A Discussion With The Meads Of Asphodel Vocalist Metatron
In black metal, an album involving themes of religion is about as original as lyrics about Satanism and corpse paint. However, The Meads Of Asphodel brings an intelligent perspective to the life of Jesus Christ with “The Murder Of Jesus The Jew" (reviewed here). A title that is surrounded by music that is far from linear, incorporating everything from Broadway-style interludes to lengthy instrumentals to infectious acoustic numbers. It’s off-putting, guaranteed to offend many people, and is one of the best albums to come from the genre in years.
I recently had the pleasure of talking to frontman Metatron in late January about the amount of research involved in such a lofty concept, his views on religion, and the possibility of live shows in the future. We spoke for almost an hour and much of it is presented here. It’s lengthy, but worth the read for those that want a little more insight into not only “The Murder Of Jesus The Jew,” but the man behind its lyrical creation. Trust me though; this interview isn’t for the faint of heart or those that put their beliefs into any religious body.
Heavytothebone2: The band’s recent album “The Murder Of Jesus The Jew” has quite a lofty concept. What makes the band’s take on the whole lore about Christianity different from other bands?
Well, I suppose growing up with that kind of black metal...where you got Venom or your Bathory’s or your Norwegian bands, it’s generally pretty much a theatrical thing, a lot of tongue-in-cheek. Then you got your Deicide’s and your Acheron’s and obviously Mercyful Fate’s, they got a Satanic slant on it, but we’re not too concerned with that. We just thought, after years and years, I suppose the band has kind of developed towards this album from the very beginning. But we didn’t have the kind of knowledge or right depth to take it on. It was something I always wanted to do, once I got my take on who I thought this person was. If I was born in China or India, it wouldn’t mean fuck. Being in the West, it’s a religion that shaped us so much, whether you believe it or not. We’ve got no problems with anybody believing in it, but to actually try and uncover who this person was...some people think he didn’t exist and obviously, a lot of people think he did exist.
I was quite fascinated with the whole Jewishness. We’ve not pro-Jew, we’re not anti-Jew. It’s just a fact that this person just happens to be a Jew. You don’t think of it when you are talking Christianity and going off on your different denominations, whether you’re Pentecost or Catholic or Protestant, you can go on and on. The Jewishness has been wiped out and that was wiped out a long time ago and it was deliberately wiped out. Trying to unearth what we perceive this real person to be, we had to kind of immerse ourselves in this Palestinian world and erase Christianity from the whole concept because it didn’t exist when he existed.
It’s quite a difficult thing to do, but we thought we try to make an album about it. Obviously, that drags you into that kind of concept album, which is a pretty precarious position to be in anyway, because a lot of them are pretty hard to follow or they never work. We made every song as individual as we can, but tried to weave a little story into it. The music is paramount, and the lyrics behind it, if you want to get into them you can, but we tried to make the music the vocal point.
Heavytothebone2: You did a lot of research in preparation of the album. You have the website that has 60,000 words dedicated to the whole concept itself. What kind of resources did you use to read up, because obviously, you didn’t just read one book and get 60,000 words out of it?
On the website, tacked to the end of that, there’s a list of books I actually used of different author’s views on Jesus. Some believe he didn't die and was resuscitated, some believed he did die, some believe he didn’t die and went to India. There’s lots of different takes. There’s Jewish apocalyptic literature that relates to Old and New Testament...loads of shit. Just trying to piece together and become this wandering Galilean healer and trying to embrace what he believed in during that point in time. He was a nationalist, he was a Jew, he didn’t give a fuck about anybody beyond Jews. He didn’t a shit about anyone but his people, his religion, and that’s what has been lost. He did exist and he was probably a pretty decent chap in a tyrannical kind of environment, where Romans were running everywhere and Pontius Pilate’s made out to be such a good guy. The Romans had to blame the Jews because the religion would never have survived if they accepted what they did.
Heavytothebone2: Was there one book or one piece of literature that affected you in building the concept of the album?
