by Niklas Göransson
Ireland’s Malthusian depict through music the inherently chaotic character of its composers. Guitarist MB discusses his dimensional wanderlust as well as the pandemonium and calamity infused into their debut album, “Across Deaths”.
– The album title refers to the notion of human beings having the ability of conceptualising scenarios, to enact them through the mind and problem-solve our way out of danger. If an animal faces a threatening situation, they don’t have the same capacity to imagine their way through it and so run a higher risk of getting killed. The ‘deaths’ refers to the conceptual deaths we can traverse in our minds as a survival tactic.
Listening to the record, one audible feature that made a rather striking first impression was the ghastly racket of unknown origin appearing towards the end of “Primal Attunement – The Gloom Epoch”.
– That’s a friend of ours, Cossie, from a band of Irish folk miscreants called LANKUM, formally known as LYNCHED. Our 2013 “MMXIII” demo had small amounts of noise incorporated, which incidentally got far more full-on than initially intended so this time around we thought that – given the sparseness of the song’s ending – it would be good to bring in other elements. Cossie is a fan of the band and all of us of LANKUM, as well as trad and folk in general. It’s in our blood and so seemed like the right match. He brought along his fiddle, a viola, specific mics, and several ideas he’d been working on: different ways of scraping and picking the strings, warpy tuning, as well as a few melodies. All done off the cuff. It’s good being able to incorporate a touch of traditional Irish music into something so far removed from it, and without going down the bullshit shillelaghs-and-shamrocks route.
Elements of Celtic folk music were particularly prevalent in the Irish underground metal of the nineties. However, since the millennial shift there have been a few emergent bands focusing on more brutal and violent expressions.
– Besides PRIMORDIAL, MOURNING BELOVETH, and a few older folk metal bands, the scene only came alive on an international scale – at least in my view – with ZOM. They lit a fire under people’s arses and we started gaining confidence for underground bands actually achieving something on the global stage. The thing about all the bands in our circle here is that we’re all so inherently different from one another. We don’t sound anything like VIRCOLAC or COSCRADH or ZEALOT CULT or ZOM before that, which I imagine comes down to the thin on-the-ground scattering of musicians who share the same tastes and mindset. I think the Irish metal scene is currently in an acceptable state for where we are and the size of its demographic, and tend to be less forgiving than Andy (guitars) but more so than someone like Alan (PRIMORDIAL). I suppose it’s cliquish to a degree, which I don’t mind as the good bands will make it through, for the most part, and the shit ones will keep playing the same pubs week in and week out.
One characteristic aspect they’ve retained on “Across Deaths” is the frequent use of multiple vocalists, which greatly contributes to the bedlam and calamity.
– Second time’s a charm! For true confusion and chaos, you should’ve heard the first session – now that was retarded. We went into the studio with the music ironclad but with vocal arrangements only in place for “Remnant Fauna” and sections of “Primal Attunement. After four days of heavy drinking and sessioning we decided that, with the music now done, we’d crack into this two-litre bottle of whiskey which had been gifted to us by the ever-enabling Herr Invictus. The results ended up as spastic as we were. As tends to be a recurring theme in life, a good idea while demented drunk might not be as perfectly executed as one initially thought.
These distorted bee-swarming guitar eruptions – whatever the proper term is – which were a crucial component for the psychedelic dissonance of earlier works have also remained, but to a lesser extent.
– I have absolutely no idea what they could possibly be called. And don’t mistake that for me trying to sell you a line about our conjurations lying beyond our power or some other such hackneyed gibberish; it’s just that I know nothing of guitar theory. There’s probably a very simple term for it. Ha! Any psychedelic dissonance coming across on the album is purely coincidental and not something we actively strove for but, between members, a lot of our favourite artists from all genres tend to lie on the warped and wonky side of things; from Tom Waits to Stanislav Tolckachev to endless amounts of unhinged metal bands. As such, it might not be surprising to find our influences shining through. That said, we do compose meticulously – change up and rearrange our songs and riffs until we’re happy with what we have.
In my August 2016 MALTHUSIAN interview, I inquired about the ‘hallucinogenic black death doom’ moniker they used at the time. Guitarist AC referred to a technique they’d developed – fusing together two similar riffs in order to spark the impression of a third one.
– To be honest, it definitely isn’t as prevalent as it was on other recordings but it’s definitely there in some guise or another. Revisiting old songs, I’m still surprised at times by what Andy is playing; after initially writing the material together, I’d never have paid any attention to it. I rarely listen to the first two recordings and when performing live I have my guitar and vocals as well as the kick and snare – nothing else. He could be playing “Old MacDonald” and I’d be none the wiser, which probably isn’t too far off for a few of our past gigs. I wish I could say we were so fully in tune with our art as to pour immense efforts into it but, truth be told, for several of those occasions we were simply too lazy to learn each other’s riffs and just wrote something over it instead. And so it happened that what we started off doing out of convenience has since become our style. The Devil is in the details! We tend to be in-sync a lot more often than we used to, all the while retaining the fundamental weirdness that brought us here.
