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Into the Abyss: An Interview with Dayal Patterson

Dayal Patterson | Credit: Ester Segarra

Dayal Patterson | Credit: Ester Segarra

.:.INTO THE ABYSS.:.

An Interview with Dayal Patterson

by Ankit

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British music writer Dayal Patterson, author of the book Black Metal: Evolution of the Cult, has made an indelible mark on the black metal underground with his in-depth documentation of black metal, its early roots, and seminal bands spanning across different eras and styles within the sub-genre. After releasing his maiden book in 2013, Patterson ventured on to write Black Metal: The Cult Never Dies last year and is now ready with his third offering, entitled Black Metal: Into the Abyss, which features bands like Mystifier, 1349, Massemord, Blaze of Perdition, One Tail One Head, and Nocturnal Depression among others. Patterson discusses about both Into the Abyss and its predecessor, The Cult Never Dies, in a candid interview with Heathen Harvest.

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Heathen Harvest: While the previous book, Black Metal: The Cult Never Dies Vol. One, delved into the history of some seminal depressive black metal acts along with classic bands from the Polish black metal scene, your latest offering, Black Metal: Into the Abyss, features an even more impressive roster consisting of bands as diverse as Mystifier and Hypothermia. What was the general idea that drove you to choose the bands that you eventually selected for your new tome?

Dayal Patterson: Although this book is completely independent in the sense that each tome stands alone and can be read separately, there is also a link between this book and the last, and I’m looking once again at the themes of Norway (hence the inclusion of 1349, Tsjuder, Vemod, and so on), Poland (Sacrilegium, Furia, etc.), and depressive black metal (Forgotten Woods, Hypothermia, Trist). This book is sort of about going deeper into—and then closing—those topics, but because the format is a bit looser to the previous books  (with more direct and conversational interviews and a more old-school zine aesthetic), there was also room for bands like Mystifier from Brazil and Loits from Estonia.

Gaahl (left) with Dayal Patterson (right)

Gaahl (left) with Dayal Patterson (right)

HH: Interestingly, this book also features Polish black metal bands with the likes of Blaze of Perdition, Furia, and Massemord. Blaze of Perdition especially have been highly impressive with their recent releases, including their latest record, Near Death Revelations. What should fans of these bands expect to read in the new book? I would personally want to know about Blaze of Perdition’s tumultuous experience with the loss of their bandmate.

DP: Yes, that’s certainly one topic covered. In the case of Blaze of Perdition, their heavy and somewhat unusual (in a black metal context at least) occult interests are another point of discussion. Having looked at early Polish bands like Xantotol, Behemoth, Arkona, Graveland, and Mastiphal in the earlier books, I think it’s been really good and logical to catch up with what’s happening in the country now. The bands you mention are very much in the forefront of the international black metal scene, and all of them have a lot to say for themselves in terms of their philosophies. So, I was able to dig quite deeply into that this time around. It’s all about getting the best from the best people, right?

HH: Arguably, the most interesting band on the lineup, which certainly deserves mention in the annals of black metal history, is the mighty Mystifier from Brazil. What is one bound to read about the seminal South American band in Into the Abyss? As a fan, I would certainly like to read about the early years of extreme metal in their country, along with their story behind creating pioneering albums like Wicca and Goetia.

DP: This is a fascinating subject, of course, and I must say that Mystifier is one of the bands that took me the most work in terms of making an interview happen. I originally intended them to be in Black Metal: Evolution of the Cult when I began that book, and that was 2009! I really like Mystifier; I think they have made some of the most eerie black metal recordings to date, and they are as straight-talking and eccentric as you might expect. We talked a bit about the violent past of the scene in Brazil and how hard it was to actually make a band there back in the eighties. I would like to dig into this subject some more at some point soon, actually.

Black Metal: Into the Abyss

Black Metal: Into the Abyss

HH: The book also features ‘Nidrosian’ black metal stalwarts One Tail One Head and Vemod. However, I was surprised to see Mare‘s name missing in the book. Was there any reason for that? Did you consider featuring any other acts from that movement besides the aforementioned names?

DP: I did seriously consider writing about Mare, Celestial Bloodshed, and Kaosritual/Dark Sonority. In the end, I decided to postpone this, so this is something I hope to do this in the future. I’m still trying to balance talking about contemporary bands with keeping some sort of chronological approach, so I felt it better to hold back on this area and keep space for older bands, where there is more to examine in terms of their lengthy careers, activities, etc. This is always the question I get with each book—you know, ‘Why was this band not in there?’—and I understand why people ask that, because they are passionate about certain artists. When the first book was released, I had a deluge of people asking, ‘Why no Satyricon?’ The answer was that, at the time, I didn’t feel I had enough exclusive interview material to do them justice. But then the first chapter in book two was the longest interview the band ever did. So, it’s just a matter of time and organizing what goes into each volume. If I exclude something, it’s probably not because I don’t like it—it’s just what gets featured where.