No, bits of everything. You see, that’s the problem. My theory is pretty much as good as any, being that the actual hardcore evidence available is whether you sit down and say, ‘Okay, did Jesus carry a cross for over half-a-mile and up a hill?’ Of course he didn’t, no one could. So you say to yourself, ‘Well, what did he carry? Maybe he carried the...cross beam.’ Of course, that’s more than likely. ‘So where did he end up after that? Did they nail him to an upright post? Maybe. Did they nail him to an olive tree? Maybe.’ I think he probably was nailed to a tree, but Jehovah Witnesses are adamant that he was nailed on a pole. The old cross beam doesn’t even come into play, so they reckon he dragged this pole along with him.
It’s very difficult to unravel, because from the Arabic to the English, there’s a lot of things that have been twisted and kind of lost. So it’s up to interpretations. If you’re a Christian, the supernatural exists in that kind of environment. If you’re not, if you’re an atheist, then it doesn’t. When you drag that supernatural element away, you’re left with pretty much a kind of story. Richard Dawkins is fantastic, he’s a God to me. That man is such a clever guy. I’m pretty much on the Dawkins side of the fence when it comes to analyzing these kind of religious doctrines.
Heavytothebone2: In Christianity, the Bible is the centerpiece, with all the stories and all the lores about Jesus. What to you does the Bible represent personally?
The Old Testament is a holy Jewish entity. It’s their history, it’s their faith, and it binds them. Without it, they wouldn’t be who they are. The New Testament, which adopts the Old Testament and the West basically stole from the Jews in the first place, is a doctrine of Christianity, where this monotheistic Jewish God suddenly becomes a polytheistic God, where the Holy Trinity appears and they really complicate the fucking hell out of it all. But again, it’s an embodiment of a faith and of a religion, and if you look at the kind of teachings that are in there, it’s not brain surgery to say don’t kill and don’t steal.
There’s a lot of decent shit in there, which are moral laws anyway. The sermon on the mountain is one of the most ethically perfect pieces of literature you’re ever going to find. So it’s a good book to base your life on. It’s a really peaceful book, but the Old Testament is not. It’s a violent and vile book, if you want to read that. It’s full of all sorts of death, just really bad shit, but that’s the Jews for you, because they are completely nuts anyway (laughs). No more so than Afghans; there are a lot of nuts people out there.
Heavytothebone2: In your mind, is there a lack of intelligent discussion about the subject of religion in music? Is it too geared towards “Hail Satan” and juvenile imagery?
I think a lot of music is an escape. It’s okay to have black metal when you are talking about nuns being buggered up the butt or being dragged and nailed upside down on crosses and Jesus’ head stuck on poles and all this demon shit. Black metal is really based on that. The Norwegians take a Vikings slant on it. Some bands go deeper in a Satanic slant, although we don’t believe in all that rubbish neither. Intelligent part of it, I’ve not really seen much of that. A few bands do try, but it gives the music a bit of depth. J.D Tait creates the music and I kind of fuck with a lot of what he does, shove in these kind of Broadway theatrics or whatever.
My lyrics are my side and I’ve happen to be exhausting on it for years and years, while this music kind of takes its toll. The music is what is going to hit you first. If you can get past that, and some people can’t hack it, there have been some reviews where people are like, ‘Fuck this.’ But if you can get past that, there’s another level you can take it to. The lyrics are deliberately provocative to make you think. There’s a lot of homophobic shit in there, but it’s all biblical. We’re only saying what the Bible says. This homophobic shit is Bible-rooted anyway. It’s only recently that Christians became more liberal about it, only because the world is becoming more liberal. They have to adapt; it’s dying anyway in England. I know in America, it’s quite strong; obviously, in South America. I’m not sure how long Christianity can have its grasp on people before people realize that life can’t be lived without trying to be beholden to some person in the sky that doesn’t exist.
Heavytothebone2: So with all the years of research you did, and all the books you read, from a lyrical perspective, are you satisfied with how it all turned?
