Decades-deep in an infamous reign of blasphemy, Satan’s sincere servants Azazel have with nun-defrocking, Christ-flagellating third full-length, ‘Aegrum Satanas Tecum’, delivered their most potent, profane and disgusting testament yet – a truly evil-sounding record consecrated in suitably unconventional circumstances during panic-stricken, plague-ridden winter darkness. Drummer Idimmu details the unholy creation of this debauched outburst of Satanic devotion; reaffirms Azazel’s allegiance to Steelfest 2022; and outlines why Black Metal should always prioritise offensiveness over pandering to the fanciful whims of outsiders and infiltrators.

Azazel has defiantly flown the flag of true uncompromising Black Metal for almost three decades. As one of Finland’s longest-established and most devout cults, how do you react to the seemingly relentless and utterly hysterical campaign to hijack and dilute the subgenre with all manner of post-, tolerant, virtue-signalling, politically-correct sentiment? Black Metal can surely be paid no greater compliment (albeit a backhanded one) than to find itself in the crosshair of cancel culture?
“Azazel is hateful, we do not make compromises or please anybody. Azazel has remained true to its origin, which is primitive old school Black Metal, and we never sold ourselves in the manner of Dimmu Borgir, Impaled Nazarene and the likes. To us, Black Metal shouldn’t tolerate cancel culture. Cancel antifa, do not cancel bands who are ‘morally questionable’. Hail to Steelfest, Finland for keeping the right spirit! We would like to add that this doesn’t change the fact that Azazel is a Satanic band, so actually there is no proof of some political movement and such. Azazel is still Azazel. Antifa is wimpy and doesn’t belong anywhere.”

Do you find it frustrating (or infuriating, even) that so many confused, insecure social justice warriors are crawling out of the woodwork, convinced that Black Metal belongs to them and intent on reshaping it into a safe, kaleidoscopic environment that fits in with their deluded, perverse perception of how things should be? Or – as Black Metal was never meant for sensitive souls in the first place – is it possible to just shrug it all off, ignore these people and effectively starve them of oxygen?
“If you are an antifascist band, do not even BOOK yourself to a festival with so called ‘NS bands’. That’s what I’d suggest them to do. But, at the same time, we underline that Azazel will not play PC-venues, we will only play at ‘wrong’ venues and ‘bad reputation’ fests. This is our fuck-off attitude and will separate us from those wimps.”

It’s reassuring, though, that 30 years on Black Metal is still offending all the right people. However, in order to become truly dangerous again and to reignite the blaze in the northern sky, is it time for bands to double down on their convictions, maybe sever all ties with mainstream mentality and retreat back into the underground? Recalling those infamous and fantastic arson attacks on Christian churches in Scandinavia in the early 1990s, there was something noble and heroic about destroying the interloping forces that had with impunity usurped and desecrated the indigenous cultures, traditions and values of these proud, historic lands. Black Metal appears to have become weak since then.
“Satanachia has been a Black Metal fan since 1988! His oldest fanatic-bands who took things to the dark side, were Bathory, Venom, Possessed, Slayer, Hellhammer and Celtic Frost. Before that he was already into Kiss, W.A.S.P, Iron Maiden and such, so it was natural development for him. Back in the 80s it was still this shock-effect, only to basically wear an inverted cross or something. One has to only mention names such as Burzum, Mayhem, Emperor, Hades (Norway) and Darkthrone and thoughts come to head.
“Satanachia once related to me how he remembers the early 90s events in Norway with nostalgia. He was there first hand – he thought that this is fucking great!! The Churches are burning! This is a movement. Satanachia also mentioned to me that, actually, not much happened in Finland. For sure the early shows of Impaled Nazarene or Beherit were provocative, but they were still just live shows, not rituals or something.
“There was the chopping murder of a Burzum-fanatic-man, Riku (RIP), by Jarno Elg (and those two other people that were involved in it) in 1998. He did stuff in the vein Euronymous claimed he did, such as ate parts of his victim and so on. But how did that help anything? Black Metal guy killed Black Metal guy again!? Well, that made Black Metal a dangerous topic in TV and media for some time. Azazel can be everywhere at the same time – in underground Hell, in mainstream ‘Gates of Heaven’, or somewhere in between. We are aware that some laugh at us even, but they don’t know much about what we stand for. For real, they have only seen one side of Azazel.”

