by Niklas Göransson
Terrestrial Hospice is a duo of veterans from the Polish black metal scene; Skyggen, the band’s guitarist and vocalist, introduces Caviary to the General. Includes a full album stream.
– The atmosphere of recent times – as well as visions of this feeble, plastic world brought to its knees – provided ample inspiration for both the music and lyrics of “Caviary to the General”. Observing the spawn of our consumption society scurrying around in despair while their cosy realm falls into ruin has been highly motivating; such a harsh reality check for many, but one that had to come at some point.
The second album of TERRESTRIAL HOSPICE will be released by Ancient Dead Productions on February 10, 2023. It was recorded at Satana Studio, mixed at Tall Pine Records, and then mastered at Satanic Audio – all of which are in Poland.
– Inferno tracked all his drums in one session, and then I did my guitar parts in a day or two. We had a clear vision of what we wanted to achieve, so everything went smoothly. Ever since the beginning of TERRESTRIAL HOSPICE, we’ve used a vintage range of instruments and amps – everything to maintain the real, organic feel. The obvious reason is to avoid ending up with more of the overproduced plastic shit hitting us from everywhere these days.
This combination of vintage gear and contemporary studio equipment results in a production that is anything but modern – but without sounding ‘retro’.
– The final result wouldn’t be as satisfying without the magick of our brilliant producer: Haldor Grunberg, the guy behind Satanic Audio. He was present throughout the entire process, at every mentioned location. Our only real struggle was the vocals – I totally lost my voice after just two days of tracking, with three or so songs left to go and strictly limited studio time. I’m not a ‘touring musician’ who does this on a daily basis, so I don’t have any secret techniques to protect my vocal cords. I basically put one hundred per cent of myself into every delivery, and that’s it. This created some serious stress but, luckily, it took only one day of rest before I was back on track.
Why did you leave Shadow Records for Ancient Dead Productions?
– I have the highest respect for Shadow Records, but I’ve always had this dream of one day releasing my own stuff; and that time has now come. Of course, neither Inferno nor I have the time or possibility to print, promote, and distribute physical copies, so we had to find someone to help us out with the logistics. We’ve known the people behind ADP – true black metal fanatics – for years now and, luckily, they were happy to help us. So, now it remains to be seen where this dream takes us.
The album title, “Caviary to the General” is a quote from William Shakespeare‘s Hamlet. It has a similar meaning to the biblical proverb ‘pearls before swine’ – something with an inherent quality or sophistication that is completely lost on simpletons who neither appreciate nor understand it. In this instance, ‘the general’ is not a military commander but a reference to the common man.
– We loved its meaning and ‘untypical’ sound and so decided to use it. It is a fine accompaniment to our lyrics, which could be regarded as cynical reflections on topics such as the fall of man, self-destruction, war, torment, terror, death, and so on. There was a bit of turbulence going on with the previously involved lyricist, so we decided to take care of it ourselves this time. Too many parties involved – too much chaos, as they say.
“Caviary to the General” contains nine compositions in total, and Skyggen provided the words for eight of them.
– The lyric-writing process was both challenging and demanding, yet everything fell into place once I finally entered the right mood. In hindsight, “Caviary to the General” probably came out as the most complete, personal, and cleansing work I’ve created so far. These words reflect my worldview, visions, feelings, and fascinations. Of course, nihilism and misanthropy are a big part of the whole thing. Some of the lyrics could just as well be called ‘diaries’ – they are my memoirs, written accounts of milestone events that impacted my life.
On that note, what is “Path to Mahasamadhi” about?
– I’ve been fascinated with and practising various forms of meditation for some years now. “Path To Mahasamadhi” describes my experiences with astral projection, visualisation, and currents of thought while exploring different dimensions. It’s about reaching the ultimate peak and orgasm of life by mastering certain techniques, gaining total control, and being able to leave one’s flesh at will. Appropriately, we took a break for some weeks between the recording and mixing sessions, which allowed my fiancée and I to visit Sicily – and above all, Cefalù. I fell in love with the island and its atmosphere: it has so much spiritual history. While on location, we were able to visit the Abbey of Thelema; or what’s left of it.
