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2017 Year-End Extravaganza Band Interviews Features Interviews

An Interview with Nihilus Arcana and Wormwood of L.O.R.E.

It’s not often that I find myself at a loss for words, but I’m having a bit of trouble figuring out where to begin talking about Floridian black metal outfit L.O.R.E.

I’m also not sure I can really explain why I’m finding it such a struggle to get started. I mean, chances are pretty good that if you’re reading this interview that you also took a look at my year-end list earlier today, and you know that L.O.R.E.’s debut full-length Litany of Ruinous Entities landed at #6 on my list, where I described it as “one of those rare sorts of black metal albums that affects me on a deep emotional level, even though I’m not sure I can explain quite why.” At the risk of sounding hyperbolic, L.O.R.E. is really a special kind of band, and here’s why: if you look at any of J. Mize Photography‘s stunning live shots from last month’s Wrath of the Goat Fest VI, you have a pretty good idea of what to expect from L.O.R.E. – their overall aesthetic is second wave Norwegian through-and-through. However, like any artist worthy of the name, they have an uncanny ability to take something familiar and make it seem new again.

Later in the interview, when discussing influences on his lyrical style, Nihilus Arcana mentions the poet Rainer Maria Rilke – in fact, the passage in German at the end of the interview is from the first of Rilke’s Duino Elegies. On the whole, though, their music reminds me more of a concept of aesthetics that Rilke’s (more or less) contemporary Federico García Lorca first introduced back in the early 30s: duende. The term has no real translation into English, but in its most basic sense it refers to art’s ability to evoke an almost physical reaction from the audience. In his 1933 lecture “Juego y teoria del duende” (“Play and Theory of the Duende“), he described duende as a kind of heightened awareness of death on the part of the artist that allows said artist to produce transcendent art. Lorca uses the example of flamenco dancers–whose art seems about as far removed from death as one can get–and the emotional response they’re able to evoke from their audience, claiming such responses would be impossible without duende. As Lorca says at one point in his lecture, “The great artists […] know that emotion is impossible without the arrival of the duende.”

Lorca concludes his lecture by saying:

The duende….Where is the duende? Through the empty archway a wind of the spirit enters, blowing insistently over the heads of the dead, in search of new landscapes and unknown accents: a wind with the odour of a child’s saliva, crushed grass, and medusa’s veil, announcing the endless baptism of freshly created things.

L.O.R.E.’s music comes from the exact same place – one of death, rebirth, and (most importantly) emotional authenticity. Critic Brook Zern, a leading authority on flamenco, wrote that art performed with the spirit of duende: 

…dilates the mind’s eye, so that the intensity becomes almost unendurable…There is a quality of first-timeness, of reality so heightened and exaggerated that it becomes unreal, and this is characterized by a remarkable time-distortion effect which is frequent in nightmares…A friend of mine put it like this…Time moved like that for me once before–when I was in a crashing car.

Zern was describing a flamenco dancer, but he very well could have been discussing Litany of Ruinous Entities instead.

I recently had the privilege of speaking with Nihilus Arcana (vocals/synths/atmospherics) and Wormwood (bass/guitars) via email about the band’s history, Litany of Ruinous Entities, future plans, and a couple other topics besides. Check it out below, and then head over to Red River Family Records to grab a copy of Litany of Ruinous Entities on limited edition cassette before they sell out.

Samael Faust, Nihilus Arcana, and Wormwood. Photo credit: Jeri Mize/J.MizePhotography/Nocturnal Euphony International. Taken at Wrath of the Goat Fest VI.

Indy Metal Vault: I always like to do a bit of research before interviewing a band, but I have to say that it’s kind of remarkable how little there is out there about L.O.R.E. Your Metal Archives page and social media accounts really only contain the bare minimum in terms of information – from Tampa, formed in 2015, one demo and a full-length. Based on the band’s use of corpse paint and aliases, though, I’m guessing that mysteriousness is at least partly deliberate. So what are you willing to tell me about the band’s formation and history? Has the lineup been fairly stable since L.O.R.E. formed? In the most recent live photos, you seem to be down a bass player. 

Nihilus Arcana: The lack of information is partly deliberate, to keep it mostly about the music itself and not so much about ourselves. The band started roughly around April 2015. I’d been writing poetry during the evening, dealing with a bit of insomnia. I wanted my words to have a voice so I decided to put a post on Craigslist because I didn’t know anyone who liked the music I was into in the Tampa area. A few days later, Loreus Heresy replied to that post during a night of drinking at a bar, scrolling through Craigslist looking for people to start a black metal, crust, or thrash band with. We exchanged emails, and he sent me the skeleton of what would end up being “The 1st Litany,” and eventually we met in person just to talk about musical influences and whatever else, getting to know one another. After that we went to my apartment to play music, and the foundation of what would become L.O.R.E began.

