The heralds of northern darkness BELZEBUBS released “Pantheon of the Nightside Gods” last April, through Century Media. The album features a well-matured band that is not afraid to explore hitherto unknown depths. We had the opportunity to talk to the band about their recent release. Read the complete interview here.
Hi guys, thanks for taking the time of your busy schedule to do this interview. How’s it going?
Hubbath: Thanks for having us over. It’s our pleasure.
Sløth: Yeah, cheers, guys. It’s been quite hectic for sure, but it’s all good. Sorry it took us a while to squeeze this in the calendar.
Obesyx: Summer is here and we’re feeling fat and sassy! And you?
I’m fine! Thank you very much. You recently released “Pantheon of the Nightside Gods.” How have the reactions been so far?
Obesyx: Generally really good and positive. Most people have embraced the album with open arms. I guess the majority of the reviews have hit the 8–10 out of 10 mark, so we’re satisfied, of course.
Sløth: Naturally there’s been some mixed reviews, too, but you can’t please them all. We’re doing our own thing, focusing on our own vision and that’s all that matters. We have an incredible fan base who’ve stuck with us through thick and thin, and we’re very grateful for their support.
Hubbath: Yes, our kvlt.
By the way, congratulations on the first place in the physical album charts in Finland! I remember that you, Sløth, had to do odd jobs here and there, when things were a bit difficult with the band. Has that ship sailed now? Are you a fully-fletched musician now?
Sløth: Thank you, yeah, that was a pretty overwhelming response for sure. All the positive feedback and chart positions are a nice plus, of course, but it’s not exactly a gold mine yet…
Hubbath: Yes, I wish we could just focus on the music. Anyone of us have a rich old relative kicking the bucket soon? Sløth: I think Obesyx is trying to fix our budget with gambling and the lottery.
So, when it comes down to songwriting, who brings what to the table?
Hubbath: We all pitch in. There are riffs and themes from all three of us axemen.
Sløth: Yeah, we share rough demos with each other and then start polishing the turd, you know. Mr Drummer Extraordinaire does his prog twists, Desibelius builds the orchestrations…
Obesyx: And I reserve a solo spot.
Sløth: Which is always three minutes to begin with, but then we…uhh…democratically trim it down.
Hubbath: To sum things up, it’s a very organic process with everyone pouring in their perversions and expertise. Team effort.
I hear Samaël is more into progressive metal. How do the rest of you guys feel about his roots? Does he try to slip in some polyrhythms once in a while?
Samaël: I’m into prog, yes.
Sløth: Samaël’s brought some new, obscure magic to this combo, for sure. I’m more into jazz myself, so all this PORCUPINE TREE, RIVERSIDE, PAIN OF SALVATION stuff has been new to me. BELZEBUBS has always been ready to break down genre boundaries when needed, so I’m keeping an open mind and testing out new stuff.
Obesyx: But no reggae.
Sløth: Absolutely fucking not, I have to draw a line somewhere.
Hubbath: I echo all of the above. I think it’s a terrific idea to bring some prog into the mix. Keeps it interesting.
Speaking of Samaël. Hasn’t it been awkward to play in a band with your girlfriend’s dad, Samaël, and how do you deal with it?
Sløth: Sorry, I didn’t understand the question. Can you rephrase that?
Hubbath: Sh-he means that Lilith and Samaël are friends from school. Girl friend as in friend who’s a girl.
Samaël: E-exactly. Not awkward at all.
Was it a difficult search to find a replacement for your previous drummer, who left because of finding Jesus? You had Beatrix for a while, but that didn’t work out either?
Hubbath: There there, big boy…You’ll get over her.
Sløth: Romantic relations between the band mates…always spells trouble.
Obesyx: It was strictly professional.
Hubbath: Sure. But yeah, drummers are a curious lot, to be honest. Never know what happens. We were getting quite desperate there, I’ll admit, but I’m pretty sure we’ve now found a long-term solution with Sammy-boy.
You had to rework the lyrics due to hidden messages while playing them backwards. Did the meaning or the story behind them change?
Hubbath: Yeah, this happened with the Werewolf Bride. Quite unfortunate, but luckily we’ve become pretty good at improvising, and in the end I’d say the lyrics actually got tweaked for the better. The song was initially about Cerberus, but thanks to the fuck up we rewrote much of the whole track.
Sløth: The whole mood of the song changed for the better. Luckily Dan Swanö, who handled the mixing and mastering, was patient with us.
