Dan Jackson is single-handedly responsible for some of the best metal to come out of Albuquerque, New Mexico. While he’ll modestly tell you that’s not especially difficult, it’s still no mean feat that he has achieved such quality over several prominent projects. Void Ritual is his most renowned guise, delivering melodic black metal which shows a deep understanding and knowledge of the Norwegian and Swedish scenes, without falling into the “worship” trap. There’s also Mendacium – well-regarded death metal – and the fledgling Dead Wretch as a blackened grind/hardcore hybrid. On top of all this, he recently announced the founding of net label Ipos Music to release his albums, and he will be donating the proceeds to various charities.

Humble to a fault, Dan immediately responds to the “label” tag by downplaying it: “I don’t really think of what I’m doing as a label, really. I just had an idea for releasing my music under one name so it would be easier to keep together in one place, and then giving that money to charity. Anybody could do it tomorrow if they wanted.” His ambitions are at once honest and admirable. There’s no grand design to grow Ipos Music beyond his own work, although Void Ritual alone has picked up quite a bit of recent press with the excellent Death is Peace (review here). His choice of charities is also heartwarming and informed by those from within the respective communities: the Coalition To Stop Violence Against Native Women (www.csvanw.org) and the Transgender Resource Center of New Mexico.

Check out a stream of Death is Peace right here!

He does, however, allow himself to muse about the possible effect that starting this label could have for influencing others: “It’d be pretty cool if other folks wanted to try doing their own version of this same idea,” though he does warn us, “this sort of thing isn’t easy, especially if you don’t have any experience.” To this end, things are going to lie fallow with Ipos for a little bit. “I’ll probably wait until I have a stronger plan in place whenever I do release something else through Ipos later on, once things are wrapped up with ‘Death is Peace’.”

Dan once summarized Void Ritual as “My own love letter to the genre I’ve spent the entirety of my adult life following.” Dead Wretch, meanwhile, is its cheeky, mocking, text-under-the-table counterpart, or as Dan puts it, “It’s how I let myself have fun while venting a bit of frustration and poking some fun at metal’s sometimes overly stoic nature.” On his first “proper” release, the tongue-in-cheek Hug Division Dead Wretch, the topics are totally irreverent, such as an appreciation song about Witchery, in the style of Witchery. Dan explains, “The songs often times bear a resemblance to whatever I’m ‘taking aim’ at. So, in the case of the title track, the song’s lyrics are patterned after the title track for Marduk’s Panzer Division Marduk and the music has at least a passing resemblance to that late ‘90s Marduk sound.” Or, in short, “I’m no good with subtlety.”

Where Dan excels, however, is in providing variety. “I use the same approach to making music for each project, [1] but I’d also say that I find it a lot easier to feel satisfied with what I come up with for Dead Wretch because it’s a lot less serious. It’s planned in the sense that some of the vocals styles or inflections I might use in Void Ritual don’t necessarily cross over into Dead Wretch so well, so I see what else I can do that fits a certain song better.”

The album Hug Division Dead Wretch was released on April 27th, 2018, via Ipos Music.

While many parts of Dead Wretch can be seen as harmless fun, there are some deeper underlying topics to discuss related to black metal. On the songs “Peter, This Is Fucked Up” and “You’re Not Elite,” which follow in quick succession, Dan refers to a little known nugget of information regarding the past of well-known Swedish musician Peter Tägtgren (Hypocrisy, Bloodbath, Pain). Peter was part of an infamous band called War, who released an EP containing the song “I Am Elite,” with lyrics referencing racial slurs. “I get the sense that it was probably just It/Tony Särkkä writing hateful garbage for All/Jim Berger to yell, because being a racist piece of shit was how you stuck it to society back then, I guess.” While Dan specifically clarifies that it was not his intention to call out Peter, the songs do reflect “the very ‘current year’ experience of getting into an artist, being excited to learn more about that artist, looking the band up on Metal Archives, and discovering that they did some dumb racist shit 20 years ago. Or, in other cases, are still doing it.”

It speaks volumes about the scene and the society we live in. “It’s something that a song like “I Am Elite” could be released out into the world through what was, at the time, a successful metal label (Ed. Necropolis Records), and nobody even batted an eye at it. And that the other members of the band couldn’t be bothered to kill lyrics like that before they even got recorded speaks to how little metal bands and fans cared about people of color within their own scene, or in general. And that’s still the case in some circles, particularly when you get into the worst parts of underground black metal.”

Now are you ready to hear Hug Division Dead Wretch?

It’s remarkable how a humorous project acquires such depth when placed within this context. And Dan has a theory for why this fact regarding Peter is not mentioned particularly often. “That’s probably because people probably assume, like I have, that he just wasn’t very thoughtful about these things 20 years ago, as opposed to being a vile bigot. I’d like to think he’d handle the situation very differently now, but I can’t say that for certain because I don’t know him. I don’t think Tägtgren holds the views Tony Särkkä wrote about in ‘I Am Elite,’ so I continue to listen to his other bands. But that’s also a choice I’m making as someone who wasn’t targeted by Särkkä’s words.” It’s a frank response, showing a lot more self-awareness than many in the black metal scene possess in an ongoing discussion regarding artists and their views, and whether they impact on fans’ decisions to support them.

Void Ritual’s Death is Peace and Dead Wretch’s Hug Division Dead Wretch are out now via Ipos Music. All proceeds from sales of the albums go to charity.

1. Dan has given three excellent interviews on Full Metal Hipster breaking this process down. Link here.