by Niklas Göransson
Transylvanian thirst for rotten blood – Swedish black metal infused with the burning zeal of youth. Ultra Silvam speak of reverence for the legacy of their art form, as well as disdain for much of its old guard.
– I’d describe “The Spearwound Salvation” as the most pure and direct expression of ULTRA SILVAM to date, says bass player and vocalist M.A. Admittedly, this might sound like an extremely boring answer but that’s just the way it is. Despite their differences, all seven songs share common ground and so tie in perfectly with each other. Besides the first and last songs, which together frame the entirety, it’s not a thematic record at all.
Neither is it a very long record, boasting a playing time just shy of twenty-eight minutes.
– Its length is simply a consequence of us writing rather short songs. I despise the idea of having to include eighteen tracks just to fill up forty minutes of play-time; a three-minute composition from ULTRA SILVAM can, if we play our cards right, contain just as much meat on the bones as a seven-minute track.
– I’d also like to add that everything which needs saying is done so within this time-frame, adds guitarist O.R. As long as we remain convinced that our compositions are good enough, there’s no need to flesh things out even further into ten-minute pieces of grandiose shit. At least that’s not how we do it.
ULTRA SILVAM’s Swedish lyrics are actually really good and should be featured to a greater extent. As for their English counterparts, I thought “Birth of a Mountain” stood out amongst all the unhinged devilry. Now, I’m no geologist but it sounds to me as if the lyric describes through metaphors the literal environmental process hinted at in the title.
– You are correct, says O.R., the lyrics describe the actual birth of a mountain. But, more importantly, it uses the symbol of a mountain as something phallic penetrating the divine, a ‘natural’ force which in itself is unstoppable. I’m not very fond of over-explaining my line of thought on these topics but I think that should get the general idea across.
There seems to be a prevailing consensus that ULTRA SILVAM is best experienced live in concert. Based on personal experience from their supporting slot for a 2017 BÖLZER show in Stockholm, I’d be inclined to agree. During the course of my research I came across the following analysis of their performance at Gothenburg’s The Abyss in 2018: ‘The most foul smelling band I ever watched. So bad it made me gag a couple of times. They smelled like super strong diarrhoea.’ I noticed no fragrant sensations when I saw them and am thus wondering if they’ve since added an aromatic aspect to their repertoire. M.A. explains.
– Hah! That concert was somewhat special, we’d prepared ten litres of rotten blood beforehand and ended up using every last drop of it for the purpose of sheer desecration. Good for us, bad for anyone else involved.
Had you informed the venue prior to this or was it a pleasant surprise?
– We actually did let them know, for once, although we might not necessarily have gone into every finer detail such as the amount of blood or what state it would be in, so I suppose you could say this was still somewhat of a surprise. If people have problems with black metal they shouldn’t book us in the first place. Just looking at one of our band photos or listening to five seconds of our music should allow anyone to grasp that it’s not gonna be cosy. Note that we’ve been using blood in various stages of freshness and fermentation since our very first concert in Copenhagen during the summer of 2017. It’s an integral part of our performances which serves both exhibitionistic and internal purposes, of which the latter is doubtlessly the most important. Blood is essential to the transformation process we undergo prior to taking the stage; there’s simply no turning back once both body and garments are soaked. The power of the music must be present in the visuals and overall stage presence, something we always aim towards with our live concerts. Everything musically violent, dark, ugly, mysterious, raw, or grand demands a visual counterpart.
Another significant representation is that of their moniker; ‘Ultra Silvam’ is an archaic name for Transylvania, it was first recorded in a Latin document from 1075 and translates literally to ‘beyond the forest’. Since the band uses neither vampiric nor woodland themes, I’m wondering if this might perhaps be a subtle Pelle Dead reference.
