Standing at the very forefront of contemporary Polish Βlack Μetal, Blaze Of Perdition are notable for approaching the genre with considerably more ritualistic and occult intent than other leading contemporaries, such as Mgła or Furia. Officially in existence since 2007 (having risen from the ashes of a more stripped-down group called Perdition, formed in 2004) the first era of the band took heavy inspiration from the much-celebrated ‘orthodox black metal’ movement that grew to prominence in the mid to late 00s. A distinctly Swedish overtone thus permeated within both the sound and overall aesthetic during this period, this dynamic being clearly evident on the band’s early releases.
This is not to say that theyare merely derivative works however. Dressed in an apocalyptic atmosphere, 2010 debut album Towards The Blaze Of Perdition and the follow-up, 2011’s The Hierophantably match the religious tone of their magnificent sleeve designs, providing an embittered, driving attack on the senses, integrating frantic blasting with mid-paced passages abundant in groove, and topping these off with the urgent zealot-like proclamations of the two vocalists, Ashgan and Sonneillon. If anything, the second album is even more intense than the first, increasing both speed and technicality and complimenting the resulting miasma with a strong spiritual/magickal concept. Indeed, the songs on both albums offer an intriguingly complex occult foundation, rather less straight-forward and more multi-faceted in nature than the more direct Satanic and anti-cosmic theology of many of the bands from which they took influence, thus further separating them from the crowd.
Between 2011 and 2012, a number of line-up changes took place, with drummer N.K and guitarist Golachab leaving the fold, followed soon after by vocalist Ashgan. An unforeseen tragedy at the end of 2013 would change things more significantly however, a major car accident while on tour in Austria claiming the life of their bass player (and former guitarist) 23 and leaving Sonneillon in a coma, from which he thankfully awoke. This life-changing event would, perhaps unsurprisingly, leave an indelible imprint on the spirit of the group, immediately evident upon their triumphant return two years later via the aptly-named Near Death Revelations album.
A more measured and emotionally complex work, it demonstrates a clear departure from the more conventional approach of the previous works, exchanging many of those Swedish and orthodox overtones for a more haunting and foreboding sound. Sombre and ominous passages sit alongside the aggressive flurries, the songs maintaining the reverential dissonance and finality of its predecessors while also giving a gentle nod toward the otherworldly ebb and flow of bands such as Blut Aus Nord, its thought-provoking lyrics, meanwhile, touching upon both the universal and the intensely personal. It is a direction that the fourth album, Conscious Darkness, would expand upon and refine in 2017.
For this interview we speak to the band’s two remaining founding members, the aforementioned Sonneillon and guitarist XCIII, the latter being the only remaining member that was also a part of Perdition. It was on the subject of that band – and the drives that led it to form – that we began our discussion…
XCIII: “My own beginnings were unsurprisingly connected with the Scandinavian scene, but not only there; I think the first band I discovered was Samael, but it was in the times when I wasn’t really into Black Metal. I always liked heavier music, though, from hardcore to Marilyn Manson and from there to more atmospheric metal music – for example, when I was still pretty young I was a big fan of Therion’s Theli. Later I started my search for darker and more extreme sounds. I remember buying Live in Leipzig by Mayhem and being almost unable to listen to it. Then I began to discover more and more bands and I think Emperor become my number one – at least their first releases – which led me to forming a band years later.”
Dayal Patterson: In 2004 you co-founded Perdition, the band that would later evolve into Blaze Of Perdition. How did the various members come together to create that outfit and did you all share a particular aim and musical vision at that time?
XCIII: “We were inspired by the bands we liked such as Marduk, Funeral Mist, Watain, Urgehal, Emperor etc. but they didn’t necessarily inspire us directly, we just wanted to play the music we were capable of playing. We didn’t plan anything and we didn’t take everything 100% seriously back then. Perdition was a mix of pretty random people. Of course each one of us liked Black Metal more or less, but our attitudes were different – from being totally unconcerned ideology-wise to a total commitment. We had no real vision, we just wanted to play the music we liked and do it as good as we could. Later, the more my vision of the band clarified, the more differences and arguments started to appear. I was already involved in the occult for quite some time and thought metal music with its light-hearted community was not the proper place to channel such things. My opinion started to change once I saw the breath of fresh air that came with the bands from [the label] Norma Evangelium Diaboli etc. I realised that metal can really be a vessel for something much deeper than scary make-up. It was the moment I decided to connect my spiritual and philosophical side with the music itself, and it was the moment I started to treat things more seriously that Perdition started to slowly transform into Blaze Of Perdition.”
