In January the Italian horror doom metal masters Abysmal Grief have released their 5th full length album Blasphema Secta via Terror From Hell/Sun and Moon Records and now, 4 months later, they have embarked on an Eastern European tour to support this beautiful release.
The tour was supposed to start in Germany on the 4th of May, but the show in Loberschutz (Germany) was cancelled at the last minute so the date in Budapest became the first one of the Chapter I tour.
Several months ago, before the release of Sektarism‘s latest album “La Mort de L’Infidèle” I sent Eklezjas’tik BerZerK an invitation for an interview. Fortunately, he agreed to answer my questions so what you have here is final result: a very interesting discussion about his bands, his projects, Les Apôtres de L’Ignominie, religion, faith etc. A truly complex character with a strong and interesting point of view. Enjoy the reading and listen to the music.
1. “La Mort de L’Infidèle”, the second Sektarism album has just been released. You have taken some time to write and compose this material. How do you see it, compared to the other Sektarism works, what have been the reactions so far? Can this album take the band one step further on its evolution scale, has it crossed any boundaries?
“La Mort de l’Infidèle” is for us a satisfying opus in many ways: lyrically, musically, visually, everything about this release gives us a feeling of self-accomplishment. The process of live recording was more successfully mastered than before. It’s a logical evolution, a step in the direction we intended. We have achieved our goals and our views and now aim to do even better with the net album to come, “Fils de Dieu”. Maybe quite differently, you will see…
2. As usual, on the new album there are only 3 tracks, which last for almost an hour. This has become some sort of a trademark for Sektarism and I really like that. Instead of a regular album with multiple songs, you chose right from the start to have very few, but long tracks. Why is that? Do you fell that less is good and can create and maintain a certain atmosphere on the record?
Absolutely, or at least it’s the way that fits our own sensibility and expression. To each his own but we feel at ease with long pieces of music. This song format has many advantages, the first being giving room for the text to live and resonate. It can spread itself across the whole song and take its time to wield its effects. Same for the music: long songs are of course better to generate a trance. Sektarism’s music is a demanding one even if it something sounds simple and repetitive: it needs attention; you definitively have to focus entirely on it.
3. Until now, in 10 years of activity, Sektarism has released a handful of splits and EPs, but only 2 full lengths. Why did you choose this slow approach, was it intentional?
More or less. Bear in mind that we also have other involvements in Malhkebre and other projects (Malekhamoves, Obscurantist and now Faction Senestre) and our labels, Necrocosm Productions/Battleskr’s Records to run. So we cannot always give all the time needed for Sektarism or another project, and some years are more dedicated specifically to one or another. We may have two Sektarism albums available (plus another to come soon), but only one Malhkebre LP released yet! Anyway it’s better to be patient and let things come in time needed.
4. For the Sektarism releases and live appearances you use many Christian elements: Latin expressions, symbols, even outfits. Why is Christianity such a big influence on you?
Simply because we were born and live in a country with 2000 years of Christian beliefs and culture. We may reject it but it forms the background we come from anyway. We were raised with it to the point it melted with our perception of things. For young European it’s logical to figure the face of the Nazarene when questioning ourselves about the Divine. Nothing more logical then to turn all the Christian regalia upside-down in a great reversion of things, and pervert it in the name of the Devil and Ignominy.
5. Speaking of live shows – from what I’ve seen on YouTube, a Sektarism performance is much more than a simple concert. It’s a religious ceremony, a live, ritualistic manifestation of faith, in which the band actually practice what they preach. Many bands of today claim they do the same thing, but very few can actually match this intensity you achieve on stage. How can your ritual be so real, after all? How do you prepare for such a powerful representation?
You nailed it: we do prepare ourselves before, and it makes a huge difference. I can’t speak for all the other bands and how do they cope with the act of playing live, but I’ve witnessed some of them who came onstage as if they were just going to play thrash metal. They had no kind of specific preparation whatsoever excepted for the make-up. No meditation, no group nor personal conditioning, nothing. Honestly, I’ve seen some mainstream rock bands taking it more seriously than some “religious” or “occult” bands who had no idea whatsoever of what they were about to do, except lightning candles and playing boring riffs. And that’s the point: when you’re honest with yourself, when you have enough of insight about who you are and what you do, you naturally do what you’re supposed to, fully, honestly.
6. I know that at some point you had a small tour outside France with Malhkebre, while with Sektarism you played only once abroad, at Speyer Grey Mass in Germany (correct please if I’m wrong). Why is that, is it because you only sing in French and this can prevent other audiences to receive the true message of your music?
