The Order of Apollyon
by Niklas Göransson
French death/black quartet The Order of Apollyon explore through music the inherent powers in various forms of human sacrifice. Founder and frontman BST discusses underground integrity as well as lessons learned from psychotropic self-destruction.
– I’d describe the creative process of “Moriah” as organic in every aspect. An appropriate amount of time was spent working on the compositions, lyrics, and production. Not too short, as to avoid rushing anything – like the debut album was, for instance – and not too long which can end up killing all forms of spontaneity. I’ve seen this happen on several occasions and it lessens your focus. One key element lies in the three individuals I was lucky to have by my side – all of whom are completely in phase, devoted, and humble enough to accept playing music written entirely by someone else. In the end, everyone still brought a lot of personal influences to the album’s tone because of their playing style as well as the energy they brought into the project.
The current line-up of THE ORDER OF APOLLYON is all French – featuring members of HELL MILITIA, TEMPLE OF BAAL, MERRIMACK, VORKREIST, and so forth – whereas the first incarnation consisted of founding Frenchman BST along with musicians from the UK.
– On a more technical note, tracking the drums at the home of our drummer’s father – which happens to contain a fully functional recording studio, inside of which he was able to practice beforehand – made that crucial part of the process run very smoothly and gave us the best foundations we could hope for. As for the music itself, before composing an album I never think too much in detail about its intended sound but I did have a vague feeling of what I wanted described through these songs. It needed to be grandiose, divine in a threatening and overwhelming way, with hints of despair and sorrow. Something melodic that could resemble the soundtrack of an apocalyptic tale rather than just sheer brutality, anger, and darkness.
Besides the drums, “Moriah” was entirely recorded on BST’s own studio setup, to which he’s been gradually adding more equipment over the past sixteen years.
– I started recording bands around 2003, just out of sound engineer school. To be honest, I didn’t really study in order to learn a job but rather gain access to equipment and knowledge which would allow me to record my own music. The fact that it’s been my occupation ever since, even producing other people’s bands, is just collateral. I needed an income to help finance my own music, which clearly wasn’t going to – and still doesn’t – pay for itself.
After a few of what he himself calls ‘mediocre attempts’, one album BST recorded and mixed caught the ears of French black metal band ANTAEUS – following which he was asked to handle the full production for their 2006 “Blood Libels”.
– Despite my relative inexperience, as well as the very cheap gear we worked with, I remember it as a very exciting adventure that opened a lot of doors for my career as a producer. Having now collected a little more mileage and maturity, producing has become something I’m more passionate about – even approaching it with a somewhat militant mentality. After having been in a band signed to Century Media and going to high-profile Scandinavian recording studios, my perspective evolved. Watching these highly competent technicians absolutely destroy the performances of great drummers with an over-use of triggers, Beat Detective, and all the modern processing tools made me realise how rotten mainstream music is.
BST says that whenever he expressed his disagreement, everyone – including his bandmates at the time – would respond that the label paying for it expects such results.
– Clinical, formatted, devoid of any personality. I was also told the ‘fans’ have gotten used to this, so we need to give them what they want… needless to say, I came back from this very frustrated and swore to never let these trends affect my way of working. So, whenever I record a band, whether it’s one of mine or someone else’s, it’s going to sound the way the musicians played. I’ll edit what are clearly mistakes but will not change a drummer’s groove, the strength he puts into his blastbeats, etcetera. Very minimal use of triggers, just for clarity of mix purposes, barely enough to actually be heard. I want the drums sounding like they would if you were standing right next to them. For the new album, Jason’s performance was captured in a very raw and natural manner. I left what others might consider flaws – but I think more of as his signature, or DNA – in there. That’s one thing I’m very proud of concerning “Moriah”.
The album takes its name after the mountain in present-day Jerusalem to which the Old Testament describes Abraham dragging his son, Isaac, to administer divine murder at the behest of God. With his offspring on an altar, poised for the kill, a messenger from the Lord suddenly appears to announce that the heavenly father has changed his mind. Not one to waste an afternoon, Abraham spots a ram whose horns have gotten tangled in the thickets and proceeds to sacrifice the poor beast instead.
– The recurring idea present throughout “Moriah” is that of the power of human sacrifice and its various illustrations. The most obvious examples are Abraham’s sacrifice and, of course, the crucifixion of a certain famous carpenter. Each song explores different facets and traces parallels between topics such as historical mass murders and ritual slaughters, global extinction of man through pride and warfare, a soldier’s devotion to the death, and even the perspective of parenthood – which, in some sense, constitutes both a form of self-sacrifice and a way to transcend mortality. I believe the divine manifests as a force driving mankind to transform itself. The sacrificed, I regard them as fuel for the machine.
Despite his apparent theological infatuation as an adult, BST says he was born and raised in a secular environment and so grew up distanced from spiritual life.
