Akhlys III

Akhlys III

by Niklas Göransson

An ode to the transformative powers of dread: Naas Alcameth discusses the musical architecture and thematic foundation of Akhlys’ highly anticipated fourth album, House of the Black Geminus, due for release this summer.


NAAS ALCAMETH: I don’t subscribe to the notion, as many do, of just waiting around for inspiration to strike. It doesn’t work like that; you gotta bleed for it. I can sit for endless hours, days on end, without producing a single decent riff. Then, out of nowhere, comes that one night when everything breaks through and you’re on a roll again – until you’re not. That’s the cycle. The muse speaks when it wants, how it wants… and then, silence.

AKHLYS’ fourth album, “House of the Black Geminus”, is due for release by Debemur Morti Productions on July 5, 2024. Alcameth began recording it in March 2022 – around the same time our conversation from parts one and two of this article series took place.

ALCAMETH: Even after tracking the first song, which essentially catapulted the remaining album, there were still periods when I found myself back in the grind. I’d go through weeks – sometimes even a month or more – of inspirational drought. It almost felt like a Nigredo phase, as if I was trapped in a maze of anxiety and self-doubt.

In alchemy, Nigredo represents a stage of decay. It symbolises the disintegration of material – or, when interpreted artistically, the self – to its foundational elements, setting the stage for something new and pure.

ALCAMETH: When you’re feeling perturbed, both mentally and physically, there’s a tendency to shun everything related to the creative process. However, pushing yourself beyond comfort, even in a less-than-ideal frame of mind, can prove beneficial. Who knows what might emerge? Especially if you’re dealing with something as dark and adverse as black metal. Perhaps some lightning will still strike.


Do you still write the songs as you record them?

ALCAMETH: Yes, but with a caveat: I revisit the work afterwards to clean it up. I prefer this method because when you’re on a roll, you don’t wanna pause for technicalities or to ensure you’ve got the riff down a hundred per cent. It’s all about keeping the momentum going. Of course, riffs written minutes before being recorded can end up a bit sloppy, and then you’ll have to go back and re-track them.

This brings us to the issue of memorisation. With many riffs captured during sudden bursts of inspiration, Alcameth doesn’t tabulate or play them enough to develop muscle memory. Consequently, he must transcribe and re-learn each by ear.

ALCAMETH: It might not seem like a big deal until you’re compiling an entire album with two guitars, bass, keyboards, and so forth. This mainly applies to the strings, but it still takes a lot of time. There are also frustrating moments where you’re spending an hour or two just trying to figure out, ‘How the hell did I play that riff?’

The high-pitched tremolo-picking riffs on “House of the Black Geminus” are stylistically recognisable from Alcameth’s earlier work. His AKHLYS riffing is undeniably rooted in black metal yet distinct in its approach – weaving dissonant chords with frenzied leads to create elaborate melodies. Much like an effective horror soundtrack, it employs chromatic patterns that build tension and evoke a sense of pressing dread.

ALCAMETH: Another reason it took so long was the abundance of throwaway riffs. I’d spend days assembling a new song, only to realise it was good but not great. The material sounded formulaic – as if I was just going through the motions – and lacked that essential fire of inspiration. When this spark is missing, the difference becomes noticeable. And if I pick up on it, others surely will too.

Do you ever test out the material in rehearsal?

ALCAMETH: On this album, we did. I had demo versions of some songs, so we started learning two of them – just for the hell of it, really. This was prior to Eoghan laying down his drums, and we made a few significant changes after jamming the tracks. Typically, I don’t do that but it’s something we might consider going forward.

Eoghan, who joined AKHLYS in 2018, remains behind the kit. His attacking drumming style is a perfect match for the hellish swarm of hornets that is Alcameth’s riffs, particularly noticeable in parts such as the opening of “Maze of Phobetor”. Nox Corvus – whom Alcameth collaborated with in NIGHTBRINGER for thirteen years – is now part of AKHLYS’ studio line-up.

ALCAMETH: A big part of that decision was the incredible dedication Nox has put in on the live front over the last few years. He came in towards the end – we sat down, and I showed him the riffs. Then, he re-tracked all my lead guitars. I’m convinced this brought added value because he’s an impressively fast speed-picker, which gave the leads a kind of razor’s edge.


