I had a bad feeling that I won’t get this interview answered, as it took a lot of time to Bart to get it done… but there were many reasons for this delay, as he told me, which don’t really matter anymore, as finally I can introduce this chat on these web pages. And in case you don’t know that yet, “Blasphemer’s Malediction” is a killer album and you just must get it, otherwise you’re a pussy. Aha, there’s also a Polish version of this interview on www.nbc.art.pl
Hail Bart! It’s fuckin great to finally have a chance to ask you some questions, mainly about Azarath’s new assassin, titled “Blasphemer’s Malediction”, but not only! But tell me first, are you all still happy with this record, with the way it turned out to be, the reactions for it and obviously also with the promotion? I am sure that you all have listened to this album many times, so can you sincerely say that this is your best record so far?
Of course we are all happy with this album, in musical terms this is honestly our best record so far. It’s the first album with our new vocalist, who together with killer vocals did also some amazing guitar leads. The whole stuff was fully thought through, carefully composed and arranged and recorded without any pressures from limited studio time. The promotion is also the best so far. Except the tour here in Poland (which took place in September 2011) we have played out first European tour, which was the Hatefest in December 2011. Everything went damn well and we are totally happy. But we want to play even more!
I have a feeling like “Blasphemer’s Malediction” was going against all the tides, which happen in the present death metal. Most of the bands nowadays try to play either extremely technical, modern stuff or they do the exactly opposite stuff and choose the archaic, old school style similar to Autopsy, Incantation or Entombed. Meanwhile “Blasphemer’s Malediction” fucks in its own way and seems to be one of the most blasphemous albums ever since “Legion”! I have a feeling like Vital Remains should feel really embarrassed and threatened!
I think we’ve never been really interested in the trends or waves, which happen in death or black metal. All the time we simply play our own stuff, without worrying about whether we’ll sound modern or too archaic. The most important is the message; a great effort is always putted on the compositions, as we spend really a lot of time arranging the new material. We never let the riff be on the album, if we’re not 100% happy with it. And we also never limit ourselves; we never think things like “is this riff not enough death metal”, etc. We record, what we feel in the time.
What do you actually think of the current wave of old school death metal and bands like Morbus Chron, Graveyard, Entrails, Disma, Father Befouled, etc? Since you’re a musician and a metalhead for many years now, I think your opinion may be interesting. Personally I am into this music for 20 years now, but I feel a lot of enthusiasm and almost feel younger (hehe), when I hear those bands hehe!
From the bands you’ve mentioned I definitely like Entrails, as they remind me the golden era of Swedish death metal scene from the early 90’s. I also really like Disma and their “Towards the Megalith” CD and Father Befouled. Both those American bands play something similar to Incantation, so it is something what fits my musical taste. I must admit though that I’ve never heard Morbus Chron and Graveyard. Or maybe you meant the Graveyard from Sweden, which plays something similar to Devil’s Blood and Witchcraft? Then I can say that I listen to such stuff once in a while, but I rather prefer bands like Devil’s Blood and Ghost.
Nein! I meant the Spanish Graveyard and I can sincerely recommend them to you. If you like Entrails, you’ll also like “One With the Dead”!!!
I don’t know how many times you already had to answer the question about the layout for “Blasphemer’s Malediction”, but I’ll ask about it also. I mean I really like the artwork for the new album, the whole digipack looks very impressive, but it is so far from the artwork, which you used to have on the previous albums (where everything was black and white and more minimalist, I think). Where did this change come from? Was it an idea of your label, or Zbigniew Bielak’s (I love what he did for Watain!) or yours? And did you change the style of the artwork for your albums, because finally there was an opportunity to do that, or maybe because “Blasphemer’s Malediction” – with the new label and vocalist – opens the new chapter in the Azarath’s history?
New record label, change of half of the line up, some sort of new start for Azarath… yeah, we wanted to show that also in our artwork. The whole idea for such layout came from Zbyszek (Inferno). Later he discussed it with Bartek Krysiuk and Zbyszek Bielak. But Bielak had a free will, when creating the new cover for us. He got the lyrics, some pieces of music from the studio and this is how he created his new art. And we wanted to make sure that the rest of the layout fits – also the colours – the front cover. I think that the whole layout is still quite ascetic, only not black and white anymore. The bands photos are also colourful for the first time, as we wanted to underline the colouring of the stained glass and the cross on it, which someone did for us and which had to be in specific light for the photos. We also used it on our Polish tour, as an element of out scenography!
