Back in April, we had the privilege of premiering Szczerzenie, the debut album from mysterious Polish black metal band Kły. Now that it’s been out for a couple of months, I’ve given it plenty of additional listens and had ample time to reflect on my initial assessment of the record. For those whose memories don’t stretch back quite that far, here’s a reminder:
In short, whatever you think Szczerzenie is, it isn’t. And whenever you feel like you’re comfortable with the direction the band is heading, they up and change. Kły manage to keep listeners guessing from one track to the next, which seems consistent with the description of their influences in the Szczerzenie promotional materials: “black metal, the mountains, the forest and shamanism.” Their music is almost equal parts Burzum, Lifelover, and The Cure’s Faith…
In hindsight, I feel like I may have undersold the album. In a year that’s seen no shortage of challenging and/or boundary pushing black metal albums, Szczerzenie may well still be the most unique of the bunch. Give it a listen below if you haven’t yet–or better yet, pop over to Pagan Records and order a copy–and then check out my interview with one of the nameless members of the trio below.
Indy Metal Vault: First off, thanks for the interview. I’ve really been enjoying Szczerzenie – I was stoked that we were able to stream it in full here at the Vault shortly before its release, and I’m just as stoked to have the chance to talk about it now as well. I want to start, though, by doing something I rarely do, and that’s ask about the album’s title. Since I don’t speak Polish, I have to rely on Google Translate, which isn’t always completely accurate. Google tells me that “szczerzenie” translates as “honestly,” which seemed like an interesting contrast with the name Kły, which translates as ‘fangs.” After the album stream ran, though, someone told me that “szczerzenie” actually translates as something closer to the sound a dog makes when it grinds its teeth. How does “szczerzenie” actually translate into English?
Kły: One of the multiple disorders that my physician has diagnosed is the acute and contagious polisemantica preacox, which got spread to other two members of Kły. Its main symptoms include the compulsive blurring of any definite meanings and an unceasing drive to combine such mixtures into one polysemantic symbol. You can see it in distinguished letter “ł” that in fact is not a letter at all. And you can observe it, too, in case of “Szczerzenie” title. Yep, it means “grinning,” but also hints at “acting honestly” and has contrary sense, too – if you divide the word into “szczerze nie” – you get the meaning: “honestly, no.” These are the three main meanings out of several more packed into this title. Each meaning is the name of each of Kły’s members. I am “Grinning,” my Brother is “Acting Honestly,” and another Brother is “Honestly–No.”
IMV: So…now that we have that out of the way, Szczerzenie has been out for right around two months now. What’s the reaction been like thus far? Have you done much gigging behind it since it’s been out? Is Kły the sort of band that even plays live?
K: We are still alive, so yes – we do play live, but for ourselves solely. But I assume you ask about entertaining a group of other people in exchange for money. Nope, we do not do that. Maybe in some distant future, but then we would like to do it as a sort of theater-like mysterium and to organize it in cooperation with the other people involved, without any financial advantage on each side. Since I read Freud’s, Le Bon’s and others’ studies on the “psychology of the crowd,” I understand why I avoid gatherings of more than three people so much. I avoid passive, pacified, dazed people. Instead, I prefer the companionship of active, proactive and hyperactive beings that wish to enter a constructive, creative & reciprocal state of mutual amazement. The same can be said of my Brothers in Arms, the better two-thirds of Kły.
IMV: There are quite a few things about Kły that intrigue me, the first being that you prefer to stay anonymous. In and of itself, that’s not all that unusual for a black metal band. From my experience, though, it’s usually the lo-fi, satanic/occult/ritualistic black metal bands that do the secretive, shadowy thing, and that doesn’t describe Kły at all. From what I can tell, Kły doesn’t have any sort of social media profile at all, either. What made you decide as a band to keep a lower profile?
K: Music cannot be owned. Thus, we do not claim it. We prefer to remain in the background and cultivate our roles of transparent, effective and focused tools to draw down the music into our realm. To quote Godspeed You! Black Emperor: “Lift your skinny fists like antennas to heaven.” Well, Kły is the antenna, like the one on the cover, made of hard steel, dark metal and a pinch of mountain crystal. The antenna stands on a tripod made of organic tissue stemming from the three humble bodies that decided years ago to make an oath of Brotherhood. It is the dynamics of Three that does the magic and not the separate identities of the elements building the Three. Thus, it is irrelevant to have a push on showing our identities. However, we do not focus so much on actively hiding these identities – if someone finds out our names and surnames, we would not be bothered at all. Apart from that, we are not so young and handsome anymore.
IMV: The biggest ‘mystery,’ if that’s the word I want here, about Kły is that you formed in 1997, but it took the band 20 years to release its first music – last year’s Taran-Gai demo. I don’t want to come off like I’m asking ‘what have you been doing for the last twenty years instead of releasing music?’ That being said, though, what have you been doing for the last twenty years instead of releasing music?
