Black Witchery I

Black Witchery I

by Niklas Göransson

During the 1990s, as the paths of three underground zealots intertwined, foul energies converged in Orlando, Florida. What follows is the sordid tale of Black Witchery, as narrated by Vaz and Impurath.

Artwork: By Force Propaganda


VAZ: I’m originally from the Passaic-Clifton area of New Jersey. Around 1990, I started jamming with some kids who were into BATHORY, VENOM, and shit like that. I couldn’t even set up my drum kit properly, nor did I know you can play cross-handed – meaning, with your arms crossed over.

This method is traditional in rock music, as it allows drummers easier access to both the hi-hat and the snare.

VAZ: I learned to drum open-handed, if you’ve ever seen Fenriz play. But these guys were all hung up on the fact that my shit was open, so I had to reteach myself everything. Back then, I’d never so much as seen anyone play like that. I remember thinking, ‘Is this conventional? Does it even work?’ And it totally did.

IMPURATH: In 1991, I bought “Fallen Angel of Doom” (BLASPHEMY) and “Bride of Insect” (NUCLEAR DEATH) at the same time; they totally changed my perception of the boundaries of extremity. Just BLASPHEMY’s band photos… the lyrics, the intro, the songs, and everything else completely blew me away. NUCLEAR DEATH was another mindfuck.

NUCLEAR DEATH’s 1990 album, “Bride of Insect”, stood out for its intense and dark blend of death metal and grindcore elements, as well as the distinctive shrieking vocals of Lori Bravo.

IMPURATH: To this day, “Bride of Insect” remains one of my most pivotal and highly revered releases – everything from the artwork and pictures to the sound. Discovering BLASPHEMY and NUCLEAR DEATH fuelled a desire to push my own musical output in the most extreme direction imaginable.


Earlier that year, Impurath had co-founded a band called IRREVERENT. He handled the bass and vocals, DarkWolf was on drums, and another friend played guitar. Their late 1991 demo, “Inverted Crucifixion”, showcases a primitive fusion of black and death metal.

IMPURATH: With IRREVERENT, we set out to do something different. At the time, there were virtually no US acts influenced by or who even cared about the likes of BEHERIT, MASTER’S HAMMER, GOATLORD, or PROFANATICA. I didn’t want us grouped into the larger North American scene, which was infested with gore bands of the variety that wore shorts and hats on stage.

The aesthetic and thematic approach of the early 1990s US death metal scene drew heavily from grindcore. The more casual attire and stage appearance contrasted with the solemn, occult, and diabolical image adopted by bands like DEICIDE or MORBID ANGEL.

IMPURATH: IRREVERENT had a staunchly satanic message. Even if our music was more death metal, it sounded really dark. I’m still proud of everything we did at such a young age; bear in mind that we were only around thirteen or fourteen. The lyrics and music have stood the test of time – both in my eyes and, apparently, in the eyes of many others.

Did IRREVERENT play live?

IMPURATH: Yeah, a few times. I actually booked an Orlando show for us back in December 1991; it was supposed to be three nights of IRREVERENT opening for MONSTROSITY. That’s how George Fisher would later come to wear BLACK WITCHERY shirts.

George Fisher, or Corpsegrinder, was the frontman for MONSTROSITY. Today, he is mostly known as the singer of CANNIBAL CORPSE.

IMPURATH: But the venue hadn’t realised how young I was, so they booted IRREVERENT off the bill after the first night. We weren’t even allowed to legally enter the bar. So, I guess that sums up my first stint with the music business; I should’ve known.


Were you into Florida death metal bands like MONSTROSITY?

IMPURATH: The MONSTROSITY demos were good. To me, the best band from Florida has always been NOCTURNUS“The Key” and their demo tapes, in particular. Then INCUBUS, early MORBID ANGEL, ACHERON, and DEICIDE.

Did you ever run into Glen Benton in his heyday?

IMPURATH: Yes, I met him when DEICIDE came to Orlando in ’92. Benton was actually a rather approachable fellow back then. He’d just branded himself, so you can imagine me at fourteen… I mean, just meeting this guy already felt larger than life, and to then see the inverted crucifix burned into his forehead was just totally insane.

