by Niklas Göransson
Armando Beelzeebubth, founder and driving force of legendary Brazilian black metal maniacs Mystifier, gives a candid account of their days of yore; from subcultural urban warfare to rebellion against the underground.
The following is an excerpt from the full article, which is twice as long and published in Bardo Methodology #5. The same issue also includes conversations with BLASPHEMY, DAUTHA, CLANDESTINE BLAZE, ACRIMONIOUS, ROME, LYCHGATE, MORBOSIDAD, Nuclear War Now!, Cult Never Dies, W.A.I.L., WINTERFYLLETH, and PHURPA.
– I played in lots of projects before MYSTIFIER: thrash metal, death metal, black metal, but decided to make my own band in 1989. My main influences were SARCÓFAGO and SEPULTURA but also lots of New Wave of British Heavy Metal, with elements drawn from MOTÖRHEAD, BLACK SABBATH, and my favourite band JUDAS PRIEST. I tried to forge a uniting of those influences with the underground acts I love – raw music like VULCANO, POISON from Germany, MESSIAH from Switzerland… it was my way of making MYSTIFIER sound original. “Tormenting the Holy Trinity”, our ’89 demo, was the birth of a very unique sound. One of a kind. It’s very hard to find a demo with ten fresh songs like our first tape, which is around thirty-five minutes. It was like a full album, really fucking expressive.
Armando is from Salvador, the capital of Bahia – one of Brazil’s most impoverished regions. The city is estimated to have almost two and a half million residents living on less than one US dollar per day. As a Scandinavian, it’s hard to even imagine what 90s black metal gigs must have been like over there. As it turns out, one significant similarity was the widespread repressive treatment of alleged ‘posers’; such as confiscating band shirts from scene newcomers deemed unworthy.
– Yeah, that kind of situation happened a lot in Brazil, lots of underground fans liked to intimidate the new ones – that’s how you keep out the wimps. ‘Why you wear this SAMAEL shirt, this KREATOR shirt; give me that shit, you are fucking poser. You don’t deserve wearing that t-shirt or listen to this kind of music.’ This was like a primitive method. I think that nowadays, this is over.
Bass player and vocalist Diego DoUrden joins in reminiscence.
– That classic old story about the black metal inquisition, like, ‘Hey, what do you know about this band on your shirt? ‘Tell me the name of an album.’ Even some jealousy, like, ‘Hey can you copy this CD for me?’ ‘No, it’s only for me – I don’t make copies.’
The latter is an approach Armando still fully embraces.
– I was into the tape-trading so for me it was fucking hard to give away copies, even to friends. You had to prove yourself to get that demo – it’s not worth anything if you don’t fight for it. That was the problem with the scene in Brazil, there was a big divide between the rich and the poor headbangers. I was part of the poor guys and never saw that kind of rich metalhead fighting for anything. The poor guys from the place I lived, all the time we went to gigs and tried to fight for our music, for our movement… and those guys said, ‘Oh, I am cross-over, I am fan of NAPALM DEATH, grindcore, thrash metal, METALLICA things…’ They were like assholes, never fought for anything; just music for fun. Those of us who played black metal since the end of the 80s, we thought in a different way. Perhaps in our minds we imagined, ‘Ah, we need to become strong; fight for black metal, cleanse the world from hypocrisy, stand against fucking religion, be against fucking politics.’ That kind of shit.
Most of the actual melee took place against local punks and skinheads.
– In my city, I was part of a metal gang with lots of poor black guys. But we were strong, okay, we fight Capoeira, we go to the gym. Bands from our circle were CHEMICAL DEATH, NECROLUST, MYSTIFIER, and a few others that stayed together. We were ready to fight against skinheads and punks, it was like our lifestyle, but not really out of ideology – just violence for violence’s sake. I’m lucky I never had the kind of situation where lots of skinheads beat me but, man, many of my friends got that. But when we were together, all these black strong guys, it was very difficult for the punks and skinheads to face us because we were…
Armando’s scarred and tattooed face adopts a contemplative look before emitting a menacing laugh.
