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Exclusive interview by Roy Kristensen, 2020. 

This interview will also be included in Imhotep #12, 
published by Cult Never Dies in Winter 20/21.

Deathspell Omega’s last interview prior to the two recent and captivating features in Niklas Göransson’s excellent Bardo Methodology, was published online way back in 2004. In 2007 contact was established, and since that time the band and I have been exchanging thoughts on their music and art.

Deathspell Omega have released no less than three full-lengths and two EPs since our preliminary contact and with the release of their latest monument, The Furnaces Of Palingenesia, they decided it was time to express something outside the trinity of music, lyrics and art. 

2019 saw the publication of the two aforementioned features and now, in 2020, it is time for the final instalment in what turned out to be a connected trilogy of interviews. Thirteen years in the making, this article consists of questions and answers made in the same period and now finalised in 2020.

“Deathspell Omega is rebellion. Or rather, the main expression of a rebellion that is our primary fuel. On the other hand, it is also akin to a black hole: the mental cost of extracting, of summoning anything of lasting artistic value certainly adds up. It would be a lie to pretend that we never balk at the perspective of embarking on another all-consuming dive into the abjections of the world. But, eventually, we do bite the bullet because we have to. It is less a matter of questioning whether it is worth it than of accepting that the process is inevitable.”

You did explain why now was the time to say something outside of your artistic creations when you spoke to Bardo Methodology. Sometimes I have thought that it should remain silent forever, and if I had know how much time and energy something like an interview of this standard would demand, I would perhaps have said nay. However, not being a naysayer, how do you, if it is of any interest, think people into Deathspell Omega and the art will regard this opportunity to learn a bit more from the source rather than from the interpretations of others? I, for once, will definitely have to read a few more books, to put it like that...

“What we regard as our duty is to be coherent: where we can be transparent, we are. Should anyone have an interest in investigating the subversive labyrinthine ideas that presided to the construction of The Furnaces of Palingenesia, they now can, provided they are willing to invest time into that process. We presented the lineage of these thoughts, authors that were backbones and guides throughout the process: we carved out the path. We tried to lift ambiguity whenever possible without going that one step too far, which is the step during which you strip a work of art of its magic.”

“The short sequel to that interview is, by comparison, a much more casual discussion that covers various topics of general interest. The common thread probably being that, while all uncompromising art forms have always been a revolt of some sort, they are increasingly at odds with the modern world and its tools of social control. Interestingly, the resulting tension isn’t necessarily only vertical (as in originating from the state) but largely horizontal, as diverse factions of the population ramp up the antagonisms. Countercultures are rarely devoid of tension, especially not when they reek of sulphur.

Then we have this third and, for this cycle final, interview here, promised… was that a decade ago, perhaps? Subsequently, we will retreat to silence for the predictable future. The essence of what we have to transmit is channelled in its purest form in our records - we can’t say it any better. I’d guess that this is true of most musicians, frankly. Our interviews necessarily channel a somewhat compromised, narrowed-down communication when a work of art contains universes.”

“But, learning from the source, as you say…? The primary source ought to be our records! But if we were to correct some misconceptions during this interview… maybe the following one here may warrant a word.

There’s a cacophony of voices emanating from the Adversary. Our own work aims at creating a mimesis of the world. That world is a giant checkerboard. Everyone – you, me, the reader – is a piece on that giant checkerboard. Everyone determines by his/her daily moves whether he/she is of the Devil’s party, no matter how unconscious or direct the process and regardless of the official flag. Our entire body of work has been written from a universal perspective, perhaps spiced with a distinctly French approach to the matter of universalism.

Our standpoint is born out of the many civilizational myths that inspired us. Some of them contain the premise that any exceptional individual being will ultimately exert and project his free will. All of us constantly redeem our respective worths. The only kinship, the only community we acknowledge is one of spirit.

Most of the Western world seems to have succumbed, sometimes unwittingly, to one of the shades of totalitarianism described by Orwell – essentialism – which is entirely absent from our worldview. Essentialism casts a terrible sentence upon human beings, not unlike the Party’s “THOU ART” and therefore shrinks the horizon of potentialities drastically. The two other shades being, for the record, a command (“thou shalt”) and a ban (“thou shalt not”). Reading our works through the lenses of any form of determinism, be it biological or social, is a complete nonsense. Determinism and essentialism are however abundantly present on the checkerboard – some see them as a cogwheel of oppression, others of liberation, either can be understood from a benevolent or malignant perspective.

