It feels like it’s been forever since we last heard from The Sun Through a Telescope, but in reality it was just last year that the ultra-demented Canadian drone/metal entity unleashed the fascinatingly bizarre Summer Darkyard EP across a variety of outlets; you might even recall that I interviewed TSTAT mastermind Lee Neutron extensively following its release. The YouTube clip above is for “Mr. Yawning Infinity Chasm/Superinfinity,” the first taste of TSTAT’s forthcoming new full length I Die Smiling, to be released digitally via Bandcamp, as well as on cassette through Dwyer Records and on CD through Mutants of the Monster Records.
Over the past several years, Chicago black metallers Nachtmystium have made a career out of throwing musical curveballs. It all started with the USBM acid trip that was 2006′s Instinct: Decay, followed by 2008′s Assassins: Black Meddle Pt. 1, a blackened psych rock odyssey with hints of punk, and finally culminating in the disco-damaged cocaine rodeo of 2010′s Addicts: Black Meddle Pt. 2. They are among the most wildly unpredictable bands in the scene, and although their experimentation occasionally falls a little short of the mark, it is always made up for by the sheer enthusiasm they exude while fucking with the black metal program; one can easily imagine Nachtmystium’s instruments being powered by the tears of tr00 kvlt internet message board warriors.
My “real life” has a nasty habit of getting in the way of my “metal life”. A while back I had planned to start a regular “Band of the Month” feature for this site. But “real life” concerns such as family, wife, work, etc prevented me from having the time or inclination to feature a new band each and every month. Undeterred, I had hoped to resurrect the feature for the new year and make Ghost 2011′s inaugural Band of the Month. Then shit happened, as it often does, and I didn’t finish the piece in time. Even though I’ve come to realize that regular features are for people with more free time on their hands than I (and in honor of the stateside release of their debut album), I present a discussion of Scandinavia’s premier Satanic pop group, Ghost.
Sweden’s Ghost is a very special band indeed. A theatrical stage show, an anonymous membership, over-the-top Satanic lyrics and a beyond-infectious sound have brought the sextet a great deal of attention within the metal underground, and with good reason.
Despite the underground buzz, I’m not so sure that I’d call Ghost a metal band. There are hints of Mercyful Fate and Blue Oyster Cult in their melodies, but to me they’re more along the lines of occult hard rock or even power pop. Yes, the dreaded “p-word” is actually the first thing that comes to mind when I listen to Ghost’s debut album, Opus Eponymous, which has finally been released domestically thanks to Rise Above’s deal with the fine folks at Metal Blade. While pop music might be the bane of many a metalhead’s existence, I am not among them. A well crafted pop song is one of life’s most sublime pleasures, and the members of Ghost (whomever they may be) understand this implicitly. In fact, the less I think of Ghost as a metal band and the more I think of them as pop music, the more I enjoy them.
There is an interview with Glenn Danzig in the book Lucifer Rising where he discusses the idea that the devil would not appear to us as something frightening or horrific; the devil is a master of temptation and would manifest himself as something enticing and seductive. Ghost similarly realize that you’re not going to seduce the masses with black/death metal, you will only preach to the converted. Songs like “Ritual” and “Satan Prayer” are Satanic hymns that even the most mainstream-minded of music fans could potentially enjoy. Of course there is the question of the lyrics, but do pop music fans even pay attention to lyrical meaning, as long as it is catchy?
There is one other very intriguing musical comparison that hadn’t occurred to me until several others pointed it out… The Beach Boys. I’m a bit disappointed in myself for not thinking of it right away myself, as my wife is a pretty big fan of them. Something about the way the vocals are produced, particularly during the choruses of songs like “Elizabeth”, “Stand By Him” and “Satan Prayer” definitely evokes Pet Sounds, albeit with lyrics about Elizabeth Bathory and black masses. I wonder if Ghost was actually influenced by Brian Wilson’s layered vocal harmonies and psychedelic pop stylings. Ghost should cover “Wouldn’t it Be Nice”. That would be creepy and awesome.
Just as intriguing as Ghost’s music is the mystery surrounding the band’s membership. There are rumors that members of Repugnant and Watain are involved, but nothing has been confirmed as of this writing. I even saw one very far-fetched theory that suggested Fenriz was the band’s drummer, but anyone who’s read a Darkthrone interview in the last decade knows that the man detests playing live. Whomever may be involved, I find it fantastic that they have been able to keep themselves anonymous in the age of the internet. It only adds to the subtle creepiness of their music and the hooded menace of their stage show, featuring what can only be described as an undead Satanic Pope on lead vocals. I suppose some would see the theatricality and willful air of mystery as silly or trite… these are probably the same dull tools praising all the faceless/soulless metal currently flooding the market played by dudes who look like the cashier at your local convenience store. The internet has taken away our sense of wonder and awe, leaving us to long for the days when bands like KISS and Alice Cooper seemed like insane, mysterious superheroes. Ghost is music for the kids who stood in front of the mirror with an upside down tennis racket and pretended to be Gene Simmons (I can’t be the only one, right?).
Ghost is a difficult band to pin down. Are they a particularly stellar entry into the recent occult rock movement (ie The Devil’s Blood, Jex Thoth, etc.)? A group of true-blue Satanists looking to spread their gospel to a mainstream rock/pop audience? Are they a doom band or a black metal band as some would have us believe? Are they the bastard children of King Diamond, Brian Wilson and Buck Dharma? There are no easy answers. Whatever they are, I happen to think they’re pretty fucking brilliant.
