Illumined by the lights of Aurora Borealis, Finland is a gem tucked just about as far North as one can go on the European continent. A land of true contrast where seemingly endless sunlight gives way to the darkness of winter and frigid cold, Finland has quite a few trademarks known to the rest of the world. Today we talk about one such trademark and it’s not the picturesque landscape of Lapland or famed Finnish Saunas. Rather, we address the most important Finnish export: Finnish Black Metal! This Is Black Metal set down to discuss this topic with Serpent from the Finnish war Black Metal band Annihilatus which released a new album titled Death From Above in 2019.
Hello Serpent, thanks for sitting down with us. Lets get right into it!
This Is Black Metal: Why did you choose the name of the band – Annihilatus? Who if anyone are you out to metaphorically or physically “annihilate”?
S: The reason is quite simple in fact. I’ve always been a fan of simple, straight-to-the-point kind of names, like Death and Slayer, and also Annihilation or Annihilator, but of course, all the best names were already taken when we started in 1999. I didn’t want one of those metalcorish names – you know the ones with a multitude of words, like sentences – but something that is simple to understand, and maybe even relatable. All forms of destruction and reducing things to nothing fascinated me. Annihilation maybe more than anything, so I (or we) came up with this Latin version of the word.
There’s nothing, in particular, we or I aim to annihilate or making into nothing, but it kind of sums up the mentality of destruction, bringing all and everything into nothing. For that we are if we start splitting things into atoms or even smaller particles. In the end we’re nothing but a complex combination of these particles. That what makes life so surreal and fascinating, too.
TIBM : You often say that your band plays war metal specifically. Why not just say that you guys play Black Metal? Why is the distinction so important?
S: We have to go back a long way to get things sorted, I guess. Call me old-fashioned, but I come from the 90’s second wave bm genre where Black Metal bands specifically were more or less Satanic. If they were not, they wouldn’t be called Black Metal, it’s that simple. I remember these argues back in the days when bands like Immortal were discussed whether or not they are bm because they were not Satanic, but rather singing about some fantasy kingdom or frost and ice. So, back then bands were more or less divided into pagan metal bands or Black Metal bands – and whatever other subgenres – based on their lyrics, ideology (or lack of). This idea of not trying to be so badly Black Metal band, because Annihilatus is not a Satanic band, comes from this background. Don’t know or really care if that makes sense to some younger generation or not. It is what it is.
TIBM: What exactly drew you to this sub-genre and when did you realize that you wanted to write this kind of music?
S: War has always fascinated me, more or less. When we were kids, we had games like cop and robber, cowboys and (American) Indians and so forth. There was always this conflict present: bad guys vs. good guys. Heroes and villains. That’s in our culture, in our genes, in a very deep level. When we expand that thought a bit, there is war. Some have stated that war is just a continuation of politics. War is brutal. It causes so much suffering and damage to people, animals, nature, surroundings – everything. Yet without it we can’t exist on this planet. Even “simple” animals have feuds which are just wars in a smaller scale. I don’t want to glorify it, but not deny its meaning either. So from ideas such as this came the need or will to deal with topics such as war and destruction in its wake. What lead me to this (rather mid-tempo and barbaric style of the music) comes from my background with Death Metal and Black Metal alike. Also because I am fan of some more primitive arts. Bands that are simple, yet brutal and barbaric. Bolt Thrower from Death Metal, Ildjarn from Black Metal. Celtic Frost and Darkthrone with the sound and rawness. Also I felt that not too many bands play mid-tempo Black Metal, but just try to make everything sound fast, because it’s rather obvious choice for “brutal music”. But there are loads of bands which are very heavy, brutal and/or primitive with just mid-tempo pounding. And so it became our way as well. Maybe we’re destined to be war (Black) metal equivalent of Obituary and Six Feet Under in a way. Who knows?
TIBM: What are your biggest musical influences?
S: That’s hard to tell these days because I think we all operate in subconscious ways. Given that I listen to hundreds of releases every year, I can’t say how much I’m influenced by those. On conscious level, I’d say, not in particular order, Celtic Frost, Darkthrone, Ildjarn, Bolt Thrower and Bathory. Throw a bit of Burzum in the mix, and that’s it.
Annihilatus (Finland) – Blood And War (Full Length) 2002
TIBM: Your band doesn’t sound like the typical Finnish band. Was a conscious decision made to do something different to stand apart from the rest of the scene?
