“Stillborn are dreams and nothingness holds their bony hands” – Interview w/ The Fall

Mostly known among fans outside of Poland as the live bassist for the phenomenal Mgła, The Fall (fka Shellshocked) as a mutli-instrumentalist has had a rather prolific career with his various musical outputs among the Polish undergound scene. From pure malevolent schizophrenic madness to melodic triumph and melancholy of nature, sometimes even strikes with nasty attitudes of street punks, his executions of Black Metal and its subgenres has constantly been proven as exceptional, despite to some degrees got overshadowed by his role as Mgła‘s live member. In light of the release of Hadal, the latest full length of his solo project Over the Voids…, it’s an honor of us as we had a great conversation with him over the making of this particular album, other projects he participates in (including Medico Peste and Owls Woods Graves), together with his musical/literary influences and Krakow scene as a whole.

Interviewed by Aymparch

Aymparch: Greetings The Fall! Thanks again for accepting this interview. We hope you are doing fine during this global pandemic. How’s the current situation in Poland? How did the covid-19 crisis impact you as a musician and your local scene? Has everything started to get better?

The Fall: Today is ninth August and situation is actually getting worst during last days. We are still allowed to make some smaller shows under specific regulations, but the Autumn doesn’t seem to be drawn in bright colors.

It impacted us a lot, we had to stop tour with Mgła and abruptly return from Colombia to Poland which was quite a journey. We also had to postpone basically all our shows in 2020.

AP. Despite the forced-cancelling and postponing of shows and festivals, Black Metal, especially Polish BM, has been offering huge amount of awesome releases this year (as always), including two projects you participated in: Medico Peste’s ב: The Black Bile and Over the Voids…’s second full length Hadal. The former has been released for a while and the general receptions from fans are mostly positive. How do you feel about this album personally? Are you satisfied with the results?

The Fall: I’m not sure If I want to talk about it in details. Over the Voids… is a therapeutical band to me, it exists only because I want to throw something out of me. Watching the release and focusing on it for me is like watching a video of me puking and crying at the very same time. Not the biggest pleasure one can imagine.

AP. Since you guys’ 2017 ep Herzogian Darkness, MP’s music has been under gradual changes and has shifted to a soundscape that resembles pure hypnotic and schizophrenia evil. In my opinion, Black Bile provides an experience and atmosphere that requires a holistic listen: this almost film-ish feeling was conjured by the intertwining of aggressive, furious dissonances and many slower and even psychedelic passages. How did you guys work through this album, were every material written with a clear plot that serves to the whole album’s theme? Also, did the collaboration with Inside Flesh contribute to the songwriting process?

music video in collaboration with Inside Flesh

The Fall: No, cooperation with IF was only focused on image and video. Black Bile was being written and recorded quite slowly. The vision of how it should be like was clear from very beginning but it took us time to find proper means for that. We very much focused on the vocals arrangement and recording, took us over 24 hours of constant studio work to record vocal itself.

AP. Among all those projects you are a part of, Over the Voids… is no doubt my personal favorite. I will never forget how the main riff from Ghosts Lay Eggs amazed me when it came out, absolutely brilliant and fresh songwriting, and I’m still mesmerized every time revisiting that album. Both musically and lyrically, OTV set itself apart from your other projects with a rather epic and poetic approach. Since it’s your one-man project, I’m assuming the contents created under OTV is much more personal and self-reflexive, is that correct? What’s your initial motivation when started this project?

The Fall: Thank you. Yes, it is a personal thing. My internal motivation is fear of death and that’s what all the OtV is about. My musical motivation is my deep sentiment to music I was listening to when I was younger – mid 90s black metal, dungeon synth and acoustic folk. There is a lot of small cassette shop nostalgia and teenage anger in OtV.

AP. The lyrical theme of OtV’s debut intrigues me a lot. I’d even venture to say that those are some of the best English texts ever written in Black Metal. There’re some lines indicating the same nihilist philosophy that’s prominent in Mgła’s songs, while others almost have a folktale vibe (like in Ghosts Lay Eggs and Prophet of the Winter) and often times concerning “the Dreams of Death/Nothingness”. You also included a Latin hymn in the last song, was it an excerpt from certain church sermons? And generally speaking, what did you try to archive or portrait through this album lyrically? Are there any authors or real life events that inspired you to do so?

The Fall: The Latin part is a quote from the Bible : “Never again will they hunger, and never will they thirst; nor will the sun beat down upon them, nor any scorching heat. For the Lamb in the center of the throne will be their shepherd.” Except one word was change to add a different meaning for that. You are a clever guy so I bet you can guess which word was that.

I was always deeply inspired by the folk and mythology, I have been studying comparative religion for some time and that was one of my main interest. Speaking of philosophical element I think OtV is more existential than nihilist, but that is just my perspective. Bruno Schulz is the writer that inspires me most, but I’m not sure if this is clearly visible in OtV.

Bruno Schulz, “Self-portrait”, 1920-22, cliché-verre.

AP. OtV’s second full length titled Hadal will soon to be released via Nordvis Produktion this August. The initial meaning of the title “Hadal”, if Google’s info is correct, stands for the realm of Hades — the Greek underworld. However, judging from the song titles listed on Metal Archives and the first impression of the premiere track Corridors inside a glacier, this album doesn’t quite seem to me as trying to depict or worship the unfathomable nature of Hell. Comparing to the last album, the premiere track has a rather more ethereal and misty productions: the riffs and melodies seem to shift towards a more atmosphere-centered approach, while the music video seems to concentrate upon the withering of nature. So can you share some insights regarding the theme of this album and its writing process? Was its concept responsible for those changes of sound and productions in general?

The Fall: Hadal doesn’t refer directly to Hades. It is a term to describe the deepest depth of the sea, dark trenches where there is barely any light and life, and that what the album is about. Humanity still know about surface of Mars than places like Marianna’s Trench. Ocean floor is soundless, dark and mysterious. Not deprived of life forms, but can you imagine animals that live there?

AP. It seems to me that “Owls” is one reoccurring imagery in your music: it appears in OtV’s debut’s lyrics, while it’s also one prominent element of the paranormal tales conjured in your another project Owls Woods Graves. I’m curious about if there’re any symbolic meanings behind your usages of Owls in your music, how does it relate to each project’s theme and concept? 

The Fall:It is kind of coincidence. I was once in Finland in Turku castle. Somewhere on  a wall there was this weird sentence taken from some old Finnish poet. Something like “and then they slept in owlets eyes” intrigued me very much and was an impulse for some lyrics on the album. I still have no idea what was it about.

Or maybe I had too much Twin Peaks as a teenager?

AP. Owls Woods Graves definitely stands out from the rest of your projects, or even from Polish black metal in general: the punk elements are extremely dominant in this project, especially in its debut full length released last year: from some juicy hardcore riffs to some classic punk-ish choirs (like in Do you deny the evil? and Butcher’s Tears), meanwhile all of these are pretty balanced with some freezing and sometimes melancholic Black Metal melodies. So why do you guys choose this specific approach? Concerning Medico Peste also did a cover of Bauhaus’ Stigmata Martyr in your last ep, what are some other acts outside of Black Metal that influenced you as a musician? Also, can you recommend some Polish punk/hardcore to our readers?

The Fall: I dont know why, we just wanted to play stuff we like. Most of music that influences me is not black metal, and not even metal. Coil, William Basinski, Prurient are huge influence on me. During last year I listened to a lot of bands like Choir Boy and Black Marble, which I really like. Still – black metal music is my grammar and my main language.

