As our loyal Vaunt Hunters are well aware, I’ve found myself particularly enamored with Polish black metal in 2018. However, there were a handful of Polish bands that I was familiar with prior to my recent infatuation.
If you immediately assumed that I was talking about Behemoth, you will probably be really into this. In fact, I expect you’l be so into it that you won’t want to come back.
For those of you still here, I’m talking about Evilfeast. I’m talking about the most unabashedly feral, frostbitten, and fucking misanthropic black metal band to ever come out of the former Soviet territory. Originally formed as Darkfeast back in 1996, the project has been the brainchild of a single individual: GrimSpirit. And with Evilfeast’s 2004 debut Mysteries of the Nocturnal Forest getting the reissue treatment from several labels this year in a variety of formats – LP from Temple of Darkness, cassette from Dread Records, and CD from Eisenwald – this seemed like the perfect time to chat with GrimSpirit about the history of Evilfeast, and his debut album in particular, So if you aren’t familiar with the misery and majesty of Mysteries of the Nocturnal Forest, give it a listen while checking out my interview with GrimSpirit below.
Indy Metal Vault: First off, thanks for the interview. Evilfeast has been around for a long time—counting the original Darkfeast days, it’s been over two decades—but I’ve not seen many interviews, so I appreciate your willingness to answer a few questions. Your debut 2004 full-length Mysteries of the Nocturnal Forest has been reissued on a variety of formats this year: Temple of Darkness released it on vinyl for the first time back in June, Dread Records released the cassette version on Halloween, and Eisenwald will release it on CD on November 30. Was there anything in particular that made you decide 2018 was the right time to revisit it? As I was looking into the album’s release history, I noticed that it was last reissued in 2011 – is it just a coincidence that the releases have occurred at seven-year intervals? The number seven does have a variety of significances in many theological, occult, and numerological traditions.
GrimSpirit: This is an interesting observation, but you’re actually the one who has made me aware of it. I hadn’t even realized before that there were indeed seven-year intervals between the respective editions. So it was not my decision, but at the same time I haven’t especially chosen the year 2018 as the most proper year for a rerelease. Over the years I’ve been receiving proposals for Mysteries…reissues in various formats, from various labels, and in the previous year I finally agreed to some of them so that the labels might proceed with all preparations. It’s just the way it turned out. I’m not into numerology and that kind of stuff, and this intervals’ length honestly means nothing to me. I realize that some may perceive the special meaning in it all the more given the fact it wasn’t my conscious decision. Still, for me it’s nothing more than an interesting coincidence.
IMV: While I have a fairly decent familiarity with the current state of Polish black metal—especially since Cultes des Ghoules, on of my current favorites, hails from Poland—I’ll admit to not knowing much about the state of the Polish underground in the early aughts. Aside from Behemoth, who had long since shifted from black metal by the time of 2004’s Demigod, I don’t recognize many of the Polish bands that released albums the year that Mysteries came out: Szron, Moontower, Besatt, War, Arren, etc. I get the impression that you’re something of a solitary musician, but has that always been the case? Where did Evilfeast fit compared to what else was happening in Poland in 2004?
GS: Evilfeast has never intended to fit into any scene, and it’s the same now as in any past period. That’s just a preliminary remark. Still, of course I realize that – willingly, or otherwise – my project has held a certain position, and I see it as always being beyond any mainstream. As for the year 2004 – as far as I remember, I pretty much hated the then Polish Black Metal scene, especially when comparing it to the one from the late 90’s. I saw some new trends appearing that I didn’t give a shit about, and very few things that could at least draw my attention. I can recall Thirst’s Per Aspera ad Astra (released in 2004, but recorded few years earlier). Basically, I don’t identify myself with ever-changing trends, subgenres, tendencies, and this is what eternally locates Evilfeast somewhere aside, in solitude. I’m proud of maintaining my sincerity and intransigence over all these years. On the other hand, it’s not a matter of any efforts I have to make to maintain them, but rather just a natural attitude for me.
IMV: To follow up on the previous question, there’s been remarkably little variation in Evilfeast’s sound since your first release, 2002’s Thy Abhorrent Emerging demo, even though that sort of keyboard-influenced, frostbitten second wave black metal had mostly fallen out of style by the time Mysteries of the Nocturnal Forest came out in 2004. How clear sense did you have of what you wanted to do with Evilfeast when you first started the project?
