Interview with Deathspell Omega from AJNA Offensive
The earlier recordings of Deathspell Omega have recently been re-issued. What was the decision for this step and will these CDs be limited? Will the split with Moonblood and Mutiilation also be re-issued?
- Things evolve. Both inner and outer factors have led to this decision. The initial analysis that led us to believe that releasing our creations to a restricted circle would help to avoid all the mundane and incredibly uninspiring things infecting Black Metal related circles fell through. It worked, initially. But then we were reminded increasingly about senseless speculations, the obvious lack of deeper understanding for our standpoints by most and a stronger focus on the limited nature of our releases than on what they are truly consisting of. Not being able to adapt oneself in such a situation equals to being dispossessed of one's creations, and this is by no means acceptable ( responsibility is the keyword, here). The re-editions will not be limited. To those who want to confront themselves with the breath of the beast, blessed be.
All of our older releases will be re- issued, that includes the releases you mention.
The lyrics on the re-issued CDs have been mostly obliterated. Can you explain this decision?
- Their initial shape was drowned in, let's say, useless story-telling. These lyrics were very primitive manifestations of the worship of something holy and sacred, something deeply complex. The obliteration found place in order to focus the reader's mind on the main themes that should lead to a very stroboscopic kind of reading, evoking quickly linked images and concepts. The current shape of these old lyrics is basically like their extracted essence: a primitive and redundant litany.
There also appears to be a new DsO logo. Is this (another) sign of a new phase in the evolution of the band?
- Certainly. The logo was conceived in parallel with the "Si Monumentum Requires, Circumspice" album, and embodies definitely more than a mere aesthetic or graphic move. If the logo appeared primarily on the re-issues, it was merely a matter of them being materialised sooner than the new album.
"Si Monumentum Requires, Circumspice" comes as a huge surprise in contrast to all past DsO recordings. What do you have to say about this? Can this shift in musical expression be seen as parallel to the shift in lyrical expression?
- We do not share this common conception that music and words are separate things, to us they are deeply linked and complementary. An evolution of one of these aspects necesssarily implies an evolution of the second aspect, and obviously, of the visual aspect as well; because the origin of these manifestations is the same, and this origin is an all-embracing phenomenon, to say the least.
You have to keep in mind that all of the Deathspell Omega recordings that were released prior to "SMRC" were recorded during barely two years time, even if they existed in the shape of seeds long before the release of what was our first demonstration-tape. However, the global impulsion behind them was very much the same when they were given their final shape. In a way, the material of all these releases is interchangeable as we burnt out up to the last drop of energy that could be extracted from that static viewpoint.
"SMRC" may appear as surprising, but it is an extremely logical move. Barely the expression of a new, higher level in our metaphysical struggle. Considering that there's an infinity of such levels, you may understand what it implies in concrete terms of artistic production.
The new CD is very long, where as the others were of a more digestible length. Do you think this may scare off some listeners?
- Initially, this album was conceived as a DLP, each of the three first sides starting with a prayer. The material separation inherent to the double-vinyl edition probably makes the album more accessible than the CD version, which is a whole indeed, but we strongly disagree anyway with a vision that would imply to release art in a shape that is necessarily consumer-friendly. As Dantec once wrote, true art is cruel by definition (do NOT read further! First: think a while about the immense implications of these few words!). That says a lot about what is labelled as 'art' nowadays, doesn't it?
You wouldn't imagine how painful it was for us to give birth to the abomination this album is. If the listener didn't get to feel any of the anguish we went through -and to remain totally focused for such a long time is not usual nor easy these days anymore -the album would be a failure.
"Si Monumentum Reguires, Circumspice is said to be part one of a trilogy. This first part is long and very in depth. Can we expect the others to be as intense as this one? Will the music be along similar lines, or will it continue to be incredibly diverse?
