by Niklas Göransson

Penetrations of Darkness – twenty years ago, J.K. and Hinze founded the Swedish black metal duo Mortuus. To commemorate their third album, Diablerie, we revisit the band’s formative years and ensuing devilry.


J.K: “Diablerie” is the result of an unrelenting seven-year period of blood, toil, tears, and sweat. MORTUUS’ creative process is rarely linear, often blending the new with the old. Finding a coherent form, concept, and musical approach requires considerable time and effort because such things must develop organically. Regardless of how outstanding an individual song or riff might be, it may not fit into the context.

MORTUUS’ third studio album, “Diablerie”, was released by German underground label World Terror Committee in May 2022.

J.K: One important aspect is the album concept, which dictates that the sum has to be greater than its individual parts. This includes the entire package: music, lyrics, and visual aesthetics. Musically, “Diablerie” feels like a natural progression from where we left off – perhaps slightly more influenced by 90s black metal than our earlier albums.

Strings and vocals were tracked at J.K.’s semi-professional recording setup, G’hinnom studio. The impressive drum sound is owed to Nevo Studios, an analogue recording facility in Sundsvall, Sweden.

J.K: Nevo, once a state-owned radio studio, was built with a generous budget and has an enormous recording room. We consciously avoid the most common ‘metal studios’, and this strategy promotes a sort of unexplored musical dimension… even if norms – whether in the process of composition or production – do not necessarily stand in a dichotomous relationship to creativity.

In terms of production, MORTUUS took a slightly different approach for “Diablerie” than with its predecessor – “Grape of the Vine” from 2014.

J.K: “Grape of the Vine” was meant to feel sterile, draining, and repetitive – somewhat mantric. “Diablerie”, on the other hand, demanded an abundance of raw power. Early in the recording phase, I listened to many of Dan Swanö’s 90s productions and tried to do things more as I imagined they were done back then.

Dan Swanö famously used analogue equipment, prioritising bass and treble while clearing out the midrange and then adding depth with a wall of reverb. This method captures a live, authentic power often lost in modern digital recordings.

J.K: I suppose there is some non-human artistic value to be found in heavily edited, one hundred per cent tight copy-paste recordings, but they can also sap the music of energy. Even though most of the production took place at my home studio, I made sure to set and adhere to deadlines. I also recorded as much as possible in full takes. Editing was conducted by ear rather than using digital measurement tools, which I firmly believe adds something to the album.


Thematically, “Diablerie” centres around European grimoire lore. Grimoires are books about magic – many of which date back to the Middle Ages – that include instructions on how to create enchanted objects, cast spells, summon spirits, and interact with demons.

J.K: “Diablerie” places special emphasis on the German-Faustian tradition, encompassing pacts, demonology, diabolism, and the associated alchemical processes. This might appear less grandiose than the Kabbalistic theme of “Grape of the Vine” – being more deeply rooted in blood, soil, and dirt than speculative metaphysics or cosmology – but is equally complex and multidimensional.

On a related note, I noticed that J.K. translated the Swedish book Thurneman: ockultist och seriemördare. The English edition, Manhunter: The Story of the Swedish Occultist and Serial Killer Thurneman, was published by The Ajna Offensive in 2020.

Sigvard Thurneman is best known for a series of robberies and murders in the early 20th century. However, Thurneman’s gang, Den Magiska Cirkeln (‘The Magic Circle’), was no ordinary criminal organisation – but one that actively employed black magic and satanic rituals. An extensive interview with the book’s author, Wulvaricht, can be found in Bardo Archivology Vol. 2.

J.K: Thurneman was a unique and fascinating figure. The teachings and concepts he integrated into a magical system serve as an early model for what the Western Left-Hand Path would later evolve into. He undoubtedly accessed a stream of immense power, with his own blend of European magical traditions and Hatha Yoga likely advancing him considerably on a spiritual level.

Thurneman’s occult interests included ritual magic, studies of ancient texts, and the incorporation of early psychological and philosophical concepts related to what’s commonly referred to as the Left-Hand Path. This is a term from Western esotericism for practices that embrace taboos, challenge social norms, and pursue forbidden knowledge.

J.K: The fact that The Theosophical Society in Sweden openly disassociated themselves from Thurneman speaks volumes – as do his many references to the darker aspects in the police interrogations. I regard Thurneman as a pioneer of theistic Satanism, even though he himself might not have identified with such terms directly.

