Interviews : Enochian Crescent
With Victor (guitars / vocals), Dr. von Pfosforus (bass / vocals)
When one thinks of the Finnish black metal scene, the likes of Horna, Deathspell Omega and Impaled Nazarene usually come to mind. Yet, another band has been spreading its malevolence for over a decade without getting enough deserved recognition. That band is Enochian Crescent - the true innovators who have consistently injected its no-nonsense but often over the top brand of occult black metal into generic "unholier than thou" black metal scene.
Lyrically darker and musically sharper than most current acts, Enochian Crescent follow a triumphant conclusion of the "telocvovim" trilogy (a tribute to the Death Dragon or in Enochian - the "one that has fallen") with a release if its fourth full-length, Black Church. To describe the sound of Black Church is a daunting task yet, anyone who is familiar with the band is sure to worship this release as once again, the band delivers an unholy onslaught of dark, eclectic, groovy, catchy, passionate black metal.
There is no other way to put it but Enochian Crescent is truly one of a kind. Guitarist, songwriter Victor and bassist, lyricist Dr. von Pfosforus were kind enough to answer my questions...
I could have sworn Enochian Crescent would take the black metal world by storm after the release of Omega Telocvovim but you still cling to a cult status. What went wrong or, from another perspective, are you happy with your current place in the black metal scene?
Victor: You could certainly say that things did not go our way after releasing OT: cancelled tours, mutually terminated recording contract, and three members leaving the band. That's what you get when you reach to new heights, tip-toed, and then someone pulls the rug from under your feet. That was quite a strong and clear way of telling: "Do your work, boy - you are not ready yet" and I don't mean ready for earthly success as a band.
I am quite happy with our place, or rather non-placement, in the black metal scene. There is no outside pressure whatsoever to do anything in a certain way to succeed within a scene or a genre. We try to concentrate just on doing our own kind of black metal music. We are declaring: "To hell with the rest of the world and their opinions." Bold, but with grin.
Since the "telocvovim" trilogy came to a triumphant end, are you now stepping into the realm of multi-faceted subjects or will there be more conceptual works in the future?
Victor: I cannot tell. The Great Work reveals itself piece-by-piece. There are several musical and lyrical themes that can be seen as a continuum stretching far back into the 90's and also reaching forward towards the unseen. Black Church is a concept album in a sense, since a black thread goes through the whole album. It is very typical of EC to let the songs, and even albums, expand beyond traditional boundaries to intertwine with one another.
Why Black Church? The combination of words, while simple, possesses a very strong, ominous imagery behind it...
Dr. von Pfosforus: Possesses indeed. Black Church is a name that represents its referent, which certainly has an ominous ring. It's something we came up with when we had to baptise the thing in a meaningful way, to gain control of what was going on. And here is this album, a complex built of three times three songs, also called Black Church. Of which "Black Church", the song, is the album ender. It can be represented in many ways, since a name can be many things.
The thing can certainly be thought of as a building we are surrounded by, for example, when in middle of the night writing in a trance like state, channelling the thoughts and presence through the inspired lyrics we at first thought were only poetic expressions of our experiences. There you have the Black Church, in you, everywhere around you.
We started writing the material without even a proper working title and gave in for any inspiration that would come up when working. It just so happened that all the material that we saw of worth surprised us when in studio by the strikingly similar themes and concepts behind the lines of lyric sheets. When it started to go really eerie we felt quite possessed with all these ideas and dreams about the progress. And started doubting whether it was at all our ideas that became expressed. It might be interesting for a person not involved with making this album to try and get a grasp of it by use of the meme theory, considering it as an entity that built itself around us, had us as its channel to get to you.
Now, forgive me for a few cliché questions but how, if any, did the songwriting for Black Church differ from Omega Telocvovim?
Victor: The typical way of composing an Enochian Crescent song is by having the lyrics come first and the music next - inspired and influenced by the written word. In this sense not much has changed. A major difference was of course that there was a new main lyricist this time around: the venerable Dr. von Pfosforus (bass, additional vocals). Perhaps the biggest difference still is that of the old and the new line-up. We are a band now more than ever. It means also that we spend more time together arranging the songs to a minute detail in the rehearsals. In my opinion that has led to more naturally flowing songs with interesting rhythmical patterns and perhaps a more clearly structured and musical approach in some aspects. The main thing, which is the burning desire to write this music, is still there, though, unchanged and ever incandescent.
