Beherit, Demoncy, and Profanatica have released some of the best black metal of the last ten years. Beherit‘s comeback Engram effortlessly slides back into a pre-full blown electronic frame of mind, doing an impressive balancing act between the band’s various incarnations leading into H418; not sounding dated in the least, nor giving consideration to various trends at large, Engram speaks the very syntax of black metal in terms of technique, attitude, and emotion. Epic and confident in its own stoic way, it is the sound of solitude, foreboding and enticing by turn. On the other hand, Demoncy and especially Profanatica, have been relatively consistent over the years with their brand of remorseless black metal of the dungeons; distinctly American in their studied atonality, displaying a grittier, more insular approach to songwriting compared to the earthier, at times mystical, Engram, the triumvirate, nonetheless, reach a…
Posted in Bardomethodology, this is a interview with a faceless artist who wants all focus placed on the art itself. Read his explanation as to how a cynical nihilist justifies taking the stage to preach to the masses a belief in nothing.
by Niklas Göransson
When another media-shy orchestra graced Sweden’s capital, I lay to rest a decade-old personal boycott and met with the faceless artist who wants all focus on the art itself. He explains how a cynical nihilist justifies taking the stage to preach to the masses a belief in nothing.
– I don’t feel emotions the way most people do, the one time I do feel something is when playing music.
Stockholm, May 20 – Poland’s MGLA (which means ‘fog’ in their native tongue and is spelled with some weird L) played a sold out 650 capacity venue with DEGIAL and VORUM as supporting acts. While the general clientèle left a fair bit to be desired, it was greatly sentimental seeingShadow Records back in business and equally heart-warming to note that label manager Marcus Tena (TRIUMPHATOR) hasn’t reformed his characteristic service-with-a-smite approach.
– Luckily I’m drunk, he grumbled from behind the merch stand, or I would have punched someone by now.
When the headlining act took the stage around midnight, they did so as a relatively new musical acquaintance for me – I’d been aware of them for many years but never actually given them a listen until ten days prior.
In the early two thousands, a small rural town in the Czech Republic became the reluctant host for a metal festival called Open Hell. A poignant name for this amazing spectacle which was frequented by the absolute scum of the European black and death metal scene, featuring preposterously cheap booze and not a single security guard to be seen – it was glorious. In 2005, headlining DISSECTION closed Open Hellforever, hours before they were originally scheduled to perform. The festival was cut short by the police after the rampaging had escalated out of control and started affecting the local populace. In the 2004 edition, I observed a Polish gentleman being chastised in a rather humbling fashion and was later told that this individual was ‘the guy from MGLA’. As a result, despite receiving multiple recommendations I never bothered checking them out; it simply wouldn’t have been possible to listen without that scene playing in my head. A week and a half before the gig I happened to see pictures of the members – the founder, guitarist, bass player and vocalist who is known only as ‘M’ along with drummerDarkside, and was mildly surprised to discover that it had been neither of them who was the recipient of the walloping in question. I realised then that my twelve-year personal embargo had been instigated by misinformation and thus completely redundant.
– I understand, says a somewhat confused M as I ramble on about the above, I also ignore some bands because of their members.
From its inception in 2002, KRIEGSMASCHINE had been the duo’s main band – with MGLA functioning as an occasional studio project. This arrangement lasted until 2012, when the mists absorbed the war wagon and the latter was reserved for recording activity while the former brought to the stage.
– Due to typical life stuff happening, people moving and so on, regular rehearsals were no longer possible with KRIEGSMASCHINE so we were unable to keep playing live.
Instead of exchanging the line-up, the two of them decided to have a go atMGLA with a full band setting. Having recruited live membersShellShocked (bass) and Silencer (guitars) from MEDICO PESTE, they rehearsed for almost a full year before playing their first show.
– First year of live activity we played five shows, the year after it was nine shows, then sixteen and now it’s 40.
In our initial email exchange, M explained that the lack of interviews available is due to MGLA best being experienced rather than studied. I find it strange how knowing more about the band would detract from the experience.
– MGLA should be represented by what we do in the studio and on stage, at least in the context of core ideas. The band communicates in a much more focused and compressed way than I ever could, talking like this over a coffee – it takes hundreds if not thousands of hours to complete what you ultimately hear on a CD. MGLA is a distilled form of our innermost thoughts and comments.
