Dungeon synth fans may already be familiar with the name The Path of IX, though I’m guessing that (like me), they may be at something of a loss in terms of what to call it. Ordinarily, I’d refer to it as a collective, especially given the interrelated nature of its three main projects: dungeon synth project Infernum, the dark ambient of Secret of the Forest, and Dekagram‘s raw black metal. However, unlike most collectives, all three of the aforementioned projects are the work of a single, mysterious Norwegian multi-instrumentalist who goes by the name of IX. One-man bands? Sure – you see those all the time in these genres. A one-man collective, though?
Regardless of what you want to call it, there’s no question that The Path of IX has made its presence felt here in 2018, starting back in January when Infernum’s Livael-Itu caught the attention of the dungeon synth crowd. Slightly over a month later, Secret of the Forest made its debut with The Amorphous Concept Of Nature’s Essence. On October 12 it will be Dekagram’s turn, when Grey Matter Noise Productions will release the third installment of the ongoing narrative of an unnamed protagonist’s (IX himself?) travels through the hellish landscapes of the Realm of Deapth, May Flights of Devils Guide You Home, a one song, 22-minute masterpiece of esoteric melodicism and raw atmospherics.
We’re thrilled to be premiering excerpts from May Flights of Devils Guide You Home here today at the Vault, and even though it’s only a small taste of what the record has in store, it should be more than enough to convince you that it’s a must own. Fair warning, though – you don’t want to sleep on preorders. Grey Matter Noise is only releasing a single run of 50 limited-edition tapes, which will come in a black velvet pouch with a white purification candle for meditation. Snag one here, and then check out both our exclusive excerpts from the record, as well as my exclusive, in-depth conversation with IX about all of his interrelated projects.
Indy Metal Vault: So first off – thank you for the interview. Like a lot of people who listen to dungeon synth, I found myself thoroughly entranced by Infernum’s Livael-Itu earlier this year. However, I somehow missed the fact that Infernum is actually just one of an interconnected series of projects, which also includes dark ambient project Secret of the Forest and raw black metal project Dekagram. So I’m excited to have the opportunity to talk about it. Let me begin with the relatively obvious question: since there’s a common narrative (which I’ll ask about later) running through all of your projects, why release them all under different names? To use a bad analogy, it reminds me a bit of a comic book crossover event where readers have to buy multiple titles to get the whole story.
IX: Haha, that’s not too bad a take on it actually. I choose to view the narrative more like a river, flowing from the peak of a mountain down towards the sea. Perhaps the river breaks off into multiple streams here and there…but the water begins and will eventually end in the same place, all together. Remember, the narrative is not so much a story as it is a journey – even I do not know quite where it will lead.
To answer your question, each project’s intention and theme is quite different from one another. The energy used to create this music comes from deep within my soul. Imagine the river I mentioned and the three musical projects as three separate streams protruding from a single nexus point. Each stream takes a different path as it moves down the mountain, and through their slight differences they each present themselves in different ways, with different energies and different stories to be told. Each stream has a well of energy deep inside of me, just waiting to be tapped. When the time is right, I reach down inside and bring back some water from the well. It’s almost as if there are certain times when wells need to be tapped before they overflow…or perhaps during certain seasons, the minerals in one stream are more beneficial to the soul than another. But the water all flows from the same nexus point and this is what keeps them cohesive and yet separate.
IMV: What’s perhaps more notable than the fact that you’ve spread this narrative over three projects is the fact that all three projects truly do sound different from each other. Infernum has an old-school DS sound; Secret of the Forest almost has more of a cinematic feel with its use of ambient field recordings, and incorporates more dark ambient elements; and Dekagram is 100% black metal. Since all three appear to be solo projects and you seem to be able to switch so effortlessly between those styles, I’m curious as to your musical background. What was your first instrument? How did you get from that first instrument to a series of solo projects?
IX: I grew up in a highly musical family. As a young boy, my father and older brother taught me how to play guitar and bass. My father would show me artists like Django Reinhardt and teach me classical runs on guitar, while my brother would show me bands like Black Flag and print me Iron Maiden tablature. At a certain age I was left to my own devices and all too quickly found myself stumbling down the rabbit hole of extreme metal. At first, it was a bit much for me. I remember stumbling onto black metal fairly young and loving the ideas but not quite understanding the intent of the musical extremity.