Yeah, completely. I get a lot of questions that are coming from certain people that are asking me about certain parts of the lyrics. I’ve been answering them. They’re going in a separate file that we’ll probably put up on the site at the end of the year. There’s a lot of things that people aren’t sure about, if they want to ask questions. I think for what we attempted to do, it’s as good as it going to get, without making it a double album. I’ve stated already everything I needed to very briefly. Each song has its own huge chapter on the Internet, where I basically explain what these kind of lyrics are about, if you want to know. We’re not trying to shove this down anybody’s throat.
Heavytothebone2: I found that reading up on the subject gave the whole album a new meaning to it that you wouldn’t get to it by just sitting around and not absorbing it.
Yeah, the whole thing about this album, from the cover art to the lyrics to the music, everything about it we could not have bettered. Now, whether you take this to another studio and give us a hundred grand to re-record it, maybe the sound would be different. We can only do what we can with the budget that we get. We think the sound is good for what it is. It could be better, but any band will say their sound could be better unless you’re happy with that pure, ugly black metal sound, which is supposed to sound like way anyway.
Heavytothebone2: The album has a ton of different styles employed. Is there one in particular that you enjoyed working on, other than the black metal-geared sections?
Everything. I think the song I enjoyed the most was “Addicted To God,” where we had the kind of camp vocals ranting on about ‘Is this God,’ and ‘circumcised.’ That is something we are very proud of because you’re never going to expect for that to come out and bite you, which we try to do with quite a few of the songs. “Jew Killer” itself is a pretty normal song, kind of a sludge, doomy kind of track. “Genesis Of Death” is probably the only point where we maybe touch on the kind of Monty Python, but that wasn’t deliberate. It sounded like it when we tried to create this crucifixion scene.
We got a broad musical kind of thing, from black metal to death to rock. We don’t mind listening to bands like Oasis or The Doors or Hawkwind or Floyd. All of these things can sneak in. The whole music is created with a black metal view and everything grows from it. It seems natural. Nothing feels awkward to us, but it certainly feel awkward to some of the people who hear it, which is understandable. We’re not trying to piss people off deliberately, but we know purists will be mortified by it.
Heavytothebone2: Do you think with all these styles meshing together, that you guys have an opportunity to not only appeal to the black metal purists, but people who enjoy other genres of music as well?
Again, that’s a tricky two-sided coin. A lot of the people that enjoy the snippets that we borrow and weave into the harshness won’t like that harshness. That’s the problem, you see. We’re pretty much left to the elements there. It could be that nobody will like it, because there’s something that’s going to piss them off. The vocals are not normal and they never have been from the average black metal derelict snarl. They’re not your death gurgles. No one seems to put their finger on it. They are just what they are. They’ve been that way since the beginning. If no one really took any notice then, we probably wouldn’t exist now. We’ve just done what we’ve done our own way and kept plugging along.
We enjoyed what we do, then Candlelight appears and asked us. We sat back and said, ‘Well, look. We’re going to have to get this out on a kind of bigger label sooner or later.’ We love the underground; we love all this trading shit. We know that these small labels press a thousand, two thousand. All they are going to do is trade it with every country on this planet. We love these limited edition cassettes, 7’’. We think it’s fantastic. Without that backbone, metal beyond it wouldn’t exist. That’s where it’s at and that’s where we liked to be, but I think Candlelight is pushing us a bit beyond that now. Our mindset is still very much where we were and we’re probably still there. We don’t mind staying there really.
Heavytothebone2: Do you think being with Candlelight will allow you to get an audience outside of the underground?
Obviously, we’re under no illusions, although Candlelight and the artists on there, metal is in their blood, the music is in their blood, but business is business. If they’re don’t make a living, then other bands are not going to get signed. First and foremost, units have got to sell. We don’t like thinking that way, but that’s the way it is. I’m sure they would like to try to push us as far as they can, but who knows? We have no idea how this album is going to accepted until the end of the year. We wouldn’t know. Maybe it would just be forgotten about.
Heavytothebone2: The album did come out in late 2010 in Europe and a week or so ago here in the U.S. From what you read so far, how do you feel the reaction has been to the album so far?
Good. We’ve had maybe one in ten negative kind of feedback from it. I think everything is going okay. Again, it’s very difficult as well, because gauging bands nowadays is very difficult because of this free-for-all, Internet kind of stuff. We’ve been looking through some of these download sites and we’ve had like two, three thousand people downloading our album. I’ve done it myself; I can’t really moan about it because it's hypocritical. If you find some money on the floor, you’re going to pick it up. If music is going to be out there for free, and your interest...where it was years ago, you pretty much had to either borrow or buy the album to even hear it. I’ve bought albums in the past just because of the cover. Never judge a book by its cover is so true, because you play it and it’s shit.
Now, if I’m intrigued, I’ll go on the Internet and I know it’s going to be there without any questions. The most obscure band on Earth will be up there somewhere and you can download it for free. Who knows; we may sell 2,000 units, but there might be 20,000 downloads out there, which would have been units, maybe part of it, ten years ago. It’s very difficult how bands are surviving this. It’s a funny old world. I’d rather it not be there of course, but it is.
Heavytothebone2: Do you feel like the band is at a disadvantage because of illegal downloading? The band doesn’t tour, and other bands have touring as a revenue stream? Do you think it’s a disadvantage you guys don’t tour?
Yes, I do. The other band members and myself realize it could be a problem. We shall see what happens. It’s a possibility we may have to, but look at Darkthrone, look at the mighty Bathory. There’s band out there that can achieve a lot without doing so. After all these years, if Darkthrone started touring, would it be any good? I’m sure it would. Bathory, I saw that promo video that Quorthon did. I met him a few times, but would it have been the same? One of my favorite bands of all time, but I’m not sure if he could have pulled it off live. I’m not sure if we can.
Heavytothebone2: Some of these arraignment and compositions have so many elements in it, that it would take away the power and majesty of it live.
It would. The kind of production we would need; that’s the problem. You can’t just plug in and bash a set out, because people would be scratching their hands and thinking, ‘What’s all this about?’ We have to visually destroy them. That completely quadruples the costs. You’ll have to spend more than you’re going to earn. It’s very difficult how we would negotiate that. That’s in the air.
Heavytothebone2: Would it be hard to pull off songs like “Addicted To God” and “Genesis Of Death”?
Yeah, very much so. If somebody said to me, ‘Here’s a certain budget to produce a kind of musical for you to go out there and do,’ nobody’s going to do that, but that would be different. You got an orchestra, a choir, loads of dancers, and the kinds of singing you get in the theater, that would be crazy. You couldn’t just go and plug in and produce this album. It wouldn’t be possible. We got songs we could put a set together for. We’re doing some live rehearsal shit we’re going to film and release on YouTube, just to give people an insight into the band. It’s a working band; we’ve tried to get some visual stuff out on the Internet so that people know it’s not just somebody in their bedroom creating this stuff.
It’s an organic band. Each band member has his part to play. It’s a real band; it’s not just a pretend band or taking the piss. The musicians in it, we’ve got some good people doing shit on this album. We’re not going to drag them down into this piss-taking cauldron, so to speak. Mirai from Sigh, Sigh is more mad than us. A crazy band. This is what people can’t understand. They think the music is totally so unbelievably not real, how can we be serious? The whole point of this band is kind of hot and cold; it’s soft and it’s hard. You got this music that spins you off, but the lyrics we laid on it are so serious. It really plays with your mind. That’s the whole point of what we do. We want people to go, ‘What the fuck was that?’ or ‘Play it again. What the fuck are the lyrics about? What is he swearing for?’ Instill something in the mind, like when you go see a movie and you’re going to leave thinking something or thinking nothing. We rather you left thinking something regardless of what it is. That’s what we’ve always tried to do.
Heavytothebone2: You’ve pretty much kept your identity a secret since the band started. How would you do live shows? Would you put a mask on?
