Like some surreal viciously-pulsing severed artery of sonic excess, Antaeus sprayed forth from the gushing sewers of Paris a bloodletting legacy of visceral, violent and unrivalled audial terror during Black Metal’s halcyon days. Almost three decades on from the origins of this essential eruption – a deadly, disfiguring discharge which delivered four of Black Metal’s most murderous mutilations – has MkM’s bloodlust diminished? Have the old scars healed or does he still implore us to cut our flesh and worship Satan? Bodies battered and beaten, graced with middle age, do Antaeus still want us dead?
A law unto itself, Antaeus’ music is distinctively repulsive, twisted, corrupt, unhinged and seething with genuine revulsion and anguish. Due to its explicitly visceral and belligerent nature, I would suggest that it perfectly mirrors the nightmare of living. In your view, how important is it for Black Metal to go against all pre-existing conventions (both musically and thematically / conceptually) and to remain at all times abrasive, dark, nihilistic and imbued with horror? Is this what Antaeus has always represented – an agonised expulsion of existential torment?
“If you had asked the very same question to me when I joined the band compared to the current older (but not wiser) version, there could have been a slight incomprehension. The younger me would have burst into Rage and asked if there was any other way? As if things were obvious enough – and that our work was speaking for itself. Now that time has passed, that some ‘heroes’ have fallen, and things have ‘evolved’ or diversified, I understand the concern and the general idea behind this interrogation. So now I would say ‘Yes’, and it should always have been the case in that genre for the devoted individuals who were attracted by what it stood for / represented (and still represents). The flame will be there until I get too weak and we will both cease to exist. There is no other way.”
As human animals, projected randomly into existence without prior agreement, we spend our lifetimes trapped within tombs of flesh. This very flesh is ignominious and disgusting, yet without it we could not exist. From the iconic debut full-length ‘Cut Your Flesh and Worship Satan’ to ‘Flesh Ritual’ from the fourth and most-recent LP, ‘Condemnation’, it’s impossible not to notice that slicing and desecrating the flesh is a recurring theme in Antaeus’ music – is this an inversion of the idea that the body is a temple? Or is it in fact a playground: a temple of evil and depravity?
“A bit of both, and pleasure… but I guess this goes with Depravity, correct? Having had a rather ambivalent childhood with regards to religion (parent-wise: one was Devoted and the other Atheist), an issue (or concern) did arise at a young age – I cannot even recall prior thoughts about it. There was sickness involved too, the fact your body would betray you and there was not much you could do. Your best enemy and closest one; the pulse you would want to trust but which has its own course.
“I had a fascination as a kid for people with Scars, I even recall having drawn some over my face when I must have been five or six. An appealing / disgusting mask which made me feel better, and closer to myself maybe?
“That Thema has been approached in any musical formation or visual I was interested in… and this will never change.
“You’d be catching me reading, one hand would be handling the book while the other would just caress some scars…”
Paradoxically, is contempt for the flesh and the human body a celebration of it, recognising the carnal nature of man? Are we but a base animal and nothing more? “Desires brought forth, sweet work of torture, Matters not to view pain and suffering as an ending, Feel them as the beginning, Prove me that you’re more than flesh” – Blood Libels. Are we merely obscene constructs of flesh, blood and bone? Is the idea of a soul, spirit or divine consciousness (none of which can be proven to exist) fantastical or even arrogant?
“Humans are arrogant – it’s part of their charm for some, I suppose. And there is this obvious need to explain or justify anything – to create its foundation. Though instead of Animals, I would use the term parasite. A complex and intelligent one, yet still a parasite. I had to reread your sentence regarding the ‘obscene constructs of Flesh, Blood and Bones’, since for some reason this is quite arousing.”
There is a glorious contradiction there, I suppose. The repulsive and grotesque nature of the human anatomy is peculiarly intriguing and the uglier, more battered, scarred and deformed we can make it – through scarring or abuse or pain – the better? By the nature of what they are and what they do, bodies are not particularly nice but people still like to be around them and do whatever. I guess a parasite won’t survive very long on its own?
