Crawling forth from the deep underground corner where they've lurked for years, black metal purveyors Nachtmystium have forged a path all their own and become one of the most respected USBM acts. With their back catalog being reissued over the coming year, and still riding high on the response from their Eulogy IV album along with last year's Twilight collaboration, the band’s main-man Azentrius and his cohorts unleash their newest innovative, strategic, blackened attack, Instinct: Decay. I’ve tried to make an ample interview to give a panoramic view of one of the USA’s leading Black Metal bands. That’s the same reason for writing a few words of the most significant Nachtmystium releases. Azentrius is here to share his thoughts and beliefs. (interview taken from the Cross Of Black Steel magazine Issue # 2, done by Robert Sun in June 2006)
You started Nachtmystium 6 years ago, recording and composing everything by your own. When and why did you decide to include other members in the project, and why didn’t you just continue on your own?
Actually, there has always been at least one other member because I don’t play drums. I’ve expanded the band to increase our ability to perform live, which is something we definitely do regularly now-a-days.
On the past releases the vocals were done by you. Do you miss the “singing”?
I’ve handled all vocal duties for Nachtmystium except on our s/t MCD, which was our 2nd release. I’ve sang on everything since then including “Demise”, “Eulogy IV” and our new album, “Instinct: Decay”.
Can you introduce us the actual Nachtmystium line-up? Are the other members involved in other projects/bands?
Current line up:
Myself – lead guitars and vocal
Zion Meagher – Bass guitar – other bands include: Forest of Impaled, Disinter.
Jean Graffio – Drums – other bands include: Sumeria.
Why did you pick the name Nachtmystium for your band and why did you choose a non-English name? How do you think the name Nachtmystium reflects the atmosphere your music generates?
“Nachtmystium” was something I created. I felt, especially at the time of the band’s inception, that the night (‘nacht’) was a huge inspiration for us. ‘mystium’ represents mystique and the ‘unknown’, so it basically can translate to the mysteries of the night.
What is the meaning of your pseudonym - Azentrius? What do you think is the reason why most of the people involved in Black Metal uses pseudonyms?
This was a name I created for myself to utilize as a tool of furthering Nachtmystium into obscurity. I don’t know why other people choose to use pseudonyms, probably because everyone else does it. As of our next release (Nachtmystium / Leviathan split), we will no longer be using any pseudonyms as we feel they’ve lost their meaning and purpose in today’s overly-flooded black metal ‘underground’.
Your latest release is Instinct: Decay, a quite various and unusual LP in today’s BM scene from my point of view. What are your thoughts of this album? What are the main differences between this release and the previous ones?
This album was our natural progression from “Eulogy IV”. It’s definitely different by average black metal standards, but to me it’s just another Nachtmystium album, continuing down our path which we’ve chosen for ourselves. A path that few others dare to walk, because it’s the path AWAY from all the typical black metal bullshit of today. We’re interested in creating diverse, dark and foreboding music, not to walk with the rest of the sheep that pollute black metal with their Darkthrone-clone bands.
Are you reading the reviews about Nachtmystium, are you interested what kind of reactions the new album generates among the fans?
I see a lot of the reviews as I run the label that releases Nachtmystium today. Our PR company keeps the reviews / interviews rolling in for us at this point and I definitely look at a lot of it. I think it’s cool that people love AND hate what we’re doing, depending on who you’re talking to. It’s good to draw different reactions from people. As I’ve always said, it’s better to be loved and hated than to just be thought of as ‘another band playing metal’.
I think your songwriting improved and changed a lot. Did the songwriting formulas changed this time? Your mood is different than it used to be? How much do you think that your personal life reflects in this album?
My personal life has always been relevant in Nachtmystium. What happens in my personal life and my continual writing / guitar playing helps to improve Nachtmystium all around. The more you play guitar, the better at it you get if you’re adamant about practicing. Also, my musical tastes have expanded a lot and are constantly expanding still. This definitely helps me seek new influence and ideas from the music I’ve been listening to lately.
The songs are written only by you? Does the other members contributed with ideas to this album? How does composing of a song look like in Nachtmystium?
