Amongst black metal bands formed over the last two years, ASAGRAUM particular mixture of elements giving their music certain distinctive particularity. In the wake of the band’s upcoming visit to Latin American lands, we managed to interview Obscura, lead vocals and mastermind of the band. ¡Enjoy! [You can read the interview in Spanish by clicking here].
Greetings, Obscura! For those who do not know much about you and your very active and prolific involvement with the black metal scene, tell us a bit about your start on this dark path. When and how did your musical learning began? What were your main influences in the beginning…
Greetings! My biggest influences from the beginning are the classic Scandinavian black metal albums of the 90’s, mainly the older work of Emperor, Gorgoroth, Mayhem, Behexen, Sargeist.. I started playing guitar at the age of ’14, the same age wherein I started listening to black metal. Besides a couple of guitar lessons I learned most from composing and figuring out black metal songs by ear and later with Guitar Pro. At the age of ’19 I had my first on stage experiences with black metal band Sammath and a few years later I formed Infestis, which was active mainly between 2008 and 2013.
There is also a psychedelic sense in Asagraum’s music. From which musical source / fountainhead do you drink from to give Asagraum this unique feature?
This influence comes mainly from Icelandic black metal like Svartidåudi, but also from Deathspell Omega.
Being from the Netherlands, sure you are a first-line witness of the growth and further development of the metal scene (and black metal scene) in your country. What was the scene like back then and how do you see it now? What pros and cons, advancements and setbacks have you seen over the years?
The Dutch black metal seen has never been big and in my opinion there has only been few good bands over the years. This is not the best time for black metal in The Netherlands. When I started attending gigs about 15 years ago there were more live Black Rituals all over the country and the scene was more dedicated. However, playing with Asagraum in The Netherlands we have still gotten a satisfactional amount of audience, beïng a new and upcoming band that hasn’t played that many Dutch shows.
You have stated in other interviews that you compose randomly according the way you feel. What kind of common denominators between your emotions and your musical creations and output, i.e., certain riffs or chord patterns fitting a specific emotional state, have you identified on your own compositions?
This is not an easy thing to explain, but I can give you an example; ‘Transformation’ was written in a state of great anger, hatred and an obsessive need for change, but also inspiration by Demonic power. For me the sound of the riffs radiates out those emotions while ‘Carried By Lucifer’s Wings’ was written in a state of triumph and gratitude to Lucifer which gives a very different type of riffs and atmosphere in that song. Leviathan was written beholding the majesty of destructive aspects of Nature… Every song has it’s story and this is to be found in the lyrics and artworks.
You hail from Zaanstad, in Northern Holland, part of Amsterdam’s metropolitan area. What do you enjoy the most of your region? What kind of places do you like to go to, any particular landscape on the country side to get inspiration from?
I was born in Zaanstad, but have lived most of the time in Gouda which is near Rotterdam. To be in the nature I usually go towards the sea coast to enjoy the forest and the sand dunes which are an unique part of the Dutch coast side. The view and sound of the sea touched by storms and thunder inspired me to a few songs including ‘Leviathan’.
Since we are on the subject, how conservative / liberal is your community, and how is black metal seen over there nowadays?
Conservative and liberal are very subject to interpretation, and the Dutch community is a mix of both. I would like to see society more libertarian and the nowadays nanny state policies make me want to puke. Black metal is seen as an underground subculture that doesn’t draw much interest from the mainstream society.
About your debut album… Mixing and mastering are very important elements of the production process. Since the recording of “Potestas Magicum Diaboli” went according to your standards, how would you describe those standards? Besides the wings of Lucifer himself, what other dark forces were at work on Necromorbous studios behind the recording and materialization of Potestas Magicum Diaboli?
Not that many.. we recorded the drums in a very basic studio in Oslo and all other instruments I recorded in my home studio with DI. The complete sound was created by Necromorbus, with a few advices from my side about how I would like the sound.
Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, (so they say), and same thing happens with any other subjective human concept. However, there still are certain powerful images commanding the viewer to look at them appealing to the beholder’s darkes, deepes fears and feelings. What emotional response did you want and/or have in mind when choosing the artwork for the album?, What did you want to evoke on us, mere mortals, holding Asagraum’s art and images in front of our daring, doomed eyes?
The front cover pictures a nun, holding an inverted cross rosary and seeïng herself as a representation of Lilith in a black mirror. This image is about invoking Lilith, the powerful and destructive female Demon, in our own bodies and representing her power in this world. It is also about transformation; A nun, representing chastity, self-denial and submission, transforms herself into a powerful, seductive and unrestrained force by using Satanic magic. This is a path for many women to follow by invoking the power of the demoness within themselves. The Skull on the back cover represents Death. We need to love and cherish Death because only with Death in our minds we will find the will and power to reach our full potential in Life. The snakes on the back cover represent the Luciferian wisdom.