It’s difficult to explain to youngsters today what an impression the DEICIDE frontman made in the early 1990s. I recall my teenage self being spellbound by the 1991 documentary Dancing with the Devil, in which Glen Benton makes a memorable appearance talking about gaining access to ‘the seven gates of Hell’.

IMPURATH: Glen Benton and I have since met on several occasions: in my eyes, he’s always been a good guy. That man had a huge influence on me, and I obviously respect everything about him.


The second IRREVERENT demo, “Crush the Messiah”, was released the following year featuring cover artwork by ChrisThorncrossMoyen. Thanks to Impurath’s diligent networking, Skull Distribution in Georgia distributed their tapes.

IMPURATH: That mail-order was run by Desolate Wings of the Pagan Dawn, who played with DEMONCY at the time and now does intros for DREADFUL RELIC. He’s actually a talented songwriter and was really influential on me, just from tape trading.

Thanks to the Skull Distribution connection, IRREVERENT were invited to appear on “Vinnum Dei Satanas – The Wine of Satan”, a classic black metal compilation released by Morbid of NECROMANTIA through his Spellbound Records.

IMPURATH: DEMONCY were supposed to be part of it, but they couldn’t get their song ready in time. I sent a letter to Morbid who wrote back saying that not only had he heard the second IRREVERENT demo through the ROTTING CHRIST members, but also liked it. That blew my mind; I’d been a huge NECROMANTIA fan ever since I discovered the demos.

NECROMANTIA – pioneers of both the Greek scene and black metal as an art form – used an eight-string bass instead of rhythm guitars. This, coupled with atmospheric keyboard arrangements, gave their music a murky, mystical resonance often described as ‘occult-sounding’.

IMPURATH: Morbid asked if I could send an IRREVERENT track for “The Wine of Satan”. We were gonna give them “Infernal Entity”, but that would’ve entailed going to a studio and recording it. Unfortunately, we had neither the resources nor the ability to do so. Due to my young age, just shipping a parcel to Greece would’ve been a huge deal. Sadly, we were unable to get Morbid the DAT tape in time.

That was a bloody shame, seeing as how “The Wine of Satan” might very well be the finest black metal compilation of all time.

IMPURATH: I agree completely with that statement. I regret this bitterly every time it comes up because that sampler has my favourite BEHERIT song. But yeah, I guess there’s not much else to say about it. My loss, as per fucking usual. It was an amazing accomplishment to even be asked to participate. Actually, look at the “Upheaval of Satanic Might” cover and you’ll see it’s very much influenced by “The Wine of Satan” – almost like a tribute.

Were you following the developments in Norway around that time?

IMPURATH: I loved it. The IRREVERENT drummer, DarkWolf, actually wrote with Euronymous and bought the BURZUM debut from him. So, we became obsessed with BURZUM especially, and really liked DARKTHRONE. Then came the church burnings, and we thought they were totally extreme. To us, BURZUM was probably the best Norwegian band, and I still stand by that. The Count’s interviews, attitude, and actions proved that he was devoted and willing to fight for his cause.

I take it you agree with his methods?

IMPURATH: Anyone who’s willing to go to such lengths for their convictions has my respect. We fully condone church burnings and other acts of horror: anything to terrorise the Christian scum. But Christianity is a pretty weak enemy these days. There are other religions more apt as targets of our hatred, ones that pose a far bigger threat to the potential of the human race.


VAZ: After my brother died in… I’m gonna say ’93, I moved down to Orlando, Florida. My sister started dating the guitarist of IRREVERENT – he was really into death metal, so I went, ‘All right, cool. You can go out with my sister.’ We started trading demos, records, ‘zines and so on; he turned me on to a bunch of cool shit.

IMPURATH: I always sought out the most maniacal people I could connect with on both a personal and mental level. Vaz and I met in high school shortly after he’d moved to Florida. I remember looking over and noticing him; he wore a CARCASS shirt and seemed to be as introverted as myself. Figuring this might be someone I could relate to, I approached him and we’ve been friends ever since.

