by Niklas Göransson
After a decade’s absence, Paragon Impure make an unexpected return. Noctiz, the project’s founder and driving force, explains his departure from the black metal self of old – as well as his rekindled urge to spew forth blasphemy and perversion.
– “To Gaius!”, the first PARAGON IMPURE album, was written between 2004 and 2005 when I was eighteen years old. The drums were tracked with an old Tascam tape recorder set up in a barn. Guitars and bass were routed through a Metal Zone pedal straight into Norgaath’s (ENTHRONED) computer. I skipped school to record vocals in the living room of my parental home, then mixed the whole thing on my first desktop. Very amateurish! Nothing extraordinary to brag about but hell, it turned out precisely as I’d intended: grim and fierce. Just like the one and only “Under a Funeral Moon” – the album I worshipped as a teenager, my favourite black metal record to this very day actually. “To Gaius!” comes in second.
“To Gaius!” is available for free download here. “The Fall of Man”, its purported successor, was written during 2007 and 2008 but ended up abandoned mid-recording.
– Partly because the drum tracks didn’t hold up to the quality I’d expected and also because I lacked the production skills required to reach a level corresponding to my ambition. The drums were recorded in a studio and the rest I wanted to finish at home, in solitude. I gradually came to the realisation that the ‘magnum opus’ I was striving for would be unattainable under such circumstances and I’d be damned to settle for anything less. Reaching out for external technical assistance held very little appeal so, being a stubborn asshole, it was far easier simply discontinuing the whole damn thing instead. In hindsight, I just wasn’t ready for it.
So, what made you change your mind?
– When listening to the unfinished songs, which was a rare occurrence, I’d always experience conflicting feelings. I realised this was the best material I’d ever written and it would be a terrible waste not to bring the work to proper closure, even if that meant starting all over again. But I was so disconnected from this type of black metal and the mere thought of having to practice the guitar riffs again made my stomach turn. Besides, I’m always dependent on a drummer… I’m not sure how it came up but when I mentioned the rather limited possibility of re-recording “The Fall of Man” during a band meeting with LUGUBRUM, Svein (drums) reacted with enthusiasm – which came as quite the surprise since I knew he wasn’t especially fond of my early work. I got really excited and, within a matter of days, decided to finally give it another shot.
“Sade”, the second album of PARAGON IMPURE, is currently set for a November release via Ván Records. It was recorded in the home studio of PJ – frontman of A THOUSAND SUFFERINGS – with whom Noctiz was initially only briefly acquainted but ended up befriending. Their artistic resonance and personal chemistry resulted in PJ becoming PARAGON IMPURE’s third member, solely as producer and live sound engineer for the time being.
– In terms of composition and style, I’d definitely say “Sade” is a logical successor to the debut – somewhat lengthier and more complex perhaps but fans of the old work will definitely recognise both riffing-style and structures. In terms of production we took a major leap forward, or backwards depending on one’s tastes and preferences. My voice hasn’t changed much but this time I opted for a ‘clean’ approach: some reverb, some delay, that’s it. No gushy reverb, distortion and pitch shift like on the debut. I wanted the vocals to be understandable, not just a dense layer of snarls and screams. I always liked David Vincent’s work on MORBID ANGEL’s “Blessed are the Sick”: brutal, yet clear and well-articulated. Not that my voice sounds anything like his but I got what I aimed for. The guitars are less sharp and the bass more prevalent which not only gives the whole sound some well-deserved balls, it also adds to the melodies. I don’t know many bands from this genre who share our approach. The result exceeded my expectations in every way. So, yes, all in all I consider “Sade” to be a more than worthy successor. The album might not be the ‘masterpiece’ I was dreaming of when I was twenty-one – it’s not special or unique in any way but it’s definitely a fucking paragon of impurity.
While working on “Sade”, Noctiz couldn’t help but wonder what it would be like to perform the new songs live. Once the album had been recorded, the notion kept prodding him until he relented and decided to organise a try-out gig. On December 1, PARAGON IMPURE will perform in Brussels together with LUGUBRUM.
