REVERORUM IB MALACHT, an interview

Below is a very lengthy interview with Emil Lundin of Reverorum ib Malacht. The questions were written by me and cover pretty much everything I believe anyone could want to know (perhaps more than anyone could want to know, haha) about the past and present of Mr. Lundin’s musical activities and thoughts on religion.

Charlotte, November 2012.

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Ok, hello Emil! Let’s not bother with the formalities as is usual with interviews. Let’s talk about your LP, Urkaos. First off, a few more or less “banal” questions.
 
Why is the album limited to so few copies (300) with no possibility of reprints?

Well, as you can understand, the album isn’t completely representative of what we are and stand for today, taking into consideration both mine and Mikael’s (the other dude behind Malacht) conversion to Catholicism, 2008 and 2009 respectively. After long considerations, we finally decided to release it anyhow, seeing that everything was finished, both music and layout, and that the album after all is quite groovy. People wanting to hear it, we thought that it’d be a shame to just let it lie around unavailable and thought it best to release it. We released it as we had it finished by 2006, early 2007, i.e. as it was, with all what that implies. Any alteration in order to “better fit” our current viewpoints would just be silly. It isn’t preferable to retroactively amend one’s diary, so to speak. What it then lacks in orthodoxy, it now has gained as an historical monument. The reason for the low number of copies however is basically twofold, the first reason was that we saw it as most important that those who had heard Malacht previously and liked it should have the opportunity to obtain a copy, hear, see and enjoy the album, for this no great number of records was needed. The second reason for its somewhat low production number could be explained as economical: it’s one of the more expensive records of Ajna to produce (partly due to shipping costs, admittedly). Actually, as a means to lower the costs, we part into the production process (mid 2011) got the proposal of having the CD done as a separate release, leaving the LP, limited to 300, without CD. Mine and Mikael’s idea had all the time been to let the CD go along with the LP, so as to be sure that the production at least on one medium was identical to our wish, in case the LP would end up sounding bad for some reason. I explained this to my friend at Ajna, who after some deliberation forthwith, and much to our joy, agreed to go with our original intent, something that I’m very grateful for today, of course. Urkaos is not a CD-record after all and I see no need to reach new audiences with its content. Also, to make a regular CD release of it would imply its subjection to the sharing of spots with any regular record release, which, as I’ve tried to explain, isn’t exactly intended here.

What’s the meaning of having the blank track (track 10)?

You sure need a quantifiable meaning to display, haha! Haha, you should have asked me some five years ago and I’d have given you some long complicated answer that I’d have believed had anything to do with religion (at least wished that it had!)! The track is number ten, it was supposed to be ten seconds of naught. The idea of it was some faulty interpretation of some modern distortion of older cabbalistic ideas. Haha, the track is now some 14 seconds! So much for symbolism! These extra seconds due to the oft met with insertion of one to two seconds of silence between tracks by shareware burning software. I like the idea of it anyway, silence to accompany the sounds, perhaps we’ll do it again, just without those numerical fantasies.

Why’s there a CD version of the album packaged with the LP and not separate as is usual?

Usual far be it. The codex of Malacht is no limits. But to elaborate further on some of what I wrote above: an LP is an analogue medium, transmitting sounds through the physical vibrations of a needle. Everyone knows that, sure. But subject to nature, it’s also a medium which in some cases may alter the sound (frequencies) of a digitally conceived production, that is, in case its final analogue content has been transferred from a digital source (in this case a computer, a CDR). In case this conversion from digital to analogue would have ended up as bad sounding for some reason, i.e. if the LP press would end up in any way contrary to our wishes – it’s always a bit of a gamble – I wanted to be sure of having the listener hear what we intended and produced at least on one medium. I’m about sounds, riffing is sooo eighties! eh.., You see, such deliberately finetuned lo-fi soundscapes as we tend to intend to produce with Malacht may sound radically different from medium to medium. On top of this – now I leave topic – I prefer to work below 2400 Hz and since even the acoustics of a room often work more changes on the lower frequencies than the higher, the production isn’t very stable in these acoustic respects either, so the sources of err are at least twofold here; not taking into account the possibility of white a stereo. Another thing I later on took into consideration was the fact that releasing the LP with a CD alongside it is a safe guarantee of an internet upload, making it available to larger audiences after all.

Haha, as a matter of curiosity, I may add that the CD ended up having a rather weird sound anyway, so the intent of unaltered production got somewhat spoiled in the process. Somewhere along the lines, there seems to have been some kind of normalization done to the volume of each track individually, making the intro too loud and the overall sound not as loud as I have it on my own CDR. Doesn’t matter anyway, as all the frequencies should be correct. The LP sounds particularly good to my ears anyway, especially the light distortion on songs such as the title track is found pleasing.

Have you heard much feedback on the album? What do people make of your “Catholic black metal”?

The people whom I’ve either sold or given a copy to, as well as the people whom I’ve been in contact with regarding the release have been enthusiastic all together, so the decision of releasing Urkaos seems worth and wise, judging by that response. As for other indirect response in the form of reviews and general shit chat, it seems to be mostly positive, though some reviews that I’ve read didn’t quite get their heads around the production, others didn’t quite get that the album was recorded prior to our conversion, both of which, I believe, is understandable. Others, still, thought it to be a testimony of some “Antikosmischer Katholizismus” upheld by the band of today, a theory less understandable, haha! (What is anti-cosmic Catholicism anyway?) Haha, but sure, interpreting the lyrical content from less than a diachronic perspective, despite of all its theological anomalies, such a conclusion might not seem too far off anyway.
 
Haha, as for Romersk Katolsk svartmetall, or Roman Catholic black metal, haha, well, isn’t it in a sense as much an oxymoron as any Orthodox black metal, save that I claim Catholic black metal to be a theologically coherent approach? As you may surmise, I never quite managed to get the puzzle together in the field of Orthodox black metal, neither did I meet someone who seemed to do so in a satisfying degree (nor did I ever meet with someone educated enough to meet my questions). But to the point, I do, of course, not believe that there’s a certain beat per minute, a certain instrumentalization, a certain vocal technique, a certain language, a certain production, nor certain harmonies that make music evil. Neither do I claim the distortion pedal to be a satan’s box – a teenage box be its name! It’s a matter all in the eye of the beholder and judging by what degree consistency is sacrificed for the sake of the show in the context of black metal, it isn’t much weirder to find a church on the cover of De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas and people carried away emotionally by any irrational black metal release than to find a band claiming to be both theologically rational and Catholic, and yes, to play a musical style best described as black metal. Its content is closely bordering on the religious – quite contrary to much of what better be labelled heavy metal, rock and roll, punk or hardcore, or even 90′s-romanticism – so in this respect, Catholic black metal is quite a fruitful application I may claim, and yes, it makes people wonder what the hell is going on with their much beloved sub-genre. Yet one who seeks a consistent theological approach to life and his religious practices would however be inclined to ask of himself whether the black and white formations in the shape of signs and “strange” languages appearing on covers and flyers every now and then (often with poor grammar!), really matters as much in the eyes of the highest all-knowing divinity. The sensemorale of my saying here being simply that if something transcendental exists, the highest aspect of what we may call God, it’d exist even if we were to raise no emotional affection in relation to anything pertaining to this truly existent transcendent other. Traditional black metal aesthetics, to put it short, is so obsessed with creating an emotion in its enjoyer that anything but the personal ego may be sacrificed in acquiring this emotional sensation. The churches and crucifix of every cover, to add to my provocation, rightly belong in the field of Catholic black metal. The dead languages belong to history and the academic institutions, in the West not infrequently with a strong historical affiliation with ecclesiastical institutions, and as for distorted guitars, we can rightly claim that they are deeply associated with various sub-genres risen from the Mississippi blues delta, to which black metal – I admit – belongs, being yet another minor cultural manifestation in the history of man.
So, what is really BLACK in may I say “ordinary” black metal? I have as of yet not spoken of the lyrics. Malacht has always excerpted her lyrics from a rich cultural heritage expanding on religious topics aiming at theological coherency in praise of the highest one God (no matter how well we actually managed with such a task!). The theology was pre-existent catholic black metal. And black metal? Well, any modern day occultist’s written work hopefully doesn’t surpass you in sublimity. And as for any other writing that by the black metals could be claimed as part of a reconstructed heritage, be it an old Aramaic curse (they are funny!), any Ethiopic magical scroll (they are funny!), any medieval grimoire (they are boring), their main aim is not the praise of the one God, hence, they build no foundations of a religious artform: adiaphora! Hmm.. Hope I got my point here. Black metal is rather silly, that’s all I wanted to say – but quite funny too! Haha. But, hmm.. When I think of it abit more, it’s for the most part rather boring. Well, on to the next question. Haha! Hmm. No, tragic be its token!