I write everything musically and always will. Imperial (Krieg) played bass on ‘Instinct: Decay’ and he helped contribute some lyrics, this is the only time that’s ever happened in Nachtmystium.
Is there any concept behind the new songs? What is the meaning of the title Instinct: Decay? What the lyrics deal with? Does “modern society” have an influence on your music?
The entire album is about societal decay. Modern society is the most evil force in the world, not Satan, not goats, not anti-Christian ideas….PEOPLE are what are truly evil in this world. This album is all about that. As individuals and as a society, it is our instinct to decay.
I noticed a song on the new LP, called The Antichrist Messiah. Who is “your” Antichrist Messiah? Is just a symbol…?
This is metaphorical symbolism, that’s all I can say about it.
While Christianity shares the same beliefs all over the world, when it comes to Satanism, everybody has different, personal ways of interpretations (or misinterpretations) on the phenomenon. What are your opinions about Christianity, Satanism, and religions in general?
“Satan” is a derivative of Christianity, which traces itself back to Semitic roots. These roots have nothing to do with my life or my ideologies. “Satan” can be used in modern language to describe a state of mind to the people that would never understand it any other way. To me, Satanism is simply worship of the self and to have nothing holding you back. Any man who can release his primal instincts as he wishes, is a free man living by his own will, and a man who bases any decision off of any man-made religion is a slave. God can create man, but a man can not create God.
What do you think it happens after we physically die? Do you have any kind of afterlife beliefs?
Human beings are part of a life cycle that exists here on earth. We live and we die to return to the earth that birthed us. It’s that easy. I do not believe in supernatural existence or in a darkness OR light that exists post-mortem. I think this is the thing that concerns most human beings, and they preoccupy themselves living a “proper life” laid out by their man-made-god hoping for salvation when they die, but anyone with a fucking clue can see that there is simply nothing beyond the grave.
What do you think are the differences between Europe’s Black Metal style and the USBM? What are the distinctive marks of America’s Black Metal?
This is a boring topic for me as I care very little for black metal coming from either side of the globe currently. Certain bands are great regardless of their territorial circumstances.
What do you think that differentiate Nachtmystium from the other bands of the BM scene? What are Nachtmystium’s distinguishing marks?
That we don’t give a fuck about what anyone in black metal has to say about us. We don’t try to fit anyone’s ‘evil black metal’ mold. We’re Nachtmystium and Nachtmystium is not here to satisfy black metal.
Which is your personal favorite Nachtmystium record and why? And which is your least favorite?
Hard to say, I love and hate them all for different reasons. I’m always most satisfied with my most recent work, so currently, I prefer “Instinct: Decay” because it’s still somewhat ‘fresh’ to me.
If you could have the chance to work (make music) with anybody from the (past and present) music industry, who would be that person and why?
I’ve been asked this in the past…I’d say Roger Waters and/or David Gilmour of Pink Floyd. They’ve been massively influential musicians for me for MANY years before I ever even heard a metal record, and David Gilmour’s playing is what made me want to play guitar in the first place. So, one of them I’d say.
If your music could be a soundtrack for a movie and it would be up to you to decide, which movie would you choose?
I have no idea.
Black Metal is your way of life, or just a series of different moments when you are in dark moods?
Black Metal has nothing to do with my life other than that I listen to some of it and sell a lot of it through my label / distro. Black Metal is actually the most negative force for many bands trying to play within this ‘black metal scene’, because this idea they have that they have to stay within the boundaries of what they consider black metal in order to feel that they are “true” or whatever. That just means that they’re immediately putting creative limitations on themselves. Fuck that and fuck that attitude. Plus, Black Metal is something that many losers who have no other things in life to be happy about to grab onto so they can abuse its cheesy internet-forum-based existence in order to feel like they’re a part of something. It’s pathetic and I’m happy to be less and less involved everyday. The few great bands remaining out there are outnumbered by the shit ones and therefore they can be easily overshadowed. Disappointing, I know, but it’s just how it seems to me these days.
