Channelling the inherent evil and insufferable hostility of New Hampshire, where the inexorable might of nature holds dominion over all soon-to-be-dead things, NortherN’s harrowing sophomore full-length, ‘Cabin Fever’, embodies the very quintessence of outsider Black Metal. Inspired by the incalculable extremity of his environs and the local lore, the primary creative force behind this chilling work, Heathen, cogitates hypothermia-inducing temperatures; futile attempts to scale Mount Washington; finding one’s true spirit by connecting with nature; the point where Cold Northern Vengeance ends and NortherN begins; and Black Metal’s accelerating capitulation into self-parody.
The most potent and evocative Black Metal draws inspiration from its geographical surroundings and NortherN is no exception, proudly playing a distinct brand of what you have termed New Hampshire Black Metal. Your music is inspired by the lore of this cold state – an outpost of stark extremities – and the character of New Hampshire can be detected in every bitter note. With murderous winds whipping down from Mount Washington and temperatures having historically plummeted as low as 50 below zero, have the extreme conditions and circumstances of the region shaped a unique local psyche?
“Yes, well New Hampshire is undoubtedly the state I have spent most of my time in. In my day-to-day life for the past five years, I have been trucking around this ‘Live Free or Die’ land as a job. Rain, snow, sleet or shine I am out the door at 4am doing what I need to do to make a living, as they say… and boy oh boy does it get fucking cold.
“New Hampshire is in my soul. It does not belong to me but I belong to it. Think of NortherN as like seasonal work but my job starts when the annoying tourists leave… That is NortherN: when the warmth of summer wanes and dies, consciousness shifts and these dark ideas seemingly come out from the frozen ground…
“I recently read that New Hampshire is a state where people like to be self-reliant and independent while living within the bounty of nature. In other words: our end goal is autonomy, to be left alone, the way it should be.”
Living in such an unforgiving environment, you must be cognisant at all times of the power and might of nature. Any time man and nature come face to face, there is only going to be one victor. To what extent is your music paying homage to this irresistible and potentially devastating force?
“I am totally into the man versus nature lore of this state. I have read quite a bit about the white mountain region and the many tourists who have frozen to death trying to hike when they have no business doing so.
“I myself attempted what is called ‘the Lafayette loop’ in the month of May. To my dismay, the mountain was still covered in snow. Noctis (bass) and I got about five hours up and – after wiping out and sliding down the slope on my hands, knees and face numerous times – I threw in the towel. It beat the shit out of me… Fucking brutal.
“Back in the day the native American Indians here held the mantra that you shouldn’t go up on the mountains because it might upset the Gods. On the opposite side of the spectrum, the typical English view was that man would eventually overcome nature. So this English guy attempted to summit Mount Washington in the winter conditions and he was the first person to make it to the top in that kind of cold. The next day they found his body lying naked face down in a puddle. What a juxtaposition!
“That is the spirit of the NortherN ‘Cabin Fever’ album right there. Let your mind wander on that.”
Thanks for putting that image in my mind – it’s a scene that I fear could stay with me forever! The phenomenon you are alluding to here is of course the one that provides the inspiration for ‘Cabin Fever’s warped outro, ‘The Final Stage of Paradoxical Undressing’, whereby the disorientated soon-to-be-dead individual removes their clothing due to a sudden feeling of unbearable warmth whilst suffering a fatal bout of hypothermia. With an estimated 1,500 people dying in the United States each year due to hypothermia and between 20% and 50% of these associated with paradoxical undressing, that’s a lot of naked corpses. It’s accepted that this act is triggered by a psychological reaction (a malfunction of the brain) rather than a physical one (extreme cold mimicking extreme heat), but can we dismiss a ritualistic, paranormal or supernatural element as the victim prepares to pass over into the land of the dead?
“My conclusion is as such: nature is a paradox. The wave builds to crash, the roots of the tree descend to darkness, the branch to the light, spring is birth and winter is death, and hypothermia’s paradoxical undressing is when you fuck around and find out hahaha!!!”
More than ever, it feels like mankind has lost / surrendered its innate and vital relationship with nature. As a species, we are relinquishing our most primitive essence, with the modern human perpetually connected to ‘smart’ devices (that suppress our mental and physical growth) seemingly 24/7. You wouldn’t have to go back too many generations to find a stronger and more imposing version of humanity… Mistaking regression for progression, is modern man an embarrassing downgrade on our ancestors?
