by Niklas Göransson
All-encompassing silence as flesh meets bone – Void AD of Italian black metal band Fides Inversa discusses the circumvention of constraints imposed by body and mind.
– In between the second album and this new one, we released an EP (“Rite of Inverse Incarnation”) that predicted the present course. FIDES INVERSA was originally a closed entity, but we’ve expanded our nucleus to a broader spectrum of inputs and influences; this had a palpable effect on the resulting opus. All creative impulses, musical as well as conceptual, still start with me but we took more of a communal approach for this record. Once again, Unhold took part in the studio recordings as bass player, and Wraath is now the band’s full-time vocalist – both of them contributed fundamental qualities which helped make “Historia Nocturna” what it is.
“Historia Nocturna” will be released on July 22, 2020, courtesy of World Terror Committee – a German label owned and operated by the aforementioned Unhold. The vocalist, Wraath, lives in Norway.
– Since its inception, FIDES INVERSA has never been the type of band that rehearses every weekend; we’ve always lived far from each other, so adding several thousand kilometres didn’t feel unnatural. But when we actually do meet, the beast is nourished with ravenous enthusiasm – be it in the form of live shows, private hedonistic gatherings, or studio incursions. In terms of sound and composition, I also believe one can perceive a greater sense of maturity in the new material. Despite recording in various sessions, and in three different countries, we were obsessed with the idea of capturing not only sound but also a certain atmosphere and energy.
Void AD explains that they aimed for a more organic sound this time around – which explains the absence of several elements characterising previous albums, such as the orchestral samples.
– I wanted to emphasise the element of traditionalism, which, to me, is a fundamental component of this genre. And traditionalism can, at least in part, be seen as the key to understanding the album’s lyrics and general aesthetics; both are inspired by matters such as Sabbatic Witchcraft, primordial spirituality, and the magic nurtured at the Crossroad… be it the physical or liminal. They derive from the craft, dreams, and all kind of revelatory experience manifesting in the moment one opens up to the possibility of metaphysical dialogue. So, while “Historia Nocturna” is, in part, poetical accounts of personal explorations of the spirit, it also contains metaphysical musings and odes to the night and its forces – to the guides and guardians of this path.
Lyrics and visuals of this kind are pretty rare nowadays; there aren’t many contemporary bands left singing about horned lords, Him, and so forth. Without specifics, it’s hard to determine whether this horned divinity being invoked is a reference to Faunus – god of the forest in Roman mythology – or the biblical Adversary.
– None of them and both. In walking the Crooked Path, one encounters archetypes deeply rooted in the human psyche since countless ages – through folklore, rural sorcery, religion, ceremonial magic, and occult traditions – which must be approached with a certain syncretism to be properly understood. In a Jungian sense, I suppose we could look to the concept of the ‘collective subconscious’, but all the world’s cultures had adepts who walked widdershins and praised forces that were both aberrant to the masses and, in essence, adversarial. Ultimately, you can view the horned figure dominating the cover artwork as the Black Man of the Sabbath: he who is vulgarly called the Devil, lord of the extraordinary rite that is the quintessence of all magic… ecstatic and liberating by nature. This album was conceived as part of my own spiritual journey and is, do varying degrees, influenced by an occult tradition shaped by personalities like Austin Osman Spare, Andrew D. Chumbley, Kenneth Grant, and Michael Howard.
Some of the music also reminds me of a few projects associated with the so-called ‘orthodox black metal’ of the 00s.
– From the moment we released our first album, in 2009, people were instantly associating us with that ‘orthodox’ or ‘religious’ scene, and I can’t blame them. I mean, aesthetically… all artwork was curated by D. Rostén of Holy Poison Design. Conceptually, the elements were all there, as was the intent to pay homage to a certain black metal fundamentalism – the legacy of the timeless masterpiece that is “De Mysteriis DOM Sathanas”. But we can’t deny that bands like KATHARSIS, ONDSKAPT, WATAIN, FUNERAL MIST, DEATHSPELL OMEGA and ANTAEUS left deep wounds within this movement, just like they scarred the flesh of many devotees! Black metal was definitely not as popular back then. Gigs and festivals were far from being the huge social events they are now, or at least in the pre-corona world. I think there was a genuine and visible spark of famished rebellion that I rarely see when gazing into the eyes of today’s increasingly stereotyped and tamed audience: that palpable sense of danger. I guess you can perceive from my words that I’m quite nostalgic about that strong, fierce and defiant attitude black metal had not so long ago. And you can imagine the amount of scorn and disdain with which I look at the recent ‘cultural appropriation’ the genre has fallen victim to by politically correct whores of all kinds.
