The Ability To Judge And To Reflect
The Belgian trinity CULT OF ERINYES is setting a fast pace. Founded as an ambient project by Corvus (guitar, bass, keys, samples and compositions) in December 2009, a considerable change in musical direction towards ritualistic black metal soon takes place.
The early days of the Cult are still obvious on the "Golgotha" EP as Corvus amends the story so far. "The ambient track 'Anima' on this EP is the very first song ever made for the Cult. CULT OF ERINYES fastly became more radical in its sound by the addition of Baal on drums and Mastema as the vocalist. We recorded our first EP "Golgotha" between July and September 2010 and started the full length process in November of the same year. We didn't lose time, and maybe people will see this as an arrogant attitude, but we followed our instinct and not the stupid rules of the scene which said that you have to record awful demos the first years of your existence as a band to finally record something relevant." Those who are au fait with Greek mythology will find some good acquaintances in the Erinyes. Sometimes you encounter them as 'the angry ones', sometimes they're depicted as chthonic deities of vengeance or the daughters of Nyx. Trying to get to the bottom of the motivation for their choice of name, and if CULT OF ERINYES are a male trinity worshipping a female trinity, Corvus explicates that it was their goal to "use a strong symbol of the forbidden or the underworld, and that's precisely what the Erinyes are. The fact that the Erinyes are a female trinity is interesting. When you analyse the religions and history, everything is done to discriminate women. Women are the symbols of the forbidden since the VERY beginning because they symbolize desire. The instinct is never far from the desire and that's what religions and modern society are trying to eliminate. CULT OF ERINYES is a trinity worshipping this instinct and the discovering of new 'territories', and the music we write is the symptom of that eternal quest."
In the band info issued by LADLO Productions one can read about 'an action which consists of a post modern approach to the cult of the Erinyes'. Questioning how CULT OF ERINYES would describe such an approach to an ancient cult and what it contains Corvus appears just as considerate and well structured as in the whole course of the interview. "The modern society is based on money, individualism (in the wrong sense of the term), hypocrisy and cowardice. The Erinyes, as the deities of vengeance, directly punished the one responsible of a sin. Religions usually see the judgement as an element that comes in the afterlife, and that's why those dogmas are born to fail and enslave mankind: you cannot base your life on a supposition. CULT OF ERINYES praises the facts and are for those who believe that assuming their essence and facing their consequences is the only way to find out who you really are. Nowadays, various societies prefer to occult each individual's essence so the world can 'turn'. But that's just an illusion for ignorants. Philosophers, scientists, musicians and various artists in other disciplines gave a new face to mankind because they followed their instinct despite criticism or threats. CULT OF ERINYES aims at those who praise the forbidden, the occult and have the guts to look at themselves in the mirror without being afraid of what people will think of them."
Greek philosophers and magicians saw the spirit/logical thinking superiour to matter as the existence of the spirit does not need any proof in substance. So it certainly is interesting to find out how much CULT OF ERINYES are influenced by such themes from spiritual to occult and which ritualistic and magic principles or branches they would see as their main influences. As to the case if there is also room in the lyrics for influences from 'every day life' and what is going on in the world of today vocalist and lyricist Mastema rises to speak. "I am not influenced by any religious, magical, esoteric or assimilable principles. It basically does not interest me. Several themes can be found in the lyrics but there are a few recurrent ones. History of mankind is, in my opinion, the richest source of knowledge, and its study the noblest of arts. All the keys are there. It demands lots of distance and reflexion as history cannot be seen with today's eyes, canot be judged with today's so-called 'principles'. It requires time and judgment. The past is never set, never determined, it is ever-changing, and it is supposed to be that way. Everything which is determined is essentially dangerous and wrong. Of course, reflecting upon these things leaves a lot of room for the 'every day life' as past and present are connected. The despicable world of today cannot be understood without putting it into perspective. Aside from that I try to write about other subjects as well: cultural, religious or simply human phenomena, critical judgment, etc. Sometimes, I just want to write a story with a strange feeling to it, as is the case with 'Ísland'. But this one too has a historical root, now that I think of it..." And Corvus adds that "the only way to have access to your deepest essence is to follow your own path with devotion, passion and discipline. That is the reason why all members of the band have a different way to consider life. As far as I am concerned, I consider existence as an experiment that has to be intensely lived, without any influence of spiritual dogmas. Writers such as Nietzsche, Celine or more recently Jeremy Christner opened some windows in my mind and maybe it can be heard in the music."
