In 2017 I reviewed the independent film “British Black Metal: The Extreme Underground Documentary” about the third wave of UK black metal. The featured bands included Winterfylleth, Fen and A Forest of Stars. Are you familiar with those bands or the film?
Arron (drums): This is definitely one for Andy and Paul!
Andy (vocals): Funnily enough, I was in that documentary! My other band Forneus was one of the bands interviewed. I've gigged with a few of the other bands on that documentary, and the gig with A Forest Of Stars was actually an all-dayer organized by Paul.
Paul (bass): I've not seen the documentary actually. I'll have to make up for that. Definitely know the bands, and good friends with the AFOS folks, from my home town of Leeds. That was a very fun all dayer!
What information about the black metal scene of the 2010s can you provide for the readers?
Paul: The UK black metal scene seems to be pretty strong at the moment. A lot of awesome bands coming though in the last few years and a good amount of gigs and festivals, good labels and review sites out there to help spread it even more.
Andy: I agree, the scene is pretty strong at the moment! Looking forward to getting back into gigging with Aubzagl again.
How many all-day events has Paul organized lately? Do his events receive a lot of zine and webzine coverage?
Paul: I only do one event a year these days, the Damnation Festival pre-show. My last all dayer was in 2014. I had been putting on gigs, all dayers, festivals and club nights since around 2000 but wanted to focus time, energy and money elsewhere.
Andy: As far as I know the bands that were in the documentary were all pretty well known beforehand, which is one of the reasons they were picked to be in it.
For what other reasons were the bands in “British Black Metal” chosen to be interviewed?
Andy: I'd say the other reason bands were interviewed was purely because we were mates with Andy Horry who was making the documentary. He was guitarist for a band called Slaughterthrone at the time (or had just left), so he knew quite a few of us personally.
Paul: It was Andy's documentary, I remember it now. I haven't seen it but will hopefully rectify one day. Never enough hours in the day or the year.
Has anyone in the band watched other documentaries about extreme metal in the past year or two? Which would you recommend?
Paul: I watched the Lords Of Chaos one recently. It was surprisingly better than I thought it was going to be!Aside from all the obvious / known black metal ones, I'd recommend Slave To The Grind and Doom Doc that some friends made. Also recently watched a Japanese Extreme Metal one that's a pretty decent overview. I watch a lot on individual musicians, album makings. Tons out there on YouTube.
Jamie (guitar): Not necessarily 'extreme metal' but I've recently watched 'The Godfathers Of Hardcore' the Agnostic Front documentary, I suppose back in 1980 when they formed they were pretty extreme. In a strange way without Agnostic Front there wouldn't be Aubzagl, as they influenced most of the bands I grew up listening to.
Arron: The only documentaries I've watched in the last couple of years have been about serial killers. Varg would need to add a few more before he gets himself a Netflix documentary.
Andy: I have Metal: A Headbanger's Journey on DVD, but the closest I've come otherwise is the usual "Making of" stuff that bands release when doing a new album. I haven't watched Lords Of Chaos yet but find it hilarious that everyone is annoyed that they finally realized their idols were edge lord teenagers!
What gigs, all-dayers and fests was Paul organizing before solely placing his efforts on Damnation Festival? Who were the bands appearing at the most recent Damnation Fest?
Paul: I've done events (some being me, some as part of collectives, helping others) under the names of Raw Nerve, Lovely Time, Devastator, Arise, 'kin Hell Fest and Yorkshire Riffer. I book the venue and bands for the pre-show.
How many years has the Damnation Festival been held? What does your pre-show work entail? Are you helping seek venues for the event or working with others?
Arron: I think 2005 was the first Damnation Fest. It was originally held in Manchester, then after one or two years in moved to Leeds. That first year in Leeds Esclavage played at the pre-show (did you put that on, Paul? Madman Is Absolute played) and Soulfracture played the next day.
Andy: I've only ever been to Damnation in recent years, definitely after Arron's old bands played.
Arron: Ihsahn from Emperor has played there in the last year or two. I wasn't there. A Forest of Stars, Dragged Into Sunlight, The Infernal Sea, Winterfylleth have played there over the last few years. There are always one or two black metal bands playing each year. Hopefully that can be us in the future.
How long has Aubzagl been active? How well known are they becoming while promoting the release of their debut EP?