AKHLYS started out as an ambient project; the debut album, “Supplication”, from 2009 completely lacks metal components. When “The Dreaming I” came out in 2015, AKHLYS had morphed into a black metal band yet retained the horror-oriented ambience. “House of the Black Geminus” features one fully ambient track, but most songs contain similar elements.

ALCAMETH: The album incorporates a range of traditional black metal synthesisers, such as choirs and the like. But other sounds, especially when heard on their own, might come across as more dystopian or somewhat reminiscent of dark sci-fi. I invested considerable time in identifying, manipulating, and combining various voices.

The term ‘voices’ refers to the individual tones or timbres that a synthesiser produces. Each voice can be shaped and modified to create a wide range of textures, from mimicking traditional instruments or vocals to generating entirely unique sounds.

ALCAMETH: Layering guitars, bass, and drums over ambient characteristics will often result in the loss of minor details and nuances. For “House of the Black Geminus”, I made sure to integrate them in a manner that subtly complemented the project without overwhelming it, preserving the intended darkness and staying true to my initial vision.

Played at higher volumes through speakers, the intro to the album opener, “The Mask of Night-speaking”, is quite jarring. It’s almost as if it’s ‘clipping’ – a form of distortion where the sound becomes harsh and degraded because it’s too loud for the equipment to handle properly.

ALCAMETH: Yes, but it’s actually not. The voice is designed to sound that way, with a hostile, deteriorating edge – starkly apocalyptic in tone. It has a very industrial element to it, which I found striking and utterly ominous. But indeed, I’ve noticed the nuances change through different speakers, headphones, and at different volumes.

Alcameth’s old ambient project TEMPLE OF NOT used a similar technique back in 2005. In part one of the AKHLYS interview series, Alcameth mentioned it as an early example of him intentionally leaving his comfort zone – something he now keeps in mind when working on new material.

ALCAMETH: Yeah, this mindset became especially prevalent in the mix. Let me back up for a second. In previous works with both AKHLYS and NIGHTBRINGER, we’ve always had to strike a balance. On the demo versions, we tend to push everything through the roof – reverb, volumes, you name it. But once we entered the studio, Dave would insist, ‘We’ve got to pull that back and dial this down.’ Then, we’d have to reconsider our entire approach.

Dave Otero at Flatline Audio has mixed and mastered – and in several instances, produced – every studio album Alcameth recorded throughout his career. Their collaboration began in 2002 with “Superion” by Alcameth and Nox Corvus’ old death metal band, EXCOMMUNION.

ALCAMETH: This time, I took a different stance. ‘No, we don’t want to pull anything back; let’s find some ingenious way to make this work.’ From Dave’s perspective, his first mix was heavily reverb-saturated and included all the elements we’d asked for. However, it wasn’t even remotely close to what I envisioned, leading to a prolonged back and forth. To be honest, it became very frustrating and anxiety-inducing. I reached a point where I couldn’t trust my own judgement.

‘Ear fatigue’ occurs when prolonged exposure to the same sounds, especially at loud volumes, dulls the listener’s auditory perception of subtleties like EQ settings and dynamic range.

ALCAMETH: This is the longest I’ve ever spent on any album, so I’d heard these riffs a million fucking times by then <laughs>. After working extensively on the same material, you know exactly where it’s going in your head. The breakthrough came with a particular mix Dave sent me. In the accompanying email, he explained, ‘I stopped approaching this purely as a metal album but rather as an ambient work, where the ambience is everything.’ That’s when everything clicked.

This mix can now be heard on “House of the Black Geminus”. The production is crisp and powerful but still has massive amounts of reverb.

ALCAMETH: It perfectly captured the vibe I was aiming for. The drums, vocals, and keyboards were exactly where we wanted them. It’s interesting because you’re trying to communicate these subjective concepts to an outside party. The way they interpret it can be hit or miss, especially when you’re holding onto a specific idea. This process was not only a step out of my comfort zone but also Dave’s, as we aimed to maximise these elements in a clever way without compromising the mix. Amazingly, we got there.


