As innumerable interlopers of dubious ideological inclination shamelessly claim Black Metal as their own, are the original dark and dangerous core values of the subgenre being eroded? Who better to provide some insight than Aske initiator and principal creative force, Behemoth, who has been burning the black flame in His name since the early ‘90s? While outsiders, heretics and fads might come and go, changing with the wind, Aske – untarnished, undiluted, unapologetic – refuses to compromise, to the contrary remaining steadfastly dedicated to creating raw, grim, underground Black Metal as it should be … the ancient way.

Christian / Catholic Black Metal has to be the greatest abomination of all – a sick, twisted contortion that’s so obscene and anomalous it beggars belief. I’ve seen the terms Unblack Metal and White Metal used but I can think of many more appropriate descriptors for this absolute garbage. Surely anybody who performs, records, promotes, endorses, purchases or listens to Black Metal with a pro-religious theme is worthy only of scorn and derision? Perhaps even death?
“Various religious themes have always been present in Black Metal, whether related to Satanism or Christianity, anti-christianism or whatever. I think everyone does as they please because everyone has freedom of speech. However, I am strongly against the principle of White Metal! Especially if we talk about Christian Black Metal, how the fuck can it be Black Metal in this case? In my opinion, the same shit group includes all of today’s subgenres in Black Metal, such as DSBM and so on. Personally, I have always used anti-Christian themes in my music, as well as other themes: Satanism, a personal devil worship, demonology and of course my own views. For me, it’s actually the same as what others write or declare with their music, I just do my own thing that I find important to myself and my lyrical themes also reflect who I am in my real life and my ideology. And by the way, I’m so tired of those kids which declare war against some bands … perhaps I’m too old?”

I’m all for freedom of speech and freedom of expression but it flies in the face of all logic that an art form as dark and overtly Satanic as Black Metal can be warped and used to ratify the very forces it has traditionally railed against. From Black Metal’s gloriously intolerant, church-burning past, we have somehow arrived at a time and place where grovelling Christians want to blast and riff and shriek in the name of Jesus! I suppose it just goes to show that the world is full of fucking idiots?
“I have not followed Jesus-Hippies so closely. I remember the bands of the ‘nineties who revolted against Black Metal, but especially here in Finland, these bands disappeared as quickly as they appeared. There must be freedom of speech, but sadly there are attempts to limit that too. The world is completely confused at the moment about what to say and what not to say … this is especially noticeable on social media. As for praising Jesus, then it’s fucking ridiculous in metal music! Totally idiotic, as well as some ‘emo’ assholes who try to be cool in the Black Metal scene … fucking hipsters! And, as for the good old days when Black Metal was a new thing, back then it was shocking and evil, but nowadays it’s a fashion phenomenon.”

And it’s not just the offence to Black Metal’s integrity that’s ludicrous. Are they also too blind to realise the inherent stupidity of what they are doing? Praising servitude to weakness, hailing devotion to enslavement and dogma through a musical subgenre with such evil connotations. It’s absurd and difficult to know whether to laugh or cry…
“Yeah, I agree, but slave of Satan or something else? Let everyone make their choice unless they have been chosen.”

As a self-professed insulter of Jesus Christ, the King of the Lies, I’m sure you will agree that Christianity is nothing but a scourge on humankind. Almost a third of the world today still consider themselves to be Christian. People prepared to resist natural human urges in the hope that they will be granted eternal life in an imaginary afterlife kingdom. Content to sign their lives away in honour of a fraud. The result of course is that they will have no life of note at all, either on earth or anywhere else, which is poetic justice. To not live one’s life to the full is truly reprehensible. Like wild animals, shouldn’t we make the most of the brief time randomly allocated to us?
“I see Christianity as a kind of plague as well as a complete enslavement of man. Especially Jehovahs, with no will or opinion of their own, are destined to have a very limited life. They live one life according to one book and cannot even imagine believing any other truth. Personally, I admit to being a Satanist as well as believing in a personal devil. With my ideology and beliefs, I realize myself just the way I want to, no matter what others think. Yes, I also have some vision of death and what happens after that, but it is in no way comparable to the crap of Christianity. There are a lot of things in my ideology and beliefs that I hardly reveal to anyone, but I use them in my lyrics, which are never published anywhere. And, hell yes, pure evil and darkness: kneel before master goat!”