Speaking of which, how did you get to know the massive, dark art of Rogelio Romero (Alemsahim) and Elena Vasilaki, the two evil wizards behind Asagraum’s cover art and pictures, and how did these collaborations came to be?
Alemsahim was recommended to my by Josh, the vocalist of Bode Preto which we toured with in October. Elena I know through relations in Finland, where she lives.
As an enthusiast of visual arts (painting, photography), what artists have proved to be of deepest inspiration to you?
The art of Zdzislaw Beksiński has impressed me the most, but there are too many great painters to mention here.
It came as a surprise to me that Trish had left the band. How tough was it to have Asagraum as an international project?
Not very tough, when the band started we both happened to be staying a lot in Tampere, Finland and the songs of ‘Potestas Magicum Diaboli’ were mainly composed and rehearsed there. After the release of the demo, recorded in our Finnish rehearsal space, we played gigs very regularly which gave us enough routine playing together to have a steady live performance.
I was about to ask a couple of question about Trish but since she is not in the band anymore, what can you tell us about the new entity behind the drums? How did she arrived to Asagraum? Where is she from, what other bands has she played with thus far?
A. is a Dutch lady experienced in drumming extreme metal, though this is her first black metal band. She has excellent technique to play fast but also to create drone and atmosphere in the slower parts and for the next album you can expect even more extreme blastbeats and agression with her on the drums.
And now you are touring in Europe with an international (and impressive) ensamble of musicians from Norway, Sweden, Switzerland and the Netherlands. Tell us a bit about these individuals, how did they got into Asagraum’s live rituals?
We work with 2 different bassplayers, the Dutch Mortifero who approached me to play bass in Asagraum when I started the band, and has been playing with us since our second live performance (the first one was only me and Trish) and the Norwegian Makhashanah known from the band Abyssic, who plays with us if Mortifero isn’t available because of her business as owner of Dutch black metal venue ‘De Witte Wolf’. Makhashanah I got to know through Trish, guitarist V-kaos joined us for the first time during the tour with Impiety, Wormwood and Bode Preto, also performing with Bode Preto, and keyboard player L-kaos offered to join this same tour and has been a guest musician for us on some occasions since then.
“Occult” is a words that also means “hidden” and knowledge can be pursued in different forms. Please share with us what occult/hidden gems of music treasures have you been unearthing recently, musically or some other form?
Besides black metal, I’ve been listening to Shamanic drums a lot lately, which works well to meditate and come into a trance-like state, shutting down my ego to write a song with Demonic inspiration. To expand my consciousness I’ve lately been doing a ceremony with the spiritual psychedelic Ayahuasca which expanded my awareness of the spiritual world and inspired me to explore the Shamanic theme in music.
Let us dwell a bit more on the dark arts. There are eventually as many schools of Satanic thought as Satanists out there. Some see Satan / Lucifer as THE Dark Force in Nature, others as a sentient being, some as a symbol or metaphor for the rebellious nature in humankind and some as an androgynous/hermaphrodite encarnation of the more basic, untamed instincts of human soul. As a Spiritual Satanist, how would you describe your own spiritual Satanism and how does it differ from, let us say, orthodox Satanism?
For me Satan is a majestic force which empowers me to reach my full potential in life and beyond death. He/She gives me ultimate freedom to create reality according to my will and (conscious and subconscious) beliefs. I feel that the name Satan suits my perception of this Power because it is, opposed to what the three big religions say about God, free of any judgement or ego.
What would be the place of the femenine archetypes in your own weltanschuung?
A balance between male and female archetypes is important for every person and society. In the western society the male archetype is still over-present, with the current focus of both men and women on status and career and the female archetypes representing intuition, emotion and creativity are less highly appreciated. I hope this will change with the growing of spiritual awareness in humans and the fall of the biggest religions, which are all male/ego dominated.
Regarding Satanism and its many derivations, and since the “infamous” Church of Satan had a ‘branch’ in your country a long time ago and their grotto system is quite popular in the Netherlands, what is your take on the LaVeyan variant of Satanism?
I can agree partially with the writings of LaVey, but I wouldn’t call myself a LaVeyan Satanist, since for me there is clearly a spiritual world to derive power from as a human being. In the writings of LaVey spirituality and ritual is degraded to a psychological trick, which differs from my point of view.