Dayal Patterson: You mention that you were hesitant to bring your interests in the occult into metal – how had you discovered and become interested in that subject in the first place?
XCIII: “It’s a little bit more convoluted. Discovering Black Metal was actually first; I listened to it when I was still in primary school and later in high school. My first contact with the occult took place when I was in heavy depression, which I wanted to defeat with unconventional means. That’s when I discovered Hatha yoga, started my personal work with energies and became inspired by such thinkers as Aleister Crowley, Austin Osman Spare, Kenneth Grant, etc. I stopped listening to metal and went into stranger musical territories, such as Dead Can Dance, Coil and Current 93, for example. Forming Perdition was my first contact with Black Metal in quite some time, but even then I still had a hard time treating this music 100% seriously. Then it started to change when I was discovering the new bands presenting their art in a more intellectual and spiritual manner. This made me believe in the genre again and inspired me to make my own art more serious on every level.”
Dayal Patterson: Your 2010 debut album, Towards The Blaze Of Perdition, was obviously a big step forward for the band. How was the creation of that record and were there any particular influences or goals you had with the music for your first full-length?
XCIII: “Almost the whole album – both music and lyrics – were written by me. It was a very prolific time for me artistically speaking, although very hard on a personal side. Anyway, I was still pretty young and had much time to write and some songs were already written when we were still active as Perdition. We wanted to create an album that was as close as it could be to the bands we were inspired by. That’s why many people accused us of unoriginality. But this was our target back then – we didn’t want to be innovative or groundbreaking. We just wanted to play music like the ones that inspired us. Lyrics were a different thing, though, they were very personal and not entirely in line with the orthodox Satanism that was so common back then. Our lyrics were more inspired by the traditional occult sciences that grew stronger in the genre years later. It was pretty spontaneous back then. The next releases were surely more coherent and measured.”
Blaze of perdition – Towards The Blaze of Perdition (FULL ALBUM)
Dayal Patterson: Is it fair to say that Blaze Of Perdition was built on a Satanic Gnostic foundation, and if so, what does this represent for the band? Are there any particular texts or disciplines that unite the members?
XCIII: “Those were our foundations, yes, but our lyrics were always based on personal spiritual exploration, so it’s hard to put everything under one label. What was always our bond is the individualism and spirituality itself. Of course we share similar goals, we couldn’t work and create together otherwise, but each one of us has slightly different approach to some things, his own inspirations and so on, and that’s what keeps us fresh and always interested in each other’s point of view on both a personal and artistic side.”
Dayal Patterson: Many of the lyrics on that first album describe a sort of ritualistic process of self-overcoming, of moving beyond human limitations in what would seem to be an occult or spiritual sense. What was it that inspired these lyrics and how involved would you say you were – and are – in such ritualistic practices outside your work in the band?
XCIII: “The lyrics on Towards The Blaze Of Perdition were written the similar way as the music – spontaneously. They referred to everything I was practically involved in and/or inspired with – Thelema, Gnosticism, Chaos Magick, Luciferianism etc. Although I was inspired by Dissection or Watain as well – their devotion impressed me – my ideological influences were more in line with traditional occultism. I would say I’m more balanced now – I seek the equilibrium of light and darkness, and so the Blaze Of Perdition of today is also a pendulum swinging between two crescent moons.”
Dayal Patterson: Can you explain a little bit more about how your focus changed between then and now and why that happened?
