History and Future of the Universe In Less Than One Hour” (Nightderanger)
Getting to know ‘new’ bands (meaning: until recently, unknown to me) can be very inspiring. And getting to know the from Abstrakt has proven to be most inspiring.
Giving their new album “Uncreation” a first spin, perhaps does not reveal all the inspiring momentum. Massive orchestrations merge with shrieking Black Metal vocals, numerous classical riffs and guitar solos. A Nightwish-like atmosphere joins Black Metal darkness. But then the opulent songs make a perfect stage, a huge stage for the lyrics. Come on, leave the surface behind and wander the path of metaphysics.
The band name, Abstrakt, might hint at a band from a German speaking country. My personal first impression was to think of abstract images as such, of no one less than Vassily Kandinski. Their ‘main demon’, as a mutual friend introduced Nightderanger, vocalist and main lyricist, texts me: “Abstrakt was my idea back then (2008). I had some kind of vision about mystic lyrics back then. The name is quite appropriate.”
I’ve Always Been Friend of Absurd Humour” (Nightderanger)
‘Abstrakt’ means vague, opaque, structure hidden in the fog, obscure, hard to get, and yet not chaotic. It can describe a far-away or at least external perspective on any context. Accidentally, that pretty much hits the nail on the head. “The name Abstrakt. I was thinking about possible names, various black evil satanic funeral of nuclear destruction-type ideas came and were discarded. I’ve always been friend of absurd humour but the name “Absurd” was not possible. Arcturus was (and still is) my favorite band back then and somehow avant-garde and absurd humour guided me to abstract and surreal art and then it hit me, ABSTRAKT is a perfect name”, Nightderanger explains.
Arcturus seems to be a keyword here. For one thing their lyrics partially deal with astronomy. Keep that in mind for later. The other thing is that Arcturus goes all the way back to the early years of Black Metal as it has risen from Norway, where the band members are widely crosslinked. Their band engagements provide a neat overview of Black Metal. It comes in many flavours (or subgenres if you like), and provides a wide range of soundscapes filled with lyrics addressing the darkest sides of everything. Quite often, Black Metal has been synonymous with all things Satanic, including Satanic Metal The common denominator across all subgenres of Black Metal might be the bottomless darkness of the soundscapes and the infernal screams, which provide a perfect setting for lyrics painting a vivid image of hell and its inhabitants.
Branches of the Same Tree
For years, I have been struggling with one thing. How can Satanic Metal be considered anti-Christian or even anti-religious at all?
What is anti-religious? – We shall address this question later. Anti-Christian, however, should be easier to define: An idea or perspective reflected in lyrics which opposes, denies or rejects the values of Christianity. Given that definition, Satanic Metal cannot be anti-Christian, quite the contrary. It is deeply Christian in an archaic way.
The principles of paradise/hell, God/Satan, salvation/damnation all go back to one thing: the Bible, namely the Old Testament. That is the very root from which three major religions branched: Judaism, Christianity and Islam. Satan and hell are no less essential than God and heaven or paradise. Neither Satanism nor Judaism, Christianity or Islam could work without the existence of these oppositions. Thus it is only sensible to define Satanic Metal as deeply religious. In fact, it is Christian, Jewish and Islamic all at once.
Everything is Not Seen or Understood Scientifically” (Nightderanger)
So this is the moment to address the question: what is anti-religious. Heresy? Paganism? Perhaps we can approach it by first asking, what is religion? I forwarded this question to Abstrakt and Nightderanger replies: “I believe there exists something more, everything is not seen or understood scientifically. If I have to categorize myself, I’m some kind of theistic left handist. No ‘spiritual’ aspects can contradict my everyday world, it is an addition to it.”
Bass player and philosopher Insomniac describes his view: “For my part, I treat any religion as a tool to people who try to understand things which are hard to understand, but still need some kind of explanation to go on with every day on life. These ideas on how things might be, have also been used by nations and other influencers in their own way to push people in the direction they see fit, some for the good of everyone and there are always some who do it only for good for themselves. So nowadays it is also tool for crowd control. So in short to me religions are story influenced by history and people from different times and I treat them just like that.”
Personally, I widely agree with his definition. I would only add that religions provide a basic set of values to structure living in a group. Living in groups proved to be synergetic for early humans, given that they shared a common ground of ‘dos’ and ‘donts’. The idea of having a superior force providing these rules shifts the responsibility away from group members, which might make it easier to agree on such things. Even more so as the judgement for misconduct can also be shifted to this higher being.
