There’s a reason that the forest has been such an enduring piece of black metal imagery. On a metaphorical level, it has virtually as many potential meanings as their are wanderers through the sylvan realm. From the spiritual to the aesthetic, from April’s new shoots of green to December’s deadfall and decay – it’s darkness and mystery, it’s beauty and serenity.
Based on the cover art for the self-titled debut from Oregon-based black metal trio Eosphoros, their forest is a place of solitude, but don’t take that to mean they take the sort of folk-influenced or ‘Cascadian’ approach a lot of the PNW black metal bands favor. Instead, their music is raw but melodic, ferocious but not lacking in nuance. It’s also probably the best pure black metal album I’ve heard come out of that region in a very long time.
Eosphoros will be available on October 12 from Iron Bonehead (find their webstore here), but we’re very pleased to be streaming in its entirety today at the Vault. I also had the opportunity to chat with guitarist/vocalist JG and bassist AD about their writing and recording process, the lyrical themes on the album, and, of course, the particular energy of the PDX landscape.
Indy Metal Vault: Hey – for starters, thanks for the interview. I’m familiar with most of the bands that the three members of Eosphoros were in previously – Shrine of the Serpent, Triumvir Foul, and Shroud of the Heretic – and none of them really gave even a hint as to the blisteringly cold, second wave-inspired fury of your self-titled debut. For that reason, I particularly appreciate the fact that you don’t fuck around with any sort of ambient intro track or slow build into opener “Promethean Fire.” There’s less than a second of feedback, and then full-on aggression. Did you have that in mind at all when you were sequencing the album? Like…to hell with easing listeners into things – let’s aim for maximum damage from the word go?
JG: “Promethean Fire” was the first song that I wrote after leaving my previous band and coming up with the idea for Eosphoros. Lyrically and sonically, it acts as an anthem for the band. It was the first track on our demo as well. The track list of the record happened naturally without much discussion; as a matter of fact, I believe the songs are ordered chronologically in terms of when they were written (“Solitude” aside).
AD: I joined shortly after the songs from the demo were written. The remaining songs were written quickly and with purpose. The sequencing feels like it presented itself.
IMV: Of course, Eosphoros is actually far more nuanced than the album’s opening salvo might lead one to expect. I almost never ask the influences question because everyone does, but since I’ve not been able to find any other interviews with the band online, I hope you’ll indulge me a variation on the influences question. Since none of you came to Eosphoros from black metal bands, what were some of the common influences you brought into the band?
JG: Of the music that directly inspires me, I’d have to name some typical classics like Nattens Madrigal,Transilvanian Hunger, and Høstmørke.Lots of contemporary stuff as well: Panphage, Arckanum, Runespell, Wulkanaz (and related projects), and most of the Kuunpalvelus roster. I’m really drawn to the raw but melodic style that comes out of Finland (i.e. the first Goatmoon record, and anything that sounds like it).
AD: In addition to the above mentioned, I am also a giant nostalgic and listen to stuff from yesteryear more and more. A lot of my favorites are in the catalogues of Head Not Found, early Moribund, Tesco, and Old Europa. Temple Nightside covering Arcana sums up my influences best.
IMV: As much as I’ve written about black metal bands from the PDX, Eosphoros may the first one that I‘ve had the opportunity to interview. So let me ask this, because it’s something I’ve long wondered about: there seems to be a particular sort of esoteric energy coming out of that part of the US that certain bands seem to be able to tap into, and you’re very clearly one of those bands. Since it’s something esoteric, it’s obviously going to be difficult to put into words. That being said, are you willing to try to describe the connection between Eosphoros and the PDX landscapes?
JG: “Difficult to put into words” is right. I spent a lot of time in the woods of NE Oregon as a kid, and it had a deep impact on me. There’s a sense of individualism and wildness in the Pacific Northwest that you don’t find many other places. Within the city of Portland alone there’s a 5,100-acre forest. Beyond that there are still places that truly feel like wilderness, and that’s rarer all the time. Aldo Leopold was writing about the death of wilderness in the 1940s, and urbanization has increased exponentially since then. Eosphoros is directly influenced by the untamed PNW wilderness. In terms of where other bands in the area draw their influence, we aren’t really interested.
AD: There is no connection or inspiration from the city of Portland to music for me. There is a wealth of good music in the city of Portland, but there are far more directionless people in my way. I am a recluse who avoids shows but drinks too much alcohol at them as a coping mechanism. The proximity to nature is why people are drawn to cities in the northwest. I don’t pretend to be ‘of the forest’ but have had many memorable outdoor experiences and journeys that affect me creatively, and strive to make time for more. Being surrounded by the indescribable power of nature is humbling, and creates a sense of exaltation.
IMV: Since all the members of Eosphoros are multi-instrumentalists, and it looks like all of you have played guitar in at least one previous band, I’m curious as to how your songwriting process works. Do you have clearly defined roles in that respect? Or are you more concerned with the end product, regardless of who contributed what?
JG: It’s a combination of solo effort and group collaboration. I come up with most of the individual riffs on my own, and bring them to the band, where we start putting things together. In that way, the songs are composed in a rehearsal setting. They usually start off pretty basic and skeletal, and as we play them over and over, bass lines become complimentary to guitar riffs and often lead melodies; the drum fills and patterns that sound best will start to stick; eventually the songs will mature. Nothing is ever really “finished” until it’s on tape.
