interview by Michael McCarthy
You know how they say there’s a first time for everything? Well, here’s a first for Love is Pop – an interview with a black metal band.
Wiki’s definition of black metal: “Black metal is an extreme subgenre of heavy metal music. Common traits include fast tempos, shrieked vocals, highly distorted guitars played with tremolo picking, blast beat drumming, raw (lo-fi) recording and unconventional song structures.”
I would not disagree with Wiki’s definition, but not all black metal follows those rules entirely. In fact, you could say that black metal is about not following any rules. To that end, Noctem’s new album Exilium mixes ultra-fast tempos, highly shrieked vocals and brutal blast beat drumming with everything from “normal” – even melodic – metal guitar playing, acoustic guitars and orchestration. The result is a truly unique record that’s arguably the band’s best work to date. I’m not an expert on the genre, so I suppose I can’t say that it’s the best black metal album of all-time, but I can tell you that it’s the best one that I’ve ever heard, only Watain’s The Wild Hunt coming close. And so I was curious to ask the band some questions about the album and other things black metal-related, such as Satanism. The following is an interview with guitarist Exo and lead vocalist Beleth. Read on if you dare…
First of all, congrats on your new album. It’s easily the best black metal release since Watain’s last record. Quite a masterpiece.
Exo: Thanks a lot, it’s a pleasure to be here answering your questions and receive such words.
Can you tell us a story or two that inspired songs from the new album?
Exo: “Exilium” is the final chapter of a trilogy that started talking about ancient civilizations, about the root of all evil, which is mankind. So we decided to focus this time the story of the album as a prequel, treating the topic of Sumerians as the first civilization which started everything.
What language are the words in the circle around your logo on the new album cover? What’s the English translation?
Exo: There’s no english translation in a simple way, most of them are alchemical symbols, based on ancient cultures. As example, Newton used in his alchemical formulas symbols coming from a fusion of different symbolic languages used in previous cultures. It’s related to our devotion for ancient cultures and civilizations and promitive ways to avoid religion.
Who were your influences when you first started the band? Who are your influences today (if they’re different, such as if you’re influenced by any newer artists, etc)?
Exo: Well, we’re influenced by old school metal music, from extreme to more classic stuff, with the past of the years we’ve been absorbing the essence of different arts, such as literature, paintwork, cinema … artists like Hans Zimmer, Beksinski or Nietzsche.
You have a song on the album called “Decrepit Human Kingdom” where you refer to “Their bodies.” I was just curious – why do you say “their bodies” instead of “our bodies”? Do you consider yourselves something other than human at this point?
Beleth: Haha No, I don’t feel myself like something different as human, but I do not feel myself like another subject from this putrid world, I don’t feel comfortable inside of the system or the laws of society and I capture this idea in my lyrics.
I remember a sentence from Kurt Cobain “They laugh at me because I’m different; I laugh at them because they’re all the same.”
How do you regard the work of Anton La Vey? Do you think it was representative of true satanism? If you don’t follow La Vey’s Bible, is there another author whose work you live by?
Beleth: Anton Szandor LaVey was one of the greatest Satanists of the twentieth century, I think he was a leader of the movement and a great writer of occultism as was Aleister Crowley.
Maybe it was the greatest representative of the more sober and social Satanism, initiating a system based on disobedience and true disclosure of the potential of human being, basing his writings in natural laws and order.
Well, I always liked other authors such as Aleister Crowley, Edgar Allan Poe or a classic Lovecraft.
Do you belong to any particular church of satan or do you worship privately?
Beleth: I don’t agree with making a move of a belief or feeling, and let the people be part of it like a social club. I think everyone have to honor their gods as they quiet in the shade.
The enemy is everywhere, we must be silent and wait.
How old were you when you first found yourselves drawn to satanism?
Beleth: 12 years old, my mother is a very spiritual person and she bought one book called “The Power of Magic.” I was totally fascinated by this book, I kept reading it, one day my mother lifted it carefully and was horrified to see it was a cheap copy of the Lemegeton, full of satanic spells and invocations. She tried to get me away from it, but from that day I fell inside the circle and never left it. Today I have a great collection of Satanic books, and of course in my library is “The power of the magic.”
Were any of you friends prior to starting the band?
Exo: Not really … Beleth and I went to school together but we hadn’t any kind of friendship; until years after, the first Noctem line up … we met there and we started to strength ties of friendship
There are many countries where they still ban books and music and other things they find offensive. Have you ever been banned? If so, where and did these places – or place – give you a reason why they were banning you?
Beleth: I think one of the most popular places where we are banned is Facebook and Youtube hahaha. I don’t know why they are scared of tits… It’s just sensual meat…
Well, not totally banned in any country yet, but we have to pass a lot of controls with our lyrics and thematic to release our albums in China, the cultural oppression is terrible.
It’s just anecdotal, but we often receive messages from people telling us God is not dead, our souls are not lost, Salvation will come… really funny stuff.
Who are some of the artists you’ve opened for in the past?
Exo: Bands like Ragnarok, Gorgoroth, Suffocation, Marduk, Immolation, Taake, Nargaroth, Anaal Nathrak, Behemoth, Immortal and a long etcetera.
Are you headlining your own shows now?
Exo: Depends on the tour, we are headlining some tours in Europe and Spain, but of course we’re still being included in others where we play with bigger bands, this is something positive for the band because we never stop growing up.
What are your current tour plans?
Beleth: We have some dates in Spain and an upcoming tour in October with Taake and Valkyrja 10/11 dates through Europe.
I understand your album Divinity landed in the top 20 charts in Spain. Just how high did it it go? Was this the first time an extreme, death or black metal band had ever reached the top 20?
Beleth: Yes, absolutely. We arrived at number 16 with our debut album, never before that an extreme metal band arrived at top 20 in Spain and this was one of our first highlights in our career.
What’s the most extreme thing you do on stage (aside from playing the music)? For example, Watain pour cow’s blood on the audience. Do you do anything like that?
Beleth: Cover ourselves and the audience in blood, fire, naked breasts, lambs and pigs heads in the stage is a part of our show from years ago. I think one of the most extreme things we done on the stage was improvised, Exo broke the hand of Mortem (ex bass player) breaking a guitar on stage, for the people it was incredible… show time!
Do you consider your stage an altar when you play?
Beleth: I consider the stage a battle in hell, noisy, sometimes with nothing to drink and very very hot. The legions are with us.
Do you have plans to make any videos for songs from Exilium?
Exo: Of course, we released a video for the track “Eidolon”, which was premiered in March and next week we’re going to release the new video for another track extracted from the album, I can’t give you more details right now, but this will be the most ceremonial video of the band, as it’s classic in the history of Noctem will be riddled with occult and dark symbology that characterizes the band.
Now, a few questions from our random questions bank:
Do you have any tattoos? If so, tell us about some of them.
Beleth: yes, I have my name “Beleth” on back and satanic tattoos, I´m covering my back I think in 2015 will be done.
Exo: Yes, the scythes from the Noctem logo are settled on my shoulders and also a tattoo about Karma and the dragon as a leader in Japanese culture.
Who’s your all-time favorite music producer?
Exo: Rick Rubin and Peter Tatgtgren, different but great in the same time.
Do you prefer making albums or playing live?
Beleth: Playing fests and touring, my wife hates me for this but, I would be out all year touring.
Are you involved with any charity work?
Exo: Not at the moment.
Exilium will be released on September 16, 2014 via Prosthetic Records.