From polish punk music I would definitely recommend Siekiera, Smar SW, Post Regiment, Armia (album Legenda), Trupia Czaszka, Castet…. Quite a lot of stuff.

AP. If my researches were correct, the speaking fragment using in the beginning of This Spirit Follows Me Till the End of My Journey was taken from Bruno Schulz’s The Street of Crocodiles, which is quite surprising. I’ve always been fascinated by the literary world of obscure imagination created in the works of authors like Schulz and Kafka (and Polish Nobel Prize Winners Szymborska and Tokarczuk). So which part of the book does that excerpt came from? Does literature (or Polish literature) serve as one primal inspiration for your music and lyrics in Over the Voids… and Owls Woods Graves? *On a side note, some of my friends told me about Leśmian during a conversation about Polish literatures, I’m wondering if you have read or been inspired by his works (its quite annoying this there are not many good translations of his poems in English).

The Fall: Bruno Schulz is my favorite polish writer. I honestly never read anything that was as immersive and well written in polish language. There is really good translation by Madelline Levine if you want to read it in English. The intro refers to a scene, where an older dude is breeding exotic birds in his attic. It describes those birds are weird, evil and soulless looking. Like something on the brink of living and dead.

Of course I know Leśmian, but not my favourite author. I never asked Nihil about it, but I’m pretty sure he was some inspiration for Furia’s lyrics. They have very similar vibe sometimes.

“They were immense bunches of feathers stuffed any which way like an old carcass. It was impossible to discern the head on many of them since this cudgel-shaped part of the body bore no signs of a soul.” – The aforementioned quote from Schulz’s Noc Wielkiego Sezonu, Translated from Polish by Madeline G. Levine in 2018.

AP. Well let’s talk about Krakow’s underground scene. It seems like the artists over there always stick together and frequently collaborate and experiment with all sorts of genres. Aside from these three projects discussed in this interview, you have been participated as session or live musician in many other great projects, like Mgła, Odraza, W~T~Z, and even did the drum in Armagedda’s latest full length (how did that happen though, really amazing). So how does collaborating with other projects influence you as a musician? And what do you think of Krakow’s underground scene in general?

The Fall: I really like living here, but I’m originally from much smaller and calmer city. Kraków has this sort of old European city vibe, like Prague or Budapest. Cracked, grey walls, squeaky doors and labyrinths of old, forgotten yards that look abandoned since 50s. Black metal scene here is very interesting, and I like it from some small deceased bands I remember from highschool to a giant of Mgła. Feels good to be a part of this.

AP. It occurs to me (correct me if I’m wrong) after Furia’s last two albums there have been increasing numbers of Polish bands using Polish languages for their music, while all of your current projects still focusing on English. Is there any preference? Why not use your mother tongue instead?

The Fall: Good question. And I dont think there is this one, simple answer. Polish is not that very melodic, sentences and words are quite long and they dont have this simple, drummy groove like English. Also – I grew up listening to English singing bands, so it feels natural for me. I would honestly love to record in polish but it would be really hard for me.

AP. As an end note and a tradition of our fanzine, can you tell our readers your favorite alcohol? Again, thanks for your time and patience for accepting this interview, please stay safe and healthy out there. Are there anything you wanna say to our Chinese readers?

The Fall:Beer is my drink of choice. If I have to drink one before going to sleep I would choose sort of hazy IPA beer, If I have to drink for a party I would go for some cheap lager beer. When in Poland – definitely Łomża jasne pełne.

Really hope to visit China one day. Stay safe guys wherever you are.

Fury and Valor of Unrelenting Indigenious Spirits – interview w/ Pan-Amerikan Native Front

To honor the battle cries and ancestors’ blood that still boil in contemporary Native Americans’ veins, Chicago-based Pan-Amerikan Native Front aim to push the boundary of extreme music by infusing elements of indignious spirits and histories of Native Americans’ struggles with classic Black Death violence. It’s our great pleasure to have this realy in-depth conversation with the mastermind behind this project, Kurator of War, in disucssing PANF’s music and writing processes, as well as the necessity for Native Americans today to remember their ancestors’ legacy and sacrifice.

Interviewed by Aymparch

Aymparch: Greetings Kurator of War! I hope you are doing well my friend. It’s our pleasure that you agreed to take this interview. Right before we started, why not do a short intro for our Chinese underground readers: how would you describe PANF as a project to someone has no knowledge regarding to it?

Kurator of War: The pleasure is mine my friend! In short, Pan-Amerikan Native Front is total native black metal warfare! The project is a story, a teaching, much like the oral tradition carried through generations. The story is an attempt to give breath and vigor to the  indigenous experiences and history through the sounds of black metal. War and battles are a major focus because of their historical significance; the music can be aggressive, ugly, battering, militant, faint, melodic… the musical style compliments the real experiences felt and lived through blood and battle, but also through trauma and lament.The story and music comes from the heart, and as such a voice to the ancestors.

AP: Personally the first time I heard about this project was when RedRiverFamily announced the first few rounds of bands for 2017’s RRFF – the name and logo of PANF instantly caught my attention, as its always thrilled to see new black metal bands sharing Native American origins: the usage of Cherokee syllabary and the obvious symbolism of Thunderbird in your logo, can you share with us some of your intentions in making the name/logo for PANF? Also according to MA, the Thunderbird logo was inspired by the 45th Infantry Division of the Oklahoma Army National Guard, why did you choose this particular design, any personal reasons?

KoW: The very mention of that fest brings lots of nostalgia for me! The project is founded on a vision I developed when I was young. When I was about 17 years old, I reflected deeply on identity and the current state of indigenous space, voice and existence. I knew indigenous folk across all of North America shared a similar identity and history, and in a similar vein the people of South America as well.  In a sense, we are one. This is why I named the project “Pan-Amerikan.”

45th Infantry Division of the Oklahoma Army National Guard sleeve insignia

The same goes for the graphic logo, the intent is twofold. The story and symbolism of the thunderbird was common across long distances from the Pacific Northwest to the Great Lakes region in the United States. Plus it intersected effectively within black metal, consider how widely used eagles are in black metal culture. There are many design styles of the thunderbird, but I thought the one depicted by the 45th infantry division held a special significance. To me, this meant a recognizable native symbol made its way to Europe to fight in the biggest war in history. Plus it offers a teaching moment, a curious mind may dive into the history of the 45th Infantry Division and learn more about their selection of the symbol as their insignia.

AP: Lets talk about your first and only release so far – Tecumseh’s War. For me this is not an album that sounds “particularly innovative”, but as an honest tribute to the dirty and straightforward black metal echoing from late 80s/early 90s, old school, aggressive, blending death metal and sometimes punkish vibes, with few triumphant melodies passages lurking underneath – I absolutely enjoy this record. So I’m curious to know your musical influences prior to start PANF as a project, and what is your mindset when composing this album: in other word, were you deliberately trying to shape a unique sound for PANF? One may argue that this album doesn’t sound like “Native American” as comparing to those arts of Black Twilight Circle and many others with similar themes, who often incorporate indigenous folkish and tribal elements into the music.

KoW:During the songwriting process, I had full intention to construct the album like a book, to storytell. The historical content is chronological, the album starts with a preview of the urgency to fight back and assert indigenous sovereignty in Indigenous Blood Revival. On a sidenote, Indigenous Blood Revival is the only song on the album that does not reference Tecumseh’s War, this was also the first song I wrote for the album. That song was meant to be larger than the album itself, as the first song it sets the tone for the entirety of the PANF discography.  Tecumseh’s War ends with the death of the great leader Tecumseh at the Battle of the Thames.

