by Niklas Göransson
A, guitarist and vocalist of German war metal band I I, discusses subcultural homogenisation, the trials and tribulations of self-organised underground touring, as well as the mission statement of Into Endless Chaos.
– The band was formed back in 2010 while I was still living in my hometown, Dessau. The project was named INFERNAL INVOCATION in reference to a GORGOROTH song called “The Rite of Infernal Invocation” from “Under the Sign of Hell”, an album I have strong personal bonds to. It was a suitable moniker for my solo activity at the time, the few songs I recorded on my own sounded way more like ’classic’ black metal than we do now.
The same year, whilst in the process of moving to Leipzig, A befriended members of a local band called EVIL WARRIORS. Upon learning of his impending relocation, they invited him to come practice with them once he’d settled in.
– This resulted not only in me becoming a full member of EVIL WARRIORS, but also in the idea of breathing new life into my old project through more intuitive, raw, and primitive song-writing. So, E (drums) and I met up to write material heavily influenced by bands such as BLACK WITCHERY, REVENGE, CONQUEROR, BLASPHEMY, and so on. We wrote two songs during our first rehearsal and actually still play one of them – “Genocide Ritual”. When starting out we were only a two-piece but soon found F capable enough of assuming guitar and second vocal duties, while I took over the bass and kept doing lead vocals.
This line-up would go on to record the “Omnivorous Void” EP, which was released in 2014.
– It was recorded in our rehearsal place, which was quite the experience… especially when it came to vocals. The plan was to record all songs in one session but over time our voices broke, we got drunk and stoned, and I passed out during the second-to-last song. The vocals towards the end of “Evoke the Conqueror” weren’t planned the way they came out, it just so happened that F took over once I was down. The last track was recorded a few days later.
Around this time, deliberations about re-naming the band had been ongoing for a while and with their first release looming – it was time to reach a conclusion.
– INFERNAL INVOCATION served as working title for a band still searching for its sound and identity. After discussing various suggestions, none of which really satisfied us, we decided to stick to the original name but only use its abbreviation. The idea was to get away from the typical clichés and also intentionally cause confusion with a logo that can be interpreted as either letters or Roman numbers. We also decided to add more layers and possibilities to our sound, which is why I changed back to guitar and handed the bass over to K. With a full line-up in place, we started rehearsing and composing the material that’s now part of the “Miasmal Coronation” (2017) split with LIHHAMON.
My initial impression of the EP was that the clear and heavy production was an odd choice for so-called ’war metal’, but I must say it’s quite efficient and also distinguishes them somewhat.
– As with many aspects of I I, a clear sound was neither planned nor in any way part of our original intention. We actually recorded all instruments in our rehearsal room. Ván Records offered us the possibility of having our songs mixed and mastered by Patrick W Engel of Temple of Disharmony. We sent off the tracks and essentially gave him free reign with just a few hints of what we had in mind. He did a splendid job in catching the essence of I I – it sounds both powerful and organic.
I noticed how I I have been playing and touring a fair bit despite not even having a full-length record to their name, which is rather unusual.
– Indeed, ever since our first EP we’ve been trying to perform live as often as possible. In March 2017, we organised our own tour together with close allies from a band called VIDARGÄNGR – it took us to play in Austria, Slovenia, Croatia, Italy, Switzerland and Germany. Since we took care of everything ourselves, this also meant managing all the financial aspects such as rental van, gas expenses, and merchandise. We played mostly smaller venues but the shows were just incredible – especially the Slovenian and Croatian audiences were amazing. The whole tour was, although meticulously planned, a trip into endless chaos and madness resulting from tremendous nights, use and abuse of various substances, and shitty police-controls… especially in Italy where certain discoveries were made in our van.
Thirty minutes after crossing the border, their minibus was pulled over by police who wanted to inspect how much money they’d brought into the country as one is only allowed to carry a certain amount of cash when entering Italy.
– After opening the back of the van and seeing all the instruments, backline, and so on they wanted to check for drugs. Luckily, we had only small amounts of weed with us which wasn’t the biggest problem but the whole thing took ages and was annoying as fuck; we arrived to the venue in Milano approximately thirty minutes before we were supposed to play. Nonetheless, we enjoyed every single moment of those ten days and would be up for a tour like that anytime again.
All in all, it was a very different experience from the late 2017 Astral Maledictions – a European tour package including SORTILEGIA, SINMARA, ALMYRKVI, and I I.
– The whole thing was professionally booked by Ván Records, which already spared us the work of writing hundreds of emails and messages to promoters and venues. They also took care of rental vans and a proper backline, printed merchandise for all the bands, sorted out hotel rooms… well, basically everything. For us, this was a completely new experience. We played mostly bigger venues that were almost sold out. When we were first invited to support this tour, I was a bit concerned that not many people would show up to see the first of four bands – but I was wrong. The feedback and appreciation we got each night was fantastic and at no point did we feel like just a ’support band’.
I I are part of Into Endless Chaos which, based on what I can tell from online sources, appears to be some manner of Leipzig-based metal network.
