by Niklas Göransson
Cross-continental black metal band Verberis is the latest addition to the NoEvDia roster – founder and guitarist D.A. speaks of music and mysticism, of reality and illusion.
– There was a period following the “Vorant Gnosis” EP when I was seriously considering ending VERBERIS; I was so immensely satisfied with everything from the production and song-writing to the performances and subject matter that I was unsure whether I could create something… more. Particularly the second track, “Gnosis” – which with its twenty-one minutes was the longest I’d written at that point – provides a highly cathartic listening experience through its build-ups to the final climax. Yet inspiration struck as the pandemic set in, and five dense compositions contemplating notions of temporality and eternality emerged as a result. The writing process began in the middle of 2020 and the final masters were sent in during the very early days of 2022.
“Adumbration of the Veiled Logos”, which was released by NoEvDia on June 17, is VERBERIS’ second album and proceeds from the 2018 “Vorant Gnosis” EP. As with previous works, it was recorded between different ends of the earth – Germany and New Zealand, to be precise – employing a blend of professional studios and DIY.
– Obviously, these things take a long time when band members are on opposite sides of the planet. DIY techniques have been used throughout the span of VERBERIS but progressively less with each release. All of us have enough experience in this area by now to know what we’re able to do sufficiently on our own – through preferred, tried, and tested methods – and what to outsource to those with better equipment and more expertise.
The percussion has certainly undergone a drastic improvement compared to the previous album. But despite the incredible drum performance, it is the guitarwork that captures my primary attention; very strange and rather technical, yet full of feeling. I’m still somewhat bewildered by this album despite several listens.
– Upon listening to the unmastered version of “Adumbration…”, a good friend whose opinion I value highly described it as having a sort of ‘numinous depth’. I’d never heard ‘numinous’ used in an artistic context prior to that, yet it might be the most accurate word – or at least the word I feel the closest affinity to – for capturing my ultimate goal as a songwriter. To have your work described as possessing considerable depth truly is one of the highest compliments to an artist, in my opinion.
To my understanding, a lot of this sonic peculiarity derives from the use of multiple guitars with different tunings. I also read somewhere that D.A’s main guitar is unconventional in a black metal context.
– “Vexamen” and “Vorant Gnosis” were recorded using a Gretsch Electromatic guitar. Gretsch guitars are known for having warm, vintage tones and thus being sub-optimal for this kind of music. However, it is certainly capable of producing unique results. It’s a rewarding exercise to push such equipment to its limits within the confines of extreme metal, for the unique characteristics that come out on the other end. I am by no means a gearhead but certainly have a fond appreciation for vintage and analogue – could you even say primitive? – equipment over their high-fidelity digital counterparts.
Hence why parts of the album were recorded at Big Snuff Studio – an analogue recording facility in Berlin, Germany.
– Two more guitars were enlisted for “Adumbration…”: a 1972 custom Fender Telecaster as well as a Zemaitis, the latter being a bit more suited for metal. When approaching the writing stage, I decided to once and for all throw out the idea of VERBERIS ever performing live. As such, I would have less constraints when it comes to composing and equipment. This led to my decision to use three guitars, but more specifically: three guitars with different tuning setups, two of which interchange with each other throughout “I Am the Father and the Tomb of the Heavens”. Makes it a bit of a challenge in a live scenario.
Considering D.A’s apparent prowess as a guitarist, I found it interesting that he credits having started out on bass for gaining a better understanding of what a vital role this instrument plays in the grand scheme of things.
– Well, for starters I’d refute the claim of having prowess as a guitarist. I can go weeks without the impulse to even touch a guitar, and when I do I only play my own work. Quite simply, unless I’m preparing to record, I rarely sit down and actually ‘practise’. Now, regarding the question of bass: the absence of that low frequency-range coming from a distinct instrument just leaves me unsatisfied. Simple as that. It’s an odd reality that extreme metal is one of the rare forms of ‘conventional’ Western music where the sonic absence of a separate bass track – and in some cases even being completely devoid of a bass guitar – is quite normal. It’s a sorely underrated instrument in this context.
Especially 90s Scandinavian black metal was known to have a very subtle bass presence. Not only do the bass lines tend to follow the guitars, but the typically cold lo-fi sound of that era doesn’t lend itself to capturing heavy bass tones.
– ‘Cut the bass track and dial up those low frequencies on the guitars!’– said no bassist ever. Tonally, it’s just not the same, but rather an inefficient use of the resources at hand. That’s not to say you can’t come up with decent results – it’s just subpar in my particular taste. Even when it comes to the cruder side of the spectrum, one of the many qualities contributing to the godliness of “VVorld VVithout End” (KATHARSIS) is its production and how audible the bass guitar is.
The first VERBERIS material began taking form in 2011 – the songs “Sepulchral Slumber” and “Kaliginous Ascent” on the 2014 “Vasitas” demo stem from this time. The demo was released on tape by German label Iron Bonehead Productions, who also signed VERBERIS for a full-length record: the 2016 “Vexamen”. The most immediately identifiable development from the demo is that the debut album shows less of the sonic murkiness the antipodean region is known for. This is primarily in reference to the production; the riffs are largely in the same vein but now come across more slicing than smothering.
