Blood Red Fog
by Niklas Göransson
Nudity and ugliness amongst the dead and forgotten – Finland’s Blood Red Fog forge black metal in the borderlands between wakefulness and sleep; spiritual autonomy orated through the channelling of will.
– I wrote most of “Thanatotic Supremacy” between 2010 and 2012. The only exception is “Angels”, which was recorded for our first demo back in 2005. It’s a short song that brings much-needed variety to otherwise lengthy compositions and one we’ve played live many times over the years so I wanted to record it properly. All of our albums have taken a long time to finish – the composition process is seldom especially drawn out but, more often than not, I find myself struggling with the lyrics. This was again one of the reasons why releasing the record took such a long time.
Another delay occurred after the drums had been tracked in early 2013, vocalist and guitarist BRF had recorded about half of the guitars before suffering a technical malfunction that resulted in most of the material being lost. Frustrated and dejected, he abandoned the project for several years.
– Once the motivation returned, I’d forgotten most of the riffs and so had to learn them all over again. However, as with most setbacks encountered during the creation of this album, it actually ended up being a highly beneficial experience. My skills with recording technique and song arrangements improved, which resulted in a more varied album. The other major hurdle was with the previous label whose actions – or rather lack thereof – postponed the release for about a year. Now that I’m working with Deviant Records instead, I’m confident things will go much smoother and without unnecessary delays. I still like the new album a lot and consider it without a doubt our best material, as well as the most satisfying work I’ve ever been involved in personally.
BRF estimates that it took him about a dozen different fully completed mixdowns to find the sound he was looking for, rendering this process a painstakingly tedious one.
– I learned a lot during all of this and now that I have the finished product in hand, I couldn’t be happier with the outcome. The gear I used was in no way good so finding the sound we wanted took a lot of effort. Last year I invested in better equipment so getting where I want – on my own terms – will be far easier henceforth. I’ve recorded almost all my own stuff by myself and have no desire to try out any external studios. I want to be in as much control over the sessions as possible. With the latest album I had no choice but to force myself to stop adding more guitars to the songs, I got a little carried away at times. That’s the downside of having my own means of recording, as opposed to working under time-constraints where one must keep things simpler.
The previous musical orientation of BLOOD RED FOG was a bit on the melancholic side – the new record retains a similar atmosphere but is packaged in a more violent vessel.
– Yes, it’s a bit different from the other albums. There was no deliberate attempt of shaping it this way; it’s something that happened naturally, as always. I keep composing songs until there’s enough material for the release I have in mind, we then begin rehearsing and recording. The songs were written a long time ago so I can’t remember the mindset I was in but it affects composition a lot. Some years back I really started getting into psychedelic music which had a huge impact on my song-writing, it also got me interested in synthesisers. I had no intentions of using synths when we began recording the album, they were all picked up along the way.
After being approached with this interview suggestion, I had a swift look at BLOOD RED FOG’s social media page and immediately became intrigued with the first photo on display. Bear in mind that I spend significant parts of my days browsing through generic promo shots attached to tedious music of random metal bands various labels want me to write about. I pretty much decided right then that, unless the actual music was shit, this would be a mandatory interview. To me, more than anything esoteric, this is a gloriously shining example of Finnish black metal madness. The country-typical combination of unhinged lunacy, complete disregard for outside opinion, and brazen confidence. Only a band from Finland would do something like this, PROFANATICA excluded.
– Most band photos I see nowadays are boring and forgotten the moment my eyes leave them. Seeing as how the album’s music is of high quality and thought-through, I wanted this reflected in the photo. I planned different scenarios during 2016 and 2017 – such as where and what kind of photos to take – but none of the ideas clicked right way. In autumn last year, urged on by disappointment and anger, the vision presented itself to me crystal clear and the photo session took place soon thereafter. At first, we were going to shoot them at a public cemetery but our bass player found out about this burial ground belonging to a mental asylum. Legend has it that patients were considered possessed by the Devil and thus inappropriate to be buried in the same soil as decent folk. Very fitting place for sure. Shortly after getting there, a security guard showed up wanting to know what we were doing but he left soon afterwards. Fortunately, our drummer was running a little late so we hadn’t disrobed yet, hah! The dying foliage, old and forgotten graves, along with the nudity and ugliness makes for a perfect visual representation of our music and lyrics. I got the idea for the posture and body underneath me from the Aghori of India but that’s really the full extent of any esoteric connections.
BRF stated in an interview from Inner War #1 that many of his lyrics have been formulated in a state between wakefulness and sleep, often scribbled down on a notepad straight from bed. He asserts that something about being detached from daytime consciousness helps him creatively. I have myself experimented with trying to remain conscious as the body falls into sleep. It’s rather difficult and the longer one is able to remain in the mind before hibernation ensues, the more unsettling it gets. What’s interesting is the discernible difference in thought-patterns as one sinks further down into slumber. It’s widely believed that this hazy drowsiness either before falling asleep or immediately after getting up without having fully awoken yet is where one is at the most creative. Many writers go straight from bed to the computer, as editing or writing text in this state is almost like doing so from an altered state – one can uncover new angles and perspectives unavailable in the everyday waking consciousness.