– It’s a circle of like-minded artists and musicians. Basically, Into Endless Chaos and the bands involved are like a hydra with one body but many heads. Everything started with EVIL WARRIORS and NO EMPATHY but over the years it grew bigger and new members contributed additional influences and ideas. Other bands belonging to this community are VIDARGÄNGR, ANTLERS, BLOODY VENGEANCE, CNTMPT, ABYSSOUS, DIVISION SPEED, VEILED, BLACK SALVATION, LIHHAMON, GOAT EXPLOSION, and many more. There are also artists who take care of layouts, artwork, video production, and paintings. We try to separate ourselves from the remaining metal scene here as we have different views on certain aspects and don’t want to deal with all this fun-mosh-Wacken mentality bullshit metal that surrounds us. Once people started connecting, there was an exchange of ideas which often led to new musical collaborations. Another characteristic is that while we’re all deeply rooted in the habits of extreme and dark music, we’re not afraid of expanding boundaries and implementing into our sound elements that might be a bit challenging.
The fraternity also operates a label and festival.
– T.P. – the vocalist of VIDARGÄNGR – runs the label and was the main organiser behind A Sinister Purpose– a festival back in February which took place in one of the most beautiful venues I’ve ever seen. It’s an old movie theatre built in the beginning of the 20th century and fits perfectly with the whole idea behind the festival. The bands delivered splendid shows… especially DEGIAL who performed one of the most evil and dark concerts I’ve ever witnessed.
Is this kind of subcultural organising common in Germany?
– I’m actually not really aware of how the scenes look in other German cities, or if our characteristics really set us apart. For sure, there were and definitely are a lot of local scenes similar to what we do here in Leipzig. Just look at Berlin for example, where the guys from Wolf City and Teratology Sound & Vision set up great shows and festivals as well as release music. Or in the Ruhrpott area, which has a lot of great bands and the scene, from what I can tell, seems very tight-knit and organised. So, in the end I don’t really know if everything we do is right, if we’re doing it the best way possible or different than others. I’m not really in a position to judge that. The only things I know for sure is that we fully stand behind our actions, support each other in every way possible and really enjoy what we do. Into Endless Chaos would like to organise more shows and bring people’s attention to the things we create over here without ever losing our commitment to the underground.
As Ván Records owner Sven Dinninghof pointed out recently, it’s interesting comparing today’s situation with the nineties – when the information exchange throughout the underground was mostly restricted to obscure publications and hand-written letters. Local scenes were culturally isolated to a greater extent and often became regionalised black metal communities with unique soundscapes, ideologies, and rulesets. Comparing the Greek and Finnish scenes of the early nineties is a splendid example. With the availability afforded to us by the internet, underground culture has instead become internationally streamlined across the board.
– A noticeable aspect of this is the sudden emergence of certain trends spreading through social media and the internet in general. Remember when there were suddenly shitloads of so called ’depressive suicidal black metal bands’, and a lot of record covers showing people cutting themselves? I don’t know if this is exclusively connected to online availability but it definitely leads to trends being spread and somehow standardises something that was meant to be unique and free. On the other hand, even before digitalisation there were always specific attributes defining a music genre. Certain philosophies, lyrical themes, and especially sounds have been closely associated with this genre since the late eighties and early nineties, ideas which were absorbed differently by each local scene that sprung up – resulting in new and different interpretations of the same source, often differing from country to country or even city to city. The process of spreading new approaches took longer and was way harder back then.
A says that nowadays, it’s possible to not only gather but also distribute information faster and to a vastly bigger audience than ever before.
– This results in a virtual dissolution of the geographical distances that used to exist and created this cultural segregation you mentioned. So yes, I think the internet and especially social media networks are homogenising black metal culture to a greater extent, but not entirely. While a lot of music sounds the same or boring to me – repeating the same styles and themes over and over again – there are still a lot of strong scenes, bands and labels creating not only unique sounds and atmospheres but also philosophies.
He explains that the creed of I I can be summed up in the phrase, ’contra mvndvm, semper et in aeternvm.’, which means ’Against the world, forever and ever’.
– We stand in contempt for what humanity has become and against a rotten society that’s getting increasingly estranged from itself and poisoned by lies and false hopes. The constant downfall of man and permanent triumph of death over life that we witness day by day is the only thing which is certain and inevitable – these are the aspects that form the concept behind I I.
Accordingly, this ideology surfaces from their oration in the form of various warmongering and diabolical blasphemy.
– “Miasmal Execration” is about a curse that brings life to the dead and death to the living. It can be seen as a metaphor for new beginnings, destroying mankind’s altars and the lies of redemption spread by false prophets. Death is the only truth, as is the constant decline and decadence of this planet we live on and mankind in general. The lyrics of our first EP unintentionally came together into a bigger concept; I wrote all of them separately and only realised towards the very end that they actually form a story. It starts with the complete obliteration of everything that was, is, and will be – described in the second song as a never-ending fire. From the ashes arises a new redeemer, an ambassador of war born of fire and blood who now gets rid of what’s left by bringing famine, plagues and drought. After starting the genocide ritual, he evokes the strongest entity of the otherworld to not only destroy the mundane but also transcend to wander between dimensions. Apart from being a description of the apocalypse, these lyrics can also be seen as an inner fight inside a person who faces demons and powers draining his will to live until there’s nothing more left than the omnivorous void.