The Order of Israfel

Interview with Tom Sutton conducted by Bill Zebub for THE GRIMOIRE OF EXALTED DEEDS magazine

Israfel is an angel who has mastery of music.  In that sense, I can understand why the band uses the name.  Your riffs are quite tasty.  But is it not a strange choice to use the name of an angel, especially when the lyrics are sometimes demonic?

Yeah, there’s plenty of good old-fashioned satanic panic in the lyrics, for sure.  But the idea for the band was always that the music would ultimately be uplifting.  I wanted to share happiness with people, even if the music is presented in a melancholy way.  I think religious imagery always has a kind of majesty and weight, so I liked the idea of using the name of an angel for the band.  So far, all the songs have some kind of light at the end of the tunnel.  I’m not sure it will always be that way, but that’s the way it has been so far.

It may be none of my business, but wouldn’t your band be best suited to a label like Svart Records?  I love many of the albums on Napalm Records, but your classic riffing and vocals seem a tad out of place on that label.

My other band, Night Viper, actually did our first album on Svart.  Yeah, it would have been a good fit.  Napalm just expressed interest very early on, and we liked their approach, so we didn’t feel like we had to think much further than that.  Napalm have started really diversifying, though.  I think they want to be a label that covers a wide range of heavy music rather than just one or two styles.  They have released Candlemass albums, so there are other bands that we have things in common with on there.

Do you know Chritus from Goatess and Count Raven?  I am not sure why I am asking this.

Haha!  Yeah, we know him well.  We have played a couple of shows with Goatess.  He actually got on stage with us at our second show to do a cover of Candlemass‘Solitude’ along with Mappe from Candlemass.  My first exposure to Saint Vitus was actually the video clip for ‘Fear’ which was from the album Chritus is on.  That was Saint Vitus as far as I knew for a pretty long time.

Your band is not stoner doom, but some of the riffs flirt with that style.  I’d like to call you heavy metal because some of your songs remind you of how I felt when I first heard Black Sabbath.  Rather than ask you what your category is, because that is more for retailers than for music fans, I’d like to know what you are thinking when you create music.

It varies from song to song, I guess.  It depends what kind of feeling I get from the early riffs in a song.  Like, something that feels spiritual will lead me to think of some kind of lesson or message.  I’ll reach for something deep and universal.  Something that feels more cinematic will lead me in more of a narrative direction.  I always want each line of lyrics in the song to play its role in telling the story of that song, so I’m trying to make sure I’m disciplined about that rather than just throwing stuff in because it rhymes.  And then as we’re putting the details into the song, it’s about creating an interesting color palette for the ears and making it more exciting or giving it more atmosphere.

The vocals sometimes remind me of Jethro Tull.  I don’t mean that as an insult, or even as a comparison.  What I mean is that the vocal delivery seemed very good for storytelling, and your lyrics are of things happening, words of action.

Ah, thanks.  Our bass player loves Jethro Tull, and we even asked Ian Anderson to play flute on our second album, but he didn’t have time.  Kind of crazy that we even got a response.  Yeah, I think it’s great to engage the power of story-telling in songs, and in those cases it’s important to be able to hear what the singer is saying.  I’ve never written any short stories or whatever, but I love creating stories in songs.  Actually, ‘The Noctuus’ from the first album and ‘A Shadow In The Hills’ from the second are parts one and two of a single story.  I gotta come up with at least one more part now.  Can’t leave the story hanging! 

It’s cool how you have radio-length songs, like four minutes, and you also have a fifteen-minute song.  You also vary from upbeat to something more like a doom dirge.  Peter Steele would have called you “Schizo-phonic.”

Thanks.  It’s something that bothers me a bit with Sabbath-family bands these days.  They tend to pick one tempo or one vibe and then do that to death.  I find it really boring, actually.  The bands that established all this in the first place all had a lot of variety in their music.  From Black Sabbath to Cathedral to The Gates Of Slumber, all my favorite bands in this style knew how to use light and shade and dynamics.  I think it’s really important.

