The Sinister Flame
by Niklas Göransson
NorthWind is a Finnish writer and label manager with two and a half decades of documented underground experience. After years of aimless wandering he found himself on the Seven-Fold Way, which in turn ignited The Sinister Flame.
– My first publication, Northern Crown, was founded together with a local acquaintance in late 1992, shortly after we’d discovered the magical black and death metal underground. Our first issue was released in the spring of 1993, and it would also be our last.
Which bands were featured?
– All the best Finnish acts we’d just discovered; BARATHRUM, BEHERIT, THROMDARR, BLACK CRUCIFIXION, MORNINGSTAR, BLACK DAWN, ARCHGOAT, MORDICUS as well as …ahem, don’t ask – DEFLESHED from Sweden. The level of journalism was what you might expect from two young teenagers.
In 1993, NorthWind started his first solo venture – I Came From Darkness. The publication began as a promotional newsletter for Finnish black metal, but by the third issue it had evolved into a real fanzine. I’m curious of his strongest memories from these times.
– Argh, lots of them – too many, honestly. Walking home from school on a cold winter afternoon to find letters from the likes of Bård Faust (EMPEROR), Varg Vikernes (BURZUM) or Metalion (Slayer Mag) really blew everything else away. Exciting times. I spent twenty-four hours a day in the ’black metal reality’; listening to records, working on my zine, walking the woods – much like others who became addicted to this music in the early nineties, I’d guess.
Any noteworthy highlights?
– Getting Sound Pollution to distribute the ’zine in Sweden could well be mentioned as a kind of highlight. I still remember opening the letter saying ’we need two hundred copies of your fanzine’ – that did most certainly not happen every day. I know they screwed over people like Tomas of No Fashion, but they distributed hundreds and hundreds of copies of I Came From Darkness in Sweden. It meant a lot.
One memorable article from the third issue was an interview with a Finnish black metal maniac who was in prison. While the feature included enthusiastic assurances of future feasting upon prison guard entrails, there wasn’t much in the way of background information. The teenage me was almost asphyxiated with curiosity, so I seize this opportunity to satiate a two-decade long inquisitiveness.
– The interview you’re referring to was with an individual who went by the name Sacrum. He’d just been sentenced to life in prison for murder when we were acquainted in 1994. We seemed to share the same viewpoints regarding black metal and Satanism at that point, so doing the interview was a no-brainer.
NorthWind remembers there being a strong dislike for devil worship within the Finnish black metal scene at the time – sentiments spearheaded by IMPALED NAZARENE and BEHERIT, who he says came from the Church of Satan school of thought.
– Back then, as an all-knowing devil-worshipper, I fucking hated it and readily sided with the Norwegian approach of murder, arson, and violence. I wanted my black metal as dark, dangerous, twisted and evil as could be. Myself, Sacrum and a few others formed a Finnish ’black metal mafia’ as a counter-reaction to this but, as one might guess, not much happened.
Finland’s black metal scene has traditionally had a rather different approach to the metaphysical – more spiritual chaos than theological dogma or arcane systems.
– If you examine the well-respected Finnish black metal scene strictly from the viewpoint of esoteric practice, you’re left with very few of transcendental orientation. I might be wrong, but besides WARLOGHE I don’t think there’s currently any band in Finland espousing Pan-European Satanism – I find this puzzling, quite frankly.
This particular alignment is encompassed by the Order of Nine Angles, the foundation of NorthWind’s personal practice and a subject we’ll explore deeper further on.
– People today are drawn to chaos magick, the Draconian current, devil-worship, and Eastern Occultism – but explicitly Pan-European Satanism directly connected to local nature and tradition seems to not be ‘in’. I cannot explain it. At the same time there’s the NSBM boom, which main concepts would link well with this. Go figure.
NorthWind produced an additional three issues one year apart from each other, and after the sixth and final edition – aptly named I Return to Darkness – he buried the project and dropped completely off the radar.
– The master plan was to release five issues under that moniker, one per year as with I Came From Darkness. However, I felt so thoroughly wordless after the first one in ’98 that I had to take a break. The issue featured The NorthWind Manifesto, and I felt as if I had nothing more to say.
The declaration in question is a massive essay in which NorthWind basically outlines his worldview and thoughts on a wide range of worldly, philosophical and spiritual matters.
– Black metal in 1997 had become a caricature of the ethos placed upon it in 1992 and I – like most others – felt incredibly disappointed seeing once Satanic entities selling their souls for the almighty buck. I realise this might sound laughable to some these days, but it really hurt back then.
Your bibliography mentions an Ad Arma! from 2002, what is this?
