by Niklas Göransson
RAM frontman Oscar Carlquist proclaims the necessity of enforcing radical philosophies within a softening scene – how one must trust in heavy metal to survive in an age of illusion and deceit.
– “The Throne Within” was recorded exclusively at Black Path Studios – produced and mixed by RAM, with the ship steered mostly by me. We’re very happy with how it turned out and have definitely evolved in our song-writing, performance, and general production skills. Musically, I’d say we gravitated towards the exact same creative place we’ve always drawn inspiration from. Seeing as how the last album, “ROD” (2017), was a Gnostic tale set far into the future, I felt we had to avoid the sci-fi theme for this one. As such, the backdrop is rooted in Gothic horror, but from a Jungian perspective. Jung stated that when we dream about entering a house, we’re actually entering either our own or someone else’s mind so I created the cover, House of Amen Iah Hidden, as if the listener was entering the mind of RAM during a nightmare.
The double-disc version of the album also includes a horror short story, marking Oscar’s debut as an author. While the lyrics contain plenty of fictional elements, the song “Blades of Betrayal” sounds almost personal in its seething vitriol.
– Yes, a close friend of the band – someone we’d known for about twenty years – became our tour manager and was along for the European tour we did with PORTRAIT and TRIAL back in February 2018. He ended up stealing all of the cash under his care; meaning, several concert-fees as well as the merch money for all three bands. So, that’s what the song is about, plain and simple. But rest assured, the hour of retribution draws nigh and it is entirely devoid of mercy.
What’s the concept behind the album title, “The Throne Within”?
– I’d prefer to leave it up to the listener to speculate about its exact meaning. However, the back of the cover depicts an Egyptian-inspired mausoleum, which should provide plenty of food for thought. As anyone with the slightest knowledge about the occult will know, this is the entire foundation of the esoteric path to Gnosis. Actually, the highest of the Egyptian gods, Amun, was the embodiment of precisely this. The ram’s horns on his brow represent Aries – the first sign in the zodiac – proclaiming him first of the first, highest of the Ogdoad, god before all other gods. My lyrics to “The Shadowwork” are connected to the same concept; it deals with the path my spiritual development has taken after I found myself at a crossroads of sorts.
One day, Oscar woke up to the sudden realisation that he should no longer pay any heed to his own standing within the world of matter.
– My place is in the inner world and, from this moment forward, that’s where I shall reflect over myself. I don’t need any interaction with the collective known as ’the outer world’, all of it’s an illusion either way. I’ve spent most of my life – creative and otherwise – in opposition to this illusory notion, and now I can see how reacting to it strengthens false perceptions of myself. It’s quite simple: since I’m projecting myself into the illusion, then my self also becomes an illusion. I must say, having been an adept of occultism and the dark arts to the extent I have, I’m quite surprised this insight didn’t come sooner. All I ever strive for in rituals and my shadow-work is piercing inwards. Of course, I still cherish the deep personal connections I have and can still be more than inspired to learn about the path of a fellow enlightened, but the ways of the blind masses are completely uninteresting to me these days. Let’s just say such matters no longer spark my wrath or make me react in any way; they’re all dead to me.
One thing that most assuredly does matter is the music he regards as the earthly spearhead of spiritual rebellion. Oscar stresses the importance of trusting in heavy metal as a hard philosophy while the surrounding world grows increasingly soft.
– I find it problematic that mankind is constantly striving towards a more empathetic way of life, as if it was the only way forward. Society as a whole appears to have completely succumbed to notions that the future evolution of man entails a deepened understanding and feeling for both ourselves and other beings. I see a danger in this since it makes people more reliant on outside forces; the only way pacifism will ever work in reality, and not as some pipe dream, is under the wing of a state with the military capacity to protect you. The average person fails to realise this and instead clings on to the same ideological and emotional gratifications they keep defending, no matter how hypocritical or just plain false their positions are. I want to see a mankind capable of standing on its own legs, striving towards individualism, and strengthening themselves by actually overcoming philosophically challenging acts and thoughts. Being prepared to – by any means necessary – tackle whichever obstacle life throws at us while constantly evolving in the process. Even if you’re not the slightest bit conspiratorial in nature, it’s obvious how the powers that be are creating dependent and loyal sheep who only in theory stand against the system. This is the path of anti-evolution.