In his exploration of yoga, séances, and astral travelling, Thurneman notably incorporated black henbane, or Hyoscyamus niger – a plant from the nightshade family. Traditionally associated with witchcraft and sorcery, henbane is reputed for its ability to induce visionary states and to bridge the material and metaphysical realms.

J.K: I have only burned henbane leaves in a dried form on several occasions, never consuming it. The fumes are effective for specific magical workings. However, I am generally cautious about integrating psychoactive substances into practical occultism due to the risk of becoming reliant on them. Achieving similar outcomes is possible through other means, albeit with more time and effort from the practitioner.


The MORTUUS duo – J.K. on strings and vocals, Marcus Hinze on drums – have been friends since they were seven years old. Both of them grew up in Umeå in the north of Sweden. J.K. was the first to take up musicianship; following a brief period with the baritone tuba, he began playing guitar at age ten. Soon after, he formed a band with two classmates.

J.K: I’m not sure if that little episode qualifies as a ‘band’. Our amiable music teacher allowed us to stay in the practice room after school, where the first thing we did was learn several obscene songs by the Swedish punk group SLASKFITTORNA. This was a fleeting involvement, but it ignited an interest in jamming with other musicians. Upon starting lower secondary school in ’98, I made some new friends who were into metal, and we began rehearsing JUDAS PRIEST and HELLOWEEN covers.

David Ekevärn, now the drummer of MORTUUS’ concert lineup, was part of that unnamed group.

In late 1998, J.K. acquired pirated audio software and began learning how to record music on a computer. A few months later, he and Hinze formed what I presume was their first black metal band: SHADE OF BLACK.

J.K: Yes – it was also my first proper band in the sense that we had a name and rehearsed regularly.

MARCUS HINZE: I won’t take any credit for SHADE OF BLACK. Johannes (J.K.) brought us together – me, David, and a guy named John – and was responsible for the music, lyrics, and ideas about how to proceed. I didn’t have that kind of vision back then. It was my first attempt at playing in a band, as well as the first time I picked up a bass. I had an old acoustic guitar at home that I used to play, so figuring out the bass was easy enough.


In January 2001, SHADE OF BLACK released a demo titled “Northbound”. Judging by the music, lyrics, and aesthetics, the young men appear to have been heavily influenced by the nature-romantic Scandinavian black metal that peaked during the mid-to-late 90s.

J.K: Correct, but this wasn’t necessarily a deliberate choice; it stemmed in part from my rather basic musical skills. Some of the material dates back to as early as 1999; I wrote those songs knowing only fifth chords and a few open minor chords, which resulted in a sound somewhat reminiscent of “The Shadowthrone” (SATYRICON).

Fifth chords, also known as power chords, are defined by simplicity and a robust sound, making their atmospheric, layered, and forceful textures accessible to guitarists with limited technical abilities.

Open minor chords, on the other hand, are formed by combining open strings with fretted notes, introducing a darker, more melancholic tonality.

J.K: Regardless, I view “Northbound” as a showcasing of youngsters trying to learn their instruments rather than a true black metal release. All members were between fourteen and fifteen years old, which is clearly reflected in the lyrics. At such a formative age – transitioning from childhood into early adulthood – an interest in the metaphysical dimensions of black metal often manifests as a blend of fascination and curiosity.

What about the nature aspect?

J.K: The natural world remains a significant source of inspiration – and this is echoed in MORTUUS. As Lars von Trier put it in his film Antichrist: ‘Nature is Satan’s church!’ There is more truth in that statement than most self-proclaimed Satanists realise. It also ties into the perception of wilderness as depicted by Eliade in The Myth of the Eternal Return.

In Antichrist, von Trier presents a darkly philosophical outlook on nature as a domain of inherent chaos and darkness – untamed and wild, aligning with themes of rebellion and autonomy from divine order. Mircea Eliade’s work on the cyclical concept of time suggests a symbolic return to these primal origins and a reconnection with the natural world in its crudest essence.

HINZE: I’d say that “Northbound” represents our initial encounter with black metal and the bands we admired at the time. It was a fumbling step towards discovering our identities as musicians and devotees of the black metal underground.


Did the demo garner any label interest?

J.K: We received an offer or two. However, by that time, Hinze and I were evolving in a different direction, so engaging with a label made no sense. Shortly after “Northbound” was released, things changed drastically when we discovered interviews with MALIGN and OFERMOD – two bands that truly emphasised authenticity and sinister ideals.