I’ve seen some live clips and it makes me envious of those who have been able to catch a show.  Is America not ready for you to do a headline tour?

Man, we’d be playing all the time if we could.  The fact is that all bands are at the mercy of how popular they are or aren’t, and whether or not booking agents are willing to put the time into booking tours for them and whether or not promoters in each city feel like they’ll make their money back.  We’ve been pretty lucky in Europe, touring with Pentagram, The Year Of The Goat, et cetera, but the costs involved in coming to the US when it’s hard to say that anyone would come up just don’t make it feasible yet.  I toured the U.S. once when I was in Church Of Misery, and it was one of the most fun tours I’ve ever done, so it would be fun to come back some time, for sure.

THE ORDER OF ISRAFEL

“The Vow” is quite chilling.   Your songs sometimes can be left to interpretation whether or not the band has occult inclination, but this track has strong words.  What effect has this had on fans who may not go this far into horror?

I’ve only ever heard one person outside of reviews talk about it.  She loved it at least.  I’ve never heard that anyone had a problem with it.  I’m just surprised that no-one has recognized it for what it is.  It’s from a film, actually.  The guy who produced the album set up the sound effects, and I recorded the dialogue.  It actually plays into the story of the song that follows it on the album, so I thought it would be cool.  I still like how it turned out.  Maybe I should do more spoken word!

“The Order of Israfel” makes me remember a time when bands sounded different from each other.  Do you think that it’s harder for a unique band to become known in a time when people seem to be in musical cliques?

Maybe, but bands that don’t have much personality only get so far.  They might find some kind of following, but people will always want something that stands out from the pack.  It’s nice that you think we sound a bit different from other bands.  I would hope so, but it’s hard to know about your own band, of course.

Black Metal: The Ultimate Documentary

Bill Zebub is working on the ultimate documentary about black metal. Currently it is 7 hours long!!! Due to this length, the footage must be provided on Blu(e)ray. It is still too long for that, so Bill Zebub is going to run a crowdfunding campaign that will offer the deleted footage (might be up to 2 hours) on a birded disc (A BD-R is like a DVD-R, except for blu(e)ray).

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Last Chance for Limited DVD

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Boogers of the antichrist trailer

Bill Zebub unleashed the first peek into BOOGERS OF THE ANTICHRIST, an occult horror spoof.

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Sophia interview with Peter Bjargo

Interview with Peter Bjargo conducted by Bill Zebub for THE GRIMOIRE OF EXALTED DEEDS magazine.

The percussion i Sophia makes me think of medieval warfare. Did you intend for it to sound militaristic?

On the first album i wanted my music to have a small connection to the Templars. But on the later albums, it wasn’t my intention to make it that military. To me, Herbstwerk is more orchestral, and Spite more cold industrial.

Some of the tracks makes me think of what baroque would sound like in the mind of someone undergoing a psychotic episode. The nine tracks of Sigillum Militum were written “specifically for a live performance” – I read that by chance. How do you actually set up a live show, and does it include the haunting textures of the studio version?

I had this idea of a very special one-time live situation. I wanted to make a quite bombastic performance, with a lot of people on stage and very powerful. But I realized quite early that this kind of live performance costs a lot of money and is very difficult. Too many factors could go wrong. My live shows these days are more minimalistic, more humor on stage. Often just me and one more, samplers, and drum.

Am I correct in assuming that you intentionally compose a musical tension which builds up suspense? It is almost frightening sometimes when the aggressive release arrives.

Often i work after a model, where I start very calm and build up a cacophony. This often happens unintentionally. I try to break this pattern intentionally.

In Adeptus/Last Movement, did you use a beat out of time? It sounds like you did something like that to create a feeling of disturbance.
I had an idea of two independent parts, moving into each other. This created, as you say, a feeling of disturbance. Sophia has always been a platform for experiment, and I will never be afraid to break an old pattern and try something new.