Can you mention an example?
– Take vegans, for instance, whose ways kill far more animals than someone who hunts his own food. Soy fields are protected by the farmers who exterminate whatever creatures come near their beans, and harvest-time means tonnes of frogs and reptiles shredded by harvesting machines. The ‘terrible hunter’ though – he who kills, skins, and quarters his own meat – takes only the lives needed to sustain his own but, in order to get there, must also undergo the gruesome task of delving into the darker sides of reality. Having elevated themselves far above such ’barbaric’ behaviour, this is something vegans are incapable of. This way of looking at things puts all of the problems associated with these over-empathetic lifestyles into perspective; they’re only possible when protected by giant entities of state and industries capable of processing their vegan proteins and upholding the status quo of laws and entitlements. These people are slaves to the system and will fall with it.
This, he explains, is where heavy metal comes in. Oscar believes the art form to represent a willingness to toughen up mentally, often manifested through aesthetics rooted in the darker sides of reality and human nature.
– Metal allows an individual to experience the truth of being human while wearing his or her demons on their sleeve. Using the attributes of metal – the black, the skulls, and the presence of the Devil – is to embrace all of the negative aspects and rely on them to harden and evolve. The pacifistic and equality-obsessed non-meat-eating percentage of the population exhibit a sickening weakness which they, with zealous fury, attempt to apply to real life. However, our human reality mirrors that of the natural world, and nature itself displays none of these fallacies. It’s also interesting to note how these characters are often found in the more misanthropic factions of the metal scene, those who waffle on about the ’harmony of nature’ and so on… nonsense! There is no natural harmony, nature is based exclusively on conflict. The plant grows thorns and cultivates poisons to protect its leaves from the herbivores which, in turn, get faster and more agile to better escape the fangs of predatory beasts.
‘Hunger is the god of the tundra and flesh must be hunted’, as “Fang and Fur” from the new album goes. Oscar points out that before mankind ever set foot on earth, countless species had already been wiped out in numerous environmental cataclysms – solar flares, comet impacts, climate change, volcanic eruptions – and millions more are likely to perish long before our sun goes cold.
– I’d even go so far as to say that nature applauds mankind when we bring about the extinction of another species of animal or plant – it celebrates us for the eradication of weakness. This is the picture we must insert into ourselves to understand; it doesn’t make humanity out to be this alien being so different and disconnected from any alleged ‘harmony’ of the natural world. We are the titan who’s taken possession of its environment and carved out shelter to protect itself from the bloodthirsty jaws of a wilderness that’s tried to kill our kind in every conceivable way since the dawn of humankind. It’s only as a result of our detachment from nature that this false philosophising can even exist. Go back and ask a starving farmer or hunter in the 13th century how he revels in this supposed ‘harmony’.
One need only go back to 1867, when Sweden suffered the last naturally caused major famine in Europe. The winter was exceptionally harsh and – above all – long. By mid-May, Stockholm measured negative 6.5 Celsius (20.3°F) and trains in the south of Sweden were stranded due to heavy snowfall. When summer eventually arrived, it was wet and miserable and fields were seeded far later than usual. Then, during early September, came what’s now known as ‘Decapitation Night’, when bitter frost killed most crops in the entire northlands. It’s estimated that the ensuing starvation claimed the lives of up to 10,000 people.
– This ultimately means mankind cannot abolish his evils because nature itself is evil – fire must be fought with fire. But don’t mistake these sentiments as a defence of the current societal system; my dream is, and has always been, post-apocalyptic in nature. My utopia is metal supremacy after the fall of civilisation. Bearing this in mind, it’s clear we must reclaim the inherent potency of heavy metal-related symbols such as skulls, the sign of the horns, and so forth. This iconography is not there as Halloween props, those who can use the music as it’s intended understand the real potency of these symbols and archetypes. The skull is not fun, it’s a representation of death! Any shaman will tell you that it should never be taken lightly, the initiated use this symbol to come as close to their own passing as possible. The sign of the horns is an ancient way of signalling to other initiates that you too are also initiated; and from there comes its use as the ’evil eye’, since only initiates in the arts could cast a curse or protect themselves against one. The evil eye has, in an almost blatantly esoteric-logical way, become the absolute opposite of its original meaning. Those who have the least knowledge of the art of heavy metal now display ’the horns’ as some kind of party sign.