In the early stages of the album, I really wanted to anchor the sound with the mid-paced thirds blasts popularized by bands like Archgoat, or normal mid-paced blasting to capture a dragging war intensity, militant if you will. And riffing with dark, furious tones, but also of other expressions–frustration, hope, uncertainty. That anchor is what you hear when Indigenous Blood Revival vocals kick in, or much of the drumming in Raising the War Club. I really enjoy the intensity of the War Metal or Black/Death sound, I modified it to make it sound less death and more black. I developed a wide range of riffing styles. Whether it was the fast-melodic picking of Raising the War Club or the strung out power chords of Tenskwatawa, the sound I was trying to anchor in the early stages expanded to include a variety of styles and emotional expressions. Other sounds include the dizzying and maddening atonal blasts of Anti-Expansionist Diplomacy or the melodic depth of sweat and blood during the second half of Battle of the Thames. Believe me, I thought a lot about wanting to include Native musical elements, in the end I decided to focus on the black metal aesthetic and less on trying to incorporate indigenous sounds. Instead, I added these cultural sounds in other subtle ways. Writing that album was like giving birth for the first time. I carried that baby to term and once it came out I was completely exhausted, I think I had to put music down for at least 2-3 months.

AP: The Cover art of Tecumseh’s War for me did a lot in capturing the atmosphere of this record, as well as some of the arts you put on Facebook and Bandcamp page – depicting wars from the perspective of Native Tribes and honoring the forefathers’ military triumphs (and defeats maybe). Tell us more about the reason why you chose these arts and aesthetics and how they associated with PANF’s music.

KoW: Cohesion was a critical component for PANF in creating a powerful and effective message and theme. I try to be as well-rounded as possible and reinforce the focus of the project, hit it with the logo, lyrics, images, art, delivery, the Kurator of War appearance as well. These images capture each thematic element in the name PANF. We’re talking about war here, Tecumseh’s War, Let’s see the indigenous fighters who battled courageously, this means all involved, the Lenape, Wyandot, Shawnee, Potawotami, etc there were many great fighters representing these nations. This is Tecumseh’s Confederacy. These images are an additional source of breath into giving life to the histories and experiences of indigenous peoples of these lands. A very powerful tool.

AP: Tecumseh’s War not surprisingly, deals with the legend warchief Tecumseh and the Battle of the Thames. If one are acknowledge of this history, it makes perfect senses then why PANF would choose to incorporate Tecumseh and his heritage into their release. But why don’t you share some insights in regard to this particular war? How important is Tecumseh to you (not only as a musician, but as one Native American)?

Tecumseh (1768-1813)

KoW: For the record, Tecumseh was not a chief. The principal chief during much of his adulthood was Black Hoof (Catecahassa), who adamantly disagreed with Tecumseh’s plans to fight the Americans. Lots of inner politics involved within the Shawnee, and indigenous peoples were deeply divided about Tecumseh’s warnings of the foreign invasion. Personally, I empathize with both sides. If Tecumseh’s War was won, I believe there would be a United States of Indigenous Nations, perhaps like the federalism we have today in USA, and Tecumseh would have been the first president. Tecumseh’s vision is the engine for PANF, in my mind, arguably,  he is the most important indigenous figure in North American history. He had the wit to understand the games the Americans were playing when they would engage to negotiate treaties, and he used that knowledge to create political power and leverage. His skills were legendary, his oratory, combat, hunting, intelligence–he learned English at a young age when Stephen Ruddell was captured and adopted as Tecumseh’s brother. His influence was immeasurable, what he did to build up an army was unprecedented. From his homelands in Ohio, he traveled far distances to warn of the coming of the Whites. He visited the lands in current Minnesota, down to Cherokee territory, his name spread far and wide. When I reflect on my indigenous ancestry, Tecumseh’s message resonates profoundly. He saw all indigenous people as one, who share land, lifestyle, philosophy, thought etc. Of course, there are variations, localism and regionalism are inevitable. Yet, Tecumseh remains deep in my heart and a hero for all indigenous people.

AP: When reading the lyrics, I could feel the entire album following a consistent narrative of Tecumseh’s rising against colonial forces and tragic death at the Battle of the Thames. So I’m curious to know how closely the music was tied with the theme here: does each track composed particularly for one section of this narrative? By the way, I’m not sure if you are aware of this but, Nechochwen’s Heart of Arkamon also dealt with this particular battle, I wonder if you have heard of this brilliant gem and if that record or Nechochwen in general have inspired the birth of Tecumseh’s War.

KoW: Each song has a mood written to reflect the events and conditions of the time. I may have had a clear idea about what I wanted to do with a song, at other times it was a matter of playing some riffs and see what sounds fitting! For example, in Raising the War Club I had full intention on hitting the listener with an abrasive blast and vocal opener, as the song was developing I decided to retain the snare blast for the verses for that relentless continuation, a motif to anchor the song. Another example would be the ending song, Battle of the Thames. Again, I knew the formation of the song would exhibit the intensity of war, musically the first half of the song. I want the listener to really lean in for it, during the second half of the song with the slowed down riffing and lead guitar it was meant to have the listener take a step back and emotionally process the stakes involved, a kind of melancholic period of introspection knowing how this was going to end.

Oh, I am absolutely familiar with Nechochwen. I bought Heart of Akamon on CD from Bindrune Recordings sometime in 2016 during the writing of Tecumseh’s War. Definitely, one of my favorite albums. The most inspiring thing about that album and the project as a whole for me is the storytelling creation, extremely well put together and the historical and cultural depth is immeasurable.

AP: Many of those arts that associated with Indigenous related themes would often choose related mythology and legends as their main themes, while PANF is among the few who deal with more direct and traumatic theme – the war and sacrifices of forefathers. I’m curious to know your opinion/fascination about “Wars” and military culture of Native Americans in general, why did you choose to depict them in your music?

KoW: Before I started the project, I was in a band with friends I’ve known for years called Terranaut.. While with the band, I developed a strong desire to play harder and heavier music, a style that I wasn’t getting from the band. That’s when I decided to leave and focus on writing my own material. Naturally, with my cultural and historical interests, war and battle was a fitting subject for the material.  In a sense, you could say the musical writing chose the theme! Wars are truly historically changing events in time, emotionally riveting and exhausting, a crisis for those involved. There were many great indigenous figures who organized to fight back the encroaching Europeans. For many, their efforts have gone unnoticed, and I wish to give voice and honor those before us who gave their lives to defend the families, land and traditions.

Kurator of War

AP: I’m thinking about the importance of languages. Many of bands sharing Native American/Indigenous origins sometimes prefer using their own native languages in their music, while PANF mainly uses English. Why is that the case? and do you have any plans increasing the usage of your own native tongues in future releases?

KoW: I truly admire indigenous artists who use a native tongue in their lyrics! The answer for me is simple, I do not speak one. My upbringing was largely absent of indigenous culture and language, my personal journey has been to reclaim and adopt the teachings of the relatives here in the Great Lakes region. While I do not speak a native tongue, I am making it a lifelong goal to learn the native languages in the area. As for future releases, I do plan on selectively incorporating indigenous language into songs, slowly but with certainty. I’m finding that native words in black metal is truly fucking powerful!

