by Niklas Göransson
Practical esotericism draped in mid-90s black metal nostalgia – Aethyrick is a Finnish duo with a thematic platform drawing heavily from traditional lineages of folk magic and witchcraft.
– Music-wise, I’d say “Praxis” is rooted in the more melodic and atmospheric side of mid-90s black metal; a style which cemented its rightful place back in formative years when we were fully open to receive whatever could stir our souls the most. I think this particular style – when done right – really has it all, both of us consider it the optimum approach for condensing our love for these mysteries of the existential nightside into something tangible which others might be able to feel and comprehend. The album makes no attempt at being something no one has ever heard before but it also shouldn’t be viewed as an outlet to simply dwell on long-gone times. It is, essentially, the harvest of 90s black metal reaped today.
Exile says that when it comes to the lyrics and visual side of “Praxis”, which will be released by The Sinister Flame on December 15, there’s no strict concept behind it per se – rather a red thread weaving it all together.
– Not only does this consistently build on what we started on our demos – “The Trident-bearer” and “Athanor of Sorcery” – but refines the concept further, making it a natural step in our personal evolution as an artistic entity wishing to descend even deeper down into our chosen rabbit hole. Though partially hidden beneath a thick, poetic layer, the lyrics deal primarily with practical approaches to occult matters. Consequently, as soon as the term “Praxis” popped up it instantly became the album’s only possible title.
I trust you’re aware that your logo is rather similar to the one NECROS CHRISTOS uses?
– Yes – same style, two different artists. As far as I know, the NECROS CHRISTOS logo was the first one with this particular style but it certainly wasn’t born out of a vacuum. It draws on Oriental and Middle-Eastern calligraphy, which was also the main point of reference we gave our guy. Frankly, the two or three identical letters are something we could’ve done without but they weren’t enough for us to even consider returning it to the logo designer for a re-make. And I still stand by that decision, even though we’re starting to grow a bit tired of the subject to be honest. Add to this the fact that these two logo wizards have now shook hands over the whole thing, so I very much consider the case closed.
Exile says the duo first became acquainted at the turn of the millennium and then subsequently kept bumping into each other at gigs and festivals, but their actual friendship only manifested in recent years when they began exchanging thoughts on music as well as mutual literary and esoteric interests
– It was soon clear that we’re very much on the same page regarding a lot of things. I’d missed this kind of connection and like-mindedness in previous projects and was looking for an opportunity to pursue my chosen path more efficiently through a band where other members would immediately know what I was babbling about when referencing certain writings or symbols or whatnot. As the closing comment to some discussion we had in late 2016, I threw in a casual, ‘Damn, if we agree this strongly on so many things, we should form a band!’ While not fully a joke, I wasn’t exactly proposing this in all seriousness so the notion kind of lingered in the air for some time until Gall sent me rough sketches for three songs. They hit the spot perfectly and so the decision to form AETHYRICK was made right then and there. Furthermore, this coincided with that year’s winter solstice so I’m sure you can imagine how this realisation sealed the deal for good.
Inspecting AETHYRICK’s website, I noticed a rather striking promo shot depicting what I presume to be the members standing in woodland surroundings.
– That photo turned out really great in my opinion. In addition to hitting the nail right on the head in an aesthetic sense, with all the vibrant colours and such, I particularly enjoy all the symbolism captured in it. First of all, there’s the murky greenness of the forest all around us. The ground we stand on is not solid but a kind of in-between place in the river – flowing water, which can be seen as a metaphor for purity, alteration, and the blood of the land. Holding torches in broad daylight implies that the flames aren’t intended for illumination purposes but indeed represent the Promethean fire stolen from the heavens.
What about the masks?
– The use of cloths covering the whole face is nothing new in black metal imagery and I suppose it’s presently employed by quite a few bands out there. It’s nothing original but has served our vision quite nicely from the very beginning. The white cloths represent the creative void – as opposed to the absorbing black void – and as this replaces our human countenance it signifies that, in this context, we are nameless prisms for its all-potentiality. I guess that’s just a fancy way of saying that we wanted to conceal our everyday appearance in a way which is both visually pleasing and emphasises the meaninglessness of our individual selves in regard to AETHYRICK as a whole. Such sentiments are echoed in the similar robes, with keys and nails used identically on the cords around our waists, and so forth. Even if you might know who we are in real life, you can’t really tell which one is which in the photos. The same goes for the credits concerning all of our releases which merely state, ‘Everything by Gall and Exile.’ We’re in this together and there’s no need to single out individual efforts done for the common good.
The thematic focus of AETHYRICK is that of Sabbatic craft, which is an esoteric system drawing heavily on older traditions of European folk magic and witch-lore.
– One could easily be tempted to think that a tradition with deep roots in both British and American witchcraft cannot resonate fully with someone who lives outside those countries. However, the fact is that the heart of it all transcends temporality and lies beyond the locality-specific rural magical practices and lineages which largely inform this current. It’s not a static or dogmatic belief system requiring one to mimic any specific practices as such but rather a living tradition – a path that twists and turns under the seeker’s feet in accordance to personal steps, abilities and predilections as well as the guidance they receive. It’s really a matter of correct implementation; be it intuitive or based on instructions from dreams, omens, and spirits themselves. It’s a demanding road to walk and I can honestly say that I’m nowhere near the practitioner I intend to be yet, but this particular current has given me the right ideal to strive for as well as the means to do so.