Now then, Urkaos was composed and recorded around 2006 but has only just been released as of November last year. Your beliefs have changed somewhat since 2006. Therefore I’d assume Urkaos was originally conceived as black metal in the traditional meaning of the term, in other words as evil and dark music. After all, you were still a member of Ofermod at that time. But now, what does Urkaos represent?

The state of Ofermod in 2006 may be debated. Urkaos was however all the time conceived as a piece of Catholic black metal, haha, despite the fact that I had not converted by the time of its recording, correct. The intention all the time was to record the darkest album ever, taking into consideration what I deemed essentials to my faith at the time. Using only texts found within the history of the Catholic tradition however, I found it inappropriate to label such a record Orthodox (and definately too mainstream and uninspirational). Hence the invention of that tag; it made sense and was quite funny. I wasn’t very impressed by the Orthodoxy of the metal scene.
As of today, Urkaos represents a milestone in my life. By heart, I pretty soon after its recording knew that I wouldn’t record such standard sounding, standard riffing a black metal record in – perhaps – ever. I thought to have peaked in my musical potential pertaining to that particular field. Black metal had been a great part of my life for long many years by then and it felt like a relief to reach such a conclusion and I was happy to be able to move on and spend more time on my academic studies, which at the time had begun to consume more and more of my time and which I found more rewarding than producing music.

How do you reconcile this music with your Catholicism?
 
The creator asked the created to create something for him. The created reached for a stick of wood, the creator replied negative, even that, he argued, had he already made.

Lyrically you state that all the texts are old Catholic writings. Was this the case back in 2006 as well? If so, what did you intend to convey by doing this back then?
 
The texts are Catholic writings, yes; they were Catholic back in 2006 too, yes! I was much influenced by both Muslims (they discuss determinism), Jews (they revere God), Protestants (they.. well! Haha!), and Catholicism (to mention but religious inspirations). The reason for using Catholic writings came naturally as we’d used only Catholic texts (Vulgata) for The Old God recording. For Urkaos, such a procedure came in especially handy, having spent much of my academic year prior to recording delving into many Latin Catholic writings. Many of the lyrics conveyed universal religious truths, I thought, not unfit to my understanding of faith. As for some of the passages, it was more the case that I wanted to use a text from a specific period or a specific influential writer, some of whose ideas I clumsily tried to manipulate in my poetic commentary and translations, haha! This only goes for the translation of Ave Maris Stella, but still, haha! (the other translations should be reliable I assume). The passages from St. Augustine, further, were used because they quite beautifully spoke of what could be described as Urkaos, or ‘the waters upon the face of the deep’, in an exegesis of the first chapters of Genesis. The texts from Nichodemi Evangelium were used because they dealt with interesting topics and because I had an translation in old swedish at hand; the texts from manuscripts once stored in the medieval library of the Monastery of Vadstena (MSS today in Uppsala and Stockholm, especially of Codex Upsaliensis C 159) were used because I found inspiration in the religious devotion and the aesthetics that they displayed, rather than their explicit theological content, whose central cornerstone I by then refrained from accepting fully. Hmm, what more is there? Ah, yes, the passages from the Bible were the ones I thought spoke of more universal religious truths, such as the sayings I picked for the track Sermon below the Mount (for which passages, I refer to the booklet).

Musically Urkaos is the closest to “normal” black metal that you’ve released under the Malacht name isn’t it? The sound is also less “distant” than like on the “Old God” tape.

I agree with your impression. Urkaos was how, at the time I would have liked all of the ‘normal’ black metal bands that I ever had played in to sound. Lo-fi rules supreme! As for being less distant production wise – in less poetical dress this equals less reverb on the guitars and hence the possibility of more of a standard riffing – I didn’t want to make yet another Old God, but had both enough inspiration, enough old riffs, enough time and equipment (finally, by then!) to record yet another black metal album. Originally, the idea with the album was that it should be the most dark and weird black metal album ever recorded, a task, I believe, we still have the opportunity to eventually accomplish, seeing that we didn’t quite live up to that task I think. As a matter of fact, I actually got kind of disappointed at first due to the album ending up a lot more dull and standard than we originally intended, but in a sense, this does perhaps add to the overall impression of how I would have wished other bands to play it, would they like to play ordinary black metal by the book, and in fact, this also sets the album apart somehow, being now compared to any other BM record. I remember we had a hard time finding a propriate production at first. I was very picky with guitar sound at the time as I could not stand to hear high frequencies and hated the sound of a distorted metal guitar. It was only when I completely cut the frequencies above 2439 Hz or so by a lo-pass equalizer that I finally could comply with them. The equipment used was very primitive at the time, the greatest secret behind its fine production being a two channel sound blaster card and a cracked demo version of N-track studio. Haha!
 
Alright that’s enough about Urkaos, onto other things. AnXpm. This was a side-project of yours and MM from Emit. I haven’t seen lyrics for this (I have now /Char), but the track titles are interesting. Who wrote lyrics for this EP and could you maybe enlighten us a bit about them? And what exactly is it on the front cover? It looks like the interior of some cave? Is it particularly significant? And who was Old Koth Janne? The Tower Koth was mentioned in one of Lovecraft’s stories by the way?!

I wrote the lyrics. They were spare lyrics which I’d written in preparation for Urkaos. No, wait, some of the lines for one of them were in their entirety much older really, taken from a lyric that a friend of mine wrote around 2002 for a band I had back then (Ix Eagodos); for the rest of the lyrics I wrote them around 2004-6 or something. The front cover was finished by the time Mr. Unknown was paying me a visit the summer of 2006 and it portrays the interior of the copper mill in Falun, Dalecarlia. Nowadays a tourist site with guided tours, we went there prior to making the recording and if I remember correctly, we agreed on taking inspiration from that place for the recording and the production, scheduled to take place about at the time we came back home to the cabin. It’s a fascinating site to visit with a lot of history, but as for the picture, it’s just a suiting picture, that’s all. It’s cave music, anyway, primitive. Music for cave men. I think AnXpm took us a night to record or something. The lyrics deal with stuff I wrote about by then, somehow as interested in strange grammar as in weird topics and full of half precise ofttimes unintelligble allusions, though perhaps dwelling more on oblique references to classical literature than ever before; apart from Catholic writings. I’d spent a lot of time on Virgil that year, a poet whose language influenced me greatly at the time as I was studying it with great pleasure. For me most of the lyrics would be kind of outdated today. Obsolete, in all their freshness.
Old Koth Janne is a story by himself. You see, the standard way of making it by the black metal book is to invent a grim pseudonym – like for example something based on an Indo-European (preferably Latin) root, silen-, nocturn-, mort-, mal-, or something Germanic sounding, like Grim, smörgåsbord, köttbullen, or something Hebrew (no! Not Arabic!! Use Hebrew!) abb-, meshia7-, all preferably with anachronistic, anomalous and kult spelling! (did I mention the Catholic writer Tolkien? If any of the above don’t suit your taste, try browsing through his works, for there might be something for you therein still not yet used!) – and solemnly proclaim that you by this name play ‘curse’, ‘darkness’, ‘coffin’ or ‘cucumber’ in any teenage band. We did it the other way around. So as to secure our anonymity, I and Mikael invented not only several pseudonyms, but also long biographies of entirely fictive people and invited our friends to invent names and asked them if they wanted to partake in our “band”. So as to strengthen the legacy of Janne “Old Koth” Ericsson, however – a fellow we liked especially, probably since he also had a very innocent Swedish name – we were close enough to release an old PTC recording as a demo under the name Old Koth, haha! I remixed the music and everything, but we never worked out any layout and somehow, the demo still lies around, without much of an audience larger than two, three people. Other invented dudes would be Adia Diallo, Jürgen Likpredikanten, Arch, Thwarth, Baelter (Daniel Baelter), srr Klvna, etc.; in official contacts both I and Mikael used the name KAM, however, which in fact was an abbreviation of Mikael’s full name prior to baptism and conversion. The name Old Koth was taken from a hilarious satanic writing, the name of which I currently cannot remember (and a friend has borrowed the book so I’ll have to come back with the reference). The other names were invented by means of the associations that any given name carried with it. Haha, when Mr. Unknown visited me in 2006 we kept him in the prospect of meeting with that strange dude Janne, lurking in the woods as he did, but eventually we explained that the character didn’t exist – this at the spot of Janne’s ruins of a house, somewhere in the woods!  Haha, it was quite funny. Mr. Emit was kind of sad. He’d have liked to meet this forest guy, living but some kilometres away from the Malacht cabin. As for a Lovecraftian provenience of the name Old Koth, any such origin doesn’t surprise me the least, in as much as the referred to satanic writing is full of pseudo-religious entertainment.