AP: Lets shift back to the name of your project, Pan-Amerikan Native Front. Thanks to my anthropologic studies and past researches on Native American’s struggles for human rights in the late half of last century, the Red Power movement in 70s and particularly American Indian Movement (AIM), how people from various tribes urged a union of Pan-American identity, like what Tecumseh envisioned, and how this movement eventually led to musicians like XIT that using music as a way to reclaim the history and fight for Native Americans’ own rights. Decades have passed but the situation in many reservations are still not optimistic for Native Americans today. I’m interested in knowing if this has any influence on you growing up and eventually make you decide to become a musician. How important is the concept of “Pan-American” for you?

KoW: Modern political movements are not a focus of the project, and while a very important subject, not something I can say I am well-versed in. You do make a highly relevant connection between Tecumseh’s cause and political indigenous organizations of the 20th century. As you suggested, what the project has in common with these organizations is the strong value of pan-indigenousism. Even before the AIM, there was a prominent early native rights organization called the Society of American Indians founded in 1911. Native peoples have understood the value of allying with one another with the coming of European attacks, strength in solidarity. The concept of “pan-american” is central to Tecumseh’s vision, and from his vision to the motivation for Pan-Amerikan Native Front. It’s at the very heart of the project.

AP: You will release a split with Ifernach via GoatowaRex this year and the premiere track is awesome: as straightforward as before and even more aggressive and mature, the Pow-Wow interlude clearly built up atmosphere. Do you mind sharing some info regarding the writing process of this split? How did this collaboration with Ifernach happen? And why GoatowaRex? To be honest I am surprised to see you guys sign with Dani, will this be a long-term collaboration then?

KoW:Miigwech for those kind words my friend! The concept of the songs are based on Great Lakes indigenous peoples with each song touching on a variety of subjects. The first song is a traditional PANF track, highlighting the battles Obwandiyag led and inspired against British territorial control. The second song is a little different from what I typically write, Blazing Winds of the Three Fires has myth and legend based on Anishinaabe story. Generally speaking, the songs on the split continue the relentless energy from Tecumseh’s War, with some percussive and melodic variety in parts. A majority of the material is old, written shortly after Tecumseh’s War was released so probably around 2016/2017 and I was just sitting on them for a while.

Ifernach and I connected over social media, obviously we were like-minded and deeply respected each other’s work. You don’t see too many metal musicians revive native traditions into their music east of the Mississippi River, it was a “meant to be” situation and we’re extremely content of how everything came out. My connection with Goatowarex is simple, Ifernach already had a working relationship with Dani when he released Skin Stone Blood Bone on vinyl so he kept that up with me this time. Obviously, Dani does incredible work for his releases and works very hard at it. I’m not exclusively tied to one label, but it wouldn’t be a surprise if you see another PANF release under Goatowarex.

AP: I also want to briefly talked about you guys’ live performances. Your set at RRFF 2017 was among the best, alongside with some BTC legends like Volahn and Arizmenda – easily one of my best memories from that festival. I would say performing live indeed injects new life into the music itself, as I witnessed the dynamic on stage and your outfit in particular – an unforgettable experience. What do you think of performing live and how important it is for PANF? Also about your war paints and outfits, can you share the meaning behind those symbols and cloths you chose to present on stage?

KoW: I truly have Red River Family fest to thank here for the opportunity to play that fest. There were some incredible things said about the PANF performance, very honored as well to hear that directly from you my friend. I’ve done live performances on and off since I was 19. The experience is both tiring and energizing, but I do mostly enjoy it. Taking PANF to the stage was something I felt I seed during the song-writing process. When writing songs, I actively practice lyrics while playing the guitar to see if I can pull it off for when I perform on stage. I try to have fun with it! Live performances are powerful, to hear it directly from the artist, something I do value and wish to continue doing. The presentation with war paint and garb is meant to express indigenousness on a macro level. The garb I wear is a serape commonly worn in Mesoamerican indigenous culture. The headwear is a chullo, commonly worn in Andean indigenous culture. These two pieces combine the solidarity I have for indigenous culture in North and South America. Again, reconciling the idea of pan-indigenousness.

AP: Well, what lies in the future for PANF? Have you already got in mind the themes for next full length and started to composed new materials?

KoW: At this time, things have been busy! The new full length album is in the middle of recording, guitars, vocals and bass are complete. In a week, the drums will be complete. Death Kvlt Productions out of UK will release a European version, and I will self-release for USA/Canada. Tecumseh’s War is about to be reissued on cassette under Le Fleurs du Mal from Montreal. While the new full length is currently in production, I am already looking ahead at the following release, an EP that will take me to other territory. Most importantly, PANF is confirmed to perform Gathering of the Eagle and Condor next October 2021 in Tongva territory (Los Angeles)! This will be the first indigenous black metal festival in the world. So far only Ixachitlan is the other confirmed band, and there will be many more announcements. Follow Night of the Pale Moon on social media to follow the great news!

AP: Again, thanks again for accepting this interview. Lets end this one with one of our records’ tradition – What are your favorite booze that you might want to recommend to our readers in China? Anyways, our best wishes to your life and looking forward to more materials from PANF! 

KoW: Thank you for the opportunity to be interviewed! A couple of my favorite beers of all time are Newcastle Brown Ale, goes down so smooth, and if they are feeling for stronger drink then I say Dragon’s Milk. Best wishes to you as well with future publications! In Solidarity, In War!!!

Ancestral Worship and Aztec War Campaign – interview w/ Blue Hummingbird on the Left

Based in South California, the notorious Black Twilight Circle has long been lauded among underground scene for their furious and ingenious executions of Black and Death Metal that no others can compare, acts like Volahn, Arizmenda, Axeman, Shataan, etc, has maybe redefined Black/Death metal with their touches of Mayan/Aztec elements in their music and themes. Of them all, Blue Hummingbird on the Left is definitely one of the most unique. We had the honor to interview the front man Tlacaelel in the early 2019 as they were about to release their debut full length Atl Tlachinolli and had just finished their second European tour, about the concept behind each of their release, touring and performing live, and some questions regarding BTC itself.  

Interviewed by Aymparch

Aymparch: Greetings, Tlacaelel! Thanks again for accepting this interview. Recently BHL and some other BTC acts are on your second European Conquest tour. How did things go so far for the tour? Do you like it?

Tlacaelel: Things went well, though it wasn’t a tour. Just a festival in Brussels and a last minute show in Denmark. It was our best time so far.

ATLC 2019 @ Brussel

AP: Among your recent tours, the performance at Brussels’ A Thousand Lost Civilizations fest seems to me the most epic show that best captured the essence of BTC’s live performance (judging from few video clips and photos). If I’m not mistaken, they also helped to organize your European Conquest tour last year. How do you think of working with those ATLC folks and your own performance at this year’s ATLC fest?

Tlacaelel: They are a solid team and we would like to thank A.T.L.C. and Iron Bonehead Productions for bringing us out to do last years European Conquest tour. As for this year’s festival, there were some sound difficulties for Blue Hummingbird on the Left. So I would have to say we have sounded better but overall felt it was a strong performance.The reviews I read all were very positive for Blue Hummingbird on the Left and Volahn. Moreover the feedback we received from veteran acts in attendance was something quite special in itself.

AP: Let’s talk a little more about you guys’ European tour last year. I think that was the first time that BTC bands ever play shows in Europe right? How did you like it in general? Did it feel different to play for European audiences than for Americans?

