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NACHTMYSTIUM INTERVIEW | Harm.us - Death, Black, Doom and Gothic Metal WebZine, bandlist, cd reviews, interviews, mp3 and forum

An underground warrior of the forgotten mail-order age, black metal veteran Azentrius formed the US-based Nachtmystium in 2000. Since then, he and his extended family of bands and associates have been holding down the fort for the true US scene, even as innumerable imitators and posers threaten to drag the genre into self-parody. Nachtmystium’s last two albums (2004’s Demise and 05’s Eulogy IV) in particular have earned them recognition in the scene for their inventive nature and quality (read full review of Eulogy IV here). Now in kommand of his own label, Azentrius took some time out to discuss, among other things, current bands, the good ol’ days of black metal, and the merits of being strung out on psychedelics.

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Greetings, enjoying the weather lately?

Greetings. Fuck Chicago summer-time weather….hot, humid and shitty.

I got a hold of the repress of Eulogy IV, where you cover Von, an old US classic. Are you a fan of the simplistic, deconstructionist style of Von, Beherit, and Sarcofago?

Yeah, I’m actually a huge fan of that style and have been for many years. Great stuff! Definitely not the most ‘musical’ stuff out there, but there’s a certain mood those bands create(d) that is just unmatched by other extreme metal.

This release was my first introduction to your music. Quite new in terms of style, obviously, do you feel you have more room for growth in this direction?

Absolutely. What we’ve set out to do is to take black metal to places it has never been taken before. Not necessarily by making the music incredibly technical or anything like (which is seemingly what a lot of the old bands have done or did, use Emperor for example…) Most bands if and when they do start to change, it seems that many groups will still try to keep the music super extreme, but generally its by making it more brutal, technical, faster, whatever…we’re trying to do the exact opposite yet remaining totally extreme. Extreme doesn’t have to be brute force or technique, it can be feeling and expanding outside of the confines of ‘metal’ in general and incorporating darker elements from other types of music that can be just as dark and extreme as the other routes may seem to be. I personally am a big fan of doom metal and psychedelic rock. I listen to as much or more of this style stuff than I do black metal these days, just because I find a lot of the bands to be much more innovative and interesting than a lot of new and modern black and death metal acts. Naturally, you draw influence from what you’re listening to, so to anyone that’s listened to and paid attention to “Eulogy IV”, I think it’s pretty obvious our boundaries lie beyond black metal.

A quick blurb about your side project, Twilight (with members of Xasthur, Leviathan, and Krieg). The self-titled should be released any day now, correct? How did that turn out considering the strengths of the members involved?

It’s an interesting record I think. Definitely better than what I originally expected. It was hard for us to do this, because all five of us are in bands that are essentially based around one person’s artistic vision or it just is one person for everything (Draugar, Leviathan and Xasthur namely). So, for five ‘egos’ if you will (not in an egotistical way…just five different people with different visions) to come together and then try to all function together was pretty interesting and challenging. We pulled it off however, and I think we did it pretty well. Not to mention it spawned some awesome bonds between all of us and we’re extremely enthusiastic about doing more records and working together more regularly. Twilight very well may become more than just a one off project as it was originally intended to be. We’ll see. The CD/LP will be out in the USA on Southern Lord Records on September 6th, 2005. The European CD version is being released on Total Holocaust Records, Sweden in late July/early August.

I’m interested in thoughts on the black metal scene from someone such as yourself. To start with, when did black metal in general ‘buy the farm’ in your opinion?