Stepping Out Of The Christian Box
Anyway, the term anti-religious triggers a couple of names, like Galileo Galilei or Johannes Kepler. These ingenious minds observed and published theories that were contradictory to basic Christian explanations, and were thus declared heresy by their religious elite. The question is, does their step out of the Christian box make them or their observations anti-religious? Actually I should call it supra-religious, as it goes either out of the box or deeper into it. Anyway in their life-time it was certainly seen as anti-religious.
Why on Earth do we discuss all this? – Because:
your time has passed
to lead yourself to emancipation
to claw your way out from this servitude
“I would characterize my relationship with religion as non-existent”, replies the guitarist and co-composer. “I don’t care what people believe as long as they keep it to themselves, but I don’t personally see the need for it or discussing it.” Apostate’s attitude reflects a rather popular attitude towards religion these days, a form of emancipation from it – at least in the so called western world. This is not considered heresy anymore.
This emancipation has led to more people taking an active role in carving their own path through life. However, ‘circumstances’ or ‘others’ have become the scapegoats when things go south, or the preference of following our usual habits when changing them was a lot more reasonable.
Abstrakt’s soundscapes provide a room, a vast space, perhaps a hall for a ball to be held, as if in a baroque castle as the one in Versailles. Your mind can hover freely in the candlelit twilight of a black winter night to ponder on all these highly philosophical matters. The flames of the candles reflect in all the gold and crystal decorations, slightly flickering; creating a universe of moving light dots.
The album opens with “Ex Vanitas” which makes a very cinematic intro in a ‘Nightwish meets Black Metal’ – ‘Pirates of the Caribbean’ vibe.
The intro of “From Chaos to Creation” pretty much reminds me on SatyriconLive At The Opera. The operatic theme remains throughout the song which basically combines mid-tempo tunes and a classical guitar solo, with raging drums in the majestic hall of orchestrations. Can there be a waltz rhythm hidden in the vocal tune? The “Etherstorm” rages with tapping guitars drowning in pompous orchestrations again. ”Inferno” brings up some vocal variations with lower screams and a very opulent choir in the background. The heavy keyboards trigger a memory, many ‘Dungeons and Dragons’ role players might share: Strahd is approaching!
“From Chaos to Creation”
Songwriting is apparently a highly individual process. Some composers sort of translate their emotions and mental states into tunes, riffs and lines, and can tell me later exactly what they felt or which emotion they relate with a particular part. Others channel their emotions but have no connection between them and the result. Then again others sort of accidentally compose, meaning riffs or tunes simply pop into their minds, or perhaps ‘hands’ while playing their instrument. I chat with Azul Corax (guitars) about his song writing. He sees himself as the annoying guy who complains about everything in the band. “Could you give me an idea how all that works with you?”
He replies: “Well, there are both kind of approaches on the record.
When I started composing those songs, one of them (“From Chaos to Creation”) started when I was seriously pissed off at something and riffs just started to came out of thin air.
Another one (“Radiant Darkness”) started when I was listening some music (Finnish band Mokoma) and I got seriously inspired and music just started to flow through my fingers.
One song (“Inferno”) got started in a kind of similar way, I was s(h)itting in the toilet and my girlfriend played some music, probably Katatonia, I don’t remember for sure, and through the lavatory door I could barely hear the music. But I heard it in a strange kind of way, and I started to have some riff in my mind and as soon as I got out of the loo, I grabbed a guitar and started to catch that riff. Later on, I had to ask my girlfriend, what song was that and strangely enough, it didn’t sound anything like that riff I made. That was some multifunctioning door, too bad I don’t live in that apartment anymore.
Then again some songs like “The Great Chasm of Humanity” and “Screaming for Vengeance” were built from some riffs I had stumbled on in the past.
Of course those songs on the record were not composed on one occasion to the final form. Some tweaking, sometimes more, sometimes less to the riffs and arrangements were added afterwards. Although the main concept and the feeling of the song, or whatever it may be, didn’t change during those adjustments.”
Not quite. Apostate, who also considers himself to have a habit of complaining, has a complementary or perhaps pragmatic approach to writing music. This gives us an idea of how different song writing styles work, even within the same band: ”My approach to writing music and arranging it is pretty messy. As the material for this record has been written and worked on over the years, many details and arrangements have changed and the songs evolved during the process.
For me, leads are much more influenced by emotions and different states of mind, some themes I constantly seem to revisit are longing, sorrow and a degree of uncertainty.
I listen to the sections where the lead will be and visualize a couple of ideas on it and after those ideas are ready, I will grab the instrument and compose it until I feel it’s done.
With riffs, I usually start by thinking what the song needs, making some demo arrangements and selecting the ones I think are the most suiting, after which they are usually vetted through with the band.
I’d say most of the writing for the riffs is very collaborative and back-and-forth until we reach a consensus about the broad strokes.”
