As the fragile foundations of western civilisation crumble like chalk and society suffers an ignominious, irreversible collapse, under inexorable attack from a legion of pestilences and plagues, unwavering Black Metal flame bearer Svartsyn has with ‘Requiem’ delivered a fitting funeral elegy for this doomed world. Horsemen heralding divine decadence, desecration and death – plunging humankind into endless, rapturous darkness – Ornias foretells the dawning of a new dominion; the destruction of Christianity from within; and the rise of the Antichrist and His kingdom. He also contemplates opening doors to the subconscious, the dark spark that ignites the flame, forging a unique musical identity, and his search for reason and purpose.
Like some macabre act plucked from the Book of Revelation itself, ‘Requiem’ marks the fall of western civilisation and the rise of the Antichrist. Insatiable, Death rides forth on a pale horse and the earth is plunged into darkness, bloodlines severed by one merciless swing of the scythe after another. I get the distinct impression that you are not lamenting this occurrence but celebrating it? Is the time long overdue for humans to be put out of their misery?
“It’s inevitable. There will be a convergence of collapses and catastrophes – we are on the brink of economic collapse and a European cultural destruction. Regardless of what I think, there will be a clash of some sort that will throw Europe into the new middle age. Corona, for example, will do much damage and ‘religion’ is another. We are just on the brink. After the tribulation, there will be a new rule. I have an idea of how things will go down, what is on the rise and what the outcome is going to be, but that I’d rather keep to myself since it is political and I don’t go into political discussion – especially not in the media, because people will twist and turn it to their own benefits.”
Twenty-twenty was an almost apocalyptic year, the world held hostage not only by what appears to be a reasonably mild virus deliberately misinterpreted as a plague but more so by the dubious measures implemented to allegedly protect us. Whatever the ins and outs of it all, it’s not surprising that humans find themselves in such a precarious position, with society on the brink of collapse. Ignorance and weakness have forever stained our race and this is epitomised by 2,000 years of servitude to a fraudster called Jesus Christ. Isn’t it shocking that Christianity has lasted this long, that there are still billions of people on earth who believe god will save them?
“Yes, especially with a false prophet pope and the sexual pervert priests all around – not preaching the words of Gods but welcoming transgenderism and diversity, bowing and kissing the feet of Islam, which as an Antichristic force will conquer Europe. What is stunning is how blind people are before Islam and its world-caliphate dreams. Christianity is being destroyed from within by its own ‘goodness’ and naivety. People will turn to a false prophet, not realizing before it’s too late. Islamists are very true to their belief whilst Christians are not, preaching homosexuality, transgenderism, perpetrating paedophilia scandals, etc.”
While the adversarial spirit has always burned brightly in Svartsyn’s music, the genesis of ‘Requiem’ seems particularly poignant given the times in which we are living, nay existing. Possessed with “the self-misanthropic will for self-destruction and degenerating the man”, the latest Svartsyn full-length represents a funeral procession for humanity, the end of times and, at last, the beginning of Satan’s reign. More than ever, it feels like our race is on the verge of an irreversible downfall / demise. When you look at events taking place around the world right now, do you feel that we are genuinely residing in the darkest of times – an almost Biblical watershed era? And is this turmoil and transition a good thing or a bad thing?
“Indeed, we are living in the darkest of times and we are witnessing the downfall of western civilisation in action. And most people don’t know and don’t see it, but hopefully more and more people are waking up to that fact. Since childhood I have been interested in the Book of Revelation, believing it to be real. For the last two years, I have been reading a lot on the subject and ‘Requiem’ is the end result. We are on the verge of the tribulation. With mass immigration, the rise of Islam in Europe and everything that comes in the wake of the corona … people haven’t seen anything yet, but it will get much worse. Even though I belief the bible is written for the Jewish people and the area down there, the rise of the Antichrist and His kingdom is a world event, affecting people on a worldwide scale since His kingdom is without borders.”
