by Niklas Göransson
Sektarism is an improvisational convergence of droning funeral doom. French underground veterans N. Kapalika and Eklezjas’Tik Berzerk explain that feeding the egregore is how one keeps the ritual alive.
– We can’t always predict what will occur and appear, says N. Kapalika, despite our foundation of pre-defined structures, SEKTARISM is based on improvisation. Our latest work, “Fils de Dieu”, was released only a year after its predecessor, “La Mort de l’Infidèle”. Considering they were recorded at the same time, both albums are intrinsically linked to each other: the result of a prolonged studio visit some years ago during which a lot of material was harvested. We had a clear idea of the direction we were aiming at, everything makes sense to us. After the devotee’s not-only-symbolical death, as depicted in “La Mort de l’Infidèle”, our new record completes the chapter about degradation and fall with the passing of the prophet himself. So, “Fils de Dieu” was already firmly lodged within our minds, in the smallest detail, when its predecessor was released – even the artwork was nearing completion.
The illustrations in the album’s booklet really are quite spectacular, what’s the story there?
– I’ve always been impressed by the art of Dehn Sora, says Eklezjas’Tik Berzerk, we’ve known each other for quite some time. Fifteen or so years ago he was a customer of my old distro, Battlesk’rs. Also, he’s followed SEKTARISM since the beginning and is therefore very familiar with our work. We collaborated over a couple of months, Dehn has a clear vision of our state of mind and it was easy for him to follow his instinct after being approached about working with us. To me, “Fils de Dieu” is our Magnum Opus – I’m honestly not sure we can reach much higher than this – so I was clear since the beginning that I wanted a massive artwork to reflect all of its sides and I think he ended up surpassing my expectations. Dehn Sora is certainly one of the greatest artists of his generation and a human with great values.
“Fils de Dieu” consists of two compositions; the first of which, “Oderint dum metuant”, is rather challenging listening but still very powerful. Given the improvisational nature of their music I wish to understand the scenario of SEKTARISM in the studio, producing that ungodly racket. N.K. explains.
– This one was recorded under special circumstances. To be honest, it wasn’t even supposed to exist at all! All of it was pure improvisation unfolding during a difficult moment… we’re human beings and, just like anyone else, we have our ups and downs. Tension arose during the recording of “La Mort de l’Infidèle” and for some reason we started quarrelling. It escalated to the point where mister Neb Xort – studio owner and producer on this session – had to separate us before we engaged in a fistfight, haha. He roughly sent all of us to separate parts of the place with an ultimatum that we had to calm down before he’d agree to work with us again. We came to our senses and started trying out some experiments, each on his side… and something unique happened, an improvisation slowly begun: chants, drones and percussion rising and melting to finally form something coherent. Nothing was planned or intended, it was a pure ‘let go’ experience that remarkably arose at a challenging time… or because of it, perhaps? Neb Xort had the foresight to secretly record the whole thing, allowing for us to improvise this long and painful sonic catharsis. The result was so vivid we kept it on the album. I love it because it’s the product of something totally natural and spontaneous, a moment of elevation absurdly borne of tension and anger. Of course, it sounds raw and could’ve been better conducted but it’s SEKTARISM in its purest form. Living magick.
The second track, “Sacrifice”, features more of what would traditionally be termed music and is far easier to absorb with its mesmerising pounding distortion. I am of the opinion that one listens to entire metal albums, as opposed to single tracks. However, I imagine that for someone less principled who happens to be in the mood for some SEKTARISM, but doesn’t quite want to endure a full sonic psychosis, it might be tempting to skip “Oderint dum metuant” and dive right into “Sacrifice”. I’m wondering if the creators would approve of this approach.
– I agree with you here, says N.K., I have a hard time separating a song from its context, and not only for metal albums. This is especially true for our works of course. Each part gets its meaning in relation to the others, everything is bound together. Improvised music implies that a certain energy must be set in motion. One idea gives birth to another, we talk and answer to each other via music so you cannot understand why and how a certain ‘song’ or ‘part’ can be there if you don’t link it to what happened before. Furthermore, our music is not precisely easy listening in terms of structure, riffs, choruses, or anything else that’s usually the backbone of everyday musical productions. I don’t understand how one could listen to fragments of “Hosanna Sathana” (2015 EP) or “Sacrifice” just for themselves… better to not listen at all. I’m not a moralist who gives orders so it’s up to everyone to define their own preferred way of appreciating and diving into it an album but, in my opinion, our work forms a whole which cannot be divided.
I’m curious if present company believes the infusion of authentic emotion into music can bestow upon it additional qualities. Meaning, more non-tonal depth than a comparable composition by musicians who are just as skilled but do not charge their output with anything of themselves besides technical abilities.
– If music is a language, musical theory is its grammar. Of course, such knowledge and technical abilities are primordial if you want to elaborate on valuable works of art and express them in a correct way. But it’s only a foundation upon which you start to build. Sensibility, visions and faith are obviously the fire elevating your work – they transcend it to another dimension. None of these elements replace the others, all are equally important.
During my research for this conversation, browsing photos of SEKTARISM performing live on stage left me rather intrigued as to what this would be like in concert.