Black Metal bought the farm for me in about 1999/2000…that’s when things started getting really popular, bands like Emperor were in every magazine slightly related to metal, shows were drawing out all these young goth kids, etc. and basically it led to the eventual rise of bands like Dimmu Borgir and Cradle of Filth and they became the ‘poster boys’ for black metal. To me, this is a fucking insult. I will never deny that those bands are definitely talented, I’m sure they enjoy what they do and they do it well, well to the point that they can live off it. Good for them. One major problem for me though, this is not ‘black metal’. This is a parody of everything that attracted me to this genre in the first place. When I first discovered it, I was about 13 years old (7th grade or so) and that was in the mid-90’s, so there was very very little interest in black metal in the United States. I remember it took me almost 3 months to track down CD’s of “De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas” and “In The Nightside Eclipse”, two albums you can walk into Best Buy and buy today. It was just something really obscure and evil and most importantly, it was seriously underground, and that really was the most appealing part. You had to actually sit down and write a letter to someone on the other side of the globe and wait a month or two to see if anyone would write back to you. Today, you can get online, go to a search engine and put “Black Metal” in and you get literally millions of responses. It’s completely accessible now…’black metal’ on the Ozz Fest tour?? My friend…it’s been dead for a while now. Fortunately there are the people out there that still keep the old spirit alive. Not necessarily by recording unoriginal 4 tracker albums that sound more like Darkthrone tribute albums…but people that run distros/mailorders/zines/labels, total diehard fan maniacs, some bands, etc that still will send you a hand written letter all smeared with blood packed with a bunch of fliers/propaganda, people that still believe that vinyl is important, etc. These are the people that have anything to do with black metal that I wish to be dealing with these days. Other than that, the internet ‘my space’ black metal world is full of feeble jackasses that have no business continuing to ruin something that is very sacred to some people, so I try to ignore it and channel my attention into things that are relevant, since there really is nothing you can do to stop it at this point. Anyone who tries really is fighting a losing battle…focus on something to keep the old traditions alive instead of trying and failing to be bringing down the new ones.

Could it ever be revived, or are there any bands making an effort to do so? Would such a revival come from the fans or the bands?

No, I think it’s a lost cause at this point. As stated above, there are those few people out there that still ‘get it’, but they are few and far between.

Where do you see Nachtmystium fitting into the modern scene? Many of the old veterans have expressed their dissatisfaction for the current scene and taken their leave, what do you think they would say about your band?

Not sure. Honestly, I don’t really care. The black metal scene (any form of it) will always be super critical of anything. You will have people that love it, hate it or just simply don’t give a fuck….as if it didn’t exist. Nachtmystium has always been founded on the idea of “do what thou wilt’ and that applies to the band 100%. We don’t worry about ‘fitting the mold’. I think the people you’ve referenced who may have ‘left the scene’ or whatever may have mixed feelings, some would be in support, others would not. Regardless, their opinions are not important to us.

The US scene from which you hail has some of the few productive bands left in the genre. What are your opinions on US bands such as Demoncy, Velvet Cacoon, and Averse Sefira?

Big fan of Demoncy and Velvet Cacoon. Not a huge A.S. nut, but I’ve met some of those guys and I think they’re good guys and I respect what they do and that they are a long-running underground band that was definitely here before the super BM trend hit. I’ve seen Demoncy live numerous times, its always ferocious, and albums like “Joined In Darkness” and “Faustian Dawn” are absolutely sick classics. As for Velvet Cacoon…I like that “Genevieve” album a lot, but I try to ignore all the silly hype around the band. I like the music a lot, that’s what matters. I do appreciate that they are obviously pro-psychedelic drugs, as they’ve made numerous references to ‘dextramethorphine’, also known as “DXM”, a psychoactive drug found in cough syrups, etc. I’ve found use of psychedelics in the past to be very mind-enhancing and it has definitely impacted my music, and I can tell by the hypnotic structures of the songs that these guys most likely definitely were having an intense experience. That album to me is one of the few US black metal albums that I would say has ever really captured that “Burzum-vibe” and executed it with near perfection. I’m curious to hear what they do next.

Apart from the boys here in the US, the only other scene of note recently is France. What do you think of the scene over there and bands such as Blut Aus Nord, Deathspell Omega, and Belenos?

