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Interview

Ipsissimus Discusses "The Way of Descent"

In the wake of the release of "The Way of Descent," black metal band Ipsissimus discusses the concepts behind the brutal, nihilist new album. Recently signed to Metal blade Records, the band talks about working with "sonic alchemist" Jeff Weed on the production of their album, and whether black metal can be understood as a musical style or all encompassing frame of mind.

The band members also shared their thoughts on the Coptic language, ritual imagery, and other sleaze-rock and black metal projects members are currently collaborating on.

Read on to hear Ipsissimus on black metal, blasphemy, and the aesthetic of Satanism.

Disc0rdant: What inspired the "Third Song of Fatima?"

Tichondrius: The "Third Secret of Fatima" specifically dealt with visions showing that, without "salvation", the world would be in ruins and all souls damned. I took this opportunity to respond to those taking heed, telling them that the "Holy Mother" is essentially a charlatan, fooling you into obeisance. Using the Coptic to mock their acquiescence felt particularly biting.

Haimatokharmes: With the Coptic bridge in the middle of the song, I simply wanted to express black piety with the brutal and pithy character of Coptic. I arranged the riffs and the lyrics in a chiastic structure (a-b-c-b-a) to lend the section a particularly liturgical cohesion.

Disc0rdant: How significant is the ritual element of black metal for you. How is ritual manifested in your sound, lyrics and album art?

Haimatokharmes: The entire project Ipsissimus is a working. The concert performances are rituals, the choreographed aural and visual manifestation of an ideology, complete with an effort to summon a feeling satanic chthonia and liberty. Yet the aesthetic we've been employing for the live ritual is really that of the traditional rock concert. Sometimes we use incense, and I love it when bands go the extra mile to add some bells n' smells to their performances, but we feel like the music and the fury we put into playing it live is really the centre of creating a ritual space. Some of the lyrical patterning certainly also has a ritual feel, as in the chant on "Hodos Apophaseos," from the "Way of Descent" album - in this case, I wanted to play with repetition, both in the riff, drumming, and vocal performance.

Tichondrius: Ritualism, for us, is more signified in the feeling or vibes exuded through the entire package we present. Our art, music, tonality and live performances all tie together to convey a specific feeling. That feeling, however, is different for many people. A ritual is a very individual thing, as is a satanic ideology and way of being. We don't tell the listener how to feel, we just make them feel.

Disc0rdant: Which is more paramount; technical complexity and sonic brutality or the underlying message or concept of the album?

Haimatokharmes: I listen to plenty of bands who have great riffs but are centered on stupid ideas (in black metal, that's not hard to find!). I don't listen to any bands with ideas I find interesting but who simply can't play.

Tichondrius: Not one of these is greater than the other. In order for art be complete, it was be harmonious throughout. For a powerful message to be delivered, the means must also be powerful.

Disc0rdant: Who inspires you? Do you consider your influences to be musical, ideological or both of these

Haimatokharmes: Of course we have many influences. In the early days we were chiefly inspired by the wave of "orthodox" black metal - DsO, Ofermod, Watain, etc. But the riffing and approach of the newer material is all over the place, in the world of BM at least - Immortal, Old Wainds, Arkhon Infaustus, Orcustus...The entire time we've also drawn from elements of death metal. Ideologically, each member of the band has very different approaches. I find myself chiefly inspired by a mixture of ancient Gnostic, Platonic, and Jewish themes, with which I try to express a particular blend of modern Left-Hand thinking which is centered on the aesthetic of Satanism.

Tichondrius: Everything I encounter inspires me. Negatively or positively, it matters not. Musically, we all have in common the love for music. Specifically, our influences aren't very different from most black metal bands... Ideologically? I believe in the freedom of thought, regardless of pretence. Anything i think is what i think, period. I do not question.

Disc0rdant: What are the musical backgrounds of Tichondrius, Haimatokharmes and His Emissary? Do you solely dedicate yourselves to black metal or do you collaborate on other projects?

Haimatokharmes: Like any musician I've played in many bands and genres over the years, but Ipsissimus is my first multi-year sustained effort. I'll soon be diving into collaboration as well, with members of Nehemah and Irrlycht. Tichondrius and His Emissary certainly are prolific...His Emissary played in seminal CT tech-death bands Capharnaum and Catalyst, played session guitar for Hour of 13 and Profanatica, and currently leads the sleaze-rock group Nightbitch.