K: Releasing music is a very responsible act, at least for us. We did create a lot of music, some recording here and there, but apart from the session taped in 1998 (from which we took some pieces as preludes to each song on Szczerzenie), we did not have a reason to publish the rest – it was not good enough, so to speak. We are the creatures living under forest bedding, covered with last year autumn leaves. We avoid entering the taint to entertain. We prefer the intimacy of creation to the publicity of recreation. For all these years we kept it that way. The only reason we have decided now to publish Taran-Gai and Szczerzenie was the urge to ignite the spark of inspiration to the chosen one that lives somewhere on this planet. Who is the chosen one? What is the name of this unique individual? Nobody knows. But as we were obviously inspired by someone else when we were shaped and formed to become who we are now, now we hope to inspire the very best of mankind to pass the flame on. Being the part of that chain of inspiration is a rewarding feeling.
IMV: The one thing that most reviews I’ve seen (including my own) of Szczerzenie have mentioned is how much variety there is from one song to the next on the album. What’s your songwriting process like? Since I don’t know if Kły is a full band or a solo project, this feels like a slightly awkward question to ask, but does one individual write most of the music, or is it more of a collaborative effort? Does Kły jam things out in the rehearsal room?
K: It rolls like a rolling stone… Indeed, we do it using the Rolling Stones method – we only jam and only use what comes out of us when we are playing all day in our cellar (yes, we actually own a cellar from XIX c. with parts of bricks falling off bit by bit, inevitable leading to its end – one day you may hear about Kły members’ death, if the cellar finally collapses – what a wonderful and cult-provoking departure for a metal band that would be!). All in all, we are very fast during the act of composing. Most of the pieces on Szczerzenie were composed within 5-10 minutes each – afterwards, we just polished them.
IMV: All of your lyrics are in Polish, so once again I have to rely on the imperfect Google Translate for this question. Even so, your lyrics seem to be much more existential in nature than most black metal bands, dealing with the nature of existence, interpersonal relationships, etc. Assuming I’m reading the lyrics correctly, where did that thematic focus come from? Are there any specific sources (books. films, etc.) that drew you those themes?
K: When you feel bliss, you do not need to change anything in your life. But then again, you do not learn. You do not explore. However, when you feel pain, you are compelled to act, you are driven. Some people feel OK in this world. Others don’t. We feel as if someone has stripped us of our skin and placed us in salted water. We are hypersensitive. And this state is the core of our inspiration. The rest (general cultural outputs, our studies, external inspirations, etc.) are the derivatives stemming from this motivational core that we did not ask for, yet we need to cope with it. One obvious example of external inspiration: on Szczerzenie we cited two dialogues taken from Na Srebrnym Globie (On the Silver Globe, 1988) by the late genius Andrzej Żuławski (1940-2016).
IMV: You recorded Szczerzenie with Nihil of Polish black metal giants Massemord and Furia, and it came out via Pagan Records, which has quickly become one of the world’s premiere black metal labels. How did those relationships come about?
K: We admire Furia’s music. Years ago we lost hope in the quality of metal music – we saw mockery instead of true inner rebellion. Then in 2012 we heard of Furia and heard their music – and we were overwhelmed with the authenticity of their music. We were amazed that our own music is – mutatis mutandis – so similar to theirs – not in a way of identical tunes or 100% resemblance, but in reference to the spiritual source from which both bands draw. Of course, there are plenty of differences, but we just BELIEVE in what Nihil, Sars, Namtar (and Voldtekt/Artur) propose in their music. When it came time to mix and master the Taran-Gai demo, we decided to use the good-old-method of sympathetic magic (following Frazer’s definition) – if we like something, there are chances our output might be liked back. We got instantly tuned-in and realized that we understand each other very well. There is an utmost trust in our cooperation with Nihil. That is why he supervised the recording of Szczerzenieand hopefully will oversee the future outputs.
IMV: I’m very intrigued by the cover art to Szczerzenie. What is that a picture of? It looks a bit like a radio tower. How closely did you work with the artist on the cover concept?
K: As mentioned, this is the radio-TV antenna built on top of Kłysa Góra (originally, Łysa Góra), “The Bald Mountain,” one of the most recognized places in our mountain range where we grew up. This mountain is known in our circles for its unique energies. It used to be and still is the place where people who work according to para-shamanic methods gather frequently. We took the picture.
IMV: What does the rest of 2018 look like for Kły? Are there any touring or recording plans in the near future?
K: Yeah, we are touring all the time – from hippocampus to amygdala, then series of shows at neocortex and some off-road festivals in limbic systems. Lately some tours involved temporal lobe area with several self-induced epileptic gigs and open-air hyperventilation. Apart from that, we remain focused, in a meditative state of mind, composing new songs. The last one we composed just few days ago, during the new moon, June 13th2018.
IMV: Thanks again for being willing to answer a few questions. I like to leave the final word to the artists. Anything else you’d like to add?
K: Thank you for your attention. You ask for the final word. Do you know that if you change the order of letters in “final word” you will get “dwor nifla,” which phonetically is a bit similar to “wonderful speech” in the language that preceded the Babel tower collapse?