At the grim denouement of an utterly repugnant calendar year that saw mankind cast for perpetuity into all-consuming darkness, it seems wholly appropriate that Ondskapt’s long-awaited, oft-delayed and gloriously unconsecrated fourth full-length compendium of pure revelatory evil, ‘Grimoire Ordo Devus’, should arrive without warning – ten new spells to celebrate the end of days and the dawning of His reign. The genesis of this unholy work encountered so many setbacks that its sudden arrival in the here and now could be construed as preordained. Was it always meant to be this way? I spoke to Acerbus – the demonic driving force behind Ondskapt for two decades and counting – about overcoming divine intervention to bring this cursed recording to the masses, the blessing of Covid-19, the current plight of humanity, a lifetime navigating the left-hand path and the non-dualistic nature of dreams.
It’s been the darkest, most depressing and hideous year in living memory – possibly one of the most offensive and unpalatable in the history of the human race. It seems rather appropriate therefore that a blasphemous new Ondskapt album should arrive in the dying embers of this certifiable annus horribilis, just as winter is about to wrap its icy claws around us (and perhaps choke us to death). ‘Grimoire Ordo Devus’ is so sinister and inherently evil that it is in many ways the perfect soundtrack to 2020. You couldn’t have timed it much better?
“The timing is purely coincidental. It has been significantly delayed, mainly due to some complications along the way. In many respects, it has felt as if some presence has been trying to hinder this release from seeing the light of day. The timing, although coincidental… like you said, could it be better? I think the timing is good and appropriate. Maybe it is supposed to be this way and that is the very charm of it all, I believe.”
Be it by accident of design, the arrival of your fourth full-length – the audial and spiritual essence of evil – is not only poignant but it does indeed feel somehow like it was (pre-)ordained to be this way. A series of frustrating delays were encountered along the way. As far as I’m aware, ‘Grimoire Ordo Devus’ was recorded during the summer of 2019 and you ran into many unforeseen difficulties both prior to and after entering the studio. Can you disclose any of the events that conspired to threaten to derail things? Did you feel at any stage that you were perhaps cursed? And were you ever tempted to just give up?
“I can assure you that it has not been easy going with this particular release. A long time in the studio (five months), we started recording in the summer, at the beginning of July and received the master in November. A lengthy layout process (eight months), among other things, created some frustration without a doubt. But, to be honest, there has been a certain feeling that something divine has been working against us, our producer, art designer and the label that represents us as well. Also, internal discord has been a factor since [bass player] Gefandi Ör Andlät upped and quit the band due to personal reasons in March of this year, the same day we moved into a new rehearsal space. The many hardships conspiring against us have only made us hungrier and more furious. In the end, we have smashed through all barriers and are running towards the future in a proud and fierce manner.”
Then again, aren’t we all cursed? Doesn’t the curse of existence hang over us all? The human condition could hardly be described as a blessing – trapped within a decaying shell, surrounded by weak, stupid and aimless mortals, death our only certainty. Not that we should fear death – it could be a merciful release?
“It is a weird thing, life… Everyone living is waiting to die whilst time truly kills everything. Death is pure and most definite but leaves a lot behind, building the psychosphere for life to experience a certain space in time, individually and uniquely. History does that… We learn about the future by seeing the past. But even by understanding the news of yesterday, what seems true does not often pass as the truth of tomorrow. These things change … not often for the better but for the worse, since humans are extremely self-destructive in nature. What is commonly forgotten is that nature is something constant when determining life conditions for these evolved Homo sapiens. It is easy to adapt religious beliefs as a parallel narrative, especially today to correlate to the status quo. It is hard for most people to find solutions to the growing existential problems at hand. Death can most likely feel like a release for many people, especially if a person is tormented by an agonising disease, for example, or going through clinical depression, among other things. Many people live arbitrarily and happily through life and live for the now. If the question is: do we deserve to be happy? It is a difficult question and almost impossible to give an answer to. To pass judgement is also easy, although I agree that most people are stupid and weak… To see far you need to judge less to enhance the very many factors at hand in a question. I believe but do not know completely… I have seen things I cannot understand completely. My actions speak for most of the things I do out of sheer belief…”
If you look closely enough at life and existence, it all seems so futile. Invariably, the same inevitable end for everything and everyone. Certainly here in Ireland, where we were subjected to a series of tyrannical lockdowns this year ostensibly in the interests of public health, things have seemed a hell of a lot bleaker than usual. In contrast, Sweden has been in the news due to the adoption of a more liberal approach to tackling the dreaded killer virus. Has life continued pretty much as normal there or, contrary to reports, were you still affected by the so-called pandemic? Was there much disruption to everyday life? A lot of death? And how has the whole episode affected you personally, if at all?