On a related note, on the third and final day of Stockholm Slaughter 2018, FIDES INVERSA became the first and hitherto only black metal band I’ve watched live around noontime. They opened for MARDUK and TAAKE – both of which were initially scheduled for the first two days but, after a somewhat surreal media circus, the venue hosting the event refused to let them play. Rather than removing either act from the line-up, and with three weeks to go, the promoter added an additional festival day at a different location. In order to avoid interference, the new venue was kept secret until the last moment. After several other bands declined, FIDES INVERSA agreed to move their performance to the Sunday show.
– This wasn’t our first time in Sweden, having played at the evocative Forlorn Fest 2012 in Umeå and then, the following year, at VALKYRJA‘s tenth-anniversary show in Stockholm with ANTAEUS. We’ve known Vlad for more than a decade now, since we did a 2010 mini-tour with ONDSKAPT and VALKYRJA that concluded at the infamous Sathanas in Gloriam fest in Rotterdam. When Vlad offered us to play Stockholm Slaughter, we could never have imagined the kind of shit he’d be forced to go through a few months later. So, when we were asked to move our show to Sunday morning… after some initial hesitation – due to mainly logistical reasons, since three of us had flights leaving at the moment MARDUK jumped on stage – we heeded the call. We flew to Stockholm straight from Glasgow, where FIDES INVERSA and DARVAZA had just played North of the Wall. We arrived on Saturday afternoon, without having slept a single hour, and were then taken to the basement of the venue where an evidently stressed Vlad received us. After entering the festival, which was successfully happening in spite of all the attempts to shut it down, we met lots of long-time friends. As you can imagine, the party went on until the morning after.
It was a late night for quite a few people, which is why it was rather impressive to see the crowd response – approximately six hundred attendees – 12:30pm on a Sunday, after two days of festival revelry. In Stockholm, of all places, which is notorious for stale audiences.
– We left our hotel at 9am, some more visibly worn out than others, and helped the crew set up the stage. The MARDUK guys were sleeping in the backstage, and during our sound-check we got slowly charged up by the feeling of connection to the true values of this genre. You could smell from miles away the putrid stench of black metal! The moment the curtains opened and we entered the stage, there was proof for all to see of the epic success that day turned out to be. The concerts were grand, the venue was packed, and no sneaky saboteurs showed up. Are they real or just virtual phantoms? Who knows, but they better comprehend – once and for all – that there are people who’ll fight relentlessly for all this!
Speaking of fighting, I was told that Void AD practises combat sports – an activity which is surprisingly rare within black metal.
– I’ve been fascinated by martial arts since what feels like forever. I first started practising kickboxing as a teenager, lost interest for some years, and then re-engaged with major conviction and a wiser attitude after finding the right gym. I also did some grappling and tried out MMA. I definitely fell in love with traditional boxing; its elegance instantly seduced me, which has led to a few amateur competitions in recent years. Without trying to intellectualise the subject too much, I think some people – from the moment they understand what it’s all about – just can’t live without all the sweat, blood, bruises, and pain. The utter annihilation of any form of inner dialogue, the complete adherence to sheer instinct and automatic reflexes during hard training or a fight, and the pure exhaustion and subsequent peace of dead-tired rest. I guess this is a true actual example of overcoming the self.
I recently had a similar discussion with D. Rostén of FUNERAL MIST and MARDUK – who handled the layout for the first FIDES INVERSA album – during which he explained how the primary foe to overcome in a competitive fight is oneself.
