by Niklas Göransson
This week’s edition features a transnational sorcerous sedition discussing the necessity of sobriety for the enlightened; the mind being a ceremonial blade in the rites of human existence, and as such requires diligent sharpening lest it become blunt.
The first steps on the path leading to ACHERONTAS began in 1996, under the guise of WORSHIP.
– Even the ageless serpent sheds its skin, says founder Acherontas V. Priest, it was natural to close the circle once a certain era was complete. We regard ACHERONTAS as a direct continuation of WORSHIP, a line of evolution that’s been unfolding for two decades.
The band’s core essence consists of Greek nationals Acherontas V. Priest on guitar and vocals, Saevus H. on guitar, Hierophant on guitar and bass and then keyboardist Scorpios Androctonus (CRIMSON MOON) from America. Having recently parted ways with Italian drummer Gionata Potenti (BLUT AUS NORD), they are currently using a session percussionist while surveying recruits.
– A line-up spread over different countries is indeed an unusual way to operate, but neither our work nor function is usual to begin with. I’m the sole founding member that remains, and the coven will stop breathing once I decide that my work is done.
‘Coven’, is one of many similar terminologies I’ve heard used a fair few times lately.
May I ask what warrants this term as opposed to the slightly more conventional – and my personal favourite, ‘band’?
– The connecting principle that unites us is very different from the usual relationship between band members. Ours is a communion forged by a personal, musical, and spiritual bond – formed through the process of creating our art.
Priest claims that most acts who adopt fanciful titles tend to have poor comprehension of their significance, but adds that no one with the proper understanding would mistake ACHERONTAS for one of them.
– The intelligent individuals out there, the masks do not blind them. Look at the calibre and integrity of the people we collaborate with: Carl and Kyle from NIGHTBRINGER, Nord from MALIGN, TT from ABIGOR, Edgar Kerval, the IRKALLIAN ORACLE, Tiphareth in lyrics, Florian from NEFANDUS, then Indra (NAER MATARON) and others that I can’t recall now. Though some contributions were small, everyone who participated became one with us – they are highly valuable and important parts of the circle.
Present also in the conversation is Saevus H. – he notes that this manifestation of ACHERONTAS hosts the most serious and dedicated members in its history.
– All full of passion and loyalty to our mission, all devoted to the sacred science channelled through artistic creation. It’s not healthy to keep the company of people who cannot offer evolution or, at worst, poison your vision. This outlook is not exclusively applicable to music but life in general; I don’t deal with fake diplomacy or public relations – it is decadence and destroys purity.
While there’ s no mutual framework of spiritual belief behind ACHERONTAS, having one is a requisite for participation.
– We consist of individuals who adhere to different traditions – some conflicting and others compatible, but we come together under the common cause of feeding our inner flame into musical and lyrical fire.
What about this slogan of yours, that ‘Art serves the elite’ business?
– Spiritual aristocracy seen through a Platonic lens, Priest explains, it’s an ideological stance. Our art form is infested by oversimplified societal matters, as used by the modern world to corrode the ideological core of tradition and value. Ours is a superiority of spirit.
Saevus concurs, saying it’s a vital element that separates the herds from the predator in the cycle of life.
– Equality is a delusion for the blind masses. Sooner or later, everyone must embrace their nature – live with it or die by it; one life, one chance. It’s pathetic to see people declaring impressive words of spirituality and self-promotion, yet in the mundane they are poor souls and miserable losers.
Loser by whose definition?
– One’s actions reflect upon one’s life; all get what they deserve when nature itself passes judgement. It’s for those who strive for purity and supremacy – who seek to evolve and better themselves through expression, that we assume this stance in art as well as in life.
An ACHERONTAS statement for 2013 album “Amenti-Ψαλμοί αίματος και αστρικά οράματα” declares that ‘death is the last enemy that must be destroyed’. Disowning bereavement is not what you’d usually expect from a black metal band. Priest:
– It’s the death of spirit we’re referring to, the downfall of every spiritual succession and advancement.
What about ‘the religions of weakness praise death’, mentioned in the same proclamation?
– Death has always commanded both secular and religious reverence from mankind. During the last 2 500 years, it has been both sanctified and demonised but always used for the same purpose; to uphold certain moral laws and enforce them on modern man, dogmas with no connection to ancient times. The ‘death’ that the mentally enslaved adore is just simple destruction, an obstacle to evolution that should be confronted and destroyed.
Saevus says that while he has great veneration for the sentient forces of destruction, it’s not a matter of worship.
– Not in childish regards for the pleasure of random human deduction, but in a manner of total acceptance – as done in ancient Egypt and the secret societies of the Far East.
