Thirteen months have passed since Satan’s loyal servants Enthroned brought His word to the masses through the medium of a live ceremony. And, as subservient humanity is shepherded from one senseless draconian, dogmatic decree to the next amid the systematic dismantling of society, there is no sign of live hostilities resuming any time soon. With ever-meeker mankind effectively enslaved – stripped of the essential liberties that make life worth living – Nornagest deliberates the dire repercussions of this ongoing dystopian nightmare for the music industry and the population at large.

The absolute, inherent absurdity of existence has never resonated more profoundly than it does right now. More than a year has passed since Enthroned performed a live ceremony. Little could you have imagined when you took to the stage at The Nuke Club in Berlin on January 12th, 2020, for the final leg of the triumphant Cold Black Hearts European Tour, the madness that was about to unfold. The world has changed utterly and a lot of the fun and enjoyment has been removed from our everyday lives. While humans adapt and evolve – and we are almost resigned to our current predicament – when one steps back and analyses our plight in the cold light of day, isn’t it extremely difficult to fathom, understand and / or believe what has just transpired?
“The situation we are facing since February 2020 is dire indeed. Some of us in this industry or line of work rely solely on the income linked to the music / propaganda/ artistic and entertainment world, so, unless you have saved a shitload of income over the years AND are in a financially prosperous business / band, you are literally fucked. I know some sound engineers (I am talking about actual engineers, who studied for years and have a licence in the field; not your local guy who can push buttons and gets a ‘decent’ sound) who have to do chain-work at a chicken factory or who are distributing newspapers to be able to make ends meet. That’s how bad it is and those ones are still lucky compared to others. It is without doubt that everything that can serve as a relief to stress or a tiny bit enjoyable has been deemed illegal and is now forbidden but, for myself, I still can go hiking or take a walk into nature … or so I thought … I was surprised to see some of the spots where I usually take a walk barricaded or with a huge fence at the entrance of the forest (well, one can still go around it, but you get my point), stating that due to Covid-19 it is forbidden to wander on those grounds … now, let’s be consistent in our objective here: I understand and agree that IF there is a highly contagious virus around, a pandemic killing people by the thousands, that something must be done, I agree that if that very same virus is contagious by close contact, one should keep his / her distance … but in the wild … where there is barely anyone, is it that dangerous to wander and take some fresh air or am I gonna be infected by the next passing squirrel who would be taken by a stroke of aggression and jump on my face? If gathering people in some closed space is sooo dangerous, even with a mask, why are planes flying with sold-out flights? Same thing with trains and other public transports. How come in Belgium classical music concerts are allowed while a dark ambient or rock concert isn’t? How come you see pictures of our officials having a party of 20 with a band playing in the background and hoes all over them while we were allowed to see one person for New Year’s Eve and had a curfew at 12pm? Things are absolutely not consistent nor relevant; do you really think the virus will think ‘oh no, not that one, he is the prime minister’ or ‘mmm, not that plane, those guys are not interesting’. I am not a pro-conspiracy fella at all – those people are mostly entertaining and laughable for the most – but c’mon, one doesn’t need to be Einstein to realise that there is something else behind all of this. So, yes, it is bloody difficult to fathom what the heck is going on, I mean REALLY going on there. Luckily, I am a very adaptable person, but it is challenging … mentally and financially.”

In an era of grim milestones, passing the twelve-month mark since your most-recent gig must have been both sobering and depressing. I know you were conscious of it as you made reference to the anniversary on social media. How frustrating has it been for the Enthroned coven to be forced to down tools for such a seemingly-interminable length of time? Durbuy Rock Festival, Tyrant Fest, Sick Midsummer Fest and Camarro Fest were just some of the ill-fated gatherings you were due to grace in 2020 but, alas, the great architect of chaos had other ideas and we have instead been projected into a parallel universe where celebrations and outings are no longer allowed. It’s a surreal place we now reside in, where memories have been erased from our minds before they are even formulated. It’s hard to believe that all of this has happened – and that this insufferable state of suspended animation could be allowed to prevail for so long…
“A wise man said one day that ‘it is worse not knowing than knowing the worst of fates’ and this is exactly the kind of situation we are standing with our two feet in at the moment. This is utterly frustrating for sure but
what can we do about it? Some bands are still lucky, they can still practice together if they bend the ‘rules’ a bit
but, in our case, it is a different thing. Our drummer lives in London, so there no way we can practise together. We are working individually at home practising our back catalogue, writing down new ideas, putting some tracks together each of us on our side … it is definitely a pain in the ass, but as there is nothing we can do about it for now, well, we take the best out of this pile of shit. The shows you listed are but a fraction of what we could have achieved and were supposed to do. We did lose a lot of concerts, money and invaluable moments, and THAT is, to me, the worse; those moments we shared, talks we had amongst ourselves in this coven… I am not saying I do not miss playing live, yes, I bloody fucking do, but those precious moments, the WHY we created this band in the first place, are just gone. Sure, we can talk via a screen, Skype and co. are amazing tools when it comes to that, but it will never replace those moments when you talk to each other face to face, eyes within the eyes while sharing a drink, a smoke or a handshake.”

