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An Interview with Acherontas

Black metal isn’t exactly a genre known for conceptual trilogies (Ulver’s so-called ‘black metal trilogy’ doesn’t count – not conceptual). Deathspell Omega had their ‘metaphysical trilogy’ of Si Monvmentvm Reqvires, Circvmspice / Fas – Ite, Maledicti, in Ignem Aeternum / Paracletus. Blut Aus Nord had both the Memoria Vetusta and the 777 trilogies. And…yeah, I can’t think of any others.

Or at least I couldn’t until Acherontas released Faustian Ethos, the breathtaking conclusion to their monumental Formulas of Reptilian Unification trilogy, earlier this month. The brainchild of Acherontas V.Priest, who has been a mainstay of the Greek black metal scene for the past 20+ years, the Acherontas coven have been remarkably prolific over the course of the last decade, releasing seven full-lengths and numerous other splits, EPs, and collaborations, all of which have been of consistently high quality. However, it’s their three most recent full-lengths–2015’s Ma-IoN, 2017’s Amarta अमर्त, and the just-released Faustian Ethos–that will solidify their reputation as not only one of the greatest black metal bands to ever come out of Greece, but also one as of the best ever, period.

I had a chance to talk to the band about the entire Formulas of Reptilian Unification trilogy, along with a couple of other topics. Hop over to Agonia Records and pick up a copy of Faustian Ethos, and then check out my interview with the band below.

Indy Metal Vault: So for starters, thanks for agreeing to an interview. I’ve spent the better part of the last week or two immersing myself in not only Faustian Ethos, your forthcoming seventh full-length, but revisiting the first two installments of the Formulas of Reptilian Unification trilogy as well: 2015’s Ma-IoN and last year’s Amarta अमर्तTaken as a whole, it’s a seriously imposing 170 minutes worth of music – and that’s not even taking the lyrical content into consideration.

Was Formulas of Reptilian Unification always intended to be a trilogy? I’ve seen mention the material on Faustian Ethos was written at the same time as Amarta, but you chose to record it separately because it had a “different musical and ideological approach.” I haven’t seen the lyrics for Faustian Ethos yet aside from the two pre-release tracks, but from a musical standpoint it does seem to be the most overtly aggressive of the three albums. How developed was the material on Faustian Ethos when you decided to split it off from Amarta? Did you set the tracks aside, or essentially birth the albums simultaneously?

Acherontas: Thank you for your words, we are very glad that the new Opus met your expectations as it did with ours. It is also very important to be experienced not only as a sole album, but as part of the trilogy too. A part of the new album was already conceived yet uncompleted before the release of Amarta, the second part of the trilogy, but we chose to separate them due of different lyrical and musical direction and complete the total as a trilogy. It was apparent that there was going to be a third part, a more aggressive and violent continuation and coronation of the triad, musically, lyrically and spiritually.

IMV: I want to ask about the conceptual/philosophical threads running through Formulas of Reptilian Unification, but I’m hesitant to do so for two reasons. First, based on interviews I’ve looked at from around the time Ma-IoN came out, I don’t think you’re much inclined to answer specific questions about the lyrics, which I absolutely respect. At the same time, I don’t know that I have a firm enough grasp on the lyrical content to ask specific questions – each set of lyrics opens up so many rabbit holes. For example, the song “Nereid Tide of Neptune’s Rudra” from Ma-IoN alludes to Greek, Roman, Egyptian, Christian, and Judeo/Islamic mytho-theology and the Hindu Vedas. How have you gone about constructing the specific ‘mythos’ (for lack of a better term) that runs through the trilogy?

A: The esoteric guidelines that lie beneath every Opus of the trilogy extend far beyond the common conceptions, mythos and perspectives. It is the materialization of the spiritual worldview of Acherontas, both at a mundane and spiritual level. It would be totally pointless to try to break it down to pieces and explain it at a pragmatic level, as the initial purpose was not to make just a mythological lyrical work, but a solid statement. This is what the three albums strive for and this is exactly what the third part achieves, the spark to ignite the Inner Self, through achieving the understanding of what we call “Faustian Ethos.” We should now let the listener experience this conception and discovery, as every spiritual journey demands hardship and strife to come to completion. The trilogy is like a puzzle…you will discover in process may parts united as one and all of them serve the same Higher Mission.