I really like DSO and Blut Aus Nord. Both bands have done great traditional BM releases in the past, but albums like “Kenose” and “The Work Which Transfoms God” completely blow me away. DSO really seems to utilize super dark guitar chord positions, particularly the tritone, which I think is killer because I’ve always tried to write in that style and always had a hard time pulling it off! They and B.A.N. create super bizarre negative soundscapes…to me, both bands seem to draw a ton of influence from bands like Neuroses. Great stuff. I’ve never heard Belenos, so I can’t comment on them.

Corpsepaint: Yay or Nay?

Some bands can, some can’t. If its been in the band for years, then cool. If you’re a new band, you’re most likely just rehashing something that has been done time and time again and therefore nearly completely losing its meaning. Very rarely do I see a corpsepainted BM band live that I’m not laughing hysterically at. Nachtmystium stopped using it shortly after our second release because it was agreed to have been completely played out at that point by the then-current members and myself.

For many of the great early 90’s bands, the decision as the decade progressed seemed to come down to either throwing in the towel and leaving on a high note or disowning metal entirely (except for the ones who embraced the mainstream instead- Emperor, Enslaved, etc). Do you listen to the releases of bands that left to play electronic music such as Ulver, Ildjarn, Beherit, and Burzum? Are you a fan of electronic music in general?

The four bands you mentioned above are 4 of my top 5 Scandinavian bands ever (along with Euronymous-era Mayhem) I like ALL releases from Ildjarn, Beherit, and Burzum. Ulver, I’m obviously a fan of the ‘Trilogy’ albums, I really like some of the electronic stuff (Metamorphisis EP and Perdition City) but I’m kind of indifferent towards the soundtracks they’ve done and the other more avant-garde noise kinda stuff. I find it interesting none the less and I commend Ulver for being without boundaries and being masters of all forms of music they try to create. Garm is also an amazing vocalist.

A common contention of the underground elites is that true art is by nature inaccessible to the average listener. Many of the bands you idolize are obviously not standard underground fare. How do you see a band’s value (artistically and musically) in relation to their popularity?

I think it varies from band to band. There are bands buried in the underground now or in the past that are absolutely amazing. Bands that didn’t amount to more than a demo or two. Then again, there are bands that are top sellers in metal that are absolutely amazing. It all depends on what your taste is I guess. As far as a bands ‘value’ in their popularity, it means nothing to me. I listen daily to bands that release stuff limited to 50 copies or something, and then I listen to Queens Of The Stoneage or Kyuss afterwards….so obviously I’m not turned off by music that is also enjoyed by others on a mass scale or music that is extremely limited and hidden. If its good, its good.

You’ve mentioned being a fan of stoner doom such as Sleep, Electric Wizard, etc.; such bands are, obviously, thematically linked by embracing drug use. Meanwhile, some figures in metal, such as Varg Vikernes and Vidar Vaaer, have denounced drugs as base and transient. Do you have personal views on drugs, and what role, if any, do they play in the creation of your music?

What I think it comes down to is that drugs are certainly not for everyone. There are the purists out there that just don’t use them, like Varg or Vidar. And there are millions of people that use them that probably ‘shouldn’t’ use them, depending on their situations (abuse issues). Then there are people that can utilize drugs to reach a higher state of conciousness within themselves I think. As I mentioned earlier, I’m a big supporter of hallucinogenic drugs. However…I also realize that I can’t use hallucinogens regularly or I’ll turn into some freak acid casualty or something of the likes. I think it helps the user (if the user is in control of their mind while drugged) view their lives or art from a completely different perspective. It’s almost like being another person for a few hours that knows EVERYTHING about you, and having that person look at life through your eyes…yet you’re still you. Ha, that probably sounds fucked up, but I don’t know another better way to describe it. All I know is that I’ve pulled some twisted shit out of myself sober and fucked up numerous different times, it all depends on the mood I’m in. I think it helps me more with writing lyrics than anything because you really put your guard down within yourself. Maybe realize things that you’re in denial about in life really are what they are, and you kind of can let it out onto paper . That’s what I’ve done at least. As for other drugs, I’m not a user of any shit drugs like crystal meth, PCP, speed or heroin…that’s not my thing at all.