“We have a host nesting a few billions of us – so far it’s a nice cancer evolving at a faster pace.
“If you consider a body as blood pulse, flesh moving and fluids and whatever internal organs are all together, it might be causing disgust to some and extreme arousal to others. As far as I would be concerned, since I am asked about it – I am more keen on being disgusted than aroused by fellow walking corpses.
“This is something I often stated in the past, but scars toughening and the healing process/deformation of skin have been comforting areas for myself.”
Would you say the process of getting tattooed or pierced comes from the same part of the psyche as cutting, hurting and scarring oneself? It’s still modifying your body through pain – and the pain is an essential part of the process. Scarification is a more extreme version of piercings or tattoos that really blurs the lines between modification and mutilation. Although we have a saying here in Ireland ‘why pay somebody to do something that you can do yourself?’
“Good question, I guess it would for some … to modify an appearance. Individuals tend to perceive piercing and tattoos as aesthetic choices and globally a more accepted Art… compared to branding / scarifications / implants, bodmod, etc. If I had skills with drawings, I’d more than gladly do some ink on myself — but unlike others I do not feel an urge to get more done. It will come in time and when there will be a Need or reason to do so.
“Your Irish saying resonates with mine: ‘why use other Blood while I have mine already’.”
Ultimately, would you say the act of self-mutilation comes from sort form of deep-rooted self-loathing? Or a perverse love of pain? And why do you think the ritual resonates (more so in the past, perhaps…) so deeply in Black Metal, with many bands advocating / celebrating it and cutting themselves onstage, using disturbing imagery, including razor blades with their records, and so forth?
“Apart from the appeal of the Macabre and Death? I would not know… it made sense to me. It might differ for others in other cultures though? There is self (personal) loathing and self (human) loathing, too.
“Maybe some madness or borderline tendencies could be blamed/praised for this. Razorblades have been linked to suicide, and have been easier to obtain on the surface of the earth, it’s a rather common weapon of choice. Just like burning cigarettes or boiling water, having the desire to damage oneself or just test your body seems natural to me since the early days.”
Pain and loss can be character building. Though horrible and destructive, profound loss can make one stronger and wiser. Suffering is an inherent part of life. You can’t avoid it unless you die fast and die first. So, while suffering is inevitable for anyone who lives a long life, is it necessarily destructive or defeating? As Antaeus teaches us: ‘anything great is built upon sorrow’ and ‘I shall go on wearing the burden of pain’…
“Pain and Loss are character building/damaging. Many might have opted for the fastest way out, maybe they were right?
“Unless it does end the individual, there still is a process of evolution and a change when having to face Suffering or to witness it. While the “Anything great…” was mostly referring to the Joys of inflecting, the second quote implied inner personal damages.”
An irrational fear of death grips mankind – never more so than in the modern hysterical world – but should we not embrace eternal sleep? To die is natural. If not in death, then where lies salvation and redemption?
“To many Death is also what makes their life valuable, if it has any real values… I guess it is also a cultural approach we have in our society… from those entering the void to others joining a cycle of death and rebirth, and others a final End to a journey… Some have Fear, others do embrace it when it comes, some are at peace, some will pray for more time. Such a different atmosphere you get from someone who plans on killing himself in a few days and someone sick not willing to die now… One has Peace while the others resonate with a Fear you barely get to experience.”
You mentioned that you were exposed in a limited way to the psychosis / sickness of religion at a young age. Can you remember at what stage you decided to reject this and instead journey down the left hand path towards the scalding embrace of Satan, hatred, nihilism and misanthropy? Would you agree that, contrary to popular opinion, Satanism represents a positive lifestyle while bowing to organised religion and repressing natural impulses is negative and completely counterproductive, from both a physical and metaphysical perspective?