– We have the trick to fight! To use knife, cocktail Molotov; it was part of our youth. It was good because we showed a lot of punks and skinheads who thought ‘Oh, metalheads are only for music and drugs.’ Not us, we were ready to fight for metal, for our passion, for the underground. Especially the skinheads hated me because I hit lots of them. The main fashion of our victory came when the punks united their forces with us, the black metal-guys, to fight against the skinheads. And they brought out a great punk leader – his name was Morcego – he was into drug dealing so he got weapons and, man, mega-shot the skinheads. So they disappeared, it was vanishing completely from Salvador, Bahia. And that punk leader, Morcego, many years ago he was assassinated by a fucking cover police. But when MYSTIFIER began developing our music, we needed to stop this kind of situations.
Reading old MYSTIFIER interviews in preparation for this, I noticed how Armando always seemed to have scathing words for many of the more prolific Brazilian bands.
– Man, really, it was sad for me when I saw SEPULTURA playing thrash metal, when SARCÓFAGO recorded “The Laws of Scourge”, METALLICA made “And Justice…”, SLAYER “South of Heaven”. Because I was into underground tape-trading and that kind of different music. When I met Wagner Antichrist from SARCÓFAGO, I said, ‘Sorry because I have spoken lots of shit about SARCÓFAGO and you are my idol and influence.’ When you’re young, it’s like a deception: ‘Wow, Kerry King is my master and Wagner Antichrist will always play extreme metal.’ Then you see them playing that different kind of music. ‘Eh, what the fuck is this piece of shit, I will break all my SARCÓFAGO albums!’
He’s also had several well-documented feuds within the underground – GOATPENIS come to mind.
– It’s funny because I know Evandro, the vocalist of GOATPENIS, from when he played in a grindcore band. But Evandro is… how can I say, a very brave man. Because he came to one of our gigs, surrounded by MYSTIFIER maniacs. Lots of our fans hate GOATPENIS so they came to me and said ‘Oh, Armando, that fucking bullshit – what is this fucking bastard doing here?’ ‘No man, Evandro is an old friend, he talked to me and is here as my guest. Respect him.’
Besides the aforementioned intra-Brazilian feuds, Armando has also made himself known as being tremendously unimpressed by the phenomenon of Norwegian black metal.
– Man, look, I knew MAYHEM since the tape-trading days; a French guy sent me the “Deathcrush”. I paid attention to some magazines and saw Euronymous having good ideas about politics, economics, and religion. ‘This guy uses his brain’, I thought, ‘that’s cool.’ I’d love to have talked to and been in contact with him. Look at the “Wicca” back-cover, I’m wearing a MAYHEM t-shirt. My copy of “Deathcrush” was the 309, numbered by hand when I get it. Then, sadly, that fucking poser magazine Kerrang! made a fucking stupid article: ‘Ah, behold the new Scandinavian warriors, blah blah…’ And that idiot guy from BURZUM speaking lots of shit, ‘Ohh, I love the Catholic religion because they killed lots of people.’ Shut up. And, man, then seeing Euronymous together with him. I was really mad and disappointed. But this is part of our history, we need to respect it – the music changed, everything changed, and the black metal got that…
Armando starts croaking in what sounds like nonsensical DARKTHRONE vocals.
– I’m into the kind of BATHORY black metal, VENOM black metal, POISON black metal, BULLDOZER black metal, BLACK PROPHECY from Italy. MORTUARY DRAPE. Scandinavian black metal was nothing for me. However, what followed was a big success of the black metal, so we needed to clap our hands. Okay? It was good for the scene and now MYSTIFIER can play around the world due to that evolution. And I’m saying evolution but with some hesitation… because SARCÓFAGO was underrated, HOLOCAUSTO was underrated, MUTILATOR was underrated, lots of bands. There was a Norwegian band – THYABHORRENT, fucking killer act and this guy, Occultus, became the MAYHEM vocalist and I don’t know why… Dead was a true underground headbanger. I can’t say the same about that fucking stupid guy Grishnackh from BURZUM because he played in OLD FUNERAL. But it’s good that lots of bands conquered the world: EMPEROR, DISSECTION, BELPHEGOR. That’s very cool because there’s space for everyone. It’s good to see BLASPHEMY make lots of festivals again, I hope soon they can record a new album.
This conversation took place in Berlin, October 31, 2018, after MYSTIFIER had performed at Blackland as a warm-up show for Never Surrender. Earlier in the evening I spotted the entirety of Canadian black metal skinhead legends BLASPHEMY watching MYSTIFIER. Wearing sunglasses, needless to say.
