight. There are still a large number of people who do not know us here. That, and we cannot be on a line-up with three veteran bands with multiple releases on large labels and expect to dominate. Do not misunderstand my journals; we did well for ourselves in the end but it took a lot more work to win people over than it did for the other acts. This will hopefully change quickly as our level of exposure grows but we acknowledge that there is still more work ahead of us. As for the tour itself, I was reluctant to see it end but at the same time it was actually a relief to get off the road so I could deal with the bronchitis I acquired. I like being at home for the comforts it offers but I also like being on the road for the experiences it brings. I do not have all that many anecdotes from the road as most everything was orderly and the bands were generally well-behaved. I will allow that one of the rites of passage for this outing was to walk in on Serpenth from Belphegor with whatever girl he was with on any given evening. Most everyone managed to do this at least once by the end of the run.

I also understand you walked away from a decent job to go on this tour with Averse Sefira, which is an obvious sign of dedication. Now, hypothetically, if your bandmates would land in the same situation, with a tour just around the corner, would you expect them to do the same thing?

- Of course, and they have done so multiple times. We have all repeatedly sacrificed our livelihoods in the name of this band and we will continue to do so. Jobs are a way to keep food on the table and nothing more.

How do you perceive touring and live gigs in general – its pros and cons? How does touring help you achieve what you aspire for with Averse Sefira? Has it become a mere tool of attracting new listeners (not that there’s anything wrong with that), or are you still able to avoid it getting too much a routine to play live night after night? I mean, for many people a black metal concert is at best a ritual, something that takes the audience (and the band, of course) to the earlier days of man when ritual and music were something totally inseparable from life.

- The pros of touring are mainly getting to be friends with other great bands and meeting a lot of interesting people. The cons are when some shows turn out poorly and the constant exhaustion that comes with being on the road. Touring is also not the best way on earth to make money. At worst it is a way to raise awareness of of our work, and at best it is a ritual communion with those who already know us or those who wish to be indoctrinated. Every show is different, and when it the circumstances are ideal there is nothing routine about any of it. We prefer the nights that wage chaos and create a sense that things may become completely untethered from rational behavior both on ours and the audience's behalf. This is when the ritual exists- when the message sent is the message received and those in attendance are within our thrall.

I don’t want to put you in a bad position, nor am I trying to encourage you to badmouth any of the persons you’ve toured with, so please consider this a more general question... How do rock ‘n roll lifestyle and black metal go together?

- I guess it depends on what you mean by “rock n roll lifestyle”. If you mean sex and drugs I think that those elements are universal in all permutations of rock and metal music. I am ambivalent about both since when I am on tour the journey and the mission are my preoccupations. Some bands could argue that sex and drugs are part of black metal in keeping with indulgence and depravity, but personally I have no interest in such things. Whether or not that makes me more legitimate is of course a matter of opinion. Then again I know many excellent BM bands who drink and philander like the world is about to end so I suppose you'll have to draw your own conclusions.

Let’s talk about your brand new album, Advent Parallax, which is your first album for Candlelight Records. All the earlier Averse Sefira albums, I understand, were more lyric-dictated, but the new album is different in that respect. What lead to such a decision and how did it affect the process of spawning an album? For example, did you ever feel the lyric-dictated approach was somehow limiting or restricting you?

- In the case of Advent Parallax the music came before they lyrics which never happened before in our writing process. The effect was a more holistic approach to writing the music as we did not have a specific lyrical structure to guide us. This taught us some new things in terms of what we are capable of as a band, but in some ways it also made the process more difficult than it would have been otherwise. We will take what we learned and put it to good use but I still expect that the lyrics will continue to chart the course for the music in future works.

You even stated something in the lines that without lyrics you would be somewhat lost as to where to go with the music. What showed you the way through the process this time with the change in the role of the lyrics?

- We still had all the concepts for the album present so it was not like we were without some plan of action. As I said before, we ended up with a more open-ended process that admittedly helped bring in some ideas that might have otherwise been discarded. The issue here is that all of our albums are chapters in a long story. We are a concept band and accordingly we must have those concepts in place before we can create anything new.

The lyrics on Advent Parallax, especially, would seem to be very interesting and really just demand further study. One of the most interesting songs, in my humble opinion, is Viral Kinesis with its solar/fire references and (should I say) illuminated imagery. I think most listeners, like myself, would consider your lyrics to fall into the “intellectual” BM lyrics category. One thing is for sure; the lyrics challenge the listener. How does this affect, in your opinion, the bond between the band and the audience in a live situation? I mean, it’s probably easier to get the audience “involved” with more straightforward lyrics about anti-christianity, or something.

- Averse Sefira has never been a “Satan vomits on you” band and we never will be. We realize that quite a bit of what we do will not be readily absorbed and that some people simply will not rise to the challenge, but we cannot do it any other way, even if it means confounding people at shows. This has become ever more apparent to us after having to open for Belphegor for a month. We write what speaks to us and to do anything else would be disingenuous. We would rather be true to ourselves than pander to an audience with something that is obviously not of us. Also, since when is the nature of mysticism supposed to be transparent and easy to digest? Those who wish to understand are obligated to look deeper and find the meaning within. This to me is what makes our music valuable. We meet fans who tell us what they gleaned from our albums and it is striking how once they manage to reach that point of comprehension then they are able to understand it as we do. And our performances are every bit as violent as our more, shall we say “direct” counterparts, so this covers the necessary distance when it comes to connecting with our audiences.

