Black Witchery II

Black Witchery II

by Niklas Göransson

Following the turn of the century, Black Witchery continued their rigorous path towards underground infamy, heralding the emergence of US black metal classics such as Desecration of the Holy Kingdom and Upheaval of Satanic Might.

Artwork: By Force Propaganda


IMPURATH: The Return of Darkness and Evil was a groundbreaking event for us because it exposed a lot of new people to BLACK WITCHERY. Our music often comes across far more convincingly in concert than on record. I myself have always been blown away by really intense live bands, so that’s what I want to inflict on others.

In July 2001, one year after opening for BLASPHEMY in Vancouver, BLACK WITCHERY performed at New Jersey’s The Return of Darkness and Evil Festival alongside bands like PROFANATICA, KRIEG, HEMLOCK, and GRAND BELIAL’S KEY.

VAZ: That was another monumental milestone. Unfortunately, it was also our worst-ever show. Seriously. Like, the pinnacle of shittiest gigs any band ever played, mainly because of fucked-up gear. The drum set was massive – a massive piece of shit! Someone decided to cover the bass drum in fucking duct tape, if you can believe it. Guess what happens when you have ten bands blasting on it?

Presumably, friction comes into play.

VAZ: Exactly. And that friction tore the duct tape to the point where I was literally trying to unpeel the beater so I could hit the next fucking strike with my foot. And I’m like, ‘Oh my god, is this really happening?’ But for some reason, nobody seemed to notice.

Was it your New Jersey background that landed you this gig?

VAZ: Negative. Once again, it was owed to the networking of Impurath. But the funny thing is that this fest took place in my old hometown – right down the street from where I grew up. To make things even weirder, my uncle was the bartender of that very bar. Gets a little bit close to home, right? There have been a lot of weird coincidences along the way.


IMPURATH: The Return of Darkness and Evil remains one of the best US fests to date. Just playing with the likes of GRAND BELIAL’S KEY and PROFANATICA was a massive honour in itself.

The Return of Darkness and Evil in 2001 was PROFANATICA’s comeback gig following a seven-year hiatus. Their entire set is included on “The Enemy of Virtue” – a compilation released by Hells Headbangers in 2006. On the recording, PROFANATICA mastermind Paul Ledney can be heard dedicating a new track called “Fuck the Messiah” to BLACK WITCHERY.

VAZ: Ledney called me up beforehand and was so fucking nice and polite about it. He goes, ‘I’ve got a new title that’s almost like your song, “Crush the Messiah”, but it’s called “Fuck the Messiah”. Do you mind?’

IMPURATH: It is deeply humbling to be acknowledged by a true pioneer of US black metal. It was also coincidental because my vocal intro on the BLACK WITCHERY seven-inch was influenced by Paul Ledney. So, it’s a reciprocal thing; it’s good to lend inspiration to people who’ve done the same for you.

VAZ: I’m like. ‘Yeah, that’s fucking awesome. I mean, we’re constantly… not exactly stealing your shit, but we’re all borrowing from the same tree here. So yeah, go for it.’ It’s one of those things where people are clearly on a similar wavelength.

While plotting his return to black metal, Paul Ledney’s first move was to research the contemporary US scene. After checking out every band he could find, the only one he liked was BLACK WITCHERY. He told me, ‘These guys are the real deal, absolute beasts. They’re really tight and have their shit together.’

IMPURATH: I can only be honoured by such a statement, especially coming from someone of Paul Ledney’s stature. Hails to him for saying that – things like this are what keep us going. Obviously, he knows his shit. PROFANATICA was one of my favourite bands growing up, and I still support and like them very much.


Paul Ledney also told me that the fest itself was great because ‘there were a lot of maniacs there’. I have a fair idea who he might’ve been referring to.

VAZ: Us? Yeah, but not as much as certain other maniacs. Will Rahmer (MORTICIAN) was there – ready to fucking kill. He beat up Neill from KRIEG that night if I’m not mistaken. And if it wasn’t at that show, then it was on a couple of other occasions.

