by Niklas Göransson
Oblivion and ecstasy – Iceland’s Misþyrming present Dionysian musings in the spirit of the Übermensch. Frontman and founder D.G. discusses their upcoming album, “Algleymi”, of which a full preview is available via an exclusive stream.
– Musically I’d like to think that “Algleymi” speaks for itself, more so than a thousand words. In essence, I make rock and roll music straight from the heart. I like both pounding and fierce blasting as well as fast, DISSECTION-like snare-fuelled rock beats – anything capable of sparking the fire within me. Thematically, the album spitefully envisions a society led astray. Having been written for vinyl, it’s divided into side A and side B; the first half has a macro-cosmic approach to the theme, examining the collective, whereas the latter concentrates on the individual and how he relates to the herd.
“Algleymi” – MISÞYRMING’s new album, released by Norma Evangelium Diaboli on May 24 – was first recorded in 2016. Despite D.G. having all equipment necessary for a semi-pro recording, the process was marred by many unfortunate miscalculations.
– I didn’t realise how critical these mistakes were until the final mix was ready in early 2017. It came down to a combination of poor performance and cheap equipment. I struggled to fix that which was already ruined but, to my utter disappointment, ended up in the devastating conclusion that one cannot un-cook a burnt steak – thus being left with no choice but to re-record it all from scratch. Very bitter but, fortunately, the right spirit could be heard in the songs so we vowed to do the material proper justice by capturing everything accurately. Following intense rehearsals, we restarted the entire process in the autumn of 2017. Conveniently, at the time I had access to a professional studio in which we tracked the drums. The remaining recordings took place in our rehearsal space, Gryfjan, but with far better equipment the second time around. I borrowed a Mesa Boogie amplifier from my good friend Þórir of SVARTIDAUÐI and added extra layers of the classic HM2 pedal; in honour of Swedish death metal, of course.
The new record sees keyboards play an increasingly prevalent role in MISÞYRMING’s soundscape.
– Yes. When used delicately, I’m really fond of keyboards. Choirs and synthesisers can have a massive impact on atmosphere, conjuring up an almost spiritual impression. Some bands rely too much on it though, which to me is dull – contrast is important. Still, there are shameless bands like DARKSPACE who pull it off perfectly. The freedom to add extra layers of weird shit in the studio is essentially limitless but I’ve approached my recordings in a way that’ll be more or less practical to pull off live. MISÞYRMING’s foundation will always lie in traditional rock instruments: guitars, bass, drums, and vocals. We’ll require an extra helping hand to perform keys for future shows but never in the form of an on-stage member. I’m pretty sure IRON MAIDEN use off-stage keyboardists for the classic synth-heavy 80s stuff, like my favourites from “Somewhere in Time” and “Seventh Son of a Seventh Son”.
D.G. says they are currently colluding with Belgian promoter A Thousand Lost Civilizations for a headline tour in September 2019, featuring also DARVAZA and VORTEX OF END.
– Other than that, the plan is to perform at various festivals around Europe like we’ve been doing the past four years. We’re also playing Iceland in June; after announcing the end of his Oration festival, it was a pleasant surprise to see Stephen Lockhart (REBIRTH OF NEFAST) continuing the legacy under a new moniker, Ascension. Stephen’s massive ambitions are once again confirmed with this supremely impressive line-up. I’m really looking forward to experiencing ANTAEUS, especially since they quit performing live just a few weeks before Nidrosian Black Mass V – where I was supposed to see them for the first time – back in 2015.
The lyrics on “Algleymi” are all in Icelandic but also come translated into English. Glancing through them I found the title “Iceland, Castrated Dump” to be somewhat eye-catching. I’m curious if this is a stab against the actual Icelandic populace or rather their nation as represented by the state.