This being said, let’s zoom in on the latest record. The traps that ensue on such an individual path will be many and human ideologies that do not yield their own mass graves in time, or at least symbolic murder, are a rare breed. Given the antagonistic climate, this century will in all likelihood yield red, brown, and most likely also green mass graves, not to mention traditional and unconventional warfare between nation states. The cities that will burn, most of those who will die... much of that will happen in the name of an alleged greater, common good. As we wrote in the lyrics to ‘Ad Arma! Ad Arma!’: “The bloodshed that is to come shall happen in the name of love. Satan, if we are to give him the consensual definition of an egregore, will blow a wind of pestilence over this world not only to clamours of resentment and hatred, but much more so to sounds of belonging, community, love, compassion, fraternity, equality, and under the old banner of an ever brighter future.

This whole process, on the level of the individual, of collectives, on a systemic level, is a major theme explored in our lyrics. Let’s zoom in even further: when the lifelong pacifist and outstanding thinker Günther Anders eventually legitimated radical direct action in the year 1987 (Gewalt - ja oder nein), at the ripe age of 85, he did so as a means of last resort in the face of the threat of massive destruction that is intrinsic to nuclear technology. His careful thinking was by far more Ivan Kalyayev than Sergey Nechayev. There would be blood but every single drop was to be measured on the altar of justice, as every drop beyond the strictly necessary would strip the culprits of their humanity. Anders was adamant at trying to avoid the tipping point that comes with the desacralization of murder – that same banalisation that is inherent to all totalitarian systems. The calls to arms are resounding from all sides nowadays: “same old, same old,” mutters the jaded observer of our species. However, there’s a peculiar conjunction, a collision of sorts. With a distrust toward institutions that have granted peace for decades – a most rare occurrence in human history – reaching unprecedented heights, with qualitative information largely defeated by partisan propaganda in an era where technology levelled the previously existing hierarchies, ancient international alliances withering away, almost unprecedented levels of debt combined with extreme concentrations of wealth, humanity intent on playing the game Freud called “the narcissism of small differences”… all of this to boot, at a time when the world around man will turn growingly hostile. The choices that people will have to make will taste like vinegar on the cross. And multitudes will be of the Devil’s party, stumbling into the pit, while believing honestly and all the way down, that they are decent folks.

Are such moments of bare explanation adding or detracting from our work?”

Is it not a lost idea to fight with minor means an unholy quest such as this? I ask, for I sometimes think that black metal music is music for those already walking on the left hand path, consciously or unconsciously, thus it adds little fuel to the fire as it can often be regarded as only supplements to the thoughts the purchasing people already have! Or, perhaps in the case with Deathspell Omega you are challenging the challengers?

“We work with sound, word and graphics. You need no more to project a mimesis of the world. These aren’t minor means – case in point: they are central for any order to convey sense, stability or enforce control. They can alternatively lull into passive submission or awake and direct energies.

During the creative process, they emerge at the conjunction of the eminently rational – a projection of will – and the vast unknown, let’s name it the divine. During that genesis, you shoulder the responsibilities of a demiurge. 

Someone once described Deathspell Omega as a counterculture within a countercultural movement – whilst being an integral part of said movement. That was a rather accurate formulation and reflects our positioning during that ‘quest’, to quote your question.”

Concretely speaking, this means that our work is pure black metal – our passion for the genre’s finest efforts has never withered and we will forever acknowledge the discovery of black metal as a turning point in our lives. But we certainly believe that the music must reflect the underlying spirit. One cannot be faithful to the revolutionary, extravagant, mystic and larger than life impulse that is intrinsic to the genre by simply repeating patterns established by others ad nauseam. Defiance should come on all levels – not least musically. Black metal, from the moment it channels that fierce spirit, has no musical limits but the self-imposed limits of those involved.

Our work necessarily questions the conceptual presuppositions of the genre. If you are of the opinion that black metal is not merely a musical hobby but, say, a vessel of sinister spirituality or a mirror of sinister realities, then the necessity to incorporate the genre into a profound cultural lineage that goes far back into the centuries is paramount. That is, the lineage of singular minds that dared to defy earthly and heavenly powers alike, those who waged a Promethean/Luciferian revolt by whatever means they considered fit. It is a struggle that doesn’t work under the impulse of that proverbial happy ending but only promises further unrest and questioning.

Working on establishing connections, forcing realities to manifest by confronting or juxtaposing works of explosive nature that radiate over the centuries, that’s what we have been doing lyrically since 2002. And that is how we ‘challenge the challengers’, to return to your question. This is our contribution, faithful to our personalities and vision. It may, or may not, be useful to others. There are many roads to Pandæmonium, this is ours. Our work is thus structured like the Roman god Janus: facing both the past and the future.”

