With their fourth album, Depths, Australia's Pestilential Shadows have brought two extremes of black metal – that of stampeding violence and that of mystical aura and atmosphere – together to form a work that is simultaneously savage and haunting. The band recently took time out with SoT's Jason Guest to discuss their music and the band's philosophy, its influence on the creative process, and the geographical roots of black metal itself.
SoT: For the benefit of those who are unfamiliar with your music, can you describe the themes and philosophies of Pestilential Shadows?
Pestilential Shadows: Pestilential Shadows portrays death, despair, vice, suffering, mysticism, melancholy. Even though we have Satanic and occult themes that run through the music, alot of the concept is based around mental loss and the destruction of the human spirit through negativity.
SoT: Can you tell us about your main sources of inspiration and how your ideas result in your compositions? Is there an ideology that drives Pestilential Shadows' material, both musically and lyrically?
PS: We aim to pull the listener into the depths of the most lonely parts of their own mind. When we write the music, it's effect needs to transport the listener to a part of their psyche that is deprived of happiness, positivity and light using atmospheres and frequencies that are morose and uncomfortable.
SoT: With three magnificent albums behind you, what was it that you wanted to achieve with Depths? Was there anything in particular that you perhaps felt you hadn't before?
PS: We felt the need to strip back the music to a simpler atmospheric feel, cutting away the elements that weren't needed to create the feeling we wanted. We also had better recording facilities at our disposal which could give us the sound we've always tried to capture.
SoT: Can you tell us about the album's central concepts and themes? Is Depths based upon satanic ideals or your own ideas and philosophies?
PS: The lyrics were written by the different members of the band, each member adding their own philosophies and ideals to a piece of music that reflected their idea. Some of the themes revolve around personal experiences and knowledge gained through our own thoughts of existence, spirituality and death (departure of the spirit).
SoT: Does Depths crystallise that philosophy?
PS: Depths is an album that comes as close as we have gotten to representing the emotions associated with despondency, loss, and spiritual destruction. As future albums come to life we hope to further refine the ideas and the intensity of these mental states. It is a long and arduous journey, forever downward.
SoT: How does that philosophy relate to everyday experience?
PS: That is a hard question to answer. In all honesty once someone becomes engrossed in their work it is often hard to disconnect from the visuals and sentiment which are created, and ultimately condensed and amplified to make the concepts understandable and valid. To always maintain integrity you have to live and breathe contempt. This is a heavy burden to carry and yet enlightening. Enlightening in the sense of a kind of newly found freedom becomes apparent. The constraints of the mortal body seem meaningless. The trivial day to day dealings of existence become irrelevant.
SoT: Can you tell us about the artwork? How does it relate to the music? Is it symbolic of the content of Depths? And who is the artist? How did you come to be involved with him/her?
PS: The cover artist is a Russian gentleman named Njard. His is a visionary and an exceptional master of his craft. The cover depicts a skeleton being tormented by spirits. The concept behind this is "even within the depths of death the torment continues". There will be no end to the suffering.
SoT: How does the band write? Do songs materialise while playing together or are they written alone and then brought to the band to finalise?
PS: The initial ideas for songs are created in a solitary environment. Once the song starts to take shape there is a more open consensus on its outcome.
SoT: How do you see Pestilential Shadows' music and philosophy developing in future?
PS: Stylistically Pestilential Shadows will evolve and explore new musical ideas as new influences come into play. As for Philosophically it will continue on this path for some time more, the human psyche and its capacity for depravity and self destruction is a constant source of inspiration
SoT: Norwegian Black Metal bands cite the nation's natural landscape as an inspiration for their music and philosophies. And in Australia, the Aborigines say that their culture and relationship to the physical and spiritual world, you must begin with the land. Does Australian Black Metal have the same kind of relationship to the land?
PS: Not at all. Firstly the idea of geography and terrain playing an integral part in the style of music has always confused us. This is about humanity regardless of where an individual lives or of their racial background. Australia being a country of migrants we are disconnected from a "homeland" as all of us are decedents of Europeans and yet feel no connection to this ancestry. We have no place, no history to cling to, and nor do we want it. We are rogues.
SoT: An online article argued that black metal is positive, that black metal's "affirmation is a refusal to deny". Do you agree? Read More
PS: Transcendental black metal is a modern invention, like the many buzz words and genre classifications that exist today. To put it bluntly this is nonsense. Everyone is entitled to their opinion but this is far from an accurate expose into one of the many new faces of black metal. Firstly all of these terms are simply an expression of ones ego. A means to differentiate, to stand out from the rest. Black metal is simply black metal and it is static and quite rigid with its core values. Talking about types of drumbeats or even worse the same type but renamed to suit some kind of manifesto is ludicrous to say the least. I think there are other issues that need to be addressed the fact that there is this on-going claim that "Scandinavian" black metal is the birth of the genre. Let's think about this... The Norwegian bands played an important role in the global awareness of the genre but simply because of the actions of a few people their scene was sensationalized, Not to discredit any of the bands as there are truly exceptional albums that came out at that period, but in the early days of this second wave of black metal there wasn't a unified Scandinavian scene. There was infighting and rivalry with their surrounding countries.
So let's put it into perspective. Every country had an active underground scene. France, Finland, Greece, Italy, South East Asia, and also Australia and New Zealand. The fact that this geographic stigma is still in play is disappointing and ignorant on the most part of the people that keep spouting this garbage. In addition to this struggle for identity perhaps it's simply a means to separate themselves from the themes and image of black metal. I mean Satanism is now irrelevant, ritual garb is no longer needed so in effect the substance and spirit of the genre is dead the charm of ideology being more important than production values is irrelevant. This is simply a way to play music similar in style with no spiritual context. People will argue the fact that black metal isn't satanic etc. or even occult related, but the name says it all. The fact that it came from a tongue in cheek album title and became a genre in its own right with a new set or parameters and very dogmatic ideology is interesting in itself. Perhaps Transcendental Black Metal will evolve as well and realize it isn't black metal at all.
SoT: What is your opinion on the "intellectualisation" of black metal? Is black metal something that can – and perhaps should – be rationalised and understood?
PS: People are entitled to their own opinions, and in this modern world they will voice them. Black metal exists and evolves and grows within its own world. There is no rationalisation needed.
SoT: Again, thanks for taking time out for this interview. Any final words for our readers?
PS: Hail and thank you for the support. New material lurks on the horizon and it will surely drag you through the depths of your decrepit soul.
(Click here to read our review of Depths)