I don’t believe so. We have the expectation that -even if lyrics are of a primordial importance- our music speaks for itself and anybody could get it regardless of his/her ability to understand French. We talk about trance here, of a wordless communication, something that is addressed directly to the lower part of the subconscious… it really has nothing to do with a human language. Somehow we could yield the same effects by chanting in English or Latin: of course every language has its own rhythm, sonorities and scansion, but we seek something more atavistic here. The Devil speaks in every tongues.
7. Together with other bands – Darvulia, Malhkebre and Sektarism- you founded “Les Apôtres de L’Ignominie” (The Apostles of Ignominy), which is some sort of a congregation. What is the purpose of this small group? I have read the statements on the websites affiliated to it (http://obscurantist.org and http://www.theapostlesofignominy.org) , but I want to hear it from you. What do you want to achieve with this?
Spreading our philosophy and views using different mediums, congregating people of interest, joining forces to express ourselves more easily, exchange ideas and concepts… it’s interesting to act as a kind of “inner circle”, Black Arts should not be limited to a solitary experience. After all the shit world of the 21st century is based upon individualism and the tearing down of all forms of solidarities, that’s the way the liberal dictatorship imposes its laws and erases the desire of resistance in us. Union around common values and ideals is a source of strength. Victory will be reached with armies, not isolated fighters.
8. Besides Sektarism, you also play in two other bands, which have a different musical approach but share the same ideology. Malhkebre plays nihilistic black metal while Malekhamoves deals with death metal. Which one of these bands is closer to your heart and how do you manage to split between them? Is Sektarism the one who requires the most attention, so to speak?
None of them benefits of any favor or preference, all are considered equally, yet we spent less time working on Malekhamoves (for now… beware!), and lately Sektarism was given more focus. But it will change, as some plans are about to spawn both regarding Malhkebre and Malekhamoves.
9. In Sektarism you are not using lyrics, like most of the bands do. Instead you use prayers, litanies and other psalms to declare your never ending love for the Lord. The musical instruments are just the tools which help you create and reach this fantastic sense of religious ecstasy. How do you, as a band, manage to write these hymns? How much is spontaneity/improvisation and how much is programmed during a recording?
Improvisation is a key element, it’s the pillar of our method. Last and soon-to-come albums were recorded live, based on improvisations around pre-worked themes. We always take the final result as a surprise, as we can’t predict how it will sound. It’s a whole process engaging creativity and personal involvement, obviously you don’t put yourself in the same mood when you’re about to record improvised music that riffs and structures written and worked previously over and over again. We aim to work with a living matter, something not entirely under our control that can either blow us away or bring our hopes down. Difficulty and challenge, putting ourselves out of a comfort zone is stimulating, and here insight and humility are required.
10. Necrocosm Productions and Battlesk’rs Productions are two other entities which you deal with. The first one is an online distro while the other is a well-known underground label, which has released over the years jewels from famous French bands like Antaeus, Darvulia, Aosoth, Temple of Baal, Malhkebre, Osculum Infame etc. How hard is to run a label/distro these days, when more and more people have stopped buying music. Do you feel like this is still worth it?
It still is, but it is certainly as difficult and demanding as before, maybe even more. People still buy music, at least in the niche of extreme metal where the material format is still appreciated and seek. But consuming trends have changed, and we note that people can become more and more exacting. Some online selling sites have a specialty of hard-to-please customers who are more into collecting objects that praising music. Putting aside second-hand (and even sometimes first-hand) prices that get to a delirious level, people there will promptly argue of any hour of delay, invisible scratch or whatever fantasy their mania drives them to. It’s often both surreal and painful to deal with such wannabee specialists, but alas it’s a population we cannot avoid.
11. What are religion and true devotion for you? How would you explain this desire to believe blindly, without a physical proof, rejecting all the scientifically theories which prove that God did not create this world and, even more, that God cannot be real?
True devotion is two-faced, both a strength or a weakness whether you ultimately believe in your own possibilities of expect another entity to do the work for you. We placed our lives and ideals under the mark of the Devil, this does not necessarily mean we renounce all forms of will. Spirituality is foremost an open door to questions, doubts and experience, not an abandon of intellect. About the concept of blind desire, it holds another paradox: as said above it is not a defeat of the will and intellect, but it generally proceed from a personal experience that can be wordless. Something things we live cannot be analyzed, rationalized and theorized, you have to accept them as they are.