“In many ways I like this dystopian feeling to everyday life. It suits me fine. The practical problems are surely real and are mostly annoying… But I do relish the fact that humans are perishing. I honestly believe that Covid-19 is one of Homo sapiens’ ways to evolve but that it also fits into a certain religious narrative. Covid-19 is merely one of many beautiful things to come. In an interesting interview with Stephen Hawking pre-death, he stated that within 50-100 years this planet would be completely uninhabitable due to overpopulation, sickness and climate change. The intention he had in informing us about this was to enlighten the public that we had little time to colonise another planet (Proxima B) in an effort to save mankind. The whole thing is so absurd… I mean, if things come to that, it feels like throwing garbage from one spot in time to another, infesting something else pure with this disgusting human stain. However, the most likely thing is that a hellish existence – which feels longer than a good one – will most likely be prolonged, if possible, due to collective human choices in general.”
The utterly tormented, possessed and agonised vocals on ‘Grimoire Ordo Devus’ are wholly disturbing and impressive, thoroughly harrowing and blood-curdling. These shrieks and howls of anguish, despair and downright hatred are packed with diabolic power – a madness that cannot be faked. Clearly, something has filled you with rage, fury and disgust. Where does this naked hatred stem from? Is it fuelled mainly by an aversion to religion and god? Contempt for humanity and the world? Some elements of your own personal life? Or a combination of factors?
“Being somewhat religious myself enhances the purity in my performance and professionality. It is a combination of factors, indeed. I am very compelled to always do the utmost to do well with the vocals – as with all things in my life. I do the best I can. I learn how to master an instrument and play it as well as I can. The experiences in my life do reflect how I sound through a microphone; also, I let demons possess me momentarily so that they also can make their own voices heard.”
A commendable disdain for religion is never far from the surface on any Ondskapt recording. Indeed, the new record gets down to blasphemous business straight away, the twisted, nightmarish prelude followed instantly by ‘Semita Sinistram’, which translates as Left-Hand Path’. This is the path you have chosen … why have you offered yourself as a vessel for Satan? Is this a conscious decision you made yourself or did He summon you over to the dark side?
“It is a long story… I guess I am influenced that way. Certain individuals have a certain build. Not to sound too self-assured, I believe I was drawn towards a certain path in life purely because I like how it feels, not only on a personal level emotionally, but spiritually. The great freedoms in left-hand path doctrine are enormous and the things you can learn are great and most liberating. I simply like the dark and feel disgusted by the light. Already at the age of four years old, I was drawn to witches and mysterious atmospheres on a daily basis. I have not had an easy life. I was born and raised in England in the 1980s. The school system was what it was; exceedingly early in my life I felt a strong feeling of detachment to mostly all human institutions. I started playing the violin at four years old and since then I never stopped playing music. I felt an escape from a lot of hardships I was experiencing when playing an instrument; at the same time, I never did quite fit in, so to speak. I moved to Sweden, the birth country of my father, when I was nine years old and still felt the same detachment towards society, not having many friends. In puberty, I sometimes slept at cemeteries. It was when I met [Ondskapt co-founder] Nabemih he introduced me to Black Metal, and we became best friends. He became like a brother to me. During my whole life I have felt different, I am older now and I still feel more ‘to the left’, so to speak.”
This predilection for anti-religious themes has seen Ondskapt categorised as an orthodox Black Metal band. I know pigeon-holing is tiresome and redundant to an extent but these tags do tend to stick. Are you comfortable with this classification? On one hand, I imagine it’s an honour to be mentioned in the same breath as compatriots Funeral Mist, Ofermod, Mortuus and Watain not to mention Deathspell Omega and many others? Having said that, it’s a strange term. Does Satanic Black Metal perhaps fit better? Or just Black Metal…
“In many respects, I find labels to be very limiting. The strict labelling of music and its subgenres in Black Metal was totally deliberate for a while, the bands you mentioned are in fact personally responsible for that. I know this for a fact. Even if this was a trend that came and went very quickly, it was effective. Ondskapt did support this and still does in some manner but, like I said, it is limiting… Ondskapt’s music and what it stands for have some similarities to certain things that were said and done in the past but Ondskapt does not want to be categorised with any label. This was clearly stated in our manifesto right from the birth of the band’s existence.”
I stated earlier that the vocals on the new album stand out, but it must be stressed that everything on ‘Grimoire Ordo Devus’ is a class apart. Musically, the songs are incredibly accomplished and the playing is impressively sophisticated and intricate. I’m not sure if this can be attributed to the performances alone or also the transparent production or perhaps a combination of both… Regardless, the new line-up excels in every way. How happy are you with the latest reincarnation of Ondskapt? Also, did you relinquish any creative control in the crafting of this album or did you compose everything yourself?
“I am happy with the new line-up, even though we now have one man less amongst us. I have mostly done all the work myself but also Gefandi Ör Andlät wrote some great material. I must still say that it has been a joint effort whilst in the studio. Even though the album was written by me and Gefandi, it was performed by a joined unit. As a joint force, we performed each instrument to the best of our abilities.”
There’s no filler on the album. In fact, if anything, it gets stronger as it progresses, each spell potent and unforgettable. Proceedings end on a particularly high note with the unholy trinity of ‘Possession’, ‘Old And Hideous’ and ‘Excision’, which showcase tremendous variety and dynamic. They flow together perfectly, seamlessly – is there a common theme or subplot in these three songs, or how do they tie into the overall concept?
“The album is designed as a prolonged dream. I do not want to limit the experience by giving too many spoilers, but a hint is in order! When I arranged the order of how the tracks bleed into each other I directed the concepts within the tracks towards a beginning and an end. I have been very influenced by some films made by David Lynch for this album due to the non-dualistic nature of dreams: the experience if a dream is closer is being one with the experience itself. If you look closely at the songs you mentioned, they are going towards an ending of the album, hence the dream where ‘Excision’ is the end and death of this earthly existence but not of the metaphysical to the listener whilst observing the album’s finish and that which leads up to it.”
The sample from The VVitch in the middle of ‘Possession’ is extremely effective. Why did you choose to use an extract from this chilling movie? The sample in ‘Prelude’ is also of the bewitching variety and again at the climax of the record there is a haunting, malevolent female choir. So it does look like you have deliberately injected a cauldron full of witchcraft into ‘Grimoire Ordo Devus’?
“I have deliberately placed samples from that film in both the introduction of the album and in the song ‘Possession’. The outro is of a piece made by Alfred Schnittke. It is important for me to enhance the atmosphere in the right direction and fashion it to be ‘witchy’, yes. It offers the work an extra push in the ‘right’ direction and gives an overall correct makeup.”
Black Metal assumes a life of its own in a live environment. Under normal circumstances, I’m assuming you would currently be lining up some live shows to support the release of the new album, but I guess this hasn’t been possible? With international borders effectively closed to touring bands and most venues indefinitely barricaded up throughout Europe – not to mention talk of the imminent arrival of vaccine passports – how concerned are you about the future of live concerts? Do you think life will gradually return to normal or is it possible things might never be the same again?
“We have had a few offers, mostly to postpone towards more convenient times… The situation sucks but I honestly believe that when the time comes for live shows, hopefully they will be more appreciated. In the past, many metal shows have been sometimes unnecessary, people being drunk and bored in the venues due to the overbookings that have occurred far too often. Too many bands playing too many shows… After the restrictions, when they start to ease, it might bring some life back to a tired and overbooked Black Metal scene. We will most likely play live but we are not sure when. I can, however, assure you that when the time comes for Ondskapt to occupy the stage again it will be an experience to remember for sure.”