German black metallers Chaos Invocation haven’t exactly been prolific over the course of their nearly fifteen-year long existence. In fact, Reaping Season, Bloodshed Beyond is only the band’s third full-length. And yes, I really am going to invoke the old adage about quality over quantity here – their albums are the musical equivalent of a nice glass of Weihenstephan Hefe Weissbier, not those 30-packs of Keystone Light you probably took to house parties when you were in your early twenties. It’s also more than worth the 4+ year wait since Black Mirror Hours, combining the austere majesty of a band like Nightbringer with the raw fury of Watain and an often unpredictable approach to vocals that’s all their own.
Reaping Season, Bloodshed Beyond will be available on March 10 from W.T.C. Productions. However, you can hear this infernal masterpiece in its entirety right now, exclusively at the Vault. I also had the chance to ask guitarist A. a few questions via email about the new album and the long history of the band.
Indy Metal Vault: So for starters, thanks for agreeing to an interview. I’ve had the chance to spend quite a bit of time with Reaping Season, Bloodshed Beyond, and I’m finding it to be a deceptively complex record. On the one hand, it’s got that muscular, austere sound that I tend to associate with German black metal. There’s a lot of other things going on with the record as well, though – melodic riffing, clean vocals, songwriting so dynamic that it verges on the progressive. I know that some early reviews have already started to trickle in. Are you pleased with the response thus far, or is that even something you pay attention to?
A.: We’ve never paid much attention to reviews unless the author sends it to us, then of course we read it. We record music that in the first place has to please ourselves. When we release an album we are convinced of the quality of the music and do not have to search for confirmation or non-confirmation. So far, I have read three reviews for Reaping Season, Bloodshed Beyond. One of them was very good, but another one made me really angry. Therefore I will stop reading even the sent ones. It’s appalling how bad most reviews are. By that I do not mean our “score,” but the way an album in which you have invested a lot of time is discussed or dealt with. The whole way attests that the album was heard only fleetingly and that’s it. Mass production!
IMV: Chaos Invocation has always struck me as a fairly deliberate sort of band. The core duo of A. and M. have been together since 2004, but Reaping Season, Bloodshed Beyond is only your third full-length over that span. If I’m not mistaken, it’s also, aside from one song on a split with Thy Darkened Shade last year, your first new music since 2013’s Black Mirror Hours. I am curious, though, whether you actually intend to take that much time between releases, or if you’re the sort of band that seems to constantly have obstacles thrown in its way?
A.: In fact, we still have a lot of unpublished material just waiting to be re-recorded. I regularly write new songs, but in the past we often had the problem of not getting our drummer into the studio. As you mentioned, Chaos Invocation was founded in 2004. There were some demo recordings, but we were never happy with the final result. When we decided to record a complete album in 2006, our drummer said goodbye to a mental institution. When he came back, we recorded In Bloodline With The Snake at our rehearsal place. W.T.C. Productions then offered to let us re-record the album at Hellsound Studio. The only problem was that AD. had to go back to psychiatry. So already the recording of the first album dragged on. Unfortunately, T., who replaced AD. in 2009, wasn’t the biggest fan of studios and recordings, which is why album II and III were unnecessarily long in coming. With our new lineup we finally have a band that wants to be productive and that is on fire. I am confident that the next release will be available much faster. As I said, there are enough songs slumbering on the disks in our rehearsal place. Our plan is to get rid of the “legacy” and then finally publish an album that corresponds to our current state. The songs on Reaping Season, Bloodshed Beyond are partially six years old, and some riffs and the lyrics of “Blackmoon Prayer” are even from 2008. This is certainly another reason why we do not deal with reviews. Our records do not reflect the current status of the band, so why pay attention to something that deals with an old self of ours?
IMV: Okay, so let’s talk a bit about Reaping Season, Bloodshed Beyond. As I mentioned earlier, this album seems to push Chaos Invocation’s sound in some directions that were hinted at on Black Mirror Hours, but they feel much more fully realized on this album. Did you approach the songwriting any differently this time around, or was it more of a natural progression from one album to the next?
A.: I understand what you mean but the songwriting process has not changed significantly since 2004. It is therefore a completely natural progression.
IMV: In looking at the liner notes for Reaping Season, Bloodshed Beyond, I notice that it was recorded and mastered in several different locations – most notably, the drums were recorded in a separate location from the guitars and vocals. There are also several guest appearances on the album, which leads me to wonder – was there ever a point where all of the principal performers on Reaping Season, Bloodshed Beyond were in the same room at the same time? If not, did that result in any particular challenges when trying to finish the album?
A.: Of course, we have been in the same room at the same time. Otherwise, Chaos Invocation would probably not be described as a “band.” The band feeling is of utmost importance to us, I would even describe us as a fraternity in every constellation. Chaos Invocation has always been a band made up of mates who spend a lot of time together outside of the band. We all come from the same area. I grew up with M. and S., both have accompanied and harassed me since the beginning of my life. Haha! But back to the recording process of Reaping Season, Bloodshed Beyond. We rehearsed the songs in advance and the drum recordings took place in a studio nearby were attended by all members. The guitars, however, I recorded alone, and when the vocal recordings took place we were all together again. All guest musicians are friends of ours who we invited to our place to do the recordings.