– Following the release of “To Gaius!”, we didn’t do many gigs. As a matter of fact, we only played in Belgium and The Netherlands. Performing live with PARAGON IMPURE was always utterly exhausting, and I’m not talking about the preparations; surrounding myself with great musicians meant rehearsal hours could be kept to a bare minimum. It was the actual performance that consumed shitloads of energy; I used to describe the sensation as unleashing ‘demons’, heh… I must’ve had a lot of suppressed anger because on stage I’d become absolutely infuriated. Total tunnel vision, some moments it felt as if I was about to burst into flames. Imagine someone you hold dear being cornered and threatened, adrenaline rushing through your veins and, without considering the consequences, you’re fully willing to destroy the aggressor. On stage, that antagonist was God – or better yet, the idea of God. Sounds a bit silly but I don’t know how else to describe this powerful, gruelling feeling. When PARAGON IMPURE played, there was always a certain hostility consuming the venue. At least that’s how I experienced it.
The last gig with PARAGON IMPURE took place in 2009, around the time of recording “The Fall of Man”. Noctiz even cancelled their appearance at German underground festival Under the Black Sun, citing a lack of motivation.
– Around this time, I’d begun feeling pretty fed up with the black metal scene in general. Not only the majority of music being released, which was as dull and redundant as ever, but the people involved were seriously getting on my nerves. I started judging people way too easily; everyone seemed to be a moron, lowlife or ‘poser’… drunks and imbeciles with nothing interesting to say. I could no longer connect with the audience and ultimately lost my passion to perform. At the last gig I played it felt as if ‘Noctiz’ – in those days of course traditionally corpse-painted and covered in blood – was nothing but a character I had to play. Oh, how I hated this! I’d become an actor, a fraud… one of many. Shortly thereafter, PARAGON IMPURE was buried alive.
I imagine it’s a bit different performing live with LUGUBRUM?
– Playing the brown tunes is always fun and satisfying, no matter how terrible the conditions. We played amazing gigs at Aurora Infernalis, Roadburn, Speyer Black Mass… but we also performed in an Aberdeen bar before one guy in a wheelchair, got high from sleeping in the same Edinburgh flat as some stoner band, slept between rabbits in a punk’s living room in Tampere, played in a damp Paris cellar, and so forth. None of this bothers me when I’m with LUGUBRUM – the mindset is completely different. We’ve learned to expect the unexpected. It wouldn’t be LUGUBRUM without all the wacky antics and bizarre adventures.
When I spoke to Noctiz prior to this interview, he was vigilant in pointing out that PARAGON IMPURE is no longer to be regarded as a black metal band.
– Let’s put it this way: ask any metalhead for a few keywords of what black metal stands for and chances are he’ll come up with the likes of evil, darkness, and satanism. The educated might throw in a few burning churches along with Euronymous. Ask a ‘true devotee’ the same question and you’re likely to get an answer with fancy-sounding, occult belief systems such as anti-cosmic Luciferianism, Gnosticism, Thelema or theistic satanism – better known as good old-fashioned devil-worship. Fairy-tales, make-believe, and total fucking rubbish if you ask me; PARAGON IMPURE is simply miles and miles away from all this. Of course, people are going to label our music as black metal since we sound like and are influenced by lots of bands from the genre.
Noctiz says he grew up listening to the usual suspects among the early 90s Norwegian scene. Further on, he became passionate about later-generation bands such as KATHARSIS and FUNERAL MIST.
– DEATHSPELL OMEGA… holy crap, “Paracletus” knocked me off my feet! I’d be a liar in claiming to nowadays reject all bands with beliefs, lyrics, themes and imagery I dislike or even despise. There wouldn’t be much music left for me to listen to that way. The aforementioned bands still regularly blow through my speakers, including their latest albums. Being fond of a certain genre doesn’t mean you have to fully identify with it. I listen to SHINING without having turned into a suicidal crank. I love THE DOORS but am no hippie burnout. Reflecting over the matter now, I seem to only follow traditional black metal bands I liked as a teenager and young adult. These days, when I browse the internet and come across the millionth pseudo-religious album cover – complete with occult symbols, snakes, and chalices – from a previously unheard-of band, I sigh and click further. It goes without saying that I’m drawn to acts who’ve taken an atheist or anti-theist approach or at least offer something original, challenging, or innovative: VIRUS and DØDHEIMSGARD for example.