“House of the Black Geminus” is divided into three acts: The Hearth, The Cellar, and The Attic. To my understanding, this is a symbolic charting of the storyline. It begins at an entry point or initiation, progresses to a deeper exploration of the subconscious, and climaxes with an ascent into higher understanding.

ALCAMETH: Absolutely – but I wouldn’t limit the subject matter to strictly cognitive factors. See, whenever I hear the word ‘subconscious,’ I feel the need to clarify because I don’t want to confine these things to the realm of psychology. Of course, the scientific disciplines are relevant, but it’s also about tapping into the sacred and divine esoteric aspects.

Since the project’s inception, AKHLYS has been greatly influenced and informed by Alcameth’s experiences with sleep paralysis, spanning from his childhood to the present day. Upholding this thematic tradition, “House of the Black Geminus” narrates a journey framed within the context of dreams, told from the perspective of an unnamed protagonist.

ALCAMETH: For the different acts, I envisioned three hierarchical realms, classical in their delineation. There’s the middle abode – our everyday reality – followed by a descent into the underworld, culminating in some form of celestial or heavenly imperium. I also approached it from an alchemical perspective, mapping the journey to echo the phases of Nigredo, Albedo, Citrinitas, and Rubedo.

In the Hermetic tradition, alchemy unfolds through four stages: Nigredo, the blackening of decomposition; Albedo, the whitening of purification; Citrinitas, the yellowing of enlightenment; and Rubedo, the reddening of perfection.

ALCAMETH: The setting comes from the fact that my dreams, particularly those with a sense of dread, feature houses prominently. Some might dismiss this as trivial, like, ‘Obviously, you’re either inside or outside.’ But I argue that the structure is significant in itself – a notion which extends into horror fiction. Take Salem’s Lot; though primarily a vampire story, the house looming over the town subtly illustrates how a building can embody a presiding spirit.

In Stephen King’s classic novel, the Marsten House towers over the small community of Jerusalem’s Lot, symbolising the corruption festering at its heart.

ALCAMETH: These dreamscape houses are usually implied to be mine, or perhaps my childhood home, despite their appearance not always matching reality. They’re consistently empty, hinting at recent abandonment, with bare walls and no furniture. One recurring feature is the fireplace – strikingly barren and devoid of fire, providing neither warmth nor light, thus serving an inverse role to its traditional purpose. This observation led me to the hearth in framing the middle abode.

The first song, “The Mask of Night-speaking”, describes an entrance into a sacred space – is this where the protagonist falls asleep?

ALCAMETH: Well, yes. You’re making your way into the house, so to speak. You’ve entered the dream – and with the gradual eclipse of daytime logic, the somewhat maniacal aspects of your nightside self are rising. Now you will adopt an identity fluent in the language of dreams, which is vastly different from the rational discourse of our waking world. That’s what I interpret as ‘The Mask of Night-speaking’.

Dreams activate different brain areas than those used for rational thoughts. The limbic system, responsible for emotions and memories, is more active while the prefrontal cortex – which governs logic and planning – is less so. This could explain why recounting dreams is, as Alcameth puts it, like attempting to translate an alien tongue without a direct counterpart in our daily existence.

ALCAMETH: Describing dreams to someone is incredibly hard. You’re like, ‘Well, I understood it then – but now when I try to explain, it sounds ridiculous.’ The reason is that these sentiments were brought up from the underworld, and people are far less receptive to concepts originating there.


The second track, “Maze of Phobetor”, takes us into the domain of a Greek god who presides over dreams filled with terror and frightening visions. If I interpret the lyrics correctly, navigating his maze is akin to confronting one’s fears.

ALCAMETH: I suppose it can be seen that way, but it’s absolutely not a self-help metaphor of any kind. These themes bear little to no relation to the concerns of mundane life; they exist solely within the sphere of the divine. There are literal aspects infusing the experience with unique forms of dread, implying that failure might lead to something worse than death – the obliteration of one’s ‘I’, or spiritual essence.

Where did you get the idea of a maze from?