Obesyx: Such a nice dude.Is there a certain overarching theme present in the album?
Hubbath: Indeed there is! As the album title hints, we’re toying around with elder gods, ancient spirits and forgotten powers. From a time before any of these silly, toxic modern religions we have today.
Sløth: Yeah, many of the tracks on this album reference each other and derive from the same mythos, most evidently the Veil of the Moon Queen saga. This is based around the ancient Neferqušur cult and their rituals, and the storyline spans throughout three songs, or four, actually, if you have the version with the bonus tracks.
Hubbath: I’m inspired by history, Victorian literature and—
Hubbath: –occultism, and I think that shows in the lyrics.
I noticed you guys have some great promo photographs for the new album. Did you get lost again in the forest?
Sløth: Haha, nah, not this time. Humbled to hear you liked the pics, though, as they were taken by my wife, who’s a photographer by profession. We did the shoot in an ancient monastery that’s shrouded deep in the woods, such an amazing, curious place.
You were let go from your previous label, because of an incident with fireworks at one of your shows. How did the search go for a new label?
Hubbath: Yeah, well, Sløth and Obesyx had bombarded all of the labels we could think of, but you never know if someone is really going to listen to it, you know.
Obesyx: Luckily our friends from Tuska leaked our video “Blackened Call” to the folks from Century Media, who loved it.
Sløth: Yeah, I had my mind set on one of the smaller labels, but to my surprise got a phone call from Germany. Turns out they had never received our demo earlier, as a certain someone had sent them the wrong files.
Obesyx: C-could happen to anybody. Faustianalchemist.zip, fullmetalalchemist.zip, whatever. They’re very close, admit it.
Is there any chance for us to still hear your two previous albums? Will you at some point do a re-release of those records?
Sløth: Yeah, we’ve been talking about that! There’s some good shit there, anyhow, even if we’ve crabwalked to new territories since then. Our roots are in more straightforward Scandinavian black metal, but our current sound is more in the vein of, I dunno, melodic blackened death metal? I hate labels, anyhow, so I personally just think of it as black metal anyhow, as it’s where we derive from and what we feel at heart.
Obesyx: But should we just release the original material as it is, or..?
Hubbath: Maybe a little remastering wouldn’t hurt. Anyhow, we’ll need to think this through, as we did use some of the same riffs, themes or ideas on “Pantheon of the Nightside Gods.” All in all it’d be amazing to get those EP’s compiled and out there.
Sløth: It would! The original print runs were so small.
You had all these struggles, but now it lead to a three-record deal, and a place on the charts! Hubbath, do you still believe you got cursed at Hellfest 2013?
Hubbath: Well, we’ve won some battles, I’ll admit that, but we’ve needed to overcome some serious obstacles and make personal sacrifices to achieve all this. So far so good, but I’m constantly scared when the curse will lash back.
Last year you thought you were scheduled for Tuska Festival, while it was eventually a big misunderstanding. Do you have any plans to conquer Tuska Festival in 2020?
Obesyx: Haha, yeah…that was quite funny in retrospect.
Hubbath: Yes. Very.
Sløth: So funny I could stab someone.
Obesyx: Anyhow, sure, we’d love to play Tuska next year, if possible! There are minor financial problems we need to solve after our previous music video shoot, but if we get those sorted out, I think we can start planning how to get back on the road.
Any chance otherwise we will see you live?
Sløth: Let’s see. As Obesyx said, we’re currently looking into getting live gigs again. We’re used to small clubs and crappy venues, but we’d obviously like to do this properly this time.
Thank you so much for your time! Do you have any last thoughts to share to the fans and readers?
Hubbath: Au contraire, thank you! This was a nice chat.
Sløth: Thanks for your time and hails to our amazing kvlt. Thanks so much for your support!
Obesyx: Yes, hail Satan! Anything you want to add, Sam?
JP Ahonen (Villimpi Pohjola, Sing No Evil) is a Finnish comic book artist and illustrator. He is best known for his black metal mockumentary BELZEBUBS, which has evolved from a self-therapy project into a larger crossmedia concept, involving comics, music and animation. Both the collected comic books and the recently released debut album Pantheon of the Nightside Gods have received wide critical acclaim across the globe. JP Ahonen will be interviewed by Laura Vähähyyppä in English during Tuska Festival on 29 June 2019 at 15:00