Polish five-piece Outre and Scotland-by-way-of-New Zealand quartet Barshasketh are two of the more exciting European black metal bands on the scene today. Their most recent albums–Ghost Chants and Ophidian Henosis, respectively–exist somewhere in that undefined middle space between second wave kvltness and forward-thinking, and I recommend both highly to anyone who may have missed them when they first came out. Given how much I enjoyed them both, I was particularly stoked when I saw the announcement that they were teaming up for a split 12″ called Sein/Zeit. Inspired by German philosopher Martin Heidegger’s Being & Time, the split sees the two bands producing some of their strongest work to date.
I was fortunate enough to be able to chat with Barshasketh guitarist/vocalist Krigeist and Outre bassist L.Th via email about the split, Heidegger’s philosophy, and a few other topics besides.
Indy Metal Vault: I absolutely love Sein/Zeit. It might be some of the strongest material I’ve heard from either band, and I’m digging it from a conceptual perspective as well. How did Barshasketh and Outre end up coming together to do a record like this? Have the two bands been acquainted for a while, or did someone else suggest putting it together?
Krigeist (guitars/vocals – Barshasketh): I believe that Piotr (Third Eye Temple) suggested the idea at the Black Candles of Death festival in Banska Bystrica (Slovakia) in April 2015, where we were performing. If I remember correctly, this was before Ophidian Henosis or Ghost Chants were released. After making contact with Outre, we decided to go ahead with the idea.
L.Th (bass – Outre): The idea was initiated by our label, Third Eye Emple. Piotr called me at some point in 2016 and told me about it. To be honest, at first I was bit reluctant for this idea as I’m not into split recordings that much after having some experiences in the past. But after I checked Barshasketh music, I said “why the hell not” and we did it.
IMV: Conceptually, the record seems to be a bit of a departure for both bands. Outre did touch on some similar sort of existential themes on songs like “Chant 2 – Shadow” on Ghost Chants, but that record really seemed to be primarily dealing with questions of faith. Ophidian Henosis, the last Barshasketh record, has more of an occult feel to the lyrics. How did you land on Martin Heidegger’s Being & Time as the inspiration for the split?
Krigeist: From the very beginning, both bands agreed that we should craft something coherent that made sense as a whole. Far too often, splits are just a couple of B-sides from each band stuck on the same release, and we wanted to avoid that if at all costs. In order to do this, the first step was to find a way to reconcile the diverging viewpoints of each band – in our case, an exploration of adversarial spirituality underpins our work, whereas as Outre has a different perspective which I’m sure they could elaborate on much better than I. With Sein/Zeit, there is an attempt to really get to grips with the very fundamentals of what constitutes human existence, and when Damian (Outre) suggested the idea, we immediately understood that there was enough scope within that framework to tackle the theme in our own way without compromising our signature approach.
L.Th: Heidegger’s conception of time as a philosophical term is only the starting point of further interpretation of us both as a mankind and single beings and their existence on many layers. I’m really not into explaining the context of our part, as I would more like to encourage the listener to dig in into Heigedder’s philosophy and interpret sein, dasain and zeit on their own.
When it comes to the concept itself, indeed we really didn’t want to release another meaningless split with totally unrelated songs. The only reasonable way to have it done was to put some framework and one idea behind that, and as Damian was always interested in Heidegger’s philosophy, we proposed it as a common background of work for both bands.
IMV: I’ve noticed in the last year that more bands are starting to look to philosophical texts for inspiration instead. Off the top of my head, Belgian outfit Imber Luminis’s Nausea is based on Sartre’s book of the same name, Finland’s Verge and an Americans Daxma both took inspiration from Kierkegaard on their new records. Do you think it’s just a desire to do something different than the usual nature-centric or satanic lyrics? Or do you see it as some sort of attempt to move metal in a deeper or more thoughtful direction?
Krigeist: As stated above, the very essence of Barshasketh is adversarial and Satanic – in this sense, we superficially appear to take a traditional approach. However, we have enough flexibility to take inspiration from a wide range of sources and use this to inform our own perspective, which is probably not the norm. Frankly, there are so many bands that paint by numbers by parroting the same ideas that were first expressed by the pioneers of the genre in the 90s without having any ideas of their own to express. In this sense, we set ourselves apart, by offering up something that is genuine and constructed from the ground up through our experiences and insights.
L.Th: I don’t think so. It’s kind of a trend. To be honest, I don’t pay much attention to that, as the fields of looking for inspiration are vast. Having Outre’s second album concept in mind, which is already figured out, I wouldn’t bond it to philosophy or any particular theme that seems to be explored more by other bands these days.
IMV: How did you decide which band was going to take which portion of the book? I mean, after listening to it the first time through, I can’t imagine it being the other way around. The darker introspection of Sein fits perfectly with Barshasketh’s more aggressive approach, while the more esoteric themes of Zeit work very well with Outre’s more exploratory style. Did it just seem obvious from the start who would do which?
Krigeist: If I recall correctly, we immediately identified Sein as our side since there was a particular resonance with the kinds of ideas that we are interested in expressing through our music, and Outre agreed to take Zeit. It all worked out rather neatly in retrospect from a thematic point of view.
L.Th: Yes, it came like very naturally, and if I recall correctly we didn’t even have much discussion about it. Each band just started to work on its part.
IMV: How long did the writing and recording process for Sein/Zeit take? Did the two bands work independently on their songs, or were you aware of what each other were doing? Did both bands use the same studio or producer or anything like that?