HH: There’s also a chapter dedicated to long-running Norwegian black metal act Urgehal, who recently released their highly anticipated album Aeons in Sodom. As their vocalist and guitar player, Trondr Nefas, passed away in 2012, does the book also delve into the subject around his legacy and unfortunate demise?

DP: Yes, it does. I think the Urgehal chapter is a strong tribute to the band overall and a timely retrospective, all the more so given that they have just released their swansong album. More generally, it was good to look at this sort of sub-movement—this second wave of second wave Norwegian black metal, if you like—and the links between bands like Urgehal, Tsjuder, Koldbrann, and 1349.

HH: The book also features the Dutch black/doom act Deinonychus, whose last release, Warfare Machines, came out in 2007. What’s new with these guys now? The last I had heard, they were recording a new album some years ago. In your interview, have the band members informed about their new projects and the reason behind their prolonged silence?

DP: Yes, definitely. Actually, the band has been inactive for the last decade, and this—as it turns out—has been quite an intentional decision for main man Marco Kehren. So, that’s something we go into as well as looking at the whole career of the project. And going back to what we were talking about earlier, this is something that I enjoy doing a lot—finding people that have never talked extensively about their art and careers and have disappeared from view somewhat, then talking in-depth with them. A similar situation as with the Thorns, Strid, and Silencer interviews, for example.

HH: After the release of this book, what are your plans for the next installment of the series? Would you perhaps like to delve into the present occult/orthodox black metal scenario that has spawned some of the finest contemporary bands in the genre?

DP: Yes, this is definitely something that I want to go more into, although I think this particular subject may have to wait a little as I first want to (and have begun to) dig deeper into the history of the scenes in Greece, Sweden, Finland, the United States, and the bestial black metal/war metal scenes. And I think, more generally, I want to do some writing outside of the ‘Black Metal Cult’ series again, so I want to see if that is possible within the Cult Never Dies framework.

HH: Following the footsteps of your debut effort, Black Metal: Evolution of the Cult, your second book, Black Metal: The Cult Never Dies Volume One, ventured into uncharted territories and shed light on certain artists who were not that well focused on earlier in any literature concerning black metal. After charting the history of black metal in your first book, how did you come to decide the theme for your next book?

DP: The first book was really about looking at how black metal came into existence in the first place and how it evolved into the genre we recognise today, so by definition, it was very rooted in the eighties and nineties. Even though it was a large book, I had to be quite selective in terms of how many bands I had space to feature. This book is a fairly logical sequel, really, in the sense that it expands upon some of the subjects that were touched upon in Evolution of the Cult. Norway obviously got a lot of coverage the first time around, but there were still seminal bands such as Satyricon and Manes that were only touched upon briefly. Poland was another country I had started to explore (by looking at Behemoth, Graveland, and Infernum), but still had a lot of important groups to discuss, so I made space for bands such as Xantotol, Mastiphal, Arkona, Evilfeast, Mgła, and Kriegsmaschine. Lastly, there was the depressive black metal genre, which I had touched upon with Shining (probably its most famous example) but wanted to explore more thoroughly what this sub-genre was about and how it came into being via groups such as Strid, Silencer, Bethlehem, Forgotten Tomb, and Total Negation.

Black Metal: Cult Never Dies Volume One

Black Metal: Cult Never Dies Volume One

HH: Interestingly, the book opens with an in-depth chapter on the life and history of long-standing Norwegian black metal veterans Satyricon. While a lot has been written about the band in the past, I believe this is the first time that they have been a focal point of a book on black metal. In your first book, you have already shed light on the seminal Norwegian black metal movement of the nineties, so why did you feel the need to devote a separate chapter—that, too, such an elaborate one—in this book? How did you come to collaborate with the band for the project?

DP: Satyricon was one of those bands that I felt would naturally have fit into Evolution of the Cult, but at the time of writing that book, I simply didn’t have enough firsthand interview material to do the band justice. That’s the key for me, really: to offer new information and depth on whatever bands I’m covering. I’m not just going to include a band for the sake of it (and indeed, some interviews were left unpublished because I felt they did not live up to that criteria).

I think this book almost certainly offers the most in-depth look at the group that is currently available and sets the record straight on a lot of points. Actually, Satyr told me that part of the reason for agreeing to take part was the many untruths that are written online about the band’s early days and the fact that his attempts to remove mistakes on the Wikipedia page are constantly undone. Anyway, we ended up talking for a long time in the end—over three hours, in fact—and covered a lot of ground. To be honest, it felt good to kick off the book with this chapter, both because it was a natural follow-up to what was written in Evolution of the Cult and because a lot of readers had asked why the group were only mentioned briefly in that book.