We were okay with the idea of just being a duo. Him with guitars and drum programming, myself with vocals, lyrics, synthesizers and helping with drum programming, but we put another ad out for another member just in case. Eventually Caiaphas responded with interest. Myself and Loreus met him at a local bar to interview him. And after that came Samael Faust, who friends with Loreus, and Wormwood was friends with Caiaphas and saw us at our first show as a fan before being approached to join. And that has been the lineup ever since, besides the departure of Loreus due to personal reasons. In his place, Wormwood took over on guitar while still playing bass on recordings. What we have is very personal to us, so we won’t play with a session bassist live. We’d rather have no bass than to have a fill in who doesn’t fit with our chemistry on stage. What the line up is now is what it will be for the lifespan of the project. Otherwise the band will be finished.

IMV: When most people think of Tampa’s place in metal history, black metal likely isn’t the first thing that comes to mind. In fact, I can only think of a couple of black metal bands—Kult ov Azazel, Acheron before they relocated north—that hail from anywhere in Florida. Is there more of a black metal “scene” (for lack of a better word) either in Tampa or across Florida than people might be aware of?

NA: Tampa, to any listener of extreme music, is known as the home of death metal. But even that is dead/dying. Black metal exists, but there are only a few bands here. The “scene” exists but it is very small. The most well known in Tampa is Promethean Horde, whose vocalist holds Swarm Fest at the Brass Mug, which is a Fest for all genres of metal, not just black. But I can only count on one hand the bands here across Florida, the most notable being Von Nacht out of Orlando, a raw one-woman black metal band.

Wormwood: I would genuinely agree with Nihilus about the local scene. The scene is strong in the sense that we have a diversity of heavy music, but it definitely is not catered to one subgenre like death metal was in the 90s. As far as black metal, the acts that are strictly black metal are few and far between. Black/blackened acts that come to mind are Lustravi, Grave Gnosis, Led by Serpents, Caveman Cult, and Kav. However, I think there are other extreme metal acts worth noting, such as death metal acts Blistering Defilement and Fractal Face, and grindcore outfit Merciless Scum.

IMV: One of the first things that I noticed when listening to Litany of Ruinous Entities is how much more is really happening on the album than you might expect from raw black metal. On the surface, I hear a heavy Judas Iscariot or Transylvanian Hunger influence (especially in terms of the production), possibly even some Les Légions Noires, but that’s only part of the record’s overall character. How clear of an idea did L.O.R.E. have about the sound you were going for when you started the writing the album? Given how well the finished product works as a whole, I’m guessing the band is fairly deliberate in the writing process? And what’s your overall process like? Is it mostly collaborative, or does one person end up writing most of the riffs?

NA: The bands mentioned were some influences surely. Obviously we are inspired by those who came before us and helped create the foundation. During the beginning, Loreus and I always talked about having an aggressive, raw sound while balancing it with a beautiful aspect, with “a beautiful chaos” being mentioned a lot. We were really in love with the theme of complete and utter hopelessness. A scene of the end of times, and accepting your fate. The moment death comes before you, but accepting that death with a tear in your eye and a slight smirk on the lip. We would go on and on about contrasts in that realm. Whatever the outcome of the music we all made, that was essentially the feeling we were after. The rest of the guys built upon that blueprint and exceeded my expectations. No one person does everything. We all dip our hands in the pot to create our music one way or another. Someone will have an idea or the skeleton to a song, and the rest will give their opinion on how to make it better, what works, what needs work, what doesn’t, etc. Then we create on top of that.

Wormwood. Photo credit: Jeri Mize/J.MizePhotography/Nocturnal Euphony International. Taken at Wrath of the Goat Fest VI.

IMV: “Chthonic Reverie” is a really bold choice as an opening track. For starters, it’s a 10+ minute keyboard track that’s likely the first thing a lot of listeners will have heard from L.O.R.E. Not only does it require a fair amount of patience from the listener, it isn’t exactly representative of the band’s sound (though the later track “Kenosis” does a similar thing, but on a smaller scale). In fact, it reminds me quite a bit of the sort of thing Alex Poole was doing back in the Ringar/really early Chaos Moon days, both musically an in the way that it lures the listener into something of a false sense of security. It makes for an interesting duality: potentially alienating one part of the audience while luring another segment in with what amounts to a sort of misdirection. Was that partly the goal? Or am I just way overthinking things?