Dödfödd. I bet you’ve had many offers of LP/CD re-releases of your old demo material with this band. How come you’ve never agreed to it? Do you prefer to let the past lie buried?

There was a period when offers of re-releases came in on a regular basis. I always professed that the demos were so bad that they didn’t deserve a CD release. I used such a phrasing by way of claiming that despite their quality, higher than pretty much any outcoming CD by the time, I didn’t deem them good enough. There were copies available of both demos for years anyway, making a CD re-release superfluous after all. To this comes that I already since around 2003 had a deal with Ajna for the upcoming album, so any other labels weren’t very interesting for that sake. Today, the material is available on the internet. Just google it!

Speaking of the past. It’s alive. Dead told me.
Really, as the old saying goes On (the) Dead (say) nothing mean. Joke aside.
To answer your question: no it is not buried, my past lives in me. Life Eternal. The Past is Alive.

What are the other old Dödfödd members up to nowadays if anything?

Dödfödd (literally: ‘Death’s/dead-born’, idiomatically: ‘stillborn’) wasn’t really anything more than me and another person who’s infamous for trying to preserve his anonymity and hiding away from camera (no, he’s not part of the scene today. He’s studying to become a professional organist/church musician). Being very much an outpouring of my religious ideas and our way of living at the time, Dödfödd was a strong and youthful vision we shared for a few years in our early teens. It was naturally centred around my lyrics which we put music to by means of riffs written prior to deciding that it was the time proper to record anything. It never took more than a few days to finish the arrangement and recording of a demo and we put an honour in poor production, especially so on the first demo, a recording we deemed specifically necro for years following its release. We were and are still close friends, but the bands we rehearsed with were not Dödfödd. Dödfödd was the concretisation of our cooperation and ideas only partly expressed through the other constellations we tried to boot up, projects of varying quality which never saw the proper recording of anything. Or, wait, really, we made two unreleased demos related to Dödfödd, both in 2001 I think, the first of which went under the band name Själadöd (‘Soul’s-Death’/ ‘Soul-Death’/’Spiritual Death’), this proved to be the uprising of Dödfödd and contained only us two. Today, as far as I gather, people seem to find it pleasing to categorize Dödfödd along the lines of depressive black metal, a tag to which I myself hardly would agree to back then. A listening the songs, a reading the lyrics prove me correct in this respect, I’d say. Well, as another great musician would’ve put it (Requiescat in pace): Nevermind!

What’s your opinion on the music of Dödfödd nowadays? Personally I think it still stands out as really good stuff.

Yeah, for being made by kids 14-16 years of age, it’s decent enough. Some of the riffing took some hard work to make I admit, and a lot of frustration at finding out harmonies which didn’t sound exactly like everything else that I’d heard. A labour that paid off I’d say, as many of the riffs contain innovative elements. I cemented much of my composing techniques during those years, and expanded both my vocabulary and my poetical style. To the story goes that both of us were more or less schooled in musical theory and did for some years share the same vision, so the cooperation went really smoothly by way of reciprocally communicating both musical ideas. Dödfödd was also the reason I began to play the drums, another thing to find gratitude in today.
 
Nothing much is really known about the other member of Malacht, Mikael Martensson. What role does he play in the band? Is he of the same convictions as you in terms of his religion?
Have you ever heard the phrase “malacht Cromail ort”? Meaning something like “the curse of Cromwell be on you”, being an old Irish saying/curse.

Mikael is a genius. That’s his position in the band. Everything which isn’t rational at first is ultimately from his mind. I’m the boring scholar… or well, to be more nuanced, we cooperate extremely well and share the same fascination for anything old and lo-fi, strange and ingenious. I used to handle pretty much all of the instrumentation and most of the technicalities concerned with recording and production, while we both harmonize in enthusiasm about bringing about the audial outcome. Nothing would have been the same without him. Everything needs his final word, and everything which hasn’t lacks that genious something. He’s the one saying the complete opposite thing, haha, leading us to settle upon something very much unthought of compared to where we started (I’m speaking of both audial and visual art). I usually ask him something out of the blue, a stupid idea, and he goes all in, haha, pushing things even further. On top of this, we work at an extremely high pace together. Our inspirational oscillations seem to reverberate very much in resonance.
We began to record around 2002 and have kept on more or less since (the only properly released recording of the early era being the outro ‘Into the Black Waters’ of the Emit debut, recorded under the name PTC, later on we recorded under the name Symphonia Sacrosancta Phasmatum (two recordings dating 2004); by 2005, we started Malacht and the related label Ars Luminis, releasing our first demo together). The best metaphor could perhaps be that of me acting as an instrument which we both try to tune and direct in order to conceive anything that we know as Malacht, something Mikael may be more acquainted with than anyone else. We continue to surprise each other in geniality. The day we won’t, Malacht is dead and should better quit. The Geist would have left us. As for instrumentation however, a few more words could be added. Mikael’s handling himself as an instrument is currently (as of mid 2012 he’s doing more than fiddling phone-line EQs and singing yoik) increasing in equal rate as I invest in more and more complicated recording equipment, so I guess we’ll see more of a change in some direction of the actual instrumentation as time passes, though the equilibrium will remain intact somehow. Mikael though, used to be more into producing lo-fi sounds than music based on rhythm. I, on the other hand, am more into producing lo-fi rhythm, than musical sounds. Hmm.. that paraphrase didn’t render quite intelligible. My vision is much centred around suggestive lo-fi rhythms. Mikael seems to often think that the sound of any cassette works just as fine. It’s proved time and again a pleasant combination, to our ears anyway.
About that Irish phrase, I’ve of course seen it on the internet, but hadn’t heard of it prior to starting up Malacht under a similar name. The name comes from Mikael’s mind, by the way. It’s kind of a funny coincidence however.
Mikael is a Catholic convert too, yes.
 
Can you tell anything about the unreleased Ofermod album Pentagrammaton like why it wasn’t completed or released? I’ve heard rumour (only on the internet admittedly!) from people who heard a rough mix or whatever that it was way superior to Tiamtu. The Necromorbus guy has even said he might write a book one day about the Pentagrammaton session!

We recorded an album which was supposed to go as Pentagrammaton, correct (pentagrammaton is referring to Christ – google it!). To me, it isn’t that special to be honest. I don’t like all too predictable high end-oriented productions, neither the high degree of treble in metal music, to mention but something. Haha, but I’d read the book in case Tore wrote one! It’d be interesting to see how honest he’d become in so doing. Maybe time will unfold this story, maybe only the wind is able to tell? Haha! 
 
Have many old friends and contacts in the black metal scene disavowed you and cast you out as a heretic since your conversion to Catholicism?

None.
 
This is something that I’ve been talking about recently with an old friend that I’d like your opinion on. The early 90’s black metal scene in Norway has influenced almost every black metal band since, that’s a fact. It’s quite accepted and normal now that black metal bands make statements professing their actual evilness, hate to mankind, join occult organisations or make their own up and so on. Back when Euronymous would say something in an interview like “I don’t care about the starving children in Africa, they can die”, it was shocking and unheard of. Euronymous also said it was his desire to influence people to think like he did, which seems to have been successful in that respect if we take what people say at face value. It seems hard to believe that the countless black metal bands in existence as of 2012 all seriously think that way. I think it’s mainly more a case of wanting to fit into a scene that’s become a large subculture far removed from its origins, mixed with normal youthful angst. But do you think that black metal has nonetheless seriously corrupted many people? From a Christian point of view, is even thinking or saying these evil things, even if not really believing them, still evil?