ALCAMETH: This also goes back to my dreams, many of which involve floating down the staircase of a house, towards the darkness below, and into labyrinthine corridors. Typically, the passageway leads to a door. As I’ve grown older, it seems I’m both compelled forward and pushed back through fear – it’s a trial requiring me to confront these spaces, and reaching the door symbolises a pivotal transition.

On the other side awaits a confrontation with the unknown, followed by a taste of the revelatory qualities of dread. The lyrics for the third track, “Through the Abyssal Door”, were written by Richard Gavin.

ALCAMETH: Richard Gavin is a writer known for both weird fiction and esoteric literature. He’s published two books through Theion: The Infernal Masque and The Benighted Path; I came across him around 2015 after picking up the latter on a whim. Its emphasis on dread and distress, especially in dreams, struck a chord. Then, discovering that Andrew Chumbley is a big influence of Richard’s prompted me to delve deeper into his writings.

Andrew Chumbley was an English practitioner and theorist of magic, as well as a prolific author. His works explore the intersection of traditional witchcraft, folkloric mysticism, and Western occultism, blending rigorous historical research with a somewhat cryptic writing style. Chumbley’s philosophy is centred on ‘Sabbatic Craft’ – a path aimed at understanding and aligning with the deeper and often hidden forces of nature and the cosmos.

ALCAMETH: It’s quite enlightening when someone’s work mirrors your own views on spirituality, even if there are some disagreements. I reached out to Richard one night to ask if he was open to a discussion; he was. I ended up sending him this whole diatribe – mostly praise but also a few points of contention. Richard was gracious enough to get back to me with thoughtful responses, some of which made me pause and reassess certain views.

In 2017, Alcameth attended the Esoteric Book Conference in Seattle, where Richard Gavin was giving a lecture titled Dread and Abjection in the Ritual Context.

ALCAMETH: It was a great talk. Afterwards, Richard and I went to lunch and continued our conversation – and that’s essentially how it all began. More recently, we did a podcast called Sol Nox together. But long before that, I suggested we collaborate on the new AKHLYS album. Richard agreed, which was fantastic, and wrote lyrics perfectly complementing my concepts.

Alcameth has previously detailed how fear is a cornerstone of his esoteric practices – that existential terror is not just an emotion to be overcome but a vital component of the transformative process.

By intentionally fostering dread, combined with visionary trance and a conscious detachment from the self, Alcameth believes that one can achieve a state of ‘two-mindedness’. Fright and ecstatic fascination converge in a singular, focused spearhead capable of piercing through to elevated states of being. This is what the ‘Abyssal Door’ signifies.

ALCAMETH: The door acts as a portal, or gateway. Despite already finding yourself in a very dreadful setting, you make a conscious decision to push further. You’re resolved to reach the core and descend into the abyss itself. There, an encounter typically awaits, along with an entity I refer to as ‘The Other’. In my dreams, this presence is always detected long before it’s observable. I can feel its vibration and pinpoint the location.

One commonly reported phenomenon of night terrors and sleep paralysis is an acutely sensed but unseen threat. The dreamer will perceive an evil being approaching from a specific direction, like a dark hallway or an adjoining room, despite neither hearing nor laying eyes on it.

ALCAMETH: This sensation is peculiar but consistent, regardless of setting. Growing up, my bedroom was on the ground floor, right next to a door leading to the laundry, which also housed a furnace. In my dreams, that furnace symbolised The Other – and the door became intimately associated with the actual encounter. This meeting is what “Black Geminus”, the ambient piece that follows “Through the Abyssal Door”, signifies.


What does an instrumental track add to the narrative that words could not?

ALCAMETH: Well, I think exactly that: letting the silence speak for itself. It’s often the buildup, the anticipation of facing this entity, that’s paramount. Once it happens… I’d say it’s beyond the discursive, really. Articulating the essence of The Other would be extremely hard. Typically, the presence is not even visible – and if it does appear, it’s as a fleeting shadow. So, it dawned on me, ‘To do this justice, the chapter should be wordless.’

Is “Black Geminus” – the black twin – a metaphor for one’s ‘shadow side’?