But of course the common denominator of a large part of humanity is herd mentality and fear of experience, so it’s easy for some to dwell in the comfort a secured worldview based on bigotry and superstition. Better to leave it aside, as it is a loss of time. More interesting for me is the assurance some will get in hiding themselves behind scientific concepts they don’t understand better than a regular Jew understands the mysteries of the Kabbalah, accept them to structure their worldview giving blind confidence to more educated people who know for them, think that everything can be reduced to particles and numbers with no insight whatsoever concerning what atoms are made of and how many paradoxes it holds, but eventually proclaim they are rational spirits. You may reject the idea of God as the impossibility of something of unknown nature that you can’t see, can’t touch, can’t measure or weight but which can shape and structure the universe and interact with it… but what about cold dark matter then? As you pinned it out, we only have scientific theories. And none of them radically dismiss the possibility of “something else”. Ostracizing this very idea for the sake of science without any material proof nor will to discuss and confront views is the mark of blind faith and intolerance, not science. A reasonable spirit is open to every possibility without admitting definitely one or another.
12. Human beings had always sought refuge in religion. They have believed in a higher power out of fear, guilt or credulity since the birth of man. As I can accept someone’s need to believe in something, I do not understand the religious fervor or the bigotry. Why do you think a person can suddenly transform from a normal being into a religious fanatic? What can trigger such a radical change in someone’s life? When is the line between belief and fanaticism crossed?
I strongly disagree with the systematic assimilation of belief to “fear, guilt or credulity”. If these concepts are indeed the marks of bigotry and fanaticism, they do not match with the general depiction of spirituality. Moreover, they reek too much of judeo-abrahamic devotion to fit with more ancient or foreign forms of beliefs. Ancient pagan cults are generally devoid of any form of guilt from men towards the Gods as it is a monotheistic invention. Same for credulity which results more of a modern, preposterous, Christian point of view upon these cults than a spiritual and historical fact. Reducing the concept of God(s) to an omnipotent super-entity, be it to worship or to contradict it, is having a childish and limited conception of divinity and subsequently what spirituality is about.
As for the rise of fanaticism we face nowadays, it’s pretty hard to set general explanations as each spiritual path is a personal one and each individual will have different reasons to throw himself in the waters of extremism. But observing the slow process of rottenness our civilization is facing, the way everything sacred is despised and ridiculed, how the human potential is each and every day teared down to an unprecedented alienating low makes me wonder how can the individuals don’t revolt more than that. We have integrated the motto “don’t bite the hand that feeds” to the point of guilt that we willingly accept every form of poison this hand gives us. So it’s quite surprising there are not more terrorists and extremists, maybe things will change…
13. There exists on YouTube a silent documentary, “Into Great Silence”, about the everyday life of some French monks. It’s very interesting and it has such a “primitive” message. At some point in the movie this line comes up: “Tu m’as séduit, O, Seigneur et moi, je me suis laissé séduit”, which really gave me goose bumps. What do you think of this phrase, can this be a true manifest of the Apostles of Ignominy? Is this the quintessence of belief?
It indeed looks like the quintessence of holy revelation, an intimate meeting with the Lord that breaks into one’s soul. I believe one is seduced because it already had in him the seed, even without knowing it. It’s a mystery how can revelation happen, as it works in different ways for each one to be touched. Every member of the Apostles has its own path, his own history, and came to belief in a personal way. You have to be confident, let go your past certitudes, and walk forth.
14. Would you consider spending some time in a monastery, just to immerse yourself in the way of life of the “holy”, to better absorb the ways of the “enemy”? Somebody once said that in order “to know your enemy, you must become your enemy”. Do you agree with this?
Solitude is a fundamental help for any kind of meditation and inner inquest (even if it’s not mandatory as group meditation are of common use in certain traditions like Zen or Lamaism). But yes, taking a time of reclusion is something a practitioner is supposed to do from time to time, both as a challenge (to set yourself apart of all mundane comfort and temptations for a while) and a tool for meditation and insight. Living such an experience in a monastery could be of great interest in term of practice, like being forced to observe rules of discipline silence etc. but I don’t see the point of doing it in the larger field of a war against Christianity: we are not fighting against a bunch of solitary monks in their abbey but against a whole society and its morals. We wage our war in the cities, thus I’m not sure we would have relevant things to learn from this kind of enemy.
15. In my country (which is also a very religious country by the way), during the big religious ceremonies, men and women, both young and old, are trampling each other and fighting (to death) to be the first to kiss the holy relics of a so-called saint. What is inside these people’s minds, by doing this they’ll be granted a place in heaven? Or is it because people still like to be led like cattle and this imaginary, spiritual “freedom” is actually what they look for?
What is beside their mind is up to each individual. As for the rest such crowd frenzy is common in sacred and mundane fields, you have the same with hooliganism for example. Why do people kill each other during a fucking football match? Isn’t that even more meaningless than killing for God? At least religious fanaticism is based on a larger and more promising world-view than what the UEFA has to offer. From an opponent’s perspective, I’m mostly intrigued and fascinated by the power resulting from such an egregore you describe in your question. This is the most important thing to experience.