By virtue of his understanding man can perceive that the world isn’t perfectly as it was intended to be. Simply, everything isn’t perfect. To my understanding, man is born into a world which bears in it what in traditional Catholic terminology used to be called the original sin. Concretely put this means that man is born into a somewhat damaged world. Any man bears traits of such a world. We can sense an inclination to perpetrate what we may by nature perceive as not in accordance with our conscience. By freely and deliberately acting in contrary manners to one’s conscience one performs what in traditional terminology is described as a sin. Can others suggest you to act contrary to your conscience? Naturally, would be the answer. Is black metal by that virtue evil? Well, let’s say that black metal is an abstraction of certain ideas, musical elements and aesthetics, the exact constituents and definitions of which are debated even amongst its core defenders. I for my part entered the field of black metal by reason of its theistic religious aspects, which I til today consider should be its focus and core. To me, an honest quest for the focal core of this theistic religion has led me not only to different conclusions as to what really constitutes religion but also to redefine my estimation of what and who the God behind any man-made conception of him really is. Could I do this without black metal? Well, to be honest, I’m not very much into contra factic historical writing, but we may say that I definitely could have passed the test of black metal without acting as much contrary to my conscience, seeing that it’s possible to let one’s conscience guide. Man carries many conceptions of things, but not the things themselves. In many respects, this can be said of our relation to God as well. The voice of the conscience is traditionally described as the voice of God, or the Holy Spirit, sinning against which cannot be forgiven, providing that God can not violate man’s free will and forgive without concession. Fact speaks loud enough, I was somewhat born in the temple of black metal. So, back to topic: can it lead astray? Yes, as everything in the world, but it most surely may just as well may lead you right, should its focus be what it was supposed to be: the quest of the God other, ultimately existent behind human conception.
Subcultures can be bad in as much as they present you with an abstraction to be followed of a somewhat codified and dead ideal. Such an abstract ideal or conception may be charged with much positively experienced but psychologically explainable emotion. If you act in accordance with such a conceptualized image, but contrary to your rational conscience, you have served what in old Testament is described as a false image or a false idol. To put it in the same concrete language as the old Testament: by so doing you have made an image by which you have worshipped instead of serving the living God.
The world is full of false images and any object may be thought of as means to our bliss, this is nothing strange and can happen even if you attempt the opposite. Black metal is just another complex matter in this labyrinth called life, only that the strongest adherents of this art form claim black metal to be supremely unique in this respect. This is no surprise, given that such an idealized conception of black metal substitutes a main component in justifying a heavy involvement therein, despite a rational reasoning that there are more evil things to do than being deeply involved in a subculture, defending a somewhat rational human abstraction of a much diverse and chaotic world.
 
I’m no theologian, but bear with me! According to the bible God existed before there was light, as He must have done if He were to say “let there be light”. That must mean he first existed in darkness, right? So it’s true isn’t it that Christian music doesn’t necessarily have to be happy and light sounding? I mean, look at the music of Bach! I’m aware by the way that this question is probably of the same intellectual level as the unlearned black metal bands that justify the truth of what they believe with bible quotes ad infinitum, haha.

I’m no theologian either. I’m a student of linguistics! What did the Middle-Eastern poet conceptualize when he imagined that ‘light’ was what God first created of things visible and things unvisible? Sure this wasn’t the light of day, appearing on the scene – according to that same source – only days thereafter. Yet God did not dwell in what we’d call darkness! So what was it, ‘that darkness upon the face of the deep’? Well, leaving ancient Middle-Eastern mythology and biblical exegesis aside for a bit. Let your reasoning be our subject of thought for a while. It is interesting, and if I understand you correctly, your propositions are as follows (I’m aware of my somewhat uneducational disposition here): “A): God must have existed before light, because it is written that he created it; A) your reasoning implies the logical presupposition B), namely “if x makes y come into being, x exists before y”; (B) when applied to (A) leads to the following reasoning of yours: C) “If God exists, but is not = x in (B), then God must be = y in (B)”.
(A) = “God must be either this or that, because that is what is written about him,” contains a faulty premise, (B) nonetheless being correct in its abstract logical reasoning, verified through our reasoning and from our perceived knowledge of the surrounding world. However, (C) is only correct should the presupposition of (A) be correct. Ah… To the point: the faulty reasoning is that God is neither x nor y, neither “light”, nor “darkness”. If you take the biblical book, it has a human composer, if you take this composer, he has a parent, this parent has a parent, this parent also has a parent, and long back in his family tree, he or she (as far as we know today) descended from something which crawled up from the ocean, this complex creature on the other hand was formed from something living being based on but one cell, this in turn was evolved from something material, this material, as far as we know, was formed and reformed several times, in many chemical reactions, yet ultimately deriving from some strange explosion, happening some billion years ago. In modern science, we name this explosion by a term which originally was used more as a joke, “the big bang”. Well, that’s about as far as our reasoning goes when it comes to what happened. What hides yonder this reasoning, what was it that was prior to the big bang? Was this God? Well, we’re bordering on the biblical cosmogenesis here. What can we say then? Well, that there was nothing eternal, from which something stemmed. Where does our reasoning lead us? Well, we crush toward the material beginnings and birth pangs, beyond which a time-bound reasoning cannot take us much further beyond. No surprise that many scientists had a problem with the Catholic’s, Monsignor Georges Henri Joseph Édouard Lemaître’s cosmological model; the scientists knew that his reasoning at least gave partial credit to the biblical story. Today Lemaître’s ideas on the big bang known as “the big bang theory”. It is the most widely accepted scientific model for explaining how Cosmos came to being. The reason why, however, is still much debated. We simply do not know much more than the biblical writer.

So, what if there might be a mythological dimension to the biblical cosmogenesis, if there might be a poetical licence on expounding upon matters far off, there might be something which he tried to expound on, which Lemaître, by reason of his discipline of natural science could not, then there might be another reasoning behind the reading of the biblical source, than the natual scientific, this scientific code dealing ultimately with that of innerworldly matters.
You see, what scientists not really think of too often, is that their presupposition for searching a rational truth behind matter, is that there ought to be a rational reasoning behind matter possible to be unveiled at least partially by virtue of reason. In this respect, this aspect of God is very much a fundament of western scientifical arts, him being the basis of rational truth per se. Without a rational order in Cosmos and a fundamental belief on the scientist’s part at that there’s a rational explanation behind the object of this world under investigation, your science would be void and without the prospect of a rational outcome. Thus every scientist could be said to deal with a working hypothesis bordering on the acceptence of a God. Yet this rational cobweb behind reason, the eternal outside of time, the vast without measure, etc., is this God? Well, si capis, deus non est. If you comprehend, it is not God, as St. Augustine once wrote. There lies a limitation in human reasoning, but the believer still thinks that man is capax Dei, has a capacity for God (another Augustinian phrase). How does this work out? Submitting first and foremost to the limitations of being man, man is able to reach at what is possible to God, but impossible for man.

God would be eternal even if there was no artform proclaiming his eternity. And what about those Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek books known as the old and the new Testament? Well… God was true even before the pictographic system of writing was invented in the fourth millennium B.C.; of course, your reasoning is rational within the framework of the bible, but what if God is not defined by the lettering of a book, yet what if a human, a book, a leaf, retained an ability to even speak about him, though of course, ofttimes falling short in words?

If my biography will speak something not exactly true about me, it isn’t because I didn’t exist or because I did the opposite to it’s wording, but because the exactitude of my detailed biography only could be equaled in length to the exact length of my days, and covering many dimensions at that. The book, however, being an adaptation to the limited lifespan of another human, to learn from my discoveries, without having the ability to fully comprehend every aspect of my living, would hence not be useless. Needless to say, any biography would have to be an adaptation to the human condition and her limitation. As to the books describing the acts of God, a somewhat parallel reasoning applies, I’d say.

So let’s get back to darkness. Well, if you believe that the darkness of the first chapters of the book of Genesis has much to do with everyday “darkness”; how do you reconcile the two into a coherent worldview? Speaking of what I’d call “dark” in a more theological meaning of the word (i.e. without dreamlike fantasies and romanticism about a distant cosy “darkness”, on which we may rest our troubled minds in short soothing escapades from everyday life); I conceptualize the darkest act of man to be the killing not of life, but of the source of life, a source which I conceptualize in terms of a triune God – we now go beyond scientific reasoning and enter a theological discourse on “why”. This killing of the source of life, according to my belief, happens, when we kill the son of God. With the killing of the son of God we se the depth and banality of man’s inclination toward evil, but not by virtue of this act but by reason of his compassionate mercy, God, according to this same belief of mine, makes the resurrecting of his son a witness of the immensity of divine compassion. By doing so, we can not further conceptualize the immensity of his loving mercy and forgiveness, without at the same time remembering that every sin can be forgiven, even the killing of the son of God, the forgiveness for which we all are both freely given and humbly dependent upon, despite we all are doomed by his death. No matter if we raise “religious” emotion by conceptualizing such a plausible scenario in the salvation history of mankind, this could be true, and as said, I’ve chosen to believe that such is the case. This is also the biblical salvation history, and as such, I believe the bible to be correct, but we must remember that most of what is true is not written in the Bible.

