If you even remotely call yourself a fan of Australian black metal, there are several legendary names that it’s considered a national crime to not be aware of – and one of them is undoubtedly the ineffable Nazxul. However, what some unfortunate souls may not know is that before there was Nazxul…there was Ichor.
Forged in the heady, sulfur-infused days of 1993, the pair of Wraith and Diablore released one barely-circulated demo tape (named simply Ichor) and then disbanded, the diabolic duo opting to concentrate all efforts on their newly-formed project Nazxul instead. Ichor lay almost forgotten, under the dust of decades passing…until last year when the decision was made to resurrect it and a new album was written.
That album, entitled God of Thunder God of War, dropped on CD and cassette through the mighty Australian label Seance Records back at the start of October, and if you haven’t yet heard it yet, you’re slipping, son. A powerful slab of atmospheric integrity steeped in storm and blood, it’s a more than triumphant return and I simply had to reach out to them to discuss it (and possibly get a few sneaky Nazxul questions answered too – their debut album Totem has finally just been bestowed with a well-deserved and long-awaited vinyl issue). So listen to and order the album at the following Bandcamp link or http://www.seancerecords.com, and read on below.
Indy Metal Vault: Hello Wraith and Diablore, thanks for agreeing to this interview! I believe it’s been a while since we’ve heard from you. Now, this chat is taking place for what I think is a remarkable reason: twenty-five years after the first demo and only recording to date, you’ve finally released the debut album for Ichor, the project you disbanded in 1993 in order to focus your energies on Nazxul. So I guess my first question is: what made you breathe new life into Ichor after all these years? Did you feel like you had unfinished business?
Wraith: The decision for bringing Ichor back to life was based on the fact that Nazxul recordings and releases are few and far between. As a result of that, we decided to start something else, and instead of starting something new we felt that Ichor was indeed, as you have mentioned, unfinished business, and also an avenue to explore and express different interests, subject matter, and styles.
Diablore: It was inevitable. We’ve always discussed this in the past during Nazxul’s reign, although we needed to strike with it at the right moment. That moment has come.
IMV: The album is entitled God Of Thunder God Of War, and (correct me if I’m wrong) the final two tracks originally comprised that old first demo. Not that you can tell; all the material blends perfectly and flows seamlessly, which is quite the feat considering the length of time between compositions. How did it feel to return to that old material? Was it easy to get back into the same headspace as your younger self to write the new songs? Is there still the same feeling behind it all these years later?
W: The last track “Daughters of Wrath” is from the original demo. We re-recorded it in order to maintain continuity throughout the album and also to connect the two different eras of the band. Strangely enough, it was very easy to slip back into that style. Ichor is stylistically similar to Nazxul, but with an emphasis on more melodic material and a conscious effort to stay in a more ‘90s style. The feeling and the intent is still there after all these years and always will be. If anything, the black metal ideology has become more of a driving force in later years.
IMV: Let’s touch on your lyrical themes for a minute; I’m particularly interested in the Slavic Paganism content, as it’s admittedly not something I’m too familiar with myself. The press blurb says the release thematically focuses on it, and I’m assuming the album title and cover image themselves signify Perun, the god of thunder and lightning. Is this the overarching narrative of the album, like a ‘concept’ album?
W: The cover art is indeed a depiction of Perun by a very talented artist by the name of Sasha Risitc Krieger. Perun is the god of thunder in the Slavic pantheon, the title of the album is an outcry. Calling for the god of Thunder and the god of War. The main themes of the album are about darkness and black magic and the old ways. Tales of witches and the cunning folk of Slavic folklore, beings that would later become known as Vampires in the west. There are stories of warrior clans and the fight against Christendom, but in the end, the old Gods and Old practices prevail. The modern Rodnovery movement is a testament to the ancestral flame that cannot be extinguished by regimes, the living and breathing Native Slavic Faith is eternal!
D: This old faith and history throughout the ages have been embedded in us for decades before we lit Ichor’s candle. It was only a matter of time before we discovered it and adopted its spirit. The concepts and narrative are indeed presented here and will be traversed in future tomes we create.
IMV: Following on from that, can you elaborate a little on what Slavic Paganism actually is, and why these themes feature so heavily? Is Slavic paganism a big part of your own lives?
W: Slavic Paganism is the worship and ritual practices associated with the pre-christian gods of the Slavic Peoples. There is an ever growing interest in the old ways, and there is a Heathen resurgence across Europe. It is a big part of our lives. When first starting the band we were listening to Scandinavian bands and they had an underlying Viking theme, we have nothing to do with this culture and couldn’t possibly use the imagery or themes of the Northmen, so in order to make it personal and ultimately genuine, we needed to find our own identity. This was well before ancestry websites and before the Internet. We went to the local university library and started researching Slavic Mythology and found a wealth of colourful stories and characters, and with this new found passion and information the next step was to speak to grandparents, family members and elders from which many additional and first-hand examples came out. Despite the curse of Christianity and the tyranny of Communism and the hardships it bestowed, there were still glimpses of the past. A reverence for the old Gods and the various spirits and imps that populate the forests and barns and parts of the house. We found even the most devout orthodox Christian had a sentimental nostalgia regarding the old gods. We are on the other side of the planet, we are disconnected from our ancestral homelands. The gods unite us. There is a Slavic awakening taking place.
