by Niklas Göransson
Polish black metal marauders Infernal War have ploughed onwards with the same line-up for a decade and a half. Frontman and vocalist Warcrimer discusses the metal heritage of his country, and how to capture in music a bit of the old ultraviolence.
– INFERNAL WAR has had the same members for more than fifteen years now. How? I don’t know. Maybe because we don’t see each other too often and we’re not exhausted by extensive touring or business-related issues? The interpersonal dynamic within the band is pretty good. Of course, there’s tension from time to time as we all have strong opinions but nothing serious has surfaced from it so far.
Are you similar as individuals?
– Well, to some extent we are but I believe we were far more alike in the early days. We’re not that young any longer, and everyone has his own life and struggles. Some of us are more social, others are not, and occasionally our visions are different – but every time we start working on new material, things fall into place… at least they have so far.
I’ve noticed that after more than a decade of primarily domestic gigs, INFERNAL WAR have been performing abroad more often in recent years.
– We certainly play more international gigs than a few years prior to “Axiom” (2015), but I wouldn’t say there’s been a lot. We’re not a band with a tight touring schedule, nor are we the sweethearts of contemporary black metal youth but we do some decent shows and occasional small tours.
From my understanding, INFERNAL WAR never had any ambitions of trying to make a livelihood out of the band.
– Attitude-wise, we are just down to earth men. Don’t get me wrong; we act like professionals when it comes to live performances but we’ve never pursued any careers. Of course, we’ve done some touring and might even do more in the future, but I can’t imagine us as a full-time band. I believe some of us wouldn’t mind, myself not included, but we’ll never do anything against ourselves just to get bigger or sell more albums. We stay true to ourselves, no compromise.
I noticed that INFERNAL WAR recently played in Turkey of all places, not a country I hear a lot about regarding metal shows these days.
– Turkey was great. The gig was organised by a group of real diehards from Kadıköy, a district of Istanbul that’s spawned several killer bands. I guess they’re not really a representative part of their society, which they truly hate from what I’ve noticed. The show was sold out and the crowd completely insane. There were people from Syria and even Iran who came only to see INFERNAL WAR. They were singing all the lyrics and unleashing hell in front of the stage at all times. It takes some guts to be really into underground black and death metal when you live in Iran. Anyway, amazing show and crazy people.
Any other obscure countries you like performing in?
– To be honest, we really liked most places we’ve played in so far. We always have a great time in Germany and Italy – Lithuania was great, as was our visit to the U.S. My personal favourite is definitely Serbia; I’d wanted to go there for as long as I can remember and when we finally played Belgrade in 2009, I fell in love with the country. Not like a tourist, it almost feels like home. What’s more, my woman is Serbian so everything is pretty serious. We played there again last year and it was a fucking blast, I haven’t seen such a wild and violent audience back home in Poland since the late nineties.
I dare say Polish metal fans are still quite renowned among touring musicians as a rather savage lot.
– I wouldn’t say Poland is especially wild these days, not as it used to be from the eighties up until late nineties. However, when compared to many western European countries where audiences are pretty much static, Polish metal audiences can still be considered brutal. One memory that comes to mind was our show in Opole many years ago – shitty venue and the audience was massacred by football hooligans who came with some skinheads and beat up everyone who wasn’t ‘okay’.
Warcrimer says that kind of thing was more commonplace in days of yore. During the eighties and nineties, metal music was very popular in Poland and attracted people from many different walks of life. Every metal show would draw a huge attendance.
– Back then, being into metal didn’t mean you belonged to one big hippie commune. Groups of metal fans from different cities and regions of Poland would be fighting before shows, robbing each other of t-shirts, concert tickets, money, and jackets. In a way, it was a bit similar to football hooliganism. Of course, this attracted lots of people who just wanted to be a part of something without really being into any form of art. Many of today’s wannabe street-thug rappers would’ve been metalheads in those days. I’m not saying everything about those times was great or smart, but you had to be a bit tougher than the average metalhead of today.
The members of INFERNAL WAR grew up in times when this metal culture was still very much alive.
– As one might expect, our extreme metal background combined with an early to mid-nineties black metal mindset was a rather explosive mixture of utterly transgressive nature. On the other hand, we never belonged to that part of the scene who never smiled, only went out at night, slept in a coffin, scared old ladies with oversized inverted crosses, and wore leather from tip to toe in the middle of the summer.
Warcrimer joined INFERNAL WAR in 2002, five years after the band started out.
– Zyklon (guitar) and I have known each other since we were sixteen or seventeen. Among the many crazy and violent activities we were doing, there were of course plans of forming a band together. We met the guys from INFERNAL WAR at a WITCHMASTER show in the year 2000. They didn’t have any official releases back then but we had common friends so I knew they were serious individuals.
At the time, Warcrimer was in a short-lived band with would-be THRONEUM members.
– I arranged with Triumphator (guitar) to trade our rehearsal tape for their demo. Soon after, I was sitting in my place with Zyklon when the postman delivered a parcel from the guys. To be honest, we were expecting rather typical raw black metal but when we played the two songs on that tape we were blown away by their intensity and musicianship.