IMPURATH: Oh yeah, definitely a bunch of maniacs. Will Rahmer from MORTICIAN, Richard from Vinland Winds – rest in peace – and not to mention the dozens of other lunatics I didn’t know yet. Craig Pillard was there; we’ve met him several times and are really good friends.

Craig Pillard was the original vocalist and second guitarist of New Jersey death metal veterans INCANTATION, appearing on landmark albums such as “Onward to Golgotha” and “Mortal Throne of Nazarene”.

IMPURATH: I’m a huge fan of METHADRONE, WOMB, DISCIPLES OF MOCKERY, STURMFÜHRER, and everything else he does. We played with WOMB once, and it was one of the heaviest sets I’ve ever seen. Actually, Kyle Powell – the same promoter who put on The Return of Darkness and Evil – organised that gig.

VAZ: The show with WOMB was at some sleazy fucking titty bar in Jersey, and… yeah, it happened again. Will Rahmer came down to hang out and whatever. Back then, Will always brought along this merch table that he set up.

At the time, the MORTICIAN frontman had recently launched his own label, Redrum Records.

VAZ: We’re on stage, playing, when I see his merch table come flying across the audience. I’m like, ‘Holy shit, someone is about to get hurt!’ – only to later learn that when Will couldn’t figure out who threw his table, he went after poor Neill like a pit bull. So yeah, there were a lot of maniacs there, man. It was electrifying.


Around the same time, BLACK WITCHERY donated their song “Destruction of the Holy Kingdom Which Spawned the Cursed Trinity of God” – with the PROFANATICA homage as intro – to “Black Metal Endsieg I”. This first instalment of German Sombre Records’ classic four-way split EP series also featured KATHARSIS, S.V.E.S.T, and WARLOGHE.

IMPURATH: I deeply regret giving Marcell (Sombre Records) that track; it’s the weakest song on the entire EP. Nevertheless, it was an honour to be on there, with S.V.E.S.T in particular – they’re one of my favourites. Totally psychedelic black metal. I still like WARLOGHE, and KATHARSIS, too… however, the main guy from KATHARSIS has very different views these days that I do not support at all.

Did you know Drakh before his change of heart?

IMPURATH: Yes, I was actually in close contact with him back then; we were pen-pals, and he wrote some lyrics for us. I got to know him pretty well, and he seemed like a serious, sincere individual. We spoke about topics like orthodox Satanism, terrorism, humanity and the destruction thereof.


Having significantly raised their profile in both Europe and the US, BLACK WITCHERY’s debut album, “Desecration of the Holy Kingdom”, was released by Full Moon Productions in September 2001.

IMPURATH: That era holds some of my finest memories regarding the band. All three of us channelled as much hatred and darkness as we could muster. We wanted to leave a mark on the scene by releasing something as monumental as “The Return……” (BATHORY), “Fallen Angel of Doom….” (BLASPHEMY), or “War.Cult.Supremacy” (CONQUEROR).

Militant and malicious, “Desecration of the Holy Kingdom” is a relentlessly punishing record. Everything from its imagery to the song titles and aesthetics starkly contrasted much else coming out in the early 2000s – arguably the worst era for black metal.

IMPURATH: We were eager to demonstrate that BLACK WITCHERY is the most extreme black metal act ever to emerge from the US. We also realised that many American bands envied us, to the point of spitefulness. But I feed off their hatred; then as well as now. We strive to crush them, both on our records and live on stage. Or even in person if need be – man-to-man combat.


Compared to its successors, “Desecration of the Holy Kingdom” has a relatively clean sound. Curiously, I can’t seem to find any information about where the album was recorded or who engineered it.

IMPURATH: The reason he isn’t mentioned was actually a mutual request. The studio engineer felt embarrassed to have been the one who’d recorded such ‘cacophonous noise’, as he put it. And we were ashamed he’d even been a part of our album. But we had no ability to do it ourselves back then, and this guy was local.

VAZ: I have many memories from the “Desecration…” session – which one would you like to hear? How about when the engineer, who was in a wheelchair, quit in the middle of our recording? Because… well, we did harass him pretty bad.