Priest states that these cultures regarded death as the last obstacle to conquer, the final chapter in a quest to render the soul eternal.
– From the ancient dynasties of Ur; where the draconian current first started pulsating, and the mysteries in royal blood and necromantic secrets of immortality were conceived – there was but one mission: To escape the webs of death, to rise into the heavens and claim godhood.
Raising the self to godhood sounds more reminiscent of something you’d hear out of Anton LaVey, the founder of a brand of Satanism made commercially available by the Church of Satan.
– Some dispute his materialistic views, but I’d say there’s a lot of sarcasm in there that needs to be taken into account – the main point is hidden. It’s a strong basis for the fundamentals of magic, even if I was never a member I spent years studying his philosophies. LaVey decreed that simple criminals with a weakness for hurting animals, raping virgins, killing babies and such circus-activities are not real Satanists.
Despite the theological terminology, the Church of Satan is really more of a secular worldview than a mystical doctrine.
– Yes, it’s a creed to refuse slavery and raise your head. I recognise that much of his writing was influenced by literature that might not offer spiritual enlightenment, but it can definitely awaken a child and help him break his first chains.
This revelation is spoken from experience; Priest says it was this philosophy that laid the groundwork for his own outlook when he was 16 years old.
– The basics are the most important, but giving a kid Kenneth Grant to read is just silly. I’m not part of this snobbish mind-set that has spread over the last ten years, that stands against this teaching and boycotts that system. I’m open to read anything – surely anyone able to see and feel would be fully capable of distinguishing trash from gold.
Once more, quoting the “Amaneta“ album statement:
‘Ego is the personality of the individual. The memory… the most important thing that an individual must keep alive to achieve immortality…’
This sounds as if the ego is valued the highest out of the non-physical presence, which is compatible with LaVey‘s teachings but somewhat different from the usual esoteric narrative.
– There’s a common misconception regarding the essence of the ego, says Priest, to explain we must detach the term from its common definition and grant it additional values, such as the internal memory of the soul.
This, says Saevus, illustrates another contradiction within modern religious and spiritual systems.
– All of them practise dream-workings and meditation to achieve lucidity and awareness, but on the other hand stand against the ego and curse the mundane life.
Without memory, he says, there is neither clarity nor reason.
– It’s as if you strive for evolution and exultation while having amnesia. The ancient Egyptians, for example, or the Vedas – they declared earthly mastery and superiority here in the ‘reality’.
As is usually the case with purveyors of the occult, there’s a lot of banging on about secret arts and prohibited wisdom from this lot; so I’m curious as to why the plebs are deemed unfit for spellbook access. Saevus simply responds that it’s for good reason as forbidden knowledge should remain safeguarded.
– Wise priesthoods across the world filled this role perfectly throughout history. Few were privy to the Sophia of inner traditions and mysteries. It’s tragic to see great contradictions of these new-age occultists, who speak words of sacrilege to provoke those of common sense and to be seen as evil in the eyes of children.
His primary objections to the arcane community of today lie in what he sees as a lack of historical education.
– Most spirits out there who thirst, they seek knowledge not from the source but in new grimoires. A few are of course gems, but these days an esoteric book is judged by the splendour of its deluxe edition or how beautiful a sigil is; not by conceptual essence.
Priest adds that ‘to discriminate with care the delusions’ – meaning, being able to determine arcane authenticity is the most difficult part of the journey.
– People are close-sighted and spend their time looking for what is the most Left Hand Path to follow. After initiation, the wanderer will start to realise that there’s no left or right hand paths; only the one that leads into twilight.
While theory and study are the essential foundations for action, Priest observes that many would-be initiates appear to invest a disproportional amount of their time into reading about and discussing the arts as opposed to performing them.
– I call these people ‘PDF magicians’. Training without proper theory is of course blindness but spirituality without practice is an empty womb. ‘Finis coronat opus’ – the end crowns the work, as the alchemists used to say.
These nuisances which allegedly plague the esoteric don’t sound much different from what’s going on in society at large.
– It’s the same arrogance, Saevus says, ignorance and neglect – the illiteracy of the modern way of life. Modern culture needs shortcuts to quick results, cheap impressionist methods to achieve fast recognition, using and abusing whatever concept comes to hand.
In his opinion, most occult circles have been corrupted by the very adversary they claim to oppose; the all-encompassing commercialisation.
– One needs only to look wise and sound well-versed, a hollow method of ignorance to persuade imbeciles. The last five years we’ve seen an endless stream of new temples, orders and illuminated people who suddenly received gnosis that qualified them to offer advice and tutelage, and write books.
No one wants a mentor to study under, he claims, everyone instead seeks to become a guru themselves. The weak who hunger for prominence use it as a way to find meaning in their lives.