HH: The chapter on Satyricon also delves into the humble beginnings of the iconic label Moonfog and its seminal impact on the Norwegian black metal movement. What is your take on Satyr’s inputs on how he visualized the label to bring about something new in the then Norwegian black metal scene?

DP: Well, there’s no doubt that Moonfog was a very significant label, and it was of course notable for this very unified approach that was always maintained despite a massive shift in aesthetic halfway through its life (i.e., shifting from the medieval and folk fascinations of early Satyricon, Storm, Isengard, and Wongraven to the futuristic and urban approach of later Thorns, Gehenna, Dødheimsgard, and, of course, later Satyricon). I think it was good to talk about the man who helped steer the (Norse) ship and also get his perspective on significant bands like Darkthrone and Thorns.

HH: The book also devotes a chapter to Manes, a Norwegian band which is sadly not talked about often in black metal circles.  As a fan of their early work, it was truly marvelous to get an insight into the band’s early history, vision, and ideologies. How was it like working with the band for your book?

DP: The relationship with Manes is very good, although their interview was relatively short in Evolution of the Cult (hence me wanting to feature them properly this time around). Since the publication of that book, we have talked a lot and collaborated in a number of mediums, with both members contributing to the new book and collaborating on the design of a stunning and exclusive shirt we now sell on the Cult Never Dies webstore.

HH: You have devoted a chapter to Kampfar, another Norwegian band which I was particularly fond of (and still am to a varying degree) in the book. It happens to be one of the most interesting chapters in the book, and it is great to have an understanding of where the band took off from and all the problems which they had to face in their path. However, it is great to see that the band is still going strong without compromising on their music and aesthetics. What is your view on the band’s insights that they provided you for the book? Where do you place them in the Norwegian black metal movement as far as influence and inspiration are concerned?

DP: Kampfar have always stood apart from the rest of the Norwegian scene, and within this book is quite a big part of their story. The circle they moved in back then is one you don’t hear much about and included individuals such as Occultus of Mayhem/Helvete store and Anders of Cadaver and Satyricon. It was a circle that was quite culturally (and geographically) removed from the more famous Bergen and Oslo scenes. I think Dolk‘s experiences and memories help build a much more honest and three-dimensional picture of what was really happening in Norway during those formative years. They are also a band who were there in the early days but are still going from strength to strength (for me, their new album is amongst their best works) and so offer a very interesting perspective on the whole thing. And I must say that I have always found Dolk very easy to get on with and that his contribution to this project has been significant. I thank him again for coming to Oslo a day early during the last Inferno Festival to do a talk with me about the new book.

Nantur Aldaron (left) with Dayal Patterson (right)

Nantur Aldaron (left) with Dayal Patterson (right)

HH: In a book which covers a significant chunk of black metal history, a separate chapter to Wardruna may seem not only uncanny but rather odd to some readers. However, just like the chapter describes, the fine artists of Wardruna are indeed one of the true purveyors of the cultural heritage of Norway and deserve a place in the book. How did you come to decide that you would include them in your book? What was it like to collaborate with an enigmatic figure like Einar for the book?

DP: I’ve always found Einar very easy to work with, and we have met a fair few times in the last few years, so the conversation was very easy even though we were dealing with quite a few different eras and projects. The chapter not only deals with Wardruna but also Gorgoroth, Jotunspor, and Bak de Syv Fjell. The fact that Wardruna is so rooted in black metal, despite obviously not playing black metal, justified the inclusion of the chapter for me. I am happy that this project explores around the boundaries of the genre in a sense, to give a better picture overall.

HH: The importance of art and aesthetics within black metal can hardly be understated, and the chapter on the Norwegian artist Theodor Kittelsen fittingly reiterates the same. The impact of his artwork on young musicians in the burgeoning Norwegian black metal scene was indeed massive, and he still continues to inspire people. What does his artwork mean to you personally? Did the beliefs of the musicians whom you interviewed about Kittelsen match with your own?

DP: Before I began writing, I was involved in the visual arts and that subject—and particularly visual art that compliments particular forms of music—is something that is on my mind these days more than ever. Kittelsen’s art is particularly timeless and evocative anyway, but it also has a very close relation with black metal historically. This is an area I have long wanted to explore more with my writing/publishing, and that is something I am looking at in a more general sense, but regarding this book specifically, the inclusion of Kittelsen was really a natural development of the conversation I had with Satyr on the subject. One of the strengths of the books released on Cult Never Dies is that there is freedom and space to really dig deep into the subjects at hand, so whereas a magazine article might only have space for a small box out on Kittelsen within a Satyricon interview, with this format, I am able to write a whole chapter on the subject and mention bands such as Taake, Carpathian Forest, Black Death/Darkthrone, and so on.

Black Metal: Into the Abyss is available in both standalone form and as a boxset with a second photo book, patch, and prints from Cult Never Dies.

Dayal Patterson | Cult Never Dies