Interview with Arzarkhel of Astriaal
Interview questions by Decadent
HM: Since your inception in 1998, you`ve gone on to become one of Australia`s best known black metal outfits. Tell us a bit about the early days of Astriaal and any difficulties you found in establishing yourselves in the Australian scene.
Well we have been going nigh on 6 years now and have never really faced any difficulties as far as I am concerned anyway. The most difficult duty was to organise and perform shows interstate which requires finding the right bands to perform with, locating decent venues and transport issues etc. Subsequently these issues soon fell into place for us and we made contact and became good friends with many great Australian bands. The main difficulty facing us though would be the time it takes us to write new material and the fact that we couldn`t release our debut album sooner. The Australian scene is now I fee in a much stronger state, as we are now looking forward to being a dark exponent within the current and future Australian extreme metal scene.
HM: You finally released your debut full length, Renascent Misanthropy, last year. Why did you wait so long to release a full length, and what sort of response have you gotten from your fans and the general metal community?
Trust me the 5 year wait was not intentional. Raising the finances to pay for the overwhelming vision we had for our debut and our constant touring always delayed our timing for the album recording sessions etc. It seems Australia has taken very well to Astriaal and we have a very strong and loyal fan base whose support is always known at live performances and with `Renascent Misanthropy` selling well within Australia and rating highly on many webzine/radio polls and reviews etc. So yes, the support is definitely strong here in Australia as is the entire Australian extreme metal underground scene. Alas we have only recently signed a licensing deal with `Aftermath Music` [Norway] which will see our debut album `Renascent Misanthropy` released throughout Europe and the U.S in late April 2003. This is a great step for Astriaal and it will be very interesting to see the response from the global metal community.
HM: Having toured the east coast quite extensively over the past few years, do you plan to tour overseas at any time soon?
One of our most desired goals would be to perform live in Europe or the U.S but we need exposure and distribution in these countries before we would even contemplate a tour overseas. Thus we hope the deal with `Aftermath Music` now
releasing our debut album worldwide will open the gates for Astriaal`s international touring prospects. Does overseas include playing in Tasmania...Ha! Well we hope to get there this year also, probably our only overseas trip this year I foresee.
HM: Released not long after Renascent Misanthropy, The Throne to Perish is a remarkable landmark in style and preserved in the fact that it was able to be released on vinyl format in a limited edition of 666 copies. The lyrics are much more aggressive and anti-Christian than those of earlier songs. What was the reason for the shift in style?
We used `The Throne to Perish` track for this release as we felt it was a strong song that just wouldn`t quite sit so well with the later material we had written for our debut full length. We were hoping `The Throne to Perish` 7"EP would have been out before the full length but alas this was not to be. During the period in which `The Throne to Perish` track was written we felt that it differed greatly in structure, composition and atmosphere compared to previous and subsequently later material we had written in Astriaal. Many different albums and bands were influencing us at the time and my frame of mind was more focused on conveying a stronger anti-Christian/anti-religious statement which had always been a part of Astriaal`s philosophy although not always overtly expressed. With the noticeable difference musically expressed within the track in comparison to newer material, we decided to release it as a 7"EP after `Dark Horizon Records` from the U.S had approached us and were interested in releasing rare material from within the Astriaal reliquary. A year later and it was released in October 2003. As many people have probably noticed `The Throne to Perish` track specifically represents a transitional sonic period for Astriaal. Although the 7"EP suffered several delays we are very pleased with the final package and look forward to the day when the entire Astriaal catalogue has been etched upon wax.
HM: What was the significance of the `Revelations` trilogy on `Deception Revelation`?
The `...Revelations` trilogy is a concept arrangement based on the ideology surrounding specific Northern European runes and their relevant meanings. The three chapters `Thurisaz - Reflections of Inception`, `Hagalaz - Destructive Forces` and `Raido - The Journey` were composed by all three of our guitarists, a process which has never really been utilised within Astriaal. The material had been forged long before it was recorded, thus it was reconstructed and layered [drums/vokalz/samples] into three chapters each with its own distinct emotion aligned to it. As I only perform vokalz on the `Hagalaz` chapter of `...Revelations` the general philosophy behind `Hagalaz - Destructive Forces` is my belief in the age of human anti-development, for this age is upon us. Mankind shall expire in the near future I feel, as we are conjuring an archetype for our own demise.
HM: Australia isn`t exactly the top of the crop in the metal world. Do you find it difficult playing black metal in a country with no established scene?
I think you are somewhat mistaken to think that Australia does or didn`t have an established extreme metal scene. Australia has had and currently does have some of the most extreme and well respected bands worldwide [Sadistik Exekution, Bestial Warlust for example.] Agreed it is only recently that the scene has stepped out of general obscurity which has raised the profile of the scene creating a force of its own [Festivals, shows etc], but it has always been there and supported nonetheless. We don`t find it difficult to play Black Metal in Australia as we have a very loyal and strong "fan" base so to speak and have now created a high enough profile for ourselves through extensive touring, releases and press/radio coverage etc. So for us to play Black Metal in Australia it has been a long journey but no more difficult than any other extreme metal band trying to do the same in their chosen field. Getting known overseas is the challenge whilst being located in Australia with our country being so remote from the global scene and lacking in strong label support, these will be the obstacles faced by Australian bands desiring international exposure and recognition.
HM: While playing undisputable black metal, you have an extremely original sound. Even black metal purists have a strong belief in your sound and your ability to stay true to the ideologies of the scene. How do you stay true while implementing so many fresh dynamics into your music?
Well most of the composition is derived by our guitarists, certain riffs are created and presented to us and thus a structuring process is then applied. Once the base foundation is comprised riff wise the drums and percussion are then added to compliment each section, then all the sections are reworked and reassembled once again. With the song structure nearly complete it is then that I add vokals and utilise lyrics which I feel portray the emotional imagery each movement is trying to express. The writing process can take a long time within an Astriaal composition as we want each song to have its own identity and sound unlike any other song we have previously written. This foundation resides primarily with our guitarists and their search for new sounds and experimentation within riff structure and composition. Also our guitarists are quite withdrawn from the overpopulated "modern" Black Metal releases and draw more upon their own abilities and writing skills whilst staying true to the originators and pioneering greats who pushed Black Metal art to the majestic extremes. With our style leaning more towards the Black Metal end of the spectrum this simply allows us to express a lot more atmosphere within each of Astriaal`s compositions. The future sounds of Astriaal are taking on a darker persona, revealing themselves within the murky depths of our collective subconscious.
HM: What exactly is the meaning of Astriaal? Assuming from your song titles, it`s derived from `astral`, with the cosmological universe and everything, but can you expand on this?
The term `Astriaal` and what it represents: it is a slight variation on the word `astral` and the image this term conveys... Music is a vessel, a portal of sorts, and it can be absorbed, transformed and given life to... Black Metal can transcend the listener from the coldest of winter wastelands to the darkest, furthermost regions of the cosmos, the infinite Abyss...A guide for the astral traveller, the purest form of astral projection. This is where the true essence of Astriaal lies.
HM: What do Astriaal have planned for the future?
We have ceased all live activity for the moment in order to write and compose new material for the next opus. Our goal is to have enough material for the next release by late Winter/Spring and to then complete all recording sessions by the end of 2004 for an early 2005 release. I have been consumed lately with the vision and future artistic aesthetics to be utilized for the next release also. I feel the next product will have a much darker tone and aura about the music and imagery as this seems to be the direction it is heading with our most recent compositions. I am very keen to unleash the new material as it taking Astriaal to the next level again with composition...trust me it will be disturbingly majestic!
HM: Any last comments?
Hailx to you Nick and Northern Shadows zine for the interview and support!! [Admin note: NS is now part of the HM]
For information got to:
Imbibe The Misanthropic Plague