Black metal both as an art expression and as a movement holds the torch of counter-culture, at least a part of it, that has not succumbed to the mainstream thinking of “art as a business / marketing scheme”. What would you say is the role of black metal in our guilt-ridden, bleeding-hearted, politically correctness of our hyper-sensitive societies?
Like I said, the nanny-state society of today makes me want to puke. Black metal should stand for strength, self-discipline, freedom of speech, body, and economy. And also harmony with nature and natural selection! we kill the human evolution with keeping every genetically and intellectually degraded individual alive artificially on societies costs! The politically correct, weakness-protecting cattle of degraded sheep may drop dead and I hope the Wolves will stand up inspired by black metal!
Your native country has had a long-standing tradition of a consistent immigrant policy, especially since the modern Kingdom of the Netherlands spreads its wings over former colonies of the vast Dutch Empire (East and West Indias, for example). Does this multi-cultural precedent and background reflects on the immigrant crisis currently pervading most of Western European countries, or are you above and beyond this issue since you are famous for your population management and foreign-born residents?
Personally I do not experience much influence on my life from the ‘Immigrant Crisis’ since I do not live in a big city, but my opinion on this is that every individual in my country should be able to take care of him/herself in a honourable way and respect the Dutch law and culture, or fuck off back to their own country.
Back to Asagraum. You recently toured heavily on Germany, made a quick visit to Romania, Czech Republic, Norway, Canada and Netherlands, of course. Since you have traveled before to those countries, both with your bands and as a regular visitor, what particularities have you discovered and enjoyed the most from your visits over the years to those countries?
I could recommend Romania to everyone who wants to enjoy a sunny climate, interesting old/abandoned buildings and friendly priced excellent food. Norway has great mountains, forests and fjords. Germany has an interesting history of Paganism which you can find in for example the old Pagan place ‘Die Externsteine’. The Netherlands has a beautiful sea coast and Amsterdam is worth a visit for psychedelic travelers. The other countries mentioned I’ve been too briefly to make recommendations.
Now for a cliché question… Life on the road can be both harsh and rewarding. What has been the most uplifting experience you have had thus far?
Seeïng the audience on our Rituals grow, on our last live performances in Oslo and on Messe des Morts especially it has been extremely crowded and this interest in our music and live performances is a great reward for many years of practising and building up a name as a musician.
And now you are heading for the Baltic Sea, Island, Mexico, Colombia, Sweden and the United Kingdom (!) Quite a tour for such a “young” band. This will be your second visit to Latin America. What kind of references and expectations did you have back in 2013 before your first visit, what did surprise you about this part of the world, and what would you like to know more about during this “Second Coming”? (pun intended!)
Latin America is known in Europe for its fanatic black metal audience, impressive nature and good food. All of this was beyond my expectations and I’m looking forward to return very much! In case there is a day off on the tour I would like to visit the tropical forest.
Let us reflect a bit on your other bands and projects, namely Draugur, Infestis and especially Wolvenblood and Legem Aeternam, from which very little is known. Care to elaborate on the last two?
Wolvenbloed is a studio project wherein I play bass. It is depressive black metal in the vein of Burzum and old Shining and the lyrics are about the Dutch dark age and inquisition. Legem Aeternam was an experimental black metal project wherein I played guitar briefly. The band split up before any release was done.
There are countless metal albums being released yearly and, let us be honest, most of them are pretty much average. As a critic of your own work, what do you think is the main factor for Asagraum being highly regarded despite being formed only a couple of years ago? What would you say is the musical elements giving Asagraum its unique identity?
The combination of old-school and psychedelic black metal with female vocals is a new concept, though there are a lot of recognisable black metal elements in the music.
Some people say that underground music disappeared with the coming of Internet. Some others, like myself, still believe that underground is not about the easiness and availability of music, but about its content, and that is why metal will never be mainstream. Since the internet (Facebook and YouTube, especially) have been powerful tools masterly managed (by you personally, right?) to promote Asagraum, what is your position on this “underground is dead because of the internet” topic? Has the internet damaged and/or improved black metal as a whole?
I think it has two sides, one one hand the internet helps a lot to spread the music of good new bands quickly and get them well-known faster. On the other hand there is less reference to find good bands, every band can spread its music, now matter how bad it is. So it can take more patience to find good new music between the crap.
Final words, and hope you enjoyed this interview as much as we did!
Hail Satan, the true force behind Asagraum! And thanks for your time!
ASAGRAUM is going to play three dates in Colombia on March 22nd, 22rd and 25th