“Great question and something I think about a lot … I absolutely believe everything you are saying. That my ancestors who were farmers were forced to understand nature in order to cultivate a livelihood…
“I hate the feeling of being too plugged in with a smart phone all the time. There is something intrinsically wrong with it all. I am guilty of getting too caught up in things like social media. I have to remind myself that this is poison.
“I try my best to connect with nature on a regular basis. That it is important and that to understand nature is to come closer to the true spirit … to understand it is to come closer to understanding ourselves.
“Anything less would be the empty narcissism of modernity and the poison of Urbanites, AKA Modern Black Metal.”
If the supply chain to stores was disrupted for any significant length of time, most of us – myself included – would not last a week. We have become ultra-dependent on the infrastructures and nanny-like pampering of society. How remote and self-sufficient is your own existence? Living in relative isolation, do you need to carry a large stockpile of provisions and reserves to get you through the winter? Would you be able to hunt and scavenge your own food if push came to shove? Maybe you already do…
“I don’t know how remote my life is. I am for the most part out in rural areas almost every day as a truck driver. I don’t live in a log cabin but my family had what my father calls a ‘lodge’ in the woods. I would spend a significant amount of time there growing up.
“I have guns and I go out in the woods and shoot but I am by no means a hunter. I do have hunter friends that I learn from. I plan to shoot, gut and hang a deer for the meat. I am not going to skin and butcher it though. I just don’t have that skill at this time.
“I do fish, though. It is something I work at improving. It is a skill that I want to be better at. I do know how to catch a fish, gut it and filet it for cooking.
“Basically, bushcraft and off-the-grid type lifestyle are things that I tinker with. I am into it but how well I would do out in the remote wilderness? Maybe better than most?… I would like to think so anyway.”
From the deep chill of ‘The Pangs of Nature’s Indifference’ right through to the unorthodox denouement that is ‘The Final Stage of Paradoxical Undressing’, the latest NortherN full-length, ‘Cabin Fever’ is a deep and diverse work which stirs the senses in a manner that the vast majority of recent recordings masquerading as Black Metal cannot come close to matching. The sonic equivalent of a blizzard infecting the mind, the album is bleak and harsh, with foul spirits weighed down by forlorn despair lurking at every turn. There is an almost-possessed aura emanating from the music … is this your darkest and most-evil work to date? Again, it’s channelling the inherent evil of New Hampshire, right?
“I think it is and I only want to go darker on the next NortherN album, which is tentatively titled ‘Satan in the Woods’. It will delve even further into the dark side of New Hampshire’s history.
“I want to give you a little hint on what is to come. Basically when I was in grade school we would ride the school bus with the junior high. One of the kids that I lived near and rode the bus with was a guy named Billy Flynn … he wound up being manipulated by a psychopathic woman named Pamela Smart to kill her husband. They called her The Ice Queen. It wound up being international news… A truly incredible scandal that I might have an interesting take on. Stay tuned…
“NortherN is indeed for all the Evil in New Hampshire… And that is why ‘Cabin Fever’ ain’t like anything out there in the boring and lacking-imagination land of modern Black Metal. I aim to make Black Metal ‘Black’ again … with the cult of personality that the first wave of BM knew how to cultivate.”
Is there a general theme, concept or story running through ‘Cabin Fever’? The title is interesting and apt considering the times we live in but, judging by the cover, you are referring to a literal cabin? Song titles like ‘Hypothermia’, ‘Outsider’ and ‘Alcoholism’ suggest that the underlying theme is every bit as unpalatable, corrupt and unnerving as the music itself. Who are the characters depicted on the exquisite front cover and what are they plotting? I certainly wouldn’t fancy arriving unannounced on their property…
“My inspiration for ‘Cabin Fever’ was finding a falling-down, abandoned Cabin in the woods. From there my mind would wander to the movie The Shining when the hotel manager told Jack about the murders and said: ‘They think it was what the old timers call Cabin Fever’.
“From there I just kept being reminded of the Cabin culture here. My cousin had a painting of Cabins below the mountains I wound up with. Not sure how… What is this that stands before me?
“It is the most New Hampshire album I could conceive. New Hampshire is an abandoned Cabin graveyard of sorts. Full of haunts and fucked-up stories. ‘Hypothermia’ has a line “Cross winds from the frozen North blow down from the psychopath mountain from which many a fool has met his hypothermic murder”. You drive up through the White Mountains and you will feel it… Something ominous. It’s there. Trust me…
“The cover is old New Hampshire in the frontier days. Who those people are or were is buried in the secrets of the North… But the vibe is there.”
