Dark Buddha Rising
by Niklas Göransson
Finland’s Dark Buddha Rising is an oppressive wall of sound, modelled after geometry and tuned to the universe. A self-sacrifice composed by intuition, made to resonate with emptiness and the mycelium messiah.
– Artistic integrity serves as prime motivation, says guitarist Vesa Ajomo. Our work is carried out from a necessity of existence – I dare say we never chose any of this, it more or less adopted us. The art has no greater value than what we’re experiencing together when composing and performing it.
Describing DARK BUDDHA RISING from a purely musical perspective is no easy task. Metal-Archives’ categorisation lends some support to this claim, listing them as ‘Psychedelic Drone/Sludge/Doom Metal’. Vesa says they aren’t overly concerned by genre definitions, but rather make do with whatever material emerges naturally.
– Our music isn’t composed in a traditional sense – the process is largely improvisation-based, we simply allow things to happen once we start jamming. Most never makes it to the actual songs, but something usually does or at least in some variation.
Vesa adds that once a suitable riff has surfaced, they’ll experiment with and try to make it interesting to play.
– We strive to be collectively inspiring, hoping to bring out the best in each other. Our vision for music is powerful, intense and crooked with long structures. Besides the heavy riffing, the lighter transitions are important to lend more impact to the song’s heavier parts.
It should be fairly uncontentious, calling DARK BUDDHA RISING rather challenging listening. I struggle to envision anyone coming across say, the song “K” from “Dakhmandal” (2014), and finding it immediately enjoyable. It takes some work to navigate through the oppression.
– That’s a totally fair observation. For the most part we’re not intentionally trying to make unlistenable music. We want it to be interesting for us to play, which is our primary intention for doing this in the first place. I have no interest in making music everyone can relate to or reap pleasant sensations from. This isn’t as an elitist stance at all but I know what we sound like, it’s not meant for everyone.
‘Psychedelic’ is a term often used bandied about in connection with DBR, so I’d like to know what this term signifies to Vesa.
– I believe psychedelic content can be a variety of things – from synths, guitars or sound effects to weird scales in melody or lyrics. It might be something like a shamanic drum beat, or the overall approach to music. Really, anything can make music psychedelic in that sense.
Browsing the lyrics from DARK BUDDHA RISING’s 2008 second album “Ritual IX” , “Enneanacatl” caught my eye. Judging from the ’flesh of the gods’ phrase, I’m assuming the title to be a deviation of teonanácatl – the Aztec term for divine fungus. Given their use of such an adulating term, I’m curious if Vesa has ever experienced the commonly reported sense of communication with the mycelium messiah.
– I haven’t personally been in direct correspondence with the mushroom, no. Who is on the other side of that line? That’s the big question. An echo of our consciousness, perhaps, or some manner of lizard brain hologram? Maybe our brain waves connect with the universes’ eternal energy current and vibrations manifest as talkative sentience? I suppose we’ll find out who’s on the other end once the scythe comes reaping.
The many references to altered states of consciousness are frequently intermingled with various occult expressions, so I wonder if this is something Vesa ever practices in combination. I once met a man who used to have a great interest in both high-dosage LSD use and ceremonial magic. He thought it would be a clever idea to combine the two activities, and his description of what happened next is probably the most ghastly psychedelic horror story, or ’bad trip’, I’ve ever heard. And that’s against some pretty stiff competition. At the time of our conversation, about twenty years had passed and he still hadn’t touched anything mind-altering since – such was his terror.
– I can only imagine the dread of such activities. While our lyrics and cover art have a lot of occult content, I must say that I don’t follow any path set by others. I don’t mean to place mine above anyone else’s or proclaim this to be the way, there’s simply no certain practice to combine with hallucinogens. But to explore these kind of ideas during altered states has great potential to solve the puzzle and gain inspiration to everything.
Do you have any such horror stories of your own?
– For me, there’s always something lurking in the corner of my mind during a trip. I can feel its presence at all times. To face it is always an unpleasant thought at first, but one must embrace it. Denial and evasion lead to a dangerous vortex of the mind. Challenging yourself and leaving your comfort zone are the most rewarding in the end. And I speak not only about entheogens, but life in general.
Not having had the chance to catch them live as of yet, I’m curious what DARK BUDDHA RISING in concert is like.
– Hard for me to say, seeing as I for obvious reasons haven’t seen one myself. Our gigs are moments to be absorbed in the music with my fellow band members, and deliver it in the most profound way we can. It’s up to the audience to open up and immerse themselves, to become part of it. All of them don’t, of course, but some do. Those who do tell us many stories of their experiences, and they differ every time.
– Some reported intense inner journeys through their fears, others saw sound waves crushing them and were then reborn, and some had visions of us creating a huge sphere of energy in the middle of the stage. On the other hand, some said it was boring as shit – too loud and impossible to hear a fucking thing of what’s going on. Then there are people who experience it in the usual ’good show’ fashion -but if we can bring at least one spectator into an intense trip, the concert has served its purpose.
If one wants to improve one’s chances of amplified astral aeronautics, catching DARK BUDDHA RISING on their home turf would be a good idea.
– I’ve built an oversized six-by-twelve inch guitar cabinet with our drummer Jukka Rämänen. It weighs a lot but sounds and looks great. I play through it whenever possible, so usually in Finland.