IMV: How conceptual is Formulas of Reptilian Unification? From what I’ve been able to figure out (and I could either be reaching or completely wrong about all of this), Ma-IoN seems to be thematically centered (at least in a broad sense) on Thelemic/Typhonean ideas, Amarta on the Rigvedic hymns, and Faustian Ethos on Black Magick and Left Hand Path ideologies. Also, assuming the three albums represent the three point of a triangle, then depending on the direction it’s facing the completed trilogy could either represent the alchemical symbol for fire (upward) or water (downward). Aside from these thematic elements, is there any sort of narrative thread connecting the albums in the trilogy?

A: Your analysis is quite impressive and hopefully the listener will also see through those levels of creation that took part in the process of constructing the trilogy on a musical and spiritual level.

But as I said above, many Individuals will discover in the process that these three Works are united as one. Ma-IoN dives deep into the mysteries of the Typhonian tradition, regressing back within the elemental forces of the inner journey through Lightful darkness, while Amarta sets the tantric spiritual guidelines of understanding, the mapping of the Self within the Self and the achievement of spiritual immortality. At this point, Faustian Ethos comes forth, bringing back the spirit of Traditionalism in every level form of existence, an aggressive, outgoing statement with many extensions beyond the sterile theoretical perspectives. The third part is the most crucial and at the same point every part of the Triad is unique and pivotal. There is no point in sterile theories without solid practice, and practice alone is empty without theoretical basis. Faustian Ethosis the capital view of Gnosis, on every level. Here we are not interested in black metal poetry, but in a deep Journey through the sacred Art.

IMV: Each album in the trilogy really does have its own distinct musical personality. Faustian Ethos has a serious Second Wave/90s feel to it, Amarta was far more melodic by comparison, and Ma-IoN seemed to draw influence from a wide variety of places, including shamanistic/tribal elements. How clear an idea did you have of the musical direction for each album going into the songwriting process for each? Is there any correlation between the musical and thematic path of each installment of the trilogy – did one in any way influence the other, or did they develop independently?

A: Our only guidance for creating music is solely the spiritual impulse that we have for every work from the beginning to the end of the work. The conception of every album is instinctual and innovative, without having any borders set or certain practical guidelines to the process of creation. Same with every album from Acherontas, as with Faustian Echos now. It is a pure and honest channeling of the Art of the Devil, and this was our only task from the start. No ornaments, no fake-impressive elements, just a pure regression to the roots of black metal and a journey back and within to the roots of our Artistic expression. Atavism in all planes of creation.

IMV: One thing that’s been fairly consistent across all three of the Formulas of Reptilian Unification albums is that they’ve each been recorded in multiple studios. I know the members of Acherontas are somewhat scattered geographically: former drummer Thorns was based in Italy, current drummer Dothur is in the UK, and someone is likely based in Germany since parts of Faustian Ethos were recorded there. From a logistical standpoint, does recording in several places pose any challenges? Is there any point during the process–writing, recording, mixing, etc.–where all the members of the band are in the same room together?

A: There are no practical obstacles that would set back our task and our cause. Since all of the members share the same passion for our work, we manage to find a way to overcome the difficulties wherever and whenever needed. Distances are nullified but the urge to create and materialize the vision of Acherontas.

We are at a level of great union after the passing of the years and perform shows without rehearsal. Each one of us practises alone before the date of a show and that’s all. The Energy flows and the Vision takes form on Stage.

IMV: I’m really intrigued by the sigil that VisionBlack created for Faustian Ethos. How closely did you work with him on the concept for that sigil? Are you willing to unpack some of the symbology that went into its design?