Ha, I can already see how you’ll get accused for profanation and performing the black mass on the stage hehe.
To add Necrosodom into Azarath’s legion was “bull’s eye” shot, in my opinion! He did an amazing job, I really liked his vocals and the lyrics are just extremely hateful and blasphemous, while not being so infantile and trivial like in many other bands. When and how did Necrosodom join Azarath? Did you think about some other candidates also? And what happen to Bruno? All in all I have a feeling like the frequent line up changes only make you stronger, what is good!
I wouldn’t say we have frequent line up changes. Before that only Długi has left and Trufel joined in and now Bruno and Trufel have left and Necrosodom and Piotras joined. Of course it made the band stronger! We knew Marek (Necrosodom) for many years and we knew he’s the best candidate. As soon as we noticed that Bruno is not so committed to the band anymore we had a serious talk with him and explained what our priorities are and then we offered the job to Marek. He said yes immediately. He did excellent job on the album, arranged everything himself, so we’re mega happy. It’s a new spirit in the band… besides, Necrosodom is 100% dedicated to everything he’s doing.
I think that Azarath, with all the music and lyrics, is quite universal, even if you are pure death metal band, but you’ll also fit to the black metal atmosphere perfectly. Ha, I have a feeling like you fit to the ritual of Watain more than to the stupid Kataklysm. What’s your opinion on that?
Of course you’re right. During our December tour we had the best communication with Marduk, with whom we shared our nightliner and with Triptykon. Kataklysm is not our music completely, there’s no doubt about that. You can hear two guitars, but there’s just one guitarist on the stage, the second one is played from the computer or ipod. Not our thing… We definitely like the mystic shows of Marduk and Triptykon! Triptykon concerts are pure magic, ritual of darkness, and Marduk is pure destruction, power and extinction! It was a pure pleasure to watch their gigs ever night.
“Blasphemer’s Malediction” shows a great development of Azarath and I don’t only mean from the “Demon Seed” times, but also from “Praise the Beast”. The music is even more dark, brutal and song structures are even better… you must feel really satisfied with this LP! How long did it take you to finish the album? Did everything go as you planned and quickly, or was every song on “Blasphemer’s Malediction” born in pain? I’ve heard that it was Inferno, who wrote most of the material, is this right?
Yes, Inferno wrote most of the music this time, I did basically four songs only. The works on this album went pretty quickly. For the reasons, which everybody knows, Behemoth had a break, so Inferno had lots of free time, which he spent in his woods, where he was composing a lot. Later on we met at my place, we’ve chosen and recorded riffs on the computer, until we were really 100% convinced on every song. After we created the guitars we’ve sent the guitars’ files to Marek, so he can work on his vocals and guitar leads, while the rest of us went to the rehearsal place to play those riffs together with the drums. Generally it’s mainly about putting out some drums parts to my songs, as for the riffs Inferno created he always have everything already in his head. Then it’s just a matter or learning everything and arranging it.
From the very beginning it seems like the image and specific aura during your photo sessions is really important for Azarath. There were photo sessions with black / white photos, with torches, etc (what reminded me old Damnation pics, especially from the times, when Behemoth was still running around in the woods in the leather pants hehe – during their “Grom” period), but now it seems like you’ve made everything in more professional way. Just like the whole artwork…
We have always really tried to make sure that everything is our way, as the band photos and the layout / artwork should fit the music and message of the band! Everything should be on the right level!
Speaking of the image, do you personally care about it, when looking at other bands? Is the image equally important for you, as the music they play? I mean generally everyone would say that the music is most important, and basically I can agree, but from the other hand it feels sad and almost pathetic when I see band like Pestilence dressed on the stage in Bermuda shorts, like they only just came back from the beach. You know, death and black metal have some principles…
I was myself also very disappointed with Pestilence. We had a chance to see their gig during the Inferno Fest in Norway, it was just after they came back with the band, and when I saw Mamelli in sweatpants it just destroyed the whole impression. Maybe he has such vision for Pestilence, but songs from “Testimony of the Ancients” for instance sounded grotesque in my opinion. I felt embarrassed and lack of respect for the old fans from their side. So we went off to drink some beers hehe. You know, if I listen to some old death and black metal bands I cannot imagine seeing them walking on the stage dressed like that. It’s different if I go to see Napalm Death for instance, then it doesn’t bother me if they play in shorts because I know that their lyrics have nothing to do with death / black metal.
