In some ways, December releases seem like the middle children of the music world. At that point of the year, most metal bloggers are either reflecting on the best of the past year’s releases or looking forward at their most anticipated releases of the next, leaving a lot of those December albums wondering why no one is paying any attention to them.
I think there’s also this idea that since December’s musical children aren’t likely to get much attention, labels tend to dump the releases they consider ‘lesser’ in some way at the end of the year. While on a certain level this may be true for some labels, our loyal Vault Hunters should know that’s not going to be the case for I, Voidhanger Records – I don’t think the word ‘lesser’ applies to anything they’ve ever released, and I doubt it ever will. So if you happened to sleep on Via Dolorosa, the scathingly brilliant second full-length from blackened UK blasphemers Deitus, then you seriously fucked up. I was telling my buddy Nic, who writes for Metal Injection and runs Carcosa PR, about it not too long ago, and I described it as sounding like ‘Mayhem meets Maiden.’ If that doesn’t send a little tingle through your naughty bits, then I don’t know what to tell you…
I recently had a chance to talk to the surreptitious trio about their new album, along with a few other topics. Give it a listen below, grab a copy on CD here, and check out what they had to say.
Indy Metal Vault: First off, thanks for the interview. I’ll admit to not being familiar with Deitus prior to this record, but Via Dolorosa immediately grabbed me by the throat and I’ve spent quite a bit of time with it since. I’ve been unable to find any other interviews with the band online, so let’s start by talking about the band’s name. There aren’t many references to the word ‘Deitus’ online aside from the phrase ‘Thelema, Xeper, Deitus,’ which appears to come from a work called The Demonic Bible by Magus Tsirk Susej. He defines it as a ‘new Word for a new Aeon,’ and his ensuing discussion makes it sound like something similar to Nietzsche’s ‘Will to Power’ in that both discuss the individual rising up to become God in his or her own universe. Is Magus Susej’s book where you first encountered the word? How did you come to decide on it as the band’s name?
Deitus: That is correct. The name resonated immediately. ‘Deitus’ represents the will to come into being as a God, which of course draws some parallel with Nietzsche’s work as you rightly mention. The name has also since taken on more of a personal and spiritual significance. Deitus is a medium for spreading Sonic Adversarial Terror. It has many facets…
IMV: There are a lot of things I want to ask about Via Dolorosa, both musically and thematically. Since I started with the band’s name, let’s stick with the themes. In reading your lyrics, I’m struck by the more classical sort of approach you take to the anti-Christian themes that are so prevalent in black metal. For example, the Via Dolorosa is a path in the Old City of Jerusalem that was supposedly the route Jesus took on his way to being crucified. However, I get the sense that you’re using it more as an allegory on the album than in a historical sense. Is there a specific ‘Way of Suffering’ that you’re trying to portray in the lyrics?
D: We actually visited the Via Dolorosa back in 2017 whilst on vacation. This is perhaps where the seed was unconsciously planted in relation to the title. Suffering comes in various forms and is an important aspect of life; it’s often in the bleakest of times where one begins to learn one’s true self. It matters not which specific path of suffering; it’s all open to interpretation. However, considering the band’s aesthetics and lyrics, it’s not too difficult to fathom which path we’re on. With any significant release, the symbology and lyrics go hand-in-hand; they are not mutually exclusive.
IMV: The only other reference I want to ask about specifically is “Salvifici Doloris,” which was the title of an encyclic by Pope John Paul II that partially reestablished the Medieval practice of ‘hagiotherapy,’ or using holy artifacts as a means to treat illness or heal one’s ‘spiritual soul.’ One of the translations I’ve seen for the phrase, however, is something along the lines of ‘salvation through pain.’ Is the cover art on Via Dolorosa specifically connected to this song?
D: In part, yes and it is also connected to the title track. It’s not a concept album, although there is a vast amount of correlation between the photographic art and the lyrical themes. The album comprises of five monuments dedicated to the heinous nature of man, and within them, we also explore the nature of suffering.