What was it about the Sabbatic craft tradition that appealed to you?
– Mostly this beautiful and balanced union between the rather hands-on ritual work and its underlying high magical goals. Its emphasis on the interaction and alliance with plant spirits, totem animals and the wilderness as a whole is also something that resonates with me deeply. For example, I feel profound affinity with quite a few plants and trees with thorns or needles, especially juniper and sea-buckthorn, and therefore I’m drawn to working with them. The same applies to my native soil in general; in an objective sense I may have seen more beautiful places abroad but, nevertheless, the nature around me is the one I feel most connected to. I can never find the same sense of peace, belonging, and continuity anywhere else.
Prior to this interview, Exile mentioned the opening track, “Protectress”, as an example of how their arcane interests manifest in AETHYRICK. Whereas the lyrics at first glance may seem like some dreamlike murder story, once the metaphors are properly digested it supposedly becomes quite evident that it’s actually about finding and preparing a plant for ritual use. With limited clues at hand, I was unfortunately incapable of figuring out which one
– There’s no specific plant I had in mind when writing those lyrics, it was meant more as a general depiction of finding and harvesting the right one to use as part of the ‘dust’ which marks the so-called magic circle. However, I did have a clear vision in my mind about this ‘lost’ specimen of rye or similar wheat growing on fields where it’s not supposed to be, making it an outcast in a sense, and equating it with Cain and other symbolic figures who’ve gone their own way. Not exactly a surprise perhaps, given that I’m Finnish, but especially rye is a food plant I feel a strong affinity with; baking my own rye bread is something that to me is far more than just preparing a meal. It’s history, a heritage – almost like primitive alchemy.
Rye bread is an age-old and crucial aspect of Finnish cuisine and is served in some variation with most meals. Whilst dwelling on vegetational matters, one aspect of Sabbatic craft I find particularly intriguing is that of the Poison Path; the arcane avenue for those called to botanical sacraments used ritually for esoteric purposes. Potions, infusions, incense, or smokable preparations are employed to achieve trance states, out-of-body experiences, visions, and communion with plants spirits. Caution is advised, however, since the most commonly utilised vegetation are members of the nightshade family – black henbane, mandrake, moonflower, devil’s trumpet, and so forth – all of which are associated with extreme peril. Case in point, we learned in my 2016 conversation with Tyler Davis of the Ajna Offensive how the belladonna berry on a Samhain’s night brought him far closer to death than he’d initially bargained for. However, there are more forgiving variants to work with, far milder but still powerful: mugwort, lion’s tail, wormwood, and wild lettuce for instance.
– This is one of the aspects I have yet to explore – I feel far from ready to fully engage in Veneficium, the so-called Poison Path. It might sound like the talk of a chickenshit but I’d rather be on the safe side and take on this practice only when I feel I have the necessary guidance and comprehension under my belt. Needless to say, interacting with truly poisonous plants is life-threatening from the physical point of view but the same applies also to the mental side. These plant spirits can be equally fatal to the mind of the practitioner if worked with improperly and without the required skill set.
Exile adds that oneiric practices and so-called magical dreams have a very central role in the tradition and is something he’s far more familiar with.
– I don’t consider all dreams meaningful – far from it actually – but the ones that, in one sense or another, are literally out of this world are invaluable to me. They work in two ways; the first being as a wellspring of spirit guidance to be put into use in the waking state. The other being that such dreams, especially the lucid ones, present a hidden arena for further exploration where I can try to reach through the veil by applying knowledge gained outside the world of slumber. As a combined example of both, about ten years ago while lucid dreaming I came up with a breathing pattern mantra geared towards opening gates to the shadow-side and I still regularly incorporate it into my practice.
Do you use any specific techniques to induce this kind of dreaming?
– Yes, there are various methods to invite these kinds of dream states; scents, sounds, or simply sleeping in a certain location associated with the powers one seeks to contact. This is certainly a viable path to do things. That said, I also like to just let them come and go as they please. It’s not the most effective way, I know, but it eliminates the obvious influence such outer stimuli can have on both the conscious and subconscious mind prior to falling asleep. And whilst I know that is, in part, the effect sought from them, leaving out such cues makes the occurring dreams a tad more convincing in my opinion. Of course, I always bear in mind that it may all very well be just my subconscious throwing random things at me. However, even if this was so the methods, words, and visions I bring back help me to get on the right wavelength when I apply them in the waking state and therefore serve their purpose regardless.
Exile says that, at this stage, it’s impossible for him to believe in the complete randomness of dreams. There have been instances which cannot be explained by taking such a stance, no matter how sceptical a frame of mind one might enter.
– For example, I once had a dream in which a fox suddenly ran across the road right under my nose and when I went for a walk the next day, I witnessed the very same event under identical conditions as in the dream. Coincidence? Sure, why not? I can’t rule it out with absolute certainty. But come on, what are the odds of that really being the case? Whereas I know some people are very sensitive to the subtle vibrations around us and are actually able to see manifestations of spirits and other entities in the waking state, I’m personally not one of them. For the most part, the veil is parted before me in the dream world and in other manners which are not so direct or immediate, and naturally this is what I aim to cultivate further.