NA: My goal with “Chthonic Reverie” was to put the listener in a similar trance that I found myself in when I discovered the notes to make it. Written during a very low point in my life, I’m happy with how it turned out because usually it is not easy creating during periods of stress. Nothing worth having comes instantly. I know a lot of metalheads will skip right over the track just for the fast raw metal songs, but they are not experiencing it the way it was intended. Which is fine, everyone processes music differently. Take your favorite drug of choice, and let the song wrap it’s hands around your throat. It’s repetitive and long for a reason, and it’s designed to be the beauty aspect in the terror. A sonic chiaroscuro. The wave approaching before it takes you away. The silk shroud of painful emotions and the stream of tears of someone just before they take their own life. I wanted to challenge the listeners to allow it to sing its lullaby while submerging their minds in the void, sinking onwards beneath a crushing abyss.

I’m also very thankful for Von Nacht for contributing piano sections and her haunting singing to further the experience and intent. She truly added the missing pieces of the puzzle.

IMV: The thing that stands out the most to me about Litany of Ruinous Entities is the vocals. That has to be the single most painful-sounding (both physically and emotionally) vocal performance I have ever heard on any album, possibly ever. In fact, I can’t handle listening to the record on headphones because I find them entirely too upsetting to experience that intimately – I literally flinch each time they come in after an extended musical break. How did you develop such a shrill technique, and how do you replicate that live without spitting up a pint of blood between songs?

NA: Trial and error. Practice. I changed my style many times before the album was recorded and before settling on my sound. It needed to replicate the voice of my inner demons, and I felt this was the most accurate representation of that. As far as live, I do the basic vocalist regime of water and honey. Nothing special really. What comes out is just what I am able to do naturally. A pint of blood just adds to the experience.

IMV: I want to ask about your lyrics, but not in that typical “what’s this song about?” kind of way. I think those kinds of questions are disrespectful to the artist, not to mention really fucking annoying to read. Instead, I was struck by a couple of things when reading the lyrics on your Bandcamp page. The first is that they read a lot more like prose poems than the typical song lyrics – instead of following any kind of obvious rhythm or rhyme pattern, they look almost like they were written as self-contained pieces independent of any music and then made to fit the songs structures after the fact. They’re also strikingly impressionistic and rich with imagery, giving them an emotional depth that’s uncommon for this style of music. What’s your background like – were you a creative writer before becoming a musician? What sorts of books do you read?

NA: I have an artistic background and I went to college for design. I never gave a shit about any other subjects in school other than English literature and my art classes. Even without school, I always read books and created some kind of art. Always learning about more poets, authors, painters, photographers, musicians etc.

I first started creative writing to go along with photographs I took of women. I never knew how to caption my photographs, so I would create mini stories instead. I just kept a journal with a collection of words I liked and fragments. I’m not really good at following rules in my art so I was more attracted to free verse poetry. Writing from the heart. I also practiced word painting, which helped paint pictures lyrically. So I just applied what I was doing with that to the band.

It’s hard to be fake and write lyrics about things I know nothing about to fit the black metal agenda as far as subject matter and to sound as “grim” as I possibly can. So I just chose the authentic route instead, writing about personal experiences, dreams, visions while under the influence or in a trance state. I craft the words in a way to remain open ended and open to interpretation. You’d be correct on how I apply them to the music. All pieces are written stand alone as one fluid work, then broken up to flow into each track progressing as the music does, ignoring the verse chorus song structure. I like the security of the vocal delivery in hiding my words, but making them as detailed, passionate, and meticulously crafted as possible for the few that want to know what the fuck I’m saying to be able to have them. Every aspect of the music matters, even down to the words and how they are spoken.

I enjoy thinking books, and anything depressing really. Books that make me feel something and question myself and my reality. So House of Leaves and Only Revolutions by Mark Z. Danielewski would be big inspirations for me. Two of my top favorites. I also am heavily inspired by Rainer Maria Rilke’s poetic works.

Caiaphas and Wormwood. Photo credit: Jeri Mize/J.MizePhotography/Nocturnal Euphony International. Taken at Wrath of the Goat Fest VI.

IMV: I mentioned the production earlier, but it really does have that early second wave feel to it not unlike Transylvanian Hunger, right down to the partially sidechained vocals. How did you achieve that sound during the recording process? Did you record in a studio, or was it DIY all the way?  

WW: The recording process of Litany of Ruinous Entities is actually something that is relatively unknown outside of the band. We recorded everything DIY in a live setting with a TASCAM recorder. Every song recording was done in one take start to finish. If we didn’t like it, we did it again. Tones and placement of the TASCAM were perfected with trial and error. After recording the instrumentals live, Nihilus tracked vocals separately and he mixed them into the instrumental recordings. We feel that while going to a studio and having a mechanical sound that’s perfectly tracked and clean works for some projects, it does not work for us. Recording the material live in a DIY mindset truly captures the atmosphere and raw aspects that go into making the art. We would under no circumstances want to compromise that.