There is an additional reason why M feels he’d rather let the band represent itself.
– I’m not really a particularly interesting person – the compelling stuff is my music, not my self. I’m just a guy.
The desire for inhuman representation is mirrored by their stage attire, which is tailored to shift focus from the musicians to their music.
– We wear hoodies and leather jackets, effectively making us indistinguishable from 90 percent of the audience – the only difference is that our faces are draped. We seek uniformity to remove the ego of our person, leaving nothing but a vessel – a tool. On stage we’re not individuals, we are a unit.
M’s lyrics aren’t written in the genre-typical short bursts of attempted infernal poetry, they look more like a flowing social commentary divided up into paragraphs rather than verses.
– Linguistically, they’re not yet at the level I’d like them to be but I’m trying to accomplish something that can stand on its own merit and makes sense even without sound. They’re not simply complimentary rhythmic structures for the instruments; they are of equal value as the musical content so I dedicate significant time to them.
They come off as heavily laden with cynical nihilism; does this reflect your personality?
– To a large degree – yes, I’m afraid so. The easiest way this can be summed up is that there are men of faith and men of doubt; I am of the latter type.
Going by said lyrics, one might get the impression that he views his fellow humans as little more than breathing disappointments.
– Lessons of life in general, there have been lots and lots of incidents that contribute to my general worldview. Believe me, I’d love to be more optimistic but any such attempts tend to be disproven. I try to be a kind person and an easy-going guy but I have very limited trust. When talking to me, it takes quite a while to actually speak to me and not just my outer shell.
Isn’t it slightly contradictory though; travelling around the world and taking the stage to proclaim your disinterest in people and life in general?
– No, I don’t think so. That is not my purpose for doing this; it’s for the experience itself. I’m hardly ever angry, rarely happy – I don’t feel emotions the way I think most people do. The one moment I can repeatedly feel something is when playing music.
Emotions are precisely what he believes should govern and empower music.
– Concepts, themes, aesthetics and ideologies – all secondary; what lies at the very foundation of black metal music is the emotional content.
No matter the conceptual theme – as long as there is genuine passion invested in it, M believes it will shine through. Academic accuracy or poetic mastery means nothing if the voice conveying it lacks conviction.
– If someone is praying to the goat in his lyrics and actually means it – in the sense that they react with it somehow; interesting things can come out of this. Naming every single one of Shub Niggurath’s thousand young won’t make anything worthwhile – but a guy actually worshipping the fucking head of a goat, this could potentially generate something meaningful.
He ponders for a moment before adding:
– I think that might very well have been the most in-depth statement that’s been made by me in relation to MGLA.
Despite claiming to be happiness resistant, I find it hard to believe that the band’s recent success doesn’t brighten his day.
– Of course, it helps. Basic things like music equipment for example – for the first time we don’t have to worry about affording new amps, cables, stands and other accessories. The album sales pay for our backline, we’re constantly improving it.
This almost makes it sound as if the happiness is logistical in origin, rather than satisfaction from having created something others enjoy.
– Not at all, feedback is much appreciated. I have a great deal of respect for people who take the time to listen to the music, read the lyrics and come up with comments and observations – basically react in any way. It’s always surprising to me that people appreciate our music sinceMGLA is carefully moulded after our own preferences.
He’s not joking – the latest album “Exercises in Futility” (2015) was crafted entirely from conception to creation by M and Darkside, with literally no third party insight.
– The two of us did everything – composing, recording, performance, mixing, mastering, graphic design, lyrics, even releasing it to some point. At no time during the recording process did we play the songs for other people. Our idea was to form it purely after the vision we had, with no outside influence and I believe we succeeded in this.
From its inception, all of MGLA’s music has been recorded in their own studio – No Solace.
– It’s basically a rehearsal space that’s been worked into a studio, it has all equipment we need. It’s constantly being upgraded, as are my skills as a recording engineer.
Besides his own work, he’s also worked as a studio engineer and producer for bands such as fellow countrymen INFERNAL WAR and CULTES DES GHOULES.
