Projecting the most disturbing, redemptive resonances known to man, Sektarism’s corrupted, cathartic conjurations invoke a genuine sense of dread and wonder, providing the perfect soundtrack to this unfathomable, spectral surreality that has supplanted everyday life. Summoned from afar, apostle of ignominy Eklezjas’tik BerZerk discusses the benefits of enforced hibernation, finding oneself amid the darkness, the appliance of science, the onrushing necessity of clandestine gatherings and that which shalt not pass.

If current global events prove anything, it’s that nothing is proven or provable. The limitations of science have been cruelly exposed by the apparent arrival of a new pathogen and the response seems to be based around assumptions, speculation and unreliable modelling / predictions rather than exact, verifiable science. For those of us who believe that science provides the basis of all truth, these have been sobering times. Although mainstream media conveniently chooses to ignore it, there is widespread disagreement and conflict in the scientific community right now. With so many theories and counter theories flying around regarding the virus and how best to react to it, this certainly has not been science’s finest hour?
“From my point of view, during these strange times, the best we can do is to focus on ourselves. With the development of social media and networks, the number of pseudo-scientists and experts in medicine is just incredible. You can have an opinion if you are an expert, but if not… It’s really exhausting to read tons of comments every day. It’s not science’s finest hour for sure. But rather the finest hour for all pseudo-experts who have never opened a book.”

Perhaps my expectations were too high but I would have assumed that the role of science is to provide knowledge and empirical evidence rather than merely offering forth contentious theories. Anyway, it seems ironic to me that at the same time that I’ve become so sceptical, scientists have been handed the keys to the universe. I’m not sure if the same scenario applies in France, but here in Ireland – and also next door in the UK – it is scientists who are now in charge. Isn’t it strange that scientists have suddenly been afforded so much power in a time of crisis? Perhaps governments are hiding behind them or using them as a scapegoat?
“It’s the same in France for sure. I think that’s the same in all western countries at least. These scientists are certainly the new tool of a complex situation. And it’s not so surprising that governments hide behind them, in order not to be responsible. Although, it’s a really interesting period. The keys may be changing hands. For the best? I don’t think so, it’s just for a dance of power.”

Don’t get me wrong – I would have no issue with letting scientists take the wheel if I felt they had the answers. However, most of the policies and measures being recommended are not actually based in sound science at all and as such do not inspire any confidence. There is no reputable scientific or medical evidence that mask wearing, social distancing or lockdowns are effective long-term strategies to combat the spread of a virus. In fact, I’m pretty sure that the opposite applies, that they are making it up as the go along and that these measures are going to do more harm than good – crushing economies, wrecking livelihoods and inflicting untold damage on the physical and mental health of the world’s citizens. Could it be a classic case of the cure being worse than the disease itself?
“Time will answer or not to all these questions… From my personal point of view, this year and all these lockdowns are for the best. I was in a too fast and stressed way of living. Taking airplanes almost every week to cross my country, never thinking of what I really need. I’m in hibernation since a couple of months and it’s perfect for my spiritual activities and creativity. I have time to feed my spirit and my body. I have been taking a break with my label’s activities and really focussing on the essential. I don’t know if I am able to live like this for years, but for the moment it’s just perfect and that’s the most important for me. Spending time in front of the news, listening to scientists, listening to journalists or politics is just a way to be more anguished. I recommend for all of you to stop listening to them and just live for yourselves. The darkest days are perfect to find your own way.”

I’ve been arguing for years that science had rendered religion and the supernatural redundant and had disproven the existence of god or any afterlife. However, it could be time to revise that viewpoint in light of recent misgivings. As some science borders on hocus pocus itself and so much is unexplained or unexplainable, it does seem plausible that there is more to all of this than just birth and life and death. Do you believe in energies and forces beyond the carnal? Could there be more to each person than a physical body? Obviously, we have consciousness, but does that depend on the body – will it dissolve at the time of death or could it transcend the flesh? Are there forces in the universe that the limited bandwidth of a mere human will never comprehend?
“Sure, I believe in energies and forces beyond the carnal. I’m pretty sure you have used a smartphone, a radio… and what about radioactivity? So, it’s possible that there may be more than a physical body. We can transcend the flesh for sure. Keeping our memories of our ancient form? Not sure… but it has an impact on our next carnation. Like the butterfly effect… And to answer your last question: when I look at the sky particularly at night I can find the answer; those who think differently are crazy or stupid sheep. Those who claim to understand everything are just charlatans with too big an ego and should take an injection of doubt. Doubt is a key. As humility in regards of elements.”

Are we finite piles of flesh or part of something more permanent, points of consciousness perpetually recycled within an infinite chaotic churn of time? The French chemist Antoine Lavoisier is credited with establishing the Law of Conservation of Matter (i.e., that matter can neither be created nor destroyed), which is followed on by the first law of thermodynamics, also known as the Law of Conservation of Energy, stating that energy cannot be created or destroyed in an isolated system. Which, if true, suggests that every part of us – every atom in the cosmos – has always been here and always will be, albeit in an altered state…
“I believe that atoms are connected one to the other. Everything is recycled, reused, it’s the same for everything. You can be anti or pro cosmos; you are part of it and that will be the case until the very end.”