Things are Biased and Bordering on Personal Experiences” (Apostate)
The lyrics, written by their vocalist Nightderanger and their guitarist Apostate, turned out to be very inspiring to me. To get a bit more into it, I ask: “In what way do your songs reflect your view on life and our current situation? Current meaning perhaps the last five years.”
Apostate replies: “For me it’s not so much about what’s going on with everyday life or my perspective on it. Of course things are biased and bordering on personal experiences, but my viewpoint is that I try to serve the music and the concepts the song is based on, instead of spouting some innately profound wisdom. These are subjective matters as well, so I can only speak of my approach and people are free to interpret them as they see fit.” This underlines his pragmatic approach to serve the needs of their music.
Nearly accidentally I ask Nightderanger if there is a main theme or repeating topic in Abstrakt’s lyrics. He texts me: “Our first album Obsidian is easier to explain. It is more or less personal story about growing up.”
“Little More Mysticism”
As we move on to the new album he explains: “Well that’s not an easy question. The song names might tell something. “Out of Darkness”, “Creation”, “Little More Mysticism”, and then “Uncreation”. – The history and future of the universe in less than an hour, from a mystic point of view. From creation, to depths of hell, rise again and end it all.” That’s where astronomy, philosophy and religion meet. He adds: ”But about Uncreation that is a much harder question. I would say most of the lyrics of Uncreation are expressions of how I view world. I’ve studied mathematics and read about quantum theory and I guess those influences can be read from the lyrics.”
“Well. To me, ‘uncreation’ is a contradiction in itself”, I text back. The term triggers a lot of thinking: “Perhaps it is a concept that exceeds my understanding of the world. How can uncreation work at all? If it was destruction, we’d call it destruction. And like ‘undoing’, we cannot undo what has happened. We might if we could turn back time or travel back in time. Even if we did, we still could not uncreate what is there. If uncreation is different from reversing or destruction, it must include some sort of creation and thus rule out itself in a way.”
It All Begun From Perfect Chaos” (Nightderanger)
“It all begun from perfect chaos and this anomaly what we call universe will one day end, the uncreation happens” Nightderanger begins to explain the astrophysical perspective in his lyrics. “Etherstorms is more about the human race achieving real consciousness, when man was able to create (anything) because of the urge to create. Not only to avoid starving and death. Thales, the first philosopher, was in my mind when I started to write those lyrics. Apostate made part of the lyrics of that song when I was without energy or inspiration to finish them. One theme in my lyrics have always been contradictory expressions. “Kill for life” in “Radiant Darkness” for example. Every single contradiction can be explained (at least in my view of the world). Must think outside the box.”
My mind is still busy and not entirely happy with the replies. “… and still by now it cannot uncreate to get back the original state. I understand the concept from a physicist’s point of view. The philosopher still might add that beyond space and time there is a memory (difficult to find a term expressing what I mean) or a record of what was. So after time and space there is the nothing that resulted from everything.”
Observing From Outside Reality
Insomniac: “Well that depends on an observer who can ‘remember’ if we can have something that can observe from outside of reality and then we have to start to understand what reality is … and that is still going on by now in science. We might also have something like multi universe and that could give possibility of outside observer who can remember but then again now we are kind of asking if tree falls in the woods and there is nobody to hear it will it then make a sound? Well sound is pressure of air and ear can detect that and its actually our brain which tells us that this is sound when they got information of that so it’s kind of illusion where our brain makes something to another so we need brain and ear to get sound out of tree. With this in mind I could ask, if we have multi universe but others can’t have information from ours and it disappears did we ever exist? From perspective of outside of our universe observer I say no, we can’t have memory if we don’t have anybody who can remember or pick up evidence that there was something but that is just my point of view of it. With uncreation, we could also make multi-universe to nothing and now we don’t have outside-observer problem for uncreation and we could even do that same thing to ‘creator’ if we assume there is one so I don’t see problem for uncreation to ‘exist’ as concept.”
Nightderanger adds: “Before the big bang, there was nothing. If time and space ceases to exist and absolutely no trace of this universe exists, it is completely uncreated.”
Back On Earth
Still I am pondering. Does a smile not exist because no has one noticed it? Is an emotion only there when it moves our muscles to at least micro expressions? Is a dream we can’t remember something that has uncreated itself?
Apparently the lyrics, make all the difference. They cast a metaphysical, scientific, philosophic or post-religious view on the world. This approach and the mind-set bearing these ideas display the actual innovation to me. And these most inspiring lyrics are presented in a most worthy, fitting musical setting.
Nightderanger – lyricist, main demon, vocalist.
Apostate – guitars and backing vocals – composer, lyricist. Complaining but pushing to identify the common grounds.
Azul Corax – guitarist, composer, orchestration. And that annoying guy who complains about everything.