by Niklas Göransson

Pete Helmkamp and Gene Palubicki – the core duo of American black/death pioneers Angelcorpse – speak of broken bones, terminal disease, and internal strife. And how the ultimate sacrifice was required to resist the wheels of commerce, twice.

This article can also be found in Bardo Archivology Vol. 2, a printed anthology with selected features from the online archive. Additional content includes NÅSTROND, VOMITOR, NOCTURNUS, XIBALBA ITZAES , Ryan Förster, THE RUINS OF BEVERAST, ASCENSION, MALOKARPATAN, Manhunter: The Story of the Swedish Occultist and Serial Killer Thurneman, WARDRUNA, FORGOTTEN WOODS, LIFVSLEDA, SEIGNEUR VOLAND, and WOLCENSMEN – all presented in ambitious aesthetics with plenty of custom artwork. More information here.

– Comets only come around every six or seven years, says Pete, it is spectacular while we fly across the sky and then it’s dark. But we were never in darkness, we always remained active and kept creating new music.

ANGELCORPSE have returned. After disbanding in the year 2000, with half a decade and three albums to their name, they reformed in 2006 – only to resume hibernation three years later. Pete Helmkamp has been a musician his entire life; starting out with death metal titans ORDER FROM CHAOS in 1987, he then went on to play with REVENGE, FELDGRAU and TERROR ORGAN. Today, his active projects are KERASPHORUS and ABHOMINE.

– Creating music and lyrics has been my constant desire. To this day, my live performances evoke the same energy I felt when I was fifteen years old; I never strayed from this path. If one is truly committed to extreme music, there’s no choice but to keep pushing forward and crossing new thresholds. It’s not enough to just break boundaries to a certain extent and then use that as your plateau to ride upon. You have to keep moving forwards, which might mean that you’re always ahead of the pack, in the foreground or the shadows, or perhaps even lost – no matter, as long as you’re not on the same track as everyone else.

This conversation took place on October 29, 2016, at the Black Harvest festival in Stockholm, Sweden, during a tour commemorating the twentieth anniversary of ANGELCORPSE.

– It’s our first time in a lot of these places and, because we’ve been going for twenty years now, -we’re getting the opportunity to play to an entirely new generation of fans. This is great for us, and exciting for them too – many of them probably never dreamed they’d get to see ANGELCORPSE.

Gene Palubicki, Pete Helmkamp and previous drummer Ronnie Palmer.


– There are shows booked for 2017, says Gene, so it’s not coming to any kind of close by the end of the year. There are many new things we’re looking to do, like hitting territories we never played in the past. Scandinavia, for example.

Any chance for a new album?

– At this point in time our focus will remain on performing live – following the path that leads to uncharted territory. We would have to settle on an honest representation of what would be new ANGELCORPSE material and not just throwaways from the other projects we’ve done over the years.

Like his bandmate, Gene remained active after both demises of ANGELCORPSE, playing and recording with PERDITION TEMPLE and BLASPHEMIC CRUELTY. The German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche, who is frequently cited as a conceptual influence, spoke of art as an aid to remain sane – a distraction from the constant flood of mundane inanity.

– I would agree with that, says Gene, I’d have been real bad if I wasn’t working on a project at any given time. I would’ve become some sort of introvert and vanished into a cave. I always have at least one inventive process going – it’s a motivator. Creativity in itself is an art form much like the arcane; it’s the practice of summoning something tangible out of nothing.  It’s amazing. That’s what music is: magic used for ritual purposes. If it’s powerful and strong, people will remember it and then you’ll have left an impression in their head. Now you have this collective understanding of sound, these things that are being heard in joint experiences.

– Throughout history, says Pete, music has always been with man – it’s only in recent times we’ve been able to record and reproduce it. The essence of music is the live performance; it’s something everyone becomes part of. It’s a very ritualistic thing, this collective immersion you capture in a live situation. You must be able to encapsulate everyone in that experience. The ability to conjure up galvanising feelings is precisely what defines an excellent band as opposed to the mediocre. One that will really make a mark and affect people in the intended way. This requires discipline and the ability to perform at a consistent quality. Every time you play, it’s going to be somebody’s first-ever show and that’s fucking important.



Pete is forty-six years old. For someone who has the life-on-the-road mileage he has, I must say that he looks surprisingly vigorous.

– I’m an alcoholic, but I quit drinking five years ago so I’m a much healthier man now. Why I’ve been blessed with these youthful looks I have no idea, but I’m very thankful for it.

ANGELCORPSE have toured with a wide range of bands from both the death and black metal scene, so I’m curious what they reckon separates the men from the boys in terms of live performances.

– The strong, says Gene, are the ones who can handle all of the trials and tribulations that come with being on the road and keep going until the end. Those with the grit to come out and deliver a hundred percent every night and deal with whatever is thrown their way without causing a fuss. The weaklings will quit after two weeks. Either they go home or start playing badly, have drama, and give up on stage – terrible events like that. We’ve seen all sides of it. It’s pointless to name any names, but if you’ve been around long enough you’ll have seen all these things happen.

It was actually on tour ANGELCORPSE split up the first time; a US venture with IMMORTAL, SATYRICON and KRISIUN.