– It’s great because I get to work with friends and leave my prints on albums I think are extraordinary. It’s also a learning process for me, because everything I do in regard to recording and mixing is then experience collected – knowledge I can channel into my own work.
All of MGLA’s albums have been co-released by their own label – also called No Solace, and Finland’s Northern Heritage Records.
Are you going to stick with them or are you entertaining other offers?
– We get them all the time but releasing our work in cooperation withNorthern Heritage is perfect. I think this is the way it’s going to stay as it gives us complete control over everything. We don’t have to schedule interviews or do any PR; most importantly we don’t have to do any sort of meet-and-greet shit or other things you’d expect at some point when working with a bigger label.
Their choice of label has not been entirely without complication. Even though no one is accusing MGLA of political extremism they have recently been targeted by ‘anti-fascists’, which led to the lone German date of their upcoming September tour with BEHEMOTH being cancelled. From what I could ascertain by running online discussions through Google Translate, the outrage stems from Northern Heritagehaving previously collaborated with a Finnish black metal band that are deemed controversial.
– Yes, he confirms while shaking his head, that was the problem. The venue is managed by some kind of left wing youth organisation so when the show was announced they had their local antifa perform background checks on the bands.
Having discovered their dubious associations, the venue demanded thatMGLA issue a statement denouncing their label.
– Obviously, from the moment you receive this type of email, you know you’re not going to play there. We simply told the truth – we are a black metal band and we release our music on black metal labels. We haven’t signed our deal for political reasons but we support Northern Heritageone hundred percent – if someone has a problem with that then so be it.
One can’t help but notice how many media outlets who were aghast whenBELPHEGOR were beset by Christians and then banned by the authorities in Russia, never seem to object to this kind of censorship.
– I recently did an interview for a German magazine and there were of course a couple of questions on politics and black metal. I explained that I’m not interested at all; if you want to separate politics from art, don’t ask the artists about politics in the first place.
M’s views on most things material are readily available in the lyrics but spirituality appears to be a theme left mostly unexplored.
– Not entirely; there is metaphysics in MGLA, just not from the usual angles. It’s more mysticism than magic – no ceremonial accessories, no candles, robes or any of the usual esoteric attire. It’s not so much a visual element as it is conceptual; finite man versus the infinite something.
He speculates that being drawn to the aesthetic side of things is human nature, behaviour that seems to enjoy prevalence regardless of theological outlook.
– The whole idea of ritual, no matter if it’s the Roman Catholic mass or rites from the Order of Nine Angles, is that there are predefined sets of movements and words – then incense, sounds, specific clothes and so on. I’d be inclined to say that a lot of focus is being put… well, wasted if you ask me, on the aesthetics rather than the actual core. My interest in spirituality is to the highest possible extent devoid of this aspect.
M has self-diagnosed himself as ‘spiritually challenged’.
– Look at the latest album cover artwork, it shows a blind man reaching for something but gripping nothing. If you add the pieces together – the spiritual outlook that’s been reflected in MGLA, you’ll find that we genuinely would like to connect to something – to relate to something metaphysical, yet all we grasp is black void.
The cover artwork in question goes rather well with the lyrical theme, which is why I first assumed it was commissioned artwork.
– No, he clarifies, we have stolen it – it was made by the nineteenth century French illustrator Marcel Roux. When working on the layout for“Enemy of Man” (KRIEGSMASCHINE, 2014), we were looking through various pictures I’d accumulated.
Suddenly, they found themselves staring at the motif that ended up as the visual representation of the “Exercises in Futility”.
– At the very first glance we knew it was perfect, with the blind man…
The one referenced in the lyrics?
– Yes. The funny part is that the lyrics were written only after we found the cover image, so it ended up leaving an imprint on the music too.
There’s something about the rigid posture of a proper, authentic blind. As if extended arms reached to pass his blindness onto others.
These lyrics are in turn influenced by French-Romanian philosopherEmil Cioran.
– We find inspiration in many things – art, philosophy and literature; then the two of us act as filter to select what we see most fitting and it ends up as MGLA.
A new album is in the works, their first after the so-called commercial breakthrough. It should be interesting to see how this affects the relative musical consistency that has characterised their 16-year lifespan thus far.
