by Niklas Göransson
Here follows disturbing insight into the annals of Floridian black speed desecration metal – narrated by Impurath, originator and orator of Black Witchery.
This is an excerpt from the full article, which is twice as long and published in Bardo Methodology #7. The same issue also includes conversations with GOSPEL OF THE HORNS, MACABRE OMEN, THORYBOS, ANTEDILUVIAN, ATLANTEAN KODEX, MGŁA, Cold Meat Industry, MORTIIS, MONUMENTUM, WARLOGHE, ORDO TEMPLI AETERNAE LUCIS, and HEXVESSEL.
– Vaz and I were having trouble finding a guitarist who wasn’t into technical Florida death metal. Easier said than done down here, as you can imagine. Tregenda had just moved in from Missouri with his band, BURNING INSIDE, and they were playing a show with EQUINOX, a local act featuring ACHERON members. Those guys later went on to form DRUID LORD. They were the only ones around here who were into black metal, so we came to watch them. But when we saw Tregenda‘s stage presence… this towering six-foot-three (190 cm) mad man wearing a MARDUK long-sleeve – and nobody knew who the fuck MARDUK were – headbanging wildly with a BC Rich Mockingbird, we pretty much knew just by his pure ferocity that this was the guitar player we needed. I’m normally not into technical stuff but watching them live was intense; it seriously blew us away. So, we basically chose him right there and then, and all I had to do was ask.
The new WITCHERY line-up recorded the 1998 demo “Evil Shall Prevail” before changing their name to avoid confusion with a certain Swedish band. BLACK WITCHERY’s first official release came later the same year: “Summoning of Infernal Legions”, a seven-inch with two re-recorded demo songs, courtesy of American label Dark Horizon Records. This early material is very different from everything that followed. The spoken word intro sounds like a PROFANATICA homage, but the music is quite melodic. Furthermore, some elements have a distinctly Scandinavian feel.
– Yes, that intro was essentially a tribute to Paul Ledney and PROFANATICA. As for the melodies, those songs were written by our old guitarist, Darkwolf, who was very influenced by Nordic bands such as BATHORY, DARKTHRONE, BURZUM, and MAYHEM. But then Vaz and I took over the writing and started making it more brutal – more in the vein of BLASPHEMY, BEHERIT, and ARCHGOAT. This would later prove to be the groundwork for our real style, as heard on the split.
Following the positive reception to the EP, Dark Horizon wanted to release a split album featuring BLACK WITCHERY alongside one of the other bands on their roster.
– Oh, I almost want to say it was LUCIFUGUM… or NEBRON? Some band we had nothing in common with. Back then, there were only a couple of black metal splits in existence – like “Black Arts Lead to Everlasting Sins” with NECROMANTIA and VARATHRON. So, doing one with a band we weren’t even in contact with wouldn’t have made much sense. I told Dark Horizon that CONQUEROR was the only band we’d be willing to do a split with.
CONQUEROR was a Canadian death/black duo based in Victoria, British Columbia. In 1998, they received a letter from Florida – a proposal to trade their ‘96 demo “Anti-Christ Superiority” for the “Evil Shall Prevail” tape. CONQUEROR guitarist Ryan Förster told me that he and drummer James Read had a zero-tolerance policy in place for such solicitations, but they followed a hunch and decided to make an exception.
– I used to read an Australian ‘zine called Heresy, and its second issue featured a CONQUEROR interview. Pete Helmkamp (ANGELCORPSE) had already mentioned them to me; he said they reminded him of BLASPHEMY, which obviously meant I had to hear it. I wrote to Ryan and suggested a trade – turns out he was an old IRREVERENT fan, so we hit it off really well and became good friends. “Anti-Christ Superiority” is one of the most extreme recordings I’ve ever heard. Totally blew me away. The writing is very strong and everything about it is just so over the top, especially for the time. Still to this day, it’s one of my favourite demos.
The split album, “Hellstorm of Evil Vengeance”, was released in September 1999. BLACK WITCHERY contributed four new tracks and a BLASPHEMY cover. Whilst there are still traces of their former sound, by way of icy melodies woven into the guttural chaos, this is where we see the emergence of the style BLACK WITCHERY would become known for. The CONQUEROR side consists of “Anti-Christ Superiority”; they’d already dissolved by then, so recording new material was not an option. Three years earlier, shortly after the demo, CONQUEROR signed to Evil Omen and recorded “War.Cult.Supremacy”. Alas, the label went bankrupt before the record came out, and CONQUEROR lacked the funds to buy it back themselves. Nor could they find any interested takers, since this type of music was hopelessly out of fashion.
