by Niklas Göransson
Walpurgis Fires burn with the flames of resentment. Old Coffin Spirit – guitarist of Polish death metal band Doombringer – discusses his captivation with infanticide and visionary horrors.
– Both the creative and recording process for “Walpurgis Fires” went easier than ever before; we needed about fifteen months to compose, practice, record, mix, and master all songs. And, of course, design the cover artwork. But before we even started, we took a few months off from rehearsals. In my case, a break without even touching an instrument. I guess it worked well, as we gathered all the proper ideas for riffs and words quite fast. The lyrics and overall concept were worked out during the same time; inspiration came from local folklore, books, paintings, as well as personal visions and thoughts.
– The tour, at least from the point when we joined, seemed to be a total success for everyone involved. Great cities, lots of people, fantastic clubs, and awesome crew – a bunch of people working together, day after day, until the glorious end. What more can I say? Killer experience all the way for us, especially since we haven’t played live too often in the past.
Besides its stellar line-up, this tour came into the spotlight as another case of exterior meddling in black metal. One recent development has seen tenacious organisers and tour managers put up creative resistance where – instead of simply admitting defeat and cancelling – targeted shows are relocated, sometimes to secret locations. In the case of this tour, the Nurnberg concert was moved from Germany to Czech Republic and the Vienna date even required two separate shows in one night to salvage. These circumventory measures bring to mind HORNA’s March 2019 US campaign, where entrepreneurial local promoters managed to secure alternate locations for all but one tour date.
– Everything depends on the tour promoters and venue owners, those who are forced to deal with this shit in the first place. Unfortunately, in Europe – or, Western Europe to be more precise – things are going in the same direction now. Should your band grow bigger, you’ll have no choice but to struggle with this cancer. They know, far better than you do, what kind of person you are or what you’ve done in the past. Nowadays, promoters and venues must show balls and do whatever is needed to organise a show. It’s not a deal between two sides anymore… pathetic, but perhaps this is the price we all must pay for black metal having now become an intrinsic part of pop culture? Widely promoted in media, Grammy awards, etcetera.
Old Coffin Spirit is from a small village in south-central Poland called Tumlin. After reading an old interview in which he stated that ’life is boring here’, I’m wondering if his perspective has come to change with maturing age and extensive travelling through mainland Europe.
– Life in such a place can certainly be boring to someone who’s looking for night life, parties, pubs, or just having fun in general. But, honestly, I can appreciate this life more now as I’ve gotten older. Less people, more woodland landscapes, and so on. I’m visiting various countries, mostly in Europe, all the time and can honestly say that some of these places really get on my nerves. I’m sick of overcrowded cities, as well as some cultural aspects of living there. However, it would be ignorant of me to say that I don’t like to travel and learn about other cultures; I feel strongly connected to my heritage and adapt slowly to new surroundings but can always appreciate fresh perspectives. Not to mention nature, or the arts, as these things have no boundaries.
I’ve travelled the Polish countryside a fair bit and noticed the type of looks one attracts for displaying any kind of attire deviating from the locally prevailing rural fashion. Consequently, I can only imagine what it’s like growing up as a full-fledged black metal maniac in such surroundings.
– I don’t care what others say or think about me. There were always some struggles with other youths or subcultures when I was a kid, but I guess this is normal and the same as everywhere else. I’ve never hidden anything – neither at work, studies, nor in daily life – always remained strong in my beliefs and life goals. Some folks might have a problem with me openly adoring Satan but, until mutual respect is shown, I’m going about my small-town life very easily.
Another advantage to rural dwelling is the ready access to a variety of plant-based entheogens. Old Coffin Spirit has on repeated occasions referred to psychedelics as both an influence and thematic content for DOOMBRINGER, though not elaborating to any greater extent. Having gotten the impression that personal betterment is not the prime motivator here, I’d like to know if he uses such vegetation mostly for the thrill of the ride or if there’s any kind of ceremonial or spiritual aspect to it.
– There was nothing connected to ceremonial aspects on any such trips, I just love having my brain smashed with unusual impulses from time to time. These things don’t increase my creativity but do the work on a personal level of thoughts. They open the gates, usually locked and hidden deep under the wide-awake brain; they free the mind and make your soul fly. Other than horror visions which sometimes come during the trip, I don’t do it for any specific purpose – especially not becoming a ’better person’, haha!
An additional source of inspiration is the generally rather unsung art of infanticide. I found that ’I hate toddlers’, as Old Coffin Spirit put it in an interview with Malodorous Grave, summed up his sentiments rather poignantly.