Most festivals and gigs that were cancelled have been rescheduled and Enthroned, like many other hordes, have – on the face of it, at least – quite a busy calendar of potential live appearances ahead for 2021. However, the situation continues to look decidedly volatile and this hiatus remains indefinite and very much ongoing. There is a saying ‘it’s the hope that kills you’. Apart from just opening everything up at once – as reckless / unlikely as that might sound – I can’t envisage a workable exit plan to get out of this mess. We could be destined for an endless cycle of rolling lockdowns and restrictions. For as long as social distancing measures are required, gigs and festivals are not feasible. Could the events industry be fucked long-term and perhaps even permanently? With no recognisable end in sight, unless something changes very dramatically and suddenly, are you concerned that we are heading into another year without live music?
“Maybe it will, maybe it won’t – that’s the only statement we and every other single band / artist gets these days… So, to be honest, we came to a point where we do accept shows, contracts and so on but, to me, it is like accepting an appointment at the Social Security office; you actually do not necessarily look forward to it, there is a sigh when it is signed and you don’t even know if you going to get the service you signed for. Which annoys me quite a bit as, in my book, those used to be the traits of someone who doesn’t give a flying fuck about playing music or simply being in a band. Don’t get me wrong, I am not saying I am bored of music, of being a tool of Satanic propaganda, nor am I uninterested to be in a band anymore, absolutely not, but this is what this situation is doing to us. That quote you mentioned ‘it’s the hope that kills you’ reminds me of the epitaph written above the Gates of Hell in the Divine Comedy:
“Through me is the way to the city of woe,
Through me is the way to eternal pain,
Through me is the way to a lost people.
Justice moved my great Creator
Divine Power made me,
the Supreme Wisdom and the Primal Love.
Before me, nothing else was created
nothing, but the eternal and I last eternally.
Abandon all hope, ye who enter here.”
“A dramatic comparison but of relevance nevertheless … but look at it like this … we wanted Hell? Here we have it, our own hell: a world without fun, without mass gatherings, without celebrations, a world where freedom has been taken away from us and a world where you are told what to do by people you do not even know. Let’s see this as an experience. Will I bend the knee to this in the long term? Hell fucking no, the only thing that keeps me from just living my life as usual besides shows is the wellbeing of my family; for the rest, I am still the damn mind and decisive force in my life, point.”

Although we clearly need to keep things in perspective and acknowledge that other sectors and people are suffering much more (both health-wise and financially), the shutdown of the events industry is nevertheless catastrophic on many levels. It has impacted hugely upon major, mainstream artists (who will be alright, I guess…) as well as those in the underground and even individuals who perform in local bars and pubs. The consequences have been severe for bands, fans, promoters, venues and a multitude of other direct and indirect stakeholders who depend upon events not just as an emotional outlet but also to earn a living. Live music has a huge spin-off effect and the economic damage being wrought in this area alone is immeasurable…
“Indeed, in my own situation, I have to live solely on what I earn by doing artwork, designs, logos etc. for bands, labels etc. and trust me this business is not doing super good either at the moment. Everyone is doing what he / she can to make ends meet.”

It must also be taking a massive toll mentally on band members? If performing on stage represents an invaluable aspect of one’s artistic statement and is an integral component of their art, removing that must surely diminish their purpose and sense of agency? Would it be fair to say that without live hostilities, something essential has been stripped away from Enthroned and indeed thousands of other bands around the world?
“Well… I am not going to say that… It is certainly annoying and playing live is a big part of what Enthroned represents but certainly not the decisive core of what the band ‘is’, far from that. We are a band that exist to be the catalyst and vehicle of our belief, our live set is the ceremony that goes with it, sure, but the essence of the band remains its members and what we create together while keeping that original spirit and core reason of its existence within it. The situation is mentally draining for sure, but none of us are falling into depression due to the lack of shows, it is more our nerves and patience that is tested every single day in this matter, it is a very different thing. It is an itch, the cigarette after your meal, the morning kiss your wife gives you when you wake up, it is dearly missed for sure but not to the point of taking a massive toll upon our mental health, no.”