As a break from this, I found artists like Richie Hawtin, who opened my mind to the powers of electronic music. I fell in love with his use of minimalistic and hypnotic polyrhythms, which was something I had also begun to find quite appealing in artists such as Philip Glass and Steve Reich, who remain some of my favorite composers to date. I eventually found John Cage’s 4’33 which led me from the minimalist movement towards the avant-garde, the ambient and the droney.
After some time I found my way to dungeon synth and dark ambient artists like Northaunt, Mortiis, and Depressive Silence, whose music filled a hole inside me that I hadn’t even realized was there. And from there, it wasn’t much of a stretch back to black metal – which, to me, incorporates a lot of the elements I enjoy from the previously mentioned artists.
I see dungeon synth, dark ambient, and black metal as a cohesive unit. They each portray and invoke the same thing to me. Each one has a different way of invoking it and each one invokes a different aspect, but – like the river – it all comes from the same place.
IMV: Aside from the fact that you’re choosing to deliver this narrative via three different projects, you’ve not exactly made those projects readily available, at least in physical form. The Infernum has been available in large enough quantities that I was able to get a copy. However, Secret of the Forest’s album The Amorphous Concept Of Nature’s Essence was strictly limited to ten cassettes, and Dekagram’s May Flights of Devils Guide You Home is limited to a marginally more robust 50 copies. Why limit the physical copies that way? Is it a case of not caring whether people have your music in a physical format, or is it more that you aren’t much concerned with the idea of audience at all?
IX: It’s not that I don’t care about getting the music out to those who are interested, but rather that I’m more concerned with putting the time and energy into each physical copy so that it adequately transports the listener to the world I’m creating. I try to engage as many senses as possible while someone is listening to the music. With past releases I’ve done this by including things like incense, plant life, images and notes, etc. The more real I can make the world seem inside the head of the listener, the more powerful the energies behind the music become.
But with this comes the fact that there can’t be hundreds of copies for each release. I could always do just a few “limited edition” copies with the extra-sensory materials and sell the rest of the copies as-is….maybe if this thing ever gets popular and warrants some larger editions I’ll do something along those lines, but Infernum and Secret Of The Forest are my first ever attempts at making dungeon synth and I really didn’t know how they would be received. I’d rather have people clamoring for more than have a bunch of extra tapes lying around.
The final reason I keep these runs limited is a little more selfish. I think the limitation of most underground releases often seen in black metal, dungeon synth, and dark ambient music adds a layer of mystery to the projects – shrouding the artists from sight and keeping the art pure and undefiled – as if the art was formed from the æther itself. If these releases were readily available to all, that layer of mystery would begin to degrade over time, until all anonymity was gone. Half the fun with these projects is allowing the listener to piece the narrative together within his/her own mind. It’s a bit like forcing them to play detective if they want to grasp it all – the clues are there for those who have eyes to see and ears to hear.
IMV: Physical copies of Infernum’s Livael-Itu came with a booklet that broke that record down track-by-track and introduced the Realm of Deapth. As far as I can tell—since I didn’t end up with one of the ten copies of The Amorphous Concept Of Nature’s Essence—that’s been your only attempt to expand on the narrative running through your projects. Is there a reason why you didn’t continue trying to explain your intentions (for lack of a better way to phrase it)?
IX: I don’t think the intentions of Secret Of The Forest are that difficult to discern. All of my intentions are right there in the title. I intend to transfer the amorphous concept of nature’s essence through the medium of music – the secrets of the forest! This essence is a driving force in the Realm of Deapth, but it doesn’t directly move the “plot” forward so to speak, so there are no notes or stories to be told. And if I gave notes and told people what I was thinking when making this music, then the concept would be less amorphous and more defined, taking away from the true essence of nature – which is indeed an amorphous thing, but something we can feel and experience nonetheless.
There will be booklets and track by track breakdowns for all future Infernum releases because that project follows the narrative exclusively, but the other projects are less defined and don’t follow a concrete storyline.
IMV: Okay, I held off for as long as I possibly could, but what exactly is the narrative running through your projects? From what I’ve been able to gather (or have been directly told), Livael-Itu tells the story from the protagonist’s perspective, The Amorphous Concept Of Nature’s Essence is told from the perspective of an old hermit who helps guide the protagonist, and May Flights of Devils Guide You Home sees a future version of the protagonist act as a ‘guardian angel’ to the protagonist in the story’s present tense. Are you willing to demystify the story to this point at all? Or are you unconcerned as to whether your audience follows the story or not?