Tlacaelel: Yes that is correct, we enjoyed it very much. We are used to a little more movement from the crowds here in the states. European audiences were for the most part very calm and still as if in a state of awe. Although crowds would vary from country to country. Somewere more boisterous than others,but all very appreciative.

AP: Alright, let’s shift to your latest album, Atl Tlachinolli. For me this is absolutely among the finest I’ve heard so far this year. Nine war hymns full of raw and punching riffs, which proves again that BHL is one of the most unique acts under the banner of BTC. There are two songs from the first ep, plus a track from the 2015 BTC compilation, and it took you guys almost a decade to record this full length. So why take such a long time? And normally howdoes the writing/composition process look like for BHL?

Tlacaelel: As we formed and recorded an EP in about a weeks time. I was in no rush to record the full length any time soon.We were still finding and refining our sound. Over the years we have altered our style, music and vocals.As we began to record the full length I worried that other vocals track were a bit too much and if this was the direction and sound I wanted for Blue Hummingbird on the Left.

There were even talks of returning to BHL’s classic “Bloodflower EP” sound for the album. Then continuing from “Debajo Del Simbolo De Sol” under a new banner. This delayed the album release for a while. As you can hear in Atl Tlachinolli, we chose the fuse the two sounds. We had the album completed a few years ago with Tenochtitlan as an instrumental.That’s when we decided to look for a label to put the album out. After the European Conquest tour, we had Iron Bonehead’s interest. I went back in to record the vocals for Tenochtitlan and it was ready to be pressed. Our writing process is usually lyric followed by music, but in some cases it’s been music followed by lyric.

AP: Of course we all know that BHL is about praising war and embracing ancestral roots, I’m still quite interested in the concept behind this full length (Atl Tlachinolli) and did some researches. To me it seemed to have certain notion of dualism, which is also evident in the organization of tracks (starting with Sun while ending with Moon). Since I’m not familiar with this topic, why don’t you tell us more about this album’s concept, and how it relates to your general theme? (also the cover art is brilliant, who did that?)

Representación del ideograma atl-tlachinolli Códice de Huamantla. Fotografia de Gerardo Montiel Klint / Raíces.

Tlacaelel: A key concept in Azteca/Mexica culture and mythology was duality, a balance between two equal and opposing forces. That’s why Sun and Moon, water and fire, life and death are all themes we have incorporated in our songs. All were valued in daily life. The over all concept I had for the album was that each song would be written through the eyes of a warrior poet, sacrificial captive or in the case of “Campaign” and “Hail Huitzilopochtli” the grand Tlacochcalcatl/Cihuacoatl Tlacaelel. He was an important figure to the Mexica’s rise to power. (I was referred to as Tlacelel “Greatest Hero” on the Bloodflower Ep) I changed my name soon after to honor him, in my roll of leading the Mexica War Tribe. Simply put, Alt Tlachinolli is a history lesson.I was very pleased with the art and the layout, a beautiful record. Cover art was drawn by Raf The Might!

credits: Jahvo Joža

AP: Like I mention before, Atl Tlachinolli is raw, straightforward, with tasty riffs that bring back memories of late 80s (something we not often see in today’s black metal in general), while the elements here are actually pretty diverse: we have some slow passages in tracks like Precious Death and Tenochtitlan; some pagan-ish riffs in Rain Campaign; usages of traditional Aztec/Mayan percussions and flutes (you use the Death Whistle right?); and last but not the least, your trademark war cry (more reverb!!!).So I guess my question is, how do you manage to capture all these elements when performing these tracks live? Is it different from sitting at the studio and recording them? And in general, how important are live shows for BHL (since relatively you guys are among the most active acts of BTC)?

Tlacaelel: I am frequently asked that question. It’s actually a jaguar flute. I really wouldn’t know how to answer how we capture it all, other than we are always prepared for battle. I do feel the album lacks the intensity you would otherwise experience at a live show. While recording one can be quite particular about the timing of a vocal or instrument track. On stage, every night is a new take.Shows aren’t very important to me, but we are a band and on that matter we take everyone’s opinion into consideration.

Blue Hummingbird on the Left | Magasin 4 (credits: Shade Grown Eye Photography)

AP: Let’s talk about Black Twilight Circle if you don’t mind. BTC has been thriving throughout the past decades and definitely achieved a lot, becoming one of the most unique black metal groups in the global scale (believe it or not, you guys have a huge Chinese underground “fanbase”). So what essentially bind you all together for all these years?

Tlacaelel: I can’t speak on the early BTC days, as I was just a fan. But from my perspective it started with a passion for chaotic music then turned intoa pride that came from honoring our cultures and traditions through song.

AP: This question is kind of related to the previous one, when working with other folks of BTC in different acts, do you normally perceive it as more of a collective force, or sometimes-individual values are more important?

Tlacaelel: Most acts are usually led by one individual. Though we often run ideas through each other, the lead individual in that specific act has final say. The collective aspect of the Circle is most musicians’ play live in numerous projects.

AP: This is kind of a general question: how important is the role of language in your music? I noticed in the previous two splits (plus the opening track in the debut) the lyrics were written in Spanish, while the lyrics in the At Tlachinolli are all in English. Are there any specific reasons for this?

Tlacaelel: Just continuing from the Bloodflower EP, as well as simply wanting our songs to be easily understood by everyone around the world. I do plan to write most if not all-future Blue Hummingbird on the Left lyrics in Spanish and Nahuatl. Now that we have the worlds attention.

AP: I had this conversation with my boys the other day, where they brought up the topic of cultural appropriation, and we had such debates that whether what you guys are doing here – that is, combining Aztec/Mayan elements with black metal and praising the ancestral roots – counts as “cultural appropriation”. So I’m curious how your own opinions towards this issue. Also, there are lots of bands nowadays that adopting Aztec/Mayan/other Native traditions or elements into extreme music, to an extent that traditions almost become a selling-point, what do you think of it?

W2-0027: The Great Goddess – Reconstructed Mural, The compound of Tepantitla

Tlacaelel: In regards to Black Twilight Circle, no! This is our culture, it’s in our blood it’s our mindset and is our identity. Everything we do is only to honor and pay homage to our roots. To shine light on the strengths and wisdom of our forgotten ancestors. Now in regards to these other bands that shamelessly try to connect two nations from opposite sides of the world, who lived centuries apart from each other. Then slap hybrid symbols of both cultures on analbum cover, throw in Nahuatl and German words and consider that Indigenous National Socialist Black Metal or “Nican Tlaca”. I hardly believe those people have any sense of pride and I consider that cultural misappropriation.

AP: Are there any plans for future releases for other BTC acts? You guys ever thought about having an Asia tour in the future?

Tlacaelel: Zulxaxeku is my favorite current BTC project, expect a devastating release soon. Also, Xaxamatza’s full length is coming along quiet nicely I look forward to hearing its completion in the near future as well. And yes, we would love to tour Asia! I personally have a huge admirationfor old Asian civilizations and traditions including martial arts.

AP: Alright, thanks again for accepting this interview, a really great conversation indeed. Are there any last messages you guys have for our Chinese readers?

Tlacaelel: Thank you for the interview and kind words !  Bring us out to tour Asia!

AP: As a tradition of our interviews, please let us know your favorite booze (hahaha!

Tlacaelel: Modelo Negra, Guinness and Belching Beaver Mexican Chocolate Peanut Butter Stout. Salud!