One of the readings for the title of the album Advent Parallax is that of new beginning, the eve of something new, a new angle to approach things or something in those lines. In your opinion, besides the change in the role of lyrics, has your approach on Averse Sefira changed significantly - since the beginning of the band or since the Tetragrammatical... album, in particular? What about your approach on things ”beyond” Averse Sefira?

- Congratulations! You are the first interviewer who got the meaning of the album's title. But I would not say that we have changed significantly as a band, nor was the title pointing to anything like that. Our concepts and lyrics are multi-faceted and so many meanings can be found within them, but once we decided on Advent Parallax as the title we knew it was the right mission statement for the album. This is in part because we released it on Candlelight which was of course a large step forward for Averse Sefira, and in that regard the title's meaning points not so much to a change in our part but how we would be perceived by the larger metal community. This is of course the most convenient explanation. The more involved meaning comes through the lyrics themselves. Some of our fans might protest (and indeed, a few already have) but to me everything we have done since the first demo has been a direct and logical progression. At this point there are many who insist that we have our own sound, and I tend to agree. Advent Parallax is actually a direct continuation of Tetragrammatical Astygmata and our next album will be a direct continuation of Advent Parallax. As for my approach on things beyond the band, I don't quite know how to answer that except that in many ways I feel relatively unchanged since I first entered the world. I'm a little taller these days, though.

Even though you used Necromorbus again as the producer, as you did with Tetragrammatical Astygmata, the sound is somewhat different. More refined, I’d dare say. I can’t make just comparison for the sound, though, ’cause I have Tetragrammatical only on vinyl, but the sound on Advent Parallax would seem to be sharper, colder and – for the lack of a better word – cleaner. At the same time it is further from the “usual” Necromorbus sound, which I think is a good thing, even though I really love his production-style. Again, was this a deliberate choice, and how would you compare the recording sessions of Advent... and Tetragrammatical...?

- I would agree with your assessment of the sound difference between the albums. Tore [Necromorbus] has recently produced a handful of albums with a warmer and more ”modern” sound and he wanted to see how it would work with our new material and we agreed to try it that way. I am quite satisfied with the results; we did not want to simply do another version of Tetragrammatical. I expect the next album will also have its own sound as well. This keeps things compelling to the listener, or at least to me. And I agree that Tore did a good job in giving us our own soundscape for this album in particular. Then again, there are always morons who will insist until the sun burns out that everything we do sounds like Funeral Mist just because we have Necromorbus producing us.

I’m sorry to go this much back in time, but in an interview from 2001 (Ablaze) you stated that ”There is no prerequisite creativity or inspiration in simply being violent or brutal. For us it is a necessary adjunct, a turbulent foundation used to craft something larger, more spiritual.” I think this is still very well put. I’d dare to say many black metal fans/bands would object to the idea of black metal (and the ideas/ideology behind it) being constructive rather than just destructive. I mean, rather than just being about smashing icons, it’s about reaching enlightenment, for example. How do you see the idea of destructiveness/constructiveness as regards black metal and Satanism?

- Your research is thorough. And what I said was not so much meant as a plea for constructiveness in black metal as much as a refinement of intent. Averse Sefira has always been about building monuments to ourselves and to black metal itself. Even the early works of Immortal, Mayhem, Emperor, or even Burzum would not be regarded as destructive. On the contrary, it is perfectly easy to extol the greatness of evil assuming you understand evil in the first place. We were  compelled to create a black metal band because we were inspired by the way this music communicates ideas and meaning. Much of death metal (at the time, in particular) was stale to us because it was exclusively destructive and offered little outside of fatalism. It is a mistake to confuse constructiveness with positivity; evil itself is a construct of the human conciousness. Who are we to deny it?

How do you see the black metal canon and specifically the recent occultistic/spiritual movement? Do you think such themes and lifestyle are something new (in these proportions and in “media coverage” at least) in black metal, or is this movement more about taking black metal back to where it should all start?

- It is interesting to think that after all these years the genre has finally caught up to us. We were dealing in magickal systems while most bands were focused on Satanism, Nazism, or Nordic themes. Now we are suddenly seeing album after album full of references to hermetic systems and Qaballistiv imagery, along with employment of Enochian texts and the like. I am not suggesting we invented any of this but I can remember a time when we were relatively unique in that regard. I do not have a problem with more bands embracing these elements of course, as long as it is not treated like another trend. Even if it is we will still remain the same after everyone has discarded it. That aside, I would like to recommend that your readers investigate the first Mortuus album, “De Contemplada Morte”. It is one of the best albums from the “new breed” of occult black metal bands.

Alright, we’ve reached the end this time. Any last words you want to shout out to the Finnish fans?

- Yes- listen to more Demilich! And hopefully we will visit your land sooner than later.