by Niklas Göransson
Gazing stoically upon the falling scythe, and as its shadow grows, Bölzer call upon the heroic. With instrumentation guided by divine enticement; hear songs of harvest in times of burning fields, a soil cultivated by fires of rekindling.
Note that a significantly extended version of this article is included in Bardo Methodology #1. October 29, approximately 03:30am; Okoi ‘KzR’ Jones tracks me down at the Black Harvest after-party. A few hours prior BÖLZER made their second appearance on Swedish soil – sharing stage with the likes of NIFELHEIM, DESTRÖYER 666, UNPURE, ANGELCORPSE, IRKALLIAN ORACLE, VOMITOR, SATURNALIA TEMPLE and ROOT. He announces that the interview we had originally scheduled for the following day must instead take place at once. Having been stricken by a sudden wave of cerebral inspiration, the guitar player and vocalist demands to embark upon our conversational foray without further delay.
– BÖLZER is a completely intuitive and passion-based art project, Okoi explains excitedly, it’s my emotions which have been constructed and formed into songs – a raw and primal release of expression. That’s what I feel when I perform, this atavism. I’m inspired by humanity’s simple heartbeat, the pulse of nature.
Despite being courted by significantly bigger labels, they opted to assign their debut album to German underground stalwarts Iron Bonehead Productions, in what is likely to be IBP’s biggest release to date.
– It comes down to some very basic principles; loyalty and self-respect. I’ve heard and seen enough from the victims of these often fatal courtings to know my vision is best suited elsewhere – with the participation of individuals that I trust and respect.
He mentions Iron Bonehead manager Patrick Kremer and Darragh O’Laoghaire from Invictus Productions, who released their “Soma” EP, as such men.
– They have shown us devotion and support, and so we return the favour as comrades do. In doing so, we not only carry a wholesome conscience but also benefit from a transparent and generous business relationship.
Their previous two EP’s, “Aura” from 2013 and “Soma” from 2014, created quite a buzz in the underground. Out of virtually nowhere came this Swiss duo capable of raising an immense wall of sound with nothing but an odd and slightly tribal percussion style, and a 10-stringed electrical guitar.
– “Soma” was dedicated to female energies, Okoi continues, and deals with matters of the flesh. “Aura” on the other hand, was predominantly masculine and revolves around the metaphysical.
This makes me curious if the album caters to any other gender pronouns, we use quite a few of them here in Sweden.
– I’ve heard! No, “Hero” is a thematic amalgamation of the two EP’s – note the duality within this union. It constitutes a triad, a tale in three chapters where the new-born spirit of ages past acts as protagonist.
Is it all fiction or is there some connection to the mundane?
– There are many underlying social themes, fully integrated as to not be obvious but they’re there for me personally. I believe the present age is in dire need of the hero figure – the inspiration; the igniter of emotions, of will and motivation and passion.
Tapping into what our forefathers drew encouragement from is something Okoi claims would be to the greatest benefit to us.
– It might sound trivial to a lot of people, nothing more than a simple myth or fantasy even. And if that’s all it is, there’s nothing wrong with that. Fantasy exists because the human psyche wishes something better for itself – and that constant pursuit of betterment is crucial.
Okoi explains that the album is engineered after complex numerology.
– “Hero” has nine tracks, modelled after the nine-folded existential domain in Norse mythology. It revolves around a heroic cycle, and my idea was to bind this together in a conceptual valknut.
The valknut is an old Germanic symbol of disputed significance. It consists of three interlocked triangles and has been found at sites in Sweden, England, and Norway.
– For me they are fascinating and totally abstract. Despite countless hours of contemplation and conceptualisation, based on the simplest meaning, I remain entranced by their symbology. Highly inspiring forces for me, and directly influential to what I do with music.
“Hero” is a saga of six acts, full songs paired in threes with an intermission between. There are nine tracks on the album with the first, fifth and ninth being short intro or outro-type compositions called “Urdr”, “Decima” and “Atropos”. They represent beings from Norse mythology called Norns, the old Scandinavian equivalent of what are generally called Fates – female entities who spin the webs of human fate. Each Norn is represented by a triangle in the thematic valknut.
– The three Fates predict what’s happening to the hero throughout his life-span, from birth to death. Or rebirth to death rather, now that I’m working with Nietzschean principles again.