Before 2004’s Si Monumentum Requires, Circumspice, Deathspell Omega released two albums, if one could call 2000’s Infernal Battles a full album when one knows that side B is the demo. Now, 20 years later, how do you look back at these two albums, which are closer to the so-called second wave of black metal, or the Norwegian black metal style we know so well?

“All of the recordings from 1999 to 2002 were basically done in a single tormented breath, nurtured by an endless fascination for the stellar achievements of a portion of the second wave of black metal ­– some of it Norwegian obviously but by far not exclusively Nordic – early Samael was perhaps more important in some regards than many Norwegian classics.

These recordings are radical in the sense that they excluded any sense of nuance, infused with that extremely hostile and utterly nihilistic underground spirit that was prevalent at that time in our circles. The underlying tension is not something people can imagine or reconstruct in hindsight, certainly not without a proper understanding and sense of context.

Naming it a scorched earth policy would still be an understatement: after all, there was an implicit understanding that it had to be an overshoot of the previous generation. How to properly and effectively incarnate that extreme ambition was a throbbing question and we gave it an answer by operating the revolution we will speak about in a minute. Embarking on the decade-long work on the trilogy.

The first years were an absolutely necessary phase, one that branded black metal into our beings forevermore, but also a very specific chapter that ended in the year 2002, when we rose from those ashes.”

Something like Si Monumentum Requires, Circumspice has never been done in the world of black metal. It is huge, it is a monster and it collects only emotions of darkness and negativity, something I sense is one of the main meanings behind it. And people are awestruck by it. But the best aspect with it, besides the materialistic impression I get from the vinyl release, is that it is far from being an easy task, despite that it is easier than the following Kénôse [2005] and Fas - Ite, Maledicti, in Ignem Aeternum [2007]. By ‘easier’ I mean that the song structures are more basic in that there are fewer changes in every track. However, before we dive directly into the music, I must ask you what led you to create this huge monster of an album after the more straightforward nature of the previous releases?

“It was meant as a foundational statement, the first kinetic impulse of a revolution (if we refer to the dictionary: ‘a dramatic and wide-reaching change in conditions, attitudes, or operation’). Working the way we do, there were several themes and concepts that needed to be introduced and we ended up referencing about eighty different sources that are part of our corpus. Hence the length.

While you are absolutely right to say that it is musically less challenging than the recordings that were to follow, the actual difficulty lay within the spiritual nature of what was incarnated through us. It scars and cauterizes you simultaneously. The darkness you hear is but a manifestation of an overwhelming, opaque darkness in our lives at the time.”

When people write or talk about the album Si Monumentum, I always get the impression that ‘Carnal Malefactor’ is considered to be the highlight of the album. Perhaps it is, perhaps it isn’t. Nonetheless, when Deathspell Omega considers a creation, in this case the album, do you view it as a whole instead of picking up pieces where some pieces are slightly better than others?

“Every portion of a record serves a purpose, it is part of a narration. Everything you hear survived a severe process of culling and found its rightful place in the global structure. The songs you list are simply those that are, by common standards, the most melancholic, the ones that immediately speak to the heart and which lure you into the darkness that follows.

You know, Roy, if you allow a little digression…  The opposition between what people consider music that speaks to the emotions and music that is supposedly intellectual is a largely artificial distinction.  Musical tastes are certainly not acquired once and for all. To the contrary, they work a bit like a muscle that requires exercises. There’s this vivid remembrance that, the first time I heard polyrhythmic music, many years ago, it gave me an actual headache. Fast forward two days listening to such material and nothing remained but fascination and a, granted rather partial, understanding of another musical colour. It’s worth every effort: new worlds can literally open in front of you. And then, that which seemed indecipherable becomes as clear as water, unlocking the emotions contained therein.”

The dissonance is something that is always breathed in the same sentence as Deathspell Omega, especially from Fas - Ite, Maledicti, in Ignem Aeternum onwards. And when there’s a new band in the extreme and/or black metal scene that uses dissonance, it is always regarded in comparison with Deathspell Omega. Oh well, that’s not our business. Let me instead ask how dissonance feels right in your music?

“Music is but a language and, within the context of Deathspell Omega, hopefully a faithful expression and representation of the lyrical content. Dissonance is a structural element in portraying the world and human experience as a whole, it speaks of truth. However harsh it might be, one may experience balance in the natural world. But as soon as man enters the picture, commits deicide and installs himself on the throne, without checks and balances that is, man breaks that fragile equilibrium and things quickly turn south. The ideological justifications for the limitless carnages of the twentieth century would be a potent illustration of man, unchained. The physical exhaustion of the material world in an orgy of superficiality is another. When man attempts to give a physical manifestation to Paradise, Hell ensues.