Staying with the ancient Greek and their view that substance is rather insignificant it may be considered as provoking to some to subjoin the question how significant or 'touching' occurrences like what is happening in Japan right now can be. Mastema takes substance for anything but insignificant. "It is very significant, as it is - once again - the manifestation of one of the greatest forces we know, and which we are completely unable to master. Or even to fully explain. This sort of natural phenomena can be scientifically broken down into very concrete, understandable facts. But so what? Behind these facts, there still lies an incredible energy we did not create and we canont control. Facts and figures did not prevent thousands of deaths, nor will they next time. What happened in Japan is yet another evidence of human insignifance. And of the failure of our concrete, materialistic way of living/thinking. Believe me, the Japanese people, while of course mourning their dead, understand this way better than we do." A symbol often used in the artworks of CULT OF ERINYES is the triangle, and one is tempted to build yet another bridge to the ancient Greeks, namely Platon's trinity of the godly inseparable, the earthly separable and the third element connecting and being a part of both (although Platon's trinity is depicted in a more spherical shape). This principle also later influenced astrologists as well as alchemists. But Mastema can confirm a deeper meaning or a connection to such ideas only to a limited extent. "It is strange; a few years ago, you would have probably been right and there would indeed be some intricate meaning to all of our choices, whether it be logos, song titles, image, etc. Now, with CULT OF ERINYES, we chose to do things spontaneously. Our music is like a physical reaction, a sudden burst. It is raw and violent. We privilege emotion to thought, except for the lyrics which I still like to spend lots of time on. So, to get back to your question: the triangle symbol only stands for the trinity. The trinity of this band, the trinity of its name. It is a strong symbol to us, and it does not need to be backed by any 'profound' meaning."
picture provided by Corvus
This symbol of the triangle can also be found on the cover artwork of the "Golgotha" EP which received quite good responses from the media. Following the original tape release "Golgotha" is now also available on CD, released by the Russian Dunkelkunst. Combined with his own evaluation of "Golgotha" Corvus has good news for whoever is reluctant to order this CD directly in Russia. "Even if "Golgotha" sounds 'ok' to me, I must say I am positively surprised to notice such enthusiasm from labels, black metal addicts and reviewers about this EP. "Golgotha" is not perfect but it comes from our guts, and maybe that is the reason whey listeners enjoy it. I strongly encourage people to check the Caverna Abismal and the Dunkelkunst websites, both labels have excellent releases (Veer for Caverna and Zifir for Dunkelkunst). You can also order the EP directly from the band (cultoferinyes(at)gmail.com for more info)." And while this EP is still fresh the Belgians already come up with their first, quite strong and intense album "A Place To Call My Unknown". "Strong and intense are the words and I hope that is the way people feel when they listen to the album", confirms Corvus. Still, thinking of this release is not really exciting to him "because we do not look back at the past, and we already think about what the Cult will do tomorrow; that is the better way to evolve as a musican." Meanwhile Mastema does see this release as exciting, "especially in view of the whole process this band follows, from the first day until the release of "A Place To Call My Unknown", happened very fast and, as I said, spontaneously. Corvus followed his instinct and wrote the songs quickly. We booked the studio quite early on, as we wanted to force ourselves not to spend too much time analyzing every detail, we kept the energy. We wanted something natural and organic. Though I cannot ever be fully satisfied with an album, at least I am happy we achieved that specific goal. I think this record also gave us some insight on what our future music will/should be made of."
For the recording and mastering of the album CULT OF ERINYES once again chose Phorgath at Blackout Multimedia Studios as can at least be read on the information sheet. But this is not really correct as Corvus explains. "As for "Golgotha", I recorded the guitars, bass and ambient parts in my home studio. But Yvan Galasse, who was the sound engineer for "Golgotha", did a great job and really created an atmosphere during the mixing process. "A Place To Call My Unknown" was fully recorded, mixed and mastered at Blackout Studios with the help of Phorgath. The sound is clearly better, especially the guitars. We were looking for somebody with the profile of a musician and not the profile of a geek behind his mixing table. Phorgath is a great and passionate spirit with a strong vision. We all live near the studio and already knew Phorgath and his abilities, so it was a good decision and I can only recommend the Blackout to those who are looking for a personal sound!" And Mastema is just as enthusiastic when it comes to the cooperation with Phorgath as "he obviously understands this sort of music perfectly and knew what we wanted to express with this record. It is easy to work with him, and his advice during the recording sure helped this album becoming what it is. Technically, the main difference between the EP and the album is the sound which obviously improved. Creatively, I think there is definitely a common thread, there is no revolution between both records. We simply evolved and tried to bring our music to the next level. I do not believe in all the 'philosophical' bullshit about 'reaching another level of consciousness on our next album', etc. That is pretentious horseshit. We have a clear vision, and we simply try to top ourselves on each release, and that is it. It should not be anything more than that."