Now this I can certainly relate to. Despite approaching middle age, I remain stricken by an impulse to murder with impunity whenever I see people sharing photos of themselves mock-cursing, holding inverted crosses in a jesting fashion, or featuring any kind of metal symbology in ironic mannerisms.
– I totally agree! There is definitely no room for irony in metal. I mean, would a magus cast an ironical spell? Metal is the transmutation of energies through the usage of tones and words; if you’re ironic with that then you’re a moron who’s ultimately being satirical about his own existence. Humour, of course, is another thing – at times we apply our own brand of very harsh and brutal wit, which is our outlet for not becoming all too serious and boring. I can’t stand bands whose image suggests they never smile or experience joy. Anyone can see that this is not an honest portrayal and such a stance often becomes laughable in itself. However, the humorous aspects are a delicate line to walk, we’d never attempt it if we weren’t feeling as familiar with the energy of heavy metal as we do. One can only hope for some universal occult justice to teach these heretics on the threshold of the afterlife what forces they set in motion. If you’re going to do something, then do it for real and with the entirety of your being; do it the way it was meant to be done and then, from there, try to make it your own and evolve within the ways of the art you’re pursuing. Not the other way around.
Oscar argues that heavy metal music – the primal energy stumbled upon during the late 60s when certain bands began blending blues and neoclassical elements with rock and roll – must be approached in an almost alchemical fashion.
– This reminds me of recent events in Sweden when people from an ideological perspective tried to come in and dictate how the scene should work, demanding that it should comply to certain political standards just because the rest of society recently bowed to them. In order for metal to be an art form, that energetic force must be allowed to rule supreme. If you try to dictate aspects of this energy, or how you should react to it, then the art is lost – leaving in its wake only a most inferior mishmash. Musicians tap into this energy and try to communicate with it, what the listener hears is their interpretations. Where is the room for dictating how you should react and comply to that? Especially by referring to the dogma of sheep. Heavy metal must stop mirroring itself after the rest of the world; metal has nothing to do with it. What we’re dealing with here is an aggressive and utterly dark current that awakens the beast within. We must comply with the decrees of this energy, not what society thinks of it! Heavy metal is the electrified soundtrack of an individual’s liberation. If metal is to reclaim the potency of its symbology, then the artists must become smarter and more serious in tapping into that energy and letting it speak louder to them. The true force must prevail!
Despite his fiery rhetoric around the art of heavy metal, Oscar is none too pleased with what he sees as a complete lack of initiative and vision in the business side of things.
– I hear a lot of complaints and bitching from all parts of the metal scene and the music industry at large regarding the lack of revenue currently being accumulated. All I see around me is a bunch of cockroaches who ended up on their backs and are now struggling to get back on their feet again. For obvious reasons I won’t go into specifics here but there have been many times when I’ve presented a bold and somewhat pioneering new idea – only to be met with this belly-up moaning. We ARE the scene and we create this environment, it’s as simple as that. If your crops don’t bring as much harvest as you’d have wished for, then innovate! I just can’t stand this half-dead defeatist attitude. If you’re in this business, then be in it for real; find new horizons and present a fucking vision or get the fuck out! If the current models aren’t working then full focus should be on developing new ones, not going down the same old path until you can no longer take it and quit.
Besides declining album sales, there aren’t all that many larger-than-life metal bands of the proverbial golden age left. Many predict the end of massive metal stadium shows once the last relics finally cease with their farewell tours.
– We are indeed facing the first extinction of heavy metal giants and there’s an enormous gap between them and the rest of us. Consequently, our focus should lie on how to secure that revenue and avoid losing those markets – but all I hear are the voices saying, ’There will never be another stadium metal band’… to quote Henry Ford: ’Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t – you’re right.’ RAM aims for the top and we’ll either find a way or perish gloriously in our attempts. We possess the musical quality and delivery thereof to compete with the best and will not accept that this is the twilight of the glory days of heavy metal.