Altar of Perversion
by Niklas Göransson
Attuned to the heavenly spheres and infused with the sinister – after thirteen years in the making, Italian black metal duo Altar of Perversion have invoked “Intra Naos”. Founding member Calus discusses the Numinous Way of art as well as life.
This is an excerpt from the full article – which is twice as long, significantly more in-depth, and published in Bardo Methodology #3.
– “Intra Naos” is coming, at long last. The main reason for this delay is that I went through some rough times from 2004 onwards. For the longest time, I had to prioritise various personal matters over anything ALTAR OF PERVERSION related. However, there was never so much as a thought of quitting. Then, once we were ready to resume work on the material – this would have been between 2007 and 2009 – problems within the band arose.
Both the bass player at the time and a second guitarist they were trying out began displaying signs of decreased interest and dedication. Thus, after much time had been wasted, the decision was made to proceed with only Calus and drummer Laran.
– Serious work didn’t start again until 2011 – which is when we began digging even deeper into our music, seeking to unearth all that lay hidden beneath the initial structures and inspiration. I began working towards completing the songs, an undertaking which ended up a lengthy one.
Quite literally at that; the six tracks range from fifteen to twenty-four minutes and clock in at a total playing time just shy of two hours. Calus says working on such long compositions as merely a duo proved particularly challenging and drew the process out even longer.
– This almost ruined the entire record on several occasions, when we prematurely deemed it ready for recording. The last time was around 2012, I think. After that it was made clear to us in no uncertain terms that there were further depths left to explore. This insight resulted in much additional work and inspiration during the remaining three years before “Intra Naos” was finally completed. I sincerely believe it to be a great album – the music turned out precisely how we wanted, and it contains all the requisite esoteric properties.
Calus mentioned that “Intra Naos” was recorded attuned to 432 hertz – an audio frequency with alleged powers that has long been the source of debate within the music community. Hertz is how we measure wave frequencies of light, radio, sound, and other phenomena, and refers to the amount of times per second the full cycle of a vibration occurs. Two and a half millennia before 19th century German physicist Heinrich Hertz proved the existence of electromagnetic waves and so had his surname immortalised in its measurement, Greek philosopher and mathematician Pythagoras of Samos discovered how the length of a string is in inverse proportion to the pitch of its musical notes. He went on to decode the mathematical mysticism of music, demonstrating how intervals between harmonious audio frequencies form numerical ratios. Back in Ancient Hellas, tune calibration was administered in the instrument’s construction phase by applying basic math to the length and thickness of strings and tubes. The entrepreneurial Hellenic interdisciplinarian also developed Musica universalis, or Harmony of the Spheres, a school of thought espousing that mathematical rations of musical intervals mirror the distances, sizes, and even orbits of the planets in our solar system. When this concept is applied to musical tuning, it produces an audio frequency of 432 Hz. A live ensemble tunes its instruments after what’s called the concert pitch, referring to the note A over middle C. So-called Pythagorean tuning at A432 is believed to have been widely used by Western musicians until the early 16th century, and unearthed archaic Egyptian and Greek instruments as well as Tibetan singing bowls are said to have been designed for 432 Hz. We also know for a fact that this was the case with the original 17th century Stradivarius violins. However, for the past century or so, 440 Hz has been the unofficial international standard tuning pitch, a shift which in itself is rife with conspiracy theories. A440 is now used as reference for contemporary acoustic equipment and the tuning of classical instruments such as pianos, organs, and string instruments.
– I’ve been deeply interested in the 432 Hz concept since first reading about it many years ago. Leaving all the New Age moralistic garbage aside, I believe this topic worthy of attention. The many synchronicities about the power and nature of this frequency can hardly be random chance. There are the relations to Egypt, Tibet, Sacred Geometry, and – which I think is was what inspired such cultures – you find it everywhere in nature; be it the buzzing of bees, plant vibrations, background resonance of the cosmos, Earth’s frequency, human DNA, etcetera. Also, it seems most classical composers created their music under Pythagorean tuning.