16. Also, in some regions (not necessarily remote or rural) we can still encounter cases like the one described in the “Over the Hills” book and movie. (An epileptic young girl was tied to a cross for 3 days with no food and water while other nuns and the local priest performed several exorcisms on her because they thought she was possessed. This brutal treatment led to her death and they were eventually accused and convicted for murder). How can that be possible in the 21st century?
The human brain hasn’t evolved that much last centuries, and education and scientific knowledge never were of great power to prevent men to perpetrate to most horrid of atrocities, so why would such kind of things not existing in the 20th or 21st century? Your question seems a bit too optimistic concerning humanity if you allow me to say so. Please remember than the worst genocides, be it in Europe or in Rwanda, were organized and perpetrated under the monitoring of clever, educated and rational minds with the complicity of masses having access to education and knowledge. Such things will certainly become rarer with time, but never disappear. Such is human nature.
17. Humanity is a huge paradox: while these days technology and science are sky rocketing, human life regresses slowly but surely. On one hand we don’t know how to speak/write in our own language anymore, we become alienated and estranged because of all the gadgets and social media crap and on the other hand there’ s this religious virus which still poisons the minds of many half-wits (beati pauperes). What we’ll be the outcome, what we’ll eventually happen? How long will religion exist before people will finally realize how dangerous it is?
Religion will forever exist in one form or another in the human psyche. It has always been in here and forever will. It will change, take all possible shapes, but never leave our brains and heart. If it will, then we will no longer be humans. And maybe then will we stop being so dangerous, as it is us and not religion in itself that bear the seed of murder and destruction.
18. Huysmans once said in his masterpiece “Là-Bas” that “Worshiping the Devil is no more insane than worshiping god…it is precisely at the moment when positivism is at its high-water mark that mysticism stirs into life and the follies of occultism begin”. Was he right?
In some ways yes, obvious to say that you can get access to a larger frame when you break the barriers of Manicheism and duality. You can have to engage yourself in a one-sided faith and push it to its logical limits before acknowledge the existence first of these boundaries and second of their human origin. It’s a popular credo in modern black metal to bow to a theist conception of Satan – and subsequently of God. Or to claim to do so, not that much people are genuine believers. The theist representation of the Devil serves a great purpose, as it enhance the extremism of some individuals. Again, pushing yourself to a far distant and extreme limit. But it’s only the first part of the journey then you can switch to a different perception of things, see them as more subtle than they look at first, and ultimately accept the dissolution of previous spiritual landmarks for something more uncertain. It’s a personal and fully subjective point of view, not all the Apostles would agree with it maybe, but it’s also our strength to doubt and discuss. The mysteries of a real Revelation are maybe not to be discovered in this human world. We dwell in a dark maze of ignorance were spirituality is a mere feeble candle. The real flame is to be ignited in yourself.
When I heard that this year el Camino will release their third full length after a four years absence I was very hyped because I really love this Swedish group and their cursed doom they’re playing. I liked a lot The Satanik Magick debut LP ( Hail the Horns is a real anthem), Smaland was a nice interlude EP with a very interesting Venom cover (this Swedish version of In League With Satan sounds even better than the original) and Gold of the Great Deceiver was very enjoyable.
So you can imagine my surprise when I read in the press release I received that el Camino plays some sort of malicious black metal with a Dissection-esque touch and “it’s most reminiscent of the Greek black metal scene”. I immediately asked myself what the fuck is happening here, have they changed their style and jumped onto the black metal bandwagon, or the guy who wrote the description smoked something toxic and was talking about another band and its new album?
Since I was devoured by excitement and curiosity, I anxiously pressed the “play” button and I was instantly relieved: el Camino did not change their style at all, instead they added that extra something (maturity and experience, let’s call it) that will turn Cursed Congregation into their best work so far.
Many years ago, a Swedish band issued a bold statement that their music was the “audial essence of pure evil”. This might have been correct 25 years ago, but now, in 2017, this statement is no longer true. One of the few bands which this sentence can apply to 100% is Sektarism and their sick music.
The perfect way to sustain this idea is “La Mort de L’Infidèle“, an album which was released by Zanjeer Zani on the 19th of May. While this is only their second full length in almost 10 years of existence, Sektarism have well established themselves as the perfect instrument of faith and devotion which spreads the love and adoration for god. This band (and the music it creates) is only a tool with which the 4 members propagate their beliefs and creeds, by writing and composing religious hymns to glorify the almighty.
