It’s been a few weeks since I’ve talked about Portuguese black metal here at the Vault, which means I’m definitely overdue. This time, however, it’s something a bit different from what I usually talk about when I talk Portugal – the only time the word ‘kvlt’ is going to appear in this piece is right now, as I tell you that one-man project Spiralist doesn’t make the kind of kvlt black metal for which Portugal is becoming known. Instead, the music on Spiralist’s forthcoming full-length Nihilus is a bit more difficult to classify, which seems to be exactly the way the band’s mastermind Bruno Costa wants it.
“Nihilus,” which we’re thrilled to be premiering here today, rages like Watain or Woe when it’s in full-on black metal mode, but there are also elements of drone and hardcore to be found in the track as well as some sections that seem to draw influence from Tool. It’s a stunning track, and it’s really just a small taste of what the rest of the 5-track, 43-minute album has in store for the listener. It actually gets even more ambitious as it goes, and remarkably every risk that Costa takes pays off.
Nihilus will be available on May 4, and preorders will be available soon from Spiralist’s Bandcamp page. It will also be available in a six-panel Digipack from Microfome. Until then, enjoy “Nihilus” and my interview with Spiralist.
Indy Metal Vault: Hey, man – first off, thank you so much for agreeing to an interview at such short notice. Nihilus is one of those rare records that grabbed me immediately when it landed in my inbox and I listened to it straight through right away. I notice, though, that there’s a real lack of information about Spiralist online. Is this your first notable project, or have you been part of other bands—black metal or otherwise—in the past?
Spiralist: Thank you for featuring my music and listening to it, I really appreciate the feedback. The reason why there’s nothing really out there about Spiralist is that Nihilus is my very first solo work, and I’ve been keeping this hidden until I felt like it was ready to be released. I didn’t want to go for something smaller at first just to give people a taste, like an EP. There was something that I needed to get out of my system all at once, and I did. I did have several projects and bands, with the main one having been a progressive rock band, in fact, named Blackbird Prophet, which was very different from what I’m interested in doing at the moment.
IMV: So it seems like Spiralist’s music might broadly fall in the depressive/suicidal black metal category, but there’s a lot more happening in your sound as well – there’s some doom, maybe a bit of post-metal, some ambient, etc. The PR notes mention artists like Trent Reznor, Justin Broadrick, and Jef Whitehead as influences. Did you initially set out to create music that fused together these disparate influences, or is that more something that happened naturally as you were writing the songs that appear on Nihilus?
S: There are definitely a lot of cues being taken from Extreme Metal on Nihilus, but the way I want to approach my music is the same that, say, a director approaches his films: any genre is good as long as the final product feels good. Christopher Nolan did an amazing job with Dunkirk, but we wouldn’t expect him to always deliver war films from now onward. My approach to music is the same. My next work could veer into Jazz, maybe the next one into Electronica, and maybe the following one into Drone. As long as it follows my vision, I don’t care what genre it is. People like Trent Reznor, Justin Broadrick and Jef Whitehead are influences on me in terms of their “modus operandi” and attitude, more so than their music itself. They stuck to their vision, worked hard with a lot of will and perseverance, and keep thriving artistically. I can’t help but deeply respect people like that. But musically, I feel like I really have to dig deep within to find what I want to say and how I want to say it. What is the concept, and what music fits it.
IMV: The notes also say that the process of making Nihilus was “long and arduous.” Roughly how long did you spend working on the album? It was totally a DIY project, right? Did you have any recording experience before this, or did you have to teach yourself that along the way?
S: I began working on this in August 2016… at first I thought it was just going to be a therapeutic recording, that maybe I’d just release it online or something. But the more I worked on it, the more important it became to me. So I wrote lyrics and recorded vocals, recorded synths, mixed and mastered it patiently, and by March 2017 I had my album done. I sent it to a ton of labels, and got very few responses, none of them interested in releasing it. So I figured that I had to do it myself after all of that work and emotional investment. Then came photos, video, creating a logo, artwork, the physical album’s layout, re-mastering the songs, producing the CDs… for someone living very modestly in a small apartment, it’s an enormous investment. I remember taking a walk in a park with my girlfriend once and just having a breakdown and trying to hide my face from the people passing by. I can’t just play it cool and pretend that, even though I’m ultimately very happy about what I’ve created, this DIY process doesn’t take a toll on me. It does, and you really have to mean it to make it through. As for recording experience, I have already recorded some things on my own before, but I have a small course on music production as well, which helps.