Noctiz also told me that he’s become a convinced atheist. Opposition to organised religion is obvious a key tenet here but I’m wondering if this also entails disregarding all things supernatural, any inherent meaning to earthly existence, and notions of there being more to the human experience than our physical body and its material interactions.
– Organised religion is the greatest abomination man ever created! Offering belief instead of logic and mysteries instead of reason; theology has been the favourite tool of tyrants throughout the ages, allowing for dogmatic enslavement of entire nations. Theism, and more specifically the monotheistic Abrahamic religions, is a severe betrayal of the intellect, the rejection of nature and, inevitably, the denial of free will. Any believer stating differently is in contradiction with his own faith. Religion is completely redundant and irrelevant in our modern Western society and I’m stunned to observe seemingly sane people feeding themselves such nonsense to this very day. I firmly believe us to be products of nature and evolution, that everything can be explained through science – if not today then perhaps tomorrow. Therefore, I reject anything ‘supernatural’, as in manifestations or events attributed to some force beyond scientific understanding or the laws of nature.
Having ‘become’ atheist would imply that this was not always the case. As such, I’m curious about his past spiritual life.
– As far as I can remember, I’ve always rejected the idea of an omnipotent, all-seeing creator; even as a child. Although I was baptised, went to a Catholic school, and attended church on the usual occasions, none of it was ever forced upon me. My dad doesn’t care for religion and we never had any meaningful conversations about it. My mom was somewhat of an agnostic theist, meaning she believed in a god or creator but regarded the basis of this proposition inherently unknowable. So, I got to hear plenty of Christ’s exploits but not a word about the wrath of God or how I’d burn in hell, should I not be a good boy. Then when I was thirteen, my mom died of cancer and I don’t have to explain that this event fucked me up pretty bad and unwittingly nourished my hatred for God – at least the concept itself. By the time I was fifteen I fell into an abyss of depression and despair, becoming somewhat of a misanthrope. Fortunately, I was ‘saved’ by the girl who later on became both my wife and mother of my two children. Anyhow, the contempt I felt for religion and anything related to it has kept growing to this day.
What about non-dogmatic metaphysical concepts such as esotericism and the realm of spirit?
– Obviously, I renounce the existence of ‘magic’ – which is nothing but a romantic word for tricks, deceit, and illusion – but I must admit I had my doubts concerning the existence of this ‘spirit world’ you speak of. Around the time I was twenty-three I suffered from sleep paralysis for the first time and it freaked me out badly. Look it up, it’s pretty dreadful.
No need – due to the condition’s impressive prevalence among esoterically inclined interviewees, sleep paralysis has been a topic featured on Bardo Methodology seemingly to the frequency of readership vexation. The ALTAR OF PERVERSION feature has a decent recap for those interested.
– Over a period of about two years I was struck with it on perhaps thirty occasions. In the beginning it was often just the feeling of complete paralysis, not being able to move or talk right away after waking. This only lasted fifteen to twenty seconds and I soon learned to snap myself out of it. At first, I didn’t really pay much attention to it and just considered them nightmares – until they escalated and started to truly scare the shit out of me. Sometimes it was so intense and horrifying that I had to keep the lights on in order to dare fall back asleep. The worst was the feeling of a hostile presence, often combined with this suffocating pressure on my chest and seeming inability to breathe. It made me wonder about the possibility of an afterlife, gates to parallel universes, haunting spirits… stuff I’d have completely dismissed before. So, I started browsing the internet and luckily found out I wasn’t the only one dealing with these issues. Besides simple self-treatment, which worked well for me, there are various types of therapy and promising medicine for sleep paralysis nowadays; farewell ghouls and wraiths.
On a related note, may I ask if you’ve ever explored so-called psychedelics?
– No, I haven’t, only tried some hash when I was a teen. Some might say I shouldn’t speak out about matters I haven’t indulged in myself but I’ll say this: people claiming to have had ‘religious’ experiences while using psychedelics are fucking idiots. I think the effects of these substances are well-studied and there’s nothing unearthly about them. Cerebral, visual and auditory changes along with an altered state of consciousness are triggered by serotonin-receptor agonism; meaning, drugs messing with your brain. There’s nothing ‘spiritual’ about that. In my eyes, the use of psychedelics is a mere form of escapism and although I must admit finding them fascinating to some extent, I have little interest in losing touch with reality. To be honest, I feel the same way about alcohol. Knowing LUGUBRUM, you’re no doubt aware that I’m passionate about beer. And whisky. And gin. But I never intentionally drink myself to a state where I can’t pull my dick out of my pants. Besides, I place such great importance to physical fitness that alcohol in excess would interfere with my training.