IMV: How did L.O.R.E. hook up with Red River Family Records for the cassette release of Litany of Ruinous Entities? Do you hope/plan to work with them again on future projects?

NA: I had already been friends with Ariale [Miller, one of several people behind RRFR] online for a few years. When the subject of cassettes came about, I already knew she had a label that was the right fit for us. I sent her the files of the completed work and she liked it and put out our cassettes limited to 50. Our relationship with the label is a strong one so we will surely be working with them in the future for the second full length.

IMV: For those (like myself) who haven’t had a chance to see L.O.R.E. live, can you describe your approach when you’re on stage? From the photos I’ve seen, the performances seem to be almost ritualistic with the red lights and various stage props, including what looks like a small altar. Also, are there any plans to tour a bit more extensively in 2018?

NA: Our approach onstage is visual chaos. Performance art. I go into a trance state and I allow the entity to take over the rest to do as it pleases with my body as the vessel. Feeding off the energy of the others in the band to fuel its intensity.

WW: The music we create is not simply just music. It is art. It is just as much painting as it is music. Our live performance is not just a performance, it is an experience. With that being said – in addition to the visual chaos that is L.O.R.E., this project is also a chaos that the audience must feel. We create an atmosphere with our experiences and our wills to ensure the audience becomes one with the art. The audience will feel every second of what has gone into this project.

As far as our shows being a ritual, I would say that the term ritual is somewhat subjective when describing our performances. Yes, our show is a ritual, but not necessarily in the pigeonholed way that the average black metal fan may think of when you hear the term “ritual.” We all come from different forms of beliefs, and yes, an undisclosed portion of us are involved in occult practices and beliefs. L.O.R.E. is not a vessel for shock value. I feel far too many bands use what one may deem as “Satanic” aesthetics in order to come off as shocking and “evil” while not having a clue what any occult ideologies entail. Anything we individually do on stage is genuine, no matter what that particular member’s belief system is. Speaking for only myself, I study a wide array of Left-Hand Path branches and practices as well as some other occult paths. However, I do consider myself overall to be a practitioner of Theistic Luciferianism that is heavily influenced by psychology. I open each of our shows with a Luciferian ritual that preps the stage as a ritual chamber for myself on a subjective level and brings forth the entities that reside in my lower levels of consciousness. Even though we do come from a variety of beliefs and background, I do believe the four of us are connected for a purpose. We come together and mix everything on a subjective level with the objective level, and ultimately this all comes together in order to become the live ritual that we call L.O.R.E.

Finally, touring plans for 2018 are unknown. We recently have played our furthest show to date, which was about six or seven hours away. While we have not played a show outside of Florida so far, we have had a good handful of opportunities to where that could easily be changing in 2018. Is a tour possible? Yes it is. Is a tour definitely going to happen? Maybe not. Only time will tell.

Nihilus Arcana. Photo credit: Jeri Mize/J.MizePhotography/Nocturnal Euphony International. Taken at Wrath of the Goat Fest VI.

IMV: I noticed a couple videos on the L.O.R.E. Instagram page of the band rehearsing for album #2. How far along are you in the writing process? Do you have a sense yet of what it’s going to sound like in comparison to Litany of Ruinous Entities?

WW: The writing process for the second full-length is nearly finished. We will probably begin tracking it around the beginning of 2018. I think the new material is much more mature, and we have honed in our creative direction with all of these new songs. I would say the major focus of this album is how much more progressive the material is in comparison to the debut. Not in the sense of technical playing ability, but in the sense of the progression of the music and how it flows and carries the listener. I think we’ve really perfected the balance between raw black metal and beauty. I would say the new material with the progression aspect, we’ve looked more towards influences such as Wolves in the Throne Room and Ulver. Not to mention we also are incorporating a lot more influences. Most notably, we have a lot more doom and doom related sections in the new material. Overall, I would say you can expect the logical continuation of what the latter half of the debut album was like, just with more focus on the songwriting and incorporation of some other influences. We aren’t trying to be a band that’s necessarily putting out the same album time and time again. However, I do want to clarify that the new album won’t compromise our raw sound, raw emotion, or the raw energies that we captured with the debut.

IMV: Thanks again for taking the time to answer a few questions. I’ll leave the last word to you – anything else you’d like to add?

NA: “Denn das Schöne ist nichts
als des Schrecklichen Anfang, den wir noch grade ertragen,
und wir bewundern es so, weil es gelassen verschmäht,
uns zu zerstören. Ein jeder Engel ist schrecklich.

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