– These people, Priest continues, reap the same results as those who find escape in drugs; I’m not talking strictly about the chemical ones either, everyone knows that society offers countless avenues for self-enslavement. This is why awareness and lucidity must first be achieved on the material plane, only then can you start the highway to the next levels.
He refers to a Kabbalist saying: Kether is in Malkuth, and Malkuth is in Kether.
– As above, Saevus continues, so below. I’ve met many people speaking big words about their path, how they strive to rise above human mortality and yet they remain slaves to their material prison.
All this achieves, he explains, is unlocking new content within the matrix by offering solace through artificial stimulus.
– Where is their Luciferian spirit, asks Priest, where is the adversary? I’m not against the pleasures – of course not. I don’t see my flesh as a prison but as a garden of gods, a temple. The spirit must stand above matter; all is a conquest of will, life is a battlefield.
This temple of the soul, do you exercise it?
– Of course – a strong mind in an able body, as it’s been dictated. Exercise is an important factor in our lives – maintaining balance is imperative as it dissolves the obstacles presented by harmful and crumbling conditions. I hope that I need not even point out that this entails abstainment from alcohol and drug-abuse.
In a previous conversation, Priest mentioned that he’s been sober for the past decade.
– As a teenager I tried it out but was never addicted or had my life revolving around them. It’s not a denouncement just for the sake of denial or an effort to play straight edge, but a conscious decision to rid the soul and vessel of any impediment.
He says there’s equity in all this that’s very important for us as individuals.
– I strive to break shackles and destroy the aberrations of mortality’s matrix, so I pursue lucidity and awareness and thus don’t see any benefit in opening new windows of delusion. The individual’s power lies in his will; what better way to raise your spirit and unlock the subconscious than by parting the veil without external aid?
Do you think drugs of any kind – be it natural plants or synthesised chemical compounds, have any place in the esoteric?
– Not for me to say, but what there is definitely no place for is pathetic occult excuses to abuse drugs and be stoned all the time. This kind of behaviour and way of life is pitiful and has nothing to do with esoteric practices of entheogens.
‘An entheogen (“generating the divine within”) is a chemical substance used in a religious, shamanic, or spiritual context that may be synthesized or obtained from natural species. The chemical induces altered states of consciousness.’ (Wikipedia)
– There are of course many theories about the serious use of such compounds. I tend to think that someone who’s reached the magical level required to make good use of them in his practice probably has little use for them to begin with. Even old mystics that used to be on this path, once they reached deeper in their journey they admitted that there is no need for them.
The mind, Priest continues, is your greatest tool – the ceremonial blade in the rite of human existence. As such, it requires diligent sharpening lest it become blunt.
– Drugs and alcohol are means for people to flee the reality they reside in. I need no escape – the challenge is to conquer life, not to distract yourself from it. I do however know that some serious mystics use certain plants for personal reasons, believing them to open portals.
I sense that he doesn’t entirely agree.
– Look, it’s their choice – I’m okay with it. What others might think or do is of no concern of mine. Random people who use them to party; again their choice but not my cup of tea. I see the expression of art as sacred and not a way to entertainment. I will use the words from a guru: Meditation is my ecstasy.
So you’re one of these ‘I don’t need drugs to get high’ people?
– Oh yes, he declares, I’m always drunk from it the whole day; attain a little awareness and clarity while conscious and you’ll see everything with different eyes. And most importantly, you made it there on your own accord and not by illusions. It all depends from what angle you see life, cosmos, and your dreams – everything is a matter of perspective.
There are tried and tested exterior tools of exploring consciousness without psychoactive compounds, such as sensory deprivation – floatation tanks and the like.
– It’s a really interesting method, a unique form of meditation that enables transgressive experiences and the passage beyond the body.
Then there’s binaural beats.
– We’ve implemented them in SHIBALBA and also used this technology in the ceremonies of our lodge. For personal use we highly recommend it – and believe me, it’s far more powerful than any drug.
By the end of August, ACHERONTAS will embark on the first tour of their lifespan. Having some first-hand empirical insight into life on the road, I’m curious how that will go in complete sobriety.
– It was a decision made after long thought, Priest says, we denied the idea of a long tour many times in the past. If there’s a dedication and will, and cooperation with the proper individuals, anything can be done – even a sober tour over a few weeks.
Saevus says there are no need for spirits, as their performance is intoxication enough.
– Our concerts are a unique form of inner awakening; a ceremonial adoration of the forces that govern our work. It’s a form of sacramental meditation that offers personal transformation – remember that not all rituals are held in chambers or expressed in the same form.
In order for these ritualistic escapades to reach full potential, Priest says the participation of the audience is critical.