I would contend that the most potent Black Metal is that which is driven by a strong Antichristian and / or misanthropic code. You have been recording music under the Svartsyn banner since 1994. If we include both the original and re-recorded versions of ‘The True Legend’, ‘Requiem’ is your tenth full-length. As album titles like ‘Destruction Of Man’, ‘Timeless Reign’, ‘Wrath Upon The Earth’ and ‘Black Testament’ readily testify, Svartsyn has remained uncompromisingly bleak, furious and nihilistic all this time, forever walking the left hand path and invoking darkness and death. I take it Svartsyn simply could not exist without these themes, that the message and the music go hand in hand and one cannot be separated from the other?
“The essence of Black Metal lies in being destructive and dangerous and spreading this nihilistic and destructive message which destroys the soul from within. Like acid, it shall destroy your mind. The music should touch the very depths of the soul and the message open doors to subconsciousness. When we started out, bands like Thorns, Burzum, etc. opened that door of thinking. The song should be like a journey, never knowing where the mind takes you, trying never to repeat itself, not making music in a traditional way with intro, verse, chorus, etc. Here were riffs and ideas I never heard before and they inspired me spiritually. It awakens the conscious and the subconscious; the very darkness of the soul of man is drawn out. Maybe I would call the music the consciousness and the lyrics the subconscious and they are ingrained into each other.”
How does the creative process of crafting a new Svartsyn record come together? Does your inspiration tend to come from within or from what you observe happening around you, either globally or in your immediate vicinity? It seems like a new full-length surfaces approximately every two-three years, so it looks like perhaps there’s a natural cycle in motion? Is it a case of being patient and waiting for the inspiration to come, for the darkness to wash over you spontaneously? I would imagine that with this breed of dark art it’s not possible to just decide that the time has come to write a new album and turn on the tap, so to speak…
“There can be long periods where I don’t even pick up the guitar, especially after recording an album, when I am totally empty of ideas. Everything has gone into that album. For example, for ‘Requiem’, I had enough material for two albums, where most riffs and ideas were cut down … the leftovers, I just deleted. A new album means new ideas, new production, new approaches, everything new, and most important never to repeat oneself. But after all is done, it’s your musical identity that shines through no matter how hard you try. There must be a vision of something, a spark that ignites the flame, thinking about the concept as a whole. As everything grows, I always have an entire album as a vision … I can’t just focus on one song without thinking of another song, It all has to have a connection. Whether it takes one year, two years, I don’t care. In my mind, I have all the time in the world and now it happens to be in a cycle of two-three years, unintentionally of course. In my mind it all comes together, what the album would look like, etc., and then you work towards that vision. It’s like after a strange dream or a spiritual encounter, and you wake up and you still have that strange feeling inside you, here is where the moulding of the album takes place and forms, and your musical identity shines through, and of course the riffs and ideas form.”
Are you inspired at all by reading, meditating or listening to other bands? I’m always surprised and rather taken aback by the number of Black Metal musicians who claim to not really listen to other Black Metal bands. I believe you were drawn to Black Metal initially by classic Norwegian hordes like Mayhem, Darkthrone, Burzum, Emperor and Thorns – would you still consider yourself a fan of Satan’s music as well as a conduit for it?
“The early Norwegian wave of bands, like you said, made a huge impact on me and formed me musically. Those bands scarred me for life, I would say. But I have to mention the importance of early Immortal and Tormentor here. And of course Sepultura’s ‘Morbid Visions’. It formed my musical identity. When we started out as Chalice back in 1992, this was our aim. But I would say that Mayhem didn’t play that much of a role in forming my musical identity other than the rumours and the idea of Mayhem. Of course, Dead’s vocal performance on the two tracks ‘Freezing Moon’ and ‘Carnage’ was inspirational but, by the time ‘De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas’ was released in 1994, my musical identity had already been set. Of course, early Death Metal bands like Bolt Thrower, Carcass and Napalm Death (especially ‘Mentally Murdered’ – one of my all-time favourite albums) have subliminally formed me musically, even though Thorns, Burzum, early Emperor, Immortal have played the biggest part.
“Of course everything I do read has to some extent inspired me as well. A feeling caused by meditation or waking up from a dream. Today, there is not much music from new bands that impresses me. One band that have kind of made me open my eyes to other ideas, a kind of new approach, is Aosoth. But bands today sound like they wrote music without having any new ideas or their own musical identity – something that those early bands definitely had.”