- It took us over two years to conceive "SMRC", actually about three years if we speak about the global concept of which this album is only the first part out of three, as you say. Before writing a single note of music, a foetal structure of the lyrical aspect has to appear clearly, because the origin of our inspiration communicates - or shall I say imposes ?- through intellectual concepts first and foremost, sensorial elements are subordinated. Of course, this initial structure is bound to grow, to be mutilated or enhanced during the actual work, but this is the starting point that later on guides the creation of the musical support. At the moment of this interview, a superficial yet extremely furnished density of written word is available as the chaotic skeleton of the second part of the trilogy, and actually, some semen for the third and last part are available, too. A lot of discipline will be required to shape this material into something that will allow us to start the purely musical work, although some sketches have already been tested, some patterns of which have turned out to be satisfying, others not quite in communion with the rest, thus, discarded.
As you may imagine, we will furthermore enter the dimensions of theological uncertainty, and the resulting, ever growing ecstatic anguish may very well materialize itself in a musical form quite different again. It is way too early to predict anything though; realistically, the second part will certainly not be finalised before a couple of years. It may be accurate to underline that the music being subordinated to the global intellectual impulses, the Black Metal genre is not the only shape it may take.
"Si Monumentum Reguires, Circumspice" translates, I believe to: 'If you seek his monument, look around you'. Do you care to explain this title in relation to the cover artwork? Did a band member do the cover art?
- The artwork was done by a certain talented artist, otherwise not linked to the Deathspell Omega fraternity, according to our instructions. I won't take away any of the metaphysical dimensions of the cover by a restrictive rational analysis, but it is entirely related to the title. It is both a statement on the Logos, providing metaphysical keys to a certain approach on reality, and a statement on our faith and it's concrete anchors and applications in the world as every human being can actually experience it. But keep in mind: the light that illuminates us is the very same that blinds us too.
"Si Monumentum Reguires, Circumspice" finds its first lyrics to be "O Satan.". I am assuming this was a very conscious decision of your part?
- Actually, the first words, granted unspoken, that open the album are a statement on the status of language (the Verb), more specifically on human expression and it's origin, its inherent limits when man tries to understand or to address himself to the deus ignotus.
Once underlined what our amibitions realistically can be, we indeed, although remaining very humble, address ourselves to Satan. Satan as a metaphysical entity, this can not be said loud enough. All other interpretations of Satan are intellectually invalid, for people need to realise that mere etymological arguments or, worse, small-minded rationality can not be considered as a finality, but merely minuscule fragments of a metaphysical phenomenon, of the most dangerous thing among all: Truth.
The imagery within the CD booklet is a curious mix of genocidal imagery, erotica, crime scene photos and Christian iconography. This is not the first time this eye has seen these themes blended into a perverse paradigm. (Funeral Mist comes to mind). Could you explain the reasons for these art selections?
- Obviously the lyrics of "SMRC" deal with the human being, it's biosphere/biotope and the interaction with the amazing powers inherent to Satan, the radiations of whom irremediably influence and alter human works, visions, eventually human finality. Bearing this in mind, these images aren't a 'curious mix' as you put it, rather a regretfully very small selection of incarnations of these alterations, all of them representing a specific theological statement. Your question hints at an apparent discontinuity between them, actually they are only different facets of the very same phenomenon, extremely closely related even. The hand that strangles and the hand that heals is the same...
Stepping back in time a moment, the split records with Clandestine Blaze and Mütiilation seem to be more of a backing down from your stricter Satanic ideals in terms of artwork. Could these be considered 'regretful'?
- Let me quote an essay by George Bataille ".The images which quicken desire or provokes the critical spasm are usually equivocal, louche: if it be horror, if it be death these images present, they always present them guilefully. Even in Sade's universe, death's terrible edge is deflected away from the self and aimed at the partner, the victim, at the other - and, contradictory, Sade shows the other as the most eminently delightful expression of life..."
This is the key to understanding these artworks, any further word would be superfluous.
Generally, there's a misconception about which aesthetic can be considered as 'satanic'. Considering though that the roots of this misconception lie in the initial well-spread misconception of Satanism itself (which almost always, in an immense naivety, deny its divine component), it comes as no surprise.
Deathspell Omega is a collective entity of minds (or a force), not to be seen as band members/individuals. Why this approach? Can you say that this will remain a firm stance on your part? And, obviously this would mean no live stations, correct?
- First and foremost, we want to avoid at all costs this very human illusion of being important and gladly leave these fifteen minutes of fame, as Warhol brilliantly put it, to whoever wants them. In regard to what we are trying to understand and dare to praise despite the immense restrictions of human understanding, we are nothing. This being said, we are of course better than most humans, our humility lies on a metaphysical level. Eventually, it should also be considered that we honestly can not say how much of the artistic or intellectual impulses truly come from us, and which percentage of, for example, "Si monumentim requires, circumspice" was conceived through or maybe even despite us. Claiming the paternity of a child with such odd and uncontrollable origins would be very vain, indeed, even if -at least- the credit of being an instrument remains. ("I shall descend in humiliation before Thee - And ascend before men only if thy will ordains me")
You are right, we do not consider live performances to be suitable, as what Deathspell Omega conveys can not be understood in such a restrictive, purely sensorial, environment.
Deathspell Omega has appeared in only two interviews up to this point as far as I am aware of. Why this secrecy and why do you lift the veil at this time? Are you aware of public support to any degree? Do you keep in touch with the "word on the street" as it were?
- We've had an ambivalent position towards communication that results in the necessary anonymity. At first we had excluded communication from our working patterns, purely and simply. We eventually had to re-adapt ourselves: communication becomes necessary when evolution reaches a critical stage.
Remember, when Luther had translated the Bible into vernacular language, and by doing so gave access to the divine words to a broader, thus less educated public, he soon had to put as a preamble to an interpretation of these texts a serious cultural background that nothing can ever be interpreted freely. In our case, interviews work as a reminder for those who truly are interested in a coherent interpretation, and as a way to expose additional concepts that couldn't be expressed, or maybe not as clearly, in a LP or CD booklet.
Of public support we don't know much, except that we were quite surprised by the sales. That people probably bought these albums for the wrong reasons is another debate.
Would Deathspell Omega use the word 'orthodox' or 'puritanical' or 'zealot' in relation to their approach to the ideas espoused?
- Things are not as simple. As you know, Deathspell Omega deals with religious, metaphysical stakes, and despite the fact that we do definitely have many of our roots in the monotheistic tradition, and indeed in orthodox or puritanical declensions of this stream, we can not honestly pretend that they are exclusively situated there. Satanism, or Devilworship, is not a revealed religion, like just another monotheistic religion. Or better said, it is a revealed religion, but at this stage, there is no such thing as a Book of Books like the Bible is for the Christian tradition. There's not a single book that would be the ultimate reference, the Bible, for example, is but a small part of our inheritence. Actually, the whole religious literature, from the old Jewish sects to the agnostics, from the St Augustinian approach to christianity to radical Wahhabi pamphlets is only a fragment of what we have to be aware of to finally find the spiritual pearls disseminated here and there for those who have eyes to see. Eventually, this means that traditionalism and certainty aren't standpoints we can defend forever. They are suitable, at times.
One can't help but notice similarities arising within a certain contingency of black metal bands- religious themes and apparent devotion to Him. Can you explain this step beyond the simple anti-Christian sentiments?
- Intellectualy, I'd dare to say a new generation -well, a couple dozen individuals worldwide, more realistically- is ready to break boundaries. Maybe certain individuals here and there have finally the will and understanding to truly materialise Black Metal out of the ashes of what it never fully was? Let me tell you that the real potential of Black Metal hasn't yet been realised. How could it be, when Black Metal nowadays is synonymous with close to no artistic vision but stands exclusively for a carbon copy of a sound, a non- attitude and non-ideas? Don't get me wrong, traditionalism is a valid aspect, but when no alternative to traditionalism is open anymore it is called stagnation, and stagnation equals artistic death. Had a literary movement reached such a rotting point, it'd have been laughed at and dismissed as ridiculous for years from the inside.
That these few visionaries tend to go over banal anti-Christian sentiments isn't that surprising, as banal anti- Christian sentiments are but the manifestation of primitive first-degree rebellion. You know, that phase which about every human goes through when he's a teen? To deny the current cultural and spiritual paradigm is but a logical move, but if there's nothing to happen behind the denial, well, I do not have to point out what kind of intellectual void it implies, do I?
The "orthodox" concept within black metal has been growing now for some time, most strongly in Sweden, yes? Can you also speak of your concepts regarding your "orthodox" embracing of Satan's (His) creed, if you would call it such? What do you hope to achieve by professing a belief, rather than just being in opposition?
- We can't speak on behalf of any Swedish band.
Let me say though that the main implication of the word "orthodox" in this context is a proud statement of the recognition of Satan being of divine essence, of the location of Devilworship on a religious and metaphysical level. The easy escape of using the word ideology instead of confronting oneself with the real challenges only portrays the terribly low level on which the major current of 'Satanism' is crawling.
Professing a belief, or rather describing the different stones that pave the road on the quest that true faith implies, is synonymous with being active, it witnesses of spiritual evolution, of gains and of losses. As we wrote above, denial can't be anything other than a very first step, unless you want to embrace the most primitive nihilism.
On keeping with the "orthodox" theme, which bands would say consider falling in line with this doctrine? I would imagine that many will try to claim legitimacy. How can one truly decipher the real "orthodox" inheritors from those hoping to be and who has the right to say who is serious and who is not? Ironically enough, this idea and set of arguments mirrors the 'righteous' from the 'heretic' in religious debate beginning 2000 years ago.
- In this case it's basically the debate between those who want to enthrone Black Metal as a form of Art (in the noble sense of the word, Art as a key to truly understand dare I say everything. The devil is one of the keys to what is known as l'art total.) and those who want to let it remain as merely another form of entertainment. We despise this second category, immensely and irremediably, that goes without saying.
Actually, you are maybe putting too much emphasis on the word "orthodox" when a serious analysis of what each band has to offer is sufficient, once again, for those who can see. But to answer your question, and remaining within the field of Black Metal exclusively, every band linked to Norma Evangelium Diaboli has something worthy to offer to those who are truly seeking.
Deathspell Omega is very strict about public relations, so how did you choose to work with Clandestine Blaze and Northern Heritage, seeing as their doctrines are, seemingly, different from your own. Will you consider doing split releases with other bands in the future?
- We chose to work with Mikko A. after we noticed how close we actually are. You know his usual rhetoric, and this is far from turning around religious patterns, but his smart down to earth approach has lead him to conclusions extremely similar to ours, even if he started from different observations and ended up with a different formulation of facts. He is one among very few who can take the most atrocious things very naturally, and he is one among very few who truly shares a fascination and appreciation for things of an utterly sadistic nature that I will not unveil here. It has to be said that in our quest answers or impulsions often come from unsuspected places or people, eventually finding a spiritual partner in him is but an example of this.
Concerning split-releases, well, during 2004 you should get two of these. First, that very old "Crushing the Holy Trinity" project on Northern Heritage is finally becoming a reality, even if it's not really a split release per se, more some sort of a compilation. We decided to contribute a long composition based on an essay on the presence of the divine, the patriarchal archetype ("Father") being replaced by a matriarchal and depraved incarnation (it is, by the way, partly based on a short story by Georges Bataille). Ironically, this is also a portrayal of the current occidental societies, but that's another debate. The second split-release is a shared 10" with Malicious Secrets, about which I won't reveal anything yet.
I would imagine you might be inspired by music outside of the black metal realms, and bands pre-existing such terms...
- Definitely, yes. All of us went through a phase during which we were naiive enough to believe that Black Metal was already something sacred, something holy, and fanatical as we were I do not think there's a single recording, not even the most obscure rehearsal tape released during the '90s, that escaped our never ending need to hear and read everything concerning this Art-form we had placed such hopes in. Eventually we realised that the potential someone like Euronymous had underlined by placing sovereignty as a preamble to liberty and the religious dimension as the key to the Logos had not been materialised. No excuses were valid anymore, we had to admit the experiment was a bitter failure, especially underlined by our parallel exploration of fields such as philosophy, theology, of course literature, cinema, let's say Art and Culture to cut a long story short, all of which made Black Metal go pale in utter mediocrity. The main problem of Black Metal is precisely that it's only influences, thus only perspectives, are Black Metal, or Metal in general. Perspectives close to zero, to put it like that.
Our goals are, as already underlined, directed towards metaphysical spheres, and that obviously implies that close to the totality of the material that fuels our reflections is of different origin than such an underdeveloped and under-intellectualised thing as Black Metal. However, it goes without saying that bands with a vision, let me name Malign here for instance, are at the pinnacle of the genre and shine with no less truth than visionaries from other fields.
Are you concerned at all about the reaction to these religious developments within a certain minority of black metal as being seen as "just another trend" in a very trendy scene?
- Not quite. I can't count the multitudes of philosophes who underlined that Truth can never be understood by a large number of people, not to mention their statement on the notion of evolution. It would be very egalitarian and humanistic of us to care about the opinion of the masses, be it the black metal masses, don't you think?
Latin. Why is this language used to such a large degree within the context of your new CD? Is Latin any more important than Greek or Hebrew in this context?
- Actually, we are also using some old Greek in the booklet but there's indeed a focus on Latin language. Latin was enthroned as the universal language by the Catholic church, and culturally we can't deny that we feel close to it's use, be it in the liturgical context or because Latin has been the language of the cultural elite for several centuries. The door is open to the use of many languages in the future, several of us being actual polyglots; Hebrew, Aramean, or the various middle-eastern dialects in which so many 'Apocalypses' were written may be used if there is a necessity to do so. We will always work in order to underline the pre-eminence of the Logos.
I am curious to know how many of the members of DsO are participating in each aspect of the album. Does everyone contribute lyrics, music? Or is this really, like many bands, only one persons' vision with the others being mere instruments?
- Impulses come from various sources, every part of Deathspell Omega being constantly evolving - progressing? - and making new experiences on the path to the deus ignotus. Each time a valid conclusion has been reached, it is being contributed and melted in the creative process; all this results in a collective achievement in which the function of each cell indeed determines somewhat it's degree of implication and let's say productivity, but considering that sometimes a single word can be enough, working as a revelation, to change completely the course of events, it is all quite relative and eventually only points to the notion of momentary blessing.
Did you have a religious upbringing? If not, what instigated the plight for Him?
- Some of us had a religious upbringing indeed, and these obviously went through the initial phase of global denial, whereas others were raised under the sign of rationality. That we eventually all experienced a shattering theophany is something very hard to explain in rational terms. There's of course cultural arguments, anyone who went through long universitarian studies has been given keys -and this despite the fact that most universities in the occidental world are actually strongholds of humanitarian egalitarianism- and we chose not to ignore these keys, whereas most people do as they prefer to remain in harmony with the current Zeitgeist. There's also these signs punctuating one's life since childhood: sincere joy at the sight of death and especially human spiritual pain way before any conscious intellectualisation of Manichean theories and these, indeed irrational but oh so precious, signs disseminated here and there by some malign hand that made us realise how much love and adoration we actually felt for the Devil, way before we got in touch with any sub-culture like Metal music that may have influenced our young brains.