It’s not just religion that has tried to corrupt and dilute Black Metal. It’s almost as nauseating to witness such a proliferation of dubious post-, hip, melodic, over-produced, commercial, progressive, industrial, avant-garde, and even Antifa drivel being promoted under the banner of Black Metal. One cross-pollination I enjoy personally is Black / Death Metal – which I feel is a natural, organic and welcome fusion of two similar subgenres – but there’s so much bad, inauthentic nonsense these days. What is the best reaction to this? Perhaps just to ignore it?
“True, there is way too much overproduced shit and hipsters from all over the world seem to consider this particular shit as genuine and real Black Metal. What makes this sad is that many old genuine underground bands are involved in producing that shit. Maybe it’s because of the money? Or fame? And as for the Death / Black Metal, I quite agree, especially in the old bands and recordings / demos, which represent some of the most authentic, intense and brutal stuff, perhaps the best Black Metal genre of all subgenres. What makes it false is probably that everyone copies each other and they have nothing to give of their own. I have noticed that in all the offerings can be found only a handful of good and genuine-sounding bands, thus I do not know whether or not they even a genuine ideology in place. Antifa is something I don’t care about at all and the same goes for NSBM bands. Miraculously, a couple worth listening to can be found… I don’t think politics has anything fucking to do with this music, play PUNK and add political themes to your fucking lyrics is my opinion.”

In the name of Satan, Aske has been flying the true Black Metal banner since the early 1990s and you have never once compromised or changed course. To the contrary, you have stuck resolutely to your guns, delivering a succession of raw, ancient, lo-fi releases over the past 27 years. The fourth and fifth demos, ‘Goatfuck’ and ‘Saatan Legio’, were released in 1997 and ’98 respectively but there was then total silence from the Aske camp until 2016, when you rose from the tomb and ‘Vuohi’ surfaced. What was going on during those intervening years and what prompted you to bring Aske back to life?
“Firstly, I didn’t have any place or line-up for many years where I could have made music, finally when I went back to making music it was about new bands – one Death Metal project and a couple of new Black Metal bands. In fact, the ‘Vuohi’ demo was supposed to come for another project called Black Cum, but the original publisher, Wolfsvuur Records, asked why I didn’t release this under the Aske name and so it happened. I hadn’t even thought about Aske for many years, but ‘Vuohi’ opened my eyes to keep going where I left off. The change in style didn’t even occur in my mind, and now that I think so the style could be even more brutal.”

In true underground fashion, you have stuck rigidly to demos and splits, without bothering as of yet to record a full-length album. Is this a deliberate strategy – a way of keeping yourself as deeply embedded in the underground as possible, where only those who seek you out are going to find your music?
“Would you forget the ‘Down The Gates’ album? In fact, there is a lot of new material for the full-length album, but there has been misfortune along the way. Drummer Urn injured his hand in the Spring and hasn’t been able to play the drums, so we couldn’t start recordings and, because I promised that he can play drums on the new album, I did not replace him or play drums by myself. As for small releases, it’s been fucking great to make them, at least you don’t have to force-record records if, for example, there is a contract with a record company for several albums. Somehow I feel that Black Metal is best if it is not produced too much because then it becomes full of rubbish. Sometimes less is more. And, of course, Aske is quite underground-styled stuff, so I have experienced that this is the best way to do things. I don’t care if I have five or fifty thousand fans because Aske is what I am; some who know my band will find new releases. In short, underground Black Metal just works best this way, although a few exceptions can always be found.”