From Azazel’s perspective, how vital is it that the message and the music must be conjoined and inseparable from one another? While the music itself is obviously paramount, is the ideology, spirit and intent behind your creations equally as important, if not more so?
“Azazel’s vision is Satanist ideology, anti-modern lifestyle and (to some of us) destroying their lives for Satan. Let us give a piece of lyrics:

‘In the northern sky within frost…
eternity hears my wintercall…
funeral mood among with
demon soul… vampire spirit…
among with demon soul…
the night of Satanachia’

Certainly, you have not taken a step back or sideways on the Christ-crushing, nun-defiling third Azazel full-length, ‘Aegrum Satanas Tecum’ – a depraved and deviant record which bristles with unswerving Satanic devotion. This could well be the sickest Azazel offering to date… Sounds like you are more passionate than ever about your dark art?
“We all believe this is the strongest Azazel-full-length album. The sound, the songs and the lyrics turned out just right. And yes, we are even angrier now and somehow more brutal than on our previous ‘Witches Deny Holy Trinity’ album from 2015. Azazel doesn’t sound like a 2020s band, and that’s only positive in our opinion. If you look for a definitive stand out musically compared to many bands, Azazel’s material is kinda mid-tempo (not ultra-fast) and we like to keep it that way. To us, those old values of Metal still matter, like – if it’s too fast for headbanging, it ain’t metal, and so on!”

Three-quarters of the line-up that produced your 2015 sophomore album ‘Witches Deny Holy Trinity’ [Lord Satanachia (vocals), Mavrofos (guitars) and Idimmu (drums)] remain in place on this newest recording, joined by relative newcomers Raakalainen (guitars) and Lucifuge Rofocale (bass). While the primary song-writing, creative and artistic core of the band remains the same, how much did the two most recent additions contribute to the unholy conception of ‘Aegrum Satanas Tecum’? Did the new blood perhaps inject a new energy or increase your versatility and / or options in the studio?
“Actually the main composer for ‘Aegrum Satanas Tecum’ did change. Previously most of our full-length album tracks were written by Wakboth, whereas ‘Aegrum…’ is almost entirely composed by Mavrofos, who only composed two tracks for the ‘Witches Deny Holy Trinity’ album. Yet, we are pleased to have Raakalainen [second guitar] and Lucifuge Rofocale [bass] in the band, they were just fitting guys to Azazel. I guess I shouldn’t say anything more. I just don’t think many people could even cope with us… let’s put it this way. And, by the way, it seems I’m the most sane band member of Azazel, even though I am sometimes maniac as fuck too! I don’t think Azazel’s third album would have materialized so fast without me and K-2T4-S [backing/ demon vocals]. We really kicked the Azazel guys arses always, when we had to. Mavrofos composed the material of the album in just two months, though. The last track is an old song called ‘In Nomine Dei Nostri Satanas’ from the 1993 demo. That song was composed by Samiaza, the passed-away original guitarist of Azazel.
‘I call you, lord of Death!
In Nomine Dei Nostri Satanas Luciferi Excelsi!!!’”

Uniquely, and very much in keeping with the times that are in it, ‘Aegrum Satanas Tecum’ wasn’t actually recorded in a studio. Instead, you recorded the album in the heart of winter in an empty concert venue – Rock Bear, Vantaa. How did that arrangement come about? Presumably the venue was closed to the general public due to lockdown or something? How long did it take to record everything and how pleased where you with the result – especially the acoustics and the sound you were able to craft in there?
“Glad you noticed! Yes, the corona times were truly boring and we decided that what else we can do than record a killer new Azazel album? (No reasons to delay it any longer… it was already kinda late, as we thought we could already release it back in 2018 or 2019.) Veikko Bakker of Rock Bear was very helpful to us, and we support his venue very much. We will be also playing at his venue on the 18th of December, 2021 – an ‘Aegrum Satanas Tecum’ album release show with these acts: Rienaus, Astral Corpse and Satanic Torment.”