S: Hell no. Back when we started there wasn’t so much defined Finnish sound as there is nowadays. I think it’s relatively new thing. I mean of course there are a lot of older Finnish bm bands in the scene, but let’s face it: bands like Beherit, Impaled Nazarene, Archgoat, Barathrum or Horna don’t really sound like one another, right? So this “modern” Finnish bm sound owes a lot to bands like Horna and Behexen. These are, then again, a lot inspired by Norwegian and Swedish sound. Add some evolution with enough time to all this and you have that specific Finnish sound. And yet none of these old bands mentioned there still don’t sound like that at all.
I think why we ended up sounding not so typical Finnish is partially because of our death metal background, that is both me and the other half of the band. To be honest, we might be even more DM-influenced than BM-influenced!
TIBM: Your band is essentially a two-man project as far as I understand. Who is responsible for writing the lyrics and riffs?
S: That’s correct. We’ve had other members along the way, but in the end everything is just us two. I’m the one with the riffs and lyrics, even though in the past I’ve had individual lyrics done by a friend of mine, too. So if a song sucks or some lyrics feel like shit, it’s me to blame.
Annihilatus (Finland) – Unholy Mass Destruction (Demo) 2000.avi
TIBM: What comes first? Do the lyrics enable you to create a fitting riff or do the riffs inspire the lyrics?
S: Lyrics almost always come a lot later. Sometimes they are written the very last minute. A song can have its idea, like a line or two, a long time before the actual song is written. But most of the time riff or two come first and lyrics might not even take place until the song is finished. These are like two different entities that just end up finding one another when the time is right. Sometimes it needs to be forced, sometimes things just click without a push.
TIBM: let’s talk a little about your new album Death From Above. Your last full length came out in 2002. Death From Above dropped in 2019. That’s a 17 year pause. Why the long break and what made you come out of retirement?
S: The thing is, we never split up nor we ever planned to retire or quit. I guess we could say that life just got into way. We had some disagreements in the past and decided to take a break. Then things just happened. Jobs, families, other projects – you know the story. At some point we reconnected again and started to talk that it would be great to play again. We took it slowly. Kinda like let’s see if this works. or not. It started to work right away. So the first songs were done in a couple of rehearsal days. And since you got to pound that iron when it’s hot, we made more songs and that come to be as an album known as Death from Above.
Annihilatus (Finland) – Annihilation (EP) 2001
TIBM: How do you feel the record was received after such a long hiatus?
S: Way better than I expected! I assumed there would be just ignoring us totally or at least some level of negativity towards us. But the first reviews were impressive. Like 4/5 on Inferno magazine (Fin) and 8.5/10 on Imperiumi. I was like what the fuck. I was expecting way less.
TIBM: Many of the songs have an anti-religious and anti-supernatural message. Why do you hate religion so much? Did it effect you negatively on a personal level or do you feel it negatively effects society as a whole?
S: Anti-religiousness comes from a historical background. Take a look at Europe. And for that matter, both American continents. All those places were conquered by swords and backed up by religious zealots. Crazy fuckers like the pope. Organized religions have always been powerful political tools for those in power. Promise things that cannot be claimed, like salvation from god, and then also threatening people with going to hell or facing god’s fury and you have it in a nutshell.
The Nordic countries were basically forced into religion by force with crusades (or whatever the official wording is) and that happened not by co-existing peacefully with traditional, original religions but pissing on them. This didn’t happen only in the Nordic countries, of course, but throughout America as well, and of course, other parts of the world. It’s all a control mechanism based on fear and empty promises.
I guess I could have more respect for religions such as this if only they (religious leaders etc.) lived up to their own rules, but fuck no: there are pedophile priests and all kinds of power-crazy lunatics in power. Doesn’t matter if we talk about cardinals and popes of today or those who did witch-hunts in the past, it’s all just some sadistic, crazy and utterly disgusting people in that. And why? Because some asshole said that this book is done by God. What fucking nonsense.
And it’s not just Christianity of course. The same goes for Islam. I think Asian religions are more reasonable with this, but then again, they don’t worship gods like these Abrahamic religions do.
About supernatural? Well, not so much against it versus the people who are just scared of myths and legends. Fairytales and ghosts, if you will. Basically, the same people who are now flat-earth theorists or anti-vaxxers. Bunch of crazy assholes causing more harm than good. They should be sent to space to find out their gods and masters.
Musta Surma & Bloodhammer & Annihilatus – Christian Genocide (Full Split)
TIBM: What do you think happens after we die? What is the meaning of life and why are we here?
S: I don’t think anything in particular happens. Our biological vessels, bodies, start to rot. Our mind shuts down as the biological parts can’t function anymore. If there’s anything spiritual or non-physical happening when we die, like transcending to something or whatever, I don’t know. There is no clear evidenced of that anyway. I’m keen to read about it if things like that would be found out.
