Rites of Thy Degringolade
by Niklas Göransson
The Blade Philosophical looms over us, courtesy of Canadian black/death metal veterans Rites of Thy Degringolade. Founder and driving force, chaos poet Paulus Kressman, lays down cosmic laws by dispelling the illusion of free will.
– After thirteen years, change is as welcome as it is inevitable – for in the absence of evolution the disease of stagnancy will always rear its ugly head. I prefer decapitating such vile creatures before they manifest into that which is adorned by several heads; then, and only then must you grow additional hands and the two I already possess are fully sufficient! “The Blade Philosophical” was spawned in the shadows of its predecessor but, like all offspring, it would gradually come into its own. Our most recent material was approached much in the same manner as when we made “An Ode to Sin” (2005) all those cursed yet beloved years ago. The predominant atmosphere, percussion-style, and sense of urgency had to remain and, seen in retrospect, I firmly believe these fundamental roots to be clearly distinguishable. The relentless attack of power must be foremost at all times; always the arch, that which is in total command. The subtle difference, in my own opinion, is the use of atmospheric chanting repeated over prolonged periods, as opposed to prior releases where such elements would be briefer yet still crucial in facilitating deterministic ritual through audible means.
Drummer and vocalist Paulus Kressman explains that the long years also granted them renewed vigour along with a craftsmanship and wisdom only age can bring.
– During the creation process, I’ll typically compile a vast body of musical work over extended periods of time and then present the bare-stringed instrumentation to the remaining three: Wroth, N.K.L.H and, at the time, C.W. – R. Rodas from DIRE OMEN has since joined on bass duties – and then proceed from there. This band is a highly productive and efficient vessel. The album was released by unstoppable legendary U.S. label Nuclear War Now! Productions; Yosuke Konishi, owner of NWN!, has played a significant role in keeping RITES alive over all these years; total support! Just in time, I might add, for us to tour Europe in support of the freshly released album.
In March of 2018, Paulus and his cohorts descended upon Europe in conspiracy with US black metal deviants PROFANATICA. As far as I could determine, these were RITES OF THY DEGRINGOLADE’s first European dates since their start in 1997.
– This was indeed our live debut on European soil, so a tour of this magnitude was an immense undertaking and one we embraced with wholehearted devotion. Terming it anything less than a monumental triumph would be an inexcusable travesty. It was such a vital, life-changing experience – beyond words and mandatory in all aspects. Along with our Canadian countrymates and friends, AUROCH, as well as black metal legends PROFANATICA we conquered nineteen European countries spanning twenty-four shows within a one-month period, giving us only two nights in which we did not ritualise a stage. And we were more than happy to do so! In fact, we hope to one day repeat the endeavour. The entire crew from Killtown Bookings was extremely professional and we all became a working unit of the greatest deterministic all-being.
The layout editor for the printed edition of Bardo Methodology, Timo Ketola, caught one of the Italian dates and reported being literally floored – as in physically falling over – by PROFANATICA. ‘Utter madness’ and ‘slow violence’ were two brief analyses.
– Touring with PROFANATICA was something I didn’t ever envision or believe would happen. We were aware of them in the early 90s and they made an impression on us from a young age. Paul Ledney is a legend in his own right, displaying keen wit mixed with dedicated old-school beliefs and values. We had fantastic talks and, dare I say, even some hilarious moments, mostly due to the chemistry of the entire crew and Ledney’s bizarre humour. He was a great tour-mate and as a band they ruled the stage each and every night. I urge everyone to see PROFANATICA in a live setting whenever possible – absolute cult band.
I’m not much of a music analyst but I can clearly tell that Paulus’ percussion style is quite different, it sounds like a sort of disciplined steely chaos in its mesmerising turbulence.
– I thank you kindly for the spark of individuality you detect! That is within each and every thing, far and near, past and present, and always in the great future. I’ve been obsessed with percussion since a very young age, fascinated by composition as a whole, trying to figure out how it ticks – how each individual part must serve the other and vice versa. Its mystery shall never truly be revealed, and for that I am grateful. It only strengthens and gives prolonged purpose to the practice and study upon which we breathe, speak and exist for. The drums might have a strong bearing over the atmosphere of RITES; however, it’s by no means our primary focus but rather one of several integral aspects. Of course, in global terms the Canadian sound we seem to have ingrained within us is inherent and has proven a difficult if not impossible heritage to shed. For even after the serpent sheds of its skin, it remains a serpent. Juxtaposed with obsession, this is what generates the weaponised sonic pulse you hear.
The human cardiovascular system is susceptible to external rhythms, rendering percussion capable of either slowing down or speeding up the rate of our beating hearts. This is why tribal drumming for extended periods of time is a highly potent means of attaining altered states of consciousness. I’m curious if Paulus is interested in the fundamental concepts of his craft, or if the main focus lies primarily on how it can be utilised within audible artistry.