I’m not knowledgeable enough about musical theory to draw any meaningful personal conclusions, and my rather diligent attempts at fact-checking were somewhat inconclusive. While claims from seemingly credible sources go both ways, there’s undeniably quite a few remarkable correlations pertaining to the frequency in question – not to mention the number itself. Ultimately, judging by the available facts, I suppose it boils down to what one is willing to write off as purely coincidental. Taking a Nordic example, the following is an excerpt from the Poetic Edda:
Five hundred doors and forty
I think there are in Valhall
eight hundred Einheriar will pass through a single door
when they march out to fight the wolf
540 doors that each produce eight-hundred einherjar to face the Wolf Age – that’s 432,000. Which, as it happens, is the ‘number of the aeon’ in ancient Sumer and Babylon; ending one age and beginning another, the proverbial dawn of a new day. Rg Veda, the sacred texts of Vedic spirituality and the world’s oldest known written work, contains exactly 432,000 syllables. It’s also the amount of years in Kali Yuga – final stage of Mahayuga, the great cycle of ages which in turn lasts 4,320,000 years. Each twelve-hour day and night period consists of 43,200 seconds. There are numerous other examples – from ancient temples in India and Indonesia having 432 Buddha statues, to golfing brand Wilson determining that a golf ball with 432 dimples went farther than any other. Proponents of Pythagorean tuning believe it to be mathematically consistent with the universe, and thus in perfect tune with the human body and mind.
– I thought that if there’s any truth to this, it must be a useful means for someone who wants his music to resonate with the sinister and numinous in nature – a good way to reach the gods through sound, so to speak, and such was its purpose on the album. There’s much debate about whether this is truth or myth, which data is correct; scientific, spiritual… whatever, I don’t care about that. I tried and it immediately felt as if the songs had more room to breathe.
The reason given for why Pythagorean tuning supposedly sounds more pleasant to the ear is that it’s based on a cycle of perfect fifths, which is the musical interval that corresponds to a pair of pitches with a frequency ratio of 3:2. I have no idea what this means. Nevertheless, studies have shown how frequencies in different tones have inherent characteristics which all interact uniquely with humans. Music researcher Maria Renold conducted a series of aural experiments on more than two thousand people in several countries over twenty years. She would subject volunteers to sounds tuned to either A440 or A432 – with notes in varying order and conveyed through different instruments, in a bid to neutralise preferential prejudice. The results were quite remarkable, she found that about ninety percent favoured the Pythagorean variety, using terms such as ‘right, complete, pleasant, radiant, peaceful, harmonious’. 440 Hz was equally polarising, mostly rendering feedback along the lines of ‘irritating, unpleasant, aggressive, making one stressful and nervous’. Calus has carried out some testing of his own, though admittedly on a somewhat humbler scale.
– I performed what’s called the chant of Aktlal Maka, the light-aspect of the Goddess, which is meant to be sung near a stream while tuning one’s voice to the water’s frequency. I recorded it and found it well-tuned with my guitar at 432 Hz. An interesting result, although chance may of course have had its place there too. I should try it again.
The Calus of today has done away with monikers such as ’evil’. I’ve tried a number of times now to ask artists who proclaim an affinity to darkness and hellfire by what definition they term themselves thus, and what purpose this serves. Not a single time has anyone been able to explain to any degree of satisfaction.
– That’s the thing, there can be no explanation which makes sense – simply because ‘evil’ is just another meaningless human construct with no real counterpart in nature. It’s an artificial concept created by humans to justify their own culture, religion, or ideology as the righteous one, and proclaiming its counterpart evil by default. I know of no religious school of thought throughout history that ever claimed to act in the name of evil. Even seemingly obscure and anti-social practices such as the Aghori or darker aspects of various European mystery cults and initiatory trials – none of them existed to represent evil or for the appeasement and worship of malevolent gods.
Calus says it was rather the case of seeking to explore, understand, and grow through darkness – above all, transcending the fears it imposes on humans.
– Moral concepts of evil were introduced to the human mind and spread across cultures all over the world by the three monotheistic religions from the Middle East. What’s sad is that both black metal and most modern Satanists accept and adhere to this version of reality, believing it ‘evil’ to oppose said religions when in reality it accomplishes nothing but enforcing their distorted world-view.
Can you give an example?