– MGLA started out as my revelation and at some point it became the shared vision of two people. Darkside is not only the drummer, he’s one hundred percent involved in the band and everything related to it. We have a vision that needs to be realised – I doubt there’ll be any drastic changes as we still have a lot of work remaining in this aspect. I have no idea what the future holds for us, it’s a path being paved as we walk it – but as long as our work is fuelled by emotions, we’ll continue doing it.
An excellent and in-depth interview with nihilistic and profound polish Black Metal Band MGŁA, published by No Clean Singing.
(Last September I sent interview questions to Poland’s Mgła, the creators of one of the best albums of 2015 — Exercises In Futility. Mgła have been very busy since then, and I had given up hope that the questions would be answered, but yesterday we received them. Some of the topics have been overtaken by time, but others remain relevant, and I hope you’ll find the answers as interesting as I do. I thank M. for answering the questions when it would have been easy to forget about them altogether.)
Forgive me, but I would like to ask you a few questions about the lyrics to the songs on the new album before getting to the music. I read them before listening and thought they were eloquent and powerful (as usual), though quite bleak and even nihilistic. They changed my mood and state of mind before hearing a note, as if preparing the way. What inspired you in your writing this time?
Life itself, as obvious as it may sound. That’s what the album title refers to. The lyrics are a condensed form of our commentary to the world.
Apart from being a lyricist for your own music, do you have other experience as a writer, whether in writing poetry or otherwise?
For this album, did you write the lyrics after composing the music, or did you have them in mind as you were composing? And what connection do you see between the words and the music?
Collecting ideas, sketches of lyrics, references, etc. started immediately upon completion of „With hearts toward none”. Actual process of working these into final form of lyrics for „Exercises in futility” happened after composing and recording of all music. Of course we had the ideas, overall atmosphere, etc. in mind while composing. We wanted the vocals to keep a rather natural melody of sentences, in some way as one would read poetry aloud, rather than cutting them into short, very rhythmized phrases, which is often the case with arrangement of lyrics in metal.
From my perspective, extreme metal lyrics are rarely worth reading on their own, and rarely serve much purpose other than to give the vocalist a shape for the rhythms of the growls and shrieks. Especially since it’s hard for listeners to make out the words anyway, I’m not saying that’s necessarily a bad thing. But you obviously attach importance to the words, and have done so since MGŁA’s beginning. Why do you think that is?
We see the lyrics as a crucial part of what we do as Mgła, and the lyrical/conceptual content is on the same level of importance as the music itself. Mgła deals with very real emotions; there is no story-telling involved, and the lyrics are meant to work on a certain level of quality, not just „underlining the atmosphere” or as you said, providing rhythmic structure for vocals. We put a part of our lives in Mgła and it just doesn’t feel right to take any shortcuts there.
Do the words express your general view of the world, or perhaps only the darkest corners of your thoughts? And I ask that because, although dark and often melancholy, the music seems to me full of life and inspired by passions that go beyond fatalism and indignation?
It obviously deals with the darker and more negative aspects of ourselves. The sort of emotions that we don’t really want to express at all, and only allow ourselves to do so while working (composing, performing) with black metal. To me, real emotional content is what constitutes Mgła first and foremost.
One last question about the lyrics: Did you compose them in English (which would be my guess), or did you first write them in Polish and then translate?
Some notes, lines, sources etc. were in Polish first, but we were working in English while actually writing lyrics. As mentioned, we wanted a natural melody of words, and it was logical to already work in the language that the lyrics would be sung in.
Okay, I’ll tear myself away from the subject of lyrics and turn to the songs as a whole. I saw a comment on MGŁA’s Facebook page (I assume by you) that the new album was meant to be the “most coherent recording to date” and that it “turned out to be the rawest (as in: most natural, not necessarily harshest) one.” Could you elaborate on what you meant by those statements, and especially the words “coherent” and “natural”?
Coherent as in most condensed form, fulfilling the vision as close to the ideal without any unwanted parts which wouldn’t contribute to the core content of the album, no matter how good they would be sounding on their own. The amount of material thrown away during composing could easily make another two albums. Natural, as in we had most of the sound ready straight after tracking and the mix was mostly simple setting of levels, panning and a few basic effects here and there.
