Finnish black metallers Saturnian Mist release their long-awaited debut Gnostikoi Ha-Shaitan in December 2011. Here, vocalist Zetekh discusses with SoT's Jason Guest the band's music and themes, their exploration of all things occult and satanic, and the dark forces that brought forth their diabolical work.
SoT: For the benefit of those who are unfamiliar with your music, can you describe the themes and philosophies of Saturnian Mist?
Zetekh: We underline the meaning of experience as an instrument of spirituality. We think that the emphasis of experience and symbolism speaks the same language that the nature and universe speaks to Man and vice versa. We think that through music and experience we can explore the mind's dimensions (and thus the universes') more profoundly than through the written word or "scientific" analysis. This way we can go to the 'places' where are no words to describe of what it is, but instead a pure and genuine intuition of it. Otherwise our philosophy could be summarized to the idea that we bring the many forms of Occultism and Mysticism together with the musical expression in order to fulfil the aforementioned meanings and ideas. So far the fundamental idea which connects our works together has been the examination of archetypal Satan and its purposefulness and significance when it comes to the ideals of self-development and more or less vague thing called 'truth'.
SoT: Since your formation, Saturnian Mist has gone through a number of line-up changes. Can you tell us about how the changes have affected the band and the writing/recording of Gnostikoi Ha-Shaitan?
Zetekh: Writing processes has been same through the brief history of Saturnian Mist and it makes really no sense to me how it happens. Idea wants to be manifested and it takes care of its form regardless what we think of it. When we were working on 'Repellings' EP we recorded it three times because recording equipment broke after first recordings and during the second recordings it happened again. We succeeded after the third time, and when examining the results, it was truly the way the album reached its purpose like it was meant to be. Like there would be a some kind of genius loci which said from the depths of sub-consciousness that "this sucks, do it again". Same kind of thing happened when working on Gnostikoi Ha-Shaitan, but instead our 'line-up' broke after first recordings.. You get my drift?
SoT: With just a few releases since the band's inception, do you think that Gnostikoi Ha-Shaitan crystallises the band's philosophy?
Zetekh: I guess so and I hope so. We wanted to offer the whole package of which - for instance - we've been preaching about since the very beginning of Saturnian Mist. Simplified, when it comes to black metal, ideology and ideas are very important but it should never be this way on the expense of musical expression. Same goes the other way. Musical form is very important but it should never be this way on the expense of ideology. This principle is very relevant in the whole area of music as well, not just black metal. If there is no soul, the music is shallow and if music is just an excuse, then there is no soul. 'Satan' is the soul of black metal and this is the essence of Gnostikoi Ha-Shaitan as well.
SoT: Can you tell us about the themes for your music and lyrics? Is Gnostikoi Ha-Shaitan based upon satanic ideals or your own ideas or philosophies?
Zetekh: Let me put it this way. Our ideals are satanic ideals and satanic ideals are our ideals. We didn't invent them. No one did. They just are. The one thing that we want to tell with Gnostikoi Ha-Shaitan among the other things is this relationship between personality, the so called true self and the 'soul'. And also how it is related to the essence of archetypes known as God and Satan. We think that all the mythologies and religions didn't born in vain, but we also think that their forms are not, let's say, updated correctly to this day. Theme? What is the essence of God, what is the essence of Satan... what is the essence of Man, what is the essence of universe? When thinking about this, it is relevant to keep in mind that almost every culture and tradition has their own 'devil' and 'divine creator', which are in battle with each other. Place this battle inside of person's mind, and we are near of what we deal with in Gnostikoi Ha-Shaitan.
SoT: Is there an ideology that drives the material both musically and lyrically?
Zetekh: Occultism both in practice and theory but one can agree or disagree when thinking of 'Occultism' as an ideology. One can notice the movements which have influenced on us through our Art.
SoT: Saturnian Mist seems to have explored a number of philosophies. Is there a constant that runs through them? And how has it informed Gnostikoi Ha-Shaitan?
Zetekh: Constant is the archetypal world view. Like I slightly referred before, we've been fascinated about the similarities of these archetypes which can be found in many cultures and traditions. It led to the conclusion that there maybe are after all one ultimate paradigm which can be used for everything, like it would be the symbolic meaning of Alchemy's Philosopher Stone. For instance, we dealt with Samael (blind god) of the Greek's Gnostics on our demo release, which myth is very similar to the one of Lucifer's as with too much of pride and power (knowledge) to be under the allegiance of 'God'. We deal in Gnostikoi Ha-Shaitan for instance with Zafkiel (Qabbalah), Saturn (Hermetic and Roman God) and Shiva (Hinduism) where you can see straight links between them and towards archetypal 'Satan'. One could say, the archetypal dimensions of these myths tells more about human than of the world and it is true, no doubt, yet what explains about human, explains about the consciousness, and through this it explains about life and the world in general as well. Everything is linked between each other. For Gnostikoi Ha-Shaitan we gathered many different aspects of this archetypal 'Devil' imagery and formed one holistic representation of their similarities and connection to the self-development. Think about the attributes linked to these archetypes; suffering, creation through destruction, death... And think about the self-development. What makes people and even civilizations develop? Pain, wars and pestilences... In modern world this is more the state of mind, the war within the soul, the spiritual war than a concrete one. Maybe you are familiar with the saying 'no pain, no gain' ?. These are only few aspects of this archetypal Satan which we deal with on Gnostikoi Ha-Shaitan. Questions which circulates around these archetypes are 'what unites them', 'what separates them', 'why and how', and 'why they've been mostly forgotten from the current world view'. We want to show that this archetype is more than a Hollywood presentation of one kind of 'necessary evil' and that it has more depths than the idea 'evil for the sake of evil'. We want to show, that is a real and significant philosophical structure instead of fantasy novel's horned figure in flames or an excuse.