What can be said of an album that has only 3 songs but lasts for more than an hour? One thing would definitely be that it’s not boring, even if its length can be discouraging. The first track, “Ô Seigneur” is more like a prayer, a litany sung to underline the faith with which the band serves their God and a perfect way to immerse you in the twisted atmosphere of the album. Then comes, with its menacing title, “Brûle L’Hérétique“, a 20 minute track during which, if you close your eyes and let your imagination flow, you can picture a town’s square, a crowd gathered to receive the daily dose of entertaining and a stake which the heretic is tied to. “Par tes langues innombrables, ronge la chair de l’athée” ( By your countless tongues, gnaw the atheist’s flesh). You can already feel the smell of burning human flesh, don’t you?
The last track, “Conscience, Révolte, Perte du Moi” is also the longest one and contains in 30 minutes the whole quintessence of Sektarism’s ideology. A “shamanik” drum starts slowly and keeps the same obsessive pace for almost the whole duration of the song, accompanied by an organized “cacophony” of sounds and possessed screams. A truly inspiring track, “Conscience” is the perfect way to end such a psychedelic and religious album.
“La Mort de L’Infidèle” is not a musical album per se, it’s a collection of 3 hymns dedicated to the glory of the Almighty. If you are looking for catchy riffs and addictive rhythms, well, you better look somewhere else cause this release, like any other Sektarism releases, is not for the faint of heart. The atmosphere is crushing, like each guitar chord weighs at least a ton. The sound is abrasive and BerZerK‘s harsh voice and desperate screams create a hysteric atmosphere, like some sect of religious fanatics are performing a sinister ceremony in an underground cave. To understand what I’m trying to describe here you must attend a Sektarism ceremony or at least watch a live video on YouTube. The effect is guaranteed, I can assure you.
Returning to the last album, well, this ain’t an easy listening. To really enjoy this album you must be in the mood, otherwise you will not understand a thing. It’s definitely not the commercial record you put on while reading a book, but once the sounds and the lyrics enter your system, you’ll be corrupted for good. The rhythm is slow as a giant anaconda slithering on the ground in search of food. Here the food is made of new souls which Sektarism looks to corrupt. First of all, the rhythm section is amazing, Kristik A.K.‘s bass is one of the heaviest I have ever heard and goes hand in hand with the obsessive drums of Shamaanik B. The guitar parts played by Messiatanik Armrek are as dissonant as possible, contributing to this psychedelic and demented atmosphere which make of “La Mort de L’Infidèle” such a powerful album. Add to all of that the vocals of Eklezias’tik BerZerK and you have the complete picture of that religious ceremony I was talking about.
All along the album, the ritualistic drums will pound their obsessive rhythm into your ears and head, driving you crazy with a mystical ecstasy. I am not joking, if you listen to this album properly, with the right atmosphere, you will most likely have the impression that you’ll start bleeding from your freshly acquired stigmata wounds.
Do you remember that famous line from Manowar‘s “Kings of Metal“: “Other bands play, Manowar kills”?. The same thing applies in this case: while (many) other bands play nowadays with this occult satanic devil worshiping thing, Sektarism is dead serious about what they sing and they really practice what they preach. There is no commercial gimmick here, only true devotion and true believers. The music on “La Mort de L’Infidèle” is like a soundtrack for penitence, an audio companion of a ceremony performed by mad zealots.
Unfortunately for those who do not speak French, they will most likely not understand the message spread out in the lyrics, but I cannot imagine Sektarism sing in any other language than French. Everything flows so well in this beautiful language and every word, every intonation will immediately loose their meaning and sense if sung in English. The mysticism of the words combined with the mysticism of the language form a powerful religious bond which, together with the instruments, make “La Mort de L’Infidèle” such a powerful and frightening album.
I totally recommend buying this majestic piece of art, since “La Mort de L’Infidèle” will soon become one of the milestones of religious music in extreme metal. Released in several formats, from the standard DLP to a Die Hard version limited to only 66 copies and from a deluxe cross shaped digipak (limited to 499 copies) to a gold tape, Sektarism‘s sophomore full length is a living testament and proof that when religion is mixed with music in a proper way, the final result can only be blasphemy.
I also want to mention the artwork of “La Mort de L’Infidèle“, which is brilliant and I really think that Mystik Dementia (drawings) and Eklezias’tik Berzerk (conception and page layout) have definitely outdone themselves. If you want to see (and listen) why I praised this album so much, just do yourselves a favor and buy it, you will not be disappointed.
En Son Nom. Ad Vitam Aeternam.