What do you think is the essence of Black Metal? How should sound a BM band and how should not sound a BM band?
That’s just it man, that’s the problem! No one should tell anyone what they should sound like or what black metal is. The beauty of this music for me, initially, was the freedom it represented. NOW, there are all these (again) man-made boundaries of what ‘black metal’ is and what is not. Black Metal should be a release of energy for the person creating it, and for it to be legit black metal, it should be one thing: honest. That’s it. Fuck standards and fuck trends.
Does live performances are important for Nachtmystium? It’s hard to transmit the vibes of your music live?
Playing live is very important for us, and no it doesn’t seem hard to transmit the feeling live. We don’t walk up there in capes and corpse paint like a lot of these other bands do….you can’t bring that kind of an atmosphere into a bar. C’mon man, there’s nothing evil about playing in a bar in your spikes and corpse paint. When bands do that, it’s THEY who are disrespecting their own brand identity. For us, we walk up there in whatever the fuck we want and we just belt it out, totally honestly and without cheesy gimmicks and make up. We’re over that…we did it in the past and only ONE time can I remember actually feeling some kind of presence from it. So now, we just do it as ourselves, not as clowns in make up and spikes trying to impress the other try-hard kids there.
Last year you contributed to the Twilight (super) project with notorious consecrated musicians (Malefic, Imperial, …) from the USA Black metal scene. Whose idea was Twilight and what are your intentions? I would like to know much more how did this project came to life.
It was an idea that I came up with actually a few years ago, and we just kicked the idea around for about a year and then we got some money from Total Holocaust Records to fund the project. That’s all there is to it. To us, it’s not a “super group”, we’re not that arrogant. It’s simply a collaboration of ideas that we created just for ourselves mainly, its great that other people seemed interested, but that wasn’t our intention with it. It was 5 musicians who are in close contact and have a lot of respect for each other collaborating. Nothing more, nothing less.
Did you wrote the songs together, or everybody came with his own songs already written? Does your songwriting method differ when you are writing for Twilight, comparing to Nachtmystium?
A little of both. I can’t compare Nachtmystium writing to Twilight writing because we’ve only done Twilight once. I guess it was very different than what I’m used to, yes, but again you can’t really compare the two because one is my vision and the other is a group vision.
For the reason that there are so many composers in Twilight, don’t you feared of that it is risky to create an integral feeling and structure for the music?
What is your musical background? Who were your first favorites, who influenced you as a musician and what pushed you to pick up and learn to play guitar? With what kind of bands have you discovered Black Metal?
Like I said before, Pink Floyd was the first band that really grabbed me when I was a kid. My parents listened to a lot music like that and introduced me to bands like Pink Floyd, Black Sabbath, Led Zeppelin, etc. All this is what influenced me to play guitar. As for black metal, my first black metal record was somewhere around 95 and I believe it was the Emperor / Enslaved split CD, got that right when it came out and it changed my life.
What kind of music are you listening in general nowadays? Are you open-minded to other music, which is not (Black) Metal?
Again, like I said before, I don’t listen to hardly any black metal, at least new bands. I like the works of bands like Deathspell Omega, Katharsis, Judas Iscariot, Graupel, etc to name a few. There are many more of course, but I’d say my musical interests today lie more in experimental music and indie stuff. I like bands like Mono, Jesu, Isis, Sunn, Brant Bjork, etc. Also into lots of old psychedelic rock from the 70’s like Blue Cheer, Hawkwind, etc.
You are also running a record company. What were the main reasons to launch Battle Kommand Records? What kind of conditions have to fill the bands which you sign? As a label manager what can you offer for your bands?