The Seduction of Madness MCD is your musical interpretation of SATURN DEVOURING HIS SON, and although it specifically intends to depict madness, I had always felt that Sophia is like a “schizophrenic lens” through which one sees reality with a little bit more. When a schizophrenic hears or sees hallucinations, it is called a “positive” symptom because it is something that “adds” to what normal people have. Conversely, schizophrenics whose facial expressions are flat and do not reflect their feelings are said to have “negative” symptoms because something in a healthy person is absent. Sophia is music with positive symptoms, I think. My question is, how is the mini Cd more of an exploration into psychosis than your other releases?

It was actually intention of a live performance, together with a movie backdrop. The theme of the songs was never in particular schizophrenia but more of different cases of psychosis, and I guess most of that came from my interests in psychology and after have read the book “Seduction of madness” by Edward M. Podvoll.

I will ask about Stravinski having an effect on you because he was the first composer, I believe, who broke from comfortable melodies and specialized in disturbing music, especially in the area of percussion. You sometimes lull the ear with safe phrasing and then you unleash a nightmare is this original, or inspired by others?

This is my idea of how to make people feel calm and relaxed, then start to feel uncomfortable and in the end trying to get a climax of chaos. This model is, I think, mostly for Seduction of Madness MCD. The model of crescendo has been existing for of long time. But I never took the idea from anybody else.

The author of ONE FLEW OVER THE CUCKOO’S NEST was under the influence of peyote when he wrote that. Did you ever ingest a hallucinogen when creating music?

No, I haven’t. If you don’t call enormous amount of booze and beer a hallucinogen.

Tristitia

interview with Louis Galvez conducted by Bill Zebub for THE GRIMOIRE OF EXALTED DEEDS magazine.

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I will not speculate why there is a new vocalist whose style is so far removed from what I’ve become fond of.  Rather; I hope that you will talk about what led to this.

After the release of “Crucidiction” Thomas, wasn’t in the band.  I did try some new vocalists, but it didn’t work, so finally I decided to use a session vocalist with totally different style than Thomas.  I wanted to try something new, and I don’t regret it.  Some like, some not, but I don’t care what people say. Anyway, I won’t use the session vocalist again. Hopefully Thomas will take care of the vocals on the next album.  If not, I’ll use death-style vocals instead.  There are a few death singers around here where I live, so it would not be a problem.  Pity that they don’t sing gothic style because that is what I prefer in Tristitia.  Death-style vocals would bring more darkness into my lyrics this time than it did on “The Last Grief”.

The “Crucidiction” album lists five musicians, yet the photographs only show three members.  Is that because the hidden ones are studio musicians?  Only you and Thomas remain from “One With Darkness”, so should not there only be a picture of two members?

Yeah, you right.  They were just session, but Adrian on bass was in the band in that time.  But he got into study and that stuff, so he quit.  For the moment, it’s just me and Thomas.  I’ll see if there ‘ll be new members, or I’ll play most instruments in the studio and bring sessionists in those instruments I can’t handle, like I did in “The Last Grief” – I played everything except the drums.

Does Tristitia play live?

We did some shows when we released “One with Darkness” back in ’95, but it sounded crap with just one guitar.  It must be two guitarist when we play live.  I still have trouble in finding a suitable second guitarist, so it hasn’t been any live shows after that.   Anyway, I enjoy most sitting in the studio and recording than playing live.  Maybe in the nearest future I would be able to put a suitable line up to do some live gigs.

Do you feel that Holy Records is a worthy label? 

I don’t have any trouble with Philippe.  I think he treat us well.  I see our albums here and there, but I don’t know nothing about distribution and stuff.  I record my albums and leave the rest to the label, and I trust that they do a good promotion and all that.

The “Crucidiction” re-release has some extremely enjoyable bonus tracks.  Are they demo versions of songs from “One With Darkness”,or are they true alternate versions? 