Arron: As for Aubzagl, we've been active around 2.5 years, but we’ve done little up to now for various reasons. We've had a decent amount of plays and downloads so far for the EP, as well as some brilliant reviews, feedback and plays on lots of radio stations.
Paul: We have had a great response to the EP, which has been amazing really. The 'various reasons' Arron mentioned was mainly life and all its weird, interesting, frustrating curve balls and direction changes getting a little in the way. Whilst we'll never be the sort of band that can play fifty shows a year or anything, we do hope to be productive writing and recording.
Getting riffs out of the system, no matter how you do it, be it live or on record, is an amazing feeling. It's always interesting to see where they go in the sense of a band setting, when you have an initial idea and then see what happens when a handful of other people get hold of them.
It's been great working with the Aubzagl guys so far, as everyone has played in bands a lot over the years, and so to be able to pool all that knowledge and ways of playing around with sound has been a lot of fun.
I wouldn't say we are massively well known, but the EP has been spread around a lot by a lot of different people, and the downloading of the EP has been healthy and steady, so, we'll just keep our name out there and keep writing more riffs.
Andy: Aubzagl is definitely a great way to channel energy, our newer material is getting much more personal from a lyrical standpoint due to our continually evolving approach to what we do.
Does Aubzagl musically draw inspiration from the current British black metal scene, or are there older influences you draw from as well as present ones? How does the band strive for their own sound when there are countless unsigned bands the world over?
Paul: Personally I draw influence from all the music I've ever heard. Any style, good and bad. I feel that both help me equally in pushing the music I want to release to be the best it can be. If it's a song I consider bad (as in badly written, a sound I don't like, or both), then that helps me understand more how to create music to the best of my ability. I don't feel there any constraints, just because we may generally fit into the black metal sound, style or scene. All the members are into so many different styles that it's bound to show in the sound to a degree.
Andy: I agree with Paul in the inspiration front. It comes from all sorts of music, all walks of life. I know I still get influenced by the current black metal scene as I am involved in a few other bands in the scene. But rather than making it similar it allows me to adapt my lyrical approach to something a little more unique.
In what ways does British black metal of the 2010s differ from British black metal of the 1990s, besides 1990s and 2000s black metal from Norway, Sweden, Finland, Germany etc?
Andy: The main way it differs I'd say is probably the ideas behind it, the fact that most of the musicians have moved past the rebellious reasons behind most of it. The sound is a bit different too, due to the different influences in both music and environment.
Paul: BBM90s definitely had a certain sound, especially due to the likes of Cradle Of Filth and Hecate Enthroned, in fact I'd say it was pretty obvious what country a band was from in the 90s/early 2000s due to their sound. You could easily tell a Norwegian versus Swedish, German versus French, American versus British by the nuances, temperature of the tone, delivery in vocals and sometimes right down to the artwork.
Nowadays, the entire extreme music (not just metal) scene is a huge melting pot, and, whilst I loved all the earlier bands that I found when I first was getting into black metal in 1993/4, I have always been someone into more progressive natures of any styles. It's far more interesting and it pushes boundaries, thought and intellect much more. That's why I've always played in bands of different styles, that like to mix it up, and why I would always put on mixed bill line ups when hosting concerts, and, Aubzagl, for me is no different.
Because of the members involved in the band, and knowing them before joining, I knew there was going to be something interesting and different that would blanket the basic initial blueprint of the idea, and as time goes on, that's only going to get expanded on.
Some people suspect there are so many bands due to social media and streaming sites that originality is waning in extreme metal. And there are too many subgenre classifications.
Andy: I personally think subgenres are a good thing for finding the kind of thing you would like, however people get too fixed on what a specific genre is supposed to sound like. That's why you get people complaining that black metal is getting too progressive or isn't evil enough or whatever outdated idea you want to cling to. So long as you remember that genres are just recommendation labels rather than concrete rules, you have a window to be creative. That's why we have hardcore and grind influences in our black metal.
Paul: I love all the bickering and silliness over sub/sub-sub-genre discussion, and join in from time to time, but it is only a guideline, to bring roughly the right group of people towards your own / the music being talked about. The music listening world is taking in far more diverse stuff than ever before, and the music playing world are encouraging it continually. If we don't progress, what's the point?