Sektarism – “La Mort de L’Infidèle” tracklist:
1. Ô Seigneur
2. Brûle l’Hérétique
3. Conscience, Révolte, Perte du Moi
Sektarism line up:
Eklezias’tik BerZerK – vocals
Kristik A.K. – bass
Shamaanik B. – drums
Messiatanik Armrek – guitars
Since I put my hands on Bathsheba‘s latest release I thought about making an interview with them. I was so much into the music and the atmosphere present on Servus that first I wrote a review for it and then I wanted to know more about the band and how this cursed piece of art came into being. Then, all of a sudden, strange things happened in my life and Servus became my companion for many darkened days and nights. It’s music has cured me and infected me at the same time, so addicted I was with this vinyl which I span many many times.
When asking Bathseba if they wanted to do this interview, Michelle (vocals) accepted instantly. I sent her my questions, fearing they will not be good enough. But when she sent me the replies, I was amazed by her answers. I can honestly say that this interview is one of the most personal and in depth encounters I have ever had with a musician/band, since the beginning of ScrollsofDarmoth.
Read the interview, press the “Play” button and immerse yourselves in the magic that is “Servus“. Enjoy!!
1. Bathsheba appeared as if out of nowhere, first with a demo (Demo MMXIV), then with the MLP (“The Sleeping Gods”) and this year with this impressive album. Please tell me how you guys decided to start this band and what were your expectations, if you had any, concerning the band, the scene etc.?
M: End 2013 Jelle called me to ask if I was interested in making a band with him. He was thinking Pallbearer, Wounded Kings etc. He had a friend, Dwight, who would be playing guitar. I am not really into that kind of music but I know how open minded Jelle is and what a great person and drummer he is too. I know him from the tour we did (Grand Magus, Sardonis, Serpentcult) in 2008. So I was up for it. We started rehearsing early 2014. Raf was a friend of mine and he was immediately up for it too when we asked him. So Jelle and Dwight were more into the traditional doom while I was heading for a sludge black metal direction. So I guess we made a good compromise! Our expectations were just to have fun but do it well and see what would come on our road. We had open minds about it and although we were realistic we also had dreams.
2. What does Bathsheba mean to you, how would you describe this band to someone who doesn’t know you at all? An alien, for example 🙂
M: Good question. I would say that BATHSHEBA is the embodiment of the musical expression, emotions and thoughts of four different individuals. BATHSHEBA is inspired by burden and frustration and thus carries that sound with it. But with that it also carries the beauty of darkness, if you listen well. It’s not for all but either you get it, or you don’t.
3. The album name and the cover are quite simple but eloquent. What’s the connection between “Servus” and the woman on the cover? Does it have something to do with religion?
M: Servus means slave in Latin and refers mainly to the enslavement of life’s suffering. Being completely crushed under that weight and unable to move forward or backward, therefore you have to surrender at a certain point. The character on the cover is praying, suffering and loses herself. When losing yourself you can get lost very far. You can find yourself again or versions of yourself that are either beautiful or unbearably monstrous. You can look at it from a very earthly point of view but also a religious and even an esoteric one. The artwork was done by Olivier Lomer (www.dissolvtion.com) whom you might know from the bands Emptiness and Enthroned. I explained a bit what I wanted and we let him work his magic. He was spot on I think. He also has a very particular own style which I adore.
4. Besides the music, I find the lyrics on “Servus” very powerful and extremely well written. They have an “occult”, almost religious touch, but they do not carry an “open” evil message, it’s rather concealed and can only be discovered by reading between the lines. Since I assume you are the one in charge with writing them, please tell me where did you get the inspiration from when you wrote them?
M: You describe it very well. The inspiration is mainly from life, death, pain, suffering, that sort of emotions and personal experiences. But I am very much inspired by a book called ‘The Story of my Heart’ from Richard Jefferies who was a naturalistic writer and brought out this book in 1882. We have something in common: We look at people/situations/… in that naturalistic way. As if it were water, fire, trees, air,.. How life is made, how we are made. I understand life better that way. For instance if you are blocked in your emotions it means you are like dry earth. Unmovable and unable to grow anything in it. And you need either air to make things lighter or water to make things moldable and softer. Everything that happens in life you can somehow draw back to basic elements and that makes everything more simple. I always look to closely, make everything too complicated so this is a good help to me. I am also inspired by Solomon’s writings. They are about more esoteric subjects that live in the spirit world. You can draw that back too, just the other way around. When you take things that are bigger than you and look how those forces work and place yourself in a bigger sphere somehow. That was the biggest influence; to take that higher force that is much more than you and place yourself in perspective with it. It makes you feel small and insignificant while on the other hand the burden and bleakness on earth feel unbearable.
5. If we look at the patterns, doom metal is the privilege of male singers but recently many female fronted bands have appeared on the firmament. But unlike most of these bands (which are great, if you ask me), you took a different, heavier approach. Your style is closer to bands like Shape of Despair, rather than Blood Ceremony, for example. Was it planned from the start to play this sort of cursed doom?
