"The VVitch King", your most recent EP released last May, is based on J.R.R. Tolkien's epic novel "Lord of the Rings". Was this your first release that was inspired by classic literature, or were your previous releases similarly inspired? Whose idea was it to incorporate Tolkien into the EP?
TJ Warrick “Magus” (vocals): Yes, it is our first release inspired by classic fiction, but fantasy has and will continue to be a huge well of inspiration. Our guitar player The Black Wizzard was the first to Tolkien, and our vocalist Magus writes all of our lyrics. The video games Dark Souls and Elder Scrolls are a big influence on our music as well; we love dark fantasy.
Nathaniel Mabis “Dazarn Mog” (bass): Our guitar player brought up the whole Tolkien thing, but I've always known about the whole “Lord of the Rings” world and like the films. Also a big fan of Dark Souls and Elder Scrolls. Dark fantasy is always interesting to me.
Ethan Sparks “The Black Wizzard” (guitars): I’m not sure where the idea came from. I know a lot of Burzum songs are about “Lord of the Rings”, so I guess we just kinda used the same idea. But to make it a little different we decided to use the old English spelling of W, which is two Vs.
Jaren McNett “Mutilator” (drums): This was my first time writing anything that was inspired by classic literature. The idea to incorporate Tolkien came from Ethan and TJ.
In what other ways have Narthex's lyrics been influenced by dark fantasy? Do you have examples of previous releases that demonstrate this?
TW: Dark fantasy author have such a talent for creating a since of foreboding dread, that I have always been envious off. The way they can take your emotions and plunge them into the abyss sticks with me. I may not have used their novels as direct lyric inspiration, I do try to create that same atmosphere in my lyrics. Admittedly the books are still on the need to read pile (I know. Haha). I loved the movies growing up, and the rise and fall of the VVitch King and his Nazgul buddies was my favorite part. Plus he’s sick as hell! Haha
NM: Oh man! The Black Wizaard and I share a love for the Elder Scrolls games. He enjoys the Dark Souls games, I do not. (Haha) but the lore is undyingly cool. As far as drawing inspiration from other sources, absolutely. The darkness and mystic of the occult, to the vast depth of the space. Mythologies and the everyday dread of the mundane. With the added bonus of my own struggles with depression.
ES: We have one previous release that are influenced by dark fantasy. On our first EP “Valley Of Defilement” is a name of a giant swamp in a video game, Demon’s Souls, and it’s basically just about the lore of the area. Not sure how it influenced us, but lyrics about that kinda stuff sound better than love songs with our music.
Throughout the “Rings” saga, Sauron was one of the primary villains. While writing the storyline of "The VVitch King", what about him intrigued you?
JM: I don't usually write the lyrics to any Narthex songs. The first EP was recorded by The Black Wizaard and Magus before I had joined Narthex. I myself was not intrigued by Sauron because I have not seen “Lord of the Rings” before.
ES: I’ve never seen “Lord of the Rings”, but I know about Nazguls and they’re pretty cool and the VVitch King is the leader of them I think?
How were the Dark Souls and Elder Scrolls video games inspiring to your songwriting? Do you draw inspiration from other sources?
JM: I haven’t played Dark Souls, but I have played Elder Scrolls in the past. What inspired me the most is probably the time period of The Elder Scrolls. I haven't drawn any inspiration from the game to incorporate into any songs yet though.
ES: Those games inspire us because of the lore from both games. Hundreds of songs could be written from the lore of just a few characters or settings in either of those game series. “Cells of Hollow Hand” is about the Daedric prince Molag Baal from the Elder Scrolls. The isolation, loneliness and helplessness of the soul's series is also perfect material for writing this type of music. One other type of influence we have is typical for black metal, it’s Norse mythology. “Wrath of Giants” is a song about Ragnarok. But who knows where else we’ll take inspiration from in our next releases? I’ve mentioned using the Cthulhu Mythos a time or two in the future. One thing's for sure though, Elder Scrolls, Dark Souls, and Norse mythology is definitely sticking around.
NM: Our song “Cells of Hollow Hand” is all about Molag Bal from Elder Scrolls, and the name is a reference to Dark Souls. We love the mystical aspect with an overall feeling of dread. Also, “Wrath of Giants” from the first EP. As for the VVitch King, I honestly can't remember all the fine details haha. Spacey, isolated existentialism is also a big theme, even if just in tones and atmosphere.
Norse mythology has been the subject matter of heavy metal and black metal since the eighties. Why do you think bands have taken inspiration from it for this long (also the mythology of other world cultures)? What other aspects of Norse culture do you draw from?
ES: I think Norse mythology in black metal comes from Varg Vikernes and Burzum being from Norway and using it in his songs, rather than making it about Satan and hell and all that. And then everyone else started following suit. What other aspects do we draw from? I’m not so sure yet, we’ll have to see what happens in the future.