In spite of everything metal fans are still perceived as airheads, incapable of maturity and creative growth. Why does the general public hold to those blanket stereotypes?
Paul: The generalized view is that the general public think metal fans are airheads, but metal fans think the general public are idiots. I don't think it's as true as the generalization says it is, so, it depends on which side of the fence you're on, how closely you look, how true and metal and angry you want to perceive yourself to be. I think the broader view of it is changing a lot. It also depends on where you live.
There seems very little spite against metallers / alternative folk in Leeds anymore. It is a very progressive city, and as mentioned before, without progression, life seems pointless, so I am very appreciative of where I live for this reason.
I've recently just got back from a week in the Czech Republic, and whilst there are some amazing festivals, venues and bands out there, and a lot of people into the music, I felt like I was getting stared at a lot more for having tattoos and wearing black whilst on public transport and in the streets, compared to what I would in Leeds, or in other major cities in the UK thinking of it.
I define myself as a metaller, yes, but it doesn't define my character. There are some metallers that hold the worst ideals dear (racists / fascists, misogynists / homophobes, hunters etc) and I don't want anything to do with that side of it, the same way that I don't want anything to do with non-metallers of the same thinking.
There are brainless idiots, arseholes, people unworthy of oxygen in all walks of life, the same way as there are absolutely incredible, nice, empathetic, helpful people in all walks of life.
That may not sound very 'extreme' or 'trve black metal' of me to say that, but, I don't really care.
Andy: Personally, I don't see metal stereotypes that much anymore. Then again, we ARE the kind of people who are pretty loud about our appreciation of music in all forms.
Sometimes anger is fabricated; especially if it’s marketed as being “cool”. Other times there is a reason for it. Does the media makes it more difficult to tell the difference? How can genuine anger work toward constructive ends?
Paul: Look at 90% of the musicians in the extreme scene, they've put their music together, at least initially from a place of anger or frustrating, being pissed off about something, either personal or societal. The whole music scene is bred from that, even if the music isn't speaking about it specifically, what has led those musicians to be a part of the world they are in? It's to escape the 'normal' world. It's finding ways of dealing with things that anger, upset, confuse, cause health problems to (mentally especially).
Arron: I think you can generally listen to a couple of tracks by a band and tell if their anger is sincere or just a gimmick. Reading the lyrics adds to that. Rage Against The Machine and Weekend Nachos are my go to "angry" bands. They've got something to say and they're going to say it and I think they both present in a way that makes me take notice. One are angry about people they grew up with and the town they're from and the other about social and economical politics. Both very different reasons, but both important to them. The delivery of those lyrics is a major thing for me, too. You can just feel it. That anger is palpable. When they say things like; "you need to connect with a song and convey the emotions" on something like The X Factor, whilst it sounds lame as fuck it's completely true. If you feel what they're saying and it evokes something in you, it's doing the job. Add on top of that the music and you've got two bands that make me want to smash stuff. Because they want to smash stuff.
Andy: Like Paul said, most evocative music is formed from anger or similar emotions. I always found it interesting to listen to a band's youthful in-your-face anger at the start of their careers and hearing how it progresses into more mature, more refined ideas as they grow as people. This is especially true of the black metal scene, I find.
Are the “trve” and “kvlt” tags another example of clique mentality in the underground?
Paul: You can always tell which bands are the more genuine ones, I don't rely on the media for swaying my opinions about that or what bands I should or shouldn't like. It's the same with if someone calls themselves 'kvlt' or whatever, the ones that are doing it because they want to, as opposed to that's what they think is the cool thing to do, you can almost always tell the difference.
Clique mentality, I don't think is necessarily a bad thing at all times. It can be the thing that keeps friendships going, that brings like-minded people together that might not ordinarily be able to be involved in bigger groups. Some circles of people just function better when it's just them and nobody else. Some cliques are born from introversion. If that's the way that people need to be, to get by the best they can, and they're not harming anyone else, then just let them get on with it I guess.
Jamie: I don't listen to enough black metal to know what "trve" or "kvlt" mean, I'm sure to some people they mean everything to them and that's fine. The songs I wrote for the EP are simply what I felt at the time if they are trve or kvlt then it's purely unintentional.