Black Metal, Supersitions, Folklores, and Old Cinemas – Interview w/ Malokarpatan

Music passionally dedicated to the golden era of black metal and rustic darkness, Malokarpatan have generated quite some fuzz among the underground community ever since their debut. In early 2018 we had the honor to speak with the front man AS and had a rather joyful conversation about his sources of influences, classic black metal/progressive rock, supersitions and folklores in rural Slovak, as well as old Czechoslovakian cinemas.

Interviewed by Blindevourer

Blindevourer: Greetings Adam, we’re so glad to have this interview, a pure underground conversation between you and the Chinese listeners. Say something to the audience!

AS: Greetings Liu, thank you very much for your interest as well! It’s the first time I’m doing an interview for China and probably also the first time for Asia generally. So naturally I am really glad that our music has reached out so far, geographically and culturally. We don’t get in touch with Chinese culture here too often, except for Chinese cuisine which is very popular, but we learn about ancient Chinese civilisation in schools and I always had a huge respect for it – some of the greatest empires in history were located in your lands, with highly developed culture and philosophy. I also like traditional Chinese music and one of my favourite movies is The Horse Thief by Tian Zhuangzhuang.

BD: For most of your listeners, all we know about your band is the music only and we’re curious about something behind, like how the name “Malokarpatan”came along?

AS: It’s a simple name paying honour to our local region where we come from – the mountains here are called Little Carpathians, which is Malé Karpaty in our language. Therefore Malokarpatan means an inhabitant of this region. There is an old tradition of viticulture in here, which is why you can see the grape symbol in our logo. Other than that, the mountains are known for several caves in them and also a lot of castle ruins – the most infamous one being the castle of countess Elizabeth Bathory in Čachtice – our drummer lives just a few miles out of there. Many places here breathe with ancient history, so we take a lot of inspiration from our surroundings.

BD: We noticed that most of you are members of Remmirath. And your 2015 release Shambhala Vril Saucers and Stridžie dni are both interspersed with folk elements. We find it is very hard, producing two albums in the same year. So how you guys manage to allocate the time and creativity so well?

AS: It wasn’t that difficult, because the Remmirath album was recorded during 2013 and early 2014 and then after several months Malokarpatan recordings started in late autumn 2014. In Remmirath we were focused on a lot more experimental type of music – the basic roots were in 90s black metal, but on this second album it evolved into something outside of standard genre classifications. We were influenced by a lot of different things – progressive and psychedelic 70s bands like Gentle Giant, King Crimson, Faust, early electronic music like Kraftwerk or Yellow Magic Orchestra, composers like Stockhausen, Xenakis, Partch, traditional music from different parts of Asia, etc etc. Shambhala Vril Saucers was a difficult and challenging album to make, so returning to my old school metal roots in Malokarpatan was a great form of active relaxation. Playing more simple and primal music again felt refreshing and now it comes full circle when I again started adding more complex and experimental arrangements to the newer Malokarpatan material, while still keeping the primitive old school roots.

BD: China is a country with extensive and profound culture, and so as Slovakia I assume. A good many folk sounds were added through samples and synthesizers in all sensational tracks. Could you give a brief introduction to how your work got inspired by your culture?

AS: like I said Chinese culture is something I have a big respect for! Of course our country is extremely small compared to the vast spaces of yours, so the variety isn’t as big. Despite of that, we have very rich folklore traditions which are easily adapted into black metal music in my opinion. Like in all cultures, there is the light side and the dark side. As a black metal band, we of course focus on the more sinister elements. These themes are often part of our national folktales, so I got into contact with them already as a small child and therefore it is very natural for me to write songs about them. For more details, you can just check the English translations of our lyrics on the internet. I think it brings a bit of own identity and originality to bands, when their concept deals with their home culture. I’m not too good at discovering newer bands, but I remember hearing some Chinese black metal which incorporated your traditional music, I think that is a great idea and for us western people it is also very interesting and refreshing to explore foreign cultures this way. I wish more bands would get inspired directly by their culture, so black metal would get more varied again like it used to be in the 80s and early 90s.

BD: I also set foot in french, I can tell the vocals in the intro Nordkarpatenland used french. Why you chose a foreign language as lyrics?

AS: You can view it as just a small experiment. It came out naturally, not as a plan of ours. One of the special guests on the album was my good friend Annick Giroux from the Franco-Canadian band Cauchemar. I just sent her the demo version of the album and asked if she could record a few atmospheric parts using her vocals and synthesizer. The rest was just free work of her imagination and for the intro part, she recorded this piece of French recitation as a representation of her own culture. So that is the simple philosophy behind it for me – just as we represent our own culture in Malokarpatan, if we have a guest from abroad, he/she is encouraged to present his/her own culture. Another thing that enthralled me about it was that it reminded me of Tristesses de la lune by Celtic Frost.

Malokarpatan live @ Covenant Montreal 2018 w/ Annick Giroux as guest vocalist/keyboard

BD: Compared with the Stridžie dni, the recent recording quality has been upgraded significantly, will you continue to adopt this mixing style in the next album?

AS: Stridžie dni was a completely self-produced recording without any studio budget. I am very satisfied with the result, as it was meant to be an underground sounding album, paying tribute to the old underground black metal spirit. But meanwhile we have evolved from a project into a regular band with full line-up and this has reflected in the song arrangements too, so I decided that Nordkarpatenland should be recorded in a professional studio. It was also a way how to avoid endless delays which always happen when you have unlimited time for the recording. This way, everybody was forced to be in the studio at the same time and focus on work only. I am definitely not a fan of modern, sterile and overly polished productions though and will always try to not have that kind of sound on our albums. I would already make Nordkarpatenland sound a bit filthier if I had the technical knowledge how to do so, but nowadays recording in a studio already means a certain level of polished sound which is something you can’t do much about. As for the future – yes, we will record in a studio again. But we will also keep an organic and atmospheric touch in the sound, because sterile modern production kills the soul of the music.

BD: Ked gazdovi upeleší sa v chyži nezdoba zmo and V rujnovej samote pocichu dumá lovecký zámek zvlčilého grófa, along withthe other tracks are blended with catchy classical music. Are these of your own creation or samples? And odd stuffs like cow bell also appear. What do you think about that?

AS: Mostly they are samples from various sources – from old Czechoslovakian movies with folkloral/fantasy themes, folk recordings, field recordings and also some classical music with hunting themes. Some small parts were also recorded by ourselves using various percussion instruments like chimes, jaw harp, frogbuzzer, etc. I like our albums to have a cinematic aspect to them – where you can just close your eyes and imagine the stories and places from our lyrics while listening. So we add all these parts just to make the overall atmosphere stronger and more intense. I am a big movie fan and I want our music to have atmosphere that reminds of films. Most likely, we will incorporate even more of additional instruments for the next album, while of course still keeping it as metal as possible.

The Mysterious Castle in the Carpathians (Tajemství hradu v Karpatech) 1981

BD: Mixing with Black Metal and Heavy Metal is a highlight of your creation, the band do not seem to be constrained by the style. We’re wondering if your previous albums are more of your own musical taste or a product of teamwork?

AS: I write all the music and lyrics myself, but I always give freedom to other members to come up with their own arrangements to the basic song structures which I present to them. So the main composition is strictly my job, but the final album result is always a team work. I think for a very long time now, people have a vast misunderstanding of what black metal really is. It was never meant to be a specific way of playing – like the fast blastbeats, tremolo riffs and high pitched shrieked vocals that are so typical nowadays because most bands take the Norwegian second wave of black metal as the basic inspiration. But Norwegian black metal was just one way of interpreting the genre, not a manual how to do it for all of the world. Before that, black metal was more of a philosophy and atmosphere – or a feeling as Fenriz once put it, than a specific music technique. With this in mind, it is completely natural for me to blend traditional heavy metal with darker elements, as that was how black metal once came to be in the first place.