– I remember reading an interview with the EMPEROR vocalist, ‘Lots of bands around the world now playing Norwegian black metal, what the fuck?’ Man, he’s right, it was fucking stupid – lots of pop and goth bands trying to play black metal. All using that same stupid formula…
Armando resumes the DARKTHRONE-croaking while flapping his arms.
– See, it sounds fucking wimpy: no feeling, so depressive and stupid. I love to listen to the first three albums of SLAYER, first albums of KREATOR, CELTIC FROST, POSSESSED… and KISS, JUDAS PRIEST – heavy metal music. Bands that fought against the hypocrisy, the religion, the politics. Look at Robbie Halford, the first to say, ‘I am homosexual!’ He was true, like a man. This is the kind of person who inspires me to make my music. Not like a fucking coward, like pure brother of envy, for jealousy. This is stupid.
I must say, I found Armando’s staunch attitude regarding their third album, the 1996 “The World Is So Good That Who Made It Doesn’t Live Here”, rather commendable. In order to further distinguish MYSTIFIER from the growing black metal phenomenon he perceived as trendy, Armando scrapped completed material in order to change the band’s musical and lyrical direction.
– We started on Osmose together with MARDUK, IMMORTAL, IMPALED NAZARENE, and BLASPHEMY… and when our second album, “Goetia”, was mass-produced in 1993, it was good. So, Hervé from Osmose Productions told me, ‘Armando, maybe the next Fuck Christ tour will be MYSTIFIER and other bands. Because, man, the first Fuck Christ tour was cool – IMMORTAL, ROTTING CHRIST, BLASPHEMY. It was great so we’re going to make another one.’ But the underground black metal scene changed and everyone said, ‘Ahh, nowadays I only want to see Norwegian bands!’ And suddenly lots of people go, ‘IMMORTAL was the best band of the first tour.’ So when I saw all that shit I changed our style and tried to make something more original, more different from the others. Didn’t want to sound like anyone else. Maybe we’d have been more popular if I tried, like lots of other bands of that period, ‘Ahh, hello, we are MYSTIFIER from Salvador and we play true Norwegian black metal…’
Armando erupts into more gesticulation-accentuated croaking.
– No man, that’s not for me. I am Aquarian, like Quorthon and Jeff Hanneman, and I love to make different albums. It’s like a test for me, an inner experience. Everything in our life changes all the time, nothing is the same – today we make a killer song, tomorrow you write a bad song. Take my favourite band, BATHORY: the first album, then “The Return……”, “Under the Sign of the Black Mark”, “Blood Fire Death”, “Hammerheart”… fucking five totally different albums. MOTÖRHEAD is an exception but I generally don’t like the type of band that repeats the same formula all the time. Evolution. And if you listen to “The World …”, it’s fucking different from our previous albums. Our ex-vocalist, Arnaldo Asmoodeus, has a great talent so in our rehearsals he’d always try to, ‘ahhh’, ‘oohhh’ – singing like a tenor. So I said, ‘You sing this voice, let me try to make some songs!’
Following “The World Is So Good That Who Made It Doesn’t Live Here”, all members except Asmoodeus left the band. In a later interview, Armando cited matrimonial complications: ‘Brazilian women hate metal music and those wimps left the band to marry. None of the new members have girlfriends and I hope they never have them.’ I’m wondering if he still enforces this rule within MYSTIFIER.
– No man, look, Euronymous said the same about Necrobutcher. Necrobutcher got the same trouble with MAYHEM, that kind of shit. In youth you are vulnerable to love, for passion – that kind of shit. But, women aren’t the problem; the problem is us because I think when you love your art, your work, any person in the world can block you from doing it. I love MYSTIFIER but I never had a life-love say, ‘Armando, please, you need to decide between me and MYSTIFIER.’ But lots of friends got that, lots of absent bandmates had this problem. Fuck them all.
This was an excerpt from the full article, which is twice as long and published in Bardo Methodology #5. The same issue also includes conversations with BLASPHEMY, DAUTHA, CLANDESTINE BLAZE, ACRIMONIOUS, ROME, LYCHGATE, MORBOSIDAD, Nuclear War Now!, Cult Never Dies, W.A.I.L., WINTERFYLLETH, and PHURPA.