Darkness is in no way alien to Christian experience, no. The aim of the Christian is a sharing in the life of Christ.
Darkness is as much a part of the Christian life as to the extent to which secularised Northern Europeans believe the bible to be the sole source of Christian dogma and belief. We all too easily forget that literacy is a modern phenomenon and what concrete that Christ leaves man with is the celebration of his body and blood, as well as an intimate group of friends who all have a share in both his life and death. As you state, it’s interesting to see to what degree black metals believe the bible to be the source of all truths. Haha, but we must – I repeat this – remember that most of the things that are true are not written in the bible. It’s a book that deals mainly with matters concerning the christian salvation history, and as said, in this respect, it is still unquestioned among natural scientists in their art, much debated among seekers and philologians (I include myself in all three groups).

From what I know, like many of the old black metal bands of early 90’s you always said black metal must be a sacred and religious thing (even Darken of Graveland said this). But what came first? Did religious belief (the supposed “dark” side of it initially I suppose) lead you to black metal or was it the other way around?

I have as long as I can remember carried with me some vague idea of what was holy and sacred. This vague idea led me into satanic music, treading a somewhat familiar path from dance music (my first CD being some CD with 2unlimited, bought in London 1994. I was nine), Electronic music (afx, autechre, techno tapes, etc), hardcore/punk, skate punk (second CD same year was Offspring), grunge (Nirvana mainly), various sexually obscene music, etc., until I finally hit upon Marilyn Manson through a friend from Canada in 98. By then I knew what type of music filled my chalice, so I disavowed any other music, then shortly I found black metal, which I believed better to codify what I appreciated as satanism, the name I gave the practice of holy and sacred matter back then. So I once more disavowed all other music. … I had since early age been interested in Tarot, magic, folklore, etc.; as a black metal band, I first hit upon Mayhem actually, being close to Manson in the CD-shelf, later on Cradle of Filth, Cannibal Corpse (through that film Ace Ventura), Marduk, Bewitched and various other music that they for some reason happened to stock at the record store. We are talking about 1998-2000 or something, I went in the 7-9 grade, my early teens, before internet times – all so primitive and pagan – at a time now so distant, when any Mayhem LP was still like ten quid and Manson was virtually unknown here in Sweden (and very occult! Haha!). As for me, my musical tastes was limited to what they had in the local music stores (three at a time!), but to me that was pretty much enough, as I didn’t have any money to buy records from anyway. Very few friends that I knew were interested in this type of music, so anything I could come across and was able to gather was a great inspiration, anything from the necrologues and the horoscope in the daily newspaper, to lovespells, Necronomicon, etc.; anyone among the few classmates, classmates and friends who by time came to find a certain liking in this music, (though not as frenetically as I did, luckily! Haha), anyone buying a CD was like a happening. Quite happy times, if you ask me. I still made a lot of friends who were ‘normal’ if you will, though I never quite had the time to become intimate with other than the girls. It was only after 2000, post the age of 14 or something, that I began to fall out more seriously. I delved deeper into this stuff, thoughts on the highest divinity, conceptualized as reached through death, became more intense – much destructive a worldview, to say the least! Initially the interest for this music had been religion, occultism, magic, the obscene and such that attracted me, but by this time music got more attention. For a considerable period, the highest aspiration was to record the most evil album – an aim I realized early on to be only secondary, though this wasn’t how I lived my life. At night I had dreams about writing lyrics so dark (and beautiful) that I melted. My selection of friends became considerably altered throughout this early period as I to an increasing degree only wanted to associate with people who either shared or whom I could make share my views on life, evil and death. It was by the end of this time, with a few crashed band projects around 98-00, that I finally in 2000 came to meet the other dude with whom I later on formed Dödfödd. Thereafter, the story should be known, apart from my theological ideas, perceptions, studies, ascetism, prayer, etc. No one knew my prayer. But how I came to end up where I am now, I might expand on that later on. It was a path of prayer, that’s the short story. Once you start to pray, you let go somehow, accepting dependency on the highest divinity. The paths to God are as many as there are humans.

Speaking of Mr. Darken, haha. Well, what could I say. He seems a funny fellow. Haha! Seriously, you don’t put on those clothes to set foot in the woods without a great sense of humour! Haha! And to take along with you a camera to eternalize the moment, well, you either have no sense of perspective, or you are hilarious a personality, if not to yourself, at least to others. Thank you, 90′s black metal!
 
Further from that, though you may have answered it above, I just downloaded Malacht’s demo ’09, being the most recent stuff I’ve heard from you (the demo seems totally unavailable to buy by the way). Musically it’s very dark or so it seems to me anyway. Why still dark music? Do you think you’d ever be able to record “happy” or light sounding music?

I have since early on had a tendency to like music that I believe some people by reason of established association would perceive as dark. In this respect, I believe black metal isn’t for everyone, seeing that associations are personal. I myself have found it difficult to listen to what I believe you describe as “happy”, it simply gives me negative and unpleasant associations.
I believe that I sometime may record something more “happy”, sure, or, well, wait a minute, don’t we all laugh when we listen to Deathcrush? Don’t we all smile when we listen to that awful Black Blood of Beherit? Metal of Death, sure! Hey, let’s create some death music, would we? Really, ah… no, “ein li koach”, as the Israelites would have it – I have no strength.
 
My sphere of association is of course widening over time, especially as of later years, providing that there currently is no voluntarily conceptualized ideological drawback from widening my perspective. It’s a fact though, that I’m almost tonedeaf when it comes to major scales, and any such melody just doesn’t seem to stay with me, but we’ll see. In sha’ Allah!
Today I first and foremost do not perceive music as either happy or dark. The concepts are really quite awkward and too much dependent on personal preferences, a rich palette gathered of which will leave you less dependant on such black and white associations. A tone here, a snare there, a cymbal there might attract my attention, but I rarely find pleasure in entire songs these days. Perhaps by this reason, I’m getting more and more into samples, sampling my own drums, other people’s records (black metal even, haha! I made a beat out of the De Mysteriis title track, it’s quite catchy actually! Haha, “how blasphemous”, I’d almost say, in such high regard do I hold this record!). I’m more and more into production, effects, electronical equipment, etc.; this so perhaps because I have no ability to record drums in this small crypt where at I stay. We must remember, though, that I’ve been producing industrial/ambient/noise etc. since well over ten years, and that the rise of Malacht is not primarily from the cunt of Satan in the ancient black metal tradition (as another band claimed their origin to be) but from such experimental music taken into BM.

The Demo ’09, by the way, was only distributed a short while through Ajna, whom I sent a CDR and a xeroxed copy of the cover with the words: sell it, should you wish. It’s sadly quite hard to get a hold of and I have no ability nor strength to spread those tapes. But I agree, it’s exceptionally dark a production! Haha, I’m very happy with the result, at least when it comes to the proper tracks of that recording. It was, by the way, one of the first of a few Malacht recordings which Mikael did not participate on. Another dude played some strings with me when recording, which, I believe, is partly the reason to why much of the riffing is quite traditional in a sense. We, I and that dude whose name could perhaps be found somewhere, hadn’t fully managed to work out our cooperation by then, which later on would evolve into something pretty interesting (still mostly unreleased).
 
Here’s my theory regarding your conversion and sorry if it seems presumptuous! But you were studying Latin at University right? Obviously this would likely mean delving into old religious texts, aside from your natural inclinations which probably led you that way anyway. So as you were taking religion seriously (and not just using it to look cool like some metalhead), was it like a scholarly discovery, an absence of evidence for an “evil god” that made you realise the “wrongness” of what you were doing? Am I anywhere close to being right or…?
What actually did you used to believe before your conversion? I remember reading an interview of yours where you claimed to worship (in the religious sense) death and so on.