Arron: I don't know too much about "trve" and "kvlt" either. To me, they're just black metal hipsters. I don't think too many bands that particularly bothered about trying to be either and just, like you say please what they feel. If every band were "trve" and "kvlt" then black metal as a genre would become stale and stagnant with every band looking and sounding the same.
Andy: "Trve" and "kvlt" are basically people holding on to a traditionalist idea of black metal. Nostalgia has its place but not when it stops you from progressing. It's fucking stupid when a genre exemplified by a dude who said "NO TRENDS" can't break out of a trend of how it should sound. Black metal is an attitude and a feeling rather than a specific rule set in my opinion. I've often found most people who stick to these terms are either the types who also have one-person bedroom black metal bands and say black metal shouldn't be played live, or they are using it as an excuse to say that black metal needs to be evil and sing about nazi shit or some random bullshit like that. This isn't EVERYONE in the scene obviously, but unfortunately it is a rather vocal section. The more I can do to annoy the fuck out of them the better!
How long was the process of writing the songs that appeared on the EP and choosing a title? Did you opt to record and release it independently to get around the pitfalls?
Andy: The songs we wrote earlier definitely have a bit more of a second wave black metal influence to them, as when Martyn (Hare, ex-Send More Paramedics) started the band he was aiming for a tribute to that style. Most of the lyrics on the EP were written during those initial stages, but later songs (namely “Voices of the Aether” and “The End of All Things”) have a more personal edge to them, as that works better with how our music is evolving.
Jamie: I had a lot of the riffs and songs that are on the EP written before I joined Aubzagl. I didn't and still don't listen to that much black metal at all, so if we sound like any sort of band it's purely unintentional! I'm kind of an outsider to the whole black metal scene. I grew up listening to grunge, thrash and hardcore so all those influences come out in my writing but as soon as Arron, Andy and Paul put their parts on the songs they sort of twist and shape into sounding more black metal. The songs came together quite fast actually as I had a lot of them structured and sorted before I joined. It helps that Arron, Paul and Andy are amazing musicians they picked up what I'd already sorted and just nailed every part.
Arron: My background is more death, thrash and hardcore, so like Jamie I've never been involved in anything black metal related.
Paul: My black metal influences come from bands like Immortal, Emperor, Wolves in the Throne Room, Dragged Into Sunlight, but my knowledge of the genre is quite limited.
Describe how the lyrics penned for your EP go with those differences you described.
Andy: The lyrics are a bit of a myriad topic, as quite a few of those were written back when we were intending to just pay tribute to the second wave Norwegian bands. Later on we started becoming our own thing, which is where songs like The End of All Things and especially Voices of the Aether, where I felt it more appropriate to take a personal approach instead of sticking to the old-school subjects of the other songs on the EP (namely Satanism, misanthropy, nihilism).
The new material has a bit more experimentation blending the noise pieces like Null and Ogilt and blending them into the music, along with much more personally nihilistic lyrics.
Paul: The next set of songs, I guess we'll just try and delve further into the themes and styles we did on the first release, but add something new as well. In every single song I either write or play on, I always try and put something slightly different in, that I've never done before, that might not be the obvious way of doing things, and I'll never change in that. First and foremost, there will be RIFFS!
In what formats is the debut EP Eilífa Kuldinn available at the time of this writing? Was it released exclusively in digital and streaming format or did you also have CD copies pressed? Which format most helps you get your name around?
Andy: The title of the EP was actually what took the longest! We tried a load of different things before Paul suggested the current one, which is in Icelandic.
Paul: It was actually Arron that suggested the idea of the title being non-English, and my obsession with everything Icelandic wasn't going to hold back the possibility of that happening!
Jamie: With regards to releasing it independently, we just wanted to get these songs out there so it just seemed to be the easiest way if we handled everything from recording it and releasing it ourselves. We've all been in bands that have had music released by labels and they're great for getting your name out there and doing all the behind the scenes work, I personally haven't really had any "pitfalls" working with labels.
Andy: The only time I've ever had a problem with labels was with the label that released the CD version of the "In Satan's Honour" split Forneus took part in, but even then it was only a really minor detail that bugged me and no one else noticed! Still, I've always maintained the idea a band should get full control of their material, even when it comes to format of release.