Cefalù is a coastal city about seventy kilometres east of Palermo, the capital of the Italian island of Sicily. In April 1920, British occultist Aleister Crowley took up residence in a rented villa on the outskirts of Cefalù. Here, he founded the Abbey of Thelema, intended as a magical school and temple guided by his spiritual teachings. Adepts engaged in an arduous regimen of yoga, ritual practice, and scholastic studies of Crowley’s writings. The project was rather short-lived, as Italian prime minister Benito Mussolini expelled Aleister Crowley from the country in 1923. In his absence, the Abbey of Thelema was abandoned. The building itself stands to this day, but in derelict condition. American filmmaker Kenneth Anger – known for Lucifer Rising – documented the remaining murals for his 1955 film Thelema Abbey. Alas, the footage was never released and is now considered lost to time.
– It’s sad to see what’s happened to such an important place for esotericism – or in other words, a cradle of this magickal current. I’ve never been bound to one and the same spiritual path myself; I’ve experimented with different traditions over the years but always had a lot of respect for the work and studies of Mr Crowley. Climbing and mountaineering have some sweet spots in my heart too, so I’m not surprised that he chose Cefalù as his centre for Thelema. I wish I could spend days, weeks, or even months meditating in that forest at the mountaintop of La Rocca. What a place! Oh, and visiting the catacombs of Palermo was for sure something to remember too. This trip charged me with some fresh energy and ideas before the mixing session. A true inspiration!
TERRESTRIAL HOSPICE was formed in 2017, following a series of discussions between Inferno and Skyggen. From these conversations came the clear realisation that the two should collaborate.
– TERRESTRIAL HOSPICE is the convergence of our ideas and visions on both a musical and spiritual level. We wanted to revive something we felt was missing from today’s scene – to express our respect and admiration for the golden years of black metal. Almost immediately, we started creating riffs and song structures: material which later found its way onto our 2018 “Universal Hate Speech” EP. “Indian Summer Brought Mushroom Clouds” (2020) was a natural continuation thereof; it’s the audible manifestation of what dwells in our spirits. Nothing more, nothing less.
To complement the peculiar titles, the project was similarly named. ‘Terrestrial’ means something that is of the planet Earth, whereas ‘hospice’ refers to medical aid administered at the end of someone’s life – oriented more towards easing suffering than actual recovery. Ergo, TERRESTRIAL HOSPICE: palliative care for Tellus.
– We wanted a name that was anything but ‘typical’, and the same goes for our themes to some degree. You know, darkness can be praised from different angles; this is more about the here and now in a tactile sense. Things you can literally touch, see, and smell. Just by looking at the titles, it should be obvious that this project was never meant for the ‘mainstream’. To us, there are no rules whatsoever: no ‘one and only’ formula, no right or wrong way of doing things.
You are in Norway whereas Inferno resides in Poland – were you able to rehearse in person while developing the band’s sound?
– Sure, but only a handful of times. Mainly on guitars, actually. Obviously, in modern times it’s far easier to create something decent despite having members in different countries. You have the internet and all that. We regularly exchanged various ideas and riffs and then discussed the details, rhythms, et cetera. We usually make a pre-production demo which is then used in the studio as a ‘guide’ while tracking the instruments. Everything came together very smoothly and naturally without much time wasted on talking. Of course, we’ve both gained some experience over the years and know our respective crafts well.
Both members are multi-instrumentalists. Inferno is a long-time professional musician, having drummed for BEHEMOTH since 1997 and for AZARATH since ‘98; he also plays guitar for WITCHMASTER. Skyggen is a classically trained guitarist and an accomplished drummer himself. In TERRESTRIAL HOSPICE, Inferno handles drums and rhythm guitars whereas Skyggen is responsible for lead guitar, bass, and vocals.