Latin, right, from 2004 to 2007. Natural inclinations led to Latin, correct: aren’t all the occult writings of the past written in Latin? (And isn’t the past the source of the occult!? Haha!). End of irony.
By means of science, to finish that chapter, it is as hard to find any concluding scientific evidence for the existence or non-existence of any divinity, no matter good or evil. I never questioned the existence of the divine. You are, however, somewhat close to being right in the respect that it was an absence, not of “evidence” for an evil God, but rather absence of a rational and coherent theology as to how we may serve the divine and live in consistency with such a theology of an omnipotent god of death. I did not realise the “wrongness” in what I was doing til later on, at first I only realised the wrongness of others. Later on I saw myself in others, which increased about the time during which I began to devote more and more time to what can be described as an anachorete dwelling, introspective period, or in traditional Christian terminology: desert. I began fasting, spending long periods in solitude etc. (stupid! Do such things with caution, it can be quite harmful. Taking a black metal maniac into Christianity doesn’t make him a saint, it’ll only manifest his inherent inclinations towards obsessive excessions). This was about the time I began to pray more and more too, and there we go…
I realised my own incompleteness in the eyes of any divinity and this realisation of my own incompleteness and the meeting of God and of myself in relation to the God was the most horrifying and painful experience of all my life (this after accepting the incarnation as the most genious thing for God to do). The suffering I experienced in approaching God has ever since remained unequalled, both in terms of suffering, clarity and peace. I am, yes, despite all of this religious thinking, quite a rational fellow I believe, and I need reasons for motivating me to act and do this or that. I could finally not motivate my previous actions through the worldview which I finally desperately tried to uphold. In discussing my questions with other black metal heroes, I often met with ignorance and an approach that the matters I thought of wasn’t really important to them. Much to my disappointment with the whole scene. 
 
There was a few “unblack” metal bands around once (maybe there still are?) playing music praising Christ, wearing corpsepaint and so on. What do you think of them? Musically anyway they were really terrible from what little I heard…

Haha, yeah, it’s terrible, as most black metal really. 
 
When I was at school I found modern christianity really horrible and ugly in the way they teach it and present it, but when we had to go to church I could appreciate somewhat the atmosphere of the old church at least, even if I didn’t listen much to the vicar. In a way, when I got into black metal (which I looked at as a kind of sacred music) I found again that sense of mystery and atmosphere that modern religion doesn’t have. Isn’t the lack of faith in modern people somewhat due to the lack of mystery and atmosphere in religion today, that sense of awe that I guess medieval people had?
Isn’t the idea of a church a bit against Christ’s teachings anyway, as if I’m correct I’m sure he wasn’t keen on temples, saying you could worship anywhere without intermediaries or official buildings?
 
Let’s make a few proposals as to what mysticism may imply. Mysticism is, shortly, the abstract term used of a special kind of love. This love, as any love, is a relationship. It involves a human who aims at opening himself for the love of God. This relationship is present everywhere, but in its absence, somehow. Here comes one of the trials: it’s a love in absence, an absence in presence. In the heart of the lover, he is everywhere to be present. So, thus speaking of love and the aim at identification, unification, to become one with the beloved. Would you expect to see this love in stone and wood? Well, naturally, as it’s all his fingerprints, but that’s all it ever is: it’s fingerprints, fingerprints of the ever loving beloved (God), and reflections of this love in gifts from those who love (works of art). But naturally, this stone and wood, even if manufactured into forming a church, are all deficient in loving back. By this simple reason, they will never be the source of mysticism, of this love, a love to which the mystic aims at responding to, constantly bouncing back by his own limitations and deceit; yet constantly returning to the ever loving. By this humbling, and the beloved’s game of hide and seek, the mystic grows in his love of the divine, not because he at first is very receptive towards God’s love, but because God loved him first, and – as time passes – because God, time and time again, time and again receives his beloved anew. This love of the mystic, hence, ultimately comes from God. God, far away, yet ever present. All this, by the ever recurring of the mystic to the fount from which he aims at breathing, in silence, by the growing awareness of this external loving constant, another life spires, and another love: the love of the mystic in God. The faces, previously turned into malignant skulls, the spirit, previously but a breath burning, now begin taking on a different character, as the earth is seen as in a mirror, reflecting the beloved. Divinity all too slowly unveils the face, in yet other relations, encapsulating the mystic in a sober contemplation. This sober contemplation, a silent awareness of eternity, without guilt because of past, devoid of disturbances in the shape of images and fantasies craving to make present something future, it slowly reshapes; not changing who you are, but slowly working at holiness, wholeness. This process, from working in imageful spoken prayer, toward a silent and – dare I say empty – contemplative one, is frightening, as it first may strip you bare of the concepts of the world and your image of God, hopes and fears, excessive eagerness and indifference, attraction and aversion, etc., etc., opening yourself up towards an emptiness for God, to dwell in the presence of the Lord, meeting him in but a silent conversion of heart, a looking without seeing, a seeing without looking; an approaching, fully aware of the distance and proximity of the beloved; this makes you aware of that if holiness is now, it is completely impossible for you. But for God nothing is impossible.
You mentioned the sacred: speaking instead of holiness. It is not defined by actions, not by thoughts or words nor miracles, but holiness of man is only defined by his relation to Christ. Only God is Holy. A Saint, however, is someone who’s lived in intimate relationsship with Christ. That’s his definition, by this relation, the sanctity may transpire in the beloved who is open for this love. We may not by default expect to see this holiness in an instant, not by a sudden glance, nor may we expect it to make a strong impact on us: so much else in this world does this. But silent, fall down, meet your fears and pains, your faults and sins, your qualities and your character, all your greatness that is human, all your weakness and cracks, and you shall see, that he is able to shine also through you, in those cracks, by a single ray, in a small reaction that is love answered. We soon realise the fragility that we are, the immense need that we have for God to heal and to love. We come to accept our dependence upon him, and slowly, but slowly, we begin to find a small trust in that his love might even be for me. A single sidestep, and we are immediately shaken, walking our first steps on the path in his care, and this may be our first trial: To come to realise and live in his forgiveness, aware of his righteousness. By overcoming this first obstacle, in realising our dependency on his limitless loving mercy for us, we grow in trust and faith, but we lost something on the road: pride. Humility slowly takes its place, and herein lies yet another trial: gratitude is the response not of not giving back, but accepting someone else’s acting upon your life, putting you in a state of dependency. This awareness of dependency, the gratitude, however, as it all too slowly wins acceptance in your soul, slowly transforms, and within this co-acting, of growing of love, of sinning and mercy, of confession and forgiveness, you slowly come to realise what it might be, to fully be human. Those passions of the past, that you used to enjoy and delve so deep in, slowly, slowly the interpretation of them changes, as aging took their place, and the awareness in a different mode of living. The churches exterior no longer reflect your image of God, whom you slowly have come to realise who he is, beyond images, screams, and stirred emotion, yonder creations, sculptures and art, a relation has spired, by itself only dependent upon God, in whom you trust. To my knowledge, this is meant by belief. Needless to say that Christ is part of every side of living, but that he has no sharing in sin, as it is needless to say that he is present in all situations of life, as no pain, nor suffering, nor joy, nor bliss or death can tear you away from his love.
If we for a moment propose that mysticism could be something like what was suggested above. How do you share that love? How do you make someone love someone they cannot see? Someone who in popular theory perhaps doesn’t even exist? Well, the conversion of heart be the way, we can only do that much – and leave the enlightening of souls to God.

To become more concrete, returning to your questioning: to present Christ to the younger generation, to someone ignorant perhaps, it’s not very simple, as I’m sure your dear Vicar experienced, if anywhere else so at least – I hope, haha! – in relation to you. We must not forget that Christ is an extremely provocative character. If we domesticate Christ and make him a cosy fellow, presenting him as an all time pleasant and a nice fellow to hang around with, we have somewhat failed to meet him as he is. I repeat, as I find it an important thing to point out in order to realize what kind of man his cotemporals met with: Jesus the Christ was a highly subversive character who walked towards death and freely accepted a judicial murder, imposed on him by the high priesthood and the Roman power. Not because he was a cosy fellow did he walk towards death, abandoned by his former followers, neither was it because he ever was domesticated that he took on to be tortured. Needless to say the opposite was true. But important to point out here is the following: he was not provocative for the sake of provoking, really not for the sake of raising contrary voices and cause conflict, but he realized that this may sure be the case. But, he did not deviate from righteousness. He is the most religious man who ever lived. The most holy. The most righteous. He is the most provocative person ever to live too, I’d say. To stand in the temple among the high priests and scribes, uttering the words “I am”. Not many environments have held any abstraction in as high regard as the Pharisees and religious of the time, so it was easy to be provocative, by just stating a truth. By just being who he knew himself to be in the eyes of God.
 
