Metal fans seem to like it when things come in fours. See: the seemingly endless debates about what the Big Fours of…whatever. In that spirit, a case could certainly be made that Iceland would be the fourth country in any sort of ‘Big Four Nordic Black Metal Countries,’ but that’s been a more recent development. When the second wave first exploded, there were really only three: Norway, Sweden, and Finland. And of those three, Finland has always seemed like something of an outlier.
I think there are a couple of reasons for this. First, I don’t think Finnish black has that same sort of instantly recognizable sound as their Norwegian or Swedish counterparts. Frankly, I think I hear more about Finnish doom these days than I do black metal. The closest Finlad likely come to having a ‘sound’ is the bestial black metal style of bands like Beherit and Archgoat. However, it could also be argued that the sound likely originated in Canada with Blasphemy, and that it’s now more closely associated with the thriving South American war metal scene. Aside from that, the rest of the better known Finnish bands are tough to pigeonhole. Impaled Nazarene have always pretty much done their own thing. Behexen, Baptism, Horna, and Sargeist share some stylistic similarities and have traded members over the years. Then there’s that small clutch of sketch bands that everyone seems to know about, but no one admits to listening to…
That being said, there’s something stirring in the Finnish black metal underground. The first clue came back in January, when Vargrav’s stunning debut Netherstorm came howling down from the freezing north with the same sort of furious majesty as early Emperor. Clue number two: Mørketida, who will make their full-length debut with Panphage Mysticism on August 17. Even though I wouldn’t necessarily call the style of black metal that Nagafir Devraha (drums) and Sol Schwarz (guitars) play either primitive or overtly second wave, there’s still something at the heart of their music that comes from an earlier time and place. Perhaps it’s the slower tempos, or the spectral organ that wafts through many of the album’s songs. It could be the wind-chapped guitar tone. Or the vocals, which sound more like a Magus intoning Thelemic ritual chants.
Whatever the reason, Panphage Mysticism is another remarkably strong Finnish debut, and we have the pleasure of streaming it in full here today at the Vault ahead of its August 17 release here in the US via Werewolf Records/Hell’s Headbangers (preorder here). Check it out, along with my interview with the band, below.
Indy Metal Vault: Hey – so first off, thanks for the interview. I’ve been spending a lot of time with Panphage Mysticism over the last couple of weeks, and I find myself utterly transfixed every time I listen to it. If I’m not mistaken, Mørketida translates into English as either ‘polar night’ or ‘winter darkness,’ which happens in northern Finland between November and January, when the sun never rises above the horizon – essentially two solid months of night at the beginning of winter. I know you’re from Laitila, which is in the southwestern region of Finland, but have either of you spent time in the north during the polar night? Is that particular sort of darkness something you try to draw from and incorporate into your approach to black metal?
Mørketida: Avé! That is correct. In Finland this phenomenon is known as kaamos. Unfortunately, I have not been able to experience that glorious period since I live too far south. But you are absolutely right about the reason how and why the name was chosen, it describes our music pretty well. At least for us, darkness is something much more than just a natural phenomenon or lack of light. It’s a state of mind, a bottomless pit. So fascinating and beautiful, isn’t it?
IMV: If your Metal Archives page is accurate (which isn’t always the case), Mørketida released an instrumental rehearsal demo in February of 2012, which is the same year your previous band Evil Rites split up, and then nothing else until Panphage Mysticism. Was Mørketida very active during that span? Were you primarily working on songwriting in those years in between? I did notice that a song called “Invoking the Seventh Moon” appears both on Panphage Mysticism and the Rehearsal 19.02.2012 demo, but I’ve not been able to find that demo anywhere online to listen to it. Assuming it’s the same song, how much did it change between the two recordings? Are there any riffs from the other songs that made their way onto Panphage Mysticism in any form?
M: During the time between 2012 and 2014 we played quite a lot. I guess we did at least four rehearsal tapes. Only one of them was shared, and maybe 20 copes or fewer were made? This particular rehearsal tape is the one you are talking about. It includes the songs “Invoking the Seventh Moon” and “Through the Ritual of the Mysteries,” which is now known as “Panphage Mysticism.” These two songs made it to the final version of the album without any re-writing anything. Many of the original songs were totally rejected or kept as incomplete versions for future use. Although there was quite a long time between these two releases, we have more or less been active, but it depends on so many things.