Is NortherN a continuation of Cold Northern Vengeance, an addendum to the former band, or is it an expression that runs parallel to CNV? Has one entity morphed into the other or do they co-exist?
“C.N.V. is Pagan, Occult, Medieval times, Coldness and NortherN is for all the Evil in the Shire… One is the shadow of the other.”
Cold Northern Vengeance was spawned at what seemed from the outside at least to be a very exciting and dangerous time for USBM. There was a lot of hype around bands / acts like Leviathan, Xasthur, Krieg and Nachtmystium (some more deserving of it than others) and Black Metal in the States briefly threatened to transcend the underground. Judas Iscariot had disbanded but Grand Belial’s Key was still active, albeit not as part of the cool new ‘scene’. How do you remember those days?
“For me as an early ‘90s kid finding Black Death Metal like Deicide ‘Legion’, Morbid Angel, Vital Remains ‘Let Us Pray’ and being lucky enough to see these bands live was what really got me psyched on the whole genre. I remember having to hunt around record stores to find ‘Let Us Pray’ after seeing Vital Remains live and being totally mesmerized by their corpse-painted show with all the stage props. No internet in 1993!!! Better days…
“So when I finally found the cassette I was shocked to see they were from New England and there was an actual address I could write to the vocalist Jeff Gruslin. He would mail me flyers and one of them was for Grand Belial’s Key. So I ordered the demo by sending well-concealed cash and a Jesus Christ stamp, lol.
“Some weeks went by and I was wondering about the demo so I wrote a follow-up letter. I finally got the package with a little note that said ‘How dare you mail me this stamp?’. The stamp was returned with Jesus now wearing penned-on corpse paint, haha!!! Classic! Straight from Lord Vlad Luciferian himself!!! Or as they call him ‘Lord FAG’, haha!!!
“So all of this was what kind of led to me creating CNV in 2002. I really don’t care about any of those bands except GBK, who I consider to be the best of the second wave of USBM. The first being Slayer ‘Show No Mercy’, Possessed, Morbid Angel type stuff.
“I worship the feeling of those days and reject all the shit of these days. Fuck off to nowadays … My heart lies in the ancient past.”
All the worst traits of human nature came to the surface and there was no shortage of treachery, backstabbing and betrayal. Between ego massaging and – in one infamous case at least – desperately craving money to feed a drug habit, somehow the music was forgotten. It all became a race to the bottom. Who behaved most despicably towards Cold Northern Vengeance? Which, if any, of the bands or individuals from that era do you have respect for today?
“Dude, I was so there and saw everything you are putting down here. Basically we started off just as a recording project with this other guy who I don’t even want to mention. It all started off great with our little circle where we would meet at called ‘The Dungeon’.
“This place was Necrochrist of Martyrvore’s downstairs basement apartment. Think dank, dark, damp, stale beer stench, ash tray stink, boulders coming out of the ground, evil metal shit everywhere, medieval weapons, spikes, chains, swastika flags, fucked-up snuff films and a conglomerate of antisocial testosterone-fuelled heavy metal outcasts… That was us. What could possibly go wrong? Hahaha…
“We were really into this Black Metal Elitism type shit. Let’s record some evil shit and basically emulate what was going on over in Europe to a degree. In retrospect, this was when it was cool.
“As we started putting out demos more people started taking notice and other people wanted to join up so we could do gigs. The dynamics changed and we started going to places like Boston where people were big into cocaine and harder drugs. That’s where it really changed…
“The dipshit I started the band with became totally immersed in this drug bullshit. Started looking up to Blake Judd of all people and became a full-blown junk box heroin addict / dealer in the end. He wound up going to prison…
“I dunno. It is what it is. I could go on but I would rather not. It was a downward spiral for sure…
“I do have a funny story. Everyone would always be making fun of Blake Judd for being a piece of shit back then. We played this show in 2006 in Brooklyn, New York where Nachtmystium was playing. Gravewurm was playing with Gelal from GBK on drums and he went up to Blake and confronted him for being a scumbag… Blake said: ‘But dude, you are like my favourite guitarist.’ Hahaha!!!
“I would say the entire scene around here went almost completely SJW, left wing, commie loving bitches around 2010. So basically everyone turned on C.N.V. … I am okay with being hated by commie scum, though. Fuck these goof balls.