Jamie: The EP is download/streaming for now simply due to it being the easiest way to get your music out to more people. We have talked about a physical version being available, but that is for further in the future.
Which zines and radio stations have helped support the EP, and how has the feedback been?
Andy: So far the response has been quite positive, we've had good reviews from Head-Banger Reviews, Black Metal Daily and Musipedia Of Metal, as well as being "Band of the Week" on The Autopsy Report rock & metal radio show.
Musically and lyrically, how is your newer material an improvement from what the EP offers?
Andy: The new material has a bit more experimentation blending the noise pieces like Null and Ogilt and blending them into the music, along with much more personally nihilistic lyrics.
Describe the lyrics of Eilífa Kuldinn. Who penned them and what images do they evoke?
Andy: I wrote all the lyrics, though my approach evolved over time. When we first started it was very much the idea to pay tribute to the ideas in the second wave of black metal, so lyrics for The Hermit for example are about restoring old gods and living alone in the forest as the world crumbles around you, or The Adversary being very anti-religion. I did experiment with more esoteric lyrics, like Varaha which is about a Hindu creation myth but framed in a nihilistic way, or Oath of Blood which actually evolved from ideas I've had for old Forneus material but never suited that band. The End of All Things and Voices of the Aether are the most recent songs completed and the most personal, delving more into me excising my own self-destructive thoughts. Mental health is definitely an influence on our genre as a whole (otherwise why would we have DSBM?) and needs to be talked about more often. Many of us in the band have had experiences either personally or with friends and loved ones that have dealt with this stuff to varying degrees of success or failure, which is why I ended up deciding that channeling these thoughts into our music as it evolved to become an uglier, more terrifying thing would work.
If and when you release a physical version of the EP, will you release it independently or seek an indie label to distribute it? Would you contact a label in the UK or overseas?
Paul: We have no concrete plans with that. It would be nice to see it on all formats, especially now the response has been so awesome. We'll eventually do a small run ourselves if the interest continues, but it would be nice to have the help of someone in that as well. Open to ideas really. We're just really glad it's out there now after having these songs written for so long.
There's every possibility we will use other instruments outside of the standard band set up, yes. If we hear something in our heads that needs to go on the next recordings, if the overall sound requires something specific, then we'll do our best to find whatever instrument is needed to make it.
Many black metal bands incorporate native music from their respective countries, and/or classical instruments, and lately bands have added classic metal vibes to their material. Is this something Aubzagl would consider doing at some point?
Andy: Culturally I don't know if the UK HAS anything to add musically. Unless we either add a morris dancing breakdown or take the British Empire route and just start stealing shit and saying it's ours! On a more serious note, we're willing to do whatever serves the songs. If a song calls for odd instrumentation, we'll use them.
Paul: It's the same if a song needs to go in a certain direction to get the overall impact right, then we'll do it. We're not constricted by any boundaries, which hopefully the first EP did enough to already speak that clear. We'll always do the most to benefit the RIFFS!
In what ways does the EP leave Aubzagl to individually progress and grow on future releases?
Arron: The EP contains songs that were written between one and three years ago. Some when we'd just started playing together. So all we'll do is get together and write a whole bunch of new songs, but where we've been playing together a lot longer and have a better understanding of each others' playing. The main thing the next release will contain is riffs.
Andy: We've already started working on new material, and currently we are pushing it into the weird and wonderful. I personally want this music to just fuck with people in the most awesome ways possible. This EP is definitely a solid foundation for us to expand on, and it can only get uglier and darker from here!
Paul: Again, we set things up so we can do whatever we feel like doing. If we want to write a few straight up verse-chorus-verse songs we can, if we want to do a 15 minute epic DSBM style song, we can. We can throw noise or ambient bits in, or make things way more hardcore, or, whatever really. Also, you don't particularly need to know the ins and outs of a genre to be able to play it well, and, for some people, the fact they know loads about it, especially those who are only into one genre, means all they do is be overly influenced by it and not do anything different within it. It's cross-pollination of musicians' styles and influences that creates progressiveness in any genre and sub-genre, so, to me, it's FAR more interesting and better if the group of people playing together aren't influenced by the same music, bands, or want it to be very specific in the sound.
The people in the band have incredibly diverse musical and life influences, so the main thing is that we will show that off, at least in part, in the RIFFS!