by Niklas Göransson
Black tongue hymns – a discussion about devotion and tenacity with the trio of underground metal veterans in Pestis Cultus, a new project hailing from Perth, Australia.
– PESTIS CULTUS is a name which truly represents our sound and image, says Old. We embody the underground ethos: no compromise, this is black metal! We are the pest cult – a pest to the mainstream. In the year 2021 we will leave a stain with the release of our first album, which is every bit the four years of blood, sweat, and chaos since the band started. And, being our debut, we felt there was no need for a fancy title – what you see is what you get. For this record to be un-named is symbolic to us; it’s the death of what was, a new beginning.
PESTIS CULTUS’ eponymous debut album is due for a February 12 release by Signal Rex. It was recorded using the band’s own studio equipment over the course of two years: 2017 to 2019.
– I wanted to work with tape for the drums, says B.H, capturing whole takes of the songs so it would be either play it well or don’t! This also gave me the option to mix them down myself before forwarding them to the others. Over the years, I’ve learnt a lot from recording with analogue equipment. We ran through all the tracks in a live rehearsal-style situation; one take for most songs, maybe two for a couple of them so I could choose. I was well and truly on top of the material then, having played it quite regularly. Listening back to the record now, I made a wise decision. It saved us both money and from having someone else try to put their name on our hard work and creation.
– The guitars and vocals were then tracked over at my house, says Old, with the amp mic’d up to the mixer straight into a digital interface. This way, I felt more in command of the depth and the heavier EQs that recording in analogue doesn’t allow me to attain. B.C recorded the bass at B.H’s house, which has a similar set-up. I think he had more control with his knowledge of equipment and EQ than I did, which allowed him to really dial in the tones of his preference. This totally complemented the rest with that wider range of both contrast and depth in the dynamics of each song. We all came together to mix the album with the equipment we had at our disposal, and – considering what that was – we’re all really pleased with the outcome. Thirty-nine minutes over nine tracks of pure black fucking metal of death, featuring guest musician Mortiis to commemorate this unholy release.
The album was mastered by Henri Sorvali of MOONSORROW and layouted by Spanish graphic design studio Heresie. As Old already mentioned, Norwegian dungeon synth pioneer Mortiis contributed the intro and outro.
– I’ve always been a big fan of his works. Not just the Mortiis project but also FATA MORGANA, CINTECELE DIAVOLUI and especially VOND! I first heard Mortiis back in ’99, with “Crypt of the Wizard” and became somewhat obsessed: his music was so dark and filled with mysticism. The personal contact came years ago – looking back now, I’m thinking around 2011… or 2012? Let’s say around that time. Both of us are avid music collectors, so we started doing trades and have kept in touch ever since. In 2017, I messaged him to explain what we were doing, and he really dug the idea of being involved. I wrote some tracks based on his creations to form what is now the intro and outro. All of us believe the collaboration worked well and brought our record more depth. Time and perseverance for the ultimate of outcomes, right? Mortiis and I were able to meet in person for the first time back in July 2018, when he toured Australia; we were the supporting act for his Perth show.
PESTIS CULTUS have played quite a few local gigs the last two years, supporting prolific international bands like TREPANERINGSRITUALEN, INCANTATION, and KRISIUN – all this without a single release to their name. I found this peculiar. Are there no black metal bands with albums out in Perth?
– Well, we did put out a demo through Signal Rex back in 2016, and a self-released rehearsal in 2017 – both of which were also released as an EP – coupled with a split seven-inch with VETËVRAKH through Harvest of Death the same year. Granted, all this was under the band’s old name, SNORRI, but people here know what we’re about. So, following the name-change, offers for shows have been there since day one. Perhaps from a level of respect, as well as the momentum and support carried over from the SNORRI days. Also, a newer interest from people who were curious about what we’ve all been involved in from our past has definitely followed us with the name change, which is good.
– When upcoming shows have been announced, says B.H, we’ve known who to express interest to. Or have chosen to simply leave it up to our reputation as a live band. Perth is rather small, so you don’t necessarily need a demo or full-length album to get international support slots; bands are judged on merits such as musicianship and conviction. And when it comes down to it, ‘pulling numbers’ at shows must be part of the promoter’s perspective.
Ever inquisitive, I headed over to Metal Archives and listed all the black metal bands from Perth. I was surprised to find a sizeable portion of them to be of the ‘depressive’ persuasion; I’ve been to Australia several times and met numerous metalheads, but very few gave a particularly suicidal impression. Perhaps it’s a Perth thing.
– What is a Perth thing? says Old. All I can say from my perspective is that every city has the same issues, regardless of geographical exploits. I think people play on the idea of Perth being isolated. Even so, the influx of depressive metal bands here is a bit of a joke to me personally. I have spoken about this topic in previous interviews and it’s in the past now, where it belongs. I don’t really know too much about what’s happening or trending in the local metal scene these days – new bands or whatever. Perth has a very small-town mentality about it, which is why we’ve been more involved with doing shows amongst the local punk and crust scene. There are some absolutely crushing acts here, like SELF HARM, TERRITORY, FUKKER, HEXX, DROWNING HORSE, and the list goes on. All of them are incredibly underrated and deserve attention! Actually, it’s mainly the people involved in the mentioned bands who’ve included us in a lot of international supports and local crust punk shows. In this regard, I’d also like to give a notable mention to Melbourne’s KOLLAPS.
Even though PESTIS CULTUS is a relatively new act, its members all appear to have long resumes of scene involvement in the Australian underground.