Meaning of life in biological and ideological (philosophical, if you will) sense vary a lot from each other. Biologically I don’t think there necessarily is any real meaning. All I know is that we might be a dollhouse of some superior race out there. Or we even might be a digital creations of something somewhere. All this might not be real, but just dreaming. We don’t know. Philosophy never managed to riddle it. I think Descartes got it by stating that only thing we can be sure is that we do exist. Anything beyond that is uncertain. That’s the greatest mystery in life along death. We really don’t know what these two are. Not now anyway. Biologically our purpose might be just procreate and evolve. But is there an endgame to this? We do not know. We like to think there’s a purpose to all this because we humans like to think like that. But it just well could be that there’s no purpose. That we just exist out of some cosmic coincidence and that’s it, which leads me to the next part of the answer.
In philosophical sense I think life’s purpose is whatever we decide to give it. It might be as simple and biological as “procreate and get yourself a family” or “pave yourself into the pages of history by creating something innovative”. Or just as simple as “life as happily as possible, whatever it is”.
Why we are here? Nobody knows for sure. Modern science has stated that it’s entirely possible that our DNA came to earth from space. But was it an accident or purposefully? We don’t know. Were the seeds of life planted here like we sow seeds? No idea. It might be that, or it might be just some weird coincidence by an asteroid that was just flying this way.
I don’t personally believe that there’s any other purpose but the one we give for life. It might be art (like music) for some; it might be family for others. Glory to some, or just daily suffering for somebody else. I say, you decide for yourself.
TIBM: What is your view on other religious bands be they satanic or christian?
S: I think all religion is just bullshit.
TIBM: You often say that you are not political and you are not a fan of political expression in Black Metal, but you play war metal and in the words of famous Prussian general and military theorist Carl von Clausewitz, “Politics is war by other means.” Why shouldn’t politics play a role in music?
S: Funny that you mention von Clausewitz as I’m just reading his book. In my opinion, what he means by that sentence is that war is always tied to politics. That is to say, war has no purpose without politics.
Personally I haven’t found any political party I could relate with. I’m not saying I’m super individual with my thoughts but I most certainly don’t like that “game of thrones” these politicians are playing. I know it is mandatory evil to have, but it’s not my game. I am not saying art should be free of politics, but I don’t want to get political with my lyrics. I’m not trying to convince anybody or to preach them. I am disgusted and annoyed by religions, but that’s probably as political I am going to get.
TIBM: We often hear many bands say that they don’t listen or pay attention to what other bands in the genre are doing. It seems to me that because of your role as a reviewer and interviewer on the Rauta youtube channel you don’t have that luxury. Does Rauta have any effect on how you view and create your own music?
S: I think many bands say that only because they like to think they are free of these thoughts, but I don’t think it’s true. I think all individuals creating art or entertainment are very much interested in what others think of them. It’s just a defense mechanism to say that.
I think I’m influenced subconsciously by what others do because I do listen to a lot of music and review that on my Rauta channel. Sometimes I feel like that I’m not going to do what some band X is doing with their album and sometimes it’s the other way around, like you know, “how come I didn’t think of this kind of riff?”
TIBM: How do you feel about touring? Is an Annihilatus tour a future possibility?
S: At this phase and age of life, touring doesn’t sound too fascinating. We might do a gig here and there, but anything beyond that might feel like too much work for us without proper pay. We wouldn’t get good deals because we’re virtually unknown and then again we have zero interest in sleeping in the back of some van just because we need to do a gig.
TIBM: And if you did tour which countries would be at the top of your list to visit and why those countries in particular?
S: No country in particular as we have played only in Finland. Everything would be new and different for us anyway. But I guess I’d like to see Latin America the most because the people seem to be very fanatic over there.
TIBM: Can we expect new material from Annihilatus soon or are the fans of the band in for another long break?
S: Our third album is in the works as we speak. Some parts have been already recorded and all the songs are more or less finished in terms of song-writing. I wouldn’t be surprised to see a 2020 release.
TIBM: When you aren’t making music or going through your long list of albums to review what do you like to do for fun and relaxation?
S: I hit the gym usually four times a week, powerlifting mostly. Besides that I relax by gaming as games offer me more interaction than reading a book or watching a movie/show. I need to do something. If I just sit down, I become restless. I do read and watch interesting tv series, too.
TIBM: Are there any parting words of wisdom you have for us and your fans?
S: Memento mori. That and “Question everything. Everything.”