M: Yes exactly. I’m glad you say that. I was never interested in making that doomy occult rock. It’s well done but it doesn’t grab me. It doesn’t touch me in the way that I want. I told that when I entered the band that this occult rock would never be a thing for me. I have to feel it, in my bones and I apparently can only be touched by more heavy, obscure or avant-garde music. It doesn’t always have to be heavy to be heavy if you get me. But I very often find music too happy in my ears and then you lost me. To name some musicians or bands that really touch me; Bethlehem, Ved Buens Ende, Dodheimsgard, Sigur Ros, Thom Yorke, Ennio Morricone, Arvo Pärt, …
6. Initially there were 2 guitar players in Bathsheba, but now there’s only Dwight. Do you think that adding another guitar to back Dwight up might make the sound heavier, or are you happy with how things are going right now?
M: We are sometimes still having that discussion. I prefer to stay as we are because it works. Another person would somehow always be ‘the one who joined’. I prefer small groups and practically it’s easier to have fewer people, also don’t like people in general. I’m very fond of the line up now and I hate change. But I am only 1/4th of the band of course. I would love to have a dear friend of mine, who is a great musician, to play with us for a gig or add some guitars on a song. Maybe for the recordings we will add some extra’s but I don’t think we will have a 5th fixed member.
7. Your voice is really special, allowing you to switch between a harsh, sometimes “schizophrenic” tone to a clear one in the blink of an eye. How hard it is to take care of it, do you practice any special exercises to protect it?
M: It’s not hard to switch for me between these voices. I feel the need to try new things and go further so I think it would be good to protect my voice better and to have some kind of ritual to practice and so preserve health for my vocal chords. On the other hand I hope I won’t lose that spontaneity that helps me in making vocal lines.
8. For those who did not have the chance to see Bathsheba live yet, tell me what does a concert represent for you? From what I saw on YouTube, you seem to be in a very special mood while playing, like someone else is taking over your body as you perform. Do you do something special to get into that trance-like state or it just comes naturally? How much does a show consume you?
M: The live atmosphere is described as ‘introvert, aggressive and full of frustration’ and I think that covers it well. I feel there is something inside that needs to get out. I don’t really think about what I’m doing at that moment. It’s not a performance as in I haven’t prepared it. It’s more a spontaneous process and I like to keep it that way. Playing live takes much from me because It’s a fight against keeping things inside and letting things go. I love it as well because it takes off some pressure. After a show I am really not in a communicative state and I preferably just go home or to a hotel to get back to a better state of mind. I tend to move in a certain way it seems. It just comes, I can’t just stand still. I have to feel it. I suppose in a way it’s a bit of a trance when you just surrender to that moment. I hope I can surrender more and more.
9. What kind of books do you read? Do you draw your inspiration also from literature? Have you read “Bruges la Morte”, by Georges Rodenbach?
M: That sounds like an interesting book. I have to say I don’t like to read romans. I prefer to read about history, space, nature etc. To name some books that inspire me: “The story of my Heart” by Richard Jefferies which I mentioned before, I love to read “The Book of Lies” by Crowley, I am very much inspired by “Compendium for Ritual Plants” from Marcel De Cleene and Marie Claire Lejeune. This last book is actually a book about herbs. In this book the medical purpose of plants is described. But also the traditions and rituals that came with those herbs. I love books like “The Bible through Judas Eyes”, books about Nostradamus,… When writing music or lyrics I sometimes just looks through my books of minerals, plants or mushrooms to help me make words clearer.
10. What is music for Michelle Nocon and how would you describe it? Did it change your life?
M: There are two things in life that drive me. That’s not love or friendship, money or health. It’s music and nature. I’m not a social person. Either I’m doing music, or I am in nature. There is nothing else for me here. Music definitely changed my life. It always understood me as I understood it. It can make my mood swing in just a second. It brings out the best in me and the worse. It heals me and kills me at the same time and it’s therefore my biggest addiction. I don’t need to be famous or big, I just need to be free and free to make the music I want to make. All the rest that comes with it is trivial.
11. The spoken intro and outro of Servus are very interesting, they both express an anti-religious statement, so to speak. Is Bathsheba’s message the same?
M: Thanks for bringing that up. I can’t really say we have a message. We don’t make music to get a message across but rather to express ourselves. When that gets picked up by someone, that is great of course. It’s more an expression of the bleakness of life. You can believe in anything you want, or in nothing. In the end, it doesn’t matter. Life is suffering to me. I can pray to a god or pray to a demon, believe in nothing at all or believe in some afterlife and karma. It is what it is, indifferent to what I believe or feel. On the other hand I do believe we can somehow create our own reality. But we don’t seem to do very well. So the suffering is on.