– It’s a somewhat irresponsible hate anthem to the entire nation. The lyrics are purely metaphorical in describing the infertile landscape of this godless skerry. Cold winds have made it impossible for life to thrive on most of the island, and so have its people done to themselves – a conquering force eats up its surroundings. The idea for this song was conceived after my first meeting with Dutch artist Manuel Tinnemans, during which we agreed that he’d handle the cover artwork. Having been travelling around Iceland for some time, Manuel described his experience to me. I felt deep resonance with his account of black beaches and icy deserts; not only did it fit my view of the landscape but also my thoughts on our disgusting society.
While Manuel’s scenic observations left their mark on D.G.’s lyrics, the cover art was inspired the two songs “Alsæla” and “Algleymi”.
– Alsæla and algleymi are practically the same word, both used to describe ecstasy. To clarify, the prefix Al- stands for total. Sæla means joy while gleymi means forgetfulness, mind’s void; hence why I chose to translate them as ecstasy and oblivion. The detail separating those words is the very one casting them as opposites, although mirrored. Exactly like yin and yang as well as the Kabbalistic Tree of Life and Qliphoth. “Alsæla” is a proud and splendid song while “Algleymi” oozes darkness and loathing.
Lyric-wise, the former sounds as if it’s describing some manner of drug dependency?
– Yes, I suppose you could say it describes drugs… or simply alcohol which, as we all know, is a dangerous drug in itself. The identity of this substance – if there even is one, might it be a god? – is not important. What’s relevant here is the behaviour of man: desire, dependency, and defeat. The individual speaking through these songs has created a god. He worships him, surrenders, and prevails. The lyrical themes in general are strongly correlated to the music’s attitude. The theme, oblivion, describes a society mislead into Dionysian worship of ritualistic intoxication and sex.
I’m not quite sure I follow here. If anything, I’d say Western society has removed any form of ceremony from states of intoxication.
– Oh, but the ritual itself still exists today, indeed, albeit taking a shape which is far more subconscious in nature. Every weekend they flock to bars and nightclubs, seeking relief from the work-week that just passed. As anyone who frequents drinking establishments on weekends after midnight can attest to, people tend to get piss-drunk, dancing in awe to loud music – often in the hopes of finding someone they can drag home and fuck. It’s obviously an expression of our primal nature. For fuck’s sake, dancing itself is a mating ritual. Sex is a primal need that’s repressed on a daily basis. For some, even casual conversation is challenging enough and the relief of intoxication helps them break free of it. With each drink and drug, inhibitions are loosened and demons unleashed. It may seem innocent enough at first but, more often than not, there are lines being crossed. That’s when people turn pathetic, careless, and savage. It’s simple human nature, which is why it still exists. Same old oblivious sex, drugs, and rock ‘n’ roll. The old Dionysian ritual worship called Orgia describes exactly this.
Dionysus is the Ancient Greek god of wine, fertility, theatre, and ritual frenzy. Among the mystery cults of archaic Hellas, orgions were ecstasy-oriented rites of Dionysian worship featuring ceremonial intoxication, snake-handling, masked dancing, sacrifice, and copulation. Besides sounding like an all-around good time, the primary orgiastic purpose was allowing mystic exaltation to tear down any cultural or mental hindrances standing between participants and the Divine.
– I don’t consider faith to be something based on belief in spirits and supernatural entities, such as the existence of Santa Claus. God has always been a mere metaphor for dominant power. The same applies to Satan but with different values… or, perhaps the exact same values. He who seeks godhood desires power and to gain power one often needs to put certain principles aside, easily resulting in questionable or even immoral choices. The one who has a god will also be subject to the whip. Again, a conquering force – “With Whips Aloft” – eats up its surroundings as the skin grows scarcer for every strike.
“Algleymi” features some pretty impressive displays of musicianship. Bearing this in mind, I recall hearing that D.G.’s background as a musician is an unusual one.
