The unelected architects of chaos have inadvertently inspired a masterwork of Black Metal protestation and resistance that resiliently, resolutely reflects this perplexing, polarising period in which we live. The simmering resentment and unrestrained rage Joseph Deegan fosters for an increasingly engineered society – aimed squarely towards both the would-be oppressors and those who kneel submissively before them, pleading for an invitation to lick their boots – erupts tsunami-like into an inexorable, heaving sonic volley of invective, venom and violence on ‘White Hart!’, the third Slidhr full-length. As we descend ever deeper into dehumanising dystopia, crudely disguised as democracy, with the woke masses fast asleep, heads sand-buried, Slidhr’s indignant driving force disassembles the dissident, defiant diatribe that dominates this triumphant return.
A rare and refreshing throwback to times gone by, Slidhr is the very antithesis of contemporary Black Metal and a firm fist in the face of a modern world from which you and your music are steadfastly disconnected. It’s unmistakably Black Metal, of course, but abrim with traditional values. Which Black Metal era (if any) do you identify with most? And which bands and / or characters were responsible for igniting the flame that gave rise to Slidhr?
“Every Sunday evening on Irish radio we had The Metal Show on 2FM. Two hours of anything from Led Zeppelin to Beherit. This is the earliest Black Metal I recall hearing. It was 1993, ‘Drawing Down the Moon’ had just come out and they played the track ‘Nocturnal Evil’. What a fucking band, still to this day that sound is incredible. That had to have a massive impact for sure, whether consciously or not. Of course, this quickly led to the Norwegian second wave stuff that was happening, so I was hearing some of that but, as a kid, I didn’t have access to these albums, only what I could borrow from some older long-haired guys in my area. If I had money to spend on an album, I’d go with a safer bet like Slayer or whatever. Fast forward ten years and we have the great scene that was happening in the early 2000s. I was already playing in bands before then, but that was an inspiring time that led to me starting Slidhr.”
Although the Polish wolves and French legions were ominously on the move around the same time, Norway in the early ‘nineties is widely considered to be the birthplace of true Black Metal. These were incendiary and magical times and one of the hallmarks of that era was that the lords of chaos backed up their convictions with (often deadly) actions, irrespective of what the consequences might be. How much fondness, nostalgia and respect do you have for those days (musically and in terms of integrity)?
“The Norwegian teenagers certainly did something very special. It may have spawned a fucking ocean of horrible pointless shite but those early bands were magic for sure. I still value many of those albums, even if most of the bands are pretty embarrassing these days. I try to separate the older stuff from what it later became. One of the most uncompromising acts has proven to be Burzum, of course. Varg is a pretty divisive character, but he doesn’t give a shit what anyone thinks and goes his own path. I respect what he has done, particularly in contrast to some of the embarrassing posers that are still active from back then.”
Where did it ‘go wrong’ for Black Metal? How did we move from a position when the main protagonists wielded weapons (not only for photoshoots…) and waged war on their enemies to one where the spineless Black Metal warriors of today choose their words carefully for fear of being cancelled or losing social media followers; ardently distance themselves from the very sentiments and values upon which the genre was founded; and comply with safe, woke, pro-establishment guidelines that are an anathema to the original Black Metal spirit?
“They didn’t have much to lose back then. They have since made Black Metal their day job and when that happened things got very safe. Of course, part of the reason is that these guys just got older, but when they put on the costume and act tough for the public it all proves pretty insincere. They flirt with controversy but quickly jump back with cowardly statements and apologies when things get too hot. plastic! Be yourself and accept the consequences or stop trying to be edgy.”
The present day isn’t all bad, of course. While mediocrity, insincerity and meekness abound, there are still artists of vision, authenticity and integrity creating and performing exceptional Black Metal. Which bands or releases from the more contemporary crop have been capturing your attention?
“That’s actually a pretty hard question for me to answer as I’m quite out of touch with things these days. If I find a new band, it’s usually through a recommendation or something. As silly as it may sound, I was even soured off of some bands due to their government bootlicking over the last few years. Also, some bands that I’d consider newish have probably been around for quite a few years. The most recent Negative Plane album is great, as is the new Hexvessel. The last Head of the Demon was interesting. A band I caught live this year that I was unfamiliar with was Thorybos; they were fucking impressive and pissed off lots of people with their aggression. I’m certainly not averse to new music, but it’s very hard to find anything worthwhile in the absolute sea of mediocrity, especially in the Black Metal scene.”