In strictly musical terms, the use of dissonance came from our discovery of the works of the late Krzysztof Penderecki, not from any guitar-originated music, as odd as that may seem. Incidentally, during the preparatory sessions for Kénôse, our producer, as he was discovering the material, asked us if we were listening to bands such as Botch or The Dillinger Escape Plan. We had heard of neither at the time. Make no mistake, they’re masters of their trade in their own right, but our internal chronology is vastly different from what an outsider might assume. We went from being obsessed with black metal to contemporary classical music because it was primarily a path based on spiritual criteria. We were trying to define the musicality that would best speak of certain mysteries. And we did so, logically, by looking into the past, especially the 1960s and 1970s, and exploring the works of people immersed in a certain spirituality. People who grew up in a context that was less comfortably secular than the last few decades, when strong religious institutions were still casting their long shadows over public and artistic life in the Western world. It took years to ingest all of that material.

Incidentally, this also explains why the guitar playing on our albums evolved into something different from the norm, pulling along the other instruments. At the core, since Kénôse, it’s just a Les Paul, a standard D tuning and a JCM 800… but wildly emulating a haunted feeling that, in certain pieces of contemporary classical music, was performed by violins, a cello or a piano. The whole being possessed by the most fanatic of black metal, of course, and tainted by the intensity of the most extreme of metal we had listened to over the years. What I’m trying to convey is that Fas - Ite, Maledicti, in Ignem Aeternum would not exist without Penderecki and Wyschnegradsky. That’s what unlocked these musical territories for us, territories Bataille would call le trouble.

The dissonance and the energy that can be found in a record such as King Crimson’s Red, in a piece like Magma’s De Futura or in Gorguts’ Obscura were consciously referred to on The Synarchy of Molten Bones [2016]. Having Luc Lemay [of Gorguts] play an instrumental rough mix of the excellent Pleiades’ Dust [EP release from the same year] for me in Montréal and briefly discussing music at a moment where I still was in the process of re-writing The Synarchy of Molten Bones probably had an impact. Anyway, that’s our internal chronology when it comes to dissonance.”  

In the fourth track on Fas - Ite, Maledicti, in Ignem Aeternum, ‘The Repellent Scars of Abandon and Election’, there’s one part that made me think about atmosphere. It begins in the middle of the fast section, from 6.25 and lasts to 7.22. It is already fast a couple of minutes before we reach that point and the intensity has grown all the time, but at 6.25 the band does something with the drum patterns and the intensity increases even further until it stop at 7.05. The main aspect with this part is that it doesn’t repeat itself, which basically goes for more or less all parts on the album. Why do you write your music following a line instead of going back and forth, like most bands do?

“Wouldn’t the better angle to your question be: why do so many bands follow established rules or abide by patterns that have been established by others? There’s so many ways to structure an idea, a song, to express a dynamic, to evoke emotions. Every artist is a demiurge in his field of work – it is a tragedy when only a minority chooses to seize that opportunity. The key to understanding the structures within Fas - Ite, Maledicti, in Ignem Aeternum is to keep thinking in terms of contemporary classical music. Revisited with our capabilities of course, and within a very specific, narrow context.”

Where Fas … is something that has never been done prior nor after, 2010’s Paracletus is more, at least in my book, linear. And musically closer to the 2008 EP Veritas Diaboli Manet in Aeternum: Chaining the Katechon. Yet there is still no comfort, there is an uneasy feeling in the music. Perhaps I should have an answer, but I do not, and therefore I rather ask why Paracletus is, seemingly, more focused and straightforward perhaps?

“This is because we consciously decided to give the songs structures that were somewhat closer to traditional rock structures. We also chose to deploy melodies that were usually confined, compressed, hidden within chords, clusters etc. Here, they have ample room to develop and time to come to the forefront as the overall density is somewhat lower. It is a conscious choice in terms of songwriting, one we made because we came to the conclusion that this was the right colour for this record. 

The trilogy, with the appendixes, or EPs if you will, began with – if the internet information is close to correct – 2011’s Diabolus Absconditus, whichwere recorded prior to Si Monvmentvm Reqvires, Circvmspice. When Deathspell Omega began this and then closed it with Drought in 2012, did you envision close to five hours of music and all those words? In the picture disc box from the same year there is a book with all the lyrics. I cannot imagine all the research and those countless hours of working with the music. And after the closing silence in Paracletus, why did you end it with Drought?