Yeah, without question. It’s very important to leave the mouth free. Not like a Slipknot mask; I think it’s very important that the mouth is where the vocals come from. It’s got to organic or anybody can do it. That would definitely be the case if that ever happened.
Heavytothebone2: There was a five year gap between albums. Will there be a similar gap for the next album?
I think we fill our gaps with split releases and 7’’. We certainly keep ourselves busy, but we got a four-way split CD coming out in a couple of month with Sigh and Taake, and Evo from Warfare and Algy Ward from Tank have done a special track for us as well. So that’s going to be an interesting one. We’ve got an exclusive track on there.
I’m in another band called The Wolves of Avalon, which is going to address this kind of NS black metal side of things, which I think is a very important issue that people misunderstand a lot. I’ve very conscious of a lot of people being proud of who they are. You can be proud to be black or white, but I don’t see the point of being a racist with it. This is the divine. You got this kind of dark, NS black metal, where there are lot of asshole bands that are very kind of racist. You got a lot of bands out there that are very cultural and pagan black metal bands...that are dragged into this kind of umbrella which I think is shit. We’ve got this kind of pagan, celtic band that we’ve done that’s going to put your foot in that kind of area. It’s a dangerous thing to do I suppose, but I don’t care. I know I’m not a racist, so anything that thinks so can fuck off.
J.D is in a few projects as well, and the Meads is going to get this split out and then concentrate on doing something else. (pauses) The Holocaust is another subject that seems a logical follow-up to what this album is because the end of “The Murder Of Jesus The Jew” kind of touches upon that subject. We have this kind of path that the Jews have been thrown on through the Roman church and all this anti-Semitic shit. Hitler and his Nazi party was such a small thing in 30’s Germany; they were mad fucking bastards.
Suddenly, when they came to power, it’s fucking crazy. He charges into Poland, he’s got pacts with Russia to charge in on the other side, you got this mad war and this Holocaust shit. I don’t think people should forget these kind of things. I don’t like it when any mention of the Holocaust, you think of this NS black metal. Why do you have to keep thinking the negative side of it? Not a lot of bands would probably write that subject from the viewpoint of this side of it. Most people write about it on the other side and revel in the misery and the torture of individual people. They’re pretty pro-fucking German. You got to be fucking mad to be pro-German.
We would like to do an album touching on that, but I’ve very weary about that as well. It’s a subject matter that may be our kind of music, jumping and diving, because we do think music should be enjoyed. When people laugh at some of our stuff, it’s good. After you hear some music, if it makes you happy, it’s done the trick. Even doom can make you happy if you like doom. If you’re talking about a subject matter like that, and you’re laughing, because the story of Jesus is not all bad, but this kind of subject matter, there’s nothing good about it. So maybe we won’t go down that road, but who knows?
Heavytothebone2: If you were to go down that road, would you have to do years of research? Would you do the same amount of research that you did with this past album?
Yeah, well I’m doing that now. I’m naturally drawn to it. Encyclopedias on the Third Reich, different Holocaust books, I’ve been reading away. I don’t think we will do it because I don’t think it will work. You can’t laugh at that, can you? How can you laugh at any of it? You can’t have a Broadway piece appear in the middle of marching towards the gas chamber. I know we can laugh at that, but we’re not supposed to. It’s not funny.
I’m not sure. Maybe we’ll just write an album about medieval battles and start bringing in these medieval instrumentalists and make it completely nuts. Who knows?
Heavytothebone2: What’s the one thing you want people to get out of “The Murder Of Jesus The Jew”?
I want them to remember it. I want to be like me. When I lay back and somebody says, ‘Name your ten favorite metal albums.’ I'm going to say Venom, Bathory, an Emperor album. I want somebody to say Meads of Asphodel. That’s what I want. I think if you can affect one person in this whole world with music, it gives your life some purpose. I think any band, no matter who they are, if you can affect one person with music, it’s such a wonderful thing. I don’t mean to go out and blow someone’s head off because some music can do that. I’m sure it can inspire all sorts of shit, can't it? That's what I would like. Obviously, if people can get something from the lyrics as well, even better.
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