IMV: One of the things I think I appreciate the most about Panphage Mysticism is how organic it sounds. Maybe it’s because most of the riffs are in the mid-tempo range, but there’s something very comfortable and loose in the performances on the album – it sounds like two musicians in a room together playing no-bullshit black metal. What was your recording process like? Did you do it yourselves, or did you actually go into a studio to record it? How much of the instrumental tracks did you record together live?
M: There were only three of us: the band and our producer. Considering all the circumstances, the album does have quite a unique soundscape. At that time, regarding all the equipment, the sound was “the best you can do in the rehearsal place.” Making this album was maybe a little too long of a process, and we had plenty of time to write many new songs to save for future usage. There were many problems, one after the other. Fortunately, we are quite satisfied with the final result.
IMV: I’m curious about your lyrical themes, particularly in terms of the concept of ‘panphage.’ I’m familiar with the term, primarily because of the Swedish black metal band of the same name. I know it comes from Thelemic mysticism, and that the ‘pan-‘ part refers to Pan, the Greek god of nature and lust, and that it roughly translates as ‘all-devouring.’ How does that particular concept influence your music and/or lyrics?
M: Panphage Mysticism was chosen as the main theme because the general atmosphere is so eerie and mystical. As you know, writing and reading lyrics are very different things, and that no one can ever feel or understand things precisely the same way as the individual songwriter. That is the key, the power of themes such as all-devouring blackness, death, and theistic forms of worship. There must be a magical atmosphere to maximize experiences. That is what Panphage Mysticismis about! As for the Swedish band…I must confess that all I know about it is the name. I’m lazy when it comes to listening to any new bands. These days listening black metal does not satisfy me as much as composing/playing it.
IMV: The cover image for Panphage Mysticism is really unsettling. Who was the artist? How closely did you work with the artist on the concept for the art?
M: The release of Panphage Mysticismwas delayed for at least a year, mainly because of problems with drawing the cover art. Two different artists had promised to draw it for me. Neither of them could finish it after months of waiting. As the final result, all they gave me were excuses. After those episodes, Werwolf was the one who recommended that specific photo, and we decided to use it. So we were not working so closely with the photographer. Yet still, it’s better than I thought it would be.
IMV: I took at look at Mørketida’s Facebook page, and while there’s not a whole lot on it, I did see that you do play live. Do you play out a lot, or just the occasional festival? Also: Metal Archives only lists two members in the band, but there were three on stage in the live video on your profile and three in your promo pictures. Is that third individual a live vocalist, or a full member of the band?
M: For now, there are only two of us officially. On the future releases, there will be more musicians (as full members or not). The third person in the promo pictures is our producer and solo expert. His identity will remain secret by his own request. After Panphage Mysticism was recorded, we decided to use a session/live drummer, the same guy at the live show in Estonia. There are a lot of very talented musicians around us. But they already have their own bands and hurries. Using session members makes things so much simpler. So yes, we do play live shows if there are any musicians available for that moment.
IMV: Okay, I saved this question for last because it’s a bit uncomfortable. Right or wrong, the Finnish black metal scene has a bit of a reputation for having NSBM bands. I don’t see anything in Mørketida’s lyrics or artwork that would make me conclude that you’re a band with NS sympathies. However, your Finnish label Werewolf Records is often associated with NSBM because of certain bands on their roster and the individual who runs it. Here’s my question: how prevalent is NS in European black metal? Is it actually a major issue, or something largely imagined (mostly by Americans, I’ve noticed)? And if it is widespread, 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?
M: NS influences have been a big part of black metal since the very beginning of the second wave. In Europe, nationalism, socialism, and national romanticism have become bigger in the past few years for many reasons. Is this a good or bad thing? We simply don’t care. There are no political aspects in our music, this should be clear already. The world itself is too big and mysterious a place for such nonsense as politics. We had a deal with Werewolf Records already back in 2010 with our old band Evil Rites. After that band split up, Werewolf Records just seemed like a natural selection for Mørketida.
IMV: Thanks again for being willing to answer a few questions. I like to leave the final word the artists – anything else you’d like to add?
M: Thanks to you! Mørketida’s second release has already been successfully recorded successfully! It contains etheric beauty with a touch of destructive aggression. It will be far different compared to Panphage Mysticism. Beware!