– I regarded any form of belief as mere superstition. It was only later I realised how powerful this mythos really is, after taking it upon myself to read the holy scriptures and a number of books containing interpretations and the historical facts surrounding their compiling or creation. Ever since, I’ve been torn between feelings of hostility towards everything considered sacred, because all these traditions of Abrahamic descent have in common the fact that they name an enemy out of everyone who’s not them; pagans, miscreants, or any of the remaining terms used to describe the Other. Then, contrastingly, there’s some measure of admiration for the power they’ve gained from establishing said mythos as an historical truth upon which the very laws of the land rest. I’d say our album concept as well as the band itself is infused with a bit of both. In a way, it’s an elaborate form of blasphemy and at the same time a tribute to the great totalitarian minds who turned archaic traditions into a means of dominating the Earth. That’s how all the references to military dictatorships fit into all this, a blend of religious and communifascist aesthetics. As a result of this duality, almost every song has lyrics open for several possible interpretations.
I came across an interesting remark when reading the ORDER OF APOLLYON interview in Inner Missive #1, BST pointed out that the black metal scene he was fostered in did not exhibit much tolerance for deviating opinions within the ranks. As a result, he expressed some confusion over hearing artists lamenting their provocations being met with intolerance.
– I first became aware of black metal around 1993 but only managed to actually hear some of it in ’95. Back then, I didn’t yet have any friends who listened to that form of music. Not even my death metal buddies wanted anything to do with the genre due to its terrible reputation for unskilled musicians making little effort to release proper recordings – mainly due to spending an exorbitant amount of time desecrating graves, being into all sorts of religious and political extremism, as well as sending death threats by mail… which is all pretty accurate, to be honest. I got into the scene just as this whole mode of operating had started to change, bands were being offered bigger deals and the mainstream tried to work with some of these artists. That’s how I first came to hear it before eventually meeting people like my then-neighbour MkM and a bunch of other people through whom I got to hear the good stuff.
Besides having known each other since the late 90s, BST and ANTAEUS frontman MkM also played together in black metal band AOSOTH for more than a decade.
– Now, in hindsight, I think we can all agree that the early 90s black metal scene was prolific, very inspired, passionate, and already able to achieve wonders without needing either mainstream metal media or big tour organisers. These people only showed interest once the likes of CRADLE OF FILTH displayed commercial potential and didn’t seem to have a problem with the money they were making. Then, all of a sudden, they act surprised when some artists express radical viewpoints or are discovered to have a blurry past… as if they didn’t know what BURZUM was back in the day? All of this rambling to say that if they decide to take their business elsewhere and black metal bands are forced back to working exclusively with underground networks – maybe it’s for the best? On both an ethical and artistic level. Sure, it might mean less distribution, less money; yet some bands seem to be doing well while sticking to an underground spirit, so…
BST also points out how – as has been seen with several cases – bands who grovel, make excuses, and apologise before their detractors tend to swiftly lose public support.
– I must say, I have a huge amount of respect for all those who stood their ground and maintained an uncompromising attitude through these shitstorms. Defiance is most likely the only way a band can handle something like this and make it through intact. As for acts making a career out of extreme metal, I understand how frustrating it must be for them – especially since getting this far equals years of hard work even without having to face any form of slander – but music truly is a shit business, even more so in metal. I once tried carving out a living from my musicianship, back when I played in that Century Media band, and the entire venture ended up leaving a bitter taste in my mouth. Or perhaps that was just all the discount frozen meat I had to survive on? Best not to rely on art for money, especially in an underground niche as it will end up killing any form of genuine creativity. Sure did for me back then; the albums I made with that band were fucking horrible.
In the mid-90s, several Norwegian bands such as ULVER and MYSTICUM used the Never Stop the Madness emblem – a parody of Roadrunner Records’ 80s anti-drugs campaign. The modified motto stated that, ‘Drugs are no fun. Drugs endanger the life and happiness of millions. It must never stop. We appeal in particular to the youth of today. Don’t stop the madness. There are better things in life.’ While the Norwegians might have conceptually pioneered the slogan, the attitude was taken to another level after the millennial shift; if I recall correctly, this primarily emanated from the Parisian scene. What’s interesting is its simultaneous emergence to the peak of so-called orthodox black metal, a symbiosis which appears to have made chemically induced self-destruction into an almost religious sacrament. Since BST belonged to these circles, I’m wondering how he looks back on this now.
– The way I perceived that experience was both recreational and tribal, even mystical. It felt like truly committing to something, taking a stand and distancing ourselves from the form of matter – which made perfect sense in the context of black metal as we understood it. Of course, a big part of this was also some widely immature outlet of juvenile rage and an expression of rebellion against all and nothing at once. At least, at some point, this was the case for me and a few others.
One would have to concede that the period yielded a lot of amazing music, but it also seems to have left quite a few people severely knackered.
– I did witness two people destroy themselves with drugs, to the point where they lost grip of reality and ended up hanging themselves. However, I don’t regard the product they inhaled or injected themselves with as the true cause of their demise because, to me, hard substances and addiction are two entirely separate matters. I’ve met quite a few who could handle their drugs like champions, and others who burnt their lives off simply with booze and tobacco. I’m pretty sure the addiction that kills you is a disease deep within the mind, present way before your first line of cocaine – maybe a part of your genetic code in certain cases. Anyway, it’s something I got tired of after a few years, yet I have no regrets concerning these experiments; perhaps not as enlightening as some might say but it definitely allowed me to look within and learn more about myself.