“The Fall of Man” was originally based on various biblical passages. While the album’s musical material was left relatively unchanged, Noctiz’s spiritual reorientation left him feeling as if a conceptual overhaul might be in order.
– I wanted the album to become an act of pure blasphemy, a fist in the face of God – remember that lyric? Consequently, the idea to dedicate the album to the legacy of Marquis de Sade made sense. Tales of total perversion, murder, rape, incest, torture, sodomy and, above all, the worst blasphemies ever committed to paper by a single man. What more could I possibly ask for? “Sade” it would be. Although far from a poet, I could easily write lyrics for ten more albums based on his writings. The images I used for the artwork are edited fragments of etchings, presumably made by 18th century French artist Claude Bornet for a luxury edition of La Nouvelle Justine and its continuation, Juliette. There are around a hundred of them.
Despite the shift in theological course, there’s still a conceptual link to PARAGON IMPURE‘s debut in the album protagonist’s documented enthusiasm for unconventional copulation. “Sade” is, as the name implies, a homage to 18th century French nobleman, writer and philosopher Marquis de Sade – whose very name spawned the term sadism. “To Gaius!” tells the story of Gaius Julius Caesar Augustus Germanicus, better known as the notorious Roman emperor Caligula. Now, I’m not usually prone to interrogate artists about their sexual preferences but after two consecutive albums exploring such topics, exceptions will have to be made.
– Haha… should have expected a question like that. To be honest, I’ve been with the same woman for over sixteen years now. That’s half my life. I’ve always been loyal to her despite having a very high libido. We were fucking like bunnies when we were sixteen and we’re still fucking like bunnies now. We both like it rough and according to the Abrahamic religions we’ve got a one-way ticket to the bowels of hell, if you catch my drift. But I must disappoint you in that I’m neither sadist nor libertine – however, it should be obvious enough that I’m somewhat of a pervert, always have been. I find reading Sade titillating to say the least, far more than any kind of porn movies.
Which aspects of the man is your homage celebrating?
– Due to the cruel nature of his novels, Sade has been abhorred and banished by many ever since his first publications while simultaneously receiving adoration and praise from others. He was, and still is, a great source of inspiration for philosophers, authors, filmmakers, and other artists. The French poet Apollinaire called Sade ‘the freest spirit that has yet existed’, despite him having spent in total thirty-two years of his life imprisoned. On the one hand, Sade‘s literary oeuvre can be seen as a distinctly atheist, philosophical criticism of the morality of his time. He was a dedicated advocate of total freedom, unrestricted by morality, law and, of course, what he despised most: religion. It goes without saying that Sade as the great blasphemer is the most appealing to me. On the other hand, his countless and repetitive tales of perversion – which are filled with all kinds of sadistic horrors that go to the absurd – were nothing but means of empowering the philosophy of libertinism, which is actually an extreme form of hedonism.
Libertinism is a materialistic view which teaches that humans are merely interchangeable facets of a blind nature who are not to be held accountable to each other. Marquis de Sade argued that every moral that comes from consensus, religion or government is unnatural and consequently nothing a liberated spirit need pay any heed.
– Therefore, a libertine should continually strive for pleasure and always surrender to his passions without considering the consequences, regardless of how terrible they may be for his fellow man. Simply put: a libertine is a potential murderer, thief, rapist, paedophile, etcetera. Although reading stories dripping with blood and tears might be entertaining and fun to some extent, I believe true libertinism ultimately leads to the death of everything. There’s no future in this outlook, only the present. For most people, this makes reading Sade a very challenging experience. There’s often a thin line between being aroused and amused, repelled or shocked. It is the thin line between virtue and vice. So, if you ask me if I idolise the man who was raised to be a rich, spoiled brat – who lead a scandalous libertine life in which he poisoned and abused prostitutes as well as took advantage of teenagers, then I will say no, not a bit. But did I pay homage to the man who never stopped questioning, mocking and fighting religious doctrine and authority, under any circumstance, not even when the guillotine lurked right around the corner? I surely did, in all humility.