MALIGN and OFERMOD – along with fellow Swedes FUNERAL MIST – are recognised as pioneers of the post-millennium wave of so-called orthodox black metal.

J.K: From an external viewpoint, it might appear that we hopped on the bandwagon of the orthodox movement, but that would be an unfair assessment. I’d say we discovered a deeper significance in black metal and responded accordingly.

Many previous interviewees associated with this phenomenon have described its arrival as a black metal renaissance of sorts. It presented a profound contrast to the generally dreary millennium-era underground scene.

J.K: Those who claim black metal died in 1994 either lack musical taste or haven’t heard records like “Si monvmentvm…” (DEATHSPELL OMEGA), “Salvation” (FUNERAL MIST), “Draco Sit Mihi Dux” (ONDSKAPT), “Mystérion Tés Anomias” (OFERMOD), “Fireborn” (MALIGN), or “Ond spiritism” (ARMAGEDDA). Naturally, there are many others worth mentioning.

HINZE: I’d like to add CRAFT to the list.

J.K: Besides these interviews, the emergence of internet forums enabled us to connect with like-minded individuals. Distros were still carrying underground material from the 90s at reasonable prices, ranging from tapes to fanzines, so that ‘era’ was somewhat within reach.

What kind of fanzines were you reading?

J.K: The most influential were the various publications by Northwind – namely, I Came from Darkness, I Return to Darkness, Ad arma! and, more recently, The Sinister Flame. I’d also mention ’zines like Blod på marken, Hellish Massacre, Final Solution, and a few others that we read until the pages fell apart.


“Northbound” became the swansong of SHADE OF BLACK. Instead, in late 2003, Johannes and Hinze went on to found MORTUUS.

HINZE: I suppose we’d started drifting apart from the other members. Funny choice of words here – but at that age, a year can feel like a lifetime. A lot can change in a short period.

Did you discuss the thematic direction of MORTUUS?

J.K: There was no need for such discussions. By then, we were fully immersed in black metal culture and its associated phenomena. Essentially, MORTUUS came about naturally; it was a necessary evolution of what we were and continue to be.

MORTUUS’ debut material was recorded at an early iteration of G’hinnom studio in the spring of 2004. The two songs, “Silence Sang the Praise of Death” and “All Dead”, show the beginnings of the ominous and unsettling sound that has become MORTUUS’s hallmark. Notably, the duo composed and recorded all music and lyrics in a single day.

J.K: It’s not really such an extraordinary feat; at that time, we were both involved in multiple bands and probably wrote music and lyrics almost daily. The stars just happened to align that night. There was no explicit plan – it emerged more from a burst of creativity and a kind of intuition. However, the ambient elements and mixing process took some additional time.

Is that generally how your material is written?

J.K: Well, a MORTUUS song tends to either come together in a few hours or take several years to complete. The issue with SHADE OF BLACK was that our writing process had become overly meticulous and drawn out. We were working on three songs and kept rearranging them over and over. MORTUUS was a counterreaction to that: we sought a more spontaneous and primitive medium.

Later that same year – while trying to find a US distributor for his ‘zine, G’hinnomJohannes contacted Tyler Davis of The Ajna Offensive, an Oregon-based label that would play a significant role in the burgeoning orthodox scene.

J.K: We never intended to release the MORTUUS recording, but I included a CDR when I sent Tyler the ‘zines, and he expressed interest. From memory, he was intrigued by the subversive nature of both the publication and our music. Without Tyler, MORTUUS might very well have remained a project confined to a couple of forgotten CD-Rs.


The self-titled EP was released in June 2005. Encouraged by the response, Tyler Davis offered to release a MORTUUS full-length, should they ever choose to produce one. But by then, Johannes had joined OFERMOD, which precluded involvement in other bands.

Johannes’ perspective on the rebirth of OFERMOD was chronicled in the print-exclusive MORTUUS feature in Bardo Methodology #8. But in short, after recording what was intended to be their debut album, “Pentagrammaton”, OFERMOD disbanded in 2006. Belfagor, the band’s driving force, went back to prison, and their unreleased record was consequently shelved.

Later that year, MORTUUS resumed activities and recorded their debut album, “De Contemplanda Morte; De Reverencie Laboribus ac Adorationis”. Musically, it largely continues the style of the EP. The main riff in “Supplication for the Demise of All” is fucking magical: it’s like a fusion of SAMAEL’s “Worship Him” and early KATATONIA.