The reason I am asking is because it sounds like new songs if compared to your older compositions are more structurally balanced and possess more of a straightforward song formula than before. Was this something intentional or just something that came naturally?
Dr. von Pfosforus: It really came so naturally it was as if it just happened through us, more than by us. Like it says in the press release leaflet, the "Thing was not in a sense built by human hands". There was only one guideline we started with and that was to make songs more "live". Something to rise the energies we've experienced playing the live shows. Something to play and breath in. But there's not a lot to say about the progress, we settled for the things that we felt to be the right way to do it.
Sure we played the parts and the structures through at our rehearsal place for a long, long time before we called to settle the studio dates. I remember we made an effort and tried several different approaches to the songs sometimes even if it felt it was already as it should be, prepared to change just about everything if it made one live through the song better when playing. Usually a song sounded the best when played the way it was originally imagined, as the inspiration lead us.
You have called yourself "Weirdboyz of Black Metal" and while the music certainly speaks for itself, do you make a conscious attempt to bring strangeness to your songs or are you really wicked and twisted individuals in your real life endeavors?
Victor: Wonderful, I had totally forgotten that gem: "Weirdboyz of Black Metal". Indeed. If it ever would be a concious effort it would bellyflop grandiosely. What you can hear in the music or read from the lyrics is really a living part of us. Why our music is so real is because this is what we would be anyway, band or no band. Our personal tastes in music and esoterica are way off the middle-of-the-road and the way that we infuse our personalities to the whole amalgam of a musical monster that is Enochian Crescent, is quite unique in my eyes.
Dr. von Pfosforus: Haven't heard that one before. Adorable. At least that, if anything, is an effortless part of us and our music. It happens anyhow, conscious or unconscious.
On Omega Telocvovim press release you have referred to yourself as "Black Leather Metal". With the release of <>Black Church, has this description changed?
Victor: How would "Black Church Bizarre Metal" do?
Back to the music. Babalon Patralx de Telocvovim signified your departure from using keyboards and was a move into a more intense riff-oriented black metal – something that is further perfectly showcased on Black Church. Knowing that you have always despised any trends of sorts, was the abandonment of keyboards another statement to purify your vision of black metal?
Dr. von Pfosforus: There's quite obvious rationale behind this really: what ever best serves the song is used. Whether it is dropping the distortion of a guitar or bringing in a choir of dozen voices or putting some keyboard layers on a song. What ever.
And actually all of the above mentioned – and a lot more – was tried on this album. As one can hear, not all was kept, of course. I already said, our first and foremost musical dogma on this album was to present something sounding live and breathing. Put the hands at work in your stereo set. The atmosphere and spirit of the songs was already embedded in composing (if not even earlier) there was just the performance to catch and leave it as the main feature.
Yet, amidst some of the changes in your sound, two of the major components that have stuck with the band even since the Anno Bastardi demo, I am referring to those [un]godly black'n'roll guitar riffs and bizarre yet irresistible choruses. Is that the backbone of Enochian Crescent sound?
Victor: Can you say 'uh'? Perhaps the biggest single musical influence to me has been the wicked groove that Celtic Frost has on To Mega Therion. I mean, it is obvious that CF and EC do not share much musical ground on the surface, but what they gave to our music was the knowledge of the importance of a good groove and the chorus. In that sense you are right on the money.
Your albums have always had profound lyrics. The new album is no exception. I love the English lyrics (the only ones I can discern) especially on "Thousand Shadows". Have your lyrical topics changed, if any, from the "telocvovim" trilogy to Black Church?
Victor: Thank you. The lyrical topics have remained within the same domain even though the main lyricist for Black Church was Dr. von Pfosforus whereas I wrote the bulk of the lyrics for the trilogy. We are kindred spirits in that sense that not only we share an intrest but also have both practical and theoretical experience in the field of occult science. We try to write our lyrics so that there is something instantly appealing to the layman but also much intertextuality and hidden knowledge in and between the lines, for the student, connoisseur, and the seeker to find.