Isn’t it typical of the tasteless, uncultured and twisted society we live in that culture and arts can be deemed non-essential while politicians, bureaucrats, television presenters and a host of other entitled, self-decreed essential individuals can continue to circulate as they please – and are seemingly immune to an illness that would allegedly kill the rest of us in an instant? It always feels like there is one law for the ruling classes and their associates and another set of rules for the rest of us?
“Thus why I said that things are not consistent – one day things are white and black, the next we can’t do one thing but authorities and people in higher positions can. ‘That place can’t be filled with more than five people’ but, in other places with the same capacity, they are allowed 200… Sure there is a virus, sure it is deadly to some people, but so is the common flu, so is yellow fever and malaria, should we suddenly close all Ecuadorian borders because there might be a mosquito there who will kill some European guy with malaria? There are more people killed by drugs and alcohol every day than by the corona in a year … did we start a new prohibition? No. Just open your eyes and realise that the problem is not that virus, it is the society in which we live today. People are dumb, offended by everything and nothing, the tiny bit of fun we had left has to be eradicated by politically-correct people… Monty Pythons, Walt Disney movies, Billy Connolly etc. etc, are being censored because considered ‘racist’, ‘gender blah blah blah’ … this world is the weakest it has ever been on a mental scale, c’mon, countries are electing as their representatives, a guy who hides in a fridge when shit hits the fan, just to give an example… the world is led by weak ass minded twats for the most part. Luckily we still have strong leaders here and there but it is not my place to say who and where, but still … take a good look at this generation … we live in a damn idiocracy which is trying to make us believe that we have to thank them for removing all our freedom and pleasant times because an aggressive version of the flu is out there killing people. The common flu has been killing people for thousands of years, same with Ebola, etc. Did they freeze the entire world? Did we go extinct? NO. And during this time, all the idiots around the world are complaining and crying because that guy might be a Nazi, ‘that one offended me because he assumed my gender’, ‘why should I work 38 hours a week?’ Well, I am offended every single time I hear Justin Bieber on the radio or when I see a guy wearing socks with sandals, do I call the cops, start a blog or alert the entire freaking world for that? No. This is as you said the uncultured society we live in today, idiots who wants to tear down the statues of Churchill, Ramses II and co. because it disturbs their opinion … that says enough to me …”

While there is a potentially dangerous / lethal new virus in our midst, harming vulnerable / susceptible people predominantly – and it will harm many more, regardless of what restrictions are imposed – the mortality rate is nowhere near as high as we feared last March – around .3%, or one in every 330. The world seems to have adopted a one-disease global health policy, focusing on Covid-19 solely and ignoring everything else. Are such harsh restrictions really necessary anymore? Covid-19 is terrible but does a point come when we have to stop quarantining and locking up healthy people? I believe that overall lockdowns cause more harm than good – damaging physical health, mental health and shattering a person’s self-esteem. When we reflect on this period of history, unless the evidence is distorted, it will be clear that they were ill-advised. For those locked up in their own homes, life can be completely worthless. Businesses and whole industries have been wrecked, a year has been stolen away from people who have lost their rights and personal freedoms. Life is for living. Surely this has to stop and we need to start living with this virus rather than running away from it?
“I completely agree, it is not by running and hiding from something that ANY situation is solved but by facing it. I am not saying that we should all go back on the streets like nothing is happening but, if there is a high-risk virus there for weaker people, just be a bit civilised and protect yourself so you do not infect your loved ones – but this is beyond ridiculous. Everything is Covid-19 based. People with aneurisms have to wait to have surgery while people are getting tested for Covid-19 … an aneurism can burst at any time, the longer you wait the more risk of dying increases. Fourteen days for the first symptoms of Covid and if you are a high-risk person there is statistically a 0.3 % chance to die, where is the logic? Now, it was established than a third of the cases that were believed to be linked to the coronavirus were actually pneumonias and common flu (which can also be deadly to an elderly person with asthma problems). In any case, it all comes down to the same points: 1. Overreaction 2. Idiocy.”

What will the future of gigs and festivals look like, assuming there even is one? Personally, I’d prefer not to go to a concert than to wear a mask and social distance – never mind taking an experimental vaccine! This may sound dramatic, but things have deteriorated so far so quickly that it is starting to look increasingly like nothing will be allowed to return to the way it was. Do we have the right to take risks with our own health and is attending a gig really that risky either to the punter or their close contacts, let alone people they don’t know and will never meet? Has life not always been risky?
“Life has ALWAYS been risky; you can die by just crossing the street or even when baking a bread at home… no need of a virus for that, as deadly as it can be… life is ABOUT taking risks. When there was the Asian flu outbreak in the 50s, it was as deadly, maybe even more than this one, but the world didn’t make such a fuss. When you had the Ebola crisis, did everyone stay home? Did everyone get paranoid? Did they all become cry-babies? No, they faced it like men, they fought it, they stood their ground and did what had to be done, point! The reason why we won’t have a return to normal soon if it keeps on going this way is because of the people who bend the knee when they should fight, and fight when they shouldn’t. Concerts, festivals and so on will probably come back … when? … I don’t know. Will it be like it used to be? Probably, but until when? Until something else is found and deemed a bit scary? Time will tell if mankind will finally wake up or remain the little sissy it has become.”