Black metal (the real stuff that is) differs from other forms of music in its ideological themes, which reject popular society for its pandering, consumerist foundations. Despite this, much of the fan base of “modern black metal” seems to look for a way to be apart of the ‘black metal club’ without disturbing the status quo. Can ‘normal people’ get into real black metal or is it too diametrically opposed to what these people represent?

I think anyone can be into black metal, you don’t have to ‘fit the mold’, it’s just an issue of if you ‘get it’ or not. The people that believe you have to be a cookie-cutter black metaller if you’re into it (i.e. ALWAYS wear black, wear your inverted crosses, some shirt that NO ONE else has, etc) are a lot of the time the biggest fakers in the whole scene abroad. For me, black metal has never been caring about what other people are doing. Is it irritating when peoples presence within black metal is obnoxious if I feel they don’t ‘belong’ or something? Sure. But then again, who the fuck am I to judge? I do as I do and other people can do as they do. I’m not here to wage war on people with short hair that might dress “normal” by societal standards and happen to be interested in buying some underground BM records or something. I’ve met some absolutely scary fucking freaks that you’d never know were into black metal just from looking at them or even talking to them, but once you tapped into that part in them…there was a whole different darker being there than you may have thought there was. Don’t judge a book by its cover I guess is the point here.

Let us imagine that natural disaster has wiped out most of humanity, and you are given a chance to rebuild society as you think it should be. Describe the society you would build.

Oh man…that’s a tough one. Hmm….I don’t think I’d want that responsibility. I’d probably horde up with some people that I knew (if there were any left) or some people I could tolerate and felt were on my level and then head off to wherever we could utilize the land to live and try to rebuild there, away from whatever else was left for as long as possible.

The typical American would be happy with a big fat paycheck, cable TV, fast food, and maybe a blowjob. What would it take to make you happy?

Actually, I’m very happy as far as my day to day life goes. I carry some ‘shit’ within myself just like anyone that’s in this music scene, but overall…things are ok at this point in time. Huge sums of money, fast food and cable I don’t think would ever make me happy…its not something I’m striving for at least. Money comes and money goes, I’m happy if I don’t have to go work some shit job that I hate for some asshole that’s getting rich while I stay poor. My situation is good because I can run my label (Battle Kommand Records) out of my apartment and I don’t have to deal with the outside world anymore than I choose to with the exception of the few small tasks involved with running any home business. (post office, restocking supplies, etc) I’m not rich by any means, but I’m certainly not scraping by and having to consider getting a ‘real job’ or anything like that. I think the only reason I can say that I feel any sense of happiness now in life though is ONLY due to the fact that I’m FINALLY in a position where I’m not slaving to some asshole doing something that I hate. It’s the most motivating thing for me…to know that I don’t have to go back to work if I continue to keep up with business with the label. So, with that ‘fire under my ass’ so to speak, I think I’m going to be around doing this for a long long time if I play my cards right.

Let’s say that I’m a black metal fan- a true fan with deep feeling for this music- and I feel I have something to contribute with my own band. What advice would you have for me?

I’d say find as many like minded individuals as you can that are also musicians and record it . Use REAL FUCKING DRUMS!!!!!!! NO MORE DRUM MACHINES!!!!! Then send it to people like me that may just give it a shot and put it out on a little underground label. That’s what I did.

Thanks for doing this interview; you can have the last words, or just leave it be.

Thanks for the interview, great questions. Hope its made for an interesting read for all. New Nachtmystium full length album “Instinct: Decay” will be available on digipak/CD/LP from Drakkar Productions, France later this year!! www.drakkar666.com A U.S. pressing will most likely be released with a label we’ve worked with here very recently if all goes well. Only the future will tell.

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July 8, 2005
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