by Niklas Göransson
A tale of Silesian black metal madness; Polish multi-instrumentalist Paimon guides us through the creation of Thunderbolt’s classic demo Black Clouds over Dark Majesty.
This is an excerpt from the full article, which is twice as long and published in Bardo Methodology #8. The same issue also includes conversations with DESTRÖYER 666/BESTIAL WARLUST, AKHLYS, LEVIATHAN/LURKER OF CHALICE, BLACK WITCHERY, CULTES DES GHOULES, BLACKDEATH, MISÞYRMING, NORDVIS/ARMAGEDDA, MORTUUS, DÖDFÖDD/REVERORUM IB MALACHT, and OFERMOD.
– My musical journey isn’t very different from many others who grew up in the 80s and 90s. Music has always been important in my family. My father played a crucial role here; he was into classic hard rock, so I grew up with stuff like DEEP PURPLE, BLACK SABBATH, KING CRIMSON, PINK FLOYD, and LED ZEPPELIN. I was exposed to it from a very young age. Then I went to music school as a kid, which is how I learned to play the guitar.
Paimon was born and raised in post-Soviet Poland. Głogów, to be more precise – a town in Lower Silesia. He founded THUNDERBOLT in 1993 when he was just thirteen years old. Songs like “Key to Eternity” and “Kill Christ” date back to this year, but the debut demo, “Beyond Christianity”, wasn’t recorded until three years later.
– It was no easy task to enter a studio and record something. Not at all like today – welcome to 90s Poland! There were no ‘home studios’, so we had to travel to Warsaw five hundred kilometres away. There was no other place known to us where you could get it done halfway decently for a reasonable price. My music school background proved quite helpful here, as I already knew how to handle my instrument. As primitive as these compositions might be, at least they didn’t end up a total catastrophe. The feedback of people I didn’t know wasn’t very important, but I remember what a great feeling it was to get mainly positive words from the ones we respected and even looked up to. It meant a lot.
It was partly thanks to this demo that Paimon grew close to prominent figures from the infamous 90s black metal scene in southern Poland. Many of the leading acts gathered under the banner of The Temple of Fullmoon.
– We were never ‘members’ of TTF. As a person looking in from the outside, I wouldn’t call it a structured organisation or anything like that. To me, it seemed like a circle of friends involved in the black metal movement who wanted to unite the, shall we say, more ‘extreme’ part of the scene. This idea was most likely inspired by the Inner Circle in Norway. Karcharoth was the first person from that crowd we met in person, even before “Beyond Christianity”.
Karcharoth, or Anextiomarus, was the founder and creative force behind INFERNUM. In 1993, INFERNUM recorded two demos – “The Dawn Will Never Come” and “Damned Majesty” – following which Karcharoth joined forces with Rob Darken and Capricornus in GRAVELAND. The year after, the same trio recorded INFERNUM’s debut album, “…Taur-nu-Fuin…”.
– I got the impression that Karcharoth was a powerful and extreme personality, totally devoted to black metal. And it lasted for quite a while. I remember him inviting me to join INFERNUM at some point, but – since he was already on the verge of a mental breakdown – nothing ever came of it. Because when things got more direct and extreme, he freaked out. He lost control and imagined enemies everywhere. He saw agents tailing him, trying to hunt him down, and so on. I think he was a tragic character: weak on the inside but who somehow built a false image of himself. Ultimately, it became too much for him to handle; Karcharoth played with fire and got burned, badly!
As it would later turn out, Karcharoth suffered from schizophrenia – an illness of the mind that worsened once pressure mounted. According to Rob Darken, Karcharoth ’s mental condition took a turn for the worse around 1996. In an interview for Black Metal: Evolution of the Cult by Dayal Patterson, Darken says that the UOP, Poland’s secret police, apprehended Karcharoth during the recording of INFERNUM’s second album, brought him to an empty flat, and beat him severely. This incident sent him off the deep end, sparking intense paranoid delusions. The same year, he tried to travel to Norway, allegedly to murder DARKTHRONE’s Fenriz for not holding up his end of a tape trade. Interestingly, Darken claimed elsewhere that Karcharoth visited Paimon on his way north.