Shortly afterwards, Zyklon was recruited as guitarist for INFERNAL WAR.
– They played only one show before I joined, but I couldn’t see them as I was a bad boy and venue security wouldn’t let me in. When they began looking for a new vocalist and bass player, Zyklon recommended me and Chris (bass). Crazy times, we used to talk on the phone for hours, sharing our visions and views – from our love for old metal bands to much more serious stuff.
Right, so the cover artwork of your 2005 debut album… how, who and above all – why?
– Well… “Terrorfront” was already recorded and mixed, ready to be released – we were waiting for the artwork Triumphator had commissioned from one of his friends. When I laid eyes on it upon delivery – hate at first sight, I wanted something more serious. However, it was too late to look for another one; a full year had already passed since the recording session and some of us actually liked the artwork. I can’t say I’ve warmed much to it over the years, but in retrospect I think it had some antagonistic value.
Besides a few excerpts in the booklet, the “Axiom” lyrics were never released. Warcrimer says his lyrical output has grown increasingly introverted, cynical, and disillusioned as he ripens with age.
– It’s a natural evolution from maturing. I was twenty years old when I joined INFERNAL WAR, and some of the lyrics on our debut were written even earlier. I wanted my own “Pleasure to Kill” or “In the Sign of Evil” – been there, done that. Things have evolved, I’m thirty-five today.
What is this ’great darkness in man’ you’ve referred to as a conceptual influence?
– It’s the darkest side of one’s spirituality, a longing for perdition and the unknown. You can interpret it as the dark night of the soul, Freudian Todestrieb, or simply devil-worship…it depends on the language you speak. Of course, I still write lyrics inspired by history or my hatred and disgust for the world around me. I’m not the best lyricist in the world, but I try to do it my own way.
INFERNAL WAR is really fucking violent music. War metal bands might sound aggressive and hateful but they rarely capture this primal sense of asphalt-contested amateur dentistry. The closest comparison I can think of is probably ANTAEUS.
– Of course, we’re no choirboys but I think we efficiently use our musical inspirations and creativity to channel extreme, dark and hateful emotions – sometimes resulting from pure mundane hatred but also spiritual transgression. You’ll have to pardon my bluntness, but I’m too old for this contemporary bombastic black metal newspeak. No matter if you play music with complex structures and sophisticated lyrics or ultra-primitive straightforward black metal, fast and brutal or atmospheric and slow; this divine spark is what separates the wheat from the chaff.
Might these sonic qualities be indicative of a hooligan nature in its composers?
– I wouldn’t necessarily label us hooligans… but sure, when compared to PC safe-space black metal of today, bands like ANTAEUS and ourselves may be seen as black metal incarnations of Alex DeLarge from A Clockwork Orange. It’s hard to say, but we really felt and still feel the same feelings and emotions heard on our albums. It’s neither a pose nor any kind of constipated attitude from trying to belong to a certain genre.
In 2005, INFERNAL WAR played a gig in Poland with ARCHGOAT – a spectacle that would grow into a modern underground metal myth. It’s been fairly established that some manner of large-scale altercation took place, but there are many different versions floating around.
– Oh, I’ve heard many of them and none close to the truth. There’s no point in telling the whole story, it was just a moment of old-fashioned black metal violence – pointless but funny. No big deal, to be honest. We met those guys several times afterwards and we always had a great time, drinking and talking. We even joked that we’re a bit nostalgic about the times when black metal was a bit more dangerous. I hope to see ARCHGOAT in Poland next month.
Being a massive enthusiast of the old Polish black metal scene, as pioneered by GRAVELAND and honed further by bands such as PROFANUM, VELES, LORD OF EVIL, INFERNUM and so on, I’m curious if Warcrimer has any thoughts on this fabled sound.
– I’m a huge fan of those old recordings myself and totally agree that old Polish black metal really had a distinct sound. I have no idea how it came about though; perhaps Rob Darken’s keyboards, the production and those crow-like vocals coupled with their attempts of merging the sinister side of pagan mysticism with early second wave black metal darkness? No matter how naive or simply stupid some of their activities were, I’m proud of the legacy they left behind. Unfortunately, many of those bands ceased to exist or went into some boring NSBM direction and lost their ’evil’ component. Anyway, those old recordings stand as testimony to the mindset of those times and are, in most cases, far more important than the people who recorded them.
INFERNAL WAR’s own soundscape shows few traces of the nation’s black metal heritage. Warcrimer says their approach to music was primarily influenced by the thrash, death, and black metal classics from the 80s and 90s.
– Our sound is intense and aggressive but still retains this savage eighties catchiness you can find on many first wave black and death metal classics. As pure listeners though, we are rather open-minded. I’ve been into different kinds of music since I was sixteen – always hungry for new stuff, discovering its cultural and political background. No matter if it is KILLING JOKE, ULTRAVOX, CAN, COCK SPARRER, TALKING HEADS, THROBBING GRISTLE, KING CRIMSON, CREEDENCE CLEARWATER REVIVAL, SICK OF IT ALL, or GENOCIDE ORGAN. The world of art is amazing.