The world has always been a vile den of deception and deceit, but things are getting out of hand. Accordingly, ‘White Hart!’ is the angriest and most acerbic Slidhr recorded output to date. While resentment and rage are ever-present on all your releases, this time the combustible sense of disgust is arguably even more unharnessed and palpable than before. Who or what was the catalyst for the fury on this record, and thematically is ‘White Hart!’ a natural, logical continuation of the path you have always been on?
“Most of the music was written pretty shortly after the release of ‘The Futile Fires of Man’, between 2018 and 2019. That one was a stressful album to record. It took ages, there were lots of delays and bullshit to deal with. We didn’t really play any gigs to support it, besides maybe a couple of small festivals, the last one being a fucking amateurish shitshow that made me never want to play another gig again. I think they were probably the most skilfully crafted songs I’ve ever written, but it felt like a waste of a good album with basically no promotion. In some way this shaped the vibe of ‘White Hart!’ Then 2020 happened…”
That ‘White Hart!’ is seeing the light of day at all is a triumph in itself because there was a real danger that the album might not be finished or released. From where did you summon the energy and resolve to see it through and ultimately was this record something that had to be purged from your system?
“Those who know me know that I’m aggressively passionate about personal freedom and that I despise the state or generally anyone who tries to tell me what to do. I watched things develop with interest and caution but also a healthy dose of scepticism. It didn’t take more than a few days to realise the whole thing was a psy-op. In February 2020, I was visiting a friend in the Austrian alps and, while I was there, the border between Austria and Italy was closed. So I got back to Ireland before things really got ridiculous and for a couple of weeks things were still pretty normal. Then the global Covidian tyranny took complete hold of Ireland. As you know, we had one of the strictest lockdowns in Europe for a long time. We were restricted to a 2km radius of our home. While I never obeyed any of that bullshit, it was still infuriating to encounter roadblocks with cops questioning you. One might think this was the perfect time to work on the new material but I was fucking blinded with rage at the utter stupidity of the general public. Of course, I wasn’t really surprised, but when the idiocy of the masses has such a profound effect on my personal liberty, it’s hard to let it go. I think we recorded the drums in 2021 but I also moved house that year, so navigating that during the nonsensical lockdowns was another issue.
“The pathetic behaviour of the supposed extreme and adversarial Black Metal underground was utterly sickening to witness. We were supposed to play a festival in 2020 that was understandably postponed multiple times, but when it finally went ahead it was under the iron fist of pharma tyranny. I steadfastly refused to pander to any of the ‘vaccine’ and quarantine regulations but besides that, attendees were required to provide a negative test to gain entry, then they were ordered to stand one metre apart and wear a mask, you could or course pull down your mask to take a sip of your drink because science™ says so.
“Watching this pathetic display of cuckoldry left me completely fucking embarrassed to have any association with people of this ilk. So whenever I tried to finish the album it felt I had crossed the line from where rage inspired me to write and record to a point where it rendered me incapable of concentrating. That’s not to say I didn’t make any music at all. I was still defying the lockdown rules and rehearsing regularly with my other band but the Slidhr record just wasn’t happening. Most of the lyrics I write are pretty much violently opposed to tyranny and enslavement so the zeitgeist seemed too closely connected to what I was trying to do but, by 2022, I was finally able to resume work on it with passion and focus.”The title ‘White Hart!’ references the barbaric, cowardly slaying (by those paid to serve and protect) of a distressed white stag on the streets of Bootle, near Liverpool on an otherwise nondescript Sunday morning two years ago. Slaughter of the innocent – an atrocious act which embodies the times we live in. So much for sustainability and preserving the natural world. Leaving aside the abhorrent and despicable deed of gunning down a defenceless animal, what is the symbolic significance of this rare and majestic beast; of the timing of its appearance; and its cruel, untimely demise?
“This act may have been nothing more than stupid police being stupid. I mean, we basically live in idiocracy so it’s not really a stretch of the imagination. However, given the sinister events of the time and the utterly fucked-up state of the world, it seemed more significant than that. I see and hear about insane shit happening every day but that one really struck me as significant. It’s not that often that such a specific event will inspire me to write lyrics but that one certainly did. Much like the symbol of the unicorn bound by a crown around its neck, this for me had the same heir. These people will take everything from you. They want to break you and disconnect you from your spirit. They will cut down every tree, kill every free animal and destroy their habitat, poison the environment, but nobody blinks an eye.”
