As our loyal Vault Hunters are already well aware, I write about a fuckton of black metal. Believe it or not, I listen to even more of it that I don’t write about in what passes for my spare time. So maybe I’m feeling a bit emboldened this evening, but based on what I’ve been listening to in 2018, I’m going to put on my prognosticator’s hat for a minute: we’re about to see a major shift in the international landscape of black metal. Thanks to the Aldebaran Circle, Portugal is as hot as ever, but as some of the other international scenes start to plateau there are two countries poised to step in and fill that void – Switzerland and the Helvetic Underground Committee (Ungfell, Dakhma, Lykhaeon, Death. Void. Terror.), and The Netherlands with Haeresis Noviomagi (Iskandr, Solar Temple, Turia, Lubbert Das). Thus far, the HUC have done a pretty good job of keeping their respective memberships obscured, but much of the Haeresis Noviomagi collective’s musical activities seem centered around a single musician, known simply as O.
As the vocalist/guitarist in both Iskandr and Solar Temple, the guitarist in Turia, and the bassist in Lubber Das, O. has had a busy year, and a particularly busy last month with Solar Temple, Iskandr, and Turia all releasing new music in conjunction with highly respected German label Eisenwald (order Digital/LP/CD here, or cassettes from Haeresis Noviomagi here). I had the chance to chat with him about all three of those recent releases, as well as a bit about the history of Haeresis Noviomagi.
Indy Metal Vault: So for starters, thank you for the interview. I have to admit that while I was familiar with Turia thanks to the split with Vilkacis from earlier this year, I was not familiar with Haeresis Noviomagi (or much of the Dutch black metal underground) until the trio of albums you recently co-released with Eisenwald: Solar Temple’s Fertile Descent, the Fluisteraars/Turia split De Oord, and Iskandr’s Euprosopon. All three are outstanding releases, and when I started digging a little deeper I noticed that you’re involved in all of the bands except Fluisteraars – so of course I immediately wanted to talk. To begin with, can you fill our readers in a bit on the history of Haeresis Noviomagi? How did you get from your founding in late 2015 to working with Eisenwald?
O: Thank you so much for taking an interest into what we are doing. Haeresis Noviomagi started in 2015 to provide us, a small group of musicians and friends in Nijmegen (the Netherlands), a space to create and release our own projects in a way that suited the way we envisioned to release our music. We started with releasing Deluge, an EP by Lubbert Das, on cassette, and the debut album Dor by Turia followed soon after. Some of this was picked up by some labels with a firm foundation in the international underground, with re-releases of both releases happening: a reprint of Deluge on cassette by Fallen Empire in the US, and a run of Dor on vinyl by Altare Productions in Portugal. We knew both labels and their quality output before we got into contact, and they definitely helped us reach more people then we could have on our own. Fast forward a few years and a few releases, and we get into contact with Eisenwald through our great friends and collaborators in Fluisteraars, who grew close to our circle over the years. This culminated in the latest batch of releases mentioned above, which is the end result of quite some years of work.
IMV: Your prolific nature would be impressive enough on its own, but the fact that Iskandr, Solar Temple, and Turia don’t really sound anything alike makes it all the more remarkable. Before asking about the individual projects, though, I’m curious as to your musical background. You primarily handle guitars in the three bands, but if I’m not mistaken you handled all the instruments for Iskandr until Euprosopon, where you brought in M. from Solar Temple/Fluisteraars for drums. Do you consider yourself primarily a guitarist, or does it depend on the project? What was your first real instrument, and how did you get from that point to playing in multiple black metal projects?
O: Actually, my first real experience on an instrument, apart from some years of primary music teaching when I was very young, was on a cheap crappy bass guitar, and only a bit after this did I pick up the guitar and started playing around on some cheap keyboard simultaneously. Nowadays I mostly play guitar, although I handle the bass in my other band Lubbert Das. I consider myself more of a songwriter/composer as opposed to any particular discipline, mostly because I’m not that great on any particular instrument. I can’t solo or anything like that, nor do I have any interest in this. I’m mainly interested in creating musical landscapes and different sounds.