– I’ve actually done something similar recently when unable to sleep. I follow the strange star-like visuals and let them form into shapes and rooms. I haven’t gotten very deep with this yet and the results aren’t all that interesting but I think, given more time and fuel, this method can be used in an artistic way. I’ve primarily used it to fall asleep but your exercise inspires me to explore different applications. I always keep a notebook on my bedside table to catch inspirational dreams and visions. Unfortunately, I’ve had quite a long dry spell in that regard but I’m hoping that the arrival of spring and the higher energy levels it brings will reawaken my inspiration for writing. The winter darkness blocks much of the creative flow for me.
The state in which one finds oneself is what’s called the bardo – a dwelling in-between stages of consciousness; life and death, reincarnation and birth or, in this instance, wakefulness and sleep. The editor of an excellent underground ’zine called Abominatio Desolationis recently informed me that the Italians have a specific word for this: ‘dormiveglia’, meaning ’being aware while sleeping’. It refers to the moment when one loses control over thoughts but not awareness, and the mind wanders freely within whatever emerges from this abyss.
– This is similar to the type of creative work I perform when playing around with synthesisers. I’ll start with a simple drone which evolves and changes slowly on its own – then add some repeating sequences to promote a sort of hypnotic quality. After building up this foundation I start playing ’live’ lines of different things and mess around with the timbres. I might go for forty minutes doing stuff where nothing seems to happen but when submerged in the soundscape, subtle alterations can be detected. It seems to work best when I’m tired and drinking.
Is any of this meant for release?
– Yes, I aim to create something along the lines of 70s TANGERINE DREAM and Klaus Schulze. I’ve only been doing this kind of stuff since last autumn or so and I’m still learning the proper work-flow of getting where I want. Still, this is something I love deeply as it’s so free when compared to the way I compose for BLOOD RED FOG or my other bands that use clear riffs and traditional structures.
It was while looking up authors BRF mentioned as influential that I learned of Pekka Ervast, a Finnish writer and mystic with whom I was previously unfamiliar. Born in 1875 and buried fifty-nine years later, Ervast authored more than a hundred written volumes during his lifetime. Having embarked on a quest for the proverbial meaning of life at a young age, upon reaching his twenties he’d already abandoned traditional Western religion and joined the Swedish Theosophical Society. He then went on to start the Finnish equivalent, Suomen Teosofinen Seura, in 1907. Besides Ervast’s own writing he translated into his native tongue The Secret Doctrine, a classic theosophical work by Russian occultist Madame H. P. Blavatsky. Through studying the works of another Russian writer, the highly acclaimed Leo Tolstoy, Ervast found himself in the embrace of Christian mysticism. He later stated that it was by delving into the esoteric teachings of Jesus Christ he found his true occult path.
– I discovered his books at the local library when I was nineteen, the first one I read was Mitä on kuolema – which means ’What is death’ – and it was absolutely revelatory. Setting aside the Christian elements, he offers much wisdom on the metaphysical world. Many of his books are transcripts of lectures he gave on different occult matters. His language is easy to understand and, as I was then just beginning to study spiritual matters, he provided a good foundation upon which to build. Ervast was also fascinated and inspired by Kalevala, the Finnish national epoch, believing it to contain hidden wisdom of life and death and that the keys to obtaining it can be found in theosophy.
Theosophy is a philosophical system with historical traces to various branches of Gnosticism. Based on esoteric analysis of human history and development, it teaches that unmediated knowledge of God and the purpose of existence can be found through divine ecstasy, direct intuition, or personal relations.
– I’m not that interested in theosophy these days but getting to know some of its key concepts helped me understand the works of more challenging writers such as Johannes Nefastos and Madame Blavatsky. I still hold some of the cosmological ideas though and consider The Secret Doctrine to have much to offer anyone interested in occultism. However, I never found the societal side or the ideals of universal brotherhood and so on especially appealing. Although I’ve been interested in spirituality ever since my teens, I’ve never considered myself particularly spiritual in nature – it’s something I’ve felt lacking in me but this never stopped me from being inspired by esoteric matters.
The thanatotic aspect of your album title, is that a reference to the death drive from Freudian psychoanalysis?
– No, the title refers to the supremacy of death as in Thanatos, the personification of death in Greek mythology. I’m aware of the Freudian concept and expected it to come up sooner or later but, despite the risk for confusion, I chose the name as it resonated within me profoundly. Death is the utmost centre of my artistic work – I’ve been inspired by it time and time again. Focus has shifted from the physical side to the loftier aspects and how it relates to the individual’s self-improvement and ascension beyond self-inflicted restrictions.
I couldn’t find the lyrics for the new album so I was unable to inspect them for myself, but I’d like to know if they’re generally meant to be taken in any way literally or are more allegorical in nature. “The Master Speaks”, for instance – who is this master and what’s the contents of his oration, I wonder.
– The master who speaks is the externalisation of my own inner will; the drive to move away from the herds of man and acquire a level of self-reliance where I’m the creator of my own world. This is something I strive towards in general life, not just my artistic side although it’s the easiest route of manifestation. Most of the lyrics are written in a more or less metaphoric way and with serious intent. They primarily refer to my own ideals, antipathies, reverence, or interests. There are times when real-life events – be they historical or current, personal or universal – serve as an influence but there’s always a red thread running through the lyrics. I write about matters with some relation to myself, I’m not interested in writing about things that fit the black metal context but which I have no relation to.