One reason I found the technique compelling was that this is precisely how binaural beats work. I’ve prattled on about this psychoactive auditory application numerous times before: listening through headphones to a tone with minor frequency variations in each ear tricks the brain into igniting a third frequential pulse – the binaural beat. Shifting the frequency range between them alters their cognitive effect; some have a focusing quality whereas others are more geared towards meditation.
– I’ve being meaning to delve more into binaural beats, as well as agitating or provocative frequencies, but never have. I also enjoy fucked up electronic music as well as techno and I’m sure many producers implement such frequencies into their music to promote feelings of discomfort. It annoys me that some metallers only listen to dark synth, synth-wave, and so on just because certain types of electronic music have become acceptable by the masses. If they truly enjoy it, why not search further? There’s so much horrifying music to be found out there.
– As with all things I’d say that’s subjective but what attracted me to metal while growing up was its inherent obsession with darkness and horror. These things hold the same appeal today but it’s a long time since I found any of it genuinely disturbing. When I was about eighteen I discovered good filthy techno and that feeling returned – albeit somewhat fleetingly, as with increasing familiarity comes a gradual loss of potency. It’s all about music that makes an uncomfortable impact. I find that repetitive beats lock you in, which consequently allows for deeper levels of creeping madness similar to scaldy funeral doom. I see a weird correlation between electronic music and the more extreme side of metal. The often-prevalent industrial element in a lot of the stuff I like also adds to the music’s bleak and isolating nature. I mostly listen to mixes but a few worth checking out are Ancient Methods, Samuel Kerridge, Codex Empire, Surgeon, Karenn… the list goes on. Just disappear down a Boiler Room rabbit hole if it’s of interest. Stuff like Ben Frost’s “Aurora” or “Faith in Strangers” by Andy Stott is also incredibly jarring. I dunno, it just annoys me when people champion a sole facet of something and then completely ignore all other elements. Get ta fuck.
There’s something subtle lurking in the background of “Sublunar Hex” which, when listened to in headphones, consistently made me think someone was ringing my doorbell. I absolutely detest unannounced visitors so this induced substantial unease on multiple occasions. Given how promoting listener trepidation is part of MALTHUSIAN’s intent, I can only commend them for a job well-done.
– Delighted to be causing you discomfort outside of trying to coerce coherent answers out of me. It’s a bum note we left in. We’ve come to realise that at this stage, there’s no point in polishing our work. We are messy, chaotic cunts in all other aspects of life; traits perfectly replicated through our music. Thirteen months will have passed from recording to the time of release, along which way every conceivable obstacle outside one of us dying – which still isn’t entirely off the table – has reared its vile head so the process has been a fully honest thematic representation. We are the art, haha!
One would think that in order to accurately convey this suffocating bad-trip emulation, the composers are likely to have first-hand experience from psychotropic forays into the realm of cenobites.
– Hah, cenobites is fitting imagery! I think music comes from anywhere and anyone; all of it’s out there waiting to be intercepted by a jilted mind. I’ve generally only had life-affirming experiences on psychedelics but the mushroom fucked me a few times when I was younger. They grow wild here around this time of year and were widely available for legal purchase until around 2004, so I was doing them constantly. There were many uncomfortable moments throughout the years but only once was I swallowed completely: Holland in ‘05, watching REVEREND BIZARRE. I’d been given the shrooms for free as they’d passed their expiration date so, being an ill-conceived notion of a pychonaut, I gobbled down the entire pack once I arrived at the venue and then swiftly proceeded to go blind in one eye. Shortly thereafter, I convinced myself that we were on a ship floating down into hell; the music did an amazing job of exaggerating the situation as well, seeing as how Albert Witchfinder appeared to be standing at the ship’s bow captaining our expedition. Following that was a visit to the nuclear-firestorm-playground scene from Terminator 2, topped off with an hour or two of sheer horror. I obviously survived but it left me in shock for months. I also stopped smoking cannabis at that point after paranoia-levels coupled with the mental torment of the aftermath became too overwhelming. I remember being fully aware of how it was all a construct of my own mind doing this to me – and respecting it for such madness – but this insight wasn’t enough to shake the dread. Subsequent to that, I got a taste of things going wrong when a friend smoked DMT in my house.