– The chemistry between us is perfect. It happens very often that we say or write the same thing simultaneously, which is just insane. We both come from comparable backgrounds – and not only musically. We grew up in similar environments with, let’s say, quite a few harsh moments that shaped and toughened our personalities. I’m sure that if Inferno and I had met earlier, we’d have done something together ages ago already.
The duo’s relations were not always cordial. During my preparations, I came across an interview from around the millennium shift in which Skyggen did not appear quite as fond of BEHEMOTH.
– Indeed, my attitude towards BEHEMOTH has changed drastically since the late 90s. At the time, pretty much due to my geographical origin, I was close to the black metal scene in southern Poland: bands like GRAVELAND, INFERNUM, VELES, and FULLMOON. The north had acts such as SACRILEGIUM, BEHEMOTH, and so on. GRAVELAND and BEHEMOTH – two of the oldest black metal bands in Poland – actually started out as friends but when the latter started getting popular, it resulted in a lot of drama and hate towards them.
As in many countries, there were tensions between black metal scenes from different parts of Poland.
– There was this saying that those in the north were only ‘talking and making nice riffs’ whereas we turned words into action. There was also this ‘you’re either with us or against us’ mentality, so one couldn’t really relate to BEHEMOTH in any other way. A lot of people – myself included – talked shit without even knowing them. Pretty much childish in retrospect, but I think this situation reflects quite accurately the general spirit of those times.
Very much so – and not in an exclusively negative sense, right?
– Of course. Don’t get me wrong, this kind of ‘no mercy’ attitude largely shaped black metal and indeed made it what it was back then – something special, far beyond music, and not for everyone. I have no doubt that the unique atmosphere of those times was like fuel for the individuals who created all the superb classic albums; it never would’ve happened if not for such circumstances. But in general, it almost felt as if there was more hate towards other bands than our ‘real enemies’. Nonetheless, I’m not here to judge or whatever: this chapter has been closed to me for over two decades.
I get the sense that while Skyggen and Inferno have moved on personally, it is the spirit of this era they seek to infuse into the music of TERRESTRIAL HOSPICE.
– Our way of musical expression is definitely of the more ‘traditional’ kind, but I believe there is still some unique touch to it. My goal will always be to channel certain emotions and energies in the purest possible way. TERRESTRIAL HOSPICE is a tool to vent and manifest our thoughts and feelings; everything comes straight from our hearts, and there’s a one-hundred per cent sincerity to it. It was never our goal to give rise to some sort of new genre within extreme music, nor to please everyone. It’s definitely more about maintaining an individual approach.
Is it even possible to create something entirely original today?
– The way I see it – and bearing in mind the amount of music produced these days – that is nigh-on impossible. Of course, there’s always room for individual ways of expression… but is there still a way to sound harder, heavier, harsher, and more brutal? Even to invent some totally new sounds or frequencies for the human ear? Maybe I’m wrong and take it too far, but I can’t see another huge musical revolution of the kind that came with the likes of ROLLING STONES, LED ZEPPELIN or THE DOORS heading our way anytime soon.
Do you have any live plans?
– Never say never, but there are currently no plans for live activities. We were quite close to doing so at one point: TERRESTRIAL HOSPICE received an offer to support the mighty REVENGE on the Polish leg of their European tour, but the whole thing collapsed under the weight of COVID. It’s not far from the truth that I’ve distanced myself from the scene pretty much the recent years, and the live aspect is something I don’t miss much about it either. Of course, to perform and present your art in this form has its unique value and power, but I can just as well live without it. Let’s see what the future brings – assuming there is one, hah.
What’s next for TERRESTRIAL HOSPICE?
– We actually recorded thirteen songs in total during the “Caviary…” session, but the nine that were chosen to be part of the album had the best atmosphere and flow. There are plans to release the four remaining songs at some point – probably as a separate, smaller release. We exist in times of total overload and deluge of fucking everything, and I don’t know where it’s gonna take us. As long as there is this burning need, the flame and its energy within us, we will march on.