Impurath heard from the IRREVERENT guitarist that Vaz was a good drummer, so the two began jamming as a two-piece.

IMPURATH: From the moment Vaz and I started playing music together, we had a connection almost to the point where either party could instinctively tell what the other was gonna do. We shared many ideas about music and would often discuss the lack of dark and brutal bands in underground metal.

VAZ: It’s absolutely fucking crazy-weird like that. I mean – Impurath and I have the same first name. His mom is pretty much like my mom, and we have the same dad. I mean, our dads are almost the same. We both have younger sisters with the same name. As a matter of fact, this is how far it goes: years ago, I noticed Impurath entering a four-digit code to unlock his phone and realised that we’d set the same passcodes without knowing it. That’s when you know you’re on the same fucking channel!

Meanwhile, IRREVERENT ground to a halt. Rehearsals became increasingly scarce, and they’d stopped writing new material.

IMPURATH: We were already growing tired of the scene. There weren’t many US black metal bands around, and we kind of lost inspiration. Towards the end, we’d just play BATHORY and HELLHAMMER covers. Then the guitar player quit, leaving only myself and DarkWolf.

With IRREVERENT on hold, Impurath spent the next three years in college without any music involvement.

IMPURATH: I should point out that I was never inactive in metal during these years. I always listen to MERCYFUL FATE. I’m a very eccentric, hard-to-understand, and strange person – even to myself. I’ll go through an obsessive period where it’s all this and nothing but. You know, it’s full-on for a while, and then I listen to nothing but doom for months, followed by death metal and MORBID ANGEL. So, I have a constantly fluctuating music taste.


VAZ: DarkWolf called me one day in ‘96. He said, ‘I finally did it; I wrote some new music! But I don’t play drums anymore – I’m a guitarist now, so I need your help.’ I went over there later that day, and the songs he’d written were actually pretty good. I told him, ‘Shit, you’ve got something here, man. I’m in.’

The new musical trio of DarkWolf, Impurath, and Vaz called themselves WITCHERY. In 1997, after a few months of rehearsing, they recorded a promo tape called “Death to Trends”.

VAZ: Unfortunately, DarkWolf categorically refused to play live; he didn’t want to do anything. Within a year, he was already fed up with the whole WITCHERY thing and went, ‘Just fucking take it!’ So, Impurath and I kinda did that and ran with it.

IMPURATH: Vaz and I had some trouble finding a guitarist who wasn’t exclusively into technical Florida death metal. Easier said than done down here, as you can imagine. Tregenda had just moved in from Missouri with his band, BURNING INSIDE, and they played a show with a local act called EQUINOX.

EQUINOX was a black metal project featuring members of ACHERON. They later went on to form DRUID LORD.

IMPURATH: They were the only ones around here who were into black metal, so we came to watch them. But when we saw Tregenda’s stage presence… this towering six-foot-three (190 cm) mad man wearing a MARDUK long-sleeve – and nobody in Florida knew who the fuck MARDUK were back then – headbanging wildly with a BC Rich Mockingbird.

VAZ: That metal giant was the tallest motherfucker I’d ever seen. Impurath and I stood there staring at him, going fucking wild on stage, and we just couldn’t believe our eyes.

IMPURATH: Vaz and I knew just by the pure savagery on display that this was the guitarist we needed. We met Tregenda afterwards, and I tested him by asking if he listened to NECROMANTIA. But because of our different accents… see, Tregenda had this thick Southern drawl, so we couldn’t understand each other at first. But it turned out he did know NECROMANTIA, so we enlisted him right there and then.

VAZ: Bringing in Tregenda was amazing; once we started rehearsing, the music pretty much wrote itself. Like, a lot of effort went into the material, but the writing felt effortless. It was also really cool of Tregenda – coming from such a technical background – to dial it back, keep things primitive, and stay within the crude framework that Impurath and I had imposed.