D: Amidst the pleasantry of these spirits, there was also the might and power of the Gods themselves, Perun, of course, being the most notable and grand. To have him grace our debut cover has been an important step in opening the gates to this world.
IMV: Now, I know old demo tapes can be difficult or expensive to find, but I’ve searched high and low for a copy of that ‘93 Ichor demo (or even a digital rip) to hear it and cannot find it anywhere. How many were originally circulated? Are they an extreme rarity by now? I’m assuming you still have your own copies. What did those songs originally sound like?
W: There were very few copies in existence. As mentioned elsewhere, this band existed for a short period of time before we started Nazxul, so it never really did the rounds so to speak. The production varies from song to song. The demo was recorded on an 8-track cassette recorder and it doesn’t sound bad. I personally have one copy that has seen better days, and we were lucky to rip the material off the cassette for reference. The overall sound is much more lo-fi, as one would imagine. Stylistically it is the same.
D: I have personally dreaded that tape for years, and there have been a few times where I have wanted to bring down a hammer in extreme force upon it due to the less than satisfactory sound quality, but I realised that committing this sacrilege was not the correct attitude, for it still emanates better than many tales out there even to this day.
IMV: On the album, you also have Zy from the great Nocturnes Mist beating the skins. As he does in his main project, he does a fucking killer job here. I believe originally Ichor was just you two; how was it working with him and how did he happen to end up helping you out?
W: We are very good friends with the Nocturnes Mist horde. After a few discussions about the difficulty in finding a drummer for the recording, we approached Zy. He was willing and able. He did a fantastic job, stylistically different from the uncompromising style of the mighty Nocturnes Mist and an interesting departure for him. Originally the old demo was recorded using a drum machine, so for the rebirth of the band, the God of Thunder God of War recording needed a real drummer.
D: Indeed, a warband without good artillery is not a warband at all, and Zy hit every target with fire and blood. Allies are important, and we are proud to have found another one.
IMV: So, the big question… Do you feel this album is a one-off, or does it signify the full-throttle return of Ichor to the fold? If you will continue, is there any chance you’ll be taking Ichor out in a live environment, or will it remain a purely studio project?
W: We have already started on the next album. So this will definitely be an ongoing project. There will never be a live Ichor performance, so it will remain a studio project. That being said, we intend to release material a lot more regularly. The second album is a much moodier beast, with slow parts and more dynamics. We hope to incorporate more of a folk element in the future also.
D: The new tome will focus a lot on journeys and delve into more mysticism. It will have a broader scale in its power, so expect an epic presentation, unlike anything we’ve ever done before.
In other excellent news, Ichor isn’t all you have going on lately, as Nazxul’s debut full-length Totem has finally been bestowed with a vinyl release (also through the great Seance Records). How does it feel for that album to still have enough interest to warrant a vinyl pressing twenty-three years later?
W: It is great news. It has been a long time coming. The master is perfect, and I must say it actually sounds better than the CD. So we are very pleased with the outcome. The CD reissue and the tape also look excellent.
D: It’s a special moment, for us and all the Nazxul fans out there.
IMV: Are there plans for a reissue of any other material as well? I’ve snagged myself a copy of Totem, but I know I’d also love Iconoclast on vinyl, for example…
W: Everything will be released on vinyl eventually. In due time…
D: Save some shelf space, for great things are on the horizon.
IMV: This reissue also marks the end of a fairly long period of inactivity from the Nazxul camp. I know you’ve been involved with other projects (Drowning The Light, Pestilential Shadows, Sic Itur Ad Astra etc) but you have also had some extensive lineup problems in the past, some more tragic than others. Have these been at all the reason we haven’t heard anything from you for a while, or is it simply that you’ve been too busy?
W: Prolific is not a word ever associated with Nazxul. Life gets in the way. Having members with different interests and priorities is a factor. Nazxul seems to move at is own pace, albeit tectonic. There will be new material eventually.
IMV: And finally, one last Nazxul related question: I recall you saying a few times that you have been working on new Nazxul music, at one point I believe you were going to release an EP to mark the 20th anniversary of the band. Is that new music still happening? Or, as in the ouroboros, has everything now come full circle and Ichor is now what once was Nazxul?
W: Due to some unforeseen circumstances, the “anniversary” release has been canceled. The material is being mixed and will see the light of day as a stand-alone release. Things will change after that release, for there will be a new dawn for Nazxul.
IMV: Sincerest thanks once again for your time, guys. It’s been an honour. Any last words you’d like to leave us with?
W & D: Thank you very much for your interest and support, we really appreciate it.