SoT: Do new songs materialise while jamming or are they written alone then brought to bear and enriched within the band?
Zetekh: They've been mostly born 'alone' (as being alone is kind of relative term for theistic man) and then reached their final form while playing together. This is kind of way when each one gives their pieces of their souls to enrich the songs and the songs become this way like living organisms instead of mechanic settlement. Have you ever heard people complaining about drum machines or auto tunes? I wonder why…
SoT: When it comes to writing the songs, which comes first, lyrics or music? Or do they inform each other?
Zetekh: First comes the idea. Everything builds around the idea. Sometimes it is music, sometimes it is lyrics which comes second but the one thing common is that both of them are loyal to the idea.
SoT: Can you tell us about your main sources of inspiration and how your ideas resulted in such compositions?
Zetekh: It's rather a cliché to say in this point Satan, isn't it? But actually It's more like 'feel, don't think' when it comes to this. It's always more easier to talk about philosophy and ideology because it makes 'sense', but the creativity and composing doesn't. Ideas just pops out from the depths of mind, but I guess this is a result from living with the ideas and principles of Occultism as they are slowly 'making the way for Master to come to this world' through these ideas, if you allow this kind of poetic expression.
SoT: As you write in both English and Finnish, how do you decide which language to use for each song? Do you find either of the two languages most expressive or suited to your music?
Zetekh: Actually I have written only one song in Finnish called 'Armomurha Itselle' and it was released in 'Helvetin Musta Peto' compilation in 2009. Lyrics of the other Finnish song 'Sydänveren Malja' from the split with Creatura is written by Luxixul Sumering Auter of Cosmic Church, which are there because I liked the style of L.S.A. and asked him to write lyrics for the song as I know him from long time and I knew he had something to give for the 'idea' of this song and theme. All the rest are in english yet I have used Sanskrit and Latin together as much as Finnish I quess? The reason why I chose my native language for 'Armomurha Itselle' was more experimental than anything but the results showed that the English translation does not tell the message same abstract way than the original Finnish version of it does. For now, I've used English and I'm not sure if it changes in future. Maybe it does, maybe it doesn't.
SoT: For a black metal band, your vocal style draws on a lot of unconventional and unorthodox styles, at times sounding like a hardcore vocalist, at others sounding theatrical and dramatic. Is this because you consider the black metal style too limited for the band and its music?
Zetekh: What is this 'black metal style'?. Who represents it at best? Attila? Dead? Vikernes? Nocturno Culto? Nuclear Holocausto? Von's vocalist? Inquisition's vocalist? You know what I am saying? They are all very much different and still black metal. For me, I think the words truly have power, they truly are the souls of the songs and music. Why waste the power of the words in one kind of shriek which is repeated through the whole of the album or in the worst cases, the whole career of the band? I like at least to try to articulate and pronounce the words and let the words flow through me and this way the correct emotions activate themselves without pretending or forcing. I want to see that I am the servant of the words and thus the servant of the idea. With theatrical you may refer to 'Sacrifice Of Faces Unbroken' am I correct? One must see that even I wrote the dialogue, it was me and Shu-Ananda who sang the parts together on this song like it is mentioned in booklets. I don't know or care about limitations, it just felt right and more than proper to serve the message of the song with this kind mix of Shakespearean and Platonic dialogue with Satanic message and 'act out it' as it would be a play. Black metal or not, it is about the essence of Satan and that is what I care more than of being 'loyal of the traditional black metal'.
SoT: Can you tell us about the artwork? How does it relate to the music? Is it symbolic of the content of Gnostikoi Ha-Shaitan?
Zetekh: Are you talking about just the Cover or the artwork in general? What comes to the cover art, I don't want to explain it much. Listen the album, read the lyrics, read the journals and you should start seeing point in this "painting". Think it as a Rorschach test in psychology. People see different things in that and it tells more of themselves than the painting itself even there are some persistence in it. I think one would appreciate it more, when one can found the meanings through their own efforts instead of explaining and pointing it to them. This is true too because it is not likely that the artist or me would even be right in this. I think that the artists are just deliverers and they do not fully understand what they are delivering, that's why I don't for instance explain the lyrics particularly, but themes in general. There is always more than the artist intended to be there. Works of art begins to live the life of their own after being produced. What comes to the booklets & layouts, everything there has a place and meaning behind them and link to the themes of the songs.
SoT: Who's the artist? And how did you come to be involved with him/her?
Zetekh: Cover painting was made by finnish artist V-A Puumalainen. We are good friends and in the past I just approached him because I liked his style very much in all surreality and abstractness which led me to believe he would understand our cause. By judging the cover, everyone can see if I was right or not...
SoT: How do you see Saturnian Mist's music and philosophy developing in Saturnian Mist's future?
Zetekh: These are the kind of things you can't predict. Even if you can, you shouldn't. Things happen, and you live with them. Time will tell.
SoT: Is there anything you'd like to say to our readers?
Zetekh: If you want to see some sense in irrationality and virtues together in black metal, Satanism and Occultism, get 'Gnostikoi Ha-Shaitan'. Gloria In Profundis.
SoT: Thanks for taking time out for this interview. We look forward to hearing more from Saturnian Mist in the future.
(Click here to read our review of Gnostikoi Ha-Shaitan)