“Quite young, I think, mostly due to books and movies I was not allowed to watch and yet could manage to experience… I guess those Arts did trigger something… an alternative which made sense. Just like the day I first heard extreme metal and mostly Black Metal, in my head I was “This is it.” Among my first crushes as a kid was Regan from The Exorcist when I saw it for the first time in the early ‘80s. Let me get back to the verb you used: reject… It is a bit more complex, as in embracing, burning, elevating…
“Regarding the positive lifestyle: I guess it would depend on your morality and just cultural background or view on life. What would be our Path would not be proper to others.”
Antaeus belong to a time and place that was hugely important in the history of Black Metal. Most eyes were on Norway, where the northern skies were ablaze, but something equally incendiary and destructive was happening in Paris and Antaeus was at the forefront of that eruption. What would you say was the catalyst for the unholy genesis of Antaeus specifically and what feelings, emotions or ideologies gave rise to this immense outburst of seething energy: an irresistible force of pure, unadulterated Black Metal barbarity and bloodshed?
“There were mostly bands from Scandinavia and a lot of German bands sounding very similar – and also numerous obscure acts from Eastern Europe… all in all it was rather a small yet very dedicated scene spawning in every corner of the world. I recall meeting up in gigs in the early ‘90s with really fucked-up individuals, from those jobless guys spending their time on the highway to catch an accident and bring back some ‘meat’ to try; to others ending up either as murderers or junkies (or both); to homeless guys embracing the genre … and that did not help much when they were asking for change in the streets. But, yeah, back to Norway, of course most were focused on those specific bands, which also initiated the long-lasting ‘who is true and who is not?’. Which was Fine in the end, just too bad it was mostly handled by the wrong individuals who never lasted that long in the scene.
“Regarding Antaeus then, keep in mind I joined the band as a session at first and the very first recordings were really aiming for something different… it’s only when the main guitar player and founding member left that Antaeus became what I wanted it to be, with the right composer and the Guilties. Still, to this band, the best move ever was to have Set move from bass duties to guitars.”
While Antaeus were the ones who set the tone sonically and visually and epitomised this explosion, Arkhon Infaustus, Temple of Baal, Merrimack, Osculum Infame and Bekhira also emerged in Île-de-France within a relatively short period of time, and others followed. Was everybody operating of their own volition or did a ‘scene’ evolve? Was there much overlap and interaction between the various protagonists? Which personalities featured most prominently on your own radar and was there a common cause or mission or muse guiding you all?
“Let’s not forget the black legions and the scene from Toulon/South of France. The Hexagon managed to have a lot of devoted individuals, and all with different approaches. My favourites then were Mutiilation and Belketre. Apart from those evolving under the AMSG banner, and obviously the Black Legions on their own, I do not think any of those bands did work with each other, or however people would expect them to evolve. Numerous loners spitting in the same direction but with a different approach… If I would have to cite individuals who had an impact at some point, I’d say Blaash from WhereismySkinzine – one of a kind. Then years later maybe Timo Ketola who managed to incarnate some weird dark poetry in this world… Also Conscicide from Bhaobhan Sidhe/Bestial Summoning was quite unique and an interesting artist in our correspondence. I am SURE I might forget some, that was 25/30 years ago or so….”
How important was the precociousness, fearlessness and rage of youth? Was that a factor at all or is the energy still very much alive today and perhaps it was more just a matter of the right characters appearing at the right time and place to create the perfect storm for a new Black Metal movement that would send shockwaves across the globe?
“A combination of all of this above, it was only then that it could take that shape…Young or not they needed to have/hold that Fire as well – otherwise, it’s not worth it.”
Black Metal is no longer what it once was. Mostly, the characters and strong personalities are gone or belong to older, longer-established bands. The essential energy, thirst, edge or danger seems to have completely dissipated. By comparison to what happened simultaneously in various territories all over Europe, contemporary Black Metal seems insipid, nondescript and thoroughly underwhelming. Where has it gone wrong for Black Metal? Has the genre been diluted by too many bands masquerading as BM, using the music to channel positive and weak messages? Did the ‘90s / ‘00s constitute a golden era that is over now and can never be repeated? Where are the natural successors to Antaeus?