Whether rightly or wrongly, I always think of Slidhr as a one-man band. That’s how it started out and you remain the chief visionary, composer and driving force, looking after vocals, guitars, song-writing, lyrics, recording, mastering, mixing and of course the artwork on ‘White Hart!’. How important were the inputs of long-time drummer Bjarni Einarsson and new recruit Stefan Dietz (bass) on this record and did they have freedom to put their personal touches on the songs? Also, how does guiding Slidhr compare to your duties with the other band you alluded to earlier, Verminous Serpent?
“It started out as a one-man band but definitely evolved with the addition of other members. Okay, I still write all the music, but it certainly wouldn’t sound the same if I still played all of the instruments. When Bjarni joined there was a noticeable leap in the overall sound. I had written the music for ‘Deluge’ but my drumming ability had declined due to not practising for a few years. Bjarni was suggested to me by a mutual friend, so it really worked out. Over the years as we started to get more active and became a live band, I feel we really built a musical chemistry that works well. I had met up with Stefan in Germany a few years ago whilst on holiday and mentioned that Garðar had quit the band to concentrate on his own projects, so he offered his assistance for the album. I could have played bass myself as I had done for many years, but Stefan is a talented musician, so having him onboard definitely added something that wouldn’t be there had I done it. If someone is playing in Slidhr, I’m not going to dictate exactly what they should do. If they’re good enough to be in the band, then they’re good enough to add their own take to things.
“When it comes to the recording and production side of things, that’s basically a hobby of mine. I actually qualified in sound engineering in the mid-‘nineties but wasn’t interested in pursuing it as a profession. I see it more as an extension of the musical side of things now. The same with the artwork, I guess. I can do it, so why not? The more people you involve, it just opens up the potential for more delays and stuff. I like the DIY approach in other bands. too; it’s cool to see people do as much as possible within their unit.
“Verminous Serpent was started by Matt from Malthusian and Alan from Primordial. They were fucking around at the rehearsal room during downtime with other bands. Matt is usually a guitar player but he wanted to play drums in a band, that’s how it started. They asked me to get involved shortly after that. The timing worked out well since this was just before the lockdowns so everyone was suddenly available. It was great to just go into a rehearsal room with a couple of rough ideas and flesh it out together. That’s the main difference between Slidhr and Verminous Serpent. In a weird way, we all have both very similar and wildly different ideas about how things should be. In the end, it comes out pretty unique, I think.”
For the third Slidhr full-length you have gone full circle and returned to the label where it all began, Debemur Morti Productions – the same imprint as Behexen, Blut Aus Nord and Archgoat. What attracted you back to DMP?
“Some people have asked why we returned to Debemur Morti but I don’t really feel like we ever left. It’s not as if it were a marriage. At certain points it just felt like the right move to work with certain labels over others. DMP has never been anything but a good label for us so it was a pretty easy decision to release ‘White Hart!’ with them. Having known Phil both professionally and personally for so many years, I know I can trust him. I don’t like every band on the line-up but it would be strange if I did. There is still a level of seriousness and quality to the DMP roster.”
In keeping with the peculiar human need to pigeonhole and put labels on everything and everyone, Black Metal bands are inextricably linked to their nationalities. Slidhr is therefore rather broadly and crudely categorised as ‘Irish Black Metal’ rather than, say ‘Dissident Black Metal’. Do you feel any affinity towards your ‘nation’ of birth these days? The blueprint for globalism… One great thing about Ireland is that there are a handful of dedicated, loyal characters who have been soldiering away in the metal underground for decades and I know you have unending respect for these individuals…
“As a teenager I was definitely inspired by the small but fanatical scene in Ireland. There are people here who are lifers and have a genuine passion for underground metal. I went to as many gigs as I could in the ‘nineties and was a rabid metal fan. Being as musically barren as Ireland was back then, you took what you could get where you could get it. So it wasn’t just Black Metal. The line-up was generally some Black, Death and particularly Doom. Oddly, we’ve always had more of a strength for Doom Metal. However, the atmosphere definitely crossed over. There were very few musicians around back then so inevitably line-ups were incestuous, particularly drummers. I tried many times as a teenager to put bands together but just couldn’t find competent musicians, so that led me to learning how to play drums myself. That’s likely where the DIY ethic came from. Just soldier on and don’t let these things hinder you. Despite the fact that we’re stuck on a rock in the ocean at the edge of Europe.
“Beyond that, I don’t feel all that connected to Ireland, particularly socially. I just don’t fit in. In fact, as far as Slidhr goes, other than a handful of people, it has been mostly unsupportive in the past. Irish bands were generally not too serious or more interested in drinking than doing something worthwhile. Obviously we have a very many brainless NPC types but there are also a surprising number of dudes who aren’t buying into the globalist bullshit, so that is encouraging to see.”