Tichondrius: I've been playing for many years, in many different styles, but black metal is where i find myself most satisfied. I'm currently working with several black metal projects, Diminishment, Cur, as well as being asked to be a session member on Profanatica's Sickened by Holy Host, for which a release date has not yet been set.

Disc0rdant: How do you feel your use of Coptic language in the Way of Descent impact the lyrics and style of the album?

Haimatokharmes: The Coptic language has such a visceral and tactile feel - its syntax tends to be very compact and elegant, almost geometrical, while the words themselves are forceful, intense, alive... I felt it was a natural fit for the idiom of Left-hand thinking and black metal. This is of course somewhat perverse, since historically it's a Christian language, and used today only in liturgies of the Coptic (Egyptian) Church.

Tichondrius: Exactly. It's a tongue that feels powerful to speak, and brings power to the ear. Using it for our purposes is doubly blasphemous as well.

Disc0rdant: You used an image of Hathor the Egyptian goddess for your album artwork, as well as incorporating the Coptic language into the production of the album. Is there something in Egyptian ritual that appeals to you and the nihilist themes of the album?

Haimatokharmes: Ancient Egyptian religion dealt a great deal with death, but also with the world of life, and its rhythms in every-day as well as ecstatic and ritual environments. The ‘Way of Descent’ album deals a lot with the horizon between life and death, hanging by a string over the abyss, and the dissolution of self...such dissolution is worthwhile only when one comes back to life. We visit the realms of death, but that's interesting because we are still alive! So the appearance of an Egyptian fertility goddess and a procreative ritual on the cover is really quite fitting, showing both one of the avenues through which one might go to the other side (ritual ecstasy) and reminding one of where one ought to come back to (the present world).

Disc0rdant: What do you feel Jeff Weed in his role as ‘sonic alchemist’ will bring to the sound and quality of production of your music?

Tichondrius: Jeff knows us personally and he knows what we are trying to convey with our recordings. His ear is both finely attuned to what we tell him about our goals and to the recorded music. This combination allows him to shape the sounds in such a way that they'd have maximum impact for the listener. I, personally, find it difficult to believe we'd find someone else that could give our music such a platform.

Disc0rdant: How do you feel ‘Three Secrets of Fatima’ developed thematically and lyrically from your first demo ‘Trampling the Host’? Is it a different sound or a development of the sound of your first demo?

Tichondrius: We've been told that our demo is more raw than the EP, but that the ‘Three Secrets of Fatima’ EP was equally as powerful. I believe the raw nature of ‘Trampling the Host’ stems from the fact that those songs were written and recorded within only a few months of us forming. It was a conscious effort to push what we had on our demo for the EP. Thematically it is a natural progression, not far removed. Lyrically, we've expanded our scope in order to reach new aspects of Left Hand thinking.

Disc0rdant: There is a distinctive symphonic element to your style of black metal…what other black metal groups do you consider important at the moment and do they also incorporate the symphonic element?

Haimatokharmes: Obviously a lot of the melodies are inspired by Swedish black metal (Bathory, Dissection, Watain), classic American death metal (Morbid Angel, Immolation), as well as some Ukranian black metal bands (Drudkh). The latest Aaskereia release ("Dort, wo das alte Böse ruht") has some amazing melodies. I'm also very interested in some of the newer "orthodox" bands, like Dodsengel, Kaos Ritual, or Throne of Katharsis, and the last Sargeist release was mighty indeed.

Tichondrius: Honestly, i don't hear the symphonic element you speak of. I agree with Haimatokharmes on important groups. I'd also like to say that there are definitely New England bands worth watching out for.

Disc0rdant: Is black metal a musical style or a mind frame?

Tichondrious: In order for it to be 100% genuine, it has to be both.

Haimatokharmes: Either way, many carry the thyrsos, but few are the Bakkhoi.

Disc0rdant's avatar

Claire Maddocks lives in Sydney, Australia. A student of political science and taxidermy, her interests include playing drums, anthropology, thrash metal and disemboweling.

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