Svartsyn is a deeply personal presentation, although you have allowed other guest / session musicians into the fold over the years. Hammerman from Belgium has played drums on the last three albums. As far as I’m aware, he’s the only other musician currently performing on your records. How important was his contribution to ‘Requiem’? Do you allow him to write his own parts or to improvise, or do you maintain complete artistic control over everything?
“Hammerman’s drumming is as important as the music and his drumming is precise. Sometimes I write riffs that need a drummer’s mind to make the beat. I don’t play drums myself so it’s hard to think like a drummer, even though I try to. So this is where his contribution comes in. Trying out different beats and coming with other beat ideas. And since it’s his studio we are recording in, that also makes things much easier. However, in terms of contributing musically, he does not write any music parts or so other than coming with suggestions and recommendations.”
Assuming that perhaps humankind has any prospects of short-term survival, what does the future hold for Svartsyn? Is the energy still there to keep going? Your legacy as one of Black Metal’s most unyielding, irrepressible and essential forces – authentic, pure and of the underground – is guaranteed. Is there more work to be done, anything left to achieve?
“I have been doing this – playing in bands and recording music – for about 30 years. Sometimes I have periods where I don’t do anything. But I am always busy with writing down ideas, feelings of dreams, thoughts during meditation or whatever. But there must be something that ignites the spark. For example, ‘Black Testament’, ‘Nightmarish Sleep’ and ‘In Death’ dealt pretty much with my own spiritual journey searching for my reason, my purpose, the questions I had regarding my heart surgery. There must be something.”
Speaking of your heart surgery, that was obviously a very traumatic time for you. While death is inevitable and awaits all living things, not many of us stare it in the face and live to tell the tale. In what way did this near-death experience reshape your views on life and death, or alter the path taken on your own personal journey? Did you gain any enlightenment or wisdom from that difficult process or did it merely serve to strengthen the convictions you already had?
“Everything went so fast from the time when I got to know that I had a heart problem to the heart surgery itself that I had no time to reflect on it. I knew this was a kind of ‘protected from above’ incident, this is how I see it. Something happened to me which made me go to the emergency department. This ‘something’ I can only describe as something ‘godly’; if this hadn’t happened, I would not be alive today. After the surgery, I had to process my experiences spiritually to understand my place in all this. The outcome of this process led to the albums ‘Black Testament’, ‘Nightmarish Sleep’ and ‘In Death’. This is my spiritual journey, my spiritual darkness and experience. ‘Requiem’ follows on from those albums but has nothing to do with my spirituality. ‘Black Testament’, ‘Nightmarish Sleep’ and ‘In Death’ ended my spiritual search and the new logo of Svartsyn is a representation of that.”
Before Svartsyn there was Chalice, which you laid to rest following the death of your colleague Tormentor. Under the Chalice banner, in 1993, you recorded a demo called ‘Evil Mental Cold Winter’ and a split with Illska. This material is of huge historical significance and I believe you are working on resurrecting some of it. Can you give me an update on how these plans are progressing?
“‘Evil Mental Cold Winter’ was the last thing me and Tormentor recorded together and we never rehearsed again after that. It was never released and was never meant to be. We had our own way of creating music. We improvised all the tracks to ensure we captured all of the spiritual darkness and true feelings. Once we had the core of the song we went from there. We were extremely serious and dedicated. Our music would have become our lives but our destructive way of life came to an end in early 1993. We were convicted and Tormentor decided to leave the Black Metal lifestyle behind, so he died spiritually. The split demo with Illska is being re-released as a 12” vinyl in February, 2021, and we are going to honour the old Chalice days by recording all the old Chalice songs, which are unreleased to this date, although some tracks have been recorded and released under the banner of Svartsyn over the years. The plan is to record and release that material this year. It is going to have a smaller production to fit the time era in which the material was conceived. And of course everything will be strictly limited. For example, the split vinyl will be limited to 300 copies.”
‘In Death’ cover artwork by long-time Svartsyn collaborator Chadwick St. John