BD: Historically Eastern Europe has always been an area of continuous political change, such as Czechoslovakia, how its disintegration impacted your creative background?

AS: Life was never simple here and still isn’t today. Our ages in the group vary, most of the other guys remember the communist days from childhood/youth, personally I was born during its last years, so I grew up in the post-communist era. But back then – during the 90s, you could still feel the influence of the previous four decades at least culturally. So ironically, even if we are a band formed many years after these sociopolitical changes, we draw inspiration from the old Czechoslovakian era a lot. The old movie samples, influence from classic 80s Iron Curtain metal, etc. But there are other influences as well – I take inspiration from the Slovak identity in general – local 19th century Romanticist poetry also means a lot to me, especially for lyrics.

Ján Botto (1829-1881), one of the Slovak romantic poets Malokarpatan reference in their music

BD: In the early days Malokarpatan is your personal plan, do you plan to use it as your main creative direction? And for the origin musicians of Algor and Krolok. They must be hard to find and combine to work for Malokarpatan.

AS; It is my child mostly, yes. For live concerts, studio and also some arrangements composition, we are a team, but I still write all the music and lyrics by myself. In case someone would bring up a song that would fit in the Malokarpatan universe, I would use it, but to be honest I prefer having creative control. For our drummer who plays in Algor it can be sometimes difficult and challenging, because Algor is a band that is often active live. Krolok works at a slower pace, so it’s a lot less problematic. There are very few people in our country with whom I could work on music as specific as this, so it’s quite natural that I play with musicians that were already busy with other bands and projects before.

Malokarpatan lineup (2014-2018) with Temnohor as vocalist

BD: Another thing I found interesting is that the vocals Temnohor is older than everyone else in the band, he started career as a musician at 1998, how he joined the band?

AS: He is the oldest one among us, entering his mid-40s this year. His musical efforts started even earlier during the 90s, he was among the first people playing crust punk in our country, but he left that scene after a couple of years because he was not interested in its political elements and his music taste shifted more and more towards black metal and generally old school metal. I’ve known him since the late 90s because he was a friend of my older brother and we would often meet up at our place, have some drinks and listen to records. He is one of my few close friends, so inviting him into the band was a natural choice because of our similar views on many things.

BD: The album has been released for six months, Is there any plan to start preparing the next album?

AS: Definitely, I have many parts of the next album already composed, both musically and lyrically. It is still a bit difficult to predict how will the album end up sounding, but so far I think it will be darker than Nordkarpatenland, while still keeping a strong influence of classic 80s heavy metal and also adding some more atmospheric and experimental elements. Lyrically it will be a concept album this time, dealing with witchcraft trials that happened in 17th century on the territory of current Slovakia. This theme has already been used several times in the genre, but our version will still be unique I think. It will also have a more prominent influence of classic Czechoslovakian metal from the 80s and early 90s golden era, but it will be no boring retro without invention.

BD: In your local metal scene, for bands like Tormentor and Master’s hammer do not focus on the limit of a exact metal music style, to an extent you’re very similar to each other. Do you have any collaboration? Can you introduce some bands like these to us and which band resemble your style?

AS: Good observation, I absolutely agree! Black metal from behind the Iron Curtain was always typical for not respecting any restrictions and letting creativity flow freely. Only this way you can achieve originality – to follow the way you feel and ignore any rules. The only rule for us is for the lyrical concept to have a dark, sinister element and for the music to be real metal. Otherwise, we use a lot of different influences and have no interest in belonging to any current trend or scene. Collaborating with Tormentor would be extremely exciting for me, we are not in contact though. From Master’s Hammer, we have collaborated with their guitarist Necrocock who recorded guest vocals and choirs into one of the Nordkarpatenland songs. The album was also recorded in the same studio in Prague where they gave life to the cult demo The Mass back in 1989. For other old Eastern European bands in this style I can recommend for example: Root, Torr, Kat, Exorcist (Poland), Toxic Trash, Cerberus (Slovakia), Moriorr, Dai, Amon Goeth, Tudor, Fata Morgana, Bombarder, Epizod, Evil Blood, Cerber (Russia), Diktátor, Angel Reaper, Fantom, etc.

BD: Reappear all the elements and atmosphere in an album like Nordkarpatenland to a live show is something almost impossible. How do you choose the elements of the work? You have a lots of touring plans this year, will you visit china? Or any other city in Asia?

AS: For me the album versions are always superior and most important and I prefer to sacrifice the live versions to that. So of course there is no way we could fully recreate everything, but at least we add the atmospheric and keyboard parts through samples now. For this year, we will visit several European countries and also USA and Canada. We haven’t received any offer for Asia so far, but of course we would love to come. So if anyone has serious offers, we would absolutely go to China or elsewhere. For this year we have our plans pretty much full, but I hope we can reach Asia in the future and meet the local metal maniacs there!

Malokarpatan current lineup

BD: Thank you very much for your time and I hope the questions are to your liking. At last follow our tradition, tell us your favorite alcohol. Share and drink!

AS: Thank you as well, it was great to do a first time interview for China! Greetings to anyone who listens to our music there! Maybe we can see you live one day in the future. My favourite alcohol is definitely beer, although many of the other members prefer wine (we even have one song dedicated to wine drinking traditions). I like the standard Pilsner type which is the most common in here, but my personal favourite are Belgian beers with their unique taste – Orval, Duvel, Chimay, etc. From Chinese beer I only had Tsintao, but I hope I can try more sometime!

Summoning the Walpurgis Fire – Interview w/ Ungfell

The underground metal scene has been witnessing a great comeback of black metal praising darkness from medieval time over the past few years, among which this Swiss black horde named Ungfell is definitely a band that shouldn’t be overlooked. The elements of medieval traditional music and tales about ghost and devils from Swiss folklores are reincarnated through Ungfell’s furious executions of top-tiered composition. This interview was originally written in early 2018, a few weeks before the release of their second full length Mythen, Mären, Pestilenz, in which we had the honor to discuss with the band’s main force Menetekel about their song-writings, concepts about each album, his passion in old Swiss folktales, together with Helvetic Underground Committee and Zurich’s underground scene.

Interviewed by Aymparch

Aymparch: Greetings, Menetekel, thanks again for accepting this interview. To start off, why don’t you give a brief introduction of Ungfell to those readers who are not familiar with you? What does the name “Ungfell” stand for?

Menetekel: Apart from the original meaning of  “ungfell” which means “misfortune” in antiquated Swiss German, Ungfell stands for tremolo guitar ear rape paired with furious blast beat attacks and hateful screams. We play a highly melodic style of BM with folk elements. Thematically, Ungfell is set in medieval times.  

AP: The band seems to be really a new-born child, since Ungfell was just formed in 2014. Yet you have managed to offer some of the most astonishing releases in the underground scene, especially last year’s Tôtbringære, which is one of my favorite albums for 2017. And again your second full length is going to be released via Eisenwald this March. So I just wonder what are some driven forces that make Ungfell such productive?

M: Hard to say… I just feel the need to get rid of the melodies in my head. Since I handle the composing alone I don’t have to fight over anything with other people. The songs just are what they are.

Thanks a lot for the kind words by the way.