Now, how does this relate to Malacht? Well, haha! It is with great pleasure I once again part-time partake in this subculture, because, as the Pharisees held certain ideals in high regard in the pretext of serving the highest God, killing his son; you pretty soon realise that I must take it easy, knowing more and more as I do my own character, sometimes taking too much joy in the provocation for provocation’s sake. I must be cautious to only not deliberately provoke. Yet I’m fully aware of that by my sole speaking of what I have decided to believe to be right, I am sure to provoke some people. My humour of black metal too, might provoke, though I hold its principal fundaments much in regard. People defending their own homebrewed definition of the divine and believing their art presented in a beloved subculture of black metal to represent the vision of God – well, haha! Here’s where I may come in. In this sense, I’m still black metal, as I still believe to present you with what I believe is the truth. The only difference today, compared to say the 2005-era is that my brew of today is no longer homemade. Anyway, let’s not make too much of this, let’s just once more understand that with my upbringing, it was not such an unnatural step to convert to Catholicism, for a disturbing misfit that is: my problem today lies more in taming this unkempt character, for unlike Christ, I’m pretty far from one with God.

But back to Malacht, here’s where it comes in, right? Roman Catholic black metal, …Haha, you know Charlotte, you were raised in a much more traditional society than I, England that is (correct, right?). In Sweden it’s more controversial to raise philosophical arguments against abortion than listening to death metal (which today really is domesticated!). Black metal is the new trend, everyone wants to be pictured with the grammy winning Taiwan. The media shows very little understanding of Catholic faith (or Christian, or any other religious belief for that matter, not to mention other religious minorities by name). Among my relatives, there’s only my grandmother I know to be Christian and none is Catholic. My family stands in questioning, still, four years post my baptism, which they by the way did not come to celebrate (not that I asked them, but anyway). In Sweden, Catholicism is kind of suspicious still, and, in general opinion, quite exotic. In this environment, it’s not such a great step for someone who’s been into a back in the days rather controversial thing such as black metal to join a gang of cribs and sinners, Jesuits and saints. By the time I decided to get baptized in the Catholic church, I had actually never spoken to a Catholic. My Catholic church was what I knew from ancient and medieval ascetical writings! A somewhat distant friend of mine with whom I spoke about religion in my early zeal, a zeal probably quite typical for converts, said to me that sure, I did strange things previously, and this thing with Catholicism was just another strange thing in my life. In a sense, that could sum up some of the impressions people house on traditional Christianity in Sweden. It’s no world religion of Sweden! People simply do not know what it is, nor do they often seem to be willing to try and understand why the church has come to the moral and theological conclusion as it has. Not to speak of God; of course, preaching a somewhat mystical, divine, theological, culturally somewhat different teaching, which stems from a Jewish faith and deals with life, death and the afterlife could be a bit hard to embrace even mentally, in a country where each individual’s image of God all too often is believed to be the God that the Christian church claims to have received a mission from (not to speak of sexual morality!). In everyday conversation, the concept of God has to be somehow re-established just to be able to speak about the most fundamental truths of our gospel. This, however, isn’t very easily made over a cup of coffee or even a long dinner. One often has to begin by speaking of a purely “philosophical God”, trying to realise a conception of that God is different – yet has revealed his face, but this part of revelation etc. only comes very much later in an eventual discussion. To speak about a belief wherein there not only exists a God, but also that I believe him to have done the impossible and become a man in the world which he himself created… well, coming from zero, it’s of course hard to grasp. Even the Muslims have a hard time with God doing such an impossible thing! To the Jews, it’s a scandalon! To speak of that this God, moreover, was killed, that he also was resurrected, and on top of that ascended into something traditionally referred to as heaven. Haha, you probably get the picture. That we all one day will meet him isn’t really the first question to be raised in a discussion with the Swedes. It can of course be a challenge, but I as anyone who’s managed to read this far may have realised, I’m pretty good at talking (listening can be my challenge). Some people are interested, but we can only speak that much, lifting the rest in prayer. Also, by age I’ve grown more silent, my angles being not as sharp, I don’t speak even as close to as much on religion these days. I am more and more to realise that not just Mikael works mysterious ways, but so also does God! Haha!

Any parent, be it Catholic parents in Catholic countries, we – now including myself among parents, though I have no kids! – we not only face the problem of raising our children, any parent can only teach a framework of belief, facts etc., and pave a way by love, prayer, patience and a good example, but it will always remain as a matter up the individual when it comes to the decision of whether or not to fill that framework of dogma and proposed truth with personal sacrifice and embrace the God of the belief presented or not. As often, children walk their own way, often they return, with much sored hearts – here I may just as well include myself among the children, though I’m an adult!
 
To return to your question on churches and such. In Sweden, we Catholics really don’t have very fancy old churches, the old ones, belonging as they all do today to the Swedish Church (which isn’t Catholic). To be honest, I’m somewhat happy with not having some sort of “atmosphere” to fool me with emotion. There must be another reason why we go there, right? Another advantage with “ugly” churches that is priceless is that this leaves the church a room for prayer, not attracting tourists by being beautiful, or black metal dudes by being gothic and romantic. But as for you, of course you appreciated the atmosphere of the church, it’s old and reminds us of the excellent cover of De Mysteriis! Haha! No, seriously, it’s a place silent, and as such, it attracts, but slowly.

To the point then, I somewhat agree with you on the point that the scholarly side of religion has left much to be wanted in the field of traditional Christian mysticism, at least on the surface – yet the monasteries, saints, hermits, mystics, laymen, and the sacraments and the prayer remain. Our mysticism isn’t as easily draped in aesthetical “mysticism” but is, as I said, a matter of the heart in relation to God. Everyone can of course pray to God and as a mystic, this is the first step, available to all. But traditional Christian mysticism has always involved a key element which is closed to outsiders, making Christian mysticism not only hard, but I’d say impossible to embrace from the outside, including as it does a sacramental life, that is, the regular sharing in the sacraments, the initialization ritual to which is the death with Christ by baptism. The sacraments make up the core of Christian mysticism, and this matter is first and foremost not a matter for the intellect, neither a matter of distant observation. It’s very hard to explain, but it is God. Embracing a sacramental life and getting a closer relationship with the son of God, the devout can be open to other forms of meditation, prayer, contemplation etc., in that respect being very free in deepening the relation and the meeting of God in each neighbour, each situation if you will. Christianity is in no way devoid of mysticism, and has never been, but it isn’t much a matter of the new age literature in its traditional form, I believe, simply because it isn’t as exotic, it is no runaway from life, but puts you in the middle of it, still responsible, still suffering, still rejoicing, still going to parties, still meeting with friends, still studying, still playing music, still drinking a few beers, still doing pretty normal stuff, yet the manner in which they are carried out are radically changed, somewhere deep below, for in all this, God shares and the goal of the mystic is to live his life. This of course is the goal of every Christian, and in this respect, every Christian is a mystic, having embraced the incarnate God, now revealing himself, a reflection as in a mirror. It’s extremely beautiful, but it is not a dance on roses, rather the opposite, as history has it. One has to meet himself, an ofttimes painful experience, but one sees God even there, for he already has his sharing. Nothing human is alien to God, but sin, but even in this is no end, as it can always be forgiven, should an upright heart be. The mystical side of life, as far as I’ve come to live it, is a closeness to God, as well as a longing, a seeing and not seeing, a living and a not living, a dying and a not dying (St. John of the Cross!), an intimate friendship, yet being an abyss apart (Euronymus, in speaking of black metal and its fans!), increasing love, yet a constant failure, a learning of humbleness, yet an overmode, a sinning and a forgiving, an embracing and a discarding, a praying and a breathing, a distance and closeness, a meeting with the different, and an embracement of the similar, a suffering and a joy, an acquaintance with sin, and an understanding at holiness, an intercession of the saints, a prayer for the many, an observation without condemnation, an observance without effort, an effort without payoff, a submitting oneself, an opening of heart, a being guided on a blind road towards a place we don’t know, a belief, sometimes even without a belief, a comfort and a trial, a difficulty only won by admitting defeat, in quest for help from someone you can’t see, yet who lives within and without, a working out of duty and a reward without merit. To mention something. It’s a life in paradox, yet a life possible and true. Its simplitude in the midst of complex chaos. It’s strange to me, but nothing I’ll ever have to exchange, though I sometimes even might want that. This life is a reminder of one’s inability to reach at God and of one’s own lack of love for God, but a constant reminder of his renewed embracement and love without limit. This is my experience thus far, especially as of the past four years since my baptism in the Easter night, 22-23 March, 2008. In all this, to this mode of life, everything is important, yet only very little. Prayer to me is watching God in the eyes. This is difficult, but I’d say, the only mysticism I’ve come to know, yet it remains hidden to me and I do not understand. We can at the same time understand everything and nothing, because the matter is not first and foremost a thing for the intellect. The intellect bounces at the threshold somehow, it cannot grasp God. At first this experience of the world was a great sadness to me, as I liked manuscripts, old churches and other, I’d say, materialistic stuff, not very mystic, but by which I used to be raised to some sort of emotion. This was at first very sad to me, when I realised that the things I used to like had turned very indifferent to me, but I could at the same time not be any happier. This happiness is not really emotional, as it’s only defined by the relation to an external constant, yet being itself internalized. This is what holiness is to me, and I realize that it is impossible for me, yet not to God, wherein I’ve little by little come to understand what it could be to believe in. It’s the relationship to something, which is someone. It’s the deepening of the relationship to that which at the same time is completely different to man, yet at the same time completely similar. This is the mystery of faith. It’s quite extraordinary, yet very ordinary.