– I’d say that this partly comes down to improved equipment but largely the enlisting of others, more competent than myself, to perform the other duties. “Vastitas” was more or less a solo undertaking. Aside from that though, there wasn’t much conscious forethought going into “Vexamen”; I had a small budget and the bulk of it went towards artwork and mastering, leaving the scraps for substandard recording equipment and mediocre mixing. Primarily DIY, and the results reflect that.
“Vexamen” has a non-metal instrumental track called “Vereri”. Listening to it, I was reminded of a remark D.A. made in an interview with Feed the Beast Fanzine; something to the effect of VERBERIS being a multi-dimensional expression focused on conveying sincere aural darkness. This, in turn, brought to mind a point made by Stephen Lockhart of D.A’s NoEvDia label mates REBIRTH OF NEFAST: ‘Take a project like ELEND – without even a hint of conventional metal instrumentation or even the genre tag, “The Umbersun” carries an aura far more akin to what I interpret as black metal compared to many records actually presented as such.’
– I thought about this the other day actually. I was trying to distil down what I often look for in music, regardless of genre, to a simple descriptor – as one does while taking a shower. Besides the indispensable quality of authenticity, ‘sinister poignancy’ came to mind; that depth I mentioned earlier. I’m not sure I can elaborate too much on how to go about achieving this regardless of instrumentation though. It’s natural for me, to the point that anything else just feels insincere or incomplete. I write music on an unplugged electric guitar, and if my intention is to create something ‘softer’ then I’ll usually look at utilising drawn-out chords and arpeggios.
To arpeggiate a chord is to play its notes in swift succession in either ascending or descending order.
– That soon becomes predictable though. I’d say novelty is another quality which I greatly appreciate. Actually, this also goes back to what we were talking about regarding the bass guitar, though more generally in terms of building a musical soundscape. To create a sense of sonic ‘fullness’ in music, you need a variety of instruments occupying different frequency ranges across the audible spectrum. With this in mind, it becomes possible to at least start thinking about adapting and transposing musical ideas to different instruments of similar frequency ranges, and to cross genres while upholding the ‘aura’ of the music.
I was unaware of “Vexamen” until commencing my interview preparations, so I’m wondering if this release might not have flown somewhat under the radar.
– When a label is constantly churning out multiple new releases of various sizes week after week, month after month, I think one would expect flying under the radar to become a frequent occurrence. However, that’s not to push the blame and say that “Vexamen” isn’t flawed – it most definitely is. It’s particularly unconventional in production. It was a very ambitious undertaking which never ended up fully realised. A necessary milestone, but one I don’t revisit much.
Two years later came “Vorant Gnosis”, courtesy of Pulverised Records. It is an immersive EP deliberating over two linked tracks the dual nature of metaphysical knowledge and experience. I believe I can detect more doom elements – not only in tempos and heaviness but also the tension-inducing theatrical build-ups.
– I don’t recall the impetus, or if there even was one. I’ve been fascinated by songwriting as a craft for a long time. I’ve been fascinated by the power of music in general as a direct, artistic form of communication to the emotions and the subconscious. During my tertiary education I actually wrote my final thesis on techniques which facilitate tension and release in contemporary music – focusing on the more atmospheric and psychedelic metal subgenres. I had already begun exploring longer compositions on “Vexamen”, and with “Vorant Gnosis” I just went all-out in incorporating some of the techniques I’d studied. Two songs, thirty minutes. No extended moments of silence or ambience to fill up playing time. Again, I wanted to seriously explore these notions of depth and power in music, as well as that of the musical experience being a journey – and a formidable one at that. Giving the listener time to settle into something of a coherent and flowing rollercoaster. For sure, some of it was my own attempted pushback to the ever-plunging attention span of the 21st-century human.
At some point after “Vorant Gnosis”, VERBERIS entered a collaboration with NoEvDia. In an interview with Necrosphere – conducted before signing to the French label – D.A. mentioned being greatly impacted by the wave of so-called ‘orthodox black metal’ at fifteen years of age, citing the likes of FUNERAL MIST, KATHARSIS, ANTAEUS, DEATHSPELL OMEGA, and WATAIN as catalysts for major upheaval of his world.
– This point of discovery was in the mid-2000s – in fact, I’m quite sure it was DISSECTION’s return that led me to “Casus Luciferi” (WATAIN) and then on to NoEvDia. So, it was the internet age yet still much prior to social media as we know it and the resources at hand today, which is important because after seeing some of these albums in the local metal store I’d go home and scour the internet for whatever crumbs of information I could find about them. I would revisit the websites of these bands on a near-daily basis, eager to catch the latest cryptic announcement and let my adolescent imagination be dragged away in the Devil’s clandestine currents, acquainting myself with candle and blade–accompanied listening sessions.
Was signing to NoEvDia an early goal for the band?