I absolutely agree, I also couldn’t stand the this “image” of Pestilence, although let’s be honest, back in the early 90’s Pestilence also often played in colourful t-shirts and shorts.
Cover of Damnation (for “Holy Possession” EP) was recorded for pure nostalgic reasons, or there was a different motive? I must admit that they’re still one of my favourite Polish death metal bands and at the same time one of the most underestimated death metal acts ever! I got to know them pretty early, back in 1993 (94??) I think, when I saw some reviews in Metal Hammer of their demo, and later I was buying their tapes with my friend at the Pagan Records headquarters, what was easy, as we both lived in Swiecie. How do you memorise playing in Damnation? How often do you listen to “Reborn” or “Rebel Souls”? Do you still curse Last Epitaph and Evil Omen for fuckin you up?
The idea for it came from Necrosodom, who was always a big fan of Damnation. He suggested doing a cover for the gigs, something from “Reborn…” or “Rebel Souls”. So, we decided to cover the title song from “Rebel Souls”, as it fitted the atmosphere of our new songs well. This whole idea wasn’t really caused by some nostalgia, but recording it brought back many memories to me and Inferno. You know, “Rebel Souls” was a debut for Inferno! It’s a shame that everything went as it did, Damnation deserved for more, but there’s no point in exhuming the past and looking for the guilty ones. Once in a while I do come back to the demos or albums of Damnation. I remember that the moment, when I joined them, was really magical. It was back in 1993, I played in Cenotaph then and we’ve met at a gig here in Three-City; Les and Wawrzyn offered me joining Damnation, as they just split up with Jeff. It was quite a shock for me, I was scared that I won’t make it, but I agreed. I’ve heard the “Everlasting Sickness” demo and it really crushed me to pieces. The whole band did. I was in contact with Jeff actually, and those were the times of normal mails, tape trading, we were writing about the music a lot. Jeff was running a fanzine together with his wife and that’s how we met. So, the whole situation was quite problematic for me, but we quickly talked with Jeff about everything and this is how I started to rehearse with Damnation back at the end of 1993. I actually had to really change my playing style a lot, when I was learning Damnation material, especially the new songs, which were prepared for the promo 1994, “Forbidden Spaces”. My first concert with Damnation took place in January 1994, in Swinoujscie. I still remember our cool trip in the train hehe! To resume then, Damnation times were great, a lot of voyages, gigs, rehearsals and another experiences. Of course everything could have gone different way, if our first album was recorded and released already back in 1994, but there’s no point in cursing Evil Omen Records anymore.
I must tell you that Damnation’s final album “Resist” was rather disappointing for me. I don’t like the production of it, but also the material wasn’t as good as the previous albums. It was even more disappointing because “Coronation” (an EP, which Damnation did before the album and which featured Nergal from Behemoth on bass… actually at that time the line up of both bands was almost the same) was really killer! So tell me, what do you think of “Resist”? What would you change on this album today? I need to ask you also whether you, Les and Baal consider coming back with Damnation?
To start from the end; well, never say never. There’s always a chance for us to come back. In my opinion musically the songs from “Resist” were quite good, but the production wise this album was a failure. Maybe also the vocals didn’t fit us that well, if you compare them to the previous recordings. Baal has great, effective vocal, but it not necessarily fitted our style… I don’t know, it’s difficult to be totally objective here. Nergal’s cooperation with Damnation was quite short really, we shared the rehearsal place here in one of the schools in Sopot, what made many things more easy.
I do must admit that in the times, when the labels keep re-releasing many old albums and demos I would also like to see a CD with Cenotaph and Damnation demos, although I have “Forbidden Spaces” on the split with Behemoth. Do you care about getting those old recordings available again or you don’t bother, unless there’s someone, who’ll make an effort?
We do get the offers for re-releases from time to time. And maybe something will happen soon. I don’t know if there’s anyone, who has the first Cenotaph demo in audible copy, but the second one, “Empire of Sin” was circulating even as the mp3 in the internet. As for Damnation, only recently we got an offer to release the demos, and in the future perspective also the albums, on the vinyl. Watch the news from Witching Hour!
Yeah, I already have found the news on the Witching Hour website, who announce the release of the demos on vinyl in December 2012. Isn’t it something cool?
Do you still remember your first contact with the metal music and the underground? What bands were your favourites then? I remember than often I was buying the tapes, basing on the front cover. These tapes were often pirate copies, but this is how I got to know Death’s “Leprosy” for instance, just judging in on the cover. Were you involved into the tape trading, zines, gigs, etc?