Funny that you should mention "Thousand Shadows", since also in my opinion it is such a sublime lyric. You wouldn't believe how easy it was to compose and arrange a song around such an inspiring piece of work.
Dr. von Pfosforus: There are the obvious differences of the source of the inspiration, though one might miss that point easily, if staring only at words, thinking in lines "sarcasm-this, Enochian-that, Gnostic-deviltry-this-and-that."
The album Black Church has – as the recordings of Telocvovim trilogy – songs that approach from many directions the main themes of the album. But what the Black Church itself is a manifestation of is not Telocvovim. Even if there are themes and ideas mutual between these, the inspirations have sprung from different sources.
On this album we don't have lyrics written by Wrath, unfortunately. They just were not meant to be on this album. The ones that got the music done for this one were written by me and Victor. But we're already working on some lyrics of his, so we're likely to enjoy his lyrics in not too distant future. Perhaps we should decide this time to make a concept album, instead of making one unknowingly.
Black Church is divided into three parts: Our Life in Wormwood Christ, Our Life in His Kingdom, and Our Life in Servitude. What does each part mean to you?
Victor: The answers are right there in the lyrics for you to find.
The new album sports a very clean sound courtesy of Sonic Pump studios (Amorphis, Impaled Nazarene, Wintersun and also utter garbage like Timo Kotipelto) and producer / sounds engineer Tero "Max" Kostermaa (who misspelled your name on Sonic Pump website, shame, shame). What made you decide on recording there?
Victor: It was near, here, and a pro-studio with pro-staff. Some of us had also worked with Max at Sonic Pump before, so we had a pretty good picture beforehand about how everything would turn out there. Max is a very good sounds engineer who knows the knobs and sliders and is not afraid to experiment. He went out of his way to help us realise our fevered visions.
We like the sounds quite a lot. They are aggressive and clear with lots of pounding in the right places. We wanted to have a breathing and organic soundscape as opposed to the stale, no-nuance wall of maximum loudness that is the trend today.
While the sound and production are indeed excellent, does a band with such a clear-cut vision as Enochian Crescent really need a producer? Have you thought about recording and doing your own production for the future releases?
Victor: I admit that the credits in the CD booklet might be just a tad cryptic. The truth is that Max was the engineer and mixed the album. My job was to produce it with kind assistance from the rest of the band. I have never worked with a producer. But, in the end, if we could find someone who would understand what EC is all about, then I think we could use one. It is not that we need help in realising our musical visions, but it would be better to work in a recording session just playing and singing when the responsibility of running routines would be out of my hands.
The new album marks your return to Woodcut Records. What caused the jump from Woodcut to Avantgarde and then back to Woodcut?
Victor: The initial transition was simply because in '98 Woodcut was a very small label and Avantgarde was a legendary label with a certain amount of prestige attached to its bands. The choise was very clear when they offered us a deal. Hell, who in their right mind would turn down such an offer at that time! Things were working pretty well with Avantgarde for a couple of years, but then after a few bumps on the road we decided to end our recording contract mutually in amiable terms. Woodcut came back on our radar after a couple of years of schedule free rehearsing and composing. As the Black Church started to take form, it was time to do something about it. We had in our back pocket a good offer from Woodcut, that had grown to a real label in the meanwhile. Woodcut basically offered us everything we needed, and then some, so we decided to return back under Mikael's wings without even trying to shop around for other offers. After all we are in this for music’s sake and want to keep the business side things as simple as possible.
If there is one complaint about the new album, it is too short (just a bit over thirty-seven minutes compared to over forty on both previous full-lengths)! Is less really more in the case of Black Church?
Victor: My rule of thumb is: Make your songs half as long and twice as strong. The album is perfect as it is. There is no way to add anything to the whole as it is now, from our viewpoint. Also, it is the perfect length for the upcoming gatefold vinyl version. You shall get more ear-poison with successive releases, no need to over-inflate this release as it does leave you a bit hungry for more, now doesn't it?
Victor, you are quite a "riff-master". Where do you draw influences in your riff-writing?