Krigeist: The process was quite drawn out for both bands, with both bands dealing with line up issues as the songs were being constructed. In our case, we replaced our drummer in the run-up to recording, and Outre had some persistent issues with their vocalist. Both bands worked independently for the most part, working in different studios (Barshasketh recording at Necromorbus Studio in Stockholm and Outre recording at No Solace Studio) although there was some broad consensus in the overall flow of the split. For instance, the ambient intro to Sein. There was enough musical chemistry there that it wasn’t necessary to micromanage each aspect of the release- in a way, allowing each band flexibility to express themselves in the way they thought most appropriate probably resulted in a better outcome overall.
IMV: Okay, this is going to be a lengthy one. I saw that Outre had a bit of trouble in Berlin the other night on their tour with Ulcerate, apparently because of other releases from Barshasketh’s label Blut & Eisen? Of course, I don’t see any way that anyone who’s actually looked at eiher Outre or Barshasketh’s lyrics could ever draw the conclusion that either band is in any way National Socialist, but I guess that’s just the climate in modern black metal. Accusing people of being NS is apparently the new thing.
On a certain level it kind of reminds me of the McCarthyism/Red Scare of the late 1940s-50s in America, where a lot of people in the movie industry were accused of having Communist ties. Of course, a couple turned out to actually be Communists, but the vast majority of them were falsely accused. Which leads me to two questions. First, how prevalent is NS in European black metal? Is it actually a major issue, or is it just a bunch of people (mostly Americans, I’ve noticed) seeing things that aren’t there? And if it is as widespread as people seem to believe, do black metal fans just need to accept the fact that most bands are going to be connected in some way to another NSBM label or band, regardless of whether they’re NSBM themselves or not?
Krigeist: This whole issue has become terribly tiresome in every respect. Your parallel with McCarthyism is accurate. The bulk of these accusations are based on non-existent, or at most, very tenuous links. I would challenge the view expressed by Thomas Mann in The Magic Mountain that “Everything is politics.” What interests and drives us fundamentally as a band are questions of the spirit that transcend such a materialist view of the world- that is the philosophical idea that all things, including the human mind and will, can be reduced to processes of the physical realm. It’s easy to get bogged down in these concerns, but for us the priority is to focus on the reasons for which we create our art in the first place and we intend to do just that.
L.Th: The vibe that has been created around black metal bands in Europe, which I actually could compare to Middle Age witch hunts, is just ridiculous. This “guilt by association” approach and seeking connections with NSBM or any far-right political shit is so low and miserable. Look at who really proceeds the accusations – bunch of losers hiding their faces under masks and terrorizing artistic initiatives, causing financial and reputational losses both for bands and promoters. We live in times when fascist ideology has changed its name to political correctness and everything that does not follow it should be banned and erased.
In our case, we had a show in Berlin cancelled because of the aforementioned split that is going to be released as a joint venture of Third Eye Temple and Blut und Eisen. We were told by the local promoter that he can’t host the bands that have any ties to the NSBM scene, which in this case was Blut und Eisen having NS bands on their roster. Besides the fact that this is really far from any logical conclusion leading to our show cancellation, I checked Blut und Eisen’s band roster and guess how many of them I have found? Yes – zero.*
We published a statement about this situation which, after being heavily commented on by the metal community, has been removed from the local promoters’ Facebook page. That says all about what was the actual value of their words.
Until the black metal scene learns how to respond to such ridiculous accusations, I think the situation will be getting worse.
IMV: So what are your respective plans after the split comes out? Any chance of a run of dates together? Or making it over to the States at any point?
Krigeist: Our main focus at the moment is on finishing our new album, which should be out through W.T.C Productions early next year if everything goes according to plan. The new material is surely our best to date, and the addition of MK within our ranks on drums is really giving us a big creative boost. In a sense, Sein/Zeit gives a pretty good indication of the direction we are headed.
We certainly wouldn’t be averse to the idea of doing a run of shows together; we simply need to overcome the logistical challenges that impede us at present, so watch this space. Regarding making it over to the States, we’re certainly enthusiastic about the prospect, but it’s best not to rush these things. So we will wait until the interest is high enough to justify the trip. If any promoters are interested in the idea, we would obviously be more than happy to discuss it with them.
L.Th: Once the tour with Ulcerate ends, we will take a couple of days off to get some rest from each other and then we start rehearsing new tracks for the upcoming album. The music is ready and we just need to give it a final touch. We enter the studio in January 2018, and if everything goes properly the album will be out in June 2018. It’s going to be completely different than what you may hear on the split, actually. The Zeit track is very exceptional and not typical for us, but we wanted to experiment a bit with our sound and I think the results are quite good.
IMV: I always like to ask at least one question about regional scenes. Are there any bands in Poland or New Zealand/Scotland you think should be on more people’s radars?
Krigeist: New Zealand does not have much to offer in the way of extreme metal. Most worthwhile bands are probably familiar to readers here – bands such as Ulcerate, Vassafor, Heresiarch, Vesicant. The last Creeping album was decent, too. However, I haven’t lived in New Zealand for some time, so it’s likely I’m very out of touch. As regards Scottish bands, the scene is rather small here and it might be best to consider the UK as a whole to be able to name enough quality bands. These would be Vacivus, Lunar Mantra, Grave Miasma, and Cruciamentum to name a handful. There is a new project called Deus Vermin which has piqued my interest recently as well. To be honest, the scene as a whole is at a low ebb, and the UK is probably not a global hotspot for quality underground metal currently.
L.Th: Infernal War, Voidhanger, Mgła, Deus Mortem, Cultes des Ghoules, and Kriegsmachine are my personal favourites that I could recommend.
* ed note: Blut&Eisen have released records by Wolfsmond, who have two former Absurd members in their ranks. Wolfsmond themselves, however, are not a political/NSBM band.