.:.THE PERPETUAL NOTHING.:.
An Interview with Svartidauði
One of the finest scenes to have come up in the world of black metal in the past few years is that from Iceland. Etched with great new acts like Sinmara, Wormlust, and MisϷyrming, the scene there has exploded and literally mesmerized globally with their own brand of unadulterated black metal art. Of the greatest acts that have defined the scene there, Svartidauði leads from the front with releases like Flesh Cathedral and The Synthesis of Whore and Beast. Abhik Chakraborty interviewed the band’s frontman Sturla Viðar to talk about the band, their work, and everything in between.
Heathen Harvest: Hello, Sturla! Let me say that it’s an absolute honour for us to have you here. Svartidauði is an act that has defined the very renaissance of black metal in Northern Europe and the world as well as being one of the leading acts in the presently stellar Icelandic scene. Iceland is currently one of the finest and most unique black metal scenes active today, and is truly fascinating considering its scenic attributes and truly remote geographical location. What is your opinion on the scene in Iceland?
Sturla Viðar: Thank you. The scene, which is really just a handful of individuals, has never been stronger than it is right now. It is something that has been gradually building over the years, but due to foreign interest and exposure, has exploded in the past couple of years—which can be both a good and a bad thing. I am sure we will see a wave of false prophets trying to cash in on it soon enough.
Anyone who’s interested in Icelandic black metal would be well advised to keep a look out for Vánagandr—a local label run by a few members of ‘the scene’.
HH: 2014 saw the release of The Synthesis of Whore and Beast EP from the Svartidauði regiment which, if you will permit me to say, was an absolute masterpiece steeped with blackened aggression as well as being a sheer psychedelic experience. Was one of the main ideas with which you approached this EP experimenting more on and enhancing the atmospheric side of your work?
SV: It is really just a logical evolution for the band and us as musicians. We try not to overthink it. Our main goal is to create music that gets us high.
HH: The name The Synthesis of Whore and Beast does spark interest among the ones who like to see black metal from a deeper perspective. Would you elaborate on the mindset or the philosophy with which you have crafted this chaotic pillar of evil?
SV: There are deeper mysteries behind it, but I think the title is quite self-explanatory. It is a formula that you can see everywhere in magickal thought—Hadit/Nuit, Samael/Lilith, etc. It is the basis of sexual magick, you’ll find it in ancient tantric traditions, and in Egypt as well as Mesopotamian occultism. For some people, the best way to explain it would be as Hegelian dialectic.
This formula is also apparent in our coat of arms—the one that decorated the cover sleeve of Flesh Cathedral. The Chalice represents female qualities, the raven stands erect above it, representing male qualities, and above everything is the eye of illumination (1+1=3).
Flesh Cathedral represented the end of the world; The Synthesis of Whore and Beast therefore represents the conception of a new world/aeon—a magickal child.
HH: Flesh Cathedral was a true masterpiece and one of the finest releases of the genre in recent times. I will be honest in saying that I came to learn about Svartidauði through that album when it was released and then worked my way back to learn about the band. How do you think your sound has evolved from your earliest demo days to your last two studio releases, Flesh Cathedral and The Synthesis of Whore and Beast?
SV: As we grow and evolve, both as artists and as persons, so must our artistic expressions. I much prefer the sound on The Synthesis of Whore and Beast. Much of it was recorded live, and we approached it with a much rawer mindset than Flesh Cathedral and, of course, Stephen Lockhart (Sinmara / Rebirth of Nefast) at Studio Emissery, who recorded both releases, had grown as a producer and gotten his filthy hands on all kinds of beautiful gear between the two albums. All these factors contributed greatly to the improvement of the sound.
HH: If you are asked to name a few acts from the past whose music have influenced Svartidauði, what would those acts be?
SV: Swans, Godflesh, Mayhem, Morbid Angel, and Mercyful Fate, just to name a few.
HH: While Svartidauði was active from the first half of the last decade, it took around a decade for you to release your first full-length, the magnificent Flesh Cathedral. Was this delay meant for you to find the right sound and philosophical direction for Svartidauði? Or was it for some other reason?
SV: From the release of The Temple of Deformation until the inception of Flesh Cathedral, we wrote a full album’s worth of material. But we decided to throw it all away, lurk in the shadows a while longer, and perfect our craft.
HH: What is your opinion on black metal in general in the present era? While it is indeed a fact that we are living in a renaissance of new acts and new ideas in this style of music, do you consider the genre to still have the right spirit and direction that it once had?
SV: I have no interest in static dogmatic thought. The path of fire is a dynamic one, and that should be manifested in the music as well. The core must remain the same although appearances might change over time.
I am too young to have been around ‘back in the day’, so I could never give a valid opinion on the ‘now versus then’ debate—only an outsider’s perspective.
HH: It has been stated that the live album III.XX.MMX was created to celebrate the eruption of the volcano Eyjafjallajökull. What’s the story regarding that?
SV: We performed a ritual with our brothers, Urfaust, here in Reykjavik back in 2010. As the last notes of the night died out, Eyjafjallajökull began to erupt, causing great environmental and economic damage across the earth. As the so-called Witches Fires of Bárðabunga began to burn, we decided to publish the recordings of our set from that night.
It should be noted that we do not consider III.XX.MMX as an album or part of the canon, but more as an interesting historical document.
HH: Terratur Possessions is a label that has been a primary force in shaping the scene in Norway and Iceland by being associated with and supporting various talented acts as well as organizing gigs with stellar lineups like the Nidrosian Black Mass. How would you describe
your relationship with the label?
SV: The brotherhood between Svartidauði and Terratur Possessions has been sealed many times over in blood, booze, and drugs all across Europe’s dirtiest and shadiest back alleys.