When I sent this interview off to Abscess drummer/vocalist Chris Reifert, I had no idea that it would be among the last interviews ever to be published regarding the band. With the departure of guitarist Clint Bower, the remaining members of Abscess have chosen to deactivate the group and focus their energies on the resurrection of a little band called Autopsy. I spoke with Mr. Reifert via e-mail regarding Abscess’ impressive final statement, The Dawn of Inhumanity, Autopsy and how to turn your mind into runny cream cheese.
THKD: Tell us a little about the new Abscess album, Dawn of Inhumanity. What did you set out to accomplish with this album?
Chris Reifert: We wanted to fuck with your senses, channel out some insanity, cause a disruption with the Earth’s magnetic field, and turn our minds into runny cream cheese all in convienient death metal form.
THKD: Where and when was the new album recorded? How would you describe the process?
CR: It was recorded last year at Fantasy Studios in Berkeley, Ca. Our favorite place to record these days. The process was intense. We squeezed as much work as we could in there to capture the mood we were going for. Various obstacles presented themselves as we went along but we beat them all back with a vengeance and made sure the album prevailed.
THKD: In addition to the death metal/punk approach Abscess is known for, this album incorporates elements that could be called experimental /psychedelic. What inspired you to take the music in this direction?
CR: It just seemed like what we needed to do at that stage. Throughout Abscess recording history, you can hear strange parts here and there along with the brutal sickness, only this time we wanted to dive into the deep end of insanity and inhale deeply.
THKD: Dawn of Inhumanity strikes me as one of those albums that is impossible to pick apart; it should be listened to in one sitting and really takes you on a journey (or maybe a bad trip). Was this intentional?
CR: That was the exact intent and I’m pleased that you heard it that way too. We viewed it as an experience rather than a collection of songs that happened to be on the same record. Great to hear, man!
THKD: What are some of the lyrical themes you explore on this album? How do they tie into the overall concept of Abscess?
CR: As usual with Abscess we dug deep into the backs of our fermented minds to see what was lurking there, waiting to be exposed to the light of day. So it’s not so much themes or stories but rather the bizarre workings of our thought processes on display.
THKD: How would you describe your songwriting process for Abscess? How has your approach evolved or changed since the early Autopsy days?
CR: We always go with what we think the band should be doing at any particular point in time. I guess with Abscess there was a bit of room to experiment and touch on different things as long as the heavy and brutal factors were in place. It’s gotta crush, ya know! Autopsy has more of a strict writing process in the way that it can only 100% horrific, dark and pure death metal. It’s all brutality at the end of the day but both bands have their own beastly ways to be sure.
CR: We got his info from a friend up in Oregon who recommended him. Dennis is a killer and unique artist and a really cool person too so working with him is always fantastic.
THKD: In addition to music, you’re also a visual artist. Do the same things that inspire your music inspire your art? Do they influence eachother in any way?
CR: I guess I have a lot of horror in my head and it has to come out however it comes out. When the time comes to write or draw or paint I indulge since those moments come and go when I least expect them sometimes. Gotta catch them before they get away!
THKD: It is my understanding that Dawn of Inhumanity will be the last album released under Darkthrone’s Tyrant Syndicate imprint. Will Abscess continue to work with Peaceville?
CR: Well as it turns out, not only is it the last release for Tyrant Syndicate but it’s also Abscess’ last release in general. We have officially split up as of the beginning of June after 16 years of spreading insanity and sickness. Clint is taking time to get his personal life in order and we wish him only respect with that. There can be no Abscess without Clint, so when he quit, the band had to be deactivated. A shame, really but ‘Dawn of Inhumanity’ is a hell of a way to end things! Autopsy is now going again full force so we will focus on that wholeheartedly.
CR: It just always turns me on. I’m still not sick of it, so why stop? If the day ever comes where I get tired of it, I’ll quit but that sure ain’t happening any time soon! I feel more energized than ever if anything.
THKD: This is a bit off subject, but I have to ask; how did it feel to reunite Autopsy for the headlining performance at this year’s Maryland Deathfest? Do you have any further plans for Autopsy?
CR: In light of things, it’s not off subject at all. We now have MDF under our belts and it went even better than we’d hoped. Not only are all the original maniacs still out there, but there is literally a whole new generation of death metallers into it now which is fucking amazing. Further plans for Autopsy? Yes, quite a few actually……
THKD: What are you listening to these days? Do you have any interests in the current crop of death metal bands that are bring back the old school sound?
CR: I like any band that plays from the heart, whether it’s new or old, metal or not. Whatever gets my blood boiling at the moment. My listening tastes are all over the board to say the least.
THKD: What does the rest of 2010 have in store for Abscess? Will you be touring or working on new material?
CR: I guess we’ll have to let the ‘Dawn of Inhumanity’ album be the last words for Abscess. We are proud as hell of that album and consider it going out on a high note.
THKD: Are there any final thoughts you’d like to add?
CR: Thanks to all who supported and believed in Abscess. Keep our spirit alive and keep an eye out for more devastation from Autopsy. All we can do is offer more brutality……