I started Battle Kommand Records for a few reasons. First off, because I fucking hate most people and didn’t want to have a “normal” job. I figured that with the little bit of success Nachtmystium has seen in the last few years, that I could use that as my foot hold to start the label. It worked! So, it’s just grown since then. I like that I have full control over Nachtmystium and I really like that I can help scout out some of the better bands (I feel) in todays ‘black metal’ scene and help them be seen a little more. I’m also starting to release doom metal, with bands like Zoroaster for example, our first non-BM signing. We can offer a lot more to a black metal band than 99% of labels can because we actually do have some money to work with and our titles are well distributed. I think we’re one of the only underground labels in the USA who actually get our releases into stores and receive major distribution. That alone helps make a band we might sign interested. And also, we try to pay our bands well and keep them happy first and foremost because we like having our hands involved in great records, simply out of a love for music. It’s been really great and I’d go as far to say that BKR is my #1 priority, even over Nachtmystium today.
Can you give a list of the materials you released on Battle Kommand? Which release was the most successful so far? Can we expect any future releases from BK?
Here’s the releases:
BKR001 – Krieg – Songs For Resistance tape
BKR002 - Nachtmystium – Demise CD
BKR003 – Krieg – Sono Lo Scherno CD
BKR004 – Cult of Daath – The Grand Torturers of Hell CD
BKR005 - Archgoat – Angelcunt: Tales of Desecration Picture LP
BKR006 – Xasthur / Leviathan – Split CD
BKR007 – Nachtmystium – s/t MCD
BKR008 – Sapthuran / Leviathan – Split CD
BKR009 – Nachtmystium – Instinct: Decay CD
BKR010 – The Ruins of Beverast – Unlock The Shrine CD
BKR011 – Dawnbringer – In Sickness and in Dreams CD
BKR012 – Zoroaster – s/t MCD
Best releases so far have been the Xasthur / Leviathan split CD and the Sapthuran / Leviathan split CD, with the new Nachtmystium album following a close 3rd. These records have done phenomenally well due to the high popularity level of Xasthur and Leviathan. The new Nachtmystium is on the same path those records were on for sure, its only been out for about a month here though, so its hard to say where it will be at in a few months. Overall though, all of our releases do really well. My personal favorite release is the Archgoat picture LP, because they’ve been one of my favorite bands for years (That release in particular) and to have the opportunity to release it on PLP was a fucking honor to say the least.
When it comes to releases, which is your favorite format (CD, MC, or vinyl)? Are you a collector, do you own many releases? Which was the last album you bought?
I’m a vinyl guy. I stopped dealing with cassettes just because I had too many of them and they are hard to listen to and to store, so I stopped buying tapes a while back, I still keep my old great demos though. The last album I bought was…hmm, I think I bought a few at once, I got a Witchtrap (Col) picture LP, the new Katatonia album, some Electric Wizard reissue CD’s and the Mono / Pelican split LP. Oh yeah, I bought Misfits “Earth AD” on vinyl as well.
Do you make enough money from Battle Kommand (+ Nachtmystium) to survive, or do you have to maintain another “regular” job?
This is all I do for a living. The idea of getting a ‘normal’ job is completely out of the question for me at this point. I don’t have the time, energy or capacity to accept shitty wages to help someone else get rich. I’m too arrogant for that, haha.
What are the plans for Nachtmystium? When will be out a new release? Maybe a new split record?
Nachtmystium / Leviathan split CD/LP coming soon on Southern Lord. A tour with Incantation is being set up now for October in the USA.
I know you are friend with Akhenaten from the now defunct Judas Iscariot. Do you know by the way what is he doing in the present? He’s still not interested in music?
I actually haven’t spoken with him in quite sometime. I know he’s back in college (again…this guy is one of the smartest people you’ll ever meet) but as for his whereabouts, I’m not going to expose that. He still listens to music I’m sure, someone with that much music under his belt doesn’t just stop listening to it. Hopefully he will re-emerge at some point with new material.
I’m a Hungarian who lives in Romania. Do you know by any chance Hungarian or Romanian bands?
I know of some bands from over there, Marblebog being one of them. Some others I can’t think of off-hand right now. There is a band from Chicago called Tengereken that has two people in it that are Hungarian and their entire existence is kind of based of Hungarian mythology and history I believe. Cool band as well!
Thank you Azentrius for your time. Is there’s anything else would you like to say to close the interview?
Thanks for your support. Interested parties visit www.battlekommand.com for more info on Nachtmystium.
by Robert Sun