What do you think enabled you to achieve these results? Was it a different approach to writing the songs, i.e., a conscious effort to achieve a particular result, or a difference in the way they were recorded, or both?
We worked on the album in a quite hermetic way. Just the two of us doing everything: composing, lyrics, recording, mixing, design etc. The idea was to translate our vision in possibly purest form. As such we didn’t seek any advice from anyone outside the core of the band, not even a „fresh pair of ears” to listen and comment on the songs or production. Since the album is tailored 100% to our vision, we had no idea whether people would be able to relate to it or not before it was actually released.
I think MGŁA has a very distinctive sound that has carried through all three albums, but I also think the music has changed and evolved, especially since the early EPs. Do you agree, and if you do, how would you describe MGŁA’s musical progression? And how would you compare “Exercises In Futility” to “Groza” and “With Hearts Toward None”?
It has certainly evolved, in line with our evolution as people and as musicians, but I like to see it as a very „focused” evolution; improvement in performance, language, recording, etc. all serve to get closer to ideal fulfillment of the vision, the very core stripped of everything unnecessary. Comparison of „Exercises in futility” to the earlier material was already mentioned – most coherent and natural. Emotional content-wise, darker and bleaker.
The range of music that could be called “black metal” has expanded so dramatically over the last decade or more that I think it may be the most interesting and fertile field in metal — even though a lot of the changes have outraged some keepers of the sacred flame. I don’t know if you listen to black metal in your spare time or think about such things. But if you do, I wonder if you have any thoughts about the state of black metal as it now exists, and about MGŁA’s own place in the field?
I listen to a lot of black metal, although it’s mainly the mid-’90s recordings that remain my favourites and the works I can relate to the most. I value the conscious, individual approach and attempts to do something different than anyone else over textbook templates. I don’t pay much attention to what gets called black metal, what doesn’t, and what the scene police has to say on the subject. To me, it’s the „spark” and the emotions embedded in music that define black metal. Whether it’s goat worshipping primitivism or a highly complicated progressive approach, or whichever the subject matter and utilized symbolism is, comes secondary.
I’m a big fan of the drumming on this new album. It seems to me a vital ingredient, along with the powerful riffs and the memorable melodies — a kind of force for change in the music as it unfolds. Do you and Darkside work together in developing the drum rhythms and patterns, or is this pretty much his sole domain? And were you seeking a change in the drumming as compared to previous releases?
We work together from scratch when it comes to arrangements of the songs. In terms of actual drum patterns, except basic decisions on which rhythm is used in which part that are done together, 99% is Darkside’s work. There was no intention to seek a change in drumming other than natural development & vision of the whole album.
As well-liked and much-respected as “With Hearts Toward None” was, I’m seeing even higher levels of praise being showered on EIF, including by some very talented musicians. Words like “album of the year” are being used frequently. I don’t know if you pay attention to such things. Are you also sensing the enthusiasm of the reception to this album, and if so, how do you feel about that?
As mentioned previously, the album was very specifically tailored to our own expectations. Because of this it’s somehow suprising that so many people can relate to & appreciate it. Of course, we don’t mind. But since our work here is done and now the album is living its own life, we focus on the future works.
Photo by Małgorzata Boska
I know a decision was made to begin streaming this album on YouTube before the official release instead of on the release date, as originally planned. It seems like maybe your hand was forced by someone leaking the album. Could you explain what happened and what your thinking was?
Yes, the album was leaked. We planned to upload the whole LP on the internet on the date of release anyway, so it was not a big deal that it happened a few days earlier. With this sort of situation you can either 1) whine about internet piracy, 2) pretend nothing has happened, 3) take action and openly state what’s the situation. With our approach to Mgła, variant 3 was the natural. We wanted the whole album to be available in streaming form; it was an attempt of fair approach to the audience – „here’s the album, this is how it sounds like, if you like it, you can buy it”.
You have another band, Kriegsmaschine, that has been just as active as MGŁA. As musical ideas occur to you, how do you decide whether they are better suited for one than the other? Do you have compartments in your mind, one for MGŁA and one for Kriegsmaschine, and if so, how do you define them?