The result is anything but a snapshot. "A Place To Call My Unknown" does not even sound like a debut album of a band which had been existing for just a goodish year. Corvus reveals in which other bands 'groundwork' had been achieved. "We all play(ed?) in the band Psalm so we did not lose time to discover our personalities. Mastema and I have known each other since 1996, and I can tell you that, on second thought, it was obvious that we would both end to play extreme music. Mastema was a strange kid back in the days. He seemed totally indifferent to other people opinions, and that is the sign of early maturity. We grew up listening to the same stuff (Metallica, Savatage, and then more extreme stuff). I learned bass and guitar by listening to albums so I have no theoretical notions. Baal, on the other hand, comes from the jazz world and is a brilliant musician. He travelled the world playing percussions and developed skills that you will not hear in the metal scene which is an asset for the Cult." On the part of the label bands like Hate Forest, Blood Of Kingu, Necros Christos, Craft, Glorior Belli, Watain, Shining or Behexen are given as musical influences. But for Corvus inspiration does not necessarily have to come from music. "As far as I am concerned, I am a big fan of art with a strong identity. It can be a book, a movie, a painting, or even TV shows like Carnivale, Twin Peaks or The Shield. I need to feel strong, authentic emotion. Of course, the bands you name influenced the way I see music. On the other hand, I am totally addicted to Devin Townsend or the Allman Brothers Band. These artists influenced me deeply, and even if it is not obvious when you listen to CULT OF ERINYES, I would never have learned bass and guitar without discovering those great artists." Mastema appreciates the unwillingness to compromise as well as the strong personality of bands like the aforementioned but does not see CULT OF ERINYES narrowed down to this genre. "Thus, of course, we reach out way beyond black metal. Musically, we definitely are not dogmatic or exclusive, good music is good music, whatever the genre. I think we have a healthy 'relationship' with our influences. They find their way into our music but I strongly believe this band has its own identity and sound."
CULT OF ERINYES are indeed able to present an own identity with "A Place To Call My Unknown" already. But what is this place? Is what they call the unknown the place to which they withdraw to experience and explore? Mastema willingly provides information on this as well as on the reference of the album title to the cover artwork. "The 'unknown' refers to critical judgment, once again. It has nothing to do with fantasy, mythology or any belief whatsoever. Refusing to believe everything you hear and read, challenging immutable truths, cultivating one's identity... All of that has become some form of transgression today, almost an anomaly. I believe it takes courage to do so because it turns you into a pariah, it drives you away to a place where you have to make up your own rules and figure out what is right and what is not. You are pushed into the 'unknown' and it can make you feel very lonely. You cannot represent these things visually, of course. I travelled to Iceland last year and the landscapes have really triggered something in me. I felt this before, in other places, but for some reason, I think this country and its landscapes visually reflect the 'spirit' of this record, so I suggested we use some of my pictures in the artwork. Nature has its own rules, it follows its own path. In Iceland this is probably more obvious than anywhere else. And this band has the same goal."
picture provided by Corvus
Inserting "A Place To Call My Unknown" into the player and listening a bit closer one stumbles upon a sample in 'Insignificant' which says 'ewiger Sohn Gottes'. Although the editor of this article knows the movie this sample is extracted from she has to ask foolishly about the origin, adding the question why CULT OF ERINYES use a German sample and what the message of the Belgians could be. That Christianity and the eternal son of God are insignificant? "The sample is taken from "Aguirre: The Wrath of God", Mastema clarifies. "Unlike what you think, this song and the reason why we chose this sample are not about Christianity or religion. The song is about how perverse mechanisms in today's society make you believe you actually mean something. Some may think they are God, some may think they are simply 'someone', it does not matter. In any case, it is merely cruelly deceptive. Some people have many 'friends', they still cry for help for years before dying in total indifference. This is, of course, an 'extreme' example but you get what I mean..." While we are talking about lyrics, anyway, we ask Mastema to go on and share with us what the ´Velvet Oppression´ stands for. "The Roman 'panem et circenses' has not gone out of fashion but the 'system' has been perfected. It has been made invisible by blending it into an illusion of complete freedom. It is the modern paradox: lack of thought and judgment hidden behind the freedom of thought! 'Freedom' today has become a tyranny. There is no real questioning anymore, rebellion has become a fashion backed by either ignorance or simply nothing. Everything tends to uniformity, no real contradictions are tolerated. This is not achieved through prohibition or repression, on the contrary. It is achieved through complete freedom which generates incredible amounts of information, of exchanges, of sounds, of images. Sounds and images are today's version of 'panem et circenses'. Never in the history of mankind have there been so many sounds and images. From everything, from everywhere. And never have they meant so little. Everyone is drowned in a sea of information. It annihilates all sense of judgment, no one is truly challenged anymore. 'How can you think in the middle of a room filled with people who are shouting?' That ist the metaphor I used in this song."