AP: Alright, let’s talk about Tôtbringære little bit. I still remember how amazed I was when I first came across this gem back in last February, together with Schattenvlad’sV – two of the best Medieval BM released last year in my opinion. However, I think you came across this comment quite often in reviews of Tôtbringære – how this album reminds people of some French BM vanguards like PesteNoire and Autarcie, and how surprised when people realized you guys are from Switzerland instead of France. I think it’s because of those elements made famous by French bands like KPN:the raw production, the grim, medieval melodies of guitar riffs, and the uses of folk instruments with rural-like samples. So can you give our readers an idea of the writing process of this album?

M:See, the writing process is very unspectacular actually. I gather melodies, riffs etc. Then I sit in front of my computer and record everything. I start mostly with the guitars. I program the drums so my drummer (in that case Infermità) knows what to play. The lyrics are written with no particular system. Sometimes they come to me easily, sometimes it takes weeks to write lyrics to a track. The creative process is very strange in some cases. I remember writing the lyrics to “Wechselbalg” on a busride in about 20 minutes.

AP: In this album there are a huge amount of folk elements, so a quick question, what are some musicians or bands that outside BM or metal you draw inspirations from?

M:I actually don’t listen to a lot of folk music. I listen to classical music though and I’d like to think that there is a classical influence in my music. I also listen to a lot of ambient music nowadays (Brian Eno, Loscil, etc.). This really isn’t an influence you can hear in my sound but it inspires me.

AP: You already states that the lyric themes of Ungfell focus on folktales and witchcrafts, and these elements are quite prominent in your past releases. For instance: you posted it earlier on your facebook page that Tôtbringære is dedicated to Walpurgis Celebration; that album cover (I really like its design); your lyrics heavily deal with folktales about witch-hunts, wechselbalg, and the dark medieval classic Danse Macabre. So where did your fascination about folktales and dark medieval themes come from? Can you discuss the concept of Tôtbringære a little more?

Der Wechselbalg von Johann Heinrich Füssli, 1780

M: I don’t know where exactly it comes from but I always had an interest in history. I think the medieval theme is very rich in its different aspects and adds a lot of associations to the music. “Tôtbringære” didn’t really have a very clear concept aside from the always-returning motive of death in its many forms. The album was more like a collection of medieval ideas and worldviews. There was not a lot of research though, I just let my imagination go wild. Some tracks even have references to personal experiences, which I somehow adapted to tales. In this sense this is a very personal album to me.

AP: I guess this question may overlap with the previous one, that one can easily find a sense of “ruralness” in the production of your past releases. You seem to embrace the idea of absurdism and play with it as well, like that short video clip of “Recording session” you posted on facebook. Were you try to disconnect yourself from the urban society, reject it with a mocking tune, and return to a “rural identity” so to speak? And it is interesting to see many bands nowadays choose this stance of rural and absurd, like Autarcie, Lugubrum, Fluisteraars, and Pensées Nocturnes, just to name a few.


M: I wouldn’t overinterpret the clip on facebook. It is what it is. Which is exactly this: A stupid clip on facebook. Of course rural atmosphere and absurdity play a big part in the concept of Ungfell. But something that is absurd is very likely not to make sense. People who listen to music or especially BM always want to find “meaning” in everything. Truth be told, many “artists” don’t even know what exactly they do themselves. So if you want to interpret a clip on facebook by saying it is “disconnecting Ungfell from the urban society” then go for it. But keep in mind that it is kind of ironic to look for meaning in things that are meant to be meaningless. But then again, nothing really is meaningless… So maybe it’s just a failed attempt to do something meaningless. This is getting to complicated. Next question.

AP: Alright, let’s shift to your upcoming second full length Mythen, Mären, Pestilenz. I would say that the first single you released a couple of weeks ago titled De Türst und s Wüetisheer sounds more aggressive than yourold works, with a more typical melodic BM approach, without losing your previous trademarks. There are a few changes in the song titles as well, that MMP seems to have an emphasis on Germanic/Swiss folklores, like the figure Türst and some traditional folk songs (like Guggisberglied). Since I am not an expert in this field, could you give our readers some hints of the concept of this album?

“The Dance of Death” by Michael Wolgemut (1493).

M: All of the tracks are inspired by Swiss folklore. Some of them are pretty know nstories,like the tale of the “Wüetisheer” which is basically the Swiss equivalent of the “wild hunt”. The idea of an army of the undead is common throughout European folklore and can be found in many forms and variations. Other  tales like the one about the knight of Lasarraz are less known. This story is about a knight that marries an evilwoman, which then makes him banish his own parents, leading to their death in the cold.

The Knight of Lasarraz

 As a consequence, two toads are now clenching to the knight’s face and his whole family has been eradicated. These are just two examples of the stories contained in this album. Another aspect is that some lyrics are written in Swiss German.

AP: I also noticed some changes in this album’s lineup as well. The drum and percussion was performed by Vâlant instead of Infermità, why did you make this decision? Since you stated before that you are the only permanent member of Ungfell, how did working with different musicians help to shape Ungfell as a whole?

M: Infermità did a great job with the demo and the debut. I guess I just wanted to change up things.

The influence of a drummer on a track or an album is not to be underestimated. Even though I compose the drums for the most part before they are recorded by the respective drummer, the style of a drummer is essential to the overall atmosphere of a piece. Vâlant and Infermità are two extremely different musicians and they both had great additional ideas, which ended up being on the albums.

AP: One interestingthing I found is MMP was mastered by Greg Chandler from Esoteric, a band that I highly respect. Why did you let him master this album instead of doing it yourself like your previous releases? How did this collaboration happen? Are you satisfied with the result?

M: „Tôtbringære“ was mastered at Obsidian Eye Studios. For the new album it was Eisenwald who got me in touch with Greg. I am extremely satisfied with the result. He did a great job and I would like to work again with him if possible.

AP: Another thing caught my attention is the circle of Helvetic Underground Committee and those projects that affiliated with it. I’ve checked out a few of them, like Dakhma and Death. Void. Terror., the music you guys produce has this certain “Hermitic feel” (if I summarize correctly). Looks like the members often collaborate with each other as well, in the case of Ungfell, you have released a split with Dakhma, and their mastermind Kerberos contributed guest vocals on your new album. So I am wondering how did H.U.C. get started? Are there any common goals you try to achieve? What future releases can we expect from this circle in 2018?

M: There’s nothing spectacular about the origin of the H.U.C.. Kerberos and I decided to form some kind of alliance since we always supported each other. Some people joined. End of story. We don’t have something like a common goal other than to create crushing music. 2018 will be a banner year for the bands of the H.U.C. There will be new releases from Dakhma, Arkhaaik, Lykhaeon and maybe even some other ones. We’ll keep you posted.

AP: What is the role of Zurich in the music of H.U.C.? Since many of these circles nowadays claims that their music is tightly associated with the region/regional culture they come from, like South California’s Black Twilight Circle and Silesia’s Let the World Burn Coalition, I wonder if there are any similar relationships H.U.C. share with Zurich as well.

M: Zürich has no meaning for the H.U.C.. Most of us live here that’s it. Of course Zürich is more important for Ungfell than for example Dakhma since the importance depends on the lyrical content and the concept of a band.

AP: Alright, to finish our interview, and to follow one of our magazine’s traditions, tell our readers your favorite alcohol (I assume you are a drinker as well haha).

M: I really like the “AppenzellerHolzfass” beer!

AP: Thanks again for this interview, are there anything else you want to say to our Chinese readers?

M: Thanks for your support and good luck with finding the Appenzeller Holzfass beer in China…