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Album Premiere + Interview: Tunjum – Deidades del inframundo

A decade after their inception, Peruvian pagan death metallers Tunjum is finally set to release their debut full-length Deidades del inframundo (Deities of the Underworld), and if you’re a fan of all things bestial and barbaric and somehow aren’t yet excited about this record…well, let’s just go ahead fix that now.

Tunjum originally formed as an all-female trio in 2007. Three demos, one EP, and split later, only drummer/vocalist Kultarr remains from that initial lineup. She’s joined on Deidades del inframundo by Grave Desecration’s Raj on guitars/bass and Putrid guitarist Evil Avatar, and the results are damn near lethal: primitive, evil-sounding riffs, pummeling drums, and vocals straight from the depths of Hell…

Actually, Hell probably isn’t the word I want here. Tunjum’s lyrical themes focus on the ancient Moche culture. Based in the Trujillo area of northern Peru between roughly 100-700 AD, Moche culture was a bloody one: blood sacrifices, beheadings, cleansing blood rituals. In fact, the band’s name is the Moche verb for both ‘killing.’ and ‘dying,’ and that lust for blood and war is woven into the very fabric of the band’s sound. If you’re a fan of Autopsy, Massacre, early Death, or Asphyx, get on this now.

Deidades del inframundo will be available on July 23 from Dunkelheit Produktionen on July 23 (preorder here), but you can hear the whole thing right now, exclusively at the Vault. One warning, though: careful not to give in to the bloodlust after you hit play. Or at least keep it at bay for long enough to read my interview with Kultarr below.

Indy Metal Vault: Hey, so thanks for agreeing to an interview. Deidades del inframundo has been a long time coming – eleven years and a couple of lineup changes since Tunjum originally formed, and seven years after the release of your first demo. How does it feel to have your first-full length finished and on the verge of being released by Dunkelheit Produktionen?

Kultarr: I feel a lot of satisfaction with this impeccable production, which has no other intention but to follow the old traditions musically and conceptually. I thought it was great to work with this label, because this is a serious and very professional label that has worked with interesting bands like Kaphala, Goatblood, Grimoire de Occulte, Nacht, etc. Bernd is a respectable and staid person, and I thank DUNKELHEIT PRODUKTIONEN for their interest and great support of my band.

IMV: Tunjum has a fairly interesting history. When you first got together, you were an all-female trio, then a female duo. Now it’s you and two new members—Evil Avatar and Saj—who are both male. I generally avoid asking these sorts of questions, but I know considerably less about the Peruvian metal scene than I do those in Colombia, Chile, and Brazil – honestly, I think Anal Vomit may be the only other band from Peru I can name off the top of my head. How common are all-female metal bands in Peru? Are there a lot of women in Peru who play extreme metal in general, or was Tunjum breaking new ground in your early days? Was that something you were even thinking about when putting together that original lineup?

K: In Peru, there are no women in the metal scene, except a few women who are honorable exceptions that do show passion and commitment. There were, there are, and there will always be very few, and it will always be much less when we compare with males. There are not really many female bands, only some exceptions, but mostly they formed mixed bands. Most of the women I know in the underground do not take this seriously. They do not really feel it, and although some of them want to make us believe otherwise, there are few female bangers who fight, persevere, and endure. On the other hand, when Jumissak and I founded the band, we were motivated to do Death Metal, we were involved in studies on pagan death-based rituals of worship, symbolism, and Moche mythology, where there is a dense load of chaos, darkness and violence, a theme that fits well in Death Metal. So we formed Tunjum to capture this feeling. Then came the idea of forming a female band to support women, so that we women would have more presence and power in the underground. Unfortunately, it is almost impossible to find ladies who take this seriously.

Regarding the underground scene in my country, this began in the eighties with bands like Hadez, Mortem, and Curriculum Mortis. The scene is still active, and current bands that we can highlight are Grave Desecration (I find all of their albums interesting), Putrid, Diabolous666, Sexorcist, Demoniac Slaughter, Vlad, Evil Spectrum, Profaner, Blasphemous Division, Yana Raymi, Goat Semen, and many others. We can also highlight excellent fanzines like Crypts of Eternity, Soulgrinder, Sadogoat Perversion, Demon Tales, Infinite Terror, Testament, Headbanger, Aquelarre, Psicoterror.

IMV: You handle both drums and vocals in Tunjum, though that wasn’t always the case. Off the top of my head, I can’t think of very many metal bands where the drummer is also the primary vocalist: Autopsy, Profanatica, Absu, and that’s about it. What made you decide to take over vocal duties instead of recruiting someone else after original vocalist/bassist Jumissak left the band?