IMV: I want to start by talking about Iskandr, for two reasons. First, it is your solo project. Second, Euprosopon is probably the album I’ve found myself going back to most often. The promo materials refer to the music as having ‘regal flourishes,’ and that’s a really perfect description of its overall sound. It’s also something of a departure from your previous releases as Iskandr in that you bring in such a wide variety of stylistic elements that I’m tempted to call the album ‘progressive,’ particularly since the four tracks really do flow together and form a single, continuous piece. Did you deliberately set out to do something more compositionally complex on Euprosopon, or was it more of a natural evolution?
O: Thanks for the kind words on this record. This project is indeed the most personal and the one that’s most elaborately thought out from a compositional standpoint. I wasn’t setting out to create one continuous piece, but in the end the different elements all seemed to fall into place and I’m happy with the overall flow of the record. For instance, the first song “Vlakte” only makes sense as an introduction to the rest of the album and not really as a song in itself.
IMV: Google Translate tells me that Euprosopon is Greek for ‘representatives.’ I’ve not seen the lyrics for the album, but the description of the album’s themes on its Bandcamp page, coupled with the way the music flows together, has me wondering if there’s any kind of storyline running through it. Is Euprosopon a concept album of sorts?
O: The lyrics are in Dutch, since that’s the way I and a lot of people from our scene tend to express ourselves, so I guess not a lot of people internationally will understand the lyrical themes fully. The idea behind the title is a combination of the concept of “Prosopon,” a mask in used Greek theatre – but also referring more generally to ones ‘role’ or social ‘personhood’ – and Utopia (Eutopia), meaning a perfect but non-existing place. Thus the concept of an ideal person or role, a heroic figure, if you will. Something to strive towards while acknowledging the impossibility to truly fulfill this role. I think it’s a rather tragic concept, tied into the idea that heroism itself is something that almost cannot exist in this world anymore, although it is so dearly needed. This tension inspired the balance between majestic triumph and melancholic defeat I was aiming for on this record.
IMV: By contrast, there’s something almost hallucinogenic in the way the two lengthy songs on Solar Temple’s Fertile Descent unfold, though there’s also a harshness there that keeps it from being an entirely pleasant trip. What I find most intriguing about this record is the various textures you incorporate in your guitar playing. In a broad sense, it probably would still fall under the somewhat vague ‘atmospheric’ category, but I also hear what seems like a distinct No Wave influence, like early Swans or Sonic Youth. How differently do you approach writing riffs for Solar Temple than you do for Iskandr? In a way, they sound more spontaneously composed compared to the deliberate composition of Euprosopon, if that makes any sense.
O: That makes a lot of sense actually. The first demo Rays of Brilliance was composed in one long sitting, and a little later recorded and mixed in a matter of nearly twenty-four hours of non-stop work. For the debut album, we set out to continue this mode of creation: intuitive, instinctual and really honing in on the energy that is present when we are entirely focused on what lays before us. Working in this way offers new paths of creativity and closes others compared to our usual methods, which makes for a different sound and feel altogether. The production is deliberately honing in on the hypnotic and psychedelic aspects of what makes a black metal record such a potent avenue for mind-expanding musical composition. We are partly trying to pay homage to both the old traditions of hallucinatory black metal, such as Ved Buens Ende and Anubi, to psychedelic acts such as Amon Düül II and Can, as well as to the kind of monoliths-of-sound bands like the ones you mentioned.
IMV: To me, Solar Temple feels like the most enigmatic of your projects. The name Solar Temple has certain occult or spiritual connotations to it, and the music has a ritualistic feel to it as well. However, there are no clues whatsoever to the lyrical themes in any of the promo materials or the song titles: “Those Who Dwell in the Spiral Dark” and “White Jaw.” I ask this partly because of the concept behind De Oord, but is the title Fertile Descent perhaps a play on the Fertile Crescent, where several ancient civilizations developed? Are you willing to discuss those themes at all?