IMPURATH: There was a lot of animosity between us; we basically tormented him for a week straight until he could take it no longer.

VAZ: I can’t remember why exactly, but he got really mad and kicked Impurath out of the studio. I believe that’s when I gave him a Xanax – so, the guy literally took a chill pill. He was like, ‘Man, this is awesome.’

Xanax is a fast-acting benzodiazepine commonly prescribed to treat stress, depression, and panic disorders.

VAZ: I went, ‘All right, cool’, and stepped outside. But when I came back in, he was drawing flowers on CD-Rs with a marker pen. I found that disrespectful and acting in a spirit opposite to the present moment, so I grabbed a broomstick and locked it in his wheelchair. He couldn’t reach down and get the broom out, leaving him stuck at the soundboard. I then started drawing a very different design.

Can you be a bit more specific?

VAZ: I’m not going to elaborate on what it was, but I turned his little floweries into a not-so-friendly icon and then hung the discs out of reach on the studio wall <laughs>. Once he got the broomstick loose, he had to call his brother to come out and help him get the CDs down because… let’s just say, it was a little bit offensive to his background. And rightly so, because he offended us.

IMPURATH: Since then, he’s gone on to record really professional technical death metal bands. This guy thought we’d never matter or make a difference – yet he’s the one stuck in Florida like a fucking vegetable while we’re playing in Chile, Austria, Norway, or Finland. That experience is one of the reasons why it’s hard for me to trust any studio engineer.

VAZ: Same here. That’s when I swore to the others, ‘I am not setting foot in another studio. I’m gonna figure out how to do this. Never again are we taking the budget and just throwing it out the window; fuck that. I’ll buy the equipment and record our next shit myself – period.’


“Desecration of the Holy Kingdom” includes a set of photos clearly influenced by BLASPHEMY’s iconic “Fallen Angel of Doom….” graveyard shots. When Nocturnal Grave Desecrator and Black Winds and The Traditional Sodomizer of the Goddess of Perversity – the band’s vocalist and guitarist, respectively – made their way out of Mountain View Cemetery, they were arrested. I’ve heard that BLACK WITCHERY’s reenactment was an equally messy affair, but I know no details.

IMPURATH: It was definitely an adventure, but we weren’t arrested, thankfully. We certainly have been arrested, but not on that particular night – we did it very discreetly. There’s not much I can say about this, but it’s definitely a lot of fun desecrating graves under the influence of various substances. It’s kind of a ritual we’ve made out of these photos inspired by BLASPHEMY, BEHERIT, and ARCHGOAT. I’ve always believed that all aspects of a band and their albums should fit into one.

Do you mean, as in a coherent aesthetic profile?

IMPURATH: Yes. The cover, the lyrics, the music, the artwork, and so on. All depictions of the line-up should intertwine to create the vision you seek to conjure. Everything must work together. If a band overlooks one or two of these aspects, they will fail. But yeah, I’m babbling way too much. Go on with your next question.


In September 2002, while based in Germany, Akhenaten of US black metal band JUDAS ISCARIOT organised a European tour with BLACK WITCHERY, ARMAGEDDA, MANTICORE, and AVENGER.

IMPURATH: That was our first time in Europe – and as an American band, we had a lot to prove. I wanted to assail them with the proper hellstorm we knew ourselves capable of. The trip was certainly eye-opening, and it seemed Europeans took black metal more seriously. Well, at least they tried.


IMPURATH: The reason I say that is because the individuals we’d normally associate with back home – who aren’t even into metal – are far more extreme than your average European metalhead. America has more violent crime and psychotic maniacs, especially in Florida. Our level of madness is beyond what most humans can handle. We operate on a level of chaos that normal people would never understand.

VAZ: One of the drivers was called Necrocommander. I remember us doing bong hits and talking about how “Joined in Darkness” (DEMONCY) is the best thing ever. And a real friendship grew out of that, if you know what I mean? It’s tangible and authentic because we were right there, talking in person. No computers, no trolling – none of that bullshit.

