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Interview

Magister Templi Discusses Band's History And "Into Duat" Album

Magister Templi hails from the cold, northern confines of Norway where black metal thrives. Although the band includes two members of the black metal group Svarttjern and the band delves in the occult, they are not a black metal band. The five piece plays grandiose heavy metal in the tradition of such greats as King Diamond and Rainbow. Magister Templi’s lyrics could be transposed into black metal songs, though.

The band writes about Western occultism, specifically Aleister Crowley. Their most recent album “Into Duat,” (reviewed here) available September 18th, is based on Egyptian Mythology—a critical part of Western occultism. Their penchant for the occult is analyzed in the following interview with Magister Templi members Abraxus d’Ruckus and Baphomet.

Rex_84: “Into Duat” will be released in stores on September 18. What have the initial reviews said about the album?

Abraxas d'Ruckus : They’ve been pretty great, I feel humbled by it, to be honest. I was not expecting people to warm up to the album in such a way. I mean, I like the album, myself, but I thought it would be one of those albums that grew on people, rather than one that would get great reviews from the start.

Rex_84: Previous Magister Templi albums “Iao Sabao” and “Lucifer Leviathan Logos” focused on Crowley and the occult. Last year you released 7’’ Nyarlathotep, which saw you move into ideas based on Egyptian mythology. What led to this change?

Abraxas: To me it’s not that much of a change, really, Egyptian Mythology has been a crucial part of Western Occultism since the founding of the Order of the Golden Dawn in 1888. This time it just turned out to be a good language for expressing the things I wanted to say, which are of an occult nature and therefore will have to be expressed through some set of symbols anyway. If there is a change, it could be that this time I’m talking about occult experiences and ideas in the language of Egyptian mythology, while on the last album, I was, to some degree, expressing personal feelings and experiences through the language of the occult… but these things are pretty interwoven to me, and hard to separate.

Rex_84: This album also saw you move away from doom metal into more of a traditional metal sound. Why did you make this change?

Abraxas: I think that has been happening for a while, really. Some of the songs on the first album, like “Lucifer,” are quite old, while the newer ones, like “Tiphareth” are essentially Heavy Metal songs. I think the reason may simply be that Heavy Metal is so much fun to play. But we usually don’t plan ahead; we make music and see what happens. And that’s probably how we’ll do it in the future too.

Baphomet: It felt in a way natural, to make the songs a bit faster and melodic, as the lyrical themes on this album have a more epic feel to them, even though it wasn’t a very deliberate move. Even though the lyrical themes have a structure throughout both albums, the music varies from every song and in the songs themselves. We have a thing for dramatic elements, so the changes and progressions are an important part of the bands writing. But I think we never could or would totally escape the doom influences.

Rex_84: What resources did you use to research the lyrics on this album?

Abraxas: Hard to know, really, I’ve been interested in Egyptian Mythology for 15+ years, so I’ve read a lot of different things through the years, but I think E. A. Wallis Budge’s “The Gods of the Egyptians” is the one I keep coming back to. Along with various published and unpublished Golden Dawn stuff.

Rex_84: I mentioned your move away from doom metal, but there are some definite doomy parts on “Into Duat.” One such part occurs at the beginning of “The Lord of the Morning.” What story are you telling on this song?

Abraxas: “The Lord of the Morning” and “Slaying Apophis” are both centered on the sun god Ra’s journey over the heavens and through the underworld. The journey through Duat ends with Set, slaying the chaos snake Apophis and the sun being born.

Rex_84: Have you seen any Egyptian displays at museums?

Abraxas: Yes, as often as I can. Never been to Egypt, but I have to at some point. I always spend a fair amount of time at the British Museum when I’m in London.

Baphomet: We also have a very small, but eerie display in Oslo, which I enjoy visiting. It’s basically a sarcophagus and a lot of small idols.

Rex_84: Where did you learn how to play Egyptian scales?

Baphomet: Patriark and I basically have a lot of the same influences when it comes to heavy metal riffs, such as King Diamond and Rainbow, which uses these scales, same goes for a lot of the epic doom bands. It’s just a sound we like, which you can find in a lot of our older songs too, but even though I read sheet music, we don’t use any music theory in the band, as it usually becomes distracting. So the scales are not analyzed, they’re just a part of our playing style, accumulated over years of listening to a lot of different stuff. Personally, I used to jam a lot of weird stuff for hours alone on an acoustic guitar growing up, being into psychedelic music, so that had its influence on the things I do today.

Rex_84: Did you plan to write an album based on Ancient Egyptian ideas or did you just start with a song that led to it being a collection of songs based on this topic?

Abraxas: I’ve wanted to write an Egyptian album for a while, but we hadn’t really talked about it. Then, when we were rigging down after the release party for LLL, I started singing on the Chorus of “Horus the Avenger,” and as the songs progressed we thought it would be fun to base all of them on Egyptian Mythology.

Rex_84: What was the recording process like?

Abraxas: Apart from me having an anaphylactic shock during the vocal recordings, all was well. We did what we usually do, recorded drums, bass and one guitar live, together, with no click, to keep things nice and organic, then we added vocals and leads later.

Baphomet: I think we used about three days for all the instruments and then some extra days for the vocals, so that part is usually over before we realize it. It’s always great recording with these guys and since we’re all in there together, playing at once, testing out weird stuff and fucking around with solos and stuff, we’re having a blast. The mixing and mastering is the real nerve wrecking stage, where Abraxas and I never leave the professionals alone.

Rex_84: Norway is best known for its black metal. Black metal is steeped in the occult. Do you find inspiration from any of these groups?

Abraxas: I guess so, three of us play in Black Metal bands and we all listen to Black Metal from time to time, but I think our message is a lot more lighthearted and fun. I like bands like Dødsengel or One Tail, One Head a lot and also more avant-garde Black Metal like Deathspell Omega, but I would never claim to be an expert.

Baphomet: When we grew up in the ‘90s the whole scene in Oslo was kind of based upon black metal, so I think we all have a bit of that stuff with us and sometimes when writing heavier riffs, some of that influence is absolutely there. The other guys have a more concrete relationship to Black metal, though, as they play in Black Metal bands way bigger than Magister Templi [Svarttjern].

Rex_84: Who painted your cover art? How does this picture fit into the ideas of your album?

Baphomet: The cover painting is done by a young German painter, Stefan Bleyl. One might think that it’s painted for this release, but it’s not. While searching for inspiration for the cover art, without finding anything that really made sense, I stumbled upon this amazing and powerful painting. I contacted Stefan and he let us use the painting. For us, the picture symbolizes the entrance to Duat and the river Nile, even though it’s not the painter’s original idea. We wanted something symbolic without using Egyptian symbols. In addition the lay out work by Tamara Abarzúa really makes it all come together.


Rex_84: Does Magister Templi play live? If so, what gigs do you have coming up?

Abraxas: Right now we have a gig at No Sleep ‘till Dublin coming up in the end of August, and then there’s a three week tour with Christian Mistress in October. I also hope we get to do lots of live stuff, especially festivals, next year, but we’ll see.

Rex_84: Do you employ theatrics at your live performances?

Abraxas: Depends what you mean, I enjoy interacting with the audience and drawing pentagrams in the air and things like that… I also move around rather a lot and I have worn Egyptian makeup at a couple of shows, but apart from that, no.

Baphomet: Abraxas absolutely brings a lot of madness and ruckus to the stage, so props are not needed. Come check us out!

Rex_84's avatar

An avid metal head for over twenty years, Darren Cowan has written for several metal publications and attended concerts throughout various regions of the U.S.

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