IMV: Speaking of recording, I’m always curious as to how that process works for solo projects like Spiralist, because it seems like everyone I’ve talked to does it a bit differently. What does your recording setup look like in terms of software? What did you use for the drums?
S: I have a really, really minimal recording set-up. I’m using FL Studio 11 at the moment, which is also where I get the drum sounds from, which I then tweak and change until I’m satisfied, and I record all the instrumentation through an Alesis USB mixer. I’ve got a couple of electric guitars, a bass, a synth, a small multi-effect pedal, an amplifier, a microphone… and that’s about it. But then I mix the shit out of it to the best of my abilities. I really want to invest in more and better gear in time though. I’ll really need it to accomplish some of the things I’m envisioning for my future.
IMV: We’re streaming the album’s title track “Nihilus” today. What can you tell us about the song? Was there something specific that inspired it? When was it written, relative to the other songs on the album?
S: The title track was probably the most intuitive one that I recorded. I remember I wanted it to feel like a rollercoaster, and I just let a lot of the anger and disappointment I felt at the time have their voices heard. I was in a pretty dark place when I recorded the album’s instrumentals… I wanted to obliterate everything and everyone. I was tired of failing at getting my music to be created and put out there. Tired of not being able to take control of myself and my art. Plus, there were some fucked-up non-musical experiences that I had had in the previous few years that I never completely had the chance to exorcise musically. I recorded the album’s songs in the order they appear on the tracklist, so this was the track that led me to all of this happening. Lyrically, it’s about a bright being losing its inner light.
IMV: The name “Spiralist” is really striking, and seems pretty unique for the type of music you play. How did you come up with it? Is there any particular significance to it?
S: There’s actually a lot of meaning to it… on a personal level, the way that I work and do art is very much like a spiral. I always begin broadly with a big concept, and then I get the images, moods, colors and keywords going in my mind, like “catching fish in your mind’s eye,” as David Lynch often puts it. Then I spiral all the way into the core of the music and when I have it all figured out, in that core, I record the backbone of the album. Then I slowly spiral back out by taking that core and expanding it with all the things that make an album and extra components of it. Spirals are a very suggestive and influential symbol on me. The song that I usually say that changed my life, which was Tool’s “Lateralus,” is about the spiral that is created from the Fibonacci Sequence, and they turn that into a song about reaching out and evolving, which is something I believe to be truly important, and it’s a very positive frame of mind that I always try to carry with me.
IMV: To an outsider at least, Portugal seems to have a thriving metal scene, particularly black metal. Is the musical community as strong over there as it seems to be? Are there any bands that American listeners might not be familiar with that you’d recommend checking out if they like Spiralist’s music?
S: I honestly wouldn’t know all that well, because I don’t think I’m a part of that community… I don’t hang out with many musicians and I really don’t feel like I’m a part of anyone’s circle. But I’m definitely a fan of a lot of music from Portugal’s scene. When it comes to black metal, Névoa are incredible – both albums they’ve put out so far, while being very different, are amazing. On the one-man lo-fi side of the spectrum, Black Cilice is great, as is ÖRÖK. Corpus Christii are fantastic as well. Vulpus have split, but they released a great album last year… there’s a lot to discover. Though not a black metal band at all, I have to mention LÖBO as one of my favorite Portuguese bands. You might also want to check Process of Guilt, Juseph, Windbreak, Memoirs Of a Secret Empire and FERE.
IMV: Thanks again for taking the time to answer a few questions. I always like to leave the last word to the artist – anything else you’d like to add?
S: Thank you again for your interest in my music and I hope we can chat again in the future. I’d like to ask the reader to follow Spiralist on social media, there’ll be plenty of updates soon. Pre-orders for the full-length album Nihilus will be available soon on Bandcamp as well, keep your eyes peeled for that.