The last time I chatted with UK by-way-of New Zealand black metal outfit Barshasketh, they were preparing to release the Sen/Zeit split with Poland’s Outre. I don’t know what it was about that split, but both bands somehow emerged from those sessions sounding leaner, stronger, and ready to release what could well end up being the defining albums of their careers. Outre was first up, with their Hollow Earth dropping last October. Now Barshasketh are back with their self-titled fourth full-length, which came out on W.T.C. productions on January 15 (grab a copy here).
After having such an enjoyable conversation back when Sen/Zeit, I was lucky enough to get the chance to talk to vocalist/guitarist/keyboardist Krigeist again recently about the new album. Spoiler(s): the conversation was even better than the first time, and the new album is incredible. Check them both out below.
Indy Metal Vault: So first off, thanks for agreeing to another interview. It’s been about 15 months since we last talked – right before the release of your split with Outre, Sein/Zeit. Aside from the new album (which I’ll get to in a minute), what’s new in the world of Barshasketh? I don’t remember – is this MK’s first time recording with the band, or did he play drums on Sein/Zeit? I do know you have a new record label.
Krigeist: Not a lot, to be honest. We are forging on with the same lineup that has been in place for a few years- MK joined just after BH left the band in early 2016. Although he did play drums on the split with Outre, he had not fully settled in at that point and made a more substantial contribution to the songwriting process this time around. We are very lucky to count him among our ranks, as he is a formidable creative force as well as an excellent drummer.
Regarding the change of label- it isn’t one as such. W.T.C co-released our previous album (Ophidian Henosis) and besides this Blut & Eissen and W.T.C are close collaborators, so we’ve been in touch with the same people as far back as 2014. We could not be happier with them and plan on working with them in the long term.
IMV: As I’m typing these questions, Barshasketh has been out for a little over three weeks. What’s the response been like so far? Did the new material go over well at Dead Kings Reign – Pt. 1?
K: Excellent- there has never been so much interest around the band, so we can’t really complain. It’s too early to say what the impact of this album will be going forward, but the early signs are certainly promising.
We performed a few songs from the new material at DKR in Vienna and they appeared to be well received- the new material is a touch more aggressive and up-tempo for the most part, and this seems to translate quite well in a live setting.
IMV: Generally when a band releases a self-titled album, it’s their debut; however, Barshasketh is your fourth full-length. Why did you decide to self-title this one? Do you see it as the beginning of some sort of new chapter for the band?
K: You aren’t the first to comment on this- it is indeed a rather unusual move, but one that felt natural at this point for us considering the place we were in during the run-up to recording this album. We had a kind of epiphany concerning what it is we do as a band, and this in turn gave us the confidence to tackle the esoteric idea behind our band name. This album can rightly be considered something of a second birth and marks a return to some of the fundamental themes that motivate us a band but tackled from a point of elevated intellectual clarity compared to our previous work.
IMV: Let’s talk a bit more in-depth about the new album. Until I took a look at the interview you did recently with Bardo Methodology, I actually had no clue as to the origin of the band’s name, much less that it served as the thematic inspiration for the new album. From what I’ve gathered, Be’er Shachat is one of the seven levels of Hell in the Hermetic Qabalah tradition. Beyond the fact that it translates as ‘Pit of Corruption,’ though, I haven’t been able to find much about it. Can you explain the concept a bit more?
K: Be’er Shachat represents a ‘trapping pit’ in which the soul is condemned to undergo an infinite cycle of destruction, purification, and ultimate rebirth. This idea rather neatly represents the process that our own understanding of the self undergoes through our exploration of adversarial spirituality- the spirit is reborn in stronger cast, strengthened by newfound knowledge and insights.
IMV: One thing I did glean about Be’er Shachat is that it has something to do with the cyclical nature of existence. Is that why the first (“Vacillation”) and last (“Recrudescence”) open with the same chord progression? Are there any other ways in which the concept influenced the structure of the music on the album?