– It’s all in the act of living it and you only live what’s already inside you. ‘Come as you are’ and reveal your true side in a moment of personal abandon. I guess this is what SEKTARISM on stage is all about: a mirror we give to people, an opportunity to step into the trance and let their true face emerge. It’s far more interesting than giving them something from us. The Devil is already inside you and we are just messengers, conveyors, channellers. Towards Him. Our aim is removing to the greatest possible extent this barrier between ourselves and our crowd, involving them in the process. A ceremony has officiants and participants, priests, and believers – all take part in transforming the rite into an organic moment. ‘Living magick’, as I said. Together with the audience you build something greater than yourself. Communion, as opposed to a mere heavy metal concert. Exchanges and manipulation of energies in which everyone present is supposed to participate. We’re pissed off to see that more and more concerts, especially black metal, are becoming bore-fests where a new and young supposed elite think ‘rituals’, a concept they have not the slightest clue about, is a moment when you stand still, doing nothing, acting all serious with arms crossed and not shouting. We are witnessing this more and more often, both in France and several other places in Europe. Fuck these posers.
What would be the proper conduct then?
– A ritual is something alive, you’re supposed to create and feed an egregore. Of course, our stage gear is perfect for promoting the right atmosphere and state of mind but we welcome people whatever they look like – all that’s needed to get into altered states of consciousness is feeling close to us. Perhaps it’s a plague of the ‘religious’ trend: people who lack culture, insight, and experience believe that candles, robes, and such shit are more important than living sensations and an out-of-control expression of faith? Is everything only about the surface? After all, “Vampires of Black Imperial Blood” (MÜTIILATION) or “All the Witches Dance” (MORTUARY DRAPE) didn’t need any ‘religious’ labels. I’m a bit pessimistic about the way black metal evolves. Sincere expressions of concepts and faith are turning into a masquerade… or is it just the natural evolution of things? Paradigm shifts will have to occur.
I’ve heard many fond mentions about the old Parisian scene of the 90s and early 00s, how underground shows used to be rather hostile. SEKTARISM are from Toulouse – which is on the other side of the country – so I’d like to know if their local underground events were comparable.
– Sure, says E.B., twenty years ago up until somewhere around 2005 or 2006, shows were far more hostile than they are now. It’s not hard to see, currently it’s the same thing everywhere in our society. Everything is more aseptic, based on aesthetic and futility, and this has also become reality in our scene. It has started since a couple of decades back and it was the case at the turn of the millennium but now it’s just incredibly pathetic. In the middle of the 90s, a special feeling was in the air – a sensation of danger. Walking into a festival with underground bands was like entering the forbidden zone. Trading tapes hand-to-hand was akin to illegal acts; you were like a drug dealer who chose his customers. It was not rare to have a fight, mosh pits were extreme, and black metal was like a mafia.
Did you have any connections to the Parisian scene?
– Always. I’ve signed many bands from Paris on my labels, Battlesk’rs and Necrocosm. When I got into black metal I lived in the south-east of France and it had the same atmosphere. When I relocated to Toulouse in ‘98 it was rather hostile too, lots of chaotic acts and blasphemies were perpetrated. Now we’re older but it seems as if the old fanatics are still the most devoted. But lots of links are broken. Fraternity is really rare nowadays, lots of opportunism and competition. Maybe my vision is the one of an old moron but I see an increase in jealousy, opportunistic acts, and lack of support for one another. It’s my personal view of course. Also, I don’t see the flames in the eyes of newcomers, I see only nothingness…
In their interview for Abominatio Desolationis #1, SEKTARISM referred to a gentleman by the name of Georges Bataille as ‘mandatory reading’. Bataille was a French intellectual who wrote about various topics, two of the prevailing ones being eroticism and esotericism.
– Bataille’s works are numerous and varied in forms, says N.K., he has several faces one can find appealing for different reasons: the philosopher, the writer, or the essayist. As for drama I’d pick Madame Edwarda as my personal choice, primarily for its horrendous expression of divinity. The Divine is presented as an absolute, an entity and concept without limits that finally emerges in horrendous visions of erotism. God is a cunt, a pig, a negation of all and ultimately a negation of Himself, of nothing. There are no limits. Also, essays like L’experience intérieur or Les larmes d’Eros will surely suit you too. You’ll always find something disturbing and stimulating in his works. He was a thinker of the absolute, of the sacrilegious revelation, something we have difficulties accepting in this age of materialism and self-centeredness. We need Bataille more than ever, for inner exploration and negating – and maybe to find divinity within ourselves?
On that note, I’m wondering if SEKTARISM find religious expressions to be an intrinsic part of great art. Many argue that the current Western abandonment of the metaphysical for materialism is perfectly reflected in everything from contemporary music to the dreadful modern architecture.
– I guess I’ll beg to differ a bit there, says N.K. Or maybe we don’t give the same meaning to ‘religious expression’? If you mean here something directly related to any organised or revealed faith, belief or else, the answer is simply no.
Most certainly nothing to with dogma – the 20,000-year-old paintings in Lascaux Cave could objectively be termed just as religious as the Sistine Chapel.
– Either way, there is beauty and elevation also in secular works – pieces of art with no connection to divinity can be as equally gut-shaking and awe-inspiring as religious works. Just consider the passion engraved in each note of albums such as GODSPEED YOU! BLACK EMPEROR’s “Slow Riot”, or SLINT’s “Spiderland”, to mention just a few. No relation to spirituality here, but fantastic and transcending works anyway. This equally counts for literature, poetry, painting, or cinema. But, as I said, all is in the depth of vision expressed by the artist. It’s not about the ‘divine’, more about a personal feeling of sacredness which paradoxically fits even in secular forms of art. Materialism is the constant enemy though, it’s impossible to go out and beyond yourself when following paths already opened by others. Nowadays, we need more personal insight and a pioneer spirit; to take risks, the risk of being sincere.