– At the age of six, I started learning the piano in an independent Suzuki method music-school. According to this line of thought, music is taught much like a language and with an emphasis on expression. Therefore, reading notes was not taught in the beginning – learning by ear is paramount. I was trained to express myself through music. I also sang in a choir, which was highly educational: studying notes, analysing complex song structures, and being challenged to sing something completely different than the person next to you. It’s all quite tricky.
All this must’ve been damn-near invaluable for someone who’d later set out to create atmospheric black metal?
– Yes, indeed – I take it with me anywhere I go with music. But it’s funny you should use the expression ‘atmospheric black metal’; the rare occasions I bother voicing my opinion on social media is mostly when ranting about this very term. It bothers me so ridiculously much – does it imply that black metal is not atmospheric per definition? Is ‘brutal death metal’ more brutal than death metal? What’s next, rhythmic techno?
Little did he know that my pre-interview investigation had already uncovered this particular penchant, and my ploy to use the offending term served splendidly in eliciting the desired response. Now that he’s all riled up, D.G. adds finding this vexatious categorisation to be but one of many symptoms of the genre’s current state.
– This feminist-vegan-no borders community has appropriated black metal to their lifestyles and ideologies; the result is soft-touching snare hits in dull blast-beats accompanied by boring and safe vocal ‘shrieks’ along with uninteresting, cheesy, melodic post-rock riffs… everything extended to fourteen-minute tracks to create, quote-unquote, ‘atmosphere’. No rock and roll. This would in fact be an insult to what black metal is if it hadn’t been so pathetic. But, at the same time, it is not theirs in the first place and this vile appropriation simply doesn’t qualify as black metal. It lacks all underlying fundamental elements, sound is only one of several important parts: it’s also about attitude, and the weak mindset of the community I speak of doesn’t belong here. A true black metal artist does not compromise, he is his own lord and bows to none. Just look at MAYHEM’s “De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas” for example. It’s grand. The cover artwork is big. The band logo is intimidating. The drums are relentless, with huge reverb. The riffs and vocals are strong and evil. No surrender, no mercy. In a way it fits the values of the Übermensch, as well as Nietzschean ‘scholars’ such as Anton LaVey… not that I ever bothered reading his Satanic Bible.
First penned by German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche and then popularised through his 1883 Thus Spoke Zarathustra, the Übermensch concept was essentially a response to what he regarded as the problem of nihilism emerging to fill the void left by the Almighty. His famous quote ‘God is dead!’ refers to the notion of there being no Heavenly Father and that, in His absence, objective morals and innate values do not exist since there’s no governing divinity either laying them out or enforcing their creed. Instead, the Übermensch is God onto himself, embracing whatever morality he deems righteous. The Superman, as Irish playwright George Bernard Shaw named his take on the concept, does not slowly emerge through generations of accumulated wisdom but manifests instantaneously as any man of superior potential who rids himself of Abrahamitical herd mentality and seizes control of his own destiny. While a slave before none, neither is he anyone’s master – the Übermensch does not levy his will upon others. He is the foremost manifestation of another fundamental Nietzschean principle: the Will to Power, a primordial force the philosopher describes as embodying human traits such as ambition, achievement, and the constant strife towards personal betterment. Zarathustra hails the Superman as the creator of new values, as he who has come to expel nihilism and offer an existence liberated from superstition and religious folly, rooted in real meaning and life-affirmation. The meaning of earthly existence, believes the Übermensch, is the fact that it will ultimately end in death, hence the sacred charge of bestowing worth upon one’s journey there.