Victor: Thank you for the compliment. It does make one feel warm and fuzzy inside (instead of the usual cold and necro) to be complemented on such a matter. It is interesting you should mention this, because it really is a cornerstone in our music that every riff does have a meaning and is carefully put in its place within a song. This is a factor that separates us from many peers; we have no space-filler riffs.
I guess for the most part my riff writing is very effortless and natural. There are these sounds in my head that I try to replicate with my hands of stone and stiff fingers. Usually the way it goes is that I read an inspiring lyric and the song just starts to compose itself inside of my heart and brain. Sometimes it takes 5 years to finish a song this way, sometimes 5 hours.
There are so many moments of sheer riff genius on Black Church but if I had to point out one track, "Hendekagrammaton" is the winner with that opening victorious guitar riff and its continuation at 2:07. What is "Hendekagrammaton" and is it "already here"?
Dr. von Pfosforus: "Hendekagrammaton" means, literally translated, simply an eleven letter name. Compare to Tetragrammaton, a four letter name. It is a substitute for the name itself, equally fit substitute could be "Nomon anomon". Quite a hermetic pun, really. But I dismiss all this in the context of this interview.
And it certainly is here, in every single atom to be exact, since in an atom there's more empty space in it than there is particles. Just as there is in this vast vacuum of space only a little matter when compared to the Dark. In this vast material world, filled with nothingness, it can be heard.
So the song is about esoteric depths of physics and the alien forces of unknown nature under our eyes. Or, in the material our very eyes are. But I've written far enough for anyone interested to delve deeper into this and search the nature of these questions. Given free, there are no revelations.
The closing track, "Black Church" is your creepiest to date. That song brings out such a primal and evil aspect of Enochian Crescent with an unforgettable chorus. What a perfect album closer!
"Behold the formation of a church which is most abominable above all other churches." 1 Nephi 13:5
Dr. von Pfosforus: It is a strong song, awe evoking piece even to performers. And there's even more to it, much more: subliminal soundscapes and messages that do the tricks with listeners ears. Just try to crank it really loud. And pray if you feel like it. If you can tell to whom to address your prayers to after this song.
While musically, Enochian Crescent is not the grimmest of the grim or the most blasphemous, the band is totally no nonsense when it comes to your live shows and your image. Where does the sheer intensity and forgive me, for the lack of a better word, craziness come from?
Victor: It is the burning desire within that influences the world without. Live shows are an opportunity to let out murderous energies and truly shed your thin veneer of civilization without having to engage in a real battle. It is something primordial for me, very strong and very uplifting. I am a junkie for the energy and the metallic tang of blood in my mouth. We have had some good shows where both the audience and us have ridden the crest of that dark wave and I would like to have more and more of that.
Being a part of this band is a way of life. A way that leads to glorious damnation or infernal exaltation for sure. We pretty much give a lot of ourselves to this band, bypassing other more natural needs and urges. Perhaps it is the inversive nature of Black Metal that in the end inverts the Maslow's hierarchy of needs so that personal wellbeing comes last after sacrificing pieces of yourself for a greater purpose.
To follow up, Enochian Crescent possesses a very artistic image behind it. Is there a message you trying to convey to the viewer or just further isolating yourself from the so many black metal clones wearing nothing but black and inverted crosses?
Victor: We are Omega Troopers, Dog Soldiers of the Apocalypse. Who we are means nothing, what we do together means everything. Without the glory, and with all the joy.
Throughout your existence, Enochian Crescent have broken many rules of the typical black metal sound yet always came out on top. What is left to accomplish?
Victor: As I wrote earlier on, the Great Work unveils itself slowly. The grand scheme is very obscure, but we try to focus on making every piece of the puzzle as great as possible. Perhaps we are an unwitting part of the angelic apocalypse conspiracy started already in the 14th century or just delusional fools with too much pranayama-practise having blown off our tops, but I can tell you that there is still plenty of black petrol left in the tank of our unorthodox BM-Volkspanzerwagen.
Dr. von Pfosforus: A lot. But pissing into the self righteous "unholier than thou" black metal gene pool would be a wonderful start.
Victor, throughout time, while members came and went, you and Wrath have remained the two founding members behind the unholy flame of Enochian Crescent. What keeps the two of you going?
Victor: Immortal Rites and Visions from the Darkside.
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