Before everything went to fuck, when the world was still a playground and not a prison, I was privileged enough to attend a Sektarism live ceremony – late September, 2018 at the Gebr. de Nobel in Leiden, with Ride For Revenge, Hetroertzen and LvxCælis also on the bill. Great company indeed, but your performance was certainly the most memorable that night. It struck me as being akin to an inversion of a religious gathering or mass – an adversarial ritual where demons are not cast out from the congregation but channelled into the attendees. Almost like an exorcism in reverse. The energy in the room was palpable and it was decidedly dark. From the celebrant’s perspective, what is that energy and how are you able to tap into it? Are these live ceremonies the ultimate expression of what Sektarism represents?
“These live ceremonies are certainly the ultimate expression of what Sektarism wants to offer. Your report of this date reinforces our will to share it with our audience. We are not here to offer some fun to the public. But to live a transcendental experience with them, and people who attend our ceremonies are part of the ceremonies as all of us. We are one, feeding the Egregor and living a cathartic trance. Although, it could also be a personal experience and listening to our offerings alone in specific conditions could also open some interesting gates.”

Live hostilities have since been outlawed practically everywhere and it’s becoming increasingly difficult to envisage a scenario where the old normal returns in the foreseeable future and we are allowed to organise and attend concerts again. Are you resigned to perhaps never playing live again or can you see a situation where artists and promoters simply defy the authorities and organise clandestine gatherings? Or is there any other solution or likely scenario?
“If the situation evolves, clandestine and occult gatherings to perform live ceremonies will be necessary. To be honest, it could be a great thing. It could increase interest in what we are doing and reinforce us. Giving more meaning to our Black Art and way of living. So time will tell… The time to come is paradoxically very promising.”

It’s almost as if death is a novel phenomenon that didn’t exist prior to 2020. There have been some stringent restrictions introduced in France to purportedly try to prevent it, with substantial penalties for those who refuse to comply. These restrictions have led to an increased degree of social isolation, which seems unnatural to humans (assuming we are social creatures). Have you found this challenging on a personal and artistic level or did you already live a somewhat isolated and detached existence with limited human interaction?
“As I have said earlier, it has changed lots of things in my life. It has been totally impossible to rehearse for one year, for example. Although it’s a great experience. And I think that we will be stronger than ever after that. And it will serve as a very inspiring source of creativity. For me, it’s really beneficial. I think that’s a good thing for humanity. Our modern world and way of living were at their end. A good opportunity to start a new game. I have read that all these restrictions affect our mental health only by 10%. I can believe that. All people who are normally mentally positive are still positive and the frustrated ones are still the same.”

There appears to be a lot of hesitancy in France regarding the new, experimental mRNA ‘vaccine’, with a recent poll suggesting that only 40% of residents are prepared to be injected. I fear, however, that somewhere in the future – even though Macron and authorities all around the globe continue to insist that “the vaccine is not obligatory” – we could end up with a system of apartheid in place, where individuals who refuse to be used as guinea pigs by Big Pharma are discriminated against, banned from attending events, from flying, from working, from public transport, from education, restaurants, etc. unless they can produce a vaccine passport. Isn’t it extraordinary that we could be coerced into receiving medical interventions that we don’t need and that could be detrimental to our health? I genuinely don’t believe that governments give a shit about their subjects or care whether we live or die – surely there is an ulterior motive or hidden agenda behind all of this?
“That’s the main problem and most important question in this crisis. We must be very vigilant about all of this. The French are generally very refractory with vaccines, although I know that we have some vaccines that are mandatory for children and it’s not the case in some other European countries. The big problem about all that is capitalism. Big Pharma are one of the most powerful lobbies, a real cash industry. And lots of companies want to go back to business as it was before the crisis. For these companies, the vaccine passport is key. I have even seen that some festival organizers militate for the vaccine passport in order to have live events back… It’s really a shame, I think it’s not the right way to solve this problem. Although, it’s maybe too late. It will be done insidiously step by step, and in a couple of years, it would certainly be mandatory… People will be selfish and want to go back to their former lives, without thinking about what is good for them or not. But for their pseudo-liberty and for their wallets. Not sure that we can fight that. The longer the lockdowns will be, the faster people will go to be vaccinated. If 95% of the population are vaccinated, and if vaccine passports are mandatory to go to a big event, to visit another country, to work, what choice do we have? Living like a hermit?”

It’s been a couple of years now since the third Sektarism full-length, ‘Fils de Dieu’, was released. Have you had much contact with other members of the Sektarism / Malhkebre camps over the past ten-twelve months? While there is undoubtedly plenty of inspiration for creating art in this dystopian existence we’ve been projected into, I understand you like to come together physically and create your music in an improvised manner or trancelike state – has this been possible at all?
“Since one year we have performed only one live ceremony with Sektarism, no rehearsal, and I have met my Fraters maybe two times. I have also played for a private festival with Camecrude in August, and it was a great experience, especially in these uncertain times. I like this clandestine way to express my art. So for Sektarism we work and exchange ideas at a distance and I take time to dig into my archives to sort all my data / ideas / projects. As you said, it’s almost impossible to work improvised music in these circumstances.”

You also run the esteemed Battlesk’rs Productions label, which has been responsible for many mandatory releases over the past two decades. I didn’t notice any activity in 2020 – is the label still active and, if so, have you anything interesting up your sleeve for 2021? Fingers crossed on that front as never has the world needed some quality new underground releases as much as it does right now!
“Thanks for your great words about Battlesk’rs Productions. I have tried to do my best. At this moment I don’t know what will happen with my label activities. 2020 was a break, the first in two decades. I need to think clearly about it, but it’s too early for now.”

Photo credit: all pictures by Laura Fiori at Les Feux de Beltane – May, 2019