Earlier this year, ‘Dead Christ Prayer’ – a brilliant split album with your compatriots Witchcraft – was released across all the formats by Bestial Burst, Nuclear War Now! and Narbentage Produktionen respectively. The three tracks you contributed to this recording indelibly underline the enduring relevance of Aske as one of Black Metal’s longest-established, uncompromising entities – raw, grim, timeless and dripping of pure evil. You recorded these songs in 2019, so is it safe to assume that there’s more new material on the way?
“Yes, there are five tracks ready for recordings for the new album, which includes an overture that is not a traditional intro but just guitars, drums and other instruments. Now, as I mentioned already, I’ll just wait for the drummer to be able to practice the songs and then the recordings. I have also done other music during this fucking Covid-19 – ambient / industrial / experimental. 5217 is my old project that was once Abruptum style but has now changed in the above direction and a split album is coming with legendary Unholy band guitarist Jarkko’s project, Temple of Tiermes. We are also trying to reactivate – in conjunction with another original Aske member – an old project called Kurnugia. We did a lot of tapes from the early ‘nineties through to the end of the ‘nineties. Almost everything stayed inside the band and only a few tapes spread abroad. A compilation of those rehearsal tapes is on the way, with the CD being handled by Bestial Burst and the tape from Worship Tapes.”

For me, the ‘Dead Christ Prayer’ split represents a perfect union of old and new Finnish Black Metal worship, Witchcraft being relative newcomers who are burning the black flame with passion… I imagine you are very careful about who you choose to collaborate with and Witchcraft ticked all the boxes?
“I was wondering exactly who I would do split releases with, and Witchcraft was a pretty good choice because I know them personally. Their style is quite uncompromising and passionate about old-school spirit. But, for example, a split album with the Mexican band Gnosis Occultus was also special because their style is quite different. I’m fairly happy with that too, even though my part is a bit hasty and not well finished.”

Some more Aske records are imminent, too, as your 2019 MLP ‘Down The Gates’ is about to get a vinyl reworking by Darker Than Black, while Nuclear War Now is going to handle the vinyl edition of ‘Caprae Adorare’, featuring six more unreleased rehearsal tracks from the ‘90s. Meanwhile, Bestial Burst is releasing the aforementioned ‘Lost Tapes From The Depths’ (a collection of obscure recordings from the ‘90s, under the Kurnugia banner), while a compilation from a Death Metal band you were involved in – Morbidity – ‘Death From The Past’ – is also getting reissued. Seems to be a lot going on right now between new recordings and reissues of older material. Looks like Aske is finally getting the recognition it deserves, three decades later, although I’m assuming you are not doing any of this for attention?
“As I mentioned earlier, I don’t care how many fans the band has, I really don’t think I would get attention with these releases. However, all of these are very much in the underground spirit, so they will hardly arouse much interest in the listeners but, on the other hand, I don’t really care if they are liked or not. The vinyl edition of the ‘Down The Gates’ album is necessary mainly because the CD edition was mixed very poorly as the original purpose was to make it a rehearsal tape or demo.”

I’ve mentioned at the start of this interview many of the things that Black Metal should not be. In your opinion, what are the most important characteristics – sonically and thematically – that are needed to create worthwhile Black Metal?
“There are too many subgenres these days, it just ruins the whole Black Metal idea. Everyone does it their own way and it’s just okay to have a choice of what to listen to. But my opinion … nothing overproduced because Black Metal needs muddy sounds. Personally, a strong message is required; an ideology, one’s own vision and not to directly copy the work of other bands. Black Metal must convey a certain kind of darkness to the listener. When you feel the presence of a certain kind of evil while listening to music then you know what it is all about. Forget those stupid winterforest themes from Black Metal… I think you know what I mean? Anyway, thanks for the interview. Let’s hope we get to the recordings of the new Aske album soon. Ave Domini Inferi!”