The following year, in 1998, WITCHERY recorded a demo titled “Evil Shall Prevail” – twice.

IMPURATH: This is actually an obscure fact related to a line-up change. I wasn’t satisfied with my vocal performance on the ’97 promo, so we brought in someone external for “Evil Shall Prevail”. But listening to the result, I realised it was too clean and not at all what we were after. I’m a notorious perfectionist, so we re-recorded the entire demo with me on vocals.

The first version was not broadly distributed, but the second spread far and wide. Soon after its release, WITCHERY established a milestone connection with Canada’s CONQUEROR.

Two years prior, the black/death duo of James Read and Ryan Förster had released a demo called “Anti-Christ Superiority”.

RYAN FÖRSTER: I received a letter from Impurath to my PO box; that was our first contact. But before WITCHERY even started, I’d unwittingly bought two different IRREVERENT tapes from Skull Distribution. The demos were quite good – and one of them had Chris Moyen’s art on the cover, which was a plus back then.

IMPURATH: I used to read an Australian ‘zine called Heresy, and the second issue featured a CONQUEROR interview. Pete Helmkamp (ANGELCORPSE) had already mentioned them to me; he said they reminded him of BLASPHEMY, which obviously meant I had to hear it. I wrote to Ryan and suggested a trade.

RYAN: CONQUEROR had a strict policy of tossing trade requests straight into the garbage bin. Most of the time, you’d send these people a copy of your demo and then get nothing in return – or some ultra-amateur rehearsal tape or whatever. But J Read and I had a strange gut feeling about this one, so we dubbed our demo and sent it down to Florida.

IMPURATH: “Anti-Christ Superiority” is one of the most extreme recordings I’ve ever heard; it totally blew me away. The writing is very strong and everything about it is just so over the top – especially for the time. Still to this day, it’s one of my favourite demos.

RYAN: In late 1996, CONQUEROR signed with French label Evil Omen Records – a division of Osmose Productions. They transferred studio money, J Read and I recorded “War.Cult.Supremacy” and then sent them the master tape and album layout. All that remained was printing and releasing it, but Evil Omen went bankrupt.

IMPURATH: I convinced Ryan to send me an advance of “War.Cult.Supremacy” – three songs, I believe. It was even more insane and ferocious than the demo. He explained that Ludo Evil, the chief of the BLASPHEMY and SARCÓFAGO fan clubs, was supposed to release it through Evil Omen but failed.


Shortly thereafter, WITCHERY was re-named to avoid confusion with a certain Swedish retro thrash band. BLACK WITCHERY’s first official release came later the same year: “Summoning of Infernal Legions”, a seven-inch with two re-recorded demo songs, courtesy of American label Dark Horizon Records.

This early material is very different from everything that followed. The spoken word intro sounds like an homage to PROFANATICA, but the music is quite melodic. Furthermore, some elements have a distinctly Scandinavian feel.

IMPURATH: Yes, the intro was essentially a tribute to Paul Ledney and PROFANATICA. As for the melodies, those songs were largely composed by our old guitarist, DarkWolf, who was influenced by Nordic bands such as BATHORY, DARKTHRONE, BURZUM, and MAYHEM. Once Vaz and I took over the writing, it sounded more in the vein of BLASPHEMY, BEHERIT, and ARCHGOAT.

VAZ: Those tracks were a collaboration between me, Tregenda, and Impurath – but there was definitely some DarkWolf material lingering. We probably bastardised and chopped it up a bit. I’m not completely sure; it’s been a minute since I heard that EP. I still have the seven-inch but lack the means of playing it. Actually, you know who has my record player? Speak of the devil: DarkWolf. That motherfucker. So, if you’re out there, Wolf, I want my fucking turntable back.


What are those creepy bone masks you’re wearing on the cover?

IMPURATH: Those are actually from the IRREVERENT days; DarkWolf made them out of – yes – bare bones. And they’re completely horrifying in person. That’s another example of something we did without any outside influence. We never saw any other bands use bones, so it was something totally extreme. We’ve done shows where we wore these masks on stage for the first few songs.

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