XCIII: “Earlier I was more ‘typical’ for a Black Metal musician – I was just lacking some healthy distance towards it all. Now that I’m older, wiser and more mentally stable, I see way too many loopholes in the so-called ‘Black Metal ideology’. That’s why Black Metal is now a means of expression to me rather than some sort of code of conduct. The balance I’m speaking about concerns my attitude towards life in general – though I do not negate its darker aspects, I don’t forget about those of the light. It has its impact on Blaze Of Perdition – while we’re certainly focused on the darker side of our minds, even there we are trying to include some more positive and empowering ideas rather than heading in one inalterable direction.”
Dayal Patterson: What part, if any, would you say Gnosticism and Satanism play in your spiritual or cosmological worldview today?
XCIII: “If there’s anything satanic in me, it is exactly the gnostic aspect. Earlier I was taking it all much more literally, but my views changed over the years. This ‘diabolical’ side refers to my attitude towards leading monotheistic religions in the world. I see the demiurge as the egregore [an occult concept meaning a ‘collective’ mind or psychic entity, created by, and influencing, the thoughts of a group of people] for the masses, a tyrant, while Lucifer/Satan is a gate to liberation and symbolises the return to different kinds of spirituality and our own search for knowledge through individual practice. For example, I’m involved in Eastern esoteric techniques and feel close to Shiva, whose symbolism reflects my view on the world quite well.”
Dayal Patterson: What are your feelings on Christianity in relation to that? Speaking more generally, do you agree with those who argue that Black Metal needs to be Satanic or anti-Christian in order to be fit for purpose, or not?
XCIII: “The roots of Black Metal are obviously anti-Christian and/or Satanic, but one has to keep in mind that this music was born for some reason and it was a mutiny against leading religions. That’s why I think Black Metal should be involved in alternative paths of spirituality and worldviews. I don’t believe it necessarily has to be fanatically rebellious, but it certainly should stand against everything that was forced upon us through religious or political tyrannies to destroy our individuality.”
BLAZE OF PERDITION The Burning Will of Expansion – 2010 [FULL ALBUM]
Dayal Patterson: The Thelema system and the writings of Aleister Crowley seem to be significant within Blaze Of Perdition – how does this fit into the overall picture and can you tell me how these inspirations have manifested within your musical creations?
XCIII: “Obviously Crowley’s works had a big impact on us in the beginning and his ideas are still very important to me – see the lyrics on Towards The Blaze Of Perdition and 418 – ATh IAV [the band’s 2013 split with Devathorn]. It’s hard to say we are a strictly Thelemic band, but Crowley’s thoughts are often present in our lyrics, yes. For example, it can be noticed in ‘The Great Work’ or more recently in ‘Abbey Of The New Aeon’, a song referring to The Book Of The Law and its cosmology. But it’s not the only influence on my spiritual path. It all has much more personal context today.”
Dayal Patterson: In 2011, you released your second album, The Hierophant. The music and packaging for that record in particular provoked comparisons to the ‘religious/ orthodox Black Metal’ movement within Sweden (and to a lesser extent France and Finland). Would you say that was an accurate point of reference and how do you feel about that movement (and indeed the ‘religious/orthodox Black Metal’ tag itself) in a wider sense?
Sonneillon: “As XCIII mentioned, we were inspired by this movement in the beginning, mainly due to its lyrical/ideological content which visibly contrasted with the clown- ridden, Rock ‘n’ Roll-esque Black Metal scene, but it was just a starting point for us, an inspiration and stimulus to create and evolve into something more of our own and that’s what we are at the moment. As for the tags, I’m not particularly interested in how people describe the genre they think we’re part of, and to be honest the term ‘religious Black Metal’ makes me cringe.”
BLAZE OF PERDITION The Hierophant – 2011 [FULL ALBUM]
Dayal Patterson: Would you say the process of making albums and writing lyrics is helpful
to the band’s members in terms of clarifying your personal philosophies, spiritual beliefs and direction? And are the themes and lyrics something that all members are involved in or relate to?
Sonneillon: “Yes, to me art in its countless forms is a great way to express thoughts, feelings or even darkest fears through creative ways – be it music, visual arts or anything one feels more appealing.As for our lyrics, each one of us is a slightly different person, so I can’t speak for anyone but myself, but our main foundation, which is a burning need for artistically expressed self-development, is a force that connects us all and lets us think and work on similar frequencies.”