IMV: The one thing that always fascinates me about bands that take such a varied approach to vocals on their albums is how exactly they go about writing their vocal lines. And since Chaos Invocation is actually the first band I’ve ever interviewed that takes such an approach, I can finally ask about it. There are several different styles of vocals on Reaping Season, Bloodshed Beyond. How do you go about deciding what vocal approach is appropriate for what section of a song? Sometimes the choices seem fairly natural, like the clean vocals over the clean guitar passages in a couple of tracks, but in other places it feels like there’s more of a decision making process at play.
A.: Ok, that’s an interesting question. I cannot remember that we ever discussed it. The vocal style we use comes purely intuitively. It’s not like that we say “Oh we have to bring clear vocals here again; alas, and here’s where the text needs to be whispered.” Frequently, the vocal style comes from the lyrics. An example for that is “Blackmoon Prayer.” A prayer can be imploring, but also sublime. And maybe there will be another album on which only the classic Black Metal vocals can be heard. But of course that’s impossible to predict, since, as I said, it happens out of the moment. An interesting side note: M. recorded the vocals for the In Bloodline With The Snake record in three hours only…
IMV: I generally like to ask about lyrical themes, but there’s not much ambiguity in Chaos Invocation’s lyrics – you’re pretty clearly adherents to the Left Hand Path. And unlike a lot of bands that I feel like might be faking it for one reason or another, you seem completely serious about it. Assuming I’m right, is there a particular school of occult thought that you’re drawn to (Theistic Satanism, LaVeyan Satanism, Thelema, etc.)? What was it in particular that drew you to that set of beliefs?
A.: What I can tell is, that there is no strict guideline that we follow. I think that our philosophy/ Weltanschauung confuses most people. Thus we have decided to only comment on these topics in detail when it happens during a conversation for a magazine dedicated exclusively to this subject. We do not want to serve these things to everyone. As you said, we take this very seriously because it is a defining and essential part of our lives. There were several things / insights that led us on this path. If you really want to know more about this topic, I recommend you to purchase the next issue of VITRIOL Zine.
IMV: One of the few point of consistency between Black Mirror Hours and Reaping Season, Bloodshed Beyond is that parts of both albums were recorded at Hellsound Studios, and both ultimately ended up in the hands of Patrick W. Engel (aka A.O.D.) for mastering. Given the amount of flux there tends to be from one Chaos Invocation album to the next, is there anything specific that made you want to continue those working relationships?
A.: We like to work with people whom we trust, who we like, who have a similar attitude to the music and who give us the space we want. Ronny (Hellsound Studio) has accompanied us since 2008, by the way not only in the studio but also on tour and some other events. He allows us to use his studio day and night, which of course is a great advantage when you have a run and you don’t have to keep track of the time. He is a very good friend of the band and we have already experienced a lot together. Patrick has never disappointed us so far, he is always professional, honest and reliable. We appreciate that very much. Under normal circumstances Patrick would have also done the mastering for the In Bloodline With The Snake album, but this is another story. For the future, however, we will probably put the mixing process into other hands.
IMV: Of course, the most enduring relationship in Chaos Invocation’s history is the one between the band and World Terror Committee Productions. Aside from the 13 Years of Black Metal Escalation comp (most of which was released previously by W.T.C.), all of your material has been released via W.T.C. Productions. How did you end up getting together with the label, and what makes you want to keep working with them?
A.: Our first drummer AD. knew Sven and sent him our recordings regularly. Sven liked our music and when we got to know each other, it also fit on the human level (like a fist clashing on an eye). W.T.C. Productions and Chaos Invocation share the same attitude to Black Metal and maintained a friendship ever since. We have already had many intense experiences together and it is unimaginable that we would have experienced them with a different label. In addition, W.T.C. Productions is one of the very few pure Black Metal labels that we take seriously. Presumably because we know that it is not profit but the conviction that is the gear.
IMV: The cover art for Reaping Season, Bloodshed Beyond is both striking and fascinating. How closely did you work with Ceethava on the cover concept and Mentalporn on the layout?
A.: We have a very good and close relationship with Ceethava (Temple of Thava). Susanne has accompanied us for a while with a lot of dedication and passion. There were several ideas for the cover of Reaping Season, Bloodshed Beyond, but the idea that came to fruition came from an evening when the band and Susanne sat together at a table in our bar. We developed the cover together and Susanne started painting right away. So it was something very spontaneous that presented the core of the album best. We also developed the layout together with Ceethava. Mentalporn was only responsible for the fine-tuning.
IMV: So as near as I can tell, there’s been a bit of turnover in Chaos Invocation’s lineup since you recorded Reaping Season, Bloodshed Beyond. Drummer T. has been replaced by Omega (aka Thorns)—who also plays in Blut Aus Nord, Manetheren, and Martröð, among many others—and ex-Valkyrja live member Tumulash has joined the ranks on bass. Do you foresee being able to do much touring with this lineup? I know you have a few European festival dates lined up, but is there any chance of doing anything more extensive? Like a visit to the US perhaps?
A.: Of course we would like to play a US tour, but we are still a very unknown band and I cannot imagine that we will receive a request in the near future. We are playing some festivals this summer that we consider to be the most important ones in Europe and we’ll also play a European tour at the end of the year. The current lineup is anything but a restriction, it opens doors and gates of which we did not even know. Apart from that, we would also give up playing concerts and tours to keep these two Black Metal beasts in our ranks.
IMV: Thanks again for being willing to answer a few questions. I always like to leave the last word to the artist – anything else you want to add?
A.: We thank you too. There is one more thing that people should know: stop sending shitty reviews!