– Maybe terms like ‘resume’ or ‘scene involvement’ aren’t the best to gauge our history, says B.C. The early 2000s are somewhat lost, lacking the impact of the 90s whilst preceding the accessibility of internet and social media. Original contacts within the Australian scene were the Southern Tyrants with BLACK TWILIGHT and EMPIRE OF HATE, Dani Li pre-GoatowaRex, Azgorh prior to DROWNING THE LIGHT, and M.N from Winterreich Productions and FORBIDDEN CITADEL OF SPIRITS. One would rely on the tape-trading circuit to acquire and distribute music. Compared to what these days is perceived fanatical through materialism on display, this era of Australian black metal was a quiet endeavour: seeking a musical world through cassettes, VHS tapes, xeroxed ‘zines, and cash in envelopes without much prospect and – aside from a few demo tapes – seemingly not a lot to show publicly. I first met Old back in 2001, after responding to a musician’s ad on the noticeboard of a local music store. Along with A.R from GRAVE WORSHIP and SEANCE OF, we discussed combining projects into an actual band. It never came to pass with A.R and myself branching off to form BLACK PUTRESCENCE and Old continuing with various projects of his own, eventually settling on DROHTNUNG.
– By 2016, says Old, DROHTNUNG had dismantled as a live band, despite having several shows lined up. To fulfil these bookings, our live drummer B.H and I created MORS DE CORPUS. Life was a bit of a mess at the time, one could say. I was looking for something new and really dark, but nothing seemed to satisfy my cravings. So, over the course of a few months, I wrote a four-track demo paying homage to 80s and 90s black and death metal – but more fucked up. I mentioned to B.H what I’d been up to and he was interested to hear it, so I sent him some demo tracks. He brought ‘round his kit to my kitchen studio setup and then laid down all the drum tracks in one night. This is what became the SNORRI demo, “Putrid Black Fucking Metal of Death”… and the title sums it all up!
– I’m not even sure if the aim was to be a live band back then, says B.H, but the more we played the songs, the more sense it made. At the time, the only live project Old and I were involved in was the aforementioned MORS DE CORPUS. Basically, it was the two of us live rehearsing a few tracks we’d written together. We took the time to record a few of those sessions and the end result is a 2017 promo of improvised material as well as the twelve-inch split with IRAE the following year. From there, we decided to make something of this SNORRI demo and brought in additional members with the idea that we’d be playing the songs live.
I’m a bit puzzled about the moniker, which I presume to be a reference to Snorri Sturluson – a 13th-century Icelandic historian and poet as well as the curator of the Prose Edda. My primary confusion stems from their thematic content seemingly having very little to do with Norse mythology. Regardless, not too shabby of an idea with the name-change, I must say. Snorri is an old-fashioned but not entirely uncommon name in Scandinavia; it sounds to me a bit like I imagine a Swedish band called ‘Reginald’ or similar would to an Australian.
– Yes, says Old, you are absolutely correct about what you’ve mentioned and picked up on regarding SNORRI. It was something that was never questioned by anyone locally; people were more interested in what we had to offer musically than whatever name we went under. But yes, it has zero to do with his writings. Bands change their names all the time, so this is nothing new. Unfortunately, our progression was more public than some. Bands progress in many ways and this is part of our short history. That’s in the past though. To put it into perspective – two years ago.
After Old and B.H had recorded the split with VETËVRAKH, bass player Ruin was brought into the fold. It was around then they adopted the new name, PESTIS CULTUS.
– We knew it was time to give this entity its own personification to stand alone, says Old, so the flag of PESTIS CULTUS was raised in January 2019. There were two shows which took place at a pinnacle time for us. The first was that INCANTATION and KRISIUN show in Perth, when the band was going through some tough turmoil; an absolute headache to say the least. After this set, Ruin was kicked out and B.C moved from guitar to bass. And regarding the line-up change… if you’re not for the band and act against the band, then you have no place in the band – that’s all I have to say about this matter. Shortly thereafter, we were asked to support TREPANERINGSRITUALEN. So, we had just come out of a prolonged shit situation into one where we had to get back on track and come out stronger. Tensions were at a very high level, but all this made us a stronger and more united collective within the band: mentally, professionally, and musically speaking.
You’ve been able to perform live since the pandemic started, but with restrictions – how was that?
– We played one gig back in March, on the very night restrictions and border closures were to be enforced, but at the time it was just another show for us. The last set we played was November 6, 2020. That was when the government started lifting limitations on venues, bars, and restaurants to allow for half capacity. The show was packed – there was no social distancing and it literally felt no different from a gig in, let’s say, 2019 or 2018. So, go figure, everyone starts making plans to book venues for shows and people were gaging to get out of the house. Which was more than likely the case in most countries when restrictions began to ease up. For this particular show, they had to deny people entry due to a breach of capacity limits. I even heard there were threats being made to shut it down. The whole coronavirus pandemic barely affected Western Australia though, not as much as the east coast like Melbourne, Sydney, and so on. At its peak we still had practices such as border closure from both interstate and international travel in place, and people were forced to work from home for a couple of weeks. You know, I had to keep working at my job as what the government labelled an ‘essential worker’.
Did you have to cancel anything with the band?
– We had dates planned for both the UK and Portugal come November and December of 2020, but they had to be cancelled due to travel restrictions and all that shit. Speaking for myself, it’s been a strange year with the lack of shows. I find having something on the calendar gives us a bit more incentive to rehearse regularly and set new goals. In saying that, when it comes to time away from the band, we all have our own projects. So, in a sense, we’re always working on something. I will say though: what we have done in the past to the present day, nothing has changed! This isn’t just ‘music’ for us, we submitted our life to this path over two decades ago. We’ve seen bands emerge and then fizzle out, but we have always remained the same. People come and go, but we remain the same. Trends peak and pass, but we remain the same. See what I’m saying here? I look forward to 2021! Let’s hope that this is the year of conviction, integrity, and death of the ego.