A Flaming Sword of Vengeance: Underground Black Metal’s Darkest Flame
There was once a time when those words had the power to strike genuine fear into a nation’s collective heart, to inspire sensational headlines, to garner hatred and deep mistrust. It was once downright feared, exactly as its practitioners intended it to be. This was before the music was tainted by commercial greed and transformed by outside influences, before the genre’s forefathers left this world or turned their backs on their musical roots, and before modern production techniques and Headbanger’s Ball made black metal “safe.”
Some say that things were better, more real, in those days, while others look to the future of black metal with great anticipation. Whatever your stance on the subject, know this: there are still some bands out there who adhere strictly to the old ways, who shun ProTools and worship the cosmic fury of a dark lord instead of the almighty dollar. There are still some who really MEAN what they kill their throats to say. Case in point: the Swedish necrowarfare of Arckanum, presided over by sole member Shaamatae. He was gracious enough to take time away from his latest opus, Antikosmos (Moribund) to answer some questions and cast a shadow over the methods behind the madness.
Kim Kelly:Tell me about Antikosmos, your new album. What significance does the title hold? Is there any sort of theme or unifying conceptual thread that ties the album together?
Shamaatae: ANTIKOSMOS represents my anti-cosmic worship of the dark gods and Chaos. It is a religion with a foundation in Chaos-Gnostic belief. I chose to work with the Old Norse giants and traditional praxis, and therefore I have written the full album in Runic Swedish, the mother language to ancient and modern Swedish. The album is a total dedication to the anti-cosmic essence which from Chaos intrudes the cosmos – to incinerate it! Hail Surtr – The Black One with the Flaming Sword of Vengeance!
I understand that Arckanum is currently a one-man project; is this by choice, by necessity, or for some other reason? Do you plan on expanding the lineup in the future, or you content with Arckanum as is?
I am alone in Arckanum because I am Arckanum. Any other influence would kill the atmosphere and sound of Arckanum. I need to be alone in this band to create this harsh and raw sound. There will never be any more members in Arckanum. The day I want members, I will end Arckanum and start a new band (kind of what I did with The Hearsemen!)
What is your writing/recording process like? Who handled production duties on the record?
Normally I write all guitar-riffs at home and at my rehearsal place, and improvise the drumming in the studio, but for the ANTIKOSMOS album I pre-recorded the guitar-tracks and used a metronome, to which I played drums while recording. The drumming was still improvised, but this time I had the guitar-arrangements pre-recorded to play to. It was kind of an experiment, and luckily it turned out to be smooth. I was the producer, and I always am. Tomas at Sunlight Studio just recorded the album.
The production on Antikosmos is definitely very raw and“orthodox”-sounding, by black metal standards at least. Why do you choose to record your music in such a manner when there are a variety of modern techniques available that some say render low-fi recording more or less obsolete? I personally prefer the more DIY approach, as do many fans of this style, but I’m curious as to your reasoning behind using it.
Black metal is supposed to be raw and harsh sounding, and for Arckanum, this is a very important elements. I want people to feel the hatred in my production, so I chose to let it be simple and raw.
The first track on Antikosmos, “Svarti,” is a very ritualistic-sounding, menacing wall of ambient sound, overlaid by the sound of a voice speaking. Several similar tracks can be found on the album, as well; what’s the story behind them?
The ambient tracks are my ritualistic songs on the album, as ANTIKOSMOS itself is a Chaos ritual; all songs are dedications to the dark gods. The introduction is the opening ritual, the “Blóta Loka” song is an anti-cosmic Loki ritual, and the outro is the closing ritual.
How important is this ritualistic element to your music?
Very important. The first thing I do on an album is write the lyrics/ ritualistic homage. Every single detail, from music to layout, is my devotions to the anti-cosmic Chaos gods. As a Satanist there is no other way.
What is the underlying purpose behind Arckanum?
- To plant Frǽ Hyrrokini!
What sort of topics do you discuss in your lyrics? As an English-speaking person, I’m incapable of understanding what you’re saying, but I know that you are known for your devotion to the pagan god Pan; is it safe to assume that much of your lyrical content focuses on this deity and your relationship therewith?
The ANTIKOSMOS album is a Chaos ritual; it praises the dark giants of the underworld to come and start war with the cosmos, to burn down all, and to free the true spirits.
What are your thoughts on Satanic black metal bands, and those who merely claim to be Satanic? How important is ideology to this sort of music, in your opinion? Could you respect a band that created absolutely mind-blowing, flawless music, but were Christian? How about it they were NS/racist/White Power?
Arckanum is purely Satanic and I think black metal should be hateful, an adversary. Christians have nothing to do in this scene; such an attempt would only be pathetic. What are they angry at? What do they hate? What do they sing about? To keep their pee-pee in their pants till they are married? Are they angry at all people that refuse to join their hypocrisy-parade? That Jews make more money than them? That Satan WILL burn their weak spirits?
The whole racist thing I don’t understand and defiantly don’t agree with.
Your vocal style is very extreme, even as far as black metal goes; how did you develop your voice, who inspired you to begin singing this way, and how do you maintain your health while singing in such a physically- taxing manner?
No-one, I just sang and this is how it came out, ha ha ha… I have never tried to form it or improve it. I sing till I spit blood (no exaggeration) and I can’t normally talk for a day or two after recording. Maintaining health, ha ha, are you kidding me? This is black metal, if it doesn’t hurt something’s wrong…
Without whom would Arckanum not exist – i.e. which bands, artists, and elements have influenced you in terms of this project?
Mid 80’s thrash and black metal. Satanism made me open my eyes to the more harsh music around the beginning of the 90’s. Old rehearsal tapes with Polish, Swedish, and Norwegian black metal fed my hungry flame when I started Arckanum. Hand-drawn hate with lousy recorded rehearsal songs! Fuck, that is inspiring, even today!
Who would you consider to be your musical peers?
I would say Watain or Dissection – because anti-cosmic Satanism lures my spirit.
What type of non-metal bands do you enjoy listening to?
Wow, that is a lot. Good music is good music; I listen to a lot of 20-30´s jazz and dark Satanic ambient.
Where do you see yourself (and Arckanum) in ten years? In twenty?
My self will be much stronger and wiser, since I will have been drinking much of the black poisonous waters in the underworld.
What’s next for Arckanum after Antikosmos is released? Do you have any shows planned, or do you prefer to abstain from live performances?
No live, that’s how it is. Right now, I have no plans. You never know what Arckanum do next.
Any final thoughts or parting words?
Check out my other band www.thehearsemen.se, we have just recorded our debut album and we are looking for a good label! Also check out my books that I am writing: “PanParadox: Pan Towards Chaos”, “GullveigaRbók”, and “URAM”, read about my authorship on my website www.vexior.se. And always visit the Arckanum website www.arckanum.se and the Arckanum myspace www.myspace.com/officialarckanummyspace!