IMPURATH: But I was also impressed with some aspects of the European scene. In Belgium, we had many, many travellers come to see us, like MkM from ANTAEUS, LSK from HELL MILITIA – RIP, all my respect to her – Erik from WATAIN, and members of NECROS CHRISTOS. It was an honour to perform in front of such guests on our first tour.


Back in 1992, PROFANATICA became the first American band to sign with the then-budding French label Osmose Productions. Twelve years later, leading up to their second album, BLACK WITCHERY followed in Paul Ledney’s footsteps.

IMPURATH: Osmose is a legendary label with releases from BLASPHEMY, MASTER’S HAMMER, SAMAEL, ROTTING CHRIST, and so on. A bit too business-oriented or corporation-like, but they were able to spread our music far and wide. Really, the best thing I can think of here is a quote from Fenriz (DARKTHRONE), which I’m gonna steal: ‘They’re either trendy or they’re broke. So, take your pick.’

Still seething over the sound on their debut, BLACK WITCHERY invested the entire studio budget into what became known as Down There… – a semi-pro recording setup in Vaz’s basement. They started recording “Upheaval of Satanic Might” in 2004.

IMPURATH: Instead of leaving our art in the hands of somebody who didn’t understand it, we decided that Vaz would be the best pick. His drumming is such an integral part of BLACK WITCHERY, and he’s able to play guitar as well. Actually, Vaz can do anything; the guy is pretty inhuman. He’s a fucking maniac like I’ve never met. So, if anyone has the ability to record us, it’s Vaz.

VAZ: I’d say it was for the whole band to have control, not me individually. But I did try to take the reins; I thought it would be a good move to buy the gear and build our own studio. We could be flexible on whatever the fuck we wanted. We had no deadline, no clock, no nothing – everything was on my dime. And obviously, none but me can kick anyone out of my place.

IMPURATH: You know, we will accept help from people who get it – but nobody’s gonna understand our music as well as someone who took an active part in the writing. Setting up the studio took a long time, and then Vaz had to learn how to use it properly, but “Upheaval…” is basically proof of his ability to record black metal with that much primal energy.


VAZ: I bought some equipment from Gene Palubicki (ANGELCORPSE) and then went out to get cables and stuff, figuring that was everything we needed. One of the guys who engineered the “Hellstorm…” songs helped me track the drums.

BLACK WITCHERY’s tracks for the 1999 CONQUEROR split, “Hellstorm of Evil Vengeance”, were recorded at the same studio as “Desecration of the Holy Kingdom” but with a different engineer.

VAZ: That fucker was way too nitpicky, so it took an eternity. Eventually, he also quit. I remember thinking, ‘Okay, this is getting old now. But I’m glad he left willingly because I would’ve fired him otherwise… telling me to buy gear we never even touched, so I didn’t have enough money to throw in a cheap microphone set. If I’d just done that, it would’ve sounded very different. Lesson learned!

This lesson entails that no matter how good the tone coming from the amp is, the guitars will still sound weak without halfway decent microphones. Obviously, the same goes for drums.

VAZ: I wanted to make something heavy as fuck, but that was like trying to pour water through a fucking pee hole; it just wasn’t happening. I didn’t realise this myself because I was completely overwhelmed by trying to do everything right. Despite the sound issues, I’m still proud of “Upheaval…”. Our most extreme fans always seem to harness that record.

IMPURATH: That’s usually how I determine if someone is a proper maniac, as opposed to just a partial maniac. Another factor is that we’d signed with a bigger label – which a lot of people interpreted as a sell-out move, so to speak. They expected something more commercially acceptable, so we did the exact opposite: pure savagery, utterly devoid of mercy. Now, if you don’t mind me asking, I’d like to know what you appreciate about “Upheaval…”?

To me, “Upheaval of Satanic Might” is a perfect embodiment of the BLACK WITCHERY experience. Despite its foundation of vicious black metal, the music is closer to a chaos trance than something you’d necessarily bang your head to.