– He visited me on his way…? Now that is some proper bullshit rumour. The only thing that happened then was Karcharoth sending someone from his hometown to warn us that ‘the storm is coming’. He claimed that ‘some people had started snitching on the others’, and so on. All of which was apparently going on in his head only. I’m not sure what plans he had for his famous journey to Norway; probably something unpredictable. But the trip didn’t end well, as we all know. Well, perhaps it ended well for Fenriz – haha!
After catching the ferry to Sweden, where he meant to travel onwards to Oslo, Karcharoth was detained by police and sent back home. This incident resulted in Swedish media speculating about the involvement of ‘Polish Satanists’ in Scandinavian church burnings. By then, following a string of erratic behaviour, Karcharoth had been completely ostracised by his former comrades. Several of them – including Rob Darken and members of FULLMOON – lured Karcharoth into an ambush and gave him a proper thrashing.
– The guy that lured him into this ‘trap’ was someone who used to be my friend. Karcharoth took a severe beating but somehow managed to escape. The first thing he did was run straight into a local police station and start shouting, ‘He did this, he did that – arrest them all!’ which directly resulted in some of the guys being detained for forty-eight hours. Luckily for them, it wasn’t hard to convince the police that Karcharoth was a raving lunatic. He later tried to talk to a newspaper about it, but no one wanted to listen to him at that point.
I’m aware that mental disease was involved here, so I don’t mean to mock the man. On the contrary, it’s often the wild and unhinged who make the best black metal. I can no longer listen to most of my old Norwegian favourites due to the carrying-on of those involved, but “…Taur-nu-Fuin…” is as dementedly enjoyable as ever.
– Same here! I also struggle to listen to some of the classics today due to the total retardation of their creators. Sometimes, it would be way easier not to know who is behind the music. And I agree in full regarding the ‘wild ones’! To take things even further: I think it’s a common phenomenon for all forms of creativity. You need that spark of artistic madness, this crazed state of mind, to achieve greatness. There is no room for pretence; fake things won’t last long. Musically, Karcharoth was a great talent. I remember listening to the “Damned Majesty” demo – still my favourite INFERNUM release – and feeling totally possessed! I think he was ahead of most of the Polish black metal scene at that time and could have created many great things.
In the late summer of 1997, THUNDERBOLT entered New Project Studio in Podkowa Leśna to record their second demo, “Black Clouds Over Dark Majesty”. Besides Paimon, the band now consisted of Uldor on drums and Galan Dracos on bass. This is my favourite THUNDERBOLT release, mostly because I’m a sucker for that mid-90s medieval atmosphere.
– It’s good to hear you still enjoy that release. You’re not the only one; there are quite some old-school black metallers who respect it a lot. In fact, it was recently reissued on vinyl and cassette by Ancient Dead Productions. I’d attribute its popularity to the music being heavily infused with the magical atmosphere of those exceptional times. It was created by young fanatics devoured by the spirit of black metal. We were one hundred per cent dedicated: ready to kill and die! We didn’t give a shit about the consequences of our actions. You can hear it – even feel it. These things cannot be faked.
Judging by their legal history, the THUNDERBOLT members appear to have been busy with all kinds of non-musical activities while “Black Clouds Over Dark Majesty” came to fruition. Actually, it reminds me a bit of the recording of BURZUM’s “Aske”, during which Varg and Samoth took a break from the studio to burn down Skjold Church.
– Hah, and what a session it was! Uldor and I recorded everything except for some of the keyboards. Galan Dracos was in the studio but had difficulties tracking his bass parts, so I took care of them. The studio was located in a big house on the outskirts of Warsaw; I think we spent a week there. The house owners lived there too, they just rented parts of it to the studio guy. There was a graveyard nearby, so we’d slip out for an evening stroll and bring back some ‘souvenirs’ to help promote the right atmosphere. The engineer, some random normal person, looked none too happy about his new studio decorations. There were also some wild parties going on – one of which ended up in a full-on knife fight, with one of us having to take an unexpected nightly trip to the emergency room to stitch up a badly injured hand. Great memories, haha! The delay in releasing it was mainly caused by all that shit with ‘the law’.