– Having regained my inspiration, I teamed up with Tadas Kazlauskas of Lithuanian Ledo Takas Records for a publication he was working on; Ad Arma! We made one issue together but went separate ways afterwards as Tadas became increasingly busy with label issues and my heart was yearning for a return to the old days.
Instead of resuming his I Return to Darkness pentalogy, NorthWind opted for a fresh start – enter The Sinister Flame, of which the first issue was released in 2004. This publication has in part been rather influential to Bardo Methodology and is a must for anyone with an interest in high-quality esoteric discourse.
– At this point, the internet had officially become a household commodity and, in many ways, revolutionised the scene. I wanted to create the definitive and decisive black metal ‘zine, a printed publication which would grant people the same rapture I’d experienced some ten years earlier when browsing the pages of Stregoica, Hellspawn, Hammer of Damnation, Fallen Pages, Daemonium Aeternus, Key of Alocer and so on.
The first three The Sinister Flame issues had four years between them, whereas the latest pair only have two – are you picking up the pace?
– Hah, hardly. As you sir well know, great writing requires time – a luxury not afforded to me. With my daily work, family, all label and distribution related matters, as well as certain other commitments, the moments I can sit back and concentrate on the magic of words are few and far between. It’s quite disheartening, actually.
To aid with his time constraints, NorthWind has recruited the services of several guest writers.
– I’ve been blessed to have made the acquaintance of several great contributors, well-versed in black metal as well as traditional Satanism. These writers have brought in stellar material and allowed the publication to be more than just my personal voice. These days I regard The Sinister Flame – both the magazine and label – as an ideologically charged stronghold for genuinely Satanic artists.
Ever since The Sinister Flame’s inception, NorthWind had been toying with the idea of starting a label under the same moniker.
– I was a university student at the time, with my first child having just been born, so it wasn’t possible. The idea was always firmly lodged in my head though, so I was merely waiting for the opportune moment – and the right band – to come along.
This is precisely what happened in 2010, when Spanish death metal occultists DOMAINS one day sent NorthWind a hand-written letter along with the previous year’s “Towards Pleroma” demo. Four years later, The Sinister Flame released their debut album, “Sinister Ceremonies”.
– It was immediately clear that I was dealing with people who are both absolutely ruthless towards themselves as artists and genuinely interested in the Luciferian path – two things I insist on with every band I sign. Several years and a lot of communication later, it was absolutely clear that the pact between DOMAINS and The Sinister Flame would go far beyond the mundane relationship of a band and their label.
In 2016, The Sinister Flame re-released what’s possibly the best black metal compilation of all time – “Vinnum Dei Satanas”. The album was curated by Magus Wampyr Daoloth of legendary Greek black metal bass terror NECROMANTIA, it was released in 1993 on his short-lived Spellbound Records and features the likes of BEHERIT, CORPSE MOLESTATION, MASTER’S HAMMER, THE BLACK and MORTUARY DRAPE.
– The idea for the repress came to me on a hot summer day as I was going through old correspondences. I found a letter from Mirai of SIGH written on the back of a “Vinnum Dei Satanas” flyer. I owned the LP at some point during the nineties and always thought it was, as you said, the best black metal compilation ever made, so I was actually quite surprised to learn that it had never been repressed.
M.W. Daoloth showed immediate interest and after the pair had drafted a contract, NorthWind procured the rights. He was also able to get in touch with most of the bands and they all were supportive.
– Franta Štorm (MASTER’S HAMMER) didn’t even remember the compilation though. In retrospect, I’m not entirely satisfied with how the LP came out. We received some remarks about the slight blurriness of the cover artwork plus insert – and having owned the original, I can accept that. But we did the best we could with the source material we received from M.W. Daoloth, who was quite clear that in order to keep its original feel we were not to fix certain other imperfections.
While NorthWind is usually the one conducting theological interrogation, he now finds himself on the receiving end. As anyone who’s taken part of his publication will know, he works with the Order of Nine Angles system – also known as the Seven-Fold Way.
– This is a path I’ve walked for well over a decade now, and it’s taught me a lot. For starters – it’s worth pointing out that the Order of Nine Angles has no formal membership, no leader, no structured organisation and no dogma. The word ’order’ is a bit misleading in that sense. This is of utmost importance to myself, because I’ve always preferred working alone.
NorthWind adds that he has no problems collaborating with others – should the situation require it – but not being a particularly sociable character, it’s unlikely to happen by preference.