In fact, I’d argue that a more powerful guitar tone and heavier drum sound would’ve detracted from this quality. The suffocating production fuses the straightforward riffs and monotonous beats into an infernal steel ambience.

IMPURATH: Yeah, sure. That’s absolutely the goal and what we aim to achieve, so I’d say you’re getting the right stuff. This comes from the fact that a lot of our songs are just non-stop battering on the snare at one fixed speed. Coupled with the dark, swarming riffs smothering everything, it can definitely produce such effects.

Extreme metal bands typically incorporate mid-tempo bridges between the fast parts, as continuous blasting can dull the sensation of speed – similar to driving fast for long stretches. BLACK WITCHERY, on the other hand, rarely slow down at all which promotes this mesmerising feeling.

Still, they make efficient use of nuances. Take a song like “Holocaust Summoning”: this pneumatic vortex opening up almost a minute in, with double-layered vocals – I’m wondering if they knew beforehand it would come out like that. Meaning, is it even possible to recreate such an effect in the rehearsal room?

IMPURATH: That part ended up even more extreme than we initially intended – which, needless to say, is always desirable. The fact that Tregenda wrote “Holocaust Summoning” makes it all the more special to us; it’s a really, really vicious song. I imagine it’s hard to stomach for normal people. But then again, normies are unlikely to be fans of BLACK WITCHERY in the first place.

VAZ: Actually, we shortened “Holocaust Summoning” a bit. It always felt important to us to only record music we could pull off live. Track six, “Hellstorm of Evil Vengeance”, was also supposed to be longer than it turned out. And then, I believe, we rewrote one more song. Like, ‘Okay, this is already extremely over the top.’

The drums are really impressive – what might be lacking in variation is made up for with Vaz’s fingertip feel for hypnotic, pulsating violence. Hard-hitting and super tight but without sounding robotic. Nailing a song like “Profane Savagery” must have taken a fair bit of practice.

VAZ: Yeah, it was meant to be a really ferocious track. I mean, all of them were! With a title like “Upheaval of Satanic Might”, there better be some fucking upheavaling going on, if you know what I’m saying. We wanted to make the music as extreme as possible – and in that department, I gave it my all.

Meanwhile, the studio process was interrupted by hurricanes no less than three times.

IMPURATH: The first was an extreme hellstorm that dilapidated trees all around Vaz’s house. We had to disassemble the entire studio and wait for the flood to clear up, which is why you can hear a slight difference in sound. But the album served its purpose and remains some of the most soul-ripping, ugly, and venomous music to ever have been unleashed.

Around the same time, Vaz and Tregenda moved into a house together. Lively household, I presume.

VAZ: Oh my god – The Upheaval House. Tregenda needed somewhere to stay, so I was like, ‘Let me check with my landlord.’ We ended up getting a place together right next to my old joint. Man, having Tregenda as a housemate really was something else; we did some crazy shit together.

IMPURATH: Yeah, to say the least. It was definitely a lot of fun. The Upheaval House was right next to a major highway, and the passing cars drowned out most of the noise – so thankfully, the neighbours were able to deal with it. But yeah, lively household indeed.


“Upheaval of Satanic Might” came out in March 2005. In its wake, a lengthy text falsely attributed to BLACK WITCHERY started making the rounds on various underground forums. Someone had taken the time to write a 3,500-word essay depicting in excruciating detail various peculiar fantasies – then published it online, pretending to represent the band.

IMPURATH: Yes – extremely aggravating. Anyone who believes that’s real needs to have their IQ checked. And whoever wants to speak to me about it in person, I’d be glad to. I don’t play games, and I take this seriously. I’m not afraid to use violence as a means of conflict resolution. I do hope those responsible read these words because they know damn well that if they ever dare to admit it, I would crush them.

What prompted this in the first place?

IMPURATH: These two losers were infuriated that a band like BLACK WITCHERY – playing such crude and violent music – could attract more notoriety than anything they’ve ever done with their miserable projects. I have physically confronted one of them on three separate occasions now, but he vehemently denies any involvement and blames the other scumbag. Nobody is willing to face the music, so to speak. They’re already beneath me.

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