I find that most metalheads who prattle on about Friedrich Nietzsche in reality tend to have studied more ORDER FROM CHAOS lyrics, than they have writings of the actual author.
You’ve actually read his work?
– Oh yes, Nietzsche was a massive life-changer for me when I was 17. In German, he’s a fucking maelstrom of language and philosophy. The first I read of him was Thus Spoke Zarathustra, then I progressed to his other books.
Okoi describes the German philosopher’s ideas as essential to the worldview and perspective he would go on to form in adulthood.
– His influence is undeniable and permeates whatever I do. I imagine it’s something you can relate to as well, this idea of the eternal recurrence.
Also known as the ‘eternal return’, it’s the quintessential idea behind Eastern teachings such as Hinduism and Buddhism. The outlook can be traced back to both Indo-European and ancient Egyptian traditions, but fell out of fashion in the West with the rise of Abrahamic doctrine. The philosophy teaches that everything in creation is cyclical. Everything that exists; the energy that flows through it and the very universe that binds them together – it’s an echo of itself in perpetual repetition. ‘Everything becomes and recurs eternally – escape is impossible’, as Nietzsche himself remarked.
– Utterly fascinating. If you occupy yourself with notions of willpower, strife and spiritual elevation; it’s something you can’t really pass by.
I harbour a sneaking suspicion that when Okoi speaks about things like ‘spiritual elevation’, which as I’ve recently come to learn is with some regularity, perhaps not every metalhead grasps what that entails.
– It’s my personal description of euphoria; a vibrant stimulation of inner self as projected by a pleasing rippling through the flesh. It’s what I feel when I play on stage and what I strive to achieve whenever I write or express something.
When an exchange of said energy is ignited in a public setting, such as a skilled orator addressing a crowd, there is a cyclical transaction of power between audience and performer.
– That’s when the magic happens, when this atavistic force is generated. It turns and it moves and it feeds upon itself; permeating both air and attendance. It also influences those that are instigating it – for me, this is spiritual elevation. Maybe elevation was not the right expression – it’s too much of a one-dimensional expression for such a most profound sensation.
On May 19, Okoi announced through the BÖLZER Facebook page that the recording of “Hero” had been completed.
This was an intensive, life-changing experience with heartfelt thanks going out to our dear friends/audio wonderboyz Michael Zech & Victor Santura for their patience, inspiration and hospitality. Tight, tight, tight!!!
ACHTUNG sensitive scene-police, this one will get your sirens wailing…
Besides cursing the implementation of multiple exclamation marks, I remember thinking that it sounded a bit as if he was fishing for a response – trying to sound edgy and a little too-cool-for-school.
– I think I was, exclaims Okoi.
But I sort of take that back now after having seen the online reaction to the September 12 “I AM III” song preview. I honestly didn’t think people cared that much these days.
– I’m going to be brutally honest with you; the recording had just been completed and I was very happy for it. We had a few drinks and my head was in a really good place – every so often I get carried away and abandon rationality; hence this ridiculous compulsion to write something, to let people know.
Perhaps not entirely unwarranted. Once BÖLZER began garnering attention, people who once praised them began decrying them as fakes and undeserving of fame. Even seasoned underground musicians were heard grumbling about how they had worked so hard to make a name for themselves, and suddenly this hype machine with one EP and a demo were everywhere. How dare they get so successful.
– I’m well aware of what was going on surrounding our release with “Soma”, how people reacted to that as well as some of our live gigs. We began polarising parts of the scene, and that in my eyes is a great thing.
When “I AM III” was streamed online, a well-frequented metal blog seemingly went out of their way to ridicule BÖLZER – proclaiming them ‘hipster metal’, and implied that this was nothing for the ‘diehard metalhead’.
I trust you noticed this?
– Yes! Yes, I most certainly did. I had heard what kind of individuals they are so I wasn’t surprised to read it. I was quite disgusted, but I was kind of expecting that to happen because I’m good friends with KK.
BÖLZER were one of very few bands who took a public stance in this summer’s post-Metal Magic spectacle. It saw DESTRÖYER 666 frontman KK Warslut pitted against the site in question, the combatants exchanging unpleasantries through statements and articles.
– KK is like a brother to me, I understand his personality and how he thinks. The basic rule here is, don’t take things at face-value – there’s a lot of undermined intelligence within the scene and these simple troglodytes feed off it.