12. Since I bought the vinyl, I listen to it on repeat, it is unbelievably addictive. Did you summon Bathsheba during the recordings so she might conquer the hearts of all men? Are you happy with the way this album turned out?
M: Thank you so much! I think I did summon something when making the demo. It felt like something inside me changed when I was making this album. And I am very grateful for that. That something changed me, matured me, beat me, cured me. And I hope it beats the shit out of you all, cures all of you and then beats the hell out of you again. Because that’s how it should be. I think music should really touch a person. I am not a person that is satisfied or happy about things I do. I am not someone who easily says I liked what I did. But I am kind of proud of this album. It’s the first album that I can listen to, the first time I like my voice and I unleashed something inside of me that I know can grow even further. And I hope we can keep growing as much and wide as we can.
13. “Ain Soph”, the second track, stands out from the other songs, mainly because of the very cool blast beats and of that psychedelic saxophone. Who came up with the idea of having these 2 (atypical) elements in your music?
M: I wished for a black metal vibe somewhere on the album and at a point they send me a first try out version of Ain Soph. So I was in for it and immediately made a vocal line on it. Then when the song was “ready” we found there was something lacking on that particular part in the song. So I started looking for samples and thought a crazy freejazz sax sample would be great. Then Jelle said it would be cool to have a real sax player. Then I remembered I knew Peter Verdonck (Wound Collector) and he once said he really wanted to do something together musically because he loved what I had done with Serpentcult. So I thought I’d give it a try and ask him. He was immediately up for it. In the studio when Peter tried his crazy sax solo’s we were all so enthusiast. He had 3 different versions for the two solo’s. He recorded every part in one hit and we chose the one we liked best together.
14. Who exactly is “your ” Satan you talk about in the “Manifest”? Is it your own Dr Jekyll and Mr. Hide?
M: Exactly. You could say that two bad sides of yourself are having a duel. It doesn’t matter what you chose and where you turn, you somehow always do bad. You’re somehow always confronted with that evil. I also had a relation that was quit destructive at that time so my inner world was somehow reflected in that relation.
15. Speaking of “Manifest”, I know it’s not you who played it, but how did Dwight conceive that beautiful guitar solo? It is absolutely haunting and it gives the song a superb feeling of loss and despair.
M: That song goes way back. It was already on the demo in 2014 but it got a serious upgrade. The guys were jamming that ending until they had a structure but in meanwhile Dwight was doing a solo and he just made it as long as he needed it to be. So we let him do his thing and then they worked around his solo with the structure. Dwight got inspired by the main musical theme of the song which has that feeling of loss and despair but also something majestic about it.
16. Your last name reads the same even backwards, like a magick word. Does it have a special meaning or it’s just pure coincidence?
M: The C of Christ in the middle! I’m the chosen one apparently. It’s my dad’s family name but since I don’t have any connection to my family I’m seriously thinking of changing my name. I love the thought of not belonging anywhere.
It seems like we have reached the end of this interview. Thank you so much, Michelle, for accepting this, it really means a lot to me. I wish you all the best, both on a personal and professional level and who knows, maybe one day soon I’ll see you guys play live somewhere. As always, I leave the last words to you:
M: Thank you so much Matei for giving us the opportunity to tell more about the band, our music and ourselves. Come say hello if we cross each other. I would like to express my gratitude and may that nihilism take you.
בַּת שֶׁ֫בַע, the biblical character that drove King David nuts when he saw her bathing has reincarnated into a sinister entity which has seduced many listeners with its cursed music. Hailing from Belgium, Bathsheba is in a way the new kid on the metal scene, despite the years of service of its members who play (or have played) in several well known bands like Gorath, Serpentcult or Death Penalty.
Two years ago the band released their first EP, “The Sleepless Gods“, a 2 song material which came out on Svart Records, the home of non conventional metal music. I found it interesting, but for some unknown reason it didn’t knock me off my feet, so after several spins I left the vinyl on its shelf. But several weeks ago I had the chance to come across a couple of tracks from Bathsheba‘s new album, “Servus“, and, just like the biblical David, I was instantly infatuated with the music and wanted to listen more to it, so I bought the album. The rest, as they say, is history.
The French mysterious doom metal outfit Sektarism have unveiled two tracks from their second upcoming album, “La Mort De L’Infidèle“, which will be released on the 19th of May AB by Necrocosm Prod’/ Zanjeer Zani Productions.
These two pieces of abrasive doom are available on the label’s YouTube page: