With so many bands now revolting against the sterile, soulless sound that Metal had begun to take in the late 90’s, heading right back to the roots of the genre, some of you may be beginning to feel a little agitation. Sure, we can all appreciate the return of these more wholesome, natural sounds of the 70’s, but what of the HEAVINESS? Where’s the Heavy Metal gone?
Which sets the stage for SATURNALIA TEMPLE perfectly. Maybe they don’t reinvent the Doom Metal genre, but they’re almost reinventing the word Heavy. Lightweight stereo systems beware, this is liable to blow not just your speakers but take a few minds out too. With their first full length album just released, I got in touch with Tommie to find what monolithic tones the album promises to bring.
The recent ‘On the powers of the sphinx’ 4-way split came in the 4 forms of Levi’s ‘To will’, ‘To dare’, ‘To keep silent’ and the track that you composed, ‘To know’. When you first hear of a band, what is most important for you to first know about them? After an interview, what is the most important discovery you can make? And as the Greeks held ‘know thyself’ in a high regard, what does the reader need to know about the formation of Saturnalia Temple?
Saturnalia Temple are a band that have a strong occult and esoteric backbone, and play our own brew of heavy rock/doom with a hypnotic touch. We released our demo UR in 2007 which has then been released in many formats (Gatefold LP, CD, Cassette) in 2008, released an EP in 2009 a compilation in 2010. Our first real album is out by Walpurgis 2011, named Aion of Drakon.
It is of course a great occasion when someone creates a compilation album dedicated to four major occult concepts. I hope more such adventures are ahead of us. What is most important about a band? If they are any good!
The music you’ve released thus far melds slabs of heavy guitar distortion and feedback of old Heavy Metal together with subjects not rooted in Western culture, particularly this track ‘To know’ which almost feels like a Buddhist Mantra / aum chant. Which is more important when you create a track, its listenability or its ability to induce a trance? [or trippiness if you prefer] Or is there more to your music than just this?
I find it hard to talk about exactly how the music is made, the process is consciously moved outside the world of thoughts, just trying to get something down that feels right. Your description sounds very good. The instruments are western, but like you say, we enjoy a more free attitude towards songs. The ability to induce trance is important, but we also like classic blues and hard rock, so that is why it is balanced with that.
On the 1st of May your first album ‘Aion of Darkness’ will see its official release on Ajna in the US and Nuclear Winter in Europe. What has progressed from the Ur demo and s/t EP? Are the tracks sounding much the same but with everything turned up to 11, or are you experimenting with a few different ideas?
We are experimenting and also staying the same. Always playing on 11. I personally feel that this album captured us at our very best, was recorded live of course, late at night. Every time I listen to it, I can feel the vibes we were feeling then, like being transported to a special place. That to me is what is important. And what I like with any record.
The recordings for the album started in mid-summer 2010 and I believe everything was ready by the end of that year. Do you have the freedom of time in the studio you use? As the music doesn’t seem so dependant on dynamics and song structure, more on these immensely heavy, textured guitar sounds, what’s the best way to break up the monotony of recording in the studio? What’s the best way to maintain freshness in the tracks? How do you transfer the energy from rehearsals (does the band still rehearse now that a few of the members have left?) into a recording?
Aion of Drakon, our new album, had me and the old drummer who had been playing together since 2006, and Peter on Bass who joined in 2008. So, we knew each other really well musically. I have my own natural studio in a loft here in the countryside where I live, so there are no time limits or other distractions, and no people around etc. This desolation is a great inspiration from all aspects. I appreciate the two extremes of studio use, on the one hand to record where we naturally play, i.e. not in a specially built studio environment, and to hardly polish the sound at all with EQs or other things, but to capture the natural sound of the band and on the other hand to use a lot of deranged delays or other FX when it feels right. I cannot stand hardly any of the modern productions, I mean if one looks at most Death and Black Metal productions today, it sounds totally feeble, it is compressed and limited (using a limiter tool) to a high output, but there is only bass and high frequencies, the mid range, which you can hear in most music before recording, is removed so that it will soothe the ears of the nameless masses of intended record buyers (or downloaders…..). But using only analog tools does not solve it either, it is of course in the ears. Though, of course, this is only my view, to each his own.
These days we have Mika from Ofermod doing our drums, we´ll see if we can make it work long time what with him living in another part of Sweden and having other duties etc. I do play drums, but I´d hate us looking like a carnival outfit.
Focus and freshness is best reached by regular Kundalini meditation. Though I don´t really dig to bring the actual rituals and meditations out on a live circuit among the people, it is too personal to me. It is enough to just play the music, and allow the magic to occur inside oneself.
Two of the tracks from the album, ‘God is Two’ and ‘Sitra Ahra Ruled Solitary before the Creation’, are these based on the Gnostic accounts of the creation? Of all the written (and musical) knowledge from the past that has been lost, how much of it can be rediscovered? Can modern discoveries on the creation of the universe, scientific or otherwise, be reconciled with the old creation stories? How can we look into the Devil’s Eye again?
Both are inspired by the Qliphotic Qabalah. As for modern discoveries, it is quite intriguing that the oldest creation story, the Indian, begins with a universal sound AUM, and the string theory also talks about a sound vibration in Creation. In Sanskrit this AUM is the sound of Creation, the sound of Destruction is HA. Quite suitable also in view of modern western language? Ha!
The cover artwork has been created by Dennis Dread – was this your choice or did this come about through his connection to Ajna, having drawn the cover for the Bobby Beausoleil boxset? Did you have any input on the artwork, or was it purely from his own ideas? His previous work draws much from the old madcap comics of the 60’s, do you read much of these or is it only the old music that you go back to?
I actually asked Dennis, and he was kind enough to take this on. We had been in touch for a while, so I had quite a good feeling about it. I love what he did in the past and what he did for us is at least as good, actually I feel he really outdid himself! Parts of the ideas came from my own visions, parts from his. I am very proud of the artwork of this album, it echoes the music brilliantly.
We’re going back again… and again…. and again. What are you going back to? Is it the past knowledge of the forgotten cults, of Babylon and Ur? Is it a recurring vision or dream as mentioned in ‘Dreaming out of Death’? Is it the music that returns, going back to the past much as Saint Vitus did with ‘Born too late’? Or is it a multitude of different things that return through a cycle?
Like you mention below, I try to achieve some subtleness, so I tend not to talk too much about lyrics. But I can assure you that we mean a lot earlier than the sixties… Not to tangle into misunderstandings, the song reaches out of time, wanting to be born beyond time, meaning being eternal.
Unlike the lyrics in both Therion and Shadowseeds, Saturnalia Temple’s appear less direct, more subtle, they may not be as easily understood when first read. Is this from the nature of the music, now much less clear cut, the sounds are fuzzier than the precise melodic harmonies of Therion. Does Thomas Karlsson still write for you, are you still a member of his group?
I started writing occult texts and lyrics around 1992, and I hope to have matured my output to be less direct than the lyrics I did for Shadowseeds, though I still like them, since they were invocations. No, this does not really follow the music. Though, in those days I did not really have the technical knowledge in the studio, or the confidence to throw out the engineer to get the pure and natural sound I would have liked. So, it has been a growing thing, the more technical knowledge about music production, the more rules to break and the clearer path what not to do. Possibly that aligns to writing as well. I am of course in Dragon Rouge if that is what you mean. Thomas wrote a lyric on Aion of Drakon.
Since the rise of Swedish Orthodox Black Metal, bands increasingly seem to feel that if they don’t proclaim themselves adept Kabbalists, anti-kosmik masters and committed Satanists, then this somehow makes their music inadequate. As you’ve been involved in making music with strong occult underpinnings for numerous years now, how does it manifest itself in the music? What makes one track ‘occult’ and another not? Is music any more magic today than it was 40 years past? Is it mainly from how the listener perceives it?