– Ryan sent me an advance of “War.Cult.Supremacy” – three songs, I believe. It was even more insane and ferocious than the demo. He explained that Ludo Evil, who was the chief of the BLASPHEMY and SARCÓFAGO fan clubs, was supposed to release it but had failed. So basically, I nothing short of harassed Jon from Full Moon Productions to step in. Looking back now, I wish I’d done it myself because it’s such a monument. “War.Cult.Supremacy” is still one of my top albums; I’m proud of the part I played in CONQUEROR getting some well-deserved recognition. They’ve always been close friends of ours, Ryan has even written a few songs for us.
“War.Cult.Supremacy” was released by Full Moon Productions in late 1999 and left a significant impact on the underground, both in terms of music and aesthetics. Today, CONQUEROR – along with fellow Canadian bands such as SACRAMENTARY ABOLISHMENT – are regarded as pioneers in the revival of this strain of bestial black metal that BLACK WITCHERY further built upon. It’s amusing to consider how Impurath is highly unlikely to have rescued “War.Cult.Supremacy” if he hadn’t gotten hold of the advance tape, and he wouldn’t have heard the advance if not for the personal connection with Ryan. So, in conclusion, Impurath’s trade proposal and the CONQUEROR duo’s subsequent hunch essentially birthed the war metal genre.
– Yes, I suppose that’s correct. In retrospect, I almost wish I’d kept it for myself. There’s a fine line for me here, because I don’t want to down-talk people who may cite us as an influence. However, we ourselves are certainly influenced by older bands, yet we’re no clone. And when we started playing this music, there weren’t a lot of others doing it. I never considered BLACK WITCHERY ‘war metal’ – that description came from labels. To me, all this has now become a trend with the fucking goats and gas masks and general level of absurdity presented by these bands. Even their names alone, or the stupid fucking covers and retarded song titles in sixth-grade level English; it makes a mockery and taints the entire vision. Seeing shit like this gives me further inspiration to come out with something that’ll just totally destroy them, because everyone knows that the likes of us and CONQUEROR stand head and shoulders above all these imitators who are basically worthless scum. Even if they’re okay people or they support my band, it doesn’t mean I’m going to support them.
One essential factor concerning many of the iconic bands from this sub-genre is that their over-the-top aesthetics, song titles, and artist names are paired with genuine wild men holding the instruments – BESTIAL WARLUST, MYSTIFIER, GOATPENIS, and BLASPHEMY come to mind.
– Right. Yeah, I agree totally. Take BLASPHEMY, for example, you knew they were total maniacs and true misfits of society. And you always heard about the fights and all the other madness: head tattoos, fire breathing and, you know, crime and powerlifting. That’s actually one thing we have in common with them. I wouldn’t necessarily claim that we’re quite as extreme as they were, I think, because we… well, I myself haven’t been in jail for several years now. But our lives are extremely chaotic – we’re not musicians, we are vessels. BLACK WITCHERY exists to channel hatred and devastation. We do things in the essence of darkness and evil and strive to create the most destructive, chaotic, and hateful black speed desecration metal we can conjure up, so to speak. And we definitely do not lead normal lives, nor do we fit into society. Apparently, we’ve been blacklisted by promoters for being too crazy or hard to work with. Well, the way I look at it is that I wouldn’t want to listen to black metal bands made up of nice and proper people. To me, that kind of negates the entire essence.
In July 2000, despite having only an EP and a split to their name, BLACK WITCHERY flew all the way from Florida to Vancouver, Canada, to perform in support of BLASPHEMY.
– Ryan Förster had moved to Vancouver and started playing with them the year before; he connected me with Black Winds, the BLASPHEMY vocalist, and him and I became really good friends. We spoke over the phone and I sent him and Caller of the Storms our demos and the split. They really enjoyed BLACK WITCHERY, which was the greatest honour imaginable: a band of that magnitude supporting us. They advised me that they were planning some reunion gigs and asked if there was any way we could play with them. Well, of course, we couldn’t pass on this opportunity, so the three of us somehow acquired the funds needed to fly ourselves up there a few days before the show. We got to rehearse with Storms – him, Vaz, and I played some KREATOR and SARCÓFAGO and BATHORY covers. I actually have a video of that.
Did you see the roof come down during “Ritual”?
– The roof? Oh, yes. The roof. BLASPHEMY had pyrotechnics going off. Yeah. And the ceiling caved. Then a harsh storm swept in with lightning, and that was just the ultimate ending to a week of madness with those Ross Bay desecraters. I mean, just that alone was more influential than I could ever explain in words. Great guys, the true spirit is there.