– Let’s consider just how stupid it is to think that witches were ’evil’ and servants of the Devil, or that a goat can be the incarnation of a dark deity. Moreover, notions of the night, forests, and darkness being evil is laughable to say the least. Just because humans fear certain things do not make them evil. That they then hide primeval and archetypical meaning, symbolism and energies is another discussion. Nature just is, neither adhering to any of our moral codes nor concerning itself with human agendas. Satanists who accept such nonsense are probably too urbanised and brainwashed.
Calus adds that these conclusions are the result of intense introspection, stemming from the twilight of his own once-heartfelt fascination for, and dedication to, this particular subject matter.
– At some point, I started asking myself what evil actually is and why it would be applicable to me. I researched and contemplated, trying to make sense of it. The Order of Nine Angles gave some interesting information too, as usual, when reporting that the word ’evil’ derives from the Old English ’ubils’, which means something like ’beyond’ – to tread beyond limits. This makes far more sense. I understood that my esoteric and spiritual quest was not evil, even though it includes exploration of the dark.
He was also relieved to find how his deep revulsion for humanity had nothing to do with dualistic morality, but is based on solid facts and observation.
– As my learning and understanding accelerated, this was confirmed rightful. That the average person might regard this as morally reprehensible is another matter entirely. If there’s something I’d be willing to accept as evil on an ethical basis, it would be the average human’s stupidity, mental immobility and general uselessness.
Sleep paralysis is nowadays an oft-discussed topic on Bardo Methodology. I’ve noticed with fascination how an almost shocking amount of my arcanely inclined interviewees report mostly childhood instances of this phenomenon, in turn sparking their interest for the ‘other side’. I’ve now taken to asking about it whenever I converse with the esoterically infatuated. Those who suffer from the affliction will wake up to find themselves completely immobile but fully awake – often in the presence of or even attacked by seemingly malevolent entities who make themselves known through sight, physical contact, or hearing. It’s believed that mythological legends such as the Old Hag are folkloric interpretations of the phenomenon.
– Since childhood, I have experienced sleep paralysis numerous times and it continues to this day. It might just be what first convinced me that something exists beyond our plane of existence; forces we can interact with. At first, the experience was absolutely terrifying because I was completely defenceless, being paralysed while it happened. Yet with time, I’ve learned to keep calm and focused and basically observe what’s going on. If this really was something harmful, it would surely have affected me a long time ago, considering how many times I’ve gone through it. In time, it became very fascinating and somehow pleasant too.
Out of everyone I’ve spoken to about this, only Phil Kusabs of VASSAFOR has found sleep paralysis anything in the range of ‘pleasant’. Interestingly, like Calus, Kusabs is also spiritually invested in the ONA system.
– There’s always a presence, sometimes I can see one or more ’shadow figures’ hovering near me, and I hear droning sounds. Other times, there’s only the sound. I remember the first time I became aware of a presence, it was during a storm and suddenly there was some kind of crackling distortion – like bad radio communication – and a whitish figure appeared. Sometime later, I was stunned to read how Robert Graves in his book The White Goddess described this more or less exactly as one of the ways the Mother Goddess manifests.
The White Goddess: a Historical Grammar of Poetic Myth by Robert Graves, first published in 1948, explores the links between linguistic art, human psychology, and mythology. Its author argues that true poetry is channelled when the poet establishes a link to the ’White Goddess of Birth, Love and Death’, a deity he suggests has manifested under a number of different names and shapes all throughout pre-Christian European spirituality. Interestingly, this audible buzzing is often associated with the activation of DMT, a highly potent psychedelic substance found both within and outside the human body. The world’s foremost expert on the enigmatic compound, Dr Rick Strassman, has stated that many who suffer from sleep paralysis have written to him and reported sensory effects of striking similarity to those of DMT.
– Whatever it is though, it surely is very dark, mysterious, and infinitely difficult to understand. It also reminds me of a book about Dionysus by Károly Kerényi, where it’s reported that in primeval Crete, communication with spiritual entities and gods, as well as any kind of epiphany and contact with the numinous, happened naturally without rituals or entheogenic plants. Some part of this ability is obviously still there, although now latent, and so-called sleep paralysis may be one way in which it still functions. I must admit I don’t particularly care for that term – while your body might be asleep, you are most certainly not.
This is an excerpt from the full article – which is twice as long, significantly more in-depth, and published in Bardo Methodology #3.