Do you use a lot of custom-made equipment?
– I have a few pedals our synth player Jussi Saarivuori made. I’ve also built a few myself, and I’m currently working on a true bypass looper along with distortion pedals. Next I plan to learn the etching process of pedal enclosures. There’s always some project going on in our rehearsal studio, we like doing these things ourselves.
Something else they’ve crafted themselves is the DARK BUDDHA RISING emblem, which is an adaptation of what’s known as Gurdjieff’s enneagram – an integral aspect of an esoteric system called The Fourth Way. It’s a rather complex symbol – basically a circle divided into nine parts with connecting lines between them, structured in a way which corresponds to the law of musical octaves.
– I came across Gurdjieff when I was researching the geometrical attributes of triangles. I’ve been obsessed by triangles for a long time and as soon as I saw Gurdjieff’s enneagram, it just clicked. Of course, I also read up on the basics of his teachings which are quite interesting to say the least.
The tradition is a type of self-improvement system, compiled by a Greek-Armenian gentleman named George Gurdjieff, who around the turn of the 20th century spent several decades travelling through the East and studying various wisdom teachings. The Fourth Way purportedly offers a path to higher levels of consciousness, instructing adepts how to free themselves from human incarceration – the ’waking sleep’. Followers are encouraged to veer clear of daydreaming and mind-wandering and instead seek to enhance attentiveness, energy and focus. Like many other belief systems, the end goal is to reach the proverbial full human potential.
– I think the overall philosophy of the Fourth Way has a lot in common with the ideas I integrate in the DBR concept. Perhaps it’s a misappropriation of the enneagram but I used it as the basis of our emblem – I wanted to create something like a visual anchorage for our sonic meditation.
Are you interested in geometry?
– Yes, all our artwork is based on the geometrical interpretations of our music and lyrics – they all resonate with one another. It’s important to us that geometric art can be used as the focus point of an album, or like a doorway inside its concept.
Seeing as he’s a practitioner of both the sorcerous and sonic arts, I’m curious how Vesa regards the combination of magic in music.
– I’ve thought a lot about this. I believe that if one charges the music and art with magical content, it might work but only if the listener is open for it to begin with.
He suggests how different audio frequencies could perhaps make interesting things happen.
– I’d like to take a scientific approach to sonic qualities for altering reality, but then it’s not really ’music’ as such any more. We use the same numerology in our rhythmic patterns and cycles as in the geometrical designs. When recording “Inversum” we used the 432 Hz tuning
Also known as ’the universal frequency’, this pertains to a subject discussed at length in my conversation with NIGHTBRINGER; In short; Pythagoras of Samos was the 6th century BC Greek philosopher and mathematician who discovered the diatonic scale – a rule-set for music notes on which basically all European composition from medieval times until the 20th century is based on. The school of thought he spawned is called Pythagoreanism, and this is where the mentioned tuning business comes from.
A recent DBR statement encouraged listeners to ’remember the Prophecy IX’. Having no such recollection myself, I tried investigating the matter online but to little avail.
– The Prophecy IX is a vision of DARK BUDDHA RISING our former vocalist J. Niemi had in the beginning of our journey.
I’m equally curious about their catchphrase, ‘Nog Uash’Tem Sol’Yata!’ It sounds more Lovecraftian than anything else and I could find nothing via search engines.
– This ’slogan’ came forth as we were recording vocals for “Entheomorphosis” (2009) and was completed in the “Abyssolute Transfinite” (2011) sessions. It is a puzzle, which I can’t reveal any further.
I noticed band merch featuring the Indian goddess Kali. As always when I see metal acts using her image, I’m curious which of her aspects are being referred to. Is it the classic Vedic depiction of Kali as the demon slayer, or the tantric Mother Kali – First of the Mahavidya and incarnation of Shakti.
– The Mother Kali, for sure. There are so many aspects in the Mahakala concept which appeals to the DARK BUDDHA RISING content.
Finally, I’m somewhat perplexed about the band name. I read how it’s based on the concept of a dark Buddha – a term I was previously unfamiliar with. It sounds curious, especially since Buddhism doesn’t really contain much in terms of moral dualism.
– The core of the dark Buddha concept lies in approaching states of enlightenment through a different perspective – from the ’dark’ side of things – conquering all fears, horrors, malevolent events or mind-sets. To survive these aspects of existence despite the fabric of reality having been heavily altered. Also, seeing beyond the light of illumination is a strong aspect. You know what happens when staring into the sun for too long.
Do you study any of the esoteric aspects of Buddhism, such as Chöd?
– I absorb influences from all sorts of esoteric currents and ideas, but I make no claims of studying them. I especially find Tibetan Buddhism inspiring because of practices like Chöd. Inspiration in the sense of being really present in the lyrics, and how the theme’s underlying visions are concepts of emptiness and ego destruction.
The ego dissolution is, as the frequent reader might have noticed by now, a Bardo Methodology classic.
– I think it’s the final stage of questioning yourself and reality. Our lyrics are mostly about sacrificing one’s self in order to proceed deeper, there’s no use for an ego’s in the mind’s catacombs. To bring it to a more practical sense, I believe we leave our egos behind when we create music together. It’s something we merge and surrender into to be adopted.