Seeking to create scandal where there is none, Okoi says, with no more fervour for metal besides the financial. Their passion for the music lies in clicks from its audience, and since controversy garners attention they’ll think nothing of ruining an underground musician for some lucrative traffic. A scene making claims of being feral and wild should not let itself be policed by merchants of outrage.
– I’m vehemently opposed to that and so I stand against anyone who is a pseudo-activist or moralist ethical bullshitter, that’s rubbish. It has nothing to do with creativity in art, which should be free and unbound from those principles. I guess that’s why I reacted that way.
I think it’s fair to say that Okoi is not known for his burning love for the metal media in general.
– I choose not to generalise here but I have catered to the journalistic whims of a few cretins, yes. I therefore consider it my duty to gracefully decline intellectually challenged candidates with the hope they might review their game-plan a little. The way I see it, I’m doing the entire scene a service.
Then there was the part about the recording process being a ‘life-changing experience’.
– This was also uttered in the throes of euphoric elation; it was life-changing because I had transcended many of my fears. For me that’s pertinent to the usage of clean singing and this very melodic concept, which was something I had dreaded to do for a long time.
But you had wanted to do it?
– Yes! I sought to do it – I was longing to do it, but for one felt neither comfortable nor skilled enough, and secondly didn’t feel there was any place for it in the old material. There was no intuitive drive to implement them so it never happened.
On “Hero” however, the clean vocals are integral to the entire concept.
– Read the lyrics and focus on the clean portions. Musically, they’re all over the place – choruses, pre-verses or bridges. Lyrically however, it’s always at a moment of clarity or transformation. A metamorphosis. Introspection and self-overcoming based on the character, on the hero.
Okoi claims that this occurred organically; it wasn’t thought of, theorised or planned beforehand. It was something that just happened, which he only realised in retrospect.
– That’s what happens with this band – I’m driven to do something and I think it’s very important people understand that. If they can grasp the concept, and they are creative themselves, they’ll know what that force means and how it feels.
Most people have lost touch with that source, he says, and as a result severed their link to the purpose of human existence – to push themselves intellectually and creatively, and to explore the unknown.
– That’s all we have, it’s the only thing that separates us from the remaining creatures who inhabit the biosphere. While belonging to a complex and important eco system, they do not have this gift that we have – and if it’s not being utilised, then we serve no purpose.
This gift you’re on about, is this something like the Muse?
– Indeed, the unspoken truth or voice of inspiration that just hits you. All you do is abide by it and take it on board, give it fruition and existence and placement.
Okoi is referring to what in modern terminology is called ‘flow states’ – they are associated with both athletic endeavours and artistic output. Those who have experienced this phenomenon, in which the craft ostensibly streams autonomously from one’s body, will usually end up pondering its origin.
– This explosion, the divine inspiration – a seed that has been planted within your … I mean, it’s obviously from the metaphysical; you feel it. The brain initiates it but it’s influenced by something which has no tangible placement, it’s just there.
It’s a beauty we have in life, one Okoi considers a treasured aliment of his existence.
– It also requires remaining humble and analytical, being able to master argument and discussion and debate with modesty and wisdom. For me, knowledge does not exist without humility.
‘He that humbleth himself wishes to be exalted’, as Nietzsche put it.
– The quest for ascension need not be elitist, I find that humility should not to be automatically equated with weakness. Weakness is anything which you allow yourself to be consumed by, that destroys you. Once again, equilibrium is the deciding factor here.
I read an intriguing theory in an article that received a bit of traction a while back, produced by a blog that promotes ‘extreme metal and intersectional feminism’. It raises the possibility that Okoi in fact only pretends to be a free-spirited individualist, in order to divert attention from his clandestine fascist leanings. The time has come to confront him.
– Consider what an unwavering and totally shrewd conviction would be required to maintain such an exhaustive charade! Not to mention to what end – what could possibly be gained from such existential schizophrenia?
Might this Bohemian daydreamer persona be naught but a façade, I wonder, as he covertly dreams of marching in uniform.
– I envy the notion but I am unfortunately cast of simpler tissue – I savour the liberties exempt of the fascist system, such as freedom of expression.
Okoi is himself of diverse ethnic descent. Since he’s been subjected to accusations of ‘racism’, based solely on imbecile interpretations of his tattoos, I’m curious to know if he sees himself in a racial context.