“The USA bands I respect most are GBK and others like Imprecation, Witch Tomb, Profanatica (who are better now, in my book). Most of them are cunts, though. The scene sucks compared to how it was. I don’t give a shit about it.”
GG Allin, Boyd Rice, Aleister Crowley, Friedrich Nietzsche and Carl Jung have all been cited as influences on your music. Are these the main literary and cultural inspirations who have helped guide you on your journey along the left hand path? Is there any common thread running through their teachings that appeals to you? Are there any other significant influences you would add to that illustrious list?
“We use a GG quote in ‘Cabin Fever’: ‘Give me darkness and a bottle to hold’. So fitting because GG was from New Hampshire and this state held the record for most alcoholics per capita. But I am not really that influenced by him aside from liking his music and being entertained.
“I mean I was really into all these guys and still am. These days I really like Jordan Peterson. He is like a modern-day Jung. A little too heavy on the Christianity but his advice is at the very least practical.
“There is another guy named Styxhexenhammer from Vermont that keeps me entertained from time to time. He is much more political but I am into libertarianism / Americanism, so I am pretty into his stuff.”
What is your take on the ongoing attempts of Reddit-frequenting social justice warriors to reinvent Black Metal as a safe space stripped of its essential values of heritage, pride, honour, nature and Satanism? The hysterical interference of keyboard warriors and Antifa-types campaigning to have gigs and festivals cancelled? The recent Steelfest furore being a case in point. Perhaps the best response is to ignore these people as they are never going to get what they want and are therefore irrelevant and powerless?
“Boyd Rice said about this ‘SJW Satanism’ that they are basically co-opting something that is their antithesis. It’s a joke … They are a clown show.
“I know all about the goofballs in Antifa throwing hissy fits if there is a band playing they don’t like. I booked Horna in 2019 and they went into a panic. Started calling the venue threatening to set it on fire. Empty words, per usual.
“The owner of the venue told them to come see him, haha… The show went on to a near-sold-out crowd in small town New Hampshire on a Tuesday night, haha… Thank you Antifa for all the promotion. You just made people want to go even more.
“The Hells Angel’s motorcycle club came to the show just waiting for the soy boys to show up. Nothing happened. The show went on and everyone had a blast. They can suck my Yankee doodle dick.”
Still, with parasites like Uada and their ilk staining the planet and proclaiming to be Black Metal at the same time as we have Christian Black Metal, antifascist Black Metal, anarchist Black Metal and fuck knows what other abominations, is the subgenre in danger of becoming a parody of itself or are there enough worthy hordes defiantly flying the ancient flag with contempt? Are there any current bands grabbing your attention (for the right reason)?
“It already is a parody of itself. I don’t have much interest in the genre anymore. I will say that I wish GBK would put out a new album.
“I did come across a band from Germany called Brocken Moon who I have become a fan of… German is such a violent, maniacal-sounding language and this band totally captures this with the vocals… Though I think they have disbanded.
“I will also mention that it seems like Texas has a good thing going. That they don’t curtail to Antifa cunts like they do in New England… Imprecation is a fucking sick band, too. I also have to give props to Profanatica for getting better with age and telling all the SJW clowns to fuck off… To all those who do not curtail to commie scum and think for themselves, I raise my glass.”
What can we expect next from the NortherN / Cold Northern Vengeance camp? Are you working on new material already or planning any live rituals to further spread this cursed plague of strange heathen madness? Twenty years in, and counting, how motivated are you to battle on as the original and premier purveyor of cold, haunted New Hampshire Black Metal?
“I plan to do a C.N.V. album with a medieval theme, called ‘Disenchantment’, with song titles like ‘Castle Doctrine’ and ‘Heavy is the Head That Wears the Crown’ and even a cover of Slayer ‘Die By The Sword’.
“NortherN will delve further into Evil. If you thought ‘Cabin Fever’ was dark than the next one will only be more bleak and disturbed. Satan in the Woods…
“Don’t care much about live shows or the lame-brain scene around here. Almost 20 years in and I will continue to use this Magick formula: don’t care about the scene, don’t care about shows and create something worthwhile and different from the all-too-predictable, cookie-cutter land of oversaturated and stale ‘Black Metal’.
“Also watch out for my Death Metal project called Dominion that shall harken back to the better days of the genre…
“In closing I want to thank you for being so articulate and thoughtful with your review and interview. Kind of shocked there are some smart people left … Cheers!!!”