– I’d like to first point one thing out: my personal views don’t necessarily equate those of the band. Therefore, I don’t want to speak widely about my aversion to infants, besides that they represent all I loathe in humankind. But if speaking about DOOMBRINGER‘s lyrics and aesthetics, infanticide as represented in medieval woodcuts, paintings, or books are a never-ending source of inspiration. But, clearly of artistic nature. I guess my taste for this started years ago – my fascination for infanticide increased a lot after learning about the infamous Gilles de Rais.
French war hero, knight of the realm, and military commander Gilles de Rais fought side-by-side with Joan of Arc during crucial points of the Hundred Years’ War. In the final stages of the Siege of Orléans, the 1428 contest out of which the armoured maiden came to fame, de Rais provided instrumental advice which helped secure victory over the British. The following year saw him appointed Marshal of France, the nation’s highest military distinction, and becoming one of the wealthiest men in the country. An amateur observation would be that he appears to have been better suited to life at war than bored amongst unimaginable luxury. By 1432, he’d already began selling off several massive properties in order to compensate for his outrageous lifestyle. As a creative project, he decided to write, fund, and set up a theatrical spectacle called Le Mistère du Siège d’Orléans consisting of some 20,000 lines of verse, 140 actors, and roughly five hundred extras. By 1433, he’d sold off most of his castles and other property. The same year, de Rais appears to have started becoming increasingly concerned with his spiritual well-being and so commissioned the Chapel of the Holy Innocents – a sacred building raised in memory of the infant casualties of King Herod’s hunt for the Baby Jesus. He officiated the ecclesial proceedings himself, wearing robes of his own design, and staffed the chapel with a boys’ choir of his own selection. I’m sure you can see where this is going by now, but we’re not there quite yet. Among the many desperate measures he undertook in the attempts to salvage his swiftly dwindling wealth, de Rais enlisted both alchemists and sorcerers. In 1438, a gentleman of the latter category offered to summon a demon named Barron with whom de Rais could seal a covenant. In the lower hall of one of our protagonist’s few remaining castles, Barron was ritually beckoned thrice without manifesting. An increasingly frustrated de Rais was told the demon was wroth and required offerings in the form of children’s body parts. Presumably, this is where most would-be demonologists admit defeat and move on, but not Gilles de Rais. As it happens, by this point he would’ve been into well over his hundredth child murder so nothing could be simpler to arrange. Alas, not even these grisly offerings appeased the sulker from beyond, leaving the nobleman in even greater despair. All this and more became public knowledge in 1440 when de Rais came under judicial scrutiny after kidnapping a clergyman in an unrelated dispute. Rumours of children going missing after entering his castles had already been in circulation for years and many commoners had made observations they’d kept to themselves for fear of retribution. Once the law began taking a closer look, de Rais along with several men in his service were arrested. As it turns out, he’d been at it since 1432 already; just how many his victims were remains unclear but scholars estimate them by the several hundred. He was tried and convicted for a variety of unsavoury offences including sodomy, murder, and heresy. The testimonial transcripts are said to have horrified judges to the extent where they ordered the records cleansed from the nastier details. Considering what’s in there right now, I shudder to think what they took out. Under threat of torture and excommunication – which has led some to question the validity of these admissions – de Rais confessed to ritualistic torture, rape, and murder of a steady stream of children delivered by his servants, several of which were sentenced simultaneously. On the day of his death, October 26, 1440, the disgraced war hero is said to have addressed the crowd with remorse and piety, urged his gallows brothers to embrace salvation and depart bravely, then demanded to be the first to die. The former Marshal of France was granted his request, hung from a platform, and then set on fire.
– Even now, reading the writings of Summers or Guazzo is really entertaining. I can’t exactly explain how it works but I find the act of infanticide or child torment to be the cruellest of deeds against human nature. Something usual folk just cannot deal with easily; something repulsive, hideous, and morbid. All these feelings are fundamentals real black metal should embody and be built upon.
On that note, I’d like to know if Old Coffin Spirit entertains notions of any kind of supernatural influences over mortal art.
– I believe in the existence of something like… let’s call it intervention from beyond. It’s not manifesting in certain visions, words, or tunes but sometimes a single idea which comes from out of nowhere, or a moment of blackout and clarity, can inspire the whole work. Of course, the final realisation of this certain idea is at the artist’s hand, but its origin can’t be explained in other than supernatural terms. Also, there are several exceptions of automatic writing or drawing, which are rather hard to explain reasonably.