Azaghal – Revelations In Black

Since 1999, Azaghal has breathed the darkened breath of originality into the world of underground Black Metal, infusing hooks, harmony, thrash, musicianship and anthemic Metal into their particular Finnish cup of blast-beaten hatred. Despite sonic choices that stand them apart, Azaghal remains as ‘kvlt’ as any, with no dilution of attack or message to be found on any track in their discography. WG tracked down bassist/vocalist Niflungr looking for insight into the recent past, present, and potential future of Azaghal’s ongoing quest for aural nuclear proliferation. Read, then merrily weep tears of blood. -Jim

Greetings, Niflungr! And thank you for agreeing to do the interview. You joined Azaghal in 2008 as bassist, and did some vocal work even then, but for this year’s Nemesis album you fully took over lead vocals in Varjoherra’s stead. What stylistic differences exist between yours and Varjoherra’s delivery? Do you share differences in philosophy as well?

Hello Jim. For this album I didn´t use my full capacity of my vocal range that I could have done, partially because of lack of time. The Nemesis recordings were very quick, what comes to guitars, bass and vocals. The vocals itself were recorded during 2 days, couple of hours per day only. Basically I tried to focus on delivering something similar to Varjoherra´s mid-range growl but everyone can hear the difference for sure. Differences in philosophy? Well, we haven´t discussed about this issue that much, but I´m quite sure that I hate humanity in general more than he does, haha!

With Nemesis, Azaghal added another well-crafted, powerful album to the band’s lengthy and admirable canon. With your expanded role, what do you feel is your most significant contribution to Azaghal at this moment in time? If you could influence Azaghal’s direction in other ways, what would those be?

It is quite hard to highlight anything particular from my contribution to Azaghal really. Every riff and line of a lyric that I have managed to create for the band serve a higher purpose, which I´m equally proud of. I do not see any reason to change the “direction” or “state” that we currently are or we are going to (be). We are constantly developing mildly and adding new elements to our music but still staying true to our roots, that is Black Metal. This keeps me satisfied.

Azaghal can be commended for quality and consistency, remaining true to their core sounds while never fearing experimentation. To what do you attribute the strength of Azaghal’s back catalogue of albums written and recorded before you became a part of the band? What about Azaghal’s legacy, specifically, interested you in joining them?

The first time I heard Azaghal was around 1998 or 1999 while one of my friends obtained their demo from some local distro. I was blown away by their inhuman sound and blasphemic lyrical concept. At this time not that many Black Metal bands in Finland actually sang in Finnish language, so this was also one of the things that caught my attention. Later on they added some new elements to their music, but still playing furious Black Metal and not compromising their message. This has been the deal throughout the band´s history. It was not just the music that made me want to join the band, after being asked. I knew the guys for years before joining and our personal chemistry matched well.

This quality and consistency is even more impressive when you look at the list of bands the members of Azaghal are also involved in. How does this band’s music remain pure when everyone has so many other musical pursuits outside of Azaghal? It seems like it would be easy for other musical influences or characteristics from other bands to seep in subconsciously/infect the legacy that has long been established by Narqath.

Narqath knows exactly how he wants Azaghal to sound. There is no single riff or line that wouldn´t go through his “filter”. This is the main reason behind Azaghal´s sound in the past, now and in the future. He is the main creative force behind the band even though the other members create material as well.

With the glut of black metal now available worldwide, fans often encounter difficulty discovering above-average talent worthy of more than a passing listen. What current, possibly under-the-radar black metal bands give you hope for BM’s continued longevity, and that you would recommend to the overwhelmed listener?

There are few bands that I´ve seen worthy of my attention. With some I´ve also participated as session musician or producer. For example Anguished, who are currently signed with Hammer of Hate. Then I could recommend Moonkult, who are quite fresh and interesting Black Metal hand from my current home town, Hyvinkää. They are yet unsigned but currently finished recording their debut album and deserve major attention. I don´t know how known they are but Anal Blasphemy is something to check out for enjoying excellent perverse bestial Black Metal.

These are all Finnish bands but from abroad I would recommend Hexenfaust, Morbid Pest and Funera Edo and Noctifer (Ita).

How does a band like Azaghal separate themselves from the deluge of mediocrity lesser bands find themselves in? Are there any particular aspects of modern black metal bands you feel contribute to the stagnation of the genre’s growth and/or you’re simply tired of hearing/seeing?

Our main concern isn´t really what others are doing in the genre. However, what I´ve seen and heard, we are slowly getting rid of that Darkthrone clone invasion that was “the thing” in the late 90´s or so. People are getting their own ideas and ways to approach and not always copying their idols.

Taking the role of frontman in a live situation carries with it new challenges, like maintaining the ritualistic connection between band members and the audience, and keeping fellow members focused for a show’s duration. What new challenges do you enjoy and why, and which would you rather do without?

Being a frontman/singer of the band is nothing new to me really. I´ve been one in every single band I’ve participated in since the mid 90´s. Perhaps I have trouble staying on background somehow, haha! This is what I am, this is what I do.