Yes, I was very involved in tape-trading. I was trading the cassettes with the maniacs and bands from around the world. Even today I still have kept in my basement hundreds of tapes and boxes with the letters from those times. First shop, which I remember in Three-City is one in Gdynia, on Swietojanska street, very good one, having a wide offer of both pirate and original CDs. I bought there my first CD, “Altars of Madness”. Another good shop was in Gdansk. I remember that they had a lot of underground demos, even Cenotaph was selling the demo there. As for my first contact with metal music, I guess it was around the six class of elementary school. In the beginning it was stuff like AC/DC, Metallica, Testament, so thrash and heavy metal in general, but later on, in my high school times, I started to fascinate with death metal. MTV’s Headbanger’s Ball had influenced me on that quite much (I was really putted on my knees, when they played songs like “Immortal Rites” and “Left Hand Path”). Also my friends from school had a big impact on me (they were fascinated by Death, Obituary, King Diamond, etc).
Metal was always connected to something like a rebellion. You start to dress differently, wear t-shirts with horrid graphics and unreadable logos… And mainly it often makes the fan open the eyes on religious aspects; metal was always against religions, what especially for very young fans may cause problems if they’re from i.e. christian families. How was that it your case? Did metal help you to open your mind on those aspects or did you crush the cross for your own choice?
My family was pretty catholic, so they were forcing me to go to the church when I still was a kid. But later on, just as you say, the extreme music, which I started to listen to around the 6-7 class and also the fact that I started to get interested in the world, ancient cultures, cosmos, etc – all that created a rebellion against the catholic indoctrination. I’ve read a lot, broadened my knowledge about the world, cultures and I started to wonder how can someone believe in something like god? All that created a rebellion, which in the beginning was difficult to swallow, especially by my mom, but I guess she got used to that with the passing time.
Did Azarath, with its quite extreme image, have some problems with our catholic authorities? Don’t you think that it is something really pathetic that they i.e. cancel the metal gigs, only because the bands have different believes and values? It’s supposed to be a free country, but they force their own morals and faith into everything. Ha, they’ve been against Nergal’s participation in a TV show, just because he’s “Satanist and so he can deprave the youth!” hehe!
When we were on the tour with Vader, Trauma and Vesania, few years ago, authorities in Opole banned our and Vesania’s gigs. And so Darzamat had to replace us that day. It was very funny from one side, but also pathetic, but until Polish authorities will be so deeply religious and influenced by the catholic church and some fanatical religious persons, who can make decisions like this, then such things will repeat. It does fuckin piss me off, when those idiots try to force their faith and values on the others. I hate that deeply. We had a similar case in Kraków also, on our tour with Behemoth, but the organisers and authorities didn’t cancel our gig, despite the protests of the local fanatics with Nowak in the forefront.
Nowak is a Polish politician, who formed the public committee to fight the sects; he created the list of satanic rock bands, etc and constantly proves to be an Middle Age type of fanatical person, with inquisition mania.
OK, but who cares about such people. Let’s back to Azarath! I constantly have an impression that the band is slightly underestimated abroad of Poland. I mean, you may be receiving a lot of mail with good critics, etc, but not so often Azarath is being mentioned as one of the leading underground death metal bands. And that surprises me, seeing how quickly some Swedish or US bands get popular nowadays, even if their music is often ridiculous. But that seems to change… Azarath has joined Marduk and Triptykon tour, so tell me what your impressions from it are? Did you manage to have a chat with Tom Warrior?! I hope that you showed everyone that Azarath is on the European death metal underground throne and crushes pitiful bands like Kataklysm within seconds!!!! I hate this band, really, they have the worst vocalist ever (no balls, no aggression!), so overrated... They should be carrying your guitars and open the beer cans for you!
Well, you know, the fact is that supports must pay, if they want to be a part of the big tours. And it doesn’t matter if it’s Rock the Nation or Massive Music. We owe our participation on Hatefest tour to ourselves, our stubbornness and to Witching Hour, who obviously had to pay for our involvement in this tour. For the tour costs we had to add also our money, but it was worth of course! The tour was fuckin excellent, perfectly organised, everything was top notch and we had a chance to introduce our music to the bigger audience. Besides, the company of Marduk and Triptykon was perfect for us. There were two nightliners on this tour, and we shared ours with Marduk, Milking Goatmachine and Lost Dreams, while Triptykon shared their bus with Kataklysm and the technicians. There were many occasions to talk to Gabriel Warrior and rest of the guys. Fuckin great crew! Their gigs are a real magic and darkness.
As for Kataklysm, it is obvious that we didn’t have many things to talk about, it’s not our kind of band. But they have many fans here in Europe, what could have been seen on this tour. For me it is also very overrated band, with really weak drummer! He was really bad, when comparing his playing to Inferno, Lars and Norman from Triptykon. But they have many fans, sell lots of albums and so they are the headliners.
I saw on youtube a recording on which you and Mortuus played Hellhammer’s cover! Pure massacre! Whose idea was it? Was it just a one time thing or did you play it every night? You should have invited Fischer also! How do you actually like Triptykon and their dark and sinister music?
I don’t remember now if it was Inferno’s or Necrosodom’s idea… But we talked about it with Marduk guys and decided what to do and when, as a surprise for the end of the tour, on our last gig. We’ve chosen “Massacra” and started secretly to rehearse it. We’ve done it after Marduk’s last song, so when they finished Morgan gave me his guitar and Necrosodom took his backup, Piotrek had Devo’s bass and Mortuus has announced the song. Lars played the first part of it on drums and then – after the pause – he swapped with Inferno. Before the gig we said about everything to Victor and Vanja from Triptykon, they were responsible for making sure that Tom was around the stage at that time. It was nice to watch his emotions… I remember he said that he never played this song live, so we’ve done it before him! For us it was just a pure tribute to Hellhammer and we’re glad we had a chance to do that. As for Triptykon, well I like it, but to be honest I prefer their music live, as on stage it sounded 100 times better than from the record, more powerful and more magical.
In Eindhoven you played on a festival, together with Morbid Angel, Asphyx and Nifelheim! That must have also been killer! Tell me, if you had a chance to see their gigs or did you spent the whole time in the backstage, drinking beers hehe? I must take the chance and ask you about „Illud Divinum Insanus”. What do you think of this album, especially its experimental part? It’s nothing even close to “Blessed are the Sick”, but the death metal part isn’t so bad… Would you imagine Azarath to record something so experimental?
I don’t like „Illud Divinum Insanus” totally. I tried many times to listen to this album, to find something for myself on it, but finally I surrendered. There’s absolutely nothing, what would make me listen to it again. Even the metal side of the album is OK, but it’s only OK, because the rest of the album is so bad. “Nevermore” is a good song, but not as killer as some stuff from their earlier records. I think that the death metal songs – even if they were on “Heretic” – wouldn’t sound good enough. That’s all I have to say about this album. And Azarath will never record something like that.
Eindhoven Metal Meeting was a two days festival. We participated on the second day of it, when Morbid Angel was headlining. Asphyx and Nifelheim played on the first day, so we missed them. But we also didn’t manage to see Morbid Angel, as at the time of their gig we were preparing for our own show. Morbid Angel finished their set around 11pm while we were supposed to start playing at 11.15 on the small stage. We had a great time for our gig, there were many people around and we played really well, the power was there! But we had a chance to watch Morbid gig a week earlier, when we met them in Germany on X-Mas Fest. Their setlist was great, with a lot of old songs. Besides, to meet Morbid Angel twice was fantastic also for another reason – they have our two old friends, Adam Sierżęga and Brovar, in the crew, so it was a cool opportunity to drink some beers together. I must also mention that on our Hatefest tour, the first couple of gigs were also on festivals, as we joined the Thrash Fest. We had a chance to see killer gigs of Destruction and Exodus.
Inferno and Necrosodom have released a debut EP of their project called Deus Mortem. Both are also active in other bands (maybe somebody have heard about band called Behemoth???)… Do you think sometimes about creating a side project, or maybe even about reforming Cenotaph?
To be honest I never thought about side projects, but maybe one day it the future I will do something. I would rather expect that Damnation will reform, than I will create something from the scratch. But at the moment Azarath is enough for me.
OK, I guess we will finish here… I may ask you more and more questions, but it should be enough. Tell me something about the future plans of Azarath and thanks Bart for your time and answers!
There are no specific plans at the moment. We’ve played three gigs in July, on Extreme Fest (Switzerland, Austria, Germany) and now there’s nothing new confirmed. I think we’ll slowly start composing new material, but there’s no pressure. Thanks a lot for this interview! 666!