“The work on Diabolus Absconditus and Mass Grave Aesthetics started, indeed, around the time of Si Monumentum… and with the same outburst of energy. The final sessions were completed afterwards. In fact we needed two sessions and a break of a few years until the material turned out entirely satisfactory. When we started the initial work on the trilogy, the overall plan was sketched out in terms of lyrical themes, musical colours and directions, several song titles even. The malformed skeleton was there but we still needed to add organs, muscles and to breathe life into that abomination. What followed was several years of reckless work that led us to build and to expand on these ideas. We learnt lots along the way indeed: such a process transforms you as much as it yields an artistic result, none of us emerged unscathed or unchanged. We knew the direction early on but welcomed accidents on the way.

Drought was meant as a post-scriptum. In cinematographic terms, the focus went from a theological confrontation, say, under the patronage of the Holy Ghost, whose conclusion are the closing words of Paracletus, back to man on the earthly plane. Left with nothing but an all-encompassing drought, affecting the spiritual and the earthly all the same. The cover for Drought incorporates several references. Most notably the dust bowl that ravaged the American and Canadian prairies during the 1930s, an ecological disaster largely caused by – you guessed it – man. It seemed like a relevant closing point back in 2012. A straightforward metaphor for things to come. And indeed: as of 2019, the planet starts to burn for even the myopic to see.  

Allow us a digression covering something very central to our work. A naive witness may find it somewhat puzzling that those who claim to have the best interests of the human species at heart rarely dare to think strategically beyond the next tweet or electoral cycle. If they did, they would probably come to the conclusion that, beyond the usual and somewhat repetitive jolts of history that receive excessive attention, merely two topics stand out in terms of magnitude, novelty, and life-altering consequences.

The first is, as you have guessed, environmental devastation on a global scale resulting from man’s ever-expanding hubris, unfettered anthropocentrism. Should anyone want to tackle that issue at the core, then the challenge is global; requiring coordinated answers and sacrifices from a species that is increasingly navel-gazing and which will, of course, rely on scape-goats and diversion tactics instead of shouldering responsibilities. A species who claimed the throne of God and has since accumulated countless wonders, no doubt. The attentive reader will immediately notice that this theme is as much about devilry as any of the other topics we work with. It is a question of morality on multiple levels, a statement on cosmogony even: it speaks of the profound nature of man. For the secular inclined person, it revolves around the consequences of complex human-made systems that place the human species at the core of everything, unquestionably. The Katechon has been chained, indeed. 

The second topic being: technological disruption of the human species via artificial intelligence and surveillance capitalism – which is something that we are literally incapable of assessing properly because it is entirely unprecedented. The intellectual tools to do so are, as of now, very much in limbo. However, technological progress does not slow down nor does it leave room to public debate. It does not, because the powerful interests behind this technological evolution need to install a sense of inevitability, of fatalism. Eventually, people will come to realize that it is less a question of privacy than of free will. The core of the issue is the one of human predictability: to channel and capitalize on it. Someday, 1984 will read as a desirable utopia. Here rests the will to will.

Again, this is predominantly a question of various layers of sovereignty, therefore of power. If you think that this too reeks of sulphur, you are entirely correct. Should anyone want to witness the diabolic at work through man in our day and age, there is no place that is more prominent than these two areas. With that analysis of devilish action through man, we refer to Schelling’s speculations on the nature of the Devil as expressed in Philosophy of Revelation, should anyone want to dig beyond the scope of this interview.” 

A drummer listened to ‘The Repellent Scars of Abandon and Election’ and then I played him ‘Renegade Ashes’ from the new album. He told me the drummer has definitely improved in the sense that while it was all over the place back in 2007, the playing made more sense now. Personally I have no idea what he was talking about since I am not drummer at all. However, this made me think about development, and I could of course ask you about the musician involved and how they develop. But my question(s) concerning this has more to do with the recording, and if the frame was stricter so to speak rather than free and (almost) without limits like back in 2007”? Analogue recorded and analogue mixed, and perhaps this made Deathspell Omega approach the music differently, or did you?

“Twelve or thirteen years have passed between these recordings, our playing styles have necessarily evolved and hopefully progressed; that is part of the answer.

The prominent explanation, however, is that the music to each of our albums is supposed to reflect their concepts truthfully. The music on Fas - Ite, Maledicti, in Ignem Aeternum was written so as to smash to pieces any points of reference or certainties; it dwells on the lack of apparent sense, on chaos if you will, and induces a state of extreme vertigo. It is after all an illustration of the Fall – not a peaceful process by any means.