A: The sigil was channeled and crafted by the coven via a certain magical route and pathway, that is used to charge the musical and lyrical creation of the Opus. Not much more can be unveiled about the sigil, nor about the channeling process or the elements that it implements within the raw form of lines and circles. Let the magical work speak for itself. VisionBlack transposed the sigil in digital form and built all of the layout setup including the Sigil and the album paintings that were created by Occult Icons.

IMV: I know that there’s a relationship between Acherontas and the dark ambient project Shibalba and Zanen Sounds magazine. How do they fit within the larger Acherontas coven?

A: Shibalba is the dark ambient extension of the Coven, having Acherontas V.P. and Saevus H. in their ranks. A separate act, but at the same time connected to the esoteric vision of the coven. Zazen Sounds is the Artistic womb of Acherontas VP, a label dedicated to the dark, esoteric vibrations of Art and releases of a certain unique perspective, and also in the last months as printing a magazine too.

IMV: Imagine you were compiling a list of required texts for a class called “Thematic Influences on Formulas of Reptilian Unification,” what would be on that list? Don’t feel obligated to limit your answer to books, either – films, visual art, whatever, it’s all fair game.

A: This is an endless list with countless entries, almost impossible to be compiled within an answer. The lyrical and spiritual work of the Formulas of Reptilian Unification trilogy has been built and conceived after many years of influences, reading, practicing and learning, before, during and after the creation of the albums. A process of inner awakening and detachment that is completed only on an esoteric level. Without sweet words and fairy tales, our empiricism is the Torch of our Void and creation.

IMV: After releasing your last several full-lengths with World Terror Committee Productions, you’ve returned to Agonia Records, whom I believe you last worked with on 2012’s The Ruins of Edom split with Nightbringer. Based on everything I’ve read, you seemed really pleased with W.T.C. Was there anything in particular that promoted you to change labels for Faustian Ethos?

A: Apart from the split release with Nightbringer, Agonia records had also released the Vamachara album, the Hermeticism EP, and after some years we return for Faustian Ethos. Our collaboration with World Terror Committee was a powerful one, W.T.C. being a strong and professional label dedicated to the true underground spirit of Black metal. We also knew Agonia Records’ work by our previous releases and we knew that they could handle the new Opus in a totally professional way, pushing the work of the coven further.

IMV: Acherontas did a brief US/Canadian tour last year. If I’m not mistaken, that was your first time playing in North America. Do you have any plans to return again in the near future, perhaps for a more extended run of dates?

A: North America last year was our first and very successful rites on USA soil, setting the course for a return in the near future. Connections are being made and we will soon reveal the next ones for 2019.

IMV: Whenever I get the opportunity to interview a black metal band from Europe, I ask about NSBM because the subject is so prevalent in the US. Achrontas’s precursor bands have had to deal with NS accusations – and perhaps not entirely unfairly. Worship had a track appear on a 1999 compilation called Black Metal Order – Aryan Hellenic Art. Sutthof shares a name with a Nazi death camp in Poland. You’ve also done splits with bands with alleged (Satanic Warmaster, Drowning the Light) and more overt (Legion of Doom) NSBM ties. I see nothing in your lyrics that would indicate that Acherontas is NSBM. So instead, let me ask you this:the recent NSBM scare kind of reminds me of the Red Scare of the late 1940s-50s in America, where a lot of movie industry people were (mostly falsely) accused of having ties to the Communist Party. How prevalent is NS in European black metal? Is it actually a major issue, or is it largely imagined (mostly by Americans, I’ve noticed)? 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?

A: I will give a short reply regarding the masses:

Great minds discuss ideas; average minds discuss events; small minds discuss people.

IMV: Thanks again for taking the time to answer a few (extremely wordy) questions. I like to leave the last word to the artists – is there anything else you’d like to add?

A: The honor is ours for this opportunity and the great support to the Coven of Acherontas. Faustian Ethosis now officially unleashed, with the live premiere closing in and many more live dates to follow across the world.

Dwell, Devour and Dream behind the skin of Matter!

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