– I agree. When dealing with something so ruthlessly real like physical combat, the main battle is against your own fear; if handled correctly, it callouses the mind and teaches you how to manage fight or flight impulses. But I also think martial arts in general has little to do with romantic views of concepts like violence, war, heroics, or whatever… because, despite the show, we both know that mutual respect is a key component in the ring. Anyway, as it stands now, I haven’t set foot inside a gym since the beginning of the pandemic. There’s nothing I miss more than sparring but, fortunately, the last years I’ve taken up running with greater conviction and finally learned to appreciate the meditative state and that ability to transcend pain one enters during long distances. In this regard – in a world where whoever, without a single personal accomplishment in life, feels like sharing his or her own damned dull motivationals – I found David Goggins’ book particularly inspiring. And he explicitly says that in order to master the mind, one also has to face the fucking failure, pain and suffering.
David Goggins is a former Navy SEAL and current extreme athlete with a number of insane endurance feats to his name – in 2018, he published a book called Can’t Hurt Me: Master Your Mind and Defy the Odds. Goggins credits his achievements more to an ability to transcend the boundaries of the mind rather than sheer physical prowess. Circumventing the limitations of our bodies is also a vital element of breathwork; like NSK from TEITANBLOOD, Void AD combines martial arts with breathing exercises.
– My interest in Pranayama started when I was very young. I began practising meditation in my early twenties while studying and experimenting with chaos magic and the works of its generator, Austin Osman Spare. Meditating is still essential for my own practice, but more to reach stillness, clarity, or visualisations… or, well, whatever comes. I found in the breathwork a great ally to fall into states of consciousness which allow the practitioner to grasp what in Spare’s words is called ‘Kia’. Whatever your mystical belief is – whether you call it void, the Absolute, hyper-reality, the source of all phenomena, and so on – you know the state of bliss I’m talking about, and you know how hard it is to attain.
Void AD’s first serious foray into breathing exercises were with a method known as Rebirthing. According to its founder, Leonard Orr, who developed the practice during the 70s, the technique has purging qualities beneficial for both body and mind.
– At some point, I entered abruptly into the ‘fantastic’ world of panic attacks. The first event was an experience I can’t define in any other way than mystical and numinous. According to the person I was with that night, after shaking like a leaf incessantly for an hour, with my heart beats so strong it was almost visible, I literally passed out for a few seconds. The entire ordeal is described in FIDES INVERSA’s “First Congress”. I did my best in attempting to cope with these episodes in a form of genuine abandon and acceptance – which is definitely easier for sleep paralysis, experiences chronicled in lyrical form on the last album – but I wanted to at least reduce their most annoying effects and try to reset my mind with a likewise abrupt experience. I heard about the Rebirthing method and how extreme it can be after only a few times, so I decided to undergo a guided session with a professional. Despite the typical exotic framework of practices that tend to be unavoidably dirtied by the ‘New Age’ form, I found it incredibly intense. After the extensive session of heavy circular breathing, lasting for about an hour, the outcome was a torrential release of energy that manifested in deep shakings, heavy muscular tension, and the opening of utterly dramatic emotional states and visuals that were as realistic as the most lucid dream or strongest of psychedelic trips. While laying on that futon, my limbs were traversed by waves of cold electricity vibrating through every single centimetre of my body… tensing my hands, my feet and my jaw, until I reached the peak. As with the climax of that first encounter with panic, I entered into pure silence.
These sensations can be seen in the documentary Vice made about Wim Hof a few years ago. As they perform what Hof calls ‘power breathing’ in an intense group session, one of the initially rather sceptical reporters breaks down in tears. Others display physical reactions similar to those Void AD describes.
– I personally found immense benefit in it, and the result was that I didn’t receive a single visit from my friend Pan for a full year. Later, I found in the Wim Hof method – cold showers included – an extremely valuable alternative. His standard breathwork practices obviously aren’t that intense, but with his fundamentals you receive an effective key to explore the entirety of your self through the sole use of the breath. Nevertheless, nowadays my interest in all forms of outer and inner explorations is constant and incessant. It has neither moral nor social boundaries of any sort, which is why I can hardly trust the self-proclaimed gurus; some of them are present even in the black metal scene, with their dogmatic approaches and ready-made culture. The truth, although it has universal characters, is highly individual and lies not in the destination but the path itself.