– To be honest, in terms of tribal drumming I’m not enlightened quite to the extent of expertise. Still, the barbaric and violent atmosphere evoked by percussion of any kind is very primitive in nature – even when finely tuned, crafted to perfection and brought to unheard-of levels. To me, drums are the pulse of spiritual Being tapped into infinite chaos. The corporeal vessel of the percussionist must in turn decipher non-linear time and channel it through that which has meaning and purpose. Only then can it make its way into that which eventually becomes composition. So, in simple conclusion: yes, audible artistry is indeed the primary focus and a strong component of our output. I must also add that it brings to one’s body the ability to remain agile and maintain focused discipline, as well as granting opportunity to carve out an inimitable voice within a musical medium usually deemed voiceless. Most of its greatest influences come from the base instinct of hitting one object upon another! Dare I say all acts of aggression stem from this primal state of Being? Did not the first strike from Cain upon Abel produce a great sound of thunder? Both in audio form and spiritual percussive gull. Eternal might! All matter doth wage war against all other matter, such is the matter of all facts. And it’s a most beautiful and horrific thing to embrace, all at once. It’s the great determinism, the grand design, seize it always and boundless knowledge will be yours and yours alone.
Paulus harbours an outlook which teaches that yielding all expectations and embracing chaos presents the most efficient means for mastering one’s direction in life.
– Navigating adversity is the principal foundation upon which sentience is built – surely, we can wholeheartedly agree on this without quarrel? Surrendering to the perpetually changing tidal flow of reality is a question with perhaps many conclusions to many minds, which brings us to the examination of free will. The architect of choice. Notions of infinite possibilities and artificial constructions of outcome are the greatest deceptions human consciousness ever designed for itself. Proclaiming either the present or future are subject to manipulation is on the exact same level of delusional absurdity as avowing abilities of altering one’s past. Free will is an illusion, there are no alternate rivers of time and there’s no coincidence. There is no mistake in universal totality and no error in that which exists, has existed, or shall exist.
As our abilities to measure cognitive functions increase, the matter of free will has seen increased debate within various scientific and philosophical disciplines. Prolific neuroscientists such as Sam Harris suggest that human thoughts, desires, and intentions are all predetermined by background mechanisms we neither notice nor control. With all mental activity governed by physical events, what we trick ourselves into perceiving as active choices have in reality already been made up for us by our biochemistry. Just like all earthly objects, the humanoid brain operates in accordance with the laws of nature. As such, Harris argues that fluctuations in its operative and material state regulate the host’s cerebral activities. He believes free will to be an illusion, that we are bereft of sentient freedom to formulate and execute our own actions. ‘The intention to do one thing and not another does not originate in consciousness’, says Harris, ‘rather it appears in consciousness. As does any thought or impulse that might impose it.’ Studies performed with fMRI technology demonstrate how the brain indicates impending decisions seven-hundred milliseconds before we ourselves become consciously aware of them. In 2008, a group of scientists using modern brain-scanning technology managed to predict with sixty percent accuracy whether their volunteers would use their right or left hand to push a button – ten seconds before the test subjects did. Conclusions drawn from this purport that our conscious self does not initiate behaviour but is rather made aware of actions being first planned and then carried out by body and brain. Proponents of the theory acknowledge that our consciousness might at least play a mitigating role, and how implementing some manner of principled framework can render certain outcomes likelier than others. Harris takes the example of weight loss: despite desperately wanting to get in shape, many are incapable of forcing themselves to take the necessary measures. Dieters can remove all confectionaries from their places of residence, thus reducing the risk of cheating; the urge to do so, however, lingers beyond sentient control. Individuals who’ve been wanting to lose weight for years suddenly find that extra incentive required to make it happen. What differs in mental states here, where one is capable where the other isn’t? Whatever this motivational drive might be, says Harris, its spark was not generated from conscious choice but rather intercepted from external sources.
– Asserting belief in free will is to acknowledge the existence of a creator. Does one accept dwelling in the universe where all has been designed to utmost perfection, with the ultimate outcome planned in accordance to final law and judgement, facing either punishment or redemption at its conclusion… only to know it was free will, given by said creator to all sentient life? This would appear to bestow upon a perfect creator inherent flaws, does it not? There’s only one solution to this intrinsic predicament: shedding all fear and doubts, casting away all forms of the oppressor. To do so is a life-long and continuous task of Being. I now know faith may be the next logical leap; so, dive into the abyss of belief within your own heart and ye shall surely know life eternal. The lantern hangs within – follow only your own path for it is set in perfect motion and you are its architect. None above and none below, determinism in totality, solipsism as primary self-rule.
If I’m understanding Paulus correctly here, he subscribes to a pragmatic worldview similar to that of Richard Dawkins’ reductionist atheist stance. As such, I’m wondering where he believes the creative flow one taps into when ‘in the zone’ stems from.
– A fantastic pondering you’ve wrought upon me, Niklas! This shall bring about discourse on irony, faith, and argument, among many other ideas. Firstly, I am indeed entrenched in the reductionist stance, I offer no opposition to such a proclamation but seize full posture upon it. Let us start with irony, shall we? As much as I espouse all things real, unchangeable, logical and metaphysical… I am unquestionably also that which channels the spirit realm. Unable to determine with certainty from whence or what my lyrical and compositional body of work derives – I’m at least certain it’s not from me, in most cases, but rather some manner of gift or curse. Either way, I’m a proponent of said body, mind, and work and am grateful to continue as such; this is the ‘flow state’, as you word it. We all may have it in varying degrees. This brings us to faith, and consequently back to irony, as I do indeed have faith! We spoke of adversity earlier on, the constant state of merging with strife in one singular degree or another. To bear this virtue upon one’s sleeve is to wear that which states individuality and knowledge of past language and argument. Oneness with totality and an unbending conviction. Ironically, it’s a god-given singularity in all parts. Argument: not for the sake of it, no, never. But for the very basis of this script which your readers cast their eyes upon.