“I’d consider that it went down the drain at the moment people were considering Black Metal as a musical style and would not consider its aim/essence. Many individuals or bands do now seek the aesthetics but without having any flame… it ended up as a gimmick for them. Thus the nonsense substyles of Black Metal that arose. I somehow did keep up with most of what the scene could offer up to 2006 – then I distanced myself and would only pay attention to acts composed of people I had to meet and respect, or who were respected by like-minded individuals. That does narrow it down a lot and it’s perfect: my time is not extensive and wasting time and energy is no longer a luxury I want to afford. For instance, I’d trust 99% of the choices made by Hasjarl with EAL/NOEVDIA. Regarding where the scene is lately… with bands like Possession (Be) or Vortex of End (Fr), these provide proof that there are still very worthy acts around. I am convinced that I do miss out on many, but that’s normal. I might be late to discover some, but as long as I get to experience something genuine, be it now or later, this is fine with me…”
No doubt Antaeus always was and always will be Black Metal. But would you agree that the music sometimes blurs the lines between Black Metal and Death Metal (as indeed does a lot of Black Metal, quite naturally). As well as the aforementioned LLN and Scandinavia influences, were you influenced much by Death Metal and / or punk? To my ear, your music was always more militant, abrasive, caustic, harsh and pummelling / violent than most of your contemporaries – more in common with Revenge or Blasphemy (or early Marduk even) than say Burzum or Satyricon or Mutiilation. Are there Death Metal – and other – influences coursing through your veins?
“We were not influenced by the black legions (or LLN, which sounds more French and exotic I guess compared to the terms we used then) but I really did dig the atmosphere (forgot to mention the ‘Seul’ demo tape from Satanicum Tenebrae, by the way) so did we praise Amon/early Deicide (up to ‘Legion’) or bands like Rottrevore, Incantation, Goreaphobia, Immolation? … those are bands I still listen to these days. France had Mutilated too, which were amazing, Massacra (obviously) Agressor – Mercyless and others. I got back into Mercyless recently. For some reason I always had great memories from their tour with Samael and Unleashed in ‘93 and somehow did not catch up with what they had created afterwards until recently…
“Our guitar player was massively into the most violent grindcore bands too and still is these days. I think you can hear some of his work on the early Ritualization recordings.”
‘Blood Libels’ captures Antaeus at their most vicious, violent and destructive peak. Not that you were ever anything else, but that album is just utterly disturbing beyond belief. It’s obviously not easy for you to assess or judge your own art but would you be inclined to agree or disagree if I suggested that ‘Blood Libels’ was the pinnacle so far? The music is ferocious, possessed and the lyrics are strangely abstract and disturbing, ‘Control and Abuse’ a perfect example of this.
“Fully agree. This is our most complete release, with most likely the right line-up at the time, too, especially with the addition of Zvn on drums. From the artwork to the composition and the recording itself, we reached our Peak there as far as I am concerned.”
With a history of hate and a legacy of violence and audio terror, Antaeus is assured of its place in the Black Metal Hall of Infamy no matter what the future brings, but I don’t want to talk about this band in the past tense. Is there more to come? How keen are you and Set to reanimate the beast?
“All my predictions were wrong so far regarding Antaeus, so if it happens soon: then Perfect. If it needs more time: then so be it. We both have our own projects and when it will be the right time, Antaeus will have a new recording – either a full-length or maybe a 7” only. Who knows? Recording for the sake of recording has never been of any interest to us.”
Finally, can you see yourself ever following Set’s example and retreating to a more peaceful existence in the countryside or do you prefer to remain in the city, observing daily the filth that is humanity going about its parasitic existence in all its nauseating glory?
“By peaceful, did you mean reclusive existence? If so, that could be interesting. Set is not on a spiritual retreat. He has most likely improved his quality of life, however, and can have his own rehearsal room and studio, something one could never afford in the city obviously. But unless one ends up moving fully away from all, you always tend to suffer from the presence of others; a different filth doesn’t make it cleaner.”