O: That is indeed the case, and you are actually the first to mention this, which is great. Solar Temple takes its lyrical and musical concept from the ancient fertility cults of the Mediterranean. Fertile Descentis both a reference to this region, and to the Greek myth of Persephone’s abduction by Hades to the netherworld, and the subsequent rescue by Demeter, symbolizing the sowing and harvesting of crops in the ancient mystery cults of Greece. These cults ritually ingested entheogenic substances, which may have contained the ergot fungus that is a primitive kind of LSD. The music of Solar Temple aims to evoke this world, and lyrically we try to describe cosmic visions that lay deeply repressed within the human psyche.
IMV: “Aan den Golven der Aarde Geofferd” (‘Sacrificed to the Waves of the Earth”), Turia’s contribution to De Oord, may well be the darkest of any of the songs on these three releases, especially when contrasted with the bright, almost upbeat sound of “Oeverloos” on the Fluisteraars side. Some of the riffs have almost a nervous, post-punk quality to them, but there’s also a lot of mood swings over the course of the song’s nearly 18-minute run time. Since Turia is the only of the three projects where you don’t also handle vocals, does that change your approach to writing riffs at all?
O: No not at all. The main difference can be more readily attributed to the fact that Turia is a live formation. Most songs are, if not composed, definitely fleshed out in the rehearsal space as compared to a studio environment. We also initially set out to create this kind of atmosphere, since we developed the concept of the split prior to recording and writing, which influenced our take on the theme and the music significantly.
IMV: The title De Oord refers to the spot where the two main rivers in the Netherlands, the Waal and the Rhine, meet, which happens to be near your hometowns. Since there is a narrative aspect to “Aan den Golven der Aarde Geofferd,” are you willing to explain the story a bit?
O: I hate to correct, but please allow me to, since I’ve seen this mentioned here and there: there is no actual geographical place where these two rivers meet, only a location where the one springs from the other, near the German border. The title is an old Dutch word, indeed to signify a place where two rivers meet, but in this case, it was chosen as a symbolic meeting of the two rivers in the form of this record. As for the story of the song, the way T (Turia’s vocalist) writes lyrics is not in a particularly narrative fashion, indeed more expressionistic, but allow me to try: the song is meant to evoke the feeling of drowning and being overtaken by a never ending current, offering fleeting moments where one is able to catch their breath, before finally being enveloped in the serenity of the deep.
IMV: While a lot of guitarists have a distinctive sound, yours seems to vary a bit with each band. Based on the credits for each album, I’m also guessing that the parts that sound like trumpets and synths on the Iskandr and Solar Temple albums respectively are guitar as well. Since the subject of gear kind of fascinates me, what does your studio rig look like? Is it essentially the same for all three bands, or do you try to use different textures in each project?
O: Iskandr contains no actual trumpets or synths, to answer this part of question quickly. Solar Temple has one small organ part, but most of the ‘synth’ sounds are actually feedbacking tape echo machines. I don’t consistently use any particular studio rig; it depends on the studio and the equipment we can scrape together and borrow from friends. But one consistent component that is part of every release so far has been my trusted Fender Silverface Twin Reverb amp.
IMV: Turia does play live, but not very often. From what I can tell, the longest run of shows you’ve done was a five-date tour with Lubbert Das in January of 2017. As the circle of Haeresis Noviomagi bands expands and adds to their discographies, do you foresee any more extensive live dates, possibly even outside of Europe?
O: We are open to playing live and doing longer runs, but we are also kind of picky about it. We all have jobs, studies, and other priorities in life, so we have to really feel good about the circumstances before we say yes. More is in the works for sure though, but for now, making (hopefully) compelling records is my biggest personal priority.
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? Maybe a word about the Lubbert Das record that will be out in late December?
O: Foremost a sincere thank you, and thanks to the reader, for taking an interest in what we are doing. Furthermore, keep an eye on our label since we have a bunch more stuff in the works for the near future, that I’m sure is interesting to people who have enjoyed our output so far. The Lubbert Das debut full-length De Plagen is indeed coming out soon through Fallen Empire in the US, Amor Fati Productions in Europe and of course we will provide the tape edition. A first song is already streaming here.