In July 2001, BLACK WITCHERY performed in support of another comeback of legends – PROFANATICA. The Return of Darkness and Evil took place in Clifton, New Jersey, July 2001, also featuring bands like HEMLOCK, KRIEG, and GRAND BELIAL’S KEY.
– That was another early milestone, it did a lot for us. Just playing alongside GRAND BELIAL’S KEY and PROFANATICA was a massive honour in and of itself. Also, there were a lot of maniacs there. It remains one of the best US fests I can remember. So, yeah, that was certainly a ground-breaking show for us, because a lot of people were now exposed to BLACK WITCHERY – especially live. We’re often much more convincing in concert than on record. I myself have always been blown away by really intense live bands, so that’s what I want BLACK WITCHERY to inflict on others.
Around the same time, BLACK WITCHERY donated “Destruction of the Holy Kingdom Which Spawned the Cursed Trinity of God” from their 1998 seven-inch to the now-classic split EP “Black Metal Endsieg I”, with KATHARSIS, S.V.E.S.T., and WARLOGHE.
– That was basically an idea from Marcel of Sombre Records, who we were in contact with for a long time. I deeply regret giving him that track, it’s the weakest song on the entire seven-inch. Nevertheless, it’s an honour to be on there – with S.V.E.S.T. especially, they’re one of my favourites. Totally psychedelic black metal. I still like the music of WARLOGHE, and KATHARSIS too… however, I know the main guy from KATHARSIS has very different views these days, that I do not support at all. I was actually in close contact with him back then; he wrote lyrics for us and we were pen-pals. We got to know each other and he seemed like a serious individual. We spoke about topics like orthodox satanism, terrorism, humanity, and the destruction thereof.
Having now significantly raised their profile in both Europe and the US, BLACK WITCHERY’s debut album, “Desecration of the Holy Kingdom”, was released by Full Moon Productions in September 2001.
– Those are some of the finest memories I have regarding the band. We’d gained some serious momentum and were eager to demonstrate that BLACK WITCHERY is the most extreme black metal band ever to emerge from the US. We also realised that many of our fellow Americans were jealous of us, but we feed off their hatred – then as well as now. And we strive to crush them: both on our records and live on stage, or even in person if need be. Man-to-man combat. We wanted to make a mark on the scene by releasing something as monumental as “The Return……”, “Fallen Angel of Doom”, or “War.Cult.Supremacy”. All three of us channelled as much hatred and darkness as we could muster.
The music is insanely ferocious, but the sound is rather clean – at least compared to its successors. Curiously, I can’t seem to find any information about where the album was recorded or who engineered it.
– The reason he’s not mentioned is actually a mutual request. He was embarrassed to have been the one who’d recorded such ‘cacophonous noise’, as he put it. And we were ashamed he’d even been a part of it. But we had no ability to do it ourselves at the time, and he was local. Since then, I believe he’s gone on to record really professional technical death metal bands. He thought we’d never matter or make a difference – yet he’s the one stuck in Sanford, Florida, like a fucking vegetable while we’re playing in Chile, Austria, Norway, or Finland. There was a lot of animosity between us; we basically tormented him for a week until he could take it no longer. This experience is one of the reasons why it’s hard for me to trust any studio engineer.
In September 2002, Akhenaten of US black metal band JUDAS ISCARIOT organised a European tour called Marching Towards Christian Extermination, featuring BLACK WITCHERY, ARMAGEDDA, MANTICORE, and AVENGER.
– That was our first time in Europe, so, as an American band, we had a lot to prove; I wanted to make sure to give them the proper hellstorm we knew ourselves capable of. The trip was certainly eye-opening, and it seemed Europeans took black metal more seriously. Well, at least they tried. The reason I say that is because we found that most people we’d normally associate with back home, who aren’t even into metal, were more extreme than some of the so-called extreme metallers we came across. America has more violent crime and psychotic individuals, especially in Florida. I think our level of madness is beyond the threshold of what most humans can handle. We operate on a level of chaos on a daily basis that normal people would never understand. But I was also impressed with some aspects of their scene. In Belgium, we had many, many travellers come to see us, like MkM from ANTAEUS, LSK from HELL MILITIA – RIP, all my respect to her – Erik from WATAIN, and members from NECROS CHRISTOS. It was an honour to be performing in front of such guests on our first tour.
This was an excerpt from the full article, which is twice as long and published in Bardo Methodology #7. The same issue also includes conversations with GOSPEL OF THE HORNS, MACABRE OMEN, THORYBOS, ANTEDILUVIAN, ATLANTEAN KODEX, MGŁA, Cold Meat Industry, MORTIIS, MONUMENTUM, WARLOGHE, ORDO TEMPLI AETERNAE LUCIS, and HEXVESSEL.