IX: You are mostly correct – the project Infernum tells the narrative from the perspective of our protagonist, and is where most of the storytelling comes into play. The name Infernum is a reference to Dante’s Inferno. The Realm of Deapth is a sort of Hell, with multiple layers and multiple facets. The narrative is about our protagonist, his inner struggle between good and evil, and his journey to find redemption in something outside of those concepts. With each temptation toward his darker half, he is led deeper and deeper into the depths of this Hell. With each stride against the temptation and toward supposed “purity,” he feels as though he loses touch with his true self, only becoming a shadow of what he could be. We all have aspects of good and evil inside of us and all feel that internal struggle – such is the human condition. But some people cannot pick a side…some people don’t feel at home in the dark or in the light. Such is the case for our protagonist, and this is where his journey begins. The journey is not an easy one, but a Path must be cleared in order for our protagonist to move forward, otherwise he will continue to move in circles.
In Livael-Itu, our protagonist succumbs to the temptations of our earthly world and is transported into the Caverns of Coppe, a dark and mysterious system of caves within the Realm of Deapth. Here, he stumbles across the force of Livael-Itu, which is loosely based on the unholy trinity in Luciferianism. Using this force to his aide, he finds his way out of the caverns and into the vast forests and murky rivers of Sisce. But is the force of Livael-Itu an ally, or yet another temptation that will eventually plunge him further into the depths of this Hell? This is where our second chapter will take place.
Secret Of The Forest is merely an outlet for the deific force of nature in Deapth (termed Monaia in reference to the Monas Heirohlyphica designed by John Dee, and the concept of the Gaian Mind) Monaia is the force of good, or light, in the Realm of Deapth. This project is not from the perspective of the old hermit you mentioned, but the hermit will lead our protagonist towards this deific force in the second chapter of Infernum. The hermit is a strict follower of Monaia and is, in a way, the opposite of Livael-Itu. Imagine one being the demon on your shoulder while the other is the angel on the opposite shoulder.
I suppose Dekagram could be seen as portraying a guardian angel of sorts…but the way I view it, Dekagram takes the trials and tribulations our protagonist goes through in Infernum and intends to relate the lessons learned. In a way, it’s almost like a journal from the protagonist’s perspective. And in doing so, I think Dekagram relates just what our protagonist is searching for – a balance between the temptations of the dark and the sterility of the light. A middle path, so to speak. This is why I have chosen to call it Dekagram – a dekagram is a ten-pointed star, which represents a balance between two opposites. Whereas Secret Of The Forest portrays the force of light in Deapth and Infernum portrays the overall narrative, Dekagram portrays a path entirely untread and hidden – one that must be carved out in order to find where it leads.
For me, these projects are a baring of my soul and each one serves a unique purpose. Infernum gives me the opportunity to view the trappings of my personal and spiritual journey from a distant perspective in order to take stock of where I am and where I’m going. Secret Of The Forest allows me to feel all of the warmth and love that this world has to offer and to hopefully offer some back. Dekagram is like a journal – it offers me a way to take note of the insights gained on my journey and to learn from my mistakes. It offers me the opportunity to carve a new path and see where it leads.
As stated earlier, I think half of the fun comes from discerning the story yourself. I chose to write about such a concept because I think it is so relatable. My primary goal is to get others to experience my music in a way that allows them to think about these topics in relation to their own life. By keeping aspects of the narrative relatively vague, I’m allowing the listener to fill in all the minor details with details from his/her own life. In doing so, they will eventually start to see themselves reflected in the protagonist and begin putting themselves in his shoes. If they can do so, they can come to any conclusion they want about the narrative – there are no wrong answers. But hopefully, this will help them start to see themselves and their human nature more clearly, as it’s already done for me.
IMV: May Flights of Devils Guide You Home is your third release of 2018. How are you able to maintain that level of productivity? Have you been sitting on some of this material for a while, or are you essentially releasing it as quickly as you can write it?
IX: I’m constantly creating in some form. If I’m not, I tend to end up getting overwhelmed and frustrated with life. The art keeps me at ease. While I work on one project, I usually have multiple others running through my head and I keep them there, ironing out the themes and visual aesthetics of each project until I end up recording something that I think matches what’s in my head.
I find myself in a near constant state of awe and inspiration at the world around me, and the art that imitates it. When I’m feeling particularly inspired, I’ll record some music that portrays what is fueling me at the moment. When this inspiration leaves, I’m not uninspired but instead inspired by something else, so I go on creating according to that inspiration. And so the cycle repeats…so you can see, it must be a near constant outpouring of my own inspiration into some medium of art. Otherwise the well will overflow!