– Absolutely fucking hell I’m proud of where I come from. My father is half-Nigerian, he grew up in England so he’s also very British – he’s not practicing any elements of African culture. He’s an ingenious musician who plays soulful music, which is his means of expressing his cultural spirit.
His mother comes from a traditional Swiss background, but grew to be as rebellious as his father.
– Both of them boast a very alternative mind-set and interest in music and art. My parents raised my sisters and myself within a multi-culturally conscious framework, one also bereft of prejudice on any level.
While he doesn’t regard himself quite as liberal as them, his upbringing still has a place within his ethical conduct.
– I prefer to remain free. I have no need of distractions from silly notions of either supremacy or inferiority. It has obviously influenced me, being of mixed background – it’s always been with me and something I’ve constantly been made aware of. I got hassled in school of course; surrounded by very simple, monocultural white kids in New Zealand.
Besides the island nation’s white population, called Pakeha, there are other large ethnic groups such as Maori, Pacific Islanders and Samoans. Okoi says that being from neither of them leaves one feeling like an outsider among the colonisers.
– I was born in Switzerland – my mum is Swiss and I grew up speaking English and German. I feel European, Europe is my mother root. I have very strong ties to New Zealand but it’s just a country for me – a place and an epoch of my life.
In a recent conversation with Karl NE of NÅSTROND, we discussed man’s bond with nature and in particular, the landscape that physically and spiritually moulded its occupants. For instance – the Inuit people from their Arctic climate, Amazonian tribes by the jungle. They would be unlikely to immediately connect with the great wild if they switched places geographically.
– I would wholeheartedly agree. It is only a logical development that organisms would adapt to their environments, physically and emotionally. To uproot an individual from his or her habitat may have adverse effects upon the subject’s general constitution, naturally.
Okoi adds that contemporary society has found a parasitical place within him, making certain connections with nature and reality all the more difficult.
– I often see modern life as a distorted and perverse array of stage props, with actors playing out monotonous roles for those who are fortunate enough to see the world differently. I will continue to feel grounded in many different geographical locations, I believe travel and movement are as crucial as stagnancy is deadly.
Is your worldview beyond good and evil?
– I would say so, those concepts only came along with organised religion. Balance, equilibrium and chaos – the never-ending cycle in the eternal conflict of energies; here is where my entire foundation rests. I abide by the laws of nature, and for me chaos is the crowning king of natural rule.
The proverbial edicts of Gaia, evoked by many to prove widely different points. Some who share Okoi’s enthusiasm for swirling symbology claim that to mix the races is to defy the eternal decrees of Mother Nature. That she through anatomical evolution gave us the visual means of identifying our own kind.
– I’m afraid I cannot share their enthusiasm for eugenics as I harbour no ideologies based on the superiority of anyone. That said, I think it would be a great disservice to cultural and ethnical diversity if every folk would indiscriminately breed with one another the world over.
He says that this is only one component in an ongoing process of homogenisation and manipulation, to deface the identity of as much of this globe’s populace as possible.
– Beginning with dissolving borders and tribal identity. Now I am most certainly no racist, being of mixed stock myself, but in the name of cultural preservation and the importance of biological diversity, I believe countries and their inhabitants have a right to remain where they are. They should be left to practice what they have always done best; being themselves. The modern times are indeed daunting.
Okoi believes that developments are spiralling out of human control, as civilisation has delved too deep into avarice and tilted entirely out of balance.
– Alas, at this moment in time I’m all for some detriment being introduced to humanity. I feel it’s important that we learn from our mistakes, so for me the decisive learning curves are often based around a lot of tragedy and death and suffering.
Cataclysm has heralded every single significant change in history, he points out, and it’s important that this chain remains unbroken.
– The humanoid creature learns through conditioning. It would be foolish to place ourselves on a pedestal of demigod stature; we are simple organisms who make mistakes. We are parasitic, we are self-destructive and such things put us in our place.
The trodden worm curls up. This testifies to its caution. It thus reduces its chances of being trodden upon again. In the language of morality: Humility.
A primordial power of refinement through rupture, he says, is what sets the beat for the universe’s rhythm; the pulse of all life.
– The contra-force that generates energy by making disorder fight against balance is why we exist, the only reason there are any life-forms to begin with. It’s the everlasting conflict that maintains life – the eternal struggle that never ends, no one wins. Eternal recurrence; that in itself is chaos, and that’s why there is chaos philosophy.