Dayal Patterson: In late 2013, you had a serious car accident while travelling, which ultimately claimed the life of guitarist/bassist 23 and left several members of the band with life-changing injuries. How did this effect the group and did it change your perspective on life and/ or art significantly?
Sonneillon: “Well, we had to slow down a bit, but not for long, we immediately restarted our creative processes once I got better. Although there’s nothing plainly positive to remember about it, the accident itself was surely one of the most important events in my life in its twisted and utterly devastating way. I wouldn’t say it changed my worldview or fundamental beliefs in any significant way, but I’m sure it made me somehow wiser – inspired me to think more thoroughly, sometimes rethink and clarify my view on life and death. And it all has its reflection in my lyrics on [2015’s] Near Death Revelations.”
Dayal Patterson: From the title and lyrics it seems clear that the aforementioned accident was a fairly major catalyst conceptually speaking for the whole record, is that fair to say? I think the lyrics to ‘Into The Void Again’ are particularly interesting as they seem refreshingly nihilistic – or some might say realistic – and challenge the concept of the afterlife that so many cling onto, whether they be worshippers of God or Satan (to put in a Christian/Western framework); can you divulge some more on that?
Sonneillon: “This is where you hit the spot. Like I already said, the accident made me think about things. Things I feltI need to transform into lyrics to give anyone interested at least a glimpse of my mind-set, though I wouldn’t use any labelling words like ‘nihilism’ or ‘realism’ as it may misguide people in their interpretations. I didn’t write my lyrics with any particular worldview or current in mind. It was rather a natural flow of thoughts that boiled in my mind for months and that’s all. A mix of pain, depression, doubt and rejection, but contrasting with a raging will to power… and to live. Are they challenging? If that’s what you really think, it flatters me. It means they’re worth more, aside from my own artistic fulfilment.”
Dayal Patterson: Conscious Darkness definitely seemed to build on its predecessor’s foundations and seems to have expanded the audience for the band. Did you have any particular aims with that album and how did you set about following up what was a very personal album in Near Death Revelations?
Sonneillon: “I don’t think we had any particular aims aside from just taking NDR and extracting the best from it or at least what we thought was the best. Considering the albums’ very good reception I guess we’ve made the right choice. We left behind everything we felt wasn’t exactly our cup of tea and focused on natural flow. That lead to a more focused and coherent album made with little to no planning aheadI’d say Conscious Darkness is no less personal than NDR, but it was written after all the dust settled. While NDR was very cathartic and made of still fresh and rampant emotions, Conscious Darkness is his older, more mature and wiser brother, made with a better perspective after all the wounds turned to scars.”
Blaze of Perdition – Near Death Revelations [Full – HD]
Dayal Patterson: You recently announced your signing to Metal Blade, something of a surprise given that they are not known for their involvement in Black Metal. How and why did this come about?
Sonneillon: “Yes it was a huge surprise. Definitely not something I would expect to see in our inbox just like that. They reached out to us, then we discussed all then necessary details and that’s it. We were already thinking about changing the label, but didn’t really know where to look. We got other offers as well, but Metal Blade’s one seemed the most interesting. Our curiosity wasn’t without its significance as well. Let’s just wait and see where it all leads. As for majors looking for Black Metal bands I’d say it’s not that surprising given some bands’ recent huge popularity growth, even among people who aren’t into metal at all. I don’t really know where is our place in all of this, but as I said – let’s give it a leap of faith and see what happens.”
Dayal Patterson: And how close is the first Metal Blade release? What stage is the band at with new material?
Sonneillon: “Most song structures are more or less ready. The guys are currently rehearsing the stuff and we’re all making sure everything works composition-wise, while I’m working on the concept and lyrics and some initial vocal arrangements. Cover artwork is also being painted as we speak. The album’s title is The Harrowing of Hearts and will probably be preceded by yet-untitled EP/single with one track from the album and a cover song.”
// This piece contains parts of the Blaze Of Perdition interview contained in the full-length book Black Metal: Into The Abyss [released in late 2016], still available from Cult Never Dies.//
BLAZE OF PERDITION – Conscious Darkness (Official Album Stream)