TJW: The stories of the Norse mythology are so tragic and fascinating. Heroes and Gods all fighting to stop the inevitable. How could you not be inspired by such acts of bravery and valor? I’m personally Norse pagan, and I draw all sorts of inspiration from the stories and the culture of the time. Their poetry is by far the influential to me. The use of kennings and alterations, as well as metaphors litter my own writings both in my lyrics and my poetry.
How versed is the band in the Cthulhu Mythos and any of H.P. Lovecraft’s other writings? Which of his publications are you planning to base songs on?
ES: I’ve never read any of H.P. Lovecraft’s books, I don’t think any of us have. And we aren’t sure if we’re gonna use his work for a song or not. It’s just an idea for now. TJW: That was a question for The Black Wizaard. I think he was the one who brought up Cthulhu. Within the songs on "The VVitch King", the guitars and bass have an intriguing method of interacting together. Describe your songwriting process and how you arrange everything before recording?
NM: A lot of times the riffs just come about when we're in the middle of practice. We decided early on that we didn't really want a rhythm guitar in order to give the lead and bass more room to breathe, so the bass kind of functions as both the rhythm and foundation. Plus, I like doing a lot of fills and just having a giant tone.
ES: Usually one of us will write a baseline or a riff and then we’ll jam on it while Magus listens and writes lyrics. From there we’ll keep doing that until we have it how we want it and play it every time we get together until it’s for sure ready to be recorded or played live. We have a lot of songs that haven’t been recorded yet.
TJW: Well as far as the song writing goes, we all are bass players and love how the bass drives a song, especially in the doom metal scene. You don’t see a lot of black metal with thick driving bass lines so that is a goal of ours to be a ripping black metal band, with a bass line you can hear and remember. I weave my vocals around what they are doing, never taking away from the songwriting or overpowering them.
Are the lyrics arranged in such a way as to flow as smoothly with the interaction between bass and guitars? Is drumming a key component to this formula?
NM: I really don't know how TJ goes about composing the lyrics, I've tried writing lyrics before and I never came close to the level he's on, I think he's great. With bass and guitar though I love doing bass lines that dance around the guitar, like the second half of “Fall of The VVitch King”.
I believe that every component of this band is equally important, we really couldn't make it work without any one of the pieces. Our drummer Jaren is it natural at playing basically any instrument in is usually very fast to play exactly what the song needs in that particular moment. Kind of shows how good he is with the fact that he's written half of our guitar riffs too.
JM: I would say that the drums has a key component to the way the lyrics are delivered.
TJW: Absolutely my lyrics and vocal deliveries are. The drums are 100 percent a key component, Mutilator has to be in the pocket with the bass.
How many songs are still to be recorded? Do you have a private studio where you plan to work on them?
NM: We have about six songs or so we haven't taken to the studio yet, but half of them will be on our upcoming live album. We also have a dungeon synth album that is like 80% complete that's sitting on the back burner right now. We've kind of always had too much music. We have a padded jam space that works well as a studio, but our EP was recorded at a professional studio, Nightmare House in Bowling Green, Kentucky. Shout out to Jared McKinney.
ES: We have quite a bit of songs not recorded. We don’t have a private studio, but we have a basement and amateur equipment. Might use it next time, might go back to an actual studio. Who knows?
TJW: I think we have about seven that still need to be recorded. Yes we will probably go with our guy Jared at Nightmare House Productions.
How did you come to know about Nightmare House studios and how did you meet Jared McKinney to record your EP? What was his working relationship with the band like while you were there?
NM: Well TJ and Ethan have known him since they recorded the first self-titled Narthex EP. He's a very positive and energetic guy, also his studio nightmare House is very well equipped and very comfortable, the ideal recording space really.
TJW: I think The Black Wizaard meet him over Craigslist or Facebook. I’m not sure. The first session was already book done by the time I meet him. It was amazing! It was the second time we worked with him. He also did the Narthex EP.
JM: The Black Wizaard and Magus told me about Nightmare House Studios. They went to Jared to record the first Narthex EP. He was very professional and passionate about his services.
ES: I went to Nightmare House to record the first Narthex EP with Magus. Back then it was just the two of us. And I found out about the studio and Jared from some guy on Instagram, he was in a band, and I asked him where around here I could record at. The relationship with us and him was pretty good, I guess. He’s a cool guy, but we were only there and recorded all of “VVitch King” in about seven hours.
Is the band making a conscious effort to create a new subgenre between black metal and doom metal, or are you just writing and arranging songs as you feel?
NM: Well, we don't think we really re invented the wheel with the whole "blackened doom" thing, but we do love doing our own take on it. I think that came from our mutual love of slow riffs and more bass, haha.
JM: My main goal is to create a new sub-genre within the metal genre. I believe the rest of the band has the same goal.
ES: I wouldn’t say we’re making a conscious effort to do anything. If we write a song that’s more black metal or more doom metal or a little bit of both, we’ll use it. Or maybe something totally different. As long as it’s good.