GS: I’ve had a clear vision of my art from the beginning. This kind of Black Metal – merging rawness and hateful obscurity with a sorrowful and ethereal touch, all wrapped in a cold, ancient, majestic veil – was an art I completely found myself immersed in, as I perceived it as a perfect reflection of my own dark inner self. And this form of art awakened in me the creative passion. None of the later subsequent subgenres could match with the primal one in terms of aesthetics, atmosphere, and magic. None have been able to stir my soul to such a great extent. So how could I care about such shallow thing as its ‘falling out of style’? Evilfeast is my deep personal manifestation, a darkest tribune, and will sound like that until my spirituality is like that, nothing more nothing less…
Still, Evilfeast is against stagnation and regression, and in my conviction each of my releases, despite dwelling within the same domain of Black Metal purity and tradition, has its own distinct, individual, unique feeling, sound, and atmosphere…and each one is another testimony of my development, another milestone in my constant quest for perfection.
IMV: Your lyrical themes also seem to have changed very little since the release of Mysteries of the Nocturnal Forest: nature and solitude, along with some sort of vaguely esoteric or spiritual element. Are you willing to expand on your themes beyond that?
GS: There is much wider spectrum of themes within Evilfeast’s lyrics, although I agree they mostly can be assigned to some general notions. Basically they are my own personal dark poetry, where I don’t restrict myself in any way. Some lyrics were even based on my particular dreams/reveries (Funeral Sorcery). Some are inspired by my numerous journeys through Poland and other European regions, but they are rarely simple stories about landscapes, etc. Rather, these impressions are the basis and starting point for more general considerations.
The first album was perhaps to the greatest extent attached to the notions of nature and solitude you mentioned. It was a kind of a linear story depicting, in an allegorical way, a period of my maturation, extraction of the dark self from subconscious to the level of consciously conceived spirituality, and seeking the unity with nature and the essence. At the point of the second album [Funeral Sorcery], considerations of death and eternity came to the fore, as I was almost obsessed by these themes back then, comprehending them deeply, to the very core, wanting to or not, like gazing into the abyss. Lost Horizons of Wisdom and Wintermoon Enchantment were more devoted to the topics of heritage, soil, and ancestral legacy. There were also some philosophical references to the concepts of time, entity, unity, and the present unverse. The lyrics on Elegies of the Stellar Wind continued these concepts, but slightly shift the emphasis to the subjects of destiny, forging the fate, strife between the entity and the astral forces, and a quest for broadening the frames of comprehension.
I often use various metaphors, allegory, symbolism – for example of winter, cosmic/astral, or ancient/medieval themes – in order to fully express my visions and ideas. I feel that over the years my poetry has become deeper, more allegorical and multi-layered. That’s just my few remarks. The subject is huge, though, and could be discussed for hours, so I’ll stop there.
IMV: When it comes to one-man black metal projects, there’s generally an expectation that their sound will be lo-fi and/or raw, but Evilfeast has never really sounded that way to me. You’ve been producing your own music since the beginning – do you usually work in a studio, or is your DIY setup good enough to keep your recordings from sounding lo-fi?
GS: First, I have to disagree. This term “lo-fi” may probably mean various things to various people, depending on how someone’s taste and sensitivity distinguishes low from high sound quality. Still, in my conviction Evilfeast’s sound from the beginning has definitely been raw. It’s a studio sound, not rehearsal-like, but still far from being a typical, clean and “professional” one. And that’s exactly in accordance with my purposes and assumptions, as I hate the way most modern Black Metal bands sound: typically ‘professional,’ which means mostly some warm, trite and clichéd crap. Instead, the Black Metal I admire has a sound that is raw but powerful, individual, expressive, sometimes unconventional, and that’s what I always intend to accomplish with Evilfeast. Quite successfully so far, I guess…
I work in my own home “studio,” which is half-professional at most – just some instruments and software, nothing top-shelf by the way. I’m not a sound engineer or producer at all, but I devote much time and effort to achieve the above-mentioned qualities.
IMV: Given how consistent your sound has been over the years, how much has your recording or gear setup changed since Mysteries of the Nocturnal Forest? Do you still approach recording in essentially the same way?