We have often been asked if any of this was improvised – no, it was all played as intended, we do not improvise with the backbone of the songs. Of course, there were accidents during the making of this record, some of which made it to the master as we eventually felt they were part and even an improvement of the whole process – so much for controlling chaos! But none of those were on the drums.

The very focused drumming on The Furnaces of Palingenesia is, similarly, born out of the necessity to paint a world. A world that, in opposition to the vertigo of Fas - Ite, Maledicti, in Ignem Aeternum, reflects the certainty contained within any strongly structured ideology. A certainty that, usually and over time, produces disaster and the collapse of that which emerged out of this certainty.”

Considering the position that Deathspell Omega has these days, one that is built on a sort of mystery that seems impenetrable, I have to wonder how difficult it is to find musicians and ‘associates’ who fit into the general mindset you share. It is human nature often to want to share information, and I ask if it was an arduous task to be sure that all involved would not only be on the same page, but, ultimately, would remain so?

“This project has been active for more than two decades. People change with time, some evolve slightly and others burn through several lives over that time span. And we possess no crystal ball! It is largely impossible to predict how any given individual will evolve over so many years. That observation is something to acknowledge and then you simply move on from such problematics which are but a waste of mental energy.

Whilst the French core writes all lyrics and music, we need interpreters who can serve our vision to the utmost. Make no mistake: few are up to that specific challenge. You see, it is not so much a matter of musical skill. In the year 2020 there’s no shortage of technically gifted musicians who could learn to perform our material. What’s at stake is the understanding of what moves us to create this specific kind of sound. To be able to render it to perfection, you need abandon, fearlessness, you must refuse any boundaries by principle. You must look into the abyss whilst knowing well that this necessarily comes at a great cost. Anyone who has been there knows this is no metaphor, mind you. How many musicians had their lives wrecked after a particularly demanding session of channelling such energies? It is a transgressive move, a move based on excess and even more excess. Else you just play chords but you do not channel horror – this single point is really of the essence if you are intent on understanding what makes the difference between the exceptional and merely the good.

People who live up to that are, almost by necessity, haunted by inner demons. They are rarely professional musicians but artists in the sense that their entire lives revolve around, say, a defiant personal revolt channelled into creative deeds of some sort. And everyone has to own his own demons.

These days, we are mostly focused on talent and integrity when assessing collaborations. We provide the message and the essence after all. Whether guests agree or disagree with said essence is irrelevant, for it cannot be compromised.”

Deathspell Omega has, obviously, chosen not to perform live. The same goes with another band, at times closely connected to the same label (Norma Evangelium Diaboli/End All Life Productions). When Deathspell Omega made that decision all those years ago, as did Abigor, what were the reasons back then? I’m curious, because many bands/artists say that their music really come to life when they perform on stage.

“There is nothing further to add regarding live performances, that topic has been exhausted in the two previous interviews. Let me just say that Antaeus was living proof that black metal can work mercilessly in live settings.

Although, or perhaps precisely because Abigor never played live, a time-consuming activity, they graced us with one of the most intriguing, consistent, adventurous and radical discographies in the whole black metal genre. Sometimes, one encounters individuals with absolutely stunning skills, whose only limits seem to be the confines of their own minds. Having one of the best black metal songwriter, guitarist, drummer, bassist and producer in the lone person of TT is one such statistical oddity.

Instead of venturing guesses regarding Abigor’s motives back in the day, let’s ask TT instead to bring us the facts.

TT: “With the great trilogy and its appendices, I have enthusiastically witnessed the perfection of black metal’s early concepts, roughly mapped out by the older protagonists but only fully blossoming in the new millennium. Like, getting rid of the uneducated hillbilly approach of 80s metal, rather linking our efforts to ‘high art’ – something the self-proclaimed philosophers and cultured noblemen of the 90s already tried. Presented with such seriousness, leaving no place for suboptimal live shows or vain striving for a celebrity's life in the limelight. Although credits for black metal’s early conceptual framework goes to Euronymous and Dead, accompanied soon after by statements of Count Grishnackh, Jon Nödtveidt, It and Fenriz – the latter mentioned here for back then cutting ties with mainstream press and labels in favour of total freedom and uncompromisingness of art, Abigor have always denied the staging of an album for a headbanging audience. And categorically so, opposed to Vikernes, who back then prepared a live line-up with Hellhammer and Samoth, or Darkthrone, who failed terribly when they tried to transport the sinister qualities of their early albums to the stage. We wanted to compose, to explore new frontiers, not repeating old songs over and over, just to realize the forces that ideally have been captured on a recording aren't reproducible on command, any time and as often as needed.