As for black metal, it sure can work as a substitute for all of this, but it only fills the hole of true mysticism (the object of which is God) poorly as it easily discards an honest quest for truth in its extrovercy; it easily sacrifices too much for the show and the display of something else for someone else to watch: this to the extent that you even easily may end up with a church on the cover of one of its finest jewels. It’s perhaps due to such an emotion that so many churches, full moons and forests fill so many a black metal cover. Totally pointless – total funeral! Haha! But folks, it’s romanticism, not religion. Romanticism isn’t very bad, but it must be admitted that it’s art, made by humans for humans, to collectively share in an emotional sensation at its enjoyment. Do you agree with this, you my fellow, yes, you, the black metal teenager in a cult black band t-shirt? ;( 
Haha! :) – Haha! It’s damn serious to put a smiley in an interview!

To the point – let’s give it one more try before I digress once more! – I somewhat agree on that the sense of lacking mysticism in established religion may be one of the causes for people to seek themselves outside of traditional religion, but still, I find it hard to dress in words what really cannot be explained in such terms. Times are different, but man is the same. Romanticism might lead you to the church, as any atmosphere of the building can, but unless you open yourself to the truth about your life, yourself and to God, it’s all a somewhat dead work of art. At the same time, what I’d call Christian mysticism is shared by many, so in a sense it isn’t much of a need to speak of it and explain it (though it has been, several times by others; but ask your grandparents!). Christian mysticism is open to all, but Christ asks for everything. He came not to give a concept “mysticism”, but to re-establish the unity of man and God. Black metal asks for nothing really, but gives inner-worldly hopes at sensation and bliss (sacrifice for the show, as I’ve repeatedly spoken of, a quest of emotional sensation, rather than an honest quest at what could be the truth); black metal might at best present you with an incoherent theological approach, some cosmogeneseis (what’s the English plural?), a faulty worldview, some wordings of what the divine is, etc.; but black metal isn’t holy. Only God is Holy. Holiness is an inherent quality of God, as is truth. Holiness comes from closeness to Christ, not from working of wonders, boasting, screaming and yelling. Yet black metal can be quite excellent, taken for what it is, leaving the morally culpable aside.

About that medieval population, well, what do we know of what he or she amidst the daily life of the medieval people felt? It could just as well be equally hard by then to seek the divine. Sure, modern science has helped clarify what is and what is not to be described by way of superstitious terminology, but hey, superstition is still a part of life, though it obviously shouldn’t be. How superstitious isn’t it to believe in a concert as perhaps the primary means of a supposedly highest divinity to work his art? (or why else call it by pseudo-terms such as “ritual” or something equally demeaning?), and what about the pentagram to portray his supposed power? It has no historical significance. It’s a symbol without concrete significance. The cross is a means to torture, the crucifix a means to kill! As for the pentagram, you could fill it up with anything imagined, it could even be just a mathematical object of calculation. Superstitious it may be, it still fills many a youth with a sensation of power and might. What about this, if even God gave up his power, emptying himself for the sake of man, in order to set an example for man of what a life in his footsteps could imply? Naturally, a concert and a symbol would be quite mundane by means of such a perspective, described rather in psychological terms than by mystical theology.

Superstition, tragically, is everywhere, by no means limited to the black metal scene (I may end bashing it now, it has almost becomes boring!), but seeing that people unite around religious conceptualizations of black metal, which is supposed to be against such gatherings, is it really that weird for some people to gather in friendship to share the life and death of a historically concrete figure, even though it might be hard to really understand how they can believe him to be fully both man and God? It sure is more weird that many of them go home to sit in solitude, contemplating that very same God, whose flesh and blood they bear the rememberance of concretely receiving, not in a symbol, but in a concrete manner, according to his exact words? As I said, this life could seem quite strange, I’m fully aware of that, but it isn’t that strange really. Perspective, folks!

You speak of the church, the hierarchical organisation as well as each individual building, mentioning as perhaps not being necessary for a Christian life. Well, you can worship in solitude for sure, and the Christian tradition has many examples of hermits from all periods of its history so doing, but the church is in no way contrary to the ideas of its founder, whose sending she has to share in his mysteries, bestow the sacraments and gather in the sharing of his life in flesh and blood. If you have received the body and blood of Christ, you are the temple yourself, and wherever two or three are gathered in his name, he is in their midst; sure, but man is man, both flesh and spirit, created to share in each other’s lives. In understanding, this it seems only natural – and highly educational! – that God himself comes to us in this way, seeing that he knows us better than ourselves, being our creator, creating each individual as flesh and spirit. Man isn’t just a spiritual being doing only “spiritual things”. Religion is not an abstract idea, but is lived in flesh and spirit, as a human being. Even the hermits share in the life of the church! We can not deny our humanity and still seek God. We can not deny a human being, and still love God. We are created humans, to live a life as humans. This is our situation, a situation which shouldn’t be fled from, but embraced, in order to meet God. Distancing oneself from oneself, how could I meet someone else, if myself am in myself my sole means by which I myself can meet and encounter something different than myself, and this only through myself? The divine being different, I must reach myself to share in this other. Sobriety is a much needed ingredient in a religious life. I’m glad I’ve never even tried marijuana. I’m highly against drugs.

As for the structural organisation of the first sharers in the life of Christ, themselves having a mission to further this life, their handing down of faith and establishing communities preserving a living witness of the fundamentals of this friendship, of who he is, about their successive incorporation of others into this larger body of Christ, and about any possible external groups claiming to better have carried this mission, I am not here to talk of, as it is written in both primary and secondary sources much better than I could explain it here. It’s only natural, however, that the first partiarchates were given a certain authority, since the apostles themselves had preached their life story there, having themselves met with Jesus in person, who in his person was the source of the cult of christianity. The central position of Rome only came natural with the martyrdom of St. Peter and Paul in that very city. The city as extraordinary centre of the apostolic tradition was very early on reached consensus on, but surely, voices are raised. If not, I fear what would happen to Rome! But really, since the Church was able to preserve an authentic Christian doctrine even til my days and embracement of it, I’m not questioning the tradition thereof.

What future recordings have you made or planned for Malacht or anything else?

Some planned. A lot of recording around, but not sure if much of it will be released. De Mysteriis Dom. Christi exists in about three versions all recorded around 2009. Irma Malacht was recorded the summer of 2011, the first recording of me and Mikael together since Urkaos. This last mentioned record turned out to have some interesting tunes. There might be a tape of it or something in the future, we’ll see. As for the others, nothing planned. We’re spawning on a new album too. It might be recorded and released sometime, but it’s very difficult to say when; time is the question.

Thank you a lot for your time, Charlotte, all the best with your new apartment!

Let me finish off by a quote from the AnXpm tape, written around 2005, from the track “Oblique contrast the monastery old”, pt 1.:

“Thousand, yes, another thousand bonds are again tied, one obvious,
a thousand yet thousand hidden.
Drawing down entering the spectral sphere
and the unconscious hidden.
And don’t we all seek to unite with that devoid of oblique connections?

I am tired, so much more tired now,
having lost near all interest in interests.
Only one goal remain, and this an oblique,
and so hard to grasp.”
 
It somehow explains part of the path walked and the ideas touched upon here.

/Emil, March-May, 2012.

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