– The tour itself was fine, says Gene. How things ultimately ended is regrettable, but it was also badass – great shows all around. It just so happened that we suffered some unpleasant events… such as the highway accident. We ran head-on into an embankment on the highway, went into a ravine, and then hit a turnaround point.

– Luckily, says Pete, it was very foggy that night – it was three o’clock in the morning, mind you, so we rode about forty miles an hour. Had we been doing eighty, none of us would have survived. But we did, and so did the will to keep going. After taking one day off, we rented a new van and resumed the tour. In my conviction to prove that ANGELCORPSE was that extreme, I hobbled forward on my broken leg.

– I couldn’t even lean over, adds Gene.

As if touring with various debilitating injures wasn’t miserable enough, Helmkamp’s girlfriend at the time was then stabbed in a mugging. This incident became the tipping point to a period of increased frustration; Pete quit the band and left the tour.

– I had started feeling the pull towards a more commercial direction. I felt the path we were on would lead to a loss of control over our real creativity and the very essence of what ANGELCORPSE is. That was the primary reason, but what transpired on the tour was pretty traumatic and became the straw that broke the camel’s back.



This wasn’t his first time of disbanding at the brink of commercial success, the same happened with ORDER FROM CHAOS in 1998.

– Initially, we had talked about only writing three albums. This was meant to mimic our perception of many early 80s bands we were fans of: KREATOR, SODOM, SLAYER, and so on.

Meaning, classic acts deemed unable to muster more than three good albums before they began deteriorating.

– The whole vision seemed to change. After deciding to make music a career instead of their passion, they drifted into the wheel of commercialism. It was immediately apparent to me that this was now happening with ANGELCORPSE. I needed to maintain my artistic integrity, to be able to create the way I wanted to without any perimeters set upon me. Even things like touring schedules… I just can’t do six months of the year. It’s simply not possible – physically, mentally, or realistically. In retrospect, this was for the best as I’d likely have been dead by now if we’d kept going. I had major surgery three years ago; a tumour was removed from my spinal column. It was found accidentally, and had we become a commercial touring band and got stuck on the wheel I would’ve further aggravated this by headbanging and just not taking care of my body. I can absolutely say that I wouldn’t be here speaking now.

Did this experience affect you much?

– Absolutely. You appreciate life more, it makes you respect the abilities and gifts you have but normally take for granted. I’m very thankful; finding the tumour allowed me to have the surgery which saved my life. Actually, it was exploring the lyrical concepts for my occult project KERASPHORUS that ultimately led me to the revelation that I had a malignant cyst. A lot of the material for this band was sort of delivered to me, so it is what it is. It’s up to the reader to interpret, but it certainly shows the struggle I was going through. The battle between dark and light, how that conflicts with one’s soul and the choices we must make in life.



ABHOMINE on the other hand, is about the world we live in today.

– There’s no fiction there, it’s all based on reality. This is what we see on the street, hear from the media and see happening around the world. Abhomine means ‘from man’, and that it is the root of the word ‘abominations’. This world we’ve created is full of abominations that we now live amongst, trying to find our way forward.

Besides his music, Pete Helmkamp has also authored two books – The Conqueror Manifesto and Controlled Burn – in which he outlines a worldview described as the ‘philosophy of ascendance’.

– Sure, they represent the core foundation of who I am. One also has to recognise that I was twenty-three and twenty-six years old when I wrote those; now, at the ripe age of forty-six, I have accumulated far more wisdom. In conclusion, I certainly have a better understanding about life now compared to back then.

Whilst preparing for this interview, I came across a mention that Helmkamp enjoys teaching. I first assumed he meant in the sense of spreading wisdom through his books and lyrics, but it turns out he’s actually an elementary school teacher.

– Teaching is a great experience because the kids are learning; they’re being shown things in a way they might not have had the opportunity before. Then again, whenever I’m in any kind of public setting I’m constantly lecturing, elaborating, talking, and running my mouth.

Even back in the ORDER FROM CHAOS days, Pete lamented the dumbing down of the human race. Given how this preceded the advent of reality television and social media, one would assume he hasn’t seen much improvement in recent years.

– The numbing has obviously continued. People are easily steered into paying attention only to what’s in front of them rather than digging to find where the truth really lies. This is an intentional process, to combat the fact that people in general are born with the ability to think and reason for themselves. I see this all the time in the children I teach. They’re not dumb – they just don’t know the math rules until I explain them. As such, once people are shown that there are other ways to go about things, they’ll go out and seek information on their own. Civilisation is now on a slippery slope, balancing on the cusp of history. These are the times people will write books about – historical documents that will be studied in the future, providing there is still freedom to actually do so. I think there’s a battle between death and life playing out on this planet.


This article can also be found in Bardo Archivology Vol. 2, a printed anthology with selected features from the online archive. Additional content includes NÅSTROND, VOMITOR, NOCTURNUS, XIBALBA ITZAES , Ryan Förster, THE RUINS OF BEVERAST, ASCENSION, MALOKARPATAN, Manhunter: The Story of the Swedish Occultist and Serial Killer Thurneman, WARDRUNA, FORGOTTEN WOODS, LIFVSLEDA, SEIGNEUR VOLAND, and WOLCENSMEN – all presented in ambitious aesthetics with plenty of custom artwork. More information here.