The album cover displays a Catholic penitential rite, a re-enactment of the walk to Calvary whereby penitents self-flagellate to suffer as Christ suffered. Such acts of devotion are paralleled in Shiism with the Ashura festival, as evidenced in the CD booklet. As far as we’re concerned, it’s not the specific religious groupings or faiths (that are presented in the artwork) that matters. You’re correct that the art is entirely symbolic. It represents spiritual and/or religious devotion. We have our own reasoning that can be deciphered from the lyrics, and to speak at length on this matter would only taint the impressions of a listener.
IMV: Musically, your approach to the genre is fairly unique in that it draws influence from the second wave Scandinavian bands, but your music is much more of a guitar-centric than most black metal. In fact, I was describing Via Dolorosato another writer who hadn’t heard it, and I called it ‘Mayhem meets Maiden.’ That’s actually one of the things I like most about the album- the extended guitar workouts, like in the opening section of the title track. How long did it take you to decide on that particular ‘sound’ for the band? Did you know you wanted to do something along those lines from the start?
D: We didn’t really think about it too much; however, it is understandably somewhat of a departure from the first record. To us, the very spirit of Deitus and Black Metal demands constant transformation, and this will be evidenced in the years to come. As usual, the three core members wrote everything and both S of Qrixkuor and William Jackson of Inconcessus Lux Lucis provided additional guitar leads. This collaborative effort definitely paid off, and we will certainly consider such an approach for the future.
Acta Non Verba was a collection of old songs recorded in a matter of days. WithVia Dolorosa we spent more time composing and refining the tracks. It’s hard to say from the inside, but I guess it’s just natural progression; Via Dolorosa represents Deitus flawlessly and it will be a challenge to top that record.
IMV: As a follow-up to that, Deitus formed in 2004, but you didn’t release your first demo until 2014. What were you doing for that first decade? Do you have much material in your archives from those earlier days in the band’s history? How far back does the material on that first demo actually date?
D: Suffice to say the members of Deitus have shared a close bond since infancy; we began rehearsing and cutting our teeth on-stage as teenagers under a different name back in 2004. Although there was an extensive hiatus lasting almost a decade, things fell into place in 2014 and we began composing Acta Non Verba. We have a live DVD and a demo from 2004 in the archives, but these shall remain buried for the foreseeable future.
IMV: Deitus is a band whose members prefer to stay anonymous, which I completely respect. I do, however, want to ask about your approach to songwriting. How collaboratively do you tend to work on your songs? Are your roles in the process clearly defined, or do you all contribute riffs, etc?
D: Nothing beats the old-fashioned approach of writing & rehearsing as a band in a disgusting sweatbox.
IMV: The production on Via Dolorosa is absolutely perfect for the style of black metal you play – clean enough that the nuances in the guitar work can be heard, but still with plenty of grit to it. I haven’t seen any credits for the album – where did you record it? Was it a DIY project, or did you actually go into a studio?
D: We recorded the album within seven days at Priory Recording Studios with Greg Chandler. The record was also mixed and mastered there. The same goes for our debut opus Acta Non Verba.
IMV: Unlike a lot of black metal bands, you actually do play live. Thus far, though, it looks as though your live rituals have been limited to the U.K. Any chance of that changing any time in the near future – do you want to do more extensive touring?
D: Playing live is of the utmost importance. We are a live band with traditional values and have no intentions to limit our art. To some extent, we have had issues with live members, and that is partly why appearances have been limited. These days we are a five-piece live; it’s taken some time but we are now firing on all cylinders.
We recently performed in Paris at Winter Rising Festival and headlined the Little Devil Black Ritual Festival in Tilburg, Netherlands. We will bring terror and bloodshed to Germany for the first time in October at the ‘Odyssey To Blasphemy’ festival and we have some other offers to consider, namely Canada and Mexico… preparations are still ongoing and we welcome serious promoters to make offers.
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?
D: Thank you for the interview. I’m sure you’ll be hearing about us.