But one is not entirely off base seeing 'Thou Art Not' as some kind of bridge leading to the final track 'Last Light Fading' which - for whatever reasons - is named 'Extinction' in the advance download."There is a part in 'Last Light Fading' that refers to 'Thou Art Not'," Corvus agrees to a certain extent. "Both songs were composed the same day and can be seen as Siamese twins. 'Last Light Fading' was first called 'Extinction' but considering the next album will be based on the absence of light, we thought it would be more relevant to adapt the title of the song." So let's hope that the follower will feature just as varied song structures and vocal arrangements which transport warm as well as cold aspects, occasionally giving the music the impression of an emotional roller coaster. But it is foreign to Corvus' nature to willfully trigger such emotions with the listener, when hearing CULT OF ERINYES. "I personally write music for myself. If you start to think about the way you want your music to be perceived, isn't it more relevant to write pop music? The songs are written naturally, without any pressure. I only hope people will feel our souls in the music and all the black energy we put in the recording process." Mastema also does not intend to trigger something in the listener on purpose but "I like the idea of an emotional roller coaster. What we do is and will always be essentially black metal, thus the approach will always be raw, dark and aggressive. This is not because we want to follow any 'codes' but because we like it that way. But we do not believe that means we can bring our message and this overall feeling through one single channel: brutality. We follow our instinct, and our instinct follows our emotions which, of course, are changing constantly. That is why you have songs like 'Black Eyelids' on the record, and I hope there will be more of those in the future. I do not want our music to be narrowed down to a single emotion. We know what our goal is but we never know which path will lead us to it. And that is perfect: creation should always keep a part of mystery, of unknown to it. To answer more directly to your question: we never reflect upon such things. We try to put the right feelings into our music but it is an unconscious process, we let the music do the talking. Thus we do not want to 'direct' the listener either, we want him to follow his instinct, too, and feel whatever he wants to feel."
The bottom line, what is more of a vessel, the lyrics or the music, does not take Corvus long to make up his mind. "The music is clearly the vessel but the lyrics bring another level of reading that you cannot find in the music only. Lyrics, music and visual identity are strongly connected. I wrote an ambient track ('Once Never Was') starting from lyrics written by Gregory James Wyrick and his collective "The Method Learned", and I really enjoyed working in that way. So maybe we will swap parts for the next album." With this connection of music, lyrics and visuals the interested listener can assume that a live performance of CULT OF ERINYES is more than merely playing their songs. So far only one live show is announced but even at the time of this interview and much to Corvus' regret "the Open Your Mind Fest is cancelled so our first live performance is postponed. Concerning our future live performances, we are working on some audiovisual projections in collaboration with Dolmanseh from TLC Civilizations. Dolmanseh worked on some videos for Hangman's Chair from France and did some twisted stuff for other artists. He was present during the recording session of "Golgotha" and "A Place To Call My Unknown" and can be seen as the invisible member of the band. About the shows, we are not running after the bookers; we prefer to work with people who really believe in the band than with people who see music as a business. CULT OF ERINYES is too special to me to ruin it by playing every time, everywhere, even in front of audiences who do not care."
Likewise sober-minded Corvus approaches cooperations with labels, and in the end it is Les Acteurs de L'ombre Productions who meet his expectations and sign CULT OF ERINYES for the release of "A Place To Call My Unknown", not least because Corvus sees an equally distinctive passion for music in them. "The contact was established through myspace in July 2010. I posted a preproduction of the track 'The Glowing Embers', and Gérald from les Acteurs de L'ombre Productions seemed to like it and that's how we started to communicate, almost every week, and now every day. Gérald put a lot of devotion and energy in the promotion. Undoubtedly, the collaboration was a good idea. We only need a label that does what it says it will, no more, no less, but Les Acteurs de L'ombre do even more!" But also the other labels who have a CULT OF ERINYES release in their rosters seem to be well chosen. "I must say that Nuno from Caverna Abismal Records, who released "Golgotha" on tape, did a good job and seems to be a pure guy. Dunkelkunst, who released the digipack version of "Golgotha", did something fantastic for the EP. Check their websites for more information." And while you are reading this Corvus has already started the preproduction of the next album. Despite the incredibly fast pace with which CULT OF ERINYES have been proceeding to this day, some time will pass until we can anticipate the successor. "We will probably hit the studio in the second part of 2012. But maybe we will release a 7" with exclusive tracks before, we will see. We will probably do some shows, too. The next album will be way more intense, that is for sure; we want to create an album where no light will be tolerated."
What a closing! Is there anything to add, Corvus? "Thank you a lot for the interesting questions and the time you spent for the Cult, and thanks to anybody who supports bands and entities with a strong vision and who play with their guts. Future will tell if the Cult is one of them."
For further information check out CULT OF ERINYES myspace or facebook.