– If someone chooses to keep his eyes and ears closed, metaphorically speaking, it’s his own pity. In the metal scene, I can admit that it’s difficult to find individuals who embrace this tool. With SHIBALBA ceremonies it’s easier for us and the followers of our art to dwell in the dream realm.
If this really is a ritual of sorts, I imagine that attending it dosed with alcohol would be the last thing one would want to do – given its numbing bliss and smothering of the senses. Booze does leave the reptilian brain susceptible to suggestion though, so perhaps that’s one advantage.
– There are many methods to stimulate the reptile brain and rouse the spiritual senses; Jack Daniel’s is not the only way. Of course, there’s nothing wrong or absolutely right speaking about such matters. There’s a strict personal line that each mystic must draw themselves.
Reading ACHERONTAS interviews in preparation for this interview, I noticed repeated references to the sad state of not only the occult but also black metal. I’m honestly curious if there ever was a time where the consensus was a positive one. As far back as I can remember, people have always lamented the present-day extreme metal scene.
– There was an era in the early nineties where the genre had not been submerged into this present state of corruption. There was still an aura around it – a purity that’s missing now. One step at a time, black metal lost its fangs to become a modern and acceptable form of expression.
But read Euronymous interviews from as early as 1991 – same thing there, he states that Dead killed himself because ‘the scene’ was turning to shit as a result of massive poser influx.
– Euronymous foresaw the future, unfortunately. Look around you – most that go to festivals do so for the public interaction; to take pictures with their mobile phones like a social pop event and not participate in the live shows.
He has some choice words for many of the attendees of festivals they’ve played at.
– Sixty percent of them stay outside the venue talking, eating and drinking while bands perform in empty clubs; amazing acts with true individuals performing in front of 30 people.
Nowadays, he claims, we witness the genre falling apart into musical charts and commercialised labels, becoming cheesier and less potent.
– All this modernity and degradation makes the old complaints seem unimportant, when we face the sad state of complete corruption.
So the problems of the past are nullified by the present?
– No one could ever have imagined these turn of events; where hipster modernity governs black metal expression. Who would have thought to see the day when 99 percent of all releases are devoid of feeling and full of repetition, chasing easy recognition and acceptance?
Still, it seems to me that many tend to look back upon whenever it was when they were teenagers as the golden years – when they first discovered black metal and explored the culture related to it, fuelled by youthful enthusiasm.
– It’s certainly a huge factor. It’s a common view regarding the evolution of the art; that the early years pushed the black metal scene to great levels, where boundaries were broken and there was pure spirit and extreme expression. Many milestone releases came into the light during that period, defining the sound and aesthetics.
Darkness and malevolence are topics that enjoy widespread popularity in black metal, so I’m curious how they define evil.
– This is a concept that’s given birth to both childish views and serious endeavours, says Saevus, it’s an antinomian way of life far from the safety of modern society, with their sickening moral boundaries. Not for the childish sake of hollow aggression – to be alive and explore further the darkest depths of the soul.
Another classic hallmark of the genre is the uncompromising anti-Christian stance. Unsurprisingly, Priest believes that most self-proclaimed evil people are ignorant of even the most basic fundamentals of the doctrine.
– The dark side of Christianity has deep things to discover; I spent three years reading only about the Knights Templar, the Holy Grail and divine bloodlines. I dwelled far into their world. Along with hidden secrets of the faith, I also brought back the confirmation that I’m not a Christian – but at least I know why. A religion or philosophy based in empiricism and validation does not need soldiers, dogma or fanaticism. These poison the liberation of spirit; awareness and lucidity is the key to enlightenment.
Despite all this emphasis on the spiritual, they profess a strong affinity to the genre’s metal roots.
– It would be a lie to deny this, Priest continues, metal music often becomes the spark that ignites a deeper search. Sometimes the ignition comes out of the unique form of aggressive perception it offers.
He says there’s a certain beauty in taking the first steps into the profoundly spiritual, guided by the lyrics or artwork of a music album. However, he observes that this is a path not precisely crowded with headbangers.
– We despise the brainless common beer-drinking metalheads that always were a big part of the scene. To be honest, the last 15 years I’ve been very selective about metal in general – what to buy or support, and I’m more interested in other genres in which I’ve found gateways to inspiration. Ritual music, dark ambient, martial and neoclassical industrial – that’s why I created my label Zazen Sounds; to support this art and unite philosophy with music.
What’s next, besides the tour?
– With SHIBALBA, we just released a split EP with PHURPA. The completion of twenty years with ACHERONTAS approaches, which will be properly celebrated with a release soon to be announced. Until then, our last release was our union with NÅSTROND; a portal of dreaming and a unique vibration born from the mysteries of ancient Hellas.