It is sad if what you call music would make it better or worse. And indeed, in music as in life, that which is false will break (sooner or later). You cannot fake it, perhaps you can fool your audience, but never yourself, and if it is worth living a lie to get to stand in front of an audience, it is already game over. I do not claim to make good music. I do claim to make occult or dark magical music, much of it owing to the fact that this is my everyday dedication, just like some people watch TV every day (And if you´re Gene Simmons there may be great songs also in that…) Someone who is not into occultism or magical initiation at all could still possibly capture something of that nature, but then it would be coincidental, or aimed for entertainment. Nothing wrong with that. But I am not trying to entertain an audience. To say that an audience is necessary for an artist is to me only true if you are coming from a superficial perspective where you only create to reach out to people and to gain something in return. If one has an occult, magical initiatory attitude, music, once created takes on an immanent nature and is in itself a great reward. Why then play live? Cause I really dig to travel round, drink beer and play songs.
I think that these days, it takes more tangible things to make people assume a song is occult, magical or satanic. But this is only a mirage. What actually exists cannot be altered by a fancy mask. However, the explosion of bands wanting to seem satanic, magical or occult are only helping to spread these ideas, which can be good. Not least since I myself found much inspiration from bands who probably were not too sure what they were doing.
And what would you like people to gain from listening to your new album? Is it enough for people to just enjoy it for the music without strictly understanding what else might be happening? Can you expect them to experience the music in the same way as you do in creating it?
We make blues based heavy music. You need no Ph.D to dig it, hopefully. But those interested in dark esoteric topics may feel something in their soil stir, or may receive visions, dreams or other forms of inspiration. Hopefully, it is a timeless poison against existential boredom. Or bores you into existential elevation.
This summer you’ll be playing at the Hells Pleasure festival in Possneck, Germany. What are your expectations for the festival and have you played an open air festival like this one before? Do you edit or tailor any of the songs to make them more accessible in the live situation? Are you just reproducing what is heard on the records? Festivals in the 70’s often used to have no fixed set-times, how long do you think you could play for non-stop? What would be the ideal setting for your music?
This is the first open air for Saturnalia Temple. But not for me. We never play songs exactly the same, we invite all kinds of changes, and hope to become more of an organic vessel of inspiration than playing the same set every night. I never play the same solo twice, or sing exactly the same twice. We could play for hours. I mean, on our last Swedish gig the promoter came running with a big sign telling us to stop, since we hade already broken the 75min limit of the curfew, and we then had two songs left. But both me and Peter had our eyes closed, so we did not see the sign. Paul finally saw it, and did thus not count in the next song, which made us open our eyes, and there was this big sign. Amazing.
Electric Wizard will also be playing at the festival, a band that your demo [perhaps unfairly…] was often compared to. Can you sympathise with the stoner crowd? Were they ever an influence on your band?
When you say stoner, I am thinking of stuff that I really like, such as “Spine of God” by Monster Magnet for example. But I was never much into Fun Manchu or later genre-based stoner. Though labels and genres, and comparisons indeed, are often totally boring.
I totally respect what Electric Wizard are doing. They are doing their own thing. We are doing our own thing. I am happy, as long as no one claims we sound like Europe (though with long hair, distorted electric guitars and a drummer, we are in the risk zone…)
The sphinx was said to have guarded the entrance to the Greek city of Thebes, asking a riddle to anyone wanting to gain access to the city. Sphinxes are notoriously hard to find these days, but to close up this interview and allow you to exit I’ll ask the following puzzle:
What does not exist and never has existed, yet is our most precious possession, because it is all we have left?
And once you can guess the answer, what will this answer bring? [and if you can’t, just make one up!]
Answer_ NOTHING which brings SOMETHING
Walpurgis night has passed, out of nothing comes the album Aion of Drakon. Available from one of the links below: