Black Metal should challenge. For only through challenge can progress be achieved.
As essential and interesting as the continually churning maw of experimentation in extreme metal is, orthodoxy and the expression of darkness will always stand as a fist in the face of forward-thinking do-gooders. And Daemon Worship Productions, birthed in the vodka-fuelled fires of a drinking session, ranks among the elites when it comes to fists in faces. The label’s roster is brimming with stalwart examples of just how iconoclastic and relevant orthodoxy and darkness can be in an ever-changing and forever unpredictable underground. Viktor, who leads the vanguard of the Daemon Worship legion, is a firm believer in the style’s potency: “Black metal should challenge. For only through challenge can the progress be achieved.”
Viktor’s introduction to black metal was not atypical; the second wave Norwegian bands provided the initial push. “I suppose I should credit Mayhem and Euronymous… His interviews were the flint that initially produced the spark and Darkthrone’s Transilvanian Hunger provided the fuel,” he admitted. And what a perfect first exposure to black metal, long before a flood of copycats weakened that powerful formula. “It was raw, cold, dark and beyond anything I had ever heard at that point.” Those scattered interviews with Euronymous too provided a sentiment of belligerence and elitism: “The level of conviction and the ideas he voiced deeply resonated with me at the time, they still do! He revolutionized the way black/death metal is perceived.”
While the aesthetic of Daemon Worship is heavily reliant on satanic themes, Viktor is quick to clarify that they are not an anti-Christian label. He explained: “I would rather call it ‘ritual invocative art’, as some of our bands don’t use the typical imagery at all.” And although the leap in genres from the atmospheric dissonance of Bestia Arcana to the occult heavy metal of Snakeskin Angels is largely incalculable, the sincerity of each act is hard to deny. “They are genuine and driven by genuine passion.” What unites releases under the Daemon Worship Productions banner is the conviction with which they craft their art. Each release is cloaked in fervent dedication.
Hear the coarse melodicism at the heart of Israthoum, the hallucinogenic horror of Svartidauði or any of Daemon Worship’s releases and a stark realisation dawns. How has this clandestine stockpile of elite black metal not gained the recognition it deserves? This is music played with intent. Viktor’s ability to hunt out engaging metal is built on a very simple principle: “It needs to resonate with me first and foremost. It needs to be honest.” The whole catalogue oozes a quality completely absent from today’s sterile wasteland of PR vermin and bandwagon parasites. Each release exudes sincerity, in which “the message is very important to the concept of the label,” says Viktor, “for these people it is the way of life.” The aesthetic of Daemon Worship is staunchly orthodox, “DWP is a servant to the Adversary”, and the level of quality here validates this near-clichéd extreme metal proverb, one where music trumps mystique, format limitation or any gimmicks.
Viktor’s approach to his work with Daemon Worship is at odds with the tendency for fans of extreme metal to leech on the opinions of others or hold those labels that produce unreasonably limited material in higher esteem than the few that release unlimited amounts. “I don’t care how big a name is or how ‘sellable’ it is.” For Daemon Worship, the music rules absolute. Bands are adopted for their content and not their vision or faddish appeal.Viktor’s format philosophy follows a similar train of thought, being non-exclusively CD based. “The reason why CDs are the ‘main’ format for us is simply because it’s the most common medium, the most practical and the most asked for by the bands we work with.” While sympathetic to the digital paradigm shift, physically holding a piece of music is an integral part of the experience for Viktor, because after all, “can you really compare a digital image with an actual booklet?”
By way of contrast, the tendency to overindulge aesthetically often falls through into that diehard circle-jerk mentality so prevalent in niche-genre appreciation. “People buy several versions of the same album with different extras or colours and then proceed to measure their dicks on internet forums. On top of that, a lot of those end up on eBay for ridiculous prices. It shouldn’t be like that. In this case, music becomes something secondary to the hype surrounding it and loses importance. People buy that hype, not the music.” Don’t mistake this for a rejection of black metal’s love affair with varied aesthetics, packaging and formats, however. Viktor is open to any format if it suits the subject matter, as art direction on each Daemon Worship release will testify. What’s important then is the physicality of the thing, drawing a line between the rampant hoarding and errant depreciation of mp3 collections. “It is a ritual, which we choose to perform. The process of releasing, making music public and spreading it…. The aspect of possession – it’s very important to us as listeners.”
Griping aside, Viktor remains inherently positive about the current state of metal. “As long as there are worthy acts around and as long as there are individuals who actually believe in what they are doing, it’s worth supporting.” Daemon Worship holds a unique position. The label is kindling those few remaining ashes of the second wave, free of pretension or gimmicks. Read the entire interview here.
Black Poison and Shared Wounds is a cavernous juggernaut of aggression and instrumental acuity. Over the course of thirty minutes, drums and guitars unite to deliver a colossal rendition of aggressively melodic black metal. The guitars weave monument riffs to the late Jon Nödtveidt and drummer Arvath’s piston-like precision drives the crawling terror onward. Arguably the most authentic and orthodox-sounding release to bless my ears in 2012, this Dutch troupe ascend beyond their peers with a dynamically varied and utterly captivating take on aggressive yet melodic black metal. The template has been trodden into the mud by every self-aggrandising orthodox band in history but rarely championed with such insight and variation. Every track oozes a unique vibe, varying from ritual mantra of ‘The Unravelling Traveller’ to the charging-into-battle supremacy of the aptly titled ‘Eradiction Psalm’ and ‘Devil Bacchus’.
