Throne Of Malediction's Eric Horner Discusses The Art Of Black Metal
Band Photo: Throne Of Malediction (?)
Metalunderground has posted an editorial on the role of religion in black metal, taking a further look at the subject after our recent Unearthing the Metal Underground column on Christan "unblack" metal. While examining a series of unblack metal bands for the upcoming article, I corresponded with musicians from both sides of the religious divide to get their input on whether the style of black metal can be separated from its anti-religious themes. As a teaser for the editorial, we'll be posting the full answers to the questionnaire I sent to each band.
xFiruath: What does black metal or extreme metal personally mean to you, either as a musical style or a philosophy?
Eric: It is a pure, unbridled way to make art. It is a personal outlet for my dark tendencies to help be a better human being. It is a way of life to be lived, something that cannot be achieved by doing things in half measures. I personally think black/extreme metal takes something that can be called "fashion" and makes it true “art.” Though many bands base it on Satanic belief, I disagree that it is the only way to be "black metal.” Black metal to me is pure emotion and individuality with a real vibe to it. It is a genre where beautiful piano compositions can sit next to screeching banshee vocals and raw guitars. It has no limits, as far as I'm concerned. Most black metal is based on the darker aspects of life. People by nature are very evil and horrible creatures. Don't need no fictional Biblical beings to write about there. Melancholy, hatred, despair, and even fleeting happiness can be expressed through black metal. The natural world can be hell. I think black metal bands who are more pagan in beliefs fit in, mainly because the pagans through history are the oppressed, burned as witches etc. It is a mix of philosophy and sound aesthetic.
xFiruath: Do you personally see a distinction between unblack metal bands and black metal bands? That is to say, do you think bands with religious members and religious lyrics should be categorized differently?
Eric: I do see a vast distinction, in one is serving a master and the other serves no-one. Even most Satanists do not believe in a real, actual being called Satan, just the ideals and virtues of individuality. One is for individuality and one is for bowing to a master. A huge difference. Christianity, for example, as a whole, is really a large religion. It is considered part of "the powers that be.” A religion that oppresses, discriminates, and has done a lot of damage. Religions are part of “the establishment.” The whole soul of black metal, and all metal music for that matter, and the actual basic sound does not conjure up thoughts of Jesus, being a slave and conforming to societies standards. When making any music, you must have the right sound for the subject matter you are expressing. Otherwise, it is fake, in my opinion.
Here is a weird example. If Darkthrone or Carpathian Forest started singing about rainbows, unicorns, Jesus, and puppy dogs (please no!), I think they would change the sound to go with the ideal. Music needs to fit the aesthetic of the situation. I guess a band that is comprised of religious members could do black/extreme metal, if they did not get all preachy. Maybe sing of the downfalls of their own religion haha. As far as categories, let fans and listeners draw their own conclusions. Most Christian bands are just tagging on to existing genres. They need to make their own sound before not being considered posers to me. All religious metal I have heard is leaching off of some genre or another, even rap. They need some originality in their lives. I think good old fashioned gospel hymns are where Jesus music belongs. Or the soundtrack to "Passion of the Christ" haha.
xFiruath: There’s no question that black metal saw its major awakening with Norwegian bands that either had anti-religious sentiments or had members who were themselves involved in anti-religious activities. Do you think that black metal can be separated from its beginnings without becoming something else entirely?
Eric: In order to evolve, it must separate to some extent. Though there were a lot of great albums in black metal in the 1980's and 1990's, it is not the only time good black metal was made, however. Elitest assholes who say true black/extreme metal died in the 1990's remind me of a middle aged dude who glories in his high school football days. Those were the beginnings and the bands of today need to grow from that foundation more, rather than try to re-hash old shit. I truly think Cradle of Filth, Dimmu Borgir, Behemoth and Enslaved, as examples, are doing an awesome job at evolving and growing. Keeping the original "feel" to their music, for the most part and changing their actual sound as time passes. They are gaining a wider audience to black/extreme metal and that is a very good thing.
The main difference between now and then, is the type of press coverage. If you think about it, black metal was a bit more popular and in the papers back then. Nowadays, it’s underground, in some ways, where it belongs. Black metal is still a very un-heard of genre to many. It’s not in the press at all anymore, unless you count music press. Has any black metal band been on the cover of Rolling Stone? I think not. It is too raw, uncomfortable and real to be truly commercial. Bands need to follow their own paths more, I do hear a lot of copycats out there that sound the same. My band, Throne of Malediction, tries to use older styles as a foundation, but places no genre limits on where a song goes from there.
xFiruath: How do lyrics influence your decision to listen to a band? If you heard an amazing black metal band you loved, but later discovered the lyrics were pro-Christian, would you continue listening to them?
Eric: I am more a listener to a whole song and ideal put into one. Lyrics are just a part of a larger puzzle. It’s kind of like finding out Santa was not real as a kid haha. The music became a commodity to me, not art any longer. I end up saying "they are talented musicians, that’s about it.” Then the CD goes to the scrap heap. I think that did actually happened once. Music to me is more than being a talented musician. Doing masturbatory shredding and saying it’s for Jesus, is sort of an insult to their God, if you think about it.
xFiruath: After listening to a lot of Christian rock and metal bands, I’ve found they tend to segregate out based on lyrical content. Would you be more open to listening to an unblack metal band that used gore and war themed lyrics, or lyrics about the times God kills people throughout the Bible, as opposed to a stereotypical positive and uplifting lyrical style?
Eric: I already listen to black metal bands that cover those subjects. Some are considered sub genres (viking, war, etc. black metal). Those are all dark subjects that fit great in black metal. Subjects made to conjure up the darker aspects of life and civilization are what drives the whole soul of the art. My own band, for example, covers almost all subjects. Depends on the given bands perspective on the situation.
xFiruath: How would you feel about listening to a pro-Muslim black metal band with all Islamic members (or a pro-Jewish black metal band, or pro-Scientologist black metal band, or pro-Mormon black metal band, or so on…)?
Eric: I would tell them to find their own, original style of expression. I have actually heard some Muslim/Islam type metal and they did it in a pure, though very unusual, way that fit. So, it can be done. But it sounded very ethnic and unlike black metal at all too. They made their own sound! I have no use for any music like that, in reality. It does not suit my personal needs for music. That is music for sheeple who like a specific message and are part of their religious cult. I don't follow any religion, the last thing I want to hear are religious songs. Though, when bands sing of the ideals of Satan, I tend to agree with their principles and rebellious nature. So the Satanic bands do hold some sway with me. I just don't believe in any religious, sentient beings. What’s next? A Satanic reggae/ska band?
xFiruath: What specifically in your life led you to either believe or disbelieve in ideas like God and the supernatural?
Eric: I have learned to disbelieve in any religious ideals for a few reasons. One, they are very destructive and bad for the human race. I am rejected by some of my own family for being a non-believer. That is really unfortunate and sad. For another, religions are all purely ideals made up by human beings. I am just a firm believer in evolution.
xFiruath: Anything else you’d like to discuss on the issue?
Eric: I think I pretty much covered it. It is a very interesting subject. There is no real right or wrong in music. So it really is all opinion. I am just a very big fan of music with purity, music that transcends just being a noise made by people with instruments.
xFiruath: What’s going on with your band these days?
Eric: My band, Throne of Malediction, is very busy and trying to become very active and maybe even respected in the underground scene. To hopefully grab the reigns of our destiny and charge forward. Maybe get a good opening spot on a tour soon, maybe. It’s a top goal, along with doing regular local gigs to stay on our game. We also are re-recording tracks with Dave from Nierty's help in the UK, currently. Our debut album "Ceremonial Blood" will be released through Ziekte Records very soon. Also, we just released a video/song collab with Verkrag. I am also planning to take a break and join Vrangsinn (Carpathian Forest) as a guitarist for an upcoming USA tour. I hope to gain good experience and meet a few contacts along the way. I don't have anything else in life going besides my art, so I am relentlessly pursuing opportunity for us. We are a machine and we are up and running, full steam ahead.
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