Could you specifically discuss or provide some insight into the drumming on the album? It seems more prominent in the mix (‘Demons Attack the Nun’s Chapel (Aegrum Satanas Tecum)’ being a case in point) and the hypnotic, primal patterns you are weaving are more clearly audible than hitherto. From a drummer’s perspective, did you set things up differently than before, give yourself an alternate set of objectives or are the detectable differences more down to the mix and the acoustics in the room at the time?
“We used the drum set of Rock Bear and borrowed pedals, some cymbals and my own snare. We got quite good acoustics, and were satisfied with the drum recordings; only thing afterwards was the drums could actually still have been a bit louder in the mix, but at least those timpan drum samples that can be heard on tracks 5-8 are very loud and you can especially hear them on the track ‘Demons Attack the Nun’s Chapel (Aegrum Satanas Tecum)’. Those timpans were inspired by such acts as Rotting Christ, Master’s Hammer and our dear, countrymates / comrades, Barathrum. Also I played my best drum fill on this track, before the faster part starts (at 2:50).
“Some drum parts were recorded at Sound Mind studio in Helsinki back in summer 2020, but we had to re-record most parts at Rock Bear under December moon 2020. Mavrofos had the vision that all the guitars should have pretty much the same settings, just to strengthen the hellish feeling. Also, the bass was louder on this album, compared to at least our previous album.”

Did everything go smoothly while you were inside Rock Bear with doors locked shut to the outside world or did you run into any setbacks along the way? I’m sure there was no shortage of alcohol available inside the venue but the excellence of the end product suggests you managed to remain professional, focussed and disciplined throughout the recording process. Ultimately, recording music in His honour is a serious business…
“Funny question. I think I gave my bandmates some vodka bottle that we had not finished at Steelchaos festival. I didn’t drink, because I was driving. Imagine… responsible Azazel member! Haha. Do you think that the rest of the Azazel members recorded their parts sober? Think twice.”

Considering that the place is usually heaving, it must have been a somewhat surreal experience going in to a deserted concert hall every day – a stark reminder of the fucked-up times we are living in?
“Yes, it was dead as fuck there, quite dark too. The bar wasn’t even officially open at all.”

The front cover art, by none other than Christophe Moyen himself, is the most graphic to adorn an Azazel album thus far. It’s the perfect image to accompany this blasphemous and sick-sounding work of art – how pleased are you with the result? Was this what you had in mind when you commissioned the piece or did it exceed your expectations?
“Again we have to thank K-2T4-S for helping us to get the connection with Thorncross designer. We are all big Archgoat fans and to us this was like a morbid dream! Christophe actually even topped our expectations. What can we say, he put all that we wanted to describe the Azazel album into that one pic. There is no question that it’s a BLACK METAL-album, and that’s exactly the point. Fuck off weak, wimpy arts. Everybody who love Moyen’s art – get in touch with him! He is a great person to work with, and listens to the band’s own ideas.”

The history of Steelfest – Finland’s most famous annual Black Metal gathering – could not be written without a chapter dedicated to Azazel. The furore around the 2022 event – which I alluded to in my opening questions – has been difficult to fathom. Wasn’t it incredibly embarrassing on their part to witness numerous bands initially agreeing to perform on the bill only to backtrack shamelessly and denounce the festival in a desperate attempt to protect their earning power?
“We started the conversation with this thing, but let’s say again that Azazel will not cancel. Those who cancel are part of some big agency or something and are owned by the big ‘mafia-guys’ or Europe. Nobody tells Azazel what to do or when.”

Azazel is fully committed to the festival come Hell or high water. How much are you looking forward to returning to the stage with your new line-up and to demonstrating that Black Metal cannot be censored, sanitised, cancelled or tamed?
“Yes. This cancellation stuff made us sick. We loathe such bands as Moonsorrow, Ensiferum, Havukruunu, who cancelled with wimpy statements. To us, they can leave the Black Metal scene. They don’t exist to us. Maybe they actually aren’t even Black Metal?
Next planned gigs:
18th of December 2021: Rock Bear, Vantaa Finland.
12th-15th of May, 2022: Steelfest, Hyvinkää
and hopefully sometime in August, Apocalyptic Rites fest in Northern Savo. We haven’t booked any more shows yet, but we probably will play a few more.
“Yes, nothing stops us. Hail Satan!”