TJW: I don’t think we are intentionally trying to make a subgenre; we just write what feels right. Ya know.
Many people think underground metal has become overcrowded in recent years due to the proliferation of subgenres. Do you agree or disagree with this statement?
NM: I don't know if overcrowded is a good word for it because you actually have to get people to show up to have a crowd haha but there's definitely a lot of trend following in metal right now, but I suppose all music is like that. We always just wanted to sound original and play fun riffs, in these days there's a lot of bands who obviously are just copying somebody else.
JM: I agree way more than I disagree with that statement. There are way too many sub genres in metal. But my belief is if someone hears something they've never heard before, it will intrigue them more, rather than something that doesn't sound new and original.
ES: I think the metal scene is overcrowded with shitty bands doing the same cookie cutter things over and over nowadays. It used to be hair metal, then it was like that awful 2000s post grunge stuff, now it’s like all eight-string djent “look how many notes I can play a second” bands and it just ain’t good. Hopefully that somewhat answers that, haha.
TJW: Yeah, I can agree with that, but I also know a ton of metalheads who love having the subgenres.
Any newer underground metal bands you know of taking any metal subgenre in a different direction? Can you give us some examples?
NM: I listen to a lot more doom metal. There's this Italian thing called 1782, I think it's like two people. They're really good and I really dig their first album, they're one of those Sabbathy kind of doom metal bands that takes the sound and does something cool with it instead of just watering it down.
TJW: I think my friends in Autumn Lies Buried are doing a great job of doing rap and deathcore (I can begin to guess what subgenre that is).
JM: I can’t think of any other newer underground bands that have the same ideas as we do.
ES: In the underground I don’t know any bands personally that are doing anything new. But there’s one I like that’s worth checking out if you wanna hear something a bit different. Curta’n Wall; a one-man project that’s a nice mix of medieval black metal, punk and dungeon synth.
Tell us about the live album and the dungeon synth album you're planning to release. What ideas do you have for the lyrics and storyline of the latter song?
NM: The live album was recorded very recently in Morgantown, Kentucky and it went really well honestly, we are very proud of it. Turned out better than all of the other recordings we've done ourselves. Me and Ethan are both big fans of live albums and I'm the kind of person that would love to hear live album from every year of a band that I'm really into, see how their live sound progressed over time. Plus, when you find a band that's just as good live as on the recording it's like finding gold if you're a collector. Plus, there are extra effects and feedback in our live show that weren't present on the EP, on top of other unrecorded songs.
As for the dungeon synth album, it's tough to say what the centerpiece song will be about since there are no lyrics yet, that's up to TJ in the long run. The title is “Procession of the Druids”. There's a spoken word part on one of the other songs that's a quote from a book I wrote, but for the most part the album is instrumental. Lots of layering.
TJW: We recorded our last show in Morgantown Kentucky, at the One27 Main. An awesome little venue. It was our second time there. The live album will have several of those unrecorded songs one it. The dungeon synth album is going to be pretty dark. I’m going to be telling a story of exiled druids who are being hunted down and killed.
JM: I really do not write any of the lyrics, usually Magus takes care of all of those; however, I do use my own style when creating the drumbeats - which I personally think of for each song with suggestions taken into consideration from Dazaran, The Black Wizaard and Magus. As every drummer - I just play the drums!! Haha.
ES: For the live album we just recorded a show we had where we got to play the longest so we could record all the songs we have that aren’t recorded yet on an album. The dungeon synth album we’re working on isn’t like your typical dungeon synth stuff, it was Dazaran’s idea to make it a bit different, so it sticks out I guess. But the working title we have for it now is “Procession of the Druids” and it’s about Druids walking through the woods, ya know. Your typical black metal themes.
Would Nathaniel be able to tell the readers about the book he wrote and why he chose his quote for "Procession of the Druids"?
NM: Well, the song is called Dreams of Old, and the name came before I chose to use the section from my book. After recording the instruments, I didn't really know what the song should be about, just the title, but I remembered a part of my book with a recurring dream and went with that.
After listening to the tracks on the live album, how well does it represent your performances in general?
ES: I think the live album represents our performances pretty well. Maybe not the best for the crowd, we played at a hip hop show and so we were a little different and we didn’t go all out, I guess.
NM: I think it sounds great, personally. There's a lot of effects and use of feedback that's not on the EP, plus several other new songs. We love live albums too, and you don't see them a lot these days. Honestly, I think it sounds better than our EP.
What is the expected release date for those albums? Will you release them independently or seek distribution from labels?
ES: The release date for the live album is sometime this fall, and the dungeon synth album will be this winter. Maybe. I’m not sure about distribution. We do everything independently now but that could always change.
NM: Should be coming out this fall, around November. As for a label, it's not a necessity but wouldn't be a bad thing either. We'll have to see.