– O.N.A. is, first and foremost, a tradition that’s often been characterised as esoteric, occult, pagan, sinister and satanic – I feel all of these adjectives are justified. Above all, I regard it as a kind of constant real-life training system for individuals who are genuinely interested in self-knowledge and personal development.
The practitioner’s progress is divided into seven stages, all of which include physical and psychological elements. NorthWind notes that while O.N.A. literature contains highly precise practical instructions, there is no explicit creed.
– Each path is unique, as all individuals are different – the system provides a frame but what’s done within it is your own call. Now, our know-it-all armchair Satanist will of course be quick to say, ’Why would we need a framework? Satanists are free!’ Well, my experience tells me that we simply do. Much like a university needs a curriculum, the path of self-growth requires a certain structure. If you just do a bit of this and read a bit of that – you might learn something and go somewhere, but there’s no reliable way of measuring your development.
NorthWind speaks from empiricism, having done just that for a great number of years – dabbling in different occult and Satanic currents.
– In the end, none of them ever resulted in anything tangible and seemed more or less like mumbo-jumbo. But once I came across the O.N.A. it was immediately clear that this was precisely what I’d been searching for. This was something which manifests in the real world – it’s practical and it works.
How were you introduced to it?
– It was largely my correspondence with Frater Calus of ALTAR OF PERVERSION in the beginning of 00s which drew me to the O.N.A. I knew about it long before via flyers and journals, but it wasn’t until we started discussing these matters extensively that I really looked into it. ALTAR OF PERVERSION is a forerunner in O.N.A. inspired black metal and, as you know, Calus is a regular contributor to The Sinister Flame.
Walking the Seven-Fold Way, one seeks to complete various trials and challenges. One such tribulation is what’s called Insight Roles, an enterprise requiring the adept to make temporary but often drastic changes to his or her lifestyle – even switching place of residence, or outwardly assuming a polarising ideological position likely to provoke confrontation.
– It’s to test your limits and then learn from endured hardship. It’s about stepping out of your comfort zone and finding out what you’re really made of; experience is what tutors us and moulds our characters.
NorthWind adds how one can read any number of grimoires, or decorate ritual altars to the heart’s content, but actual learning occurs only when stepping out into the unknown and taking action.
– This is also why the O.N.A. is often described as ’dangerous’ by other ’Satanic’ currents. Worth noting is how it’s you alone who decides what your next Insight Role might be – no one is issuing decrees; it could be anything from a long stay in the woods to… well, think for yourself. But no one’s pushing you to do anything. It’s your life and you traverse the sinister how and as far as you wish, in accordance to your own goals.
Besides a philosophy where deeds weigh heavier than acumen, the fact that nature is an essential part of the tradition is something which immediately resonated with him.
– Nature has always been very important to me and I’ve always lived amongst it, more or less. Even now, if I want to go to a forest it’s about 150 metres from my home. Or if I want to go to the lake, my boat is two kilometres away. I’ve come to develop a deep connection with nature and its various faces over the years. Reading your recent interview with the Nordvis character though, I started feeling painfully urbanite…
– Moreover, read early manuscripts like Naos: A Practical guide to Modern Magic, or old issues of Fenrir – the O.N.A. journal – the writing is impeccable and clearly authored by someone wielding a supreme command over words. That really appealed to me. One could argue that the writings even have this evocative and addictive quality to them. I’ve often discussed this with my O.N.A. associates, and many mention how they need to take actual breaks from reading the material. It’s interesting to see how words can indeed hold such power.
Escapades such as these Insight Roles sound like a frightful nuisance, are the rewards worth the hassle?
– Well, I suppose it depends on what you want from life. Personally, I can see no more important task than constantly striving for an improved version of myself on all fronts. Still, it’s not something I decided to do – it’s always been within me. Having said that, I can easily admit I have a long way to go; there have been plenty of phases in this journey ending in disappointment. Just saying.
NorthWind refers me to a quote by Anton Long – the pseudonymous former Grand Master of the O.N.A. – printed on the back cover of The Sinister Flame #3.
(…) They will have really lived, ‘on the edge’; they will really have achieved something with their lives. They will have inspired others. They will in some way by their living have ‘presenced’ the dark forces on earth. If they survive – their rewards are their achievements and the wisdom that awaits. If they do not survive, at least they will have done something with their lives.
– For beginners, the O.N.A. is a total mystery and puzzle – and deliberately so. Try to google the material and you’ll find a truckload of it, but after two months of reading you’re more confused than from the onset. It takes years to get some manner of grip on it – which is obviously by intentional design, to test the seeker’s will and resolve. You’ll turn away pretty soon if you do not have this sinister flame burning inside.