– As a pipe dream? Certainly. But as a realistic goal? I wouldn’t say so. With all of those aforementioned bands leading back to NoEvDia, it would attain a near-mythical status for me, and thus a seemingly unattainable aim. That remained the case until early 2021 when I was thinking about what labels to send the “Adumbration…” demos to and remembered that one of the other VERBERIS members actually had a directly line to NoEvDia. Once I’d concluded that there would be nothing to lose, he reached out. And in all honesty, it’s still somewhat surreal for me to see where we are today.
One wording of D.A’s caught my eye – that this discovery brought with it an insight about how music could be used for a ‘higher purpose’.
– There are two musical components of equal importance: medium and message. No elaboration is required for the former; the average listener is only really concerned with the way the music sounds and how it makes them feel. We could get into the specifics of atmosphere, creativity, technicality, originality, et cetera – all of which are important – but your question is pointing more to the latter. Putting aside the matter of what exactly it should be related to, what’s most important is that a sincere message is being conveyed. Questions must be put to oneself: what is the motivation for doing this? What are you trying to achieve or say with it? What sets it apart from everything else?
Have you figured out the right answer?
– I don’t think there is one, but what matters is the act of asking. I’m alluding to how one regards one’s work with brutal honesty: is it art or is it entertainment? The distinction for me is that the former requires a genuine message, or a conceptual framework that acts as the foundation; something non-musical that the music is delivering. But it could be deconstructed even further and argued that all that’s required is for the creator to have the ambition for their work to be art rather than entertainment. It becomes a question of intent. How much conscious awareness are you putting into all aspects of the work as the creator – and conversely, as the consumer? You begin to realise that it’s not either-or, but a balance that must be made. Nonetheless, we are talking about black and death metal here… and as such, there are certain elements that cannot be separated from the equation.
On a related note, this philosophy around messaging ties into D.A’s stated purpose of using VERBERIS as a medium for expressing his ontological views.
– When you take a moment to suspend the banality of everyday existence, the kind of thoughts that begin to arise are what VERBERIS explores. Existentialism, to put it bluntly. Reality’s tangled web of consciousness, form, meaning, God, death, and emptiness. The more I look, the more convinced I am of how little I – or anyone else for that matter – really know about this thing we call reality. Thinking beyond the confines of our conventional lives and the crackling physicalist paradigm is already a step too far for most, but it’s like perpetually standing at the threshold of ontological shock: of questioning the veracity of everything down to its core. I’m used to it; I often just regard myself as an utter fool, not holding firmly to any beliefs about objective reality and what Kant termed the ‘noumenon’.
In the philosophy of 18th-century German philosopher Immanuel Kant, reality as we know it can be divided into two separate categories: the phenomenal and the noumenal. The former represents our own observations of earthly existence, whereas the latter is reality ‘as it is’ independent of individual experience; one we can conceptualise but neither directly observe nor describe. Taking mountains as an example, the way we see them through the somewhat limited human senses – their shape, colour, and enormity – is merely a representation captured by our visual cortex and then processed by the brain to form an intelligible image matching our idea of a ‘mountain’. Seen through the eyesight of an eagle or a hare, they are perceived very different. This is, according to Kant, the phenomenon. What mountains ‘really’ look like without biochemical interpretation we can only theorise. Kant argued that mankind’s speculative reason can study phenomena but never fully grasp the noumenon. These ideas are what D.A. explores on “Adumbration of the Veiled Logos”, as conveyed through the nomenclature of various esoteric and religious traditions of both Eastern and Western origin.
– The word ‘adumbration’ is key here, as the album deals with something that I believe to be unknowable in completeness – certainly beyond verbal articulation. Si comprehendis, non est Deus: ’If you understand, it isn’t God.’ Across millennia and traditions, penetrating to the heart of these ideas has almost always taken the form of poetry and artwork, often deceptively simple in nature. This too is but a subjective and fragmentary artistic interpretation. The conceptual thread runs parallel to the music in a linear fashion, beginning with the embodiment of opposites as a principle for overcoming dualities; acknowledging that one side of a coin does not exist without the other and that both must be accepted.
The idea is to see through unfiltered vision and gain a greater sense of objectivity – recognising that which humanity is chained to by both attachments and aversions.
– Next, death as a gateway and what, if anything, might pass through it. For as long as we know, humans have clung tremblingly to the belief in an immortal aspect of ourselves which survives this mortal coil. Between the naïve and the nihilist, what is lost and what transcends the dimensions of space and time? Building up on the previous points comes a threefold sense of solitude. First, that which is familiar to anyone who’s undergone bouts of existentialist pursuit; second, the recognition that you, and you alone, are the iron with which to forge a blade. And third, a contemplative exercise into the isolation of monad – perhaps a koan of sorts. Finally, to a sort of dialectical resolution. The dissolution of subject and object, the ‘synthesis of thesis and antithesis’, except that the ‘synthesis’ is not a subsequent outcome but rather the true nature all along, recognised only when the illusion of separation fades.