A considerable amount of boundary-pushing appears to be a mark of Finnish black metal, as opposed to resting comfortably within the genre’s typical framings. Is this artistic tendency a consciously chosen one amongst your fellow Finn metal musicians, or is it something intrinsic, occurring naturally?

Actually, I´ve never paid attention to (that) fact that much, but now when I´m thinking about the Finnish genre these days, it seems that the Finnish bands have found their own sound finally. I guess things have changed a lot since the 90´s when a majority of the Finnish Black Metal bands were trying to re-create what Norwegians did few years earlier. I don´t know if this has something to do with nationality or if there is something else that inspires bands here to deliver their expression (in) such way.

I’m always taken aback by the successful infusion of melody within Azaghal’s works, and the band’s melding of the brutal alongside it. I’ve especially enjoyed ‘Vihasta ja Veritoista’ on Nemesis, a prime example of this merging of beauty and darkness. When composing material, how does Azaghal pair these polar opposites together?

It is hard to specify how these things come together in the creation process. Some things just happen unplanned and naturally. Just going with the flow of inspiration.

Well done, cleanly-sung vocals appear on Nemesis, adding color to Azaghal’s already formidable canvas of sound, contrasting well with the intended harshness of the album. How does the choice to employ this technique (as was done on the excellent ‘Ex Nihilo’ and title track, etc) come about?

The clean vocals were performed by Narqath and JL Nokturnal on this album. Ex Nihilo was originally composed for my solo project Niflhel as “Towards the Omega”. After I played it to Narqath, he was sure that it should be part of the Nemesis album. On the original version of the song all the vocals are performed by me but during Nemesis recordings I refused to do clean vocals at all. There are better clean vocalists in the band than me so why not let them to do it? But the reason why I decided to use clean vocals for this song originally was to bring a more atmospheric feeling to the song. I think it was the right choice.

Can you give us any insight on the next album, in terms of sounds and tentative release date? I assume you’ll retain the role of lead vocalist again …? Also, any plans for a U.S. tour?

We are not that far in the creation process yet that we could give any release dates, but probably sometime in 2013. The album will be most likely be sung mainly in Finnish this time. I wrote a bunch of lyrics that are somewhat inspired by the book of Revelations, so there would be a chance of a concept album, but we will see. I will do the lead vocals on this one, as far as I´m concerned. No plans for U.S. tour so far, as no-one has contacted us about the issue. If someone is reading this and has the resources to make one happen, feel free to send us some email. Our next tour will happen in South America in March 2013.

Speaking of the U.S., since 2008’s Omega Azaghal has been working with the U.S. label Moribund Records. What are your thoughts on the relationship? Are there any notable pros/cons to working with a label ‘across the pond’, so to speak?

The relationship worked absolutely fine at the beginning, as Omega was well promoted and so on, but something happened and we never received a response to our emails after we sent them the Nemesis master tape. Also we never received any copies of Nemesis either. So you can probably guess our feelings about the issue. Next album will come out through Finnish label Hammer of Hate, as we know their management personally and we can be sure that there will be no such issues with them.

Azaghal describes themselves as being ‘Black Terror Metal’. In this context, what does ‘terror’ mean to you? In what way do you feel this description separates the band from others in the style?

We like to add some King Diamond vibes to our lyrics as well and I think that this is the origin of “terror/horror” concept. Not every band does it the way as we do, so perhaps it gives us some characteristics.

One of the tenets of traditional black metal is an anti-Christian stance, a topic well explored within Azaghal’s lyrics and albums. Does this standpoint manifest itself for you outside of the confines of the band experience in any way, or offstage/in ‘normal’ life does it remain an inward spiritual warfare?

Personally I stand behind 100% of the lyrics I write. In “normal” life I also am openly anti-christian. My stage presence is not that different from what I normally am. It is just an expression of my beliefs and thoughts the more extreme way. My work continues also offstage, so to speak.

Are there any works of literature/authors that you refer to that help cement your resolve in the Left Hand Path?

My life philosophy cannot be found from books written by others than myself. Though I do have views closely related to Left Hand Path and Deistic Satanism, some of them differ. I suggest everyone find their own path and try to find the enlightenment that way. Otherwise you are not better than the ones who follow the Abrahamic beliefs.

Thank you for taking the time to answer our questions, Niflungr; we at Worm Gear are looking forward to Azaghal’s future. You have final word below for anything you’d like to add, announce, or plug!

Thanks for the interview. Never forget your roots!

~ by cliftonium on November 27, 2012.

4 Responses to “Azaghal – Revelations In Black”

  1. Great interview, thanks!

  2. Thanks for checking it out, man! -Jim

  3. Excellent. Now I have to go back and listen to their latest… 🙂

  4. […] Azaghal – Nemesis Prolific orthodox Black Metal bands can be an iffy prospect, often an exercise in quantity over […]

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