Can you elaborate on that?
– Without getting into details, I can say that the actions taken on Polish soil back then were not far from what went on in Scandinavia. Luckily, at least for most of us, it didn’t end up in total calamity. Some say that these things are never a coincidence; either way, I feel as if there was a ticking time bomb. Something was bound to happen sooner or later.
One evening in late 1997, something did indeed happen.
– I was so damn lucky: I’d been invited by Uldor to hang out one night, but I cancelled my participation due to other plans. The outcome of such a visit would’ve been quite harsh on me too. Uldor shared an apartment with some guy… let’s call him C. They had a few drinks together, just like any other weekend. There was a local drunkard outside who kept bothering them, so they decided to go down and kick his ass. Said and done – but then, upon returning to the apartment, C slipped into an uncontrolled state of mind. He grabbed a knife, went down again, and… well, you can imagine the rest. He came back, covered in blood, and told Uldor what had happened. Then they started cleaning up and disposing of the evidence.
THUNDERBOLT were supposed to rehearse the following day, so Paimon took a bus to Uldor’s place. Before leaving home, he heard a report on local news radio about the grisly graveyard murder.
– Uldor and Galan Dracos picked me up at the bus station. Uldor started by saying, ‘Guess what happened last night?’… fuck! Then, stupidly, we went back to their apartment – passing the crime scene, which was next to a cemetery. The entire area was full of plain-clothes cops searching for clues. It probably looked rather suspicious with three guys, all dressed in black, passing by and having a look around. At that point, the police had neither forensic leads nor a motive. However, C was a well-known character in the area, so I suppose it was only a matter of time before they paid him a visit.
Unbeknownst to the trio, they were followed to the flat. C had left to take care of something for his job and was expected back soon.
– We were sitting in the apartment when someone knocked. None of us responded at first, but the door was unlocked so the cops went straight in. They started walking around the flat, asking where C was, and so on. One of them showed us a polaroid photo of the corpse, probably taken at the morgue, and asked if we knew him. I answered, ‘I don’t know what this is about, nor do I care. If you have questions for C – well, that’s none of my business.’ Once C got back home, they brought him in for questioning and let the three of us go. Uldor was arrested later in the evening. Afterwards, we found out that cops were tailing Galan Dracos and me the following days, trying to track down our contacts. And then, after a week or so, both of us were arrested.
What were you charged with?
– Burglary and attempting to burn down a church. This was considered an offence of the highest degree, and the way investigators in Poland handled such cases was to bring the suspect to the crime scene for a ‘reconstruction of events’. I was told to demonstrate how the deed was done while they filmed it. Christian spirits were high in Poland back then, so when some locals noticed what was going on… well, things got a bit heated. They kept screaming shit like ‘You will pay for this!’, ‘Burn in hell!’, and so on. Then some of them started throwing rocks at me. The atmosphere got increasingly out of control, and it seemed like those fuckers wanted to lynch me right then and there, haha! It ended with the police having to escort me off the site. One of the cops said, ‘Now look what you did!’ I replied, ‘If the church had burned down as I intended, you wouldn’t have any evidence and we’d been spared the trip altogether.’
This was an excerpt from the full article, which is twice as long and published in Bardo Methodology #8. The same issue also includes conversations with DESTRÖYER 666/BESTIAL WARLUST, AKHLYS, LEVIATHAN/LURKER OF CHALICE, BLACK WITCHERY, CULTES DES GHOULES, BLACKDEATH, MISÞYRMING, NORDVIS/ARMAGEDDA, MORTUUS, DÖDFÖDD/REVERORUM IB MALACHT, and OFERMOD.