HINZE: I’m not exactly sure, but I don’t think we spent much time on that song; most of it came together quite fast. Typically, those kinds of riffs come naturally to me – it’s all the details in between that are more challenging.

As for thematic content, Johannes’ lyrics have evolved from the EP’s theistic Satanism to embrace Qliphothic themes.

In Kabbalistic tradition, Qliphoth is the shadow aspect of Sephiroth, which represents the universe’s divine framework. Studies of Qliphoth and the exploration of its adverse forces are typically linked with the darker facets of mysticism. My initial assumption was that Belfagor influenced this shift.

J.K: Belfagor did introduce me to some new writings; this is true, but our initial connection stemmed mainly from shared interests in such topics. My first encounter with the Qliphoth came through reading A.E. Waite and MacGregor Mathers – sources I now consider substandard. So, the thematic direction developed organically. We’ve always strived for authenticity, and “De Contemplanda Morte” reflects a journey of personal growth, passions, and interests.

The cover artwork is rather stylish, if somewhat cryptic. As it turns out, it’s a manipulated photo of a broken gravestone.

HINZE: I don’t quite remember how the idea came up, but I had resolved to sleep on top of a tombstone. So, the obvious solution was to fetch one from the nearest graveyard. My friend Petter and I went to the local cemetery, which had these large cast-iron crucifixes set in blocks of cement. Some had started to loosen after years of weathering, and we managed to tip one over and drag it into my car.

Did it belong to anyone of note?

HINZE: Actually, yes – the first surveyor of Umeå. His cross was encrusted with moss and dirt, so we hauled it into my bathroom for a proper cleansing. Now, the damn thing must’ve weighed around seventy kilos and unfortunately, we dropped it and had to return and get another one. The fact that both Petter and I are alive is sheer luck. We caused a plethora of mischief… everything from petty crimes to insane joy rides in borrowed cars, hysterically intoxicated.


Upon its release, “De Contemplanda Morte” was received rather well – but MORTUUS didn’t capitalise on the momentum, choosing instead to withdraw from the public eye.

J.K: The release got postponed until the spring of 2007, and it was around then that I started letting go of many things; black metal being one of them. I only saw a few reviews – but years later, I met up with Petter from LEPRA at a pub, and he told me it had achieved a kind of cult following online. That felt rather surreal.

HINZE: By then, I had developed a drug addiction. Rather than confronting the root issues, I tried my best to escape them. First, I moved to Norway and then back to Sweden, settling in Stockholm. So, I wasn’t particularly concerned with the reception to our album.

What drugs were you taking?

HINZE: Everything from painkillers to speed. Cannabis was the staple, and then I’d add more substances throughout the day. I’ve struggled with depression ever since primary school – so naturally, I gravitated towards things that numbed my feelings. I’ve never lost a job or taken my drug abuse too far, but it’s foolish to test your limits.

Did you try any psychedelics?

HINZE: Yes, I’ve had many extremely dark mushroom trips. One particular LSD nightmare lasted for forty-eight soul-crushing hours. Initially, using drugs served a purpose – they were a means of breaking social structures and norms. But that intention is lost in addiction. I stopped caring about what I truly wanted to pursue, affecting both my music and occult practices.


In late 2011, after several years of academic studies in the northern Swedish city of Piteå, Johannes packed up and joined Hinze in Stockholm.

J.K: I was nearing the completion of my bachelor’s degree in musical performance. I didn’t have a clear plan, but a friend offered me a second-hand contract for a cheap rental apartment in Stockholm. I agreed without knowing much about the place – which turned out to be quite problematic, to say the least.

Johannes found himself residing in what’s known in Sweden as a ‘vulnerable area’.

J.K: Regular shootings, robberies, open drug dealing, burning cars, multiple homicides, and so on. I stayed there until a neighbour reported me for illegal subletting. Nonetheless, it was a unique and eye-opening experience for a northern boy like me.

Relocating to the nation’s capital offered Johannes a wide range of novelties, such as joining an active ritual group. Following his initiation into the magical order of Dragon Rouge, he was able to practice black magic with experienced elders on a regular basis.

J.K: Think of it like learning music: you can spend endless hours with an instrument at home and become technically skilled. But you’ll progress much quicker and in a more nuanced manner if you jam with proficient players. It exposes any holes in your game – and for some, that’s an uncomfortable truth. Ritual magic works similarly.

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