Eventually, it may be interesting to say that the current rational Zeitgeist is but another tool to mislead man, to make him look in the opposite direction to what could truly grant him salvation (let's name St Augustinian Christianity for example); it is the current Zeitgeist that culminated in these transcendental absolutes that were these cathedrals of human pain with their smoking chimneys or the physical incarnation of cynicism as represented by the Gulag, it is the achievements of this very Zeitgeist that managed, according to Adorno, to kill literature (think a minute about the shattering implications of that statement !) but for those who were cursed with the blessing of the Devil (remember: Fas) it is but a tiny veil that only enhances the logical conclusion: it is a glorious age for the divine, a triumph for the deus/diabolus absconditus.
Would you say the "Si Monumentum Requires, Circumspice" album is exclusively inspired by Biblical themes/writings?
- It would be exaggerated to pretend they were exclusive sources. As previously implied we do not have a single, better said ultimate, reference; Catholic or more generally Christian theology is but a small part of our inheritance. Not being limited by morality, a smile or the vilest rape can both be vital contributions. However, it is true that the vast majority of the sources used for "SMRC" are of Christian origin, although writings claimed to be heretical by the Vatican were accepted by ourselves as being particularly sharp, perhaps precisely because the Vatican noticed the dangerous and nauseating implications of these writings.
I want to ask what connection the cover has with the lines from 'Sola Fide I', "The heart of a lost angel is in the earth".
- There's a strong connection, these few words almost entirely explain the cover, as you have noticed.
Do your beliefs have any influence from Aleister Crowley's works? How about influences from other magickal orders: Church of Satan, Temple of Set, Order of Nine Angels, Sabbatic Traditions, Ophidian/Typhonian Currents, or others?
- Well, not really. Becoming familiar with the writings of some of these orders was a task we accomplished at an early stage, and we gained nothing out of it except a strong feeling of superficiality and disappointment. They mainly show a pathetic lack of general culture, a reinterpretation of facts through a gross, biased and partial manipulation where the conclusion shapes the arguments, instead of the arguments shaping the conclusion (which is a respectable way to work under certain circumstances and an amusing display of rhetorics, but fails completely here). Eventually, they perfectly incarnate the vast difference lying between superstition and metaphysics. Such groups can only originate from the current Zeitgeist and no matter from which ancient (and often imaginary) tradition they pretend to descend, they are barely different from the despicable current new-age paradigm : sensoriality.
France has had a prolific history in terms of heretical, perverse figures: Gilles De Reis, Baudelaire, Huysmans, Bataille, De Sade and probably many I am neglecting. Can you count any of these as being influential?
- They all contributed with a stone to the temple, some more (Georges Bataille), some less (surprisingly. Gilles de Rais), however, we shouldn't concentrate exclusively on these (indeed brilliant) figures for you will certainly recognize that their controversial aura and reputation precedes them so much that it often actually overshadows their concrete contributions. Many a reactionary Christian pamphleteer or Marxist philosophe actually pointed out a fragment of truth, similarly, one could just get lost in, for example, the incredible literature spawned in the Fin-de-Siècle Vienna, or in the last 50 years of absolutely dominating Anglo-Saxon mastery in terms of universitarian historical research.
France has a seemingly rabid Satanic Black Metal underworld. The book 'Lords of Chaos' had a section devoted to France and it's criminal history, to some extent. Now there is going to be a new edition of the book. I've been told that there is little to no new information on the French BM vengeance. How much is really going on over there to fight the disciples of YHVH?
- Honestly, we can not be considered as witnesses to the French scene first and foremost because our modus operandi is exclusive by essence and becomes inclusive solely by the transcendental link of the Verb, a common language if you prefer. To mention a rare example, Antaeus shares this language. You may understand however that beyond that we have nothing to say on this topic.
To end with a verse from their book: 'Then the Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually."
- It is also our book, Tyler, but one among many. That quote portrays the typical strife for ultimates, for absolutes, a vulgar simplification, yet a sentence bearing many truths.
On behalf of Deathspell Omega,
WITH GENEROUS ASSISTANCE FROM NORMA EVANGELIUM DIABOLI