IMV: As a follow up to that, what’s your recording process like? Do you do everything DIY, or do you actually go into a studio?
IX: I do everything by myself in my home. It is completely DIY, but over the years I’ve gathered a decent amount of gear and know-how to achieve the sounds that I’m looking for. I don’t think I’ll ever work with other people or go to a studio to record these projects – they’re much too personal and could never be properly conveyed around others.
On the bright side, this allows me to record as much as I possibly can. For me, the writing and recording process are one and the same. The way I write is very “stream-of-consciousness,” and I like to get things out quickly so I tend to record anything that comes to my head until I find something that clicks and build it out from there.
For Infernum and Secret Of The Forest, I usually write on my piano or an old 80s keyboard I found a few years back. Once I’ve got a melody or chord progression that I find evocative and fitting, I begin searching for the proper sound. For both of these projects, the tracks don’t really begin to take shape until I’ve found this sound. Infernum tends to work with a lot of strings in order to bring a neoclassical element, whereas Secret Of The Forest works more with analog synthesizers and anything sounding transcendent or otherworldly.
With Dekagram, I always start with my guitar. I try to have a few melodies or riffs in my head that I would like to incorporate, which will make building the track much easier. I record these ideas, figure out a progression from one riff to the next and go from there. I only hear the drums in my head at this point. Unlike most artists, I record drums last – after the progression of the song has been entirely mapped out. In this instance, it helps to have a sort of beginning, middle and end in mind for the track – Usually before recording, I’ll have an idea of how I want to welcome the listener into my world, where I want it to go, how I want it to get there and when the track should reach its apex. These are key elements that help to envelope the listener into a different realm.
IMV: The cover for Livael-Itu is actually an image that’s in the public domain, and that I’ve seen adorn album covers before. This may seem like a variation on a previous theme, but how important is to you that listeners make those connections?
IX: Making these connections is of the utmost importance. I have various musical projects aside from what I consider “The Path of IX” (which is anything and everything that involves the Realm of Deapth), and I like to drop hints in my releases as to which projects involve me. I mentioned previously forcing the listener to play detective a little bit and this is precisely what I mean. You don’t have to play detective to enjoy the music, but some of my favorite memories when finding new music (especially when I was just dipping my feet into the waters of black metal and dungeon synth) are those of trawling online forums reading theories about bands I liked and artists that were involved with them. Trying to find out who worked with who and how they were connected, etc. etc. One of my major goals with these projects is to hopefully create a similar experience for others. It really empowers the music and can even empower the listener to pay more attention to the ideas behind the music.
IMV: Is Dekagram the last perspective you’re going to try to tell this story from, or should listeners be on the lookout for even more future projects?
IX: I’m considering involving some sort of black ambient/death industrial project into The Path of IX to sort of round out the perspectives. This way we will have the cohesive narrative telling the battle between light and dark (Infernum), the force of light (Secret Of The Forest), the force of darkness (potential new project) and the balance between the two (Dekagram). The more I think about this idea, the more I like it and think that it will inevitably happen sooner or later. The number 4 is known in numerology for wholeness and completion, so I think that these four projects will serve adequately for this concept.
IMV: Thanks again for being willing to answer a few questions. I like to leave the final word to the artists – anything else you want to add?
IX: I’ve wanted to release a follow up to Infernum’s Livael-Itu for quite some time. I promised that it would be released a while back, and I realize now that that was a little presumptuous. I just want people to keep in mind that Infernum is a project that is dedicated to chronicling the journey through Deapth, and I do not base these stories upon pure fantasy – I must experience them before I can put them to music. With that said, I expect the follow up to be released sometime in early 2019.
A follow up to The Amorphous Concept Of Nature’s Essence by Secret Of The Forest is also on it’s way. I am beginning the recording process right now. You can expect an even more stripped down and minimal sound, with an emphasis on field recordings and lowercase sound. I really want to bridge the boundaries between dungeon synth and the avant-garde with this project.
Lastly, a follow up to May Flights Of Devil’s Guide You Home is already completed. This will likely manifest in the form of a 12” split with long-time friend Sergiy Fjordsson, who is behind the Ukrainian black metal project Moloch. The track is titled “Ever Towards The Light, By Way Of Shadow Mastery” and comes in at just under 22 minutes.
Thank you for enduring my long-winded answers – I felt as though I needed to give some sort of explanation for this art I’ve created (as you mentioned, keeping up with all of these projects can be a lot), and I hope my answers will suffice for the time being.