K: I recruited other ladies but they all left. They could not rehearse anymore because of work or family reasons. Finally I decided to take the vocals because I do the lyrics and I make sure they fit into the music to my liking and criteria.

IMV: Musically, Deidades del inframundo sounds firmly rooted in that late 80s/early 90s death metal sound, particularly Massacre and Autopsy. I’ve gone back and listened to some of the early demos, and it seems like that’s been Tunjum’s sound at least as far back as the Sagradotiempo de caosEP, which is the earliest of your recordings that I was able to find online. However, that EP came out seven years into the band’s existence. When you first formed the band, was that the style you were going for, or did you just develop in that direction naturally?

K: We have always been influenced by dark bands, dense and at the same time raw / brutal. Bands like Death (USA), Massacre (Col), Derkéta (USA), Autopsy (USA), Incantation (USA), Funebre (Fin), Entombed (Swe), Crematory (Swe), with a mid-tempo, heavy sound. On Sagrado tiempo de caosthe sound was appropriate for a demo, but now with Deidades del Inframundothe sound is strengthened. It is more devastating and rewarding, but always retains the same original style.

IMV: Lyrically, Tunjum draws inspiration from ancient Moche culture and language. In fact, if I understand it correctly the word ‘tunjum’ is a verb that means both ‘killing’ and ‘dying.’ I’ve done a bit of research online about the Moche, so I know they were a pre-1000 AD Northern Peruvian culture that seems to have some similarities with several other Central/South American indigenous cultures. For those (like myself) who aren’t all that familiar with Moche culture, are there any sources you’d recommend in order to learn more about them?

K: There are different sources but these are the most varied in information in my opinion. These are some books and essays I would recommend:

Jurgen Golte – “Moche. Cosmología y Sociedad. Una interpretación iconográfica”
Luis Jaime Castillo Butters – Personajes míticos, escenas y narraciones en la iconografía Mochica
Anne Marie Hocquenghem – Iconografía Mochica
Krzysztof Makowski – “La figura del oficiante en la iconografía Mochica: ¿shamán o sacerdote?” and “La Deidad suprema en la   iconografía Mochica: ¿cómo definirla?”

 IMV: What was the songwriting process like for Deidades del inframundo? I notice that a couple of the songs on the album—“Demonios de la tierra” in particular, which has appeared on several previous releases, but also “La venganza de la bestia lunar” and “Retorno al origen”—date back to 2014. Was the rest of the album written by the band’s current lineup?

K: For this album we used old songs with a better recording and musical elaboration. The new songs were based on riffs that we had saved years ago and that were now used for the album since they had never been used. The new lineup is made up of musicians with a lot of experience and knowledge. Therefore, they understand what I want to do without difficulty

IMV: Where did you record Deidades del inframundo? I see in the album credits that Camilo Uriarte (who is from Peru) and Mario Dahmen (who is German) recorded and mixed/mastered the album respectively. Did you record it in Peru, or did you travel to Europe to work on it?

K: We recorded in ECO Studio with Camilo Uriarte but the mixing and Mario Dahmen, who constantly sent me different tracks following my instructions until I was satisfied with the final result, did mastering in Germany at Liquid Aether Audio. With Mario and with Camilo, there was always good coordination and seriousness. They are professionals.

IMV: Alan Corpse’s cover art for Deidades del inframundo is fucking badass. How closely did you work with him on the cover concept? It really seems to draw inspiration from the little bit I’ve read about the Moche and human sacrifice.

K: I worked with him, giving him recommendations and ideas. Alan understood what I wanted and he performed it. He is a professional artist who knows how to project the ideas. Regarding the cover, it is inspired by Moche motifs, representing the sacrificed warriors of the underworld (piled up bodies) and the ritual sacrifice of the prisoners to the main deities of the night, the female deity and the supernatural owl. The latter two do not appear on the cover, but in the lyrics. The heads impaled on stakes are sacrifices to the nocturnal demons, but the main figure is Aiapaec, the divinity of the Milky Way, who is carrying the two-headed serpent that separates the world from the infernal night. It is the serpent that gives entrance to the kingdom of the dead.

What are your plans after Deidades del inframundo comes out? Have you done much touring outside of Peru?

K: I would like to play in other countries. I like to personally know what the bands and metalheads are like, what they have to offer as a musical and conceptual scene, but at the moment I do not have future plans to tour. My priorities are to record and to try to leave a legacy that will in some way help to keep groups in future generations in creating art and concepts around their cultural identity.

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

K: Thanks brother for the interview and your support!! Infernal Hails to you!!!!!

To all the metal maniacs, show your true identity by supporting the underground!

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