Those songs are demo versions for the album and also intended to be for our debut album, but after been talkin with the label I decided to work more with some of the songs and to re-record the whole album.  I not so pleased with those early versions.  I think they are better done on the album.

I heard demo songs from a tape-trading friend, and I quite liked the very raw version of “Reminiscences of the Mourner.”  As we speak, money is on the way to you for your two demos.  Have you ever thought about releasing the demos onCD, the way Gloomy Grim released their “Friendship is Friendship, War is War” and so on on the demo CD, “Reborn Through Hate?”

I’m very satisfied with the production of our two demos.  I really enjoy doing demos.  To be honest, it’s fuckin’ more enjoying doing demos than recording albums!  I just sit at home with my home studio and let the ideas flow.  No worries about time or other stressing things.  I worked very hard with those demos back then, but haven’t thought of releasing them as a CD and, I don’t know if the label is interested in doing that.  I think they’ll only do it as bonus tracks in future re-releases.

Tristitia

Are you classically trained?  Your music is exceptionally flavorful, and the moods flow with unparalleled mastery.  The solos are packed with feeling, and each note seems to be essential in the celestial ladder that the spirit climbs and descends.

Well, that was a very cool description.  You know, I find very difficult to put my music into words, but I would say it’s something like that.  I’m not classically trained.  Everything I play is self-learned.  I believe you can fucking hear that.  If a real classical pro player hear what I play, he would probably kill me when I desecrate such beautiful music. When I begun to play guitar, I went to guitar lessons in school, but it was too damn boring.  I wanted to play heavy metal, not some wimpy easy-to-learn shit melodies, so I just went to the store and got some note books of Iron Maiden and Kiss and of Yngwie Malmsteen….  also some classical guitar of Bach and Segovia.  So that’s the way I learned to play some riffs and solos, and still have a lot to learn.  My biggest inspirations were and still are Ritchie Blackmore and Toni Iommi.

I know the answer is “no”, but is there any chance that Holy Records will be interested in having the vocals of “The Last Grief” replaced by the old singer?  Maybe that would make for cool bonus tracks!

I think they are interested in doing that.  I have mention it to the label and they had nothing against that, so we’ll see after our fourth release.  Sometimes it’s better to leave things as they are, but darker vocals on that album would really be a good idea.

“Galvez” is not a Scandinavian name.  Is there an interesting tale of political asylum?

I was born in Chile, but ended up here, in Sweden, back in ’74, after some guerrilla war games they had down there at that time.  I’m not into politics, so I have no idea what the hell all that shooting was about, but I don’t complain moving to Sweden.  I enjoy it very much living here.

You produced both “Crucidiction” and “One With Darkness”, yet they sound very different.  Each has its own charm, so I am curious what your strategies were behind the audio choices.

Simply the studio choice.  The first album was recorded here in Halmstad, but for “Crucidiction”, the label sended us to Dan Swanö’s Unisound studio… the singer in Edge of Sanity, you know, and the sound ended up very good.  That was a far more professional studio than in the first one, but somehow I think “One With Darkness” is much more darker and atmospheric, even darker than “The last Grief.”. I’m thinking in recording our fourth album where “One With Darkness” was recorded.  I would like to catch again that darkness and atmosphere that dwells in that studio.

I am very fond of the artistically anti-christian lyrics.  Did you adopt your enlightened stance out of healthy skepticism, or were you introduced to the true origins of that false religion by reading the books of scholars ?

Cool that you got the message in my lyrics.  Some listeners think we are a christian band, with all the crosses and lyrics, but they misunderstand the whole concept of Tristitia.  Some listeners can’t or don’t want to read between the lines or see the irony and profanity in my lyrics.   Those antichristian lyrics was just a way to express a religion I don’t agree with because I don’t like the idea of living my life after a book.  I believe in myself and my music.  That’s enough for me. Metal is my religion, and Tristitia is my church!

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