– The reasoning behind settling for this name was based purely on sheer instinct and ecstasy, which is usually a good indication. The name was O.R.’s suggestion, he’d been planning to use it for years before the band was even founded. ‘Ultra Silvam’ fits our constellation in every way. First off, the name ‘beyond the forest’ sets the tone for Transylvania’s gothic and obscure significance in Western culture; a fitting foothold for mysticism and uncharted realms. Apart from its classic and more common meaning, that Transylvania has recently become synonymous with feeding the worms is indeed one component which can’t be ignored – especially considering the genre we reside within.
ULTRA SILVAM’s choice of label, Shadow Records, as well as their thematic content and general aesthetic would imply that they’ve drawn significant influence from the mid-00s orthodox current. J.M. of MONSTRAAT made an interesting point in that certain albums from this era carry the same profound importance to him – from having been discovered and devoured in formative years – as various early-90s classics have for many from my generation. I’m curious if the same applies to present company.
– Your observation is quite correct, says M.A., my personal perception of ‘classic’ black metal albums obviously differs a lot from those who were born in the 70s or 80s. However, even though bands like MALIGN, KATHARSIS, WATAIN, and OFERMOD all had a big influence on us, there are a lot of other acts that have been just as important and don’t fall into this category. Solely drawing inspiration from the ‘orthodox current’, as you call it, will only make you look like a complete clown – as demonstrated clearly in multiple cases.
In a previous ULTRA SILVAM interview for Into the Tomb #2, I noticed the remark of ‘…and not by the old faggot who has been playing in different subhuman constellations for twenty years.’ I’m assuming this remark pertains to sentiments I’ve now heard several times from young underground musicians, targeting scene veterans who believe themselves worthy of respect and admiration on the sole merit of having been involved with black metal for a long time.
– This statement was uttered during a discussion about Änglaslakt Productions, our own record-label. I’m not interested in old farts who happened to play some form of extreme metal in the 80s or 90s coming back after years of absence trying to adjust to what’s happening today. There are of course notable exceptions but they are very rare.
– I’m so sick and fucking tired of these fat pigs running around pretending to be some sort of veteran rock-messiah, continues O.R., just because they wrote a decent song back in 1991. Let’s get real here, there’s no room in this world for such people. We are highly intolerant towards this behaviour and I wouldn’t mind some form of eugenic black metal treatment in response.
– At the same time, adds M.A., it seems the majority of leading black metal-acts still belong to this demographic group – we simply haven’t seen any quality bands consisting of people born in the latter half of the 90s emerge. Perhaps it’s a generally doomed generation and, if that’s the case, we’ll gladly fill this void.
Despite not being too impressed with many of the surviving relics from the old days, M.A. states that ULTRA SILVAM harbours great fondness for and affinity to the genre’s original ideals – as represented by their ideology, aesthetics, and music.
– When performing black metal, it’s of the greatest importance that one respects and reveres the genre’s fundamental elements. Any band that rejects the aesthetics of gothic imagery and spikes, the sound of freezing strings and holocaust drums, or the esoteric and majestic presence shrouding black metal should of course not have anything to do with the art form. We’ve all seen the outcome of that, haven’t we? There’s something truly extraordinary about what the bands in the 80s managed to manifest; it’s proven to be a winning concept which can still be replicated without being made redundant and that’s exactly what we aim to do. Just like there’s little point in ‘improving’ ancient religious chants or rites by replacing them with newer ones, there’s no need for radical reinventions of the wheel in this context – these are timeless formulas and their efficacy hasn’t waned at all.
M.A. adds that, amidst all his raving about the ways of old, he’s not to be mistaken for being regressive or ‘retro’.
– What was created back then was only the start and we intend to keep building on these underlying concepts, just like so many other brilliant minds have. These are the confines we’ve sworn to remain within, having known full well from the very start both what we wanted to channel with ULTRA SILVAM as well as the required ingredients. Raising creative barriers like this might sound limiting, and it is, but enclosing certain influences can definitely make one’s visions clearer and more focused; you just have to find a good balance for it.