Verbum Verus’s debut album Melkiresha sees three Dutch devotees channelling a profound devotion for the abyss and the Lord. Steeped in satanic rhetoric and the occult rituals of the netherworld, these six aspects of filth comprise a lofty cenotaph in His name. Both vocally and through subtle rhythmic hypnotism on tracks like ‘In His Praise’ and ‘Omens’, Verbum Verus unveil a flame of devotion akin to that cultured by Watain on Rabid Death’s Curse. As honest and true to its meaning as black metal can possibly be, Verbum Verus deliver a modern man’s hymn set of satanic glory and might. With art and a logo by the masterful Manuel Tinnemans, Melkiresha brands Verbum Verus with the sign of ascendent blackened metal.
Comprised solely of Nightbringer members, this triumvirate of zealots is known for their weighty occult rhetoric and unique take on high-calibre black metal. Suffocating, complex and demanding, Bestia Arcana treads heavily on the Nightbringer template. What separates the two is the former’s very effective inclusion of ambience. To Anabainon Ek Tes Abyssu is far more atmospheric than the brutality of Nightbringer. Opening track ‘Cup of Babylon’ showcases battering-ram drums alternating with walls of bleak ambience. After mere minutes, the boundaries begin to blur and by the halfway point, the band have seamlessly integrated both aspects to create a swirling vortex of delirious notation and rhythm. Closer ‘Shepherd of Perdition’ is insanity incarnate. Maniacal guitar passages sit atop multifarious vocal utterances and triggered drums as the whole track constantly folds in on itself before exploding again. The theme of occult or satanic majesties once again triumphs. ‘Worthless’ of LURKER favorites Famine provides art here. A black and white being of ennobled rank, the piece conjures thoughts of Darkspace. Another impeccable and sophisticated take on truly “blackened” black metal.
Featuring members of Marduk, Ad Hominem and Matricide, This Spiritual Death EP was recorded back in 2007 but is only now seeing the light of day. Liberally described as transcendental black metal, this piece of haunting, arpeggio-filled canonical metal could not be further from the experimental blathering of Liturgy. Dealing conceptually with transmutation and spiritual death, The Ascendant travels further down the spiral of decomposition and satanic virtue. Compositionally, the 13-minute EP follows the orthodox template down to the smallest detail. It is captivating stuff, delving deep into the human psyche with tortured howls and ingeniously layered guitars, and enough variance to leave you longing for more after ‘Witness the Glorious Creation’ comes to its unfortunate end. Luckily, the band are currently working on numerous new releases under various guises.
This four-track MCD sees the near 20-year-old Nefandus stacking up their driving black metal against a more reflective and introspective doom metal approach. Riding against religion harder than ever, Your God is a Ghost is a knife meant for “those who deny the wonders and pleasures of the chthonic Lords of divine madness”. Opener ‘Crown of Labour and Strength’ is exactly that. A spearhead of vindictive black metal anointed in hate, belligerence and booze-tainted worship. Second track ‘Temptress of Thantifaxath’ turns the edicts of black metal on their head. Ushatar and Belfagor flat out pierce the cheek with the tongue. This take on doom by a black metal artist reminds me of Fenriz’s momentary flirtation with doom on Fenriz’ Red Planet, although is more likely to represent Belfagor’s time in Saturnalia Temple. It’s not so much a lack of sincerity herein but an affinity for alcohol-fuelled headbanging that reigns supreme throughout (just listen to ‘This One is For God’). Where Carpathian Forest’s sarcasm came across as forced and naïve, Nefandus succeed. I feel right at home. NO RETREAT, NO SURRENDER.
This Greek ensemble features members of both Nefandus and Embrace of Thorns. Weaving their occult tapestries with the vigour and ingenuity of SMRC-era Deathspell Omega, Serpent Noir have delivered a monolithic debut effort. Seeing Through the Shadow Consciousness (Open Up The Shells) is the most stylistically varied output on the Daemon Worship roster. Eclipsing the black metal handle with passages of pure rolling blasphemy and psychedelic, flange-laced lead guitars, finding a genre-appellation for this beast becomes increasingly harder the further you descend. This is a hefty sacrament of black magic set to music. Black, death and doom fused and forced through the orthodox black metal template. The guitars are a personal highlight as they alternate between beguiling discordance and grand, unified melody. Timo Ketola’s art only adds to the quality of this release.
Amid the hymns of Serpent Noir and hypnotic worship that is Verbum Verus stands Necrosadist. Rawer and more brash than any of their label mates, this duo of southern Europeans are content to revel in the baser aspects of Satanism. With great emphasis on speed, riffs and unhinged vocal lacerations, Necrosadist provide an intense pilgrimage to the basest, most natural instincts of man. The band’s tendency to prefer decimation over reflection is offset in passages of semi-refrained repetition. Sounding like primordial man’s first waking thoughts, Necrosadist are the icing on the cake of an already exceptionally varied register.