– These ‘social justice warriors’, I regard them as little more than troubled individuals. They are no warriors or kings, they are slaves. Or, perhaps the popular term would be victims. Special entitled snowflakes. God damn hippies. These are individuals with mental issues, depression, anxiety. But hey – is there anyone out there who’s never dealt with a little depression or anxiety? Come on, life is no fun without a few challenges. These people don’t feel good about themselves. They’ve been taught since early childhood that it’s okay to be a pussy, a loser; that it’s okay to cry every time something goes wrong. Nothing is their fault. These people have never fought for anything, everything has been handed to them on a silver platter so they are spoiled and bored. They have it so good that they actively seek out trouble… craving chaos and disruption, so what do they do? Blame their boredom and illness on others rather than taking responsibility. They look to perceived misdoings against themselves instead of acknowledging their own wrongs. These people become anti-this and anti-that; fighting everything in their surroundings instead of for things they value. I’m not sure they even have anything of the kind. I mean, what do you value when you’re exclusively opposing things? The world is an endless source of matters to take a stand against. You can try fighting all the violence and corruption and yet the stream will never end. In the end you become one with violence. You can’t see any progress and, therefore, don’t value what you’ve done. You become increasingly bitter. Still, there can’t be anything wrong with you; it must be everyone else. I think this is the reason why some people take the easy way out in life, always choosing the most convenient route. And you know what? The easiest option is usually what holds the most difficult results. The more work you put into what you do, the more prosperity you will reap. One easy way out of being depressed or anxious is this blame-game, where you refuse to take personal responsibility and don’t even think of being the lord of your own life.
D.G. describes the shock-headline media and its click-bait culture as a ‘powerful serpent’ which, throughout recent years, has poisoned both society and its debate-climate.
– Contemporary news sites generate most of their attention by sensationalist headlines designed to draw the masses to their website. Of course, this has existed for ages – for as long as we’ve had newspapers – but it’s been blown out of proportion with online advertisements and their click-algorithms, it drives the media to falsify information and corrupt the truth. Everything is exaggerated and distorted, interpreted in the worst way possible in order to stir up shock and outrage. And, frankly, the result is that nothing except the most extreme and vile is shocking anymore. The values of society have grown with it.
He mentions, as an example within metal, the common practice of various websites oriented towards traffic-based revenue accusing high-profile acts of extremist affiliations, despite not actually seriously believing this to be true. Sympathisers of these sites share such articles to warn about the band in question, whilst their counterparts post links on forums and social media to showcase the latest new low – both helping to generate the lucrative clicks spurring such behaviour. BEHEMOTH frontman Nergal recently demonstrated in delightfully devastating fashion both how these outfits work and, more importantly, how they are efficiently pacified.
– Hell, I’ve had pleasant and interesting conversations with questionable characters without necessarily agreeing with them. But it doesn’t matter whether I concur or not, I must keep it secret – it’s dangerous to have such connections because the media jumps to conclusions. And for what? To gain more clicks, so advertisers give ‘em more of that sweet money. The recent RAMMSTEIN video for “Deutschland” is a good example of this; they use, among other things, nazi imagery to criticise their own country and show all the violence Germany has seen and been responsible for throughout the ages. And how does the media respond? They make ‘shocking’ headline news, claiming that RAMMSTEIN use nazi imagery and disrespect victims. The song is pure criticism yet journalists jump to conclusions with very little information at hand. Consequently, people get angry not because of what RAMMSTEIN did but because of what the media told them was disrespectful.
D.G. adds that the rapid worldwide unveiling of black metal above the underground has facilitated this expansion of the genre, leaving its followers detached both from its roots and the inherent radical, elitist, and repulsive ideologies.
– This devolution mirrors perfectly our modern Western society and its politically correct culture. Social media is the perfect platform for people seeking to broadcast their own interpretations of whatever ideologies and present them as truth. Today’s newcomers to black metal are easily confused when the first YouTube results are friendly and false representations of the genre. Like all things that evolve, black metal was bound to undergo these drastic changes we’ve seen since the golden age of the 90s, and now the idea has lost potency. Good times breed weak men, as the saying goes. It might not be to one’s liking but fighting it is useless; it’s not important either way. The ‘true’ spirit of the 90s is firmly set in stone and will always be there. And there are still a few who carry the flame – a splendid few with fire burning in their hearts.