N,N-Dimethyltryptamine is a psychoactive compound found in various concentrations throughout the plant kingdom as well as in both human and animal bodies. It’s often used as an entheogen by either vaporising extracts made from tree bark or drinking a brew called ayahuasca – a preparation consisting of DMT-rich foliage boiled together with a companion plant that allows for it to become orally active. Since DMT is naturally occurring within the human body, it’s also possible to induce an endogenous release through breathing exercises, meditation, and similar practices. Researchers have even suggested that dreams are nocturnal DMT emissions. The vaporising variety Matt refers to facilitates an approximately ten-minute-long highly visual out-of-body experience during which interactions with seemingly sentient beings are commonly reported. Some of them converse cordially and even offer advice, others are distinctly hostile.
– As he blasted off, I grabbed the pipe and had the last little toke. I regretted it immediately. I’d smoked DMT countless times prior and enjoyed the tingle of even a small blast when things get slightly fractal but you know you’re not gonna break through – however, there was something incredibly dark that came over me that time. A narrow escape; had I taken a bigger hit I’d have been fucked. I do believe these things shouldn’t be done in such a flippant manner and held that ideal steadfast for quite some while after my first experience but then ended up doing it for purely recreational reasons as DMT was always around.
What’s the appeal with such frequent use?
– I have a massive desire to be elsewhere and DMT is one quick-fire way of getting there. Acid and ketamine, individually or preferably mixed, have provided slowed-down versions of DMT on a number of occasions and the rewards were palpable. A good trip makes you ten percent more of who you are – at least that’s the line I feed myself. I have intentions of being far more respectful and participating in an ayahuasca ceremony at some point in the not too distant future, since Johnny (drums) has become an advocate. I’m going to try sensory deprivation tanks first as they’re more convenient to me. Haha. That sort of attitude is endemic of why I haven’t done it yet, as with many other things for that matter. I also carry a degree of fear towards these things but that needs to be a part of it, I think.
Matt mentions having read the conversation with Sturla Viðar of SVARTIDAUÐI in Bardo Methodology #3. It contains an in-depth exploration of DMT and a few conceptually related subjects such as the reality simulation theory.
– Without any real understanding outside my own gut, I think the simulation theory you touched on with Sturla – the very one my old housemate tried discussing years ago to my dismissive ignorance – seems increasingly plausible. There’s no permanence in my ideals towards existence ‘cause the next experience may throw a new spin on things and I’m fascinated to see how I deal with it. After the first-ever time I did DMT, I came out of it thinking I could never be an atheist and this also created a relaxation before the notion of dying. As it goes, that feeling dissolved over time and my everyday anxieties returned. I lost sight of it somewhat but have experienced love in those outer and inner worldly experiences that were completely new to me; all the while being the most familiar and primal, nurturing, bliss-like feelings I’ve ever known.
Most people’s initial reaction to the aforementioned reality simulation theory is to scoff. The basic premise claims that the life we believe ourselves to lead is nothing but a digital hologram, something akin to an advanced and extremely immersive future edition of video games such as The Sims. Digging further into the matter, it gradually becomes clear that some of these assertions might not be as ludicrous as they first seem. There’s also an impressive number of serious people who openly support it, including Elon Musk and Neil deGrasse Tyson. With a few alterations in nomenclature, the theory is leant conceptual support from the Gnostics, Buddhists, Hindus, and any other religious tradition espousing an illusory worldview. It has an equally curious connection with ego-dissolving psychotropics – the aforementioned sacred fungus, ceremonial cacti, edible cannabis, LSD, salvia divinorum, and so on – through a temporary delirium known as derealisation, which has been known to make an appearance in conjunction with high dosages. It instils upon the afflicted an unwavering and adamant conviction that the world we see and engage in, ‘reality’, is nothing but a mere mirage. Due to the associated existential terror of such a perceived insight, it’s known as somewhat of a Rolls Royce of bad trips. What makes it particularly peculiar is that when trapped within this state, delusive theories would in fact appear to be the truth of divinity.
– Derealisation and in particular the simulation theory are very isolating and frightening notions. Where do you go after acknowledging a concept like that? I suppose it’s very specific to the person to see if you ride it out for what can only be perceived as entertainment, which in itself is quite a psychotic notion, or do you just kill yourself to see what happens at game over? Not the best options to be left with. It also brings up some interesting aspects about how we perceive people with severe mental illness; perhaps they’re living a blissful existence while the rest of us are stuck in a perpetual cycle of monotony, pushing ourselves further from any understanding of our own existence? We are definitely living in a predetermined life pattern. I obviously don’t mean that in a religious sense but society makes all of our decisions for us throughout more or less every aspect of life. Regardless of how outlaw or free-thinking you consider yourself – you are not. There is no original thought. To paraphrase Brendan Behan: ‘It’s not that I’m cynical, it’s rather that I have a wonderful lack of respect for everything and everybody.’