Vaccines were supposed to present us with our way out of this nightmare, but these have been rushed and are experimental mRNA vaccines never before approved for use on humans. As they are being rolled out (with reports of adverse reactions and deaths ignored by the mainstream media), there is a mantra from authorities that other restrictions must STILL remain as well, which is as unsettling as it is bizarre. Surely it will be safe to re-open society fully once those most at-risk of contracting severe illness have been inoculated, as there would no longer be a legitimate reason for restrictions?
“I studied Mathematic Sciences and I am not a virologist, so I can’t answer that question, obviously, but this is, once more, just another example of incoherence regarding health measures as human testing is the basic rule before throwing a vaccine or antidote out there. But, if the vaccine proves itself to be effective… will everything go back to normal? Let’s hope so.”

There is a real push for coercive vaccination of the entire population through a vaccine passport system, with the software being developed as we speak. Will venues and promoters inevitably implement mandatory health passports for those who wish to attend events?
“Well, I cannot answer that, it is not my field of expertise I would say, and I am not aware of anything of the sort. The only thing we’ve been told is: Belgium will require the Vaccine Passport for travelling (which is already the case in South America for decades now regarding Hepatitis A/B/C and yellow fever) and also for employment. So, basically, if you do not get vaccinated, you won’t be hired. For the rest, we didn’t get any information whatsoever on the matter.”

Proof of vaccination will also be required for all international travel, so it follows that bands will be forced to get injected if they wish to tour or perform abroad. Seems unethical to try to force people to inject some unproven and experimental substance into their body against their wishes. Things could be about to get a whole lot worse! The virus is still here and we could also genuinely be headed into a period of upheaval and civil unrest – the vaccine war! And still no gigs…
“It’s starting to sound a lot like science fiction, don’t you think? But, well, let’s hope for the best.”

How desperate are you to get back on stage and how important a part has this expression of Enthroned’s essence played in the history of the band? I would imagine that most of the highlights of your time in Enthroned revolve around live events and touring the world. Reflecting on these, what are your most precious memories?
“As I said, the itch is becoming harsher and harsher. I did learn about some unexpected and unexplored corners of my nervous system since the beginning of the confinement! I am really looking forward to hitting the stage once more – desperation wouldn’t be the word, excited is a more fitting term, I would say. Playing live has always been an important part of Enthroned as I explained earlier but also, yes, travelling around the globe and meeting interesting individuals and thanks to Enthroned I was able to visit places I was dreaming of such as Teotihuacan (Mexico), Stonehenge (UK), The Grand Canyon, The Acropolis etc… Memories I gained from touring are amongst the most precious ones I have to this day. I can honestly say that I met my closest friends through Enthroned live shows, which could sound actually sad in a way but, trust me, it isn’t.”

How much has this prolonged disruption broken the considerable momentum generated in the wake of the excellent ‘Cold Black Suns’? Not that there’s ever a good time for shutting down the world but the timing could hardly have been worse as – almost three decades in – Enthroned appeared to have ascended to the pinnacle of your illustrious career before the lights went out. After all the trials and tribulations you had overcome, you appeared to be on an all-time high, producing some of your finest material and deservedly receiving a great deal of recognition for your art worldwide?
“It was a disaster, yet… we are one of the lucky bands who could at least tour in 2020, but we had plans for a US / South American tour, talks about playing in South East Asia and Japan… We were approached to perform for the first time ever in Australia and New Zealand… And, of course, the festivals. Some bands got it worse but of course this was very bad timing for Enthroned as it happened after the release of our first album in five years, for which we had received the highest amount of positive feedback and exposure.”

We have all had more free time on our hands recently than we would ideally have liked. There have been some positive aspects to this as well as the obvious downsides. An opportunity has presented itself to take stock of things, to find oneself, to spend quality time with loved ones, to enjoy nature and to be creative – albeit with less money in our pockets! As one door shuts, so another one often opens… Have you been able to rehearse / record together at all over the past twelve months and is there any new material in the works? While we might not get to witness the might of Enthroned onstage in the foreseeable future, the appetite for music is stronger than ever amongst the masses and a twelfth full-length would be ravenously received – anything stirring?
“We have some new things stirring up within the bowels, indeed, but nothing we have worked together on yet. Every member wrote their own songs or ideas and, when it will be possible, we will put all of this together and
give birth to the successor to ‘Cold Black Suns’. As I said above, we can’t get together as it is simply not possible as of now, but hopefully this will change asap. The whole lyrical content of the next opus is done at least and it is a very deep and dark one – probably the darkest and deepest lyrics I ever wrote. In the meantime, I took part in the recordings of the new albums of Anomalie (Austria) and Windswept (Ukraine), studied new fields, perfected some of my designing techniques, went hiking in nature and spent more time with loved ones.”