Also the idea to use our initials instead of fantastic pseudonyms, as well as never giving out detailed credits, was due to the concept of anonymity within a collective. To push the channelled piece of art into the spotlight, the unity of music, lyrics and accompanying visuals, not the individual whose contribution could only pale compared to the essence truly responsible for a successful release. The idea of the artist as empty vessel to be filled by otherworldly forces.

How could mundane persons and their habits and appearance or the image of technical equipment on a stage do that justice? Compare these banal sights to the ungraspable wickedness you sensed when first approaching Si Monvmentvm Reqvires, Circvmspice. You wondered if the authors were just highbrow artists, terrible Sadean libertines or downright diabolic perverts and murderers. Such was the aura of these works, and by that a triumphant culmination of everything my colleagues and myself attempted in one way or another back in the 90s, through denial of live performance, anonymity of the members, a mystical aura surrounding an album, total seriousness of content and presentation.

In the end it was the energy behind and the oeuvre released on EAL/NED pulling me back into black metal, after I quit in 1999 due to witnessing the decline of the scene, unable to imagine how that new level could be reached which was clandestinely prepared and unleashed soon after by your colloquist’s band and affiliated labels.”

In our communication leading to these questions, we had a small sequence dealing with the outside world vs. the inside world of Deathspell Omega. And from what I understood, Deathspell Omega lives a life of its own. Which probably means that if for instance The Synarchy Of Molten Bones wasn’t received with the same accolades as, for instance, Paracletus, it wouldn’t mean anything special to the band. What does the world outside the band and its closest cohorts actually mean in the creation of the music? As in, would it be absurd to think that you would change something during writing an album if you learnt that buyers, or even fans, thought that you had taken the dissonance a tad too far?

“Taking note of outside advice or counsel is the worst possible idea for any songwriter, unless you initiate that dialogue with someone who genuinely understands your background. And the thing is: we haven’t met all that many people with a profound understanding of where we come from – a time when joining black metal was almost akin to entering the holy orders, as weird as this might sound nowadays – or of our musical intentions. That makes random opinions of very little relevance to what we do. And the dialogue with those who understand this project even more precious.

As a rule of thumb, there has to be a very strong hierarchy in how one ranks information. Just about any sane individual will realize that the notion of temporality embedded in the modern world has gone haywire – unless he or she has a vested interest in not understanding this. Working through the trilogy took us almost ten years. As you can imagine, that task would have been largely compromised if we had paid any attention to unsolicited opinions, whatever their nature, benevolent or not.

When this project comes to an end, an appropriate moment to look back and weigh its failures and its successes will arise: how faithful we remained to ourselves, the impact it had on and the contributions it made to a broad counter-culture that is dear to our hearts. The whole measured over the long run of decades, not the heat of the moment. Until then, all energy is channelled into the only thing of lasting importance: our actual work.”  

In the conversation with Bardo Methodology you went for the good, ol’ fanzine style of naming various bands. When you in the collective of Deathspell Omega nfind music that you may think can add something to the world of Deathspell Omega, how do you make use of such? A few of those names are very familiar to me, even watching Jouni Havukainen’s In Slaughter Natives live last year. But one band that often comes to mind when I listen to Deathspell Omega, is the French Elend. The Umbersun and A World In Their Screams still haunts me regularly.

“Roy, you certainly are a man of good taste. Elend is one of the most singular bands that comes to mind when thinking of extreme music during the last thirty years. As Elend sadly hasn’t released any new music in well over a decade, it may therefore make sense to describe them to the readers as a dialogue between the epic narratives of Dead Can Dance, the furious violence of metal at its darkest and the infinite colours of an orchestra summoning larger than life, dyonisian romanticism and avant-garde adventurism. The Umbersun, in its Luciferian folly and A World in Their Screams, that feels like a storm of ashes and hail over a vanquished Eden, are nothing short of remarkable records.

They used the fertile ground of the confrontation between certain musical genres, genres that share emotional or aesthetic similarities while using different musical languages, to summon a world of their own making. This sentence also partly answers your first question: this is what we aim to do when discovering music that we find impressive. Enriching our musical vocabulary to best serve our vision. Never by mimic, always in the sense of capturing a colour.”

When the concepts are designed, the art is made and the music is written and eventually recorded, how do you feel afterwards? I ask this because after writing a 'review' [read here …], that I spent almost a week working on, I felt empty for a week or so before I began to work more with the questions for this interview again…

“In the immediate aftermath, there’s a period of questioning everything, of radical reassessment. Does the session live up to our initial plan and expectations? It is a period that can be expected to be rough, in the sense that the mixing process is already a symbolic murder of each musician’s ego. After giving your best during the compositional phase and numerous rehearsals, the inevitable choices that have to be made during the mix while various instruments or layers of sounds compete for frequencies or pre-eminence, are not necessarily pleasant. Everyone is indeed serving the greater vision - minus the human factor.