AD: I am a guitar player that has become a bass player. There is more of a fulfillment for me in playing independent runs and rhythms that support the song and contribute to the aura of the music, without being the focal tone / voice. JG is the ovule of the music and lyrics, MK and I contribute towards him. With all of us being guitar players, the writing process is very conjunctive; ideas and arrangements are quickly absorbed or discarded. I know what my place is, and each of us understand why we are creating black metal and for whom.
IMV: I’d ordinarily ask a question about lyrical themes, but that answer to that question seems to already be answered by the band’s name: Eosphoros, or Εωσφοροςin the original Greek, translates as ‘Lucifer.’ However, there are many varieties of Luciferianism – theistic, LaVeyan, gnostic, etc. In an interested listener asked you for recommendations as to what to read in order to better understand where your approach to the subject, what might you recommend and why?
JG: I would emphatically recommend Lucifer: Princepsby Peter Grey to anyone who is interested in a deeper understanding. It’s an academic read, but it’s free from a lot of the reactionary trappings and unnecessary “edginess” that typically plagues these types of subjects. Almost anything that I have to say about the concept of Lucifer is said better and with more authority by the author. Don’t let the biblical references deter you either, because that’s essentially the source material for everything we know relating to Lucifer. Don’t misunderstand me: Abrahamic monotheism is poison, but the scriptures (canon and non-canon) are the only historical source we have for these ideas.
On a broader level, I’m interested in the relationship between Gnosticism and pantheism; how the anti-materialist worldview of the Gnostic can be reconciled with the pantheist’s deification of existence itself.
IMV: Given both where you’re from and how great the album sounds from a production standpoint, I was expecting to look at the recording credits and see some familiar names in terms of producers and/or studios. Instead, the only information I’ve been able to find is that it was recorded and mixed at Sacred Atavism. Since I’ve been able to find absolutely nothing with that name, I can’t help but wonder – is that your own studio and/or recording space? And regardless of whether it is or not, what was the recording process like for the album? Did you work with an outside producer or send it off for mastering, or are you more of a DIY kind of band?
JG: First off, thank you for the compliment. Production is something that can destroy an otherwise great album. High budget, hi-fi black metal sounds ridiculous to me. My philosophy is that it’s the audio engineer’s job to basically remain unseen and unheard. A recording should sound like an honest representation of the musicians.
Sacred Atavism is the name I (finally) gave to my own process of self-recording and producing. We did the entire record with two mics in our practice space and added second guitar and vocals after the fact. I did all the mixing with guidance from AD and MK, and I think we did a pretty good job of capturing the right level of filth and grime. In that regard, we do try to keep things as DIY as possible. VK of Vassafor did the mastering, because he does a good job, and because mastering for CD and LP sounds like a nightmare to me (I’m not a professional audio engineer).
AD: The songs were performed swiftly within a few takes. Recording it ourselves and not having set studio dates or real recording gear allowed us time absorb the material as well as distancing and diverting the personal focus from the instrument to the song specific. There were a few different mixes that didn’t quite capture the feel, so this extra time and patience afforded the record we wanted.
IMV: The topic of gear tends to fascinate me, and since the album really sounds fantastic I’m going to guess that you’re somewhat particular in terms of your setups. What did your studio rigs look like?
JG: My setup is pretty basic. I run a Schecter Blackjack ATX V-1 through an EHX Metal Muff and Cathedral reverb, into a 100w Mesa Boogie SOB (which is basically just a Mark I reissue from the 90’s). There’s an ‘infinity’ switch on the Cathedral, which allows us to do stuff like the slow part in “Promethean Fire” live with only one guitarist. I’m not really a gear guy though – I’ll play whatever feels and sounds right.
AD: I am very much a gear guy, and only want to steal the aesthetic of early Slayer and W.A.S.P. I play B.C Rich bass(es) through an ODB-3 into a Sunn 300T. There is no better bass amplifier, and there is no need for additional effects.
IMV: The cover art to Eosphoros is both really evocative and completely abstract. It’s familiar, but I’m not sure how much it actually reveals. Who was the cover artist? How closely did you work with that artist on the concept for the art?
JG: There’s actually a long story here, but the short version is that we commissioned the painting from Nightjar/Adam Burke. He’s a local artist, which was important to us, given that the record is heavily influenced by the Pacific Northwest geography. We gave him our idea for the art (basically a deep PNW forest, deer skeleton, and the two wolves that appear on the back cover) and he did a fantastic job of it.
AD: I think my ask to the artist was ‘please do something like Hvis Lyset Tar Oss without people or evidence of human intrusion of the forest.’ Adam Burke is an amazing artist, and we are grateful for his contribution.
IMV: So what’s next for Eosphoros after the album drops? Any touring plans in your near future?
JG: No tour plans have been arranged but it’s something that we’ve discussed. I’m sure it will happen eventually, but it doesn’t feel like the right time now. We’ve written some new songs and are working on more, and the goal is to release an EP and a split with another band I’ve been in contact with.
IMV: Thanks again for being willing to answer a few questions. I like to leave the final word to the artist – anything else you’d like to add?
JG: Thank you for the support!
AD: Fuck off to all scene SJWs and political ‘metal heads.’ You will never make a difference.