At this point Kriegsmaschine is operating as a studio project only. It’s musically much darker and unsettling material than Mgła. Despite both being black metal, it comes very naturally to decide on the musical aspects, as the projects operate in slightly different mindset: while Mgła is the gnashing of teeth, KSM is nadir and despair. Also, KSM is musically much more focused on rhythm, while Mgła is more about harmony and melody.
You have announced a series of 10 performances in the U.S. in November, finishing with one in my hometown of Seattle. I can’t remember MGŁA playing a full tour of the U.S. before. Is this the first time? And can you tell us something about who will be performing with you in the live band for this tour?
It was our second time in the USA after a performance at Maryland Deathfest in 2014, and first tour. The tour included 7 shows in the East coast with Mortuary Drape and Sangus, and 4 shows in the West coast with Weregoat and Sempiternal Dusk. It was certainly a worthwhile experience. Our session members, the bassist/vocalist and guitarist, come from the band Medico Peste.
Photo by Stefan Raduta
MGŁA has also scheduled a series of appearances in Europe in December (I count 8 at this point). Will the same musicians be with you on stage for those shows?
Yes. Live incarnation of Mgła works as a band, and while technically the other two members are session, we see them as part of the band, contributing to the vision and not just playing their parts. The bassist has been working with us since day one of live activity, and the guitarist has joined in 2015 as the previous one (also from Medico Peste) has moved to a different country.
Do you have goals or plans for MGŁA in 2016, such as additional tours or further recording?
2016 will be focused on live activity for Mgła. There will be two European tours – with Aosoth andDeus Mortem in March, and with Behemoth and Secrets of the Moon in October, as well as quite a few of other performances & festival appearances.
I appreciate your time and patience in answering these questions. I have no doubt that I’ve failed to ask something important, so please feel free to share any other thoughts or information about the new album or MGŁA’s activities that you would like fans to know.
Mgła is better experienced than read about. Anyone interested is free to listen to the material. Thank you for the interview.
Such a savage and evil composition, blended so well with the footages. And the footages taken from the film “Häxan: Witchcraft Through the Ages (1922)” – an utmost evil silent cinema about the history of witchcraft, demonology and satanism. Excellent ride to the ancient time. Hails Idolatry.
A further incantation from Visions from the Throne of Eyes. The obsidian tale of Satanism and Witchcraft from the Middle Ages. Video comprised of scenes from the film “Häxan” (1922), created by Belchior.
Check out their latest savage output “Visions From the Throne of Eyes”. By their CD and support IDOLATRY. Hails
Aggression and adrenaline overdose!!! Absolute frantic and sinister presentation of Black Power Metal. This classic record means otherworldly energy from the cosmos. Hails to the mighty force of canadian speed demon YOG SOTHOTS.
At the tail end of 2013, Bengal black metal troopBURIAL DUST initiated theirupsurge in blasphemy, death and darkness. With the shredded live performances and rehearsal recordings, the lawless horde has already declared a set of menacing announcements of their existence. Their debut ep, “Oshubho Ahobaan”, consisting of 04 tracks and one outro, sermonizes anti religious advocacy, darkness and Egyptian mythology. Tomorrow (Feb 07, 2016) is going to be the EP unleashing day and Venustas Diabolicus is premiering the second track of the EP – “Where is Your Rahmaa”.
Qabar‘s second alliance with a Bangladeshi horde. Bangladeshi black metal scene is rising at full tilt with the addition of newer and newer diabolic hordes. Burial Dust proclaimed their existence during the culmination of the year 2013. The dreadful quartet of Bengal preaches the unholy inscription to extinguish the false religious faiths of the society and sermonize the occultism of death, darkness and superstition with their diabolical melody and chaos.
Cover Artwork of Oshubho Ahobaan, debut EP of Bangladeshi Black Metal band Burial Dust
The horde shall unleash the debut EP,“Oshubho Ahobaan” (“Ominous Call” in English) on February 05, 2016 in Pro CD format. The EP consists of five tenebrous anthems (including an outro). Subject of the anthems rotates from manifesting sheer blasphemy to focusing on the ambiance of death, from expounding occult to recalling the Egyptian deity Amun. Musically, they have added an eastern vibe with the influences from Early Mayhem, Morbid Beherit…