GS: Yes, it’s more or less the same. Over the years I’ve refined the methods of dealing with the whole recording process that are most efficient for me. I’m also rather attached to the particular equipment/software I use, and replace it only when necessary…that is, when it becomes worn out and therefore useless. These cases also force me to change some of my habits. Still, the main ways of recording are quite established. As I said, I’m far from being a professional producer. I may have a general vision of the production before the recording session, but the session itself is something like trial-and-error, steps in various directions, and the final result may be quite far from the initial idea and a kind of surprise even to myself. In my opinion, in terms of the sound production, the same as with the music, Evilfeast’s releases – despite having some common features – differ significantly from each other, and each have its own distinct characteristics.
IMV: Not to keep going back to the consistency thing, but thanks to your sound, Evilfeast really does seem to occupy its own space on the periphery of Polish black metal. Do you keep up at all with what else is happening in the Polish underground? Are there any black metal bands, Polish or otherwise, whose music you appreciate?
GS: As I mentioned before, Evilfeast has always been beyond any mainstreams, and as you said, on the periphery. This situation is according to my own will and results from my uncompromising approach to my art. I’m not particularly up to date with the goings on the Black Metal scene. Sometimes I want to check some new stuff, sometimes I totally don’t care. There are so many new releases every day, and so few worth my interest, it’s hard to pick them out of the sea of mediocrity. That doesn’t mean there are no valuable hordes these days. Here are some of them who have relatively new releases: Domgård, Mystik, Uuntar, Schattenvald, Haive, Kvalvaag, Trolldom, Idhafels, Darkenhöld, and some more.
IMV: I’ve saved this until the end, but I want to ask about a couple of things you said in your conversation with Dayal Patterson that were published in Black Metal: The Cult Never Dies, Vol. 1. In it, you described your album Wintermoon Enchantment as “preserving the consciousness of cultural, national and racial heritage as the source of strength.” You also stated that you “would probably identify myself more with the world with 10 percent of today’s population left, and only worthy members of my race.” While I certainly understand misanthropy, and I’m familiar with the term “Romantic Nationalism,” I’m not sure I understand the difference between that and National Socialism or garden variety racism. Are you willing to expand on your feelings about nationalism and race?
GS: Yes, although it’s not easy, and maybe impossible to describe in a few words. I treat these terms personally and not necessary according to their most common understanding. Nation and race are parts of my identity, factors that (besides many others) determine my entity within the vortex of history, links with past individuals, works, thoughts, acts (I mean with those particularly selected by me), with my soil, my region and its magical places…
My comprehension of these notions refers exclusively to myself and is not connected with any social issues, nor with any fondness towards other people of my nation/race as a whole. They are mine and I embrace them as parts of my inner domain. I always join the term misanthropy with elitism, as it’s not hatred of mankind per se, but rather something like a hatred of what most of mankind has become…a result of my perceivingthe world from a distance, like an excerpt from the great astral sphere, and sensing something that could be called the world’s spirituality, which seems to be degenerating, moribund, a substitute, a plastic shell…
When I spoke about this “elitist vision” of the world, I referred to race as to nothing more than part of my own identity, and referring to it is just a natural thing for me. However, this is not a kind of political postulate, since I am aware of the total unreality of such a scenario, so I do not even think about potential options, ways to reach, selection criteria, etc. It simply remains in the sphere of vision, an abstract idea. Are the above-mentioned views racism? In my conviction they are not, although I realize that in the present times, any reference to the concept of race in any context may be considered as such…
I don’t know if you understand what I mean. These subjects are hard to depict in clear and simple words. We speak here about personality, which is a rich and diverse domain of the spheres of mind and spirit, where various thoughts, senses, affections, considerations, sentiments, etc., sometimes complement each other, and sometimes struggle. Some of them may temporarily prevail, then be overcome by other ones. The contradictions – real or apparent – may be arising…I don’t hesitate to admit it, as I consider this eternal inner strife an immanent aspect of a personality of strong will, rich spirituality, critical perception, and individual thinking, unlike the ones who have everything once for all labeled as black-or-white within their narrow minds. I always and permanently quest…
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?
GS: Nothing particular comes to my mind. Thank you for the interview.