ALCAMETH: Exactly. These encounters often feel like projections of your shadow self – yet at other times, it might be an entirely autonomous intelligence. The question is, how do you distinguish between the two? Actually, Richard and I discussed this on the Sol Nox podcast. But in this instance, I depicted it as my shadow self or personal daemon.

The concept of a personal daemon stems from an ancient Hellenic belief that each individual is assigned a spiritual guardian. This entity, often described as a manifestation of one’s true will or higher self, serves as a source of inspiration, wisdom, and insight.

ALCAMETH: Coming face to face with The Other is typically the moment when I wake up; the dread escalates to such a level that everything just breaks. However, albeit rare, there are times when the transition differs, and I remain asleep – passing into what feels like an empty, dreamless slumber. It’s a fascinating experience, almost as if you’ve torn through the veil of death to reach the celestial.

Human rest comprises several stages – starting with light sleep, progressing to deep sleep, and finally reaching Rapid Eye Movement (REM). In REM, the brain is highly active, dreams are vivid, and the body is temporarily paralysed, except for the eyes and diaphragm. Deep sleep is the most restorative phase, during which our brain waves, heartbeat, and breathing slow to their lowest levels. This cycle repeats multiple times throughout the night, typically in ninety-minute intervals.

In a lucid dream or sleep paralysis event, the transition from REM back to deep sleep could potentially reflect the experience Alcameth recounts, where intense scenarios fraught with dread give way to serene unconsciousness.

ALCAMETH: In the lyrics for track number five, “Sister Silence, Brother Sleep”, I conceptualised two mythical entities carrying the dreamer upstairs to the attic. In a sense, the attic mirrors the cellar in that it’s a liminal space seldom occupied. Yet, it is often bathed in light, thanks to windows positioned at the very top of the house, like in a gable. I wanted to focus on the attic as a locus of the ultimate revelation – where profound epiphanies occur.

The final song, “Eye of the Daemon – Daemon I” – is this when the protagonist wakes up?

ALCAMETH: I’d say it happens just before waking up. It’s about transitioning from a state of becoming into a state of being – this is where you adorn the thousands upon thousands of masks of self. And that’s what’s relayed in lines like ‘I inhabited every waking shadow’. It illustrates the protean, multifaceted nature of the self, expanding in all directions, throughout all time, from a central point of perfected being.

Going by verses like ‘endless and ever beyond, head forward facing yet back turned westing’ and mentions of becoming ‘pan-daemonic’, the “House of the Black Geminus” storyline concludes with the rebirth of a self that has faced and integrated its inherent darkness. The term ‘westing’ is from ancient Egypt – it is named after the direction of the setting sun and refers to a transition into the afterlife.

ALCAMETH: The ancient Egyptians had a different view of death than ours today. In their outlook, entities like the Pharaoh or the sun god Ra undergo a daily cycle of death and rebirth – ‘westing’ – that involves a descent into the underworld, facing its trials, and emerging triumphant. This theme incorporates the so-called Hero’s Journey, as highlighted by the Greeks and many other cultures and similarly depicted in works like Dante’s.

The Hero’s Journey – first identified by American mythologist Joseph Campbell in his 1949 book The Hero with a Thousand Faces – is a narrative framework that describes a common pattern in legends and stories worldwide. They typically entail a protagonist departing from his normal existence, facing trials in a supernatural realm, and achieving some manner of victory before returning home transformed.

ALCAMETH: The same idea is echoed in Peter Kingsley’s interpretation of Greek philosopher Parmenides, where Apollo – the sun god – is said to find a home in the underworld. Every night, he returns to this place, known as ‘the house of the sun,’ only to be reborn in the morning. This illustrates that the notion of a cyclical journey of death, underworld passage, and rebirth is a perennial concept across cultures.


We proceed to the visual representation of “House of the Black Geminus”. Yurii Kazarian from Into the Abyss Design managed the layout. The cover features a work by the Italian artist Agostino Arrivabene, and the booklet includes three of his paintings.

ALCAMETH: Parallel to working on the album, I was trying to envision the right aesthetic. I’d often browse platforms like Pinterest for images that could spark inspiration, or artists I might want to collaborate with. In this instance, aware of the risks associated with commissioning new pieces, I was specifically on the lookout for pre-existing art.

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