If at the end of this process of trial we are convinced that the result is satisfactory, the session will be released. A few weren’t.”

Knowing that most listeners remain such, namely listeners, thus missing out the concepts, why do you continue to make music under the Deathspell Omega trinity?

“The obvious answer is that one should create based on an inner calling. We write because we have to, period. 

We leave it up to the audience to decide on which levels they want to engage with our works. If it is in a musical sense alone, so be it, there’s quite a bit within the music itself to digest. Our music is a statement in itself and certainly not a lesser one than the concept. There is magic in sounds, a dialogue can be initiated merely out of such.

Truth be told, there are many artists I follow although only a fraction of what they do speaks to me. Be it exceptional playing skills in an otherwise frivolous genre, outstanding drawing techniques applied to mundane topics or an impeccable mastery of the written word, even if there is a vehement disagreement on the underlying themes. Craftsmanship, talent and hard-earned skills are admirable, regardless of context. There is always something to learn and to apply to your own vision, thereby enhancing it. Humans are just a channel for something infinitely greater than their persons, anyway. And there is a strategic dimension to that approach: there is a lot to learn from opposites, conflict, disharmony and radical alterity.”

External factors. Sometimes it can be one or very few happenings that rotate your direction, or it can be a long series of actions and reactions that lead you to the point where you are today. Permit me therefore to be a little personal when I ask for inspirational sources, and here I do not only think of the obvious factors such as religion and extreme metal bands. I sense that there is much that inspires the collective known as Deathspell Omega, such as the very thought of existence, different types of literature, drugs, hate, even love, challenges… So instead of listing your inspirations, I wonder if you could allow us to just learn a little about how you use your inspirational sources in order to manifest your music as Deathspell Omega?

“We used the words ‘total art’ in the past and with that we mean that it is an all-encompassing experience. It is an obsessive process that reflects our constant observation of and interaction with the world. Everything can potentially be an inspiration and calling for interaction. Interaction, as you will have noticed, is the keyword.

The gates of a creative stream may open wide after carefully dissecting a piece by Ligeti because it leads to a specific musical revelation. Reading a decades-old pamphlet that has lost none of its venom may nourish the flames of revolt against the modern world in particular and man in general: this is energy. Listening to Diamanda Galás on repeat for five hours in a trance-like state may liberate things your subconscious was chewing on for weeks. Or, a recent example: going on a challenging mountain trip for several days in order to test the very limits of one’s endurance, so as to cleanse your mind of all scoria and sharpen your focus.

A common trait would probably be that it is something demanding that we go to our very limits and preferably beyond. Comfort zones systematically produce mediocrity. You have to crush certainties. You have to systematically question your knowledge, your abilities and redeem your worth again and again. You can never consider that ‘you made it’. Reality – in the broadest sense of the word – produces stimuli, the way you use these stimuli in a constant process of improvement and self-criticism will determine the outcome of your creations and even, in mundane terms, of your entire life. 

Case in point, we are currently looking into the artistic future from a largely blank, and thus exciting, slate. In a sense, it feels like the beginning of a third era for this project, as if a cycle had been completed. The next album will result from an altered modus operandi. Starting with the obvious, such as complementing the ritual unplugged Les Paul songwriting sessions by – what else? – an acéphale Strandberg guitar, which is worlds away in terms of feelings and therefore summons different energies. By an increased experimentation with gear. At early stages of the songwriting that is, which is a novelty of sorts for us. By reshuffling the roles applied to each instrument within the core power trio. By bringing in new personnel, old comrades or entirely new blood even for specific tasks. This remains to be determined as we channel our visions into sounds and understand what said material commands in return.

Writing mostly instrumental material could be an appealing option, it is something that has intrigued us for many years. And even more so since instrumental live rehearsals have grown to be as important as they currently are for the songwriting. It is virtually a certainty that we’ll keep recording instrumental parts and as much as our line-up permits really, live. It remains to be seen if we will be drawn toward extravagant maximalism or, to the contrary, an ascetic minimalism. We just buried eight months worth of work that was neither.

In a nutshell, the process will be a challenge to ourselves. Else, what’s the point? Rest assured that the Radix Malorum is our foundation and our horizon. As said previously, this is akin to a black hole. There’s no escape velocity.”

[Still pictures taken from the video to ‘Ad Arma! Ad Arma!’, courtesy of Dehn Sora.]

The other two Deathspell Omega interviews can be found in print HERE