K: Yes, that’s quite correct. The funny thing is that the repeated motif you mention was included almost subconsciously and we only made the connection afterward. There was a certain amount of work that went into structuring and arranging the album on a conscious level, but the bulk of it emerged in a more natural and unconscious way simply by having the fundamental thematic ideas that underpin the album in mind while writing. We often feel like we aren’t actually composing the music, but merely discovering it. It’s difficult to describe the process, which I still don’t fully understand after all these years, but from what I’ve read, it’s a common feeling among artists of all stripes.
IMV: I’ve not had a chance to see the lyrics for the album, but, as Bardo Methodology also mentioned, you tend to be much more thoughtful in your approach than simply using the same sort of occult imagery as many other black metal bands – for example, the Heidegger-influenced Sein/Zeit. How did you approach writing lyrics for Barshasketh? Did you mostly draw from Qabalic texts, or are they more personal?
K: All the lyrics for Barshasketh are focused around LHP spirituality, but these concepts are viewed through the prism of personal exploration and experience. So while we draw on a variety of source material, including Qabalic texts to inform our lyrics, we are not happy to simply recite from them chapter and verse like some of our contemporaries, but strive to present our own personal understanding of these ideas.
IMV: Speaking of Qabalic texts – if someone wanted to learn more about Hermetic Qabalah mysticism, what books would you recommend?
K: The first two books that come to mind would be Kabbalah Unveiled by Christian Knorr von Rosenroth and Qabalah, Qliphoth and Goetic Magic by Thomas Karlsson. While there is a wealth of other information available, the aforementioned offer a clear overview of the topic and are ideal to get started.
IMV: If I’m not mistaken, at this point Barshasketh’s members are spread out across the U.K. and Finland, and I noticed that Barshasketh was recorded at both Necromorbus Studios in Sweden and Scotland’s Chamber Studios. What affect (if any) does that distance have on your songwriting process? Was there ever any point during the writing and recording of the album when all four members of the band were in the same room?
K: Actually, we are spread across three countries (Finland, Serbia and the UK), which makes things even more impractical. We rarely get the opportunity to work on material in the same room due to our geographical situation, so we have to resort to a process of progressive refinement through successive demos. Typically either GM or KG will draft what could be considered to be the basic structure or skeleton for a song, which is then circulated to the other members, who then have the opportunity to make major creative contributions by writing their own parts and also sometimes suggesting structural changes. It’s perhaps not the most convenient way of working, but we make it work- ultimately, if you’re determined enough, you make things happen one way or another and we are lucky to be in a situation where all four of us have a level of commitment that allows us to overcome these barriers.
IMV: Artem Grigoryev did the cover art for Barshasketh. It’s a really striking piece, but at first glance it looks like a scene out of Greek mythology (or at least it does to me). How closely did you work with him on the cover concept? Are you willing to unpack the image at all?
K: I think that will be down to Artem’s style, which is influenced by classical art- if you take a look at some of his other pieces, you will see that it’s a thread that runs through his work. Furthermore, this style is present throughout the whole layout, even down to the font that was created from scratch to fit the aesthetic we had in mind. We worked closely with him and our longtime co-conspirator Fenomeno Design on the artwork and layout, which was meticulously planned from the beginning. Artem had access to the lyrics and we explained the underlying concept to him, after which point he put forward a proposal for the front cover based on these. What you can see on the cover are two facets of the self-engaged in a struggle but also intertwined and part of a larger whole. I’m reticent to get too in depth here, so I’ll instead recommend that you read the lyrics for the album for a bit more detail about the ideas that we’re trying to illustrate.
IMV: As I mentioned earlier, you’ve already played at least one gig in support of Barshasketh. Any plan for more extensive touring now that it’s out? I noticed a festival date in Mexico in July – any chance of a run of dates here in the States?
K: Yes, there are a number of other shows planned for the rest of the year- although none in the US as of yet. We would certainly be interested in playing some shows there if there is interest from promoters- any interested parties can contact us at [email protected]
IMV: Thanks again for being willing to answer a few questions. I like to leave the final word to the artist – anything else you want to add?
K: Hail Satan.