Ahead of the release of Enthroned’s latest album on Season of Mist, Cold Black Suns, we were lucky enough to speak with the band’s vocalist Nornagest and get his take on the new music, lyrical content and visuals, as well their upcoming launch party at ThroneFest, Belgium’s long-running black metal festival. Cold Black Suns is due out on June 7th and pre-sale orders may be placed right here.
Despite my initial concerns about interviewing someone who represents black metal royalty, in my book, Nornagest turned out to be enthusiastic, open and ridiculously intelligent, as well as an absolute pleasure to chat with.
There are three major areas I’d like to speak to you about. The first is about the album and its sound, the second is about the artwork, and the third is ThroneFest itself. We’ll kick off with the album. The big thing I’ve noticed listening to Cold Black Suns is how well-named the record is because it’s still good black metal that burns you from the inside, but it also has a cold detachment, like a frostbite burn. And I wanted to know if that’s an intentional result.
Nornagest: Yeah, the thing was, with this album, we took a long, long time to make it. Something like five years, due to lineup changes, etcetera, and during that period each one of us in the band went through difficult times in our private lives. And that reflects darkly in the music. So, instead of being like depressive goths or something, we put all our rage, our frustration, and feelings into the music as well. So you have that kind of mirror effect with how we felt coming through the music as well.
So it could be intentional in some way, even though it was just our feelings, but it’s not like we (said), “oh, let’s do something super cold,” it just came naturally. It’s better, because we don’t like to plan to make something just like that, because then it’s going to sound fake. We prefer to have the roughness and the authenticity of our feelings coming through in what we do. So that’s how we get that coldness and the typical energy of Enthroned wrapping the whole shit together.
You brought up that you don’t want to sound “gothic,” but there are still some very gloomy moments on the album; “Oneiros” and “Son of Man” are some of the most melancholic black metal songs I’ve heard in a while.
Nornagest: Thank you.
Experience the intensity that is the recently released music video for “Hosanna Satana,” off Cold Black Suns.
“Son of Man” is the one I want to focus on first. That closing chorus is real fist-in-the-air stuff, I get chills imagining it live.
Nornagest: You mean the whole ‘Hail, Lucifer’ part?
Yes, it works so well as a closer.
Nornagest: I had that idea when I was composing that song, it took me a while to write it and I had the help of Neraath, our guitar player, and Menthor, our drummer and I wanted to end the song in this specific way. I had this vision of Lucifer standing on a cliff, watching all humankind. He brought that knowledge and light to them, and I had the vision of all these people chanting “all hail Lucifer” and I wanted to recreate it for the end of the song. We didn’t have enough people to do all of humanity but I got more or less what I wanted and I am glad it’s appreciated.
That was one of those moments where I stopped my playback and went back to listen again the first time I listened to the album.
Nornagest: That’s actually nice, that conclusion to the song, the lyrics are about a pure anthropological view of Lucifer, not the Biblical or common view, so each part of the song is linked to that through the music and I wanted to have that conclusion, that vision.
I agree, it worked beautifully. On that note of ‘Hail, Lucifer,’ you’ll soon be sharing a stage with Watain. Their theistic satanism and ritualistic approach is more what the mainstream view as ‘satan’ and I’d like to know more about your take on Lucifer as the Lightbringer, not the awful Christian devil.
Nornagest: Well, to me, Lucifer is a completely different entity than Satan. Too many people mix those two beings as one and the same, which they are not. To me, Lucifer is the first of the archangels that was cast out, you know the mythology, but to me, it’s a symbol of knowledge, of freedom, of liberation. I don’t see it as a master, as my leader or my father or anything like that, but more as the symbol, even a metaphysical being, as well that is a personification of what is freedom, knowledge, and wisdom. In every aspect, you can imagine.
So it’s difficult to expand on that without spending an hour but to make a long story short, that’s how I see it and what it is for me. A symbol that gathered all humanity into knowledge, wisdom, and freedom. I could develop the history of Lucifer, regarding my views, and the aspect of Lilith and Samael in there, but I would take half an hour to do so and it’s not the point.
The album Cold Black Suns is due out on June 7th via Season of Mist.
I understand. Now, other songs. Are there any other songs on the album that stand out and you think are deserving of extra mention?
Nornagest: I think it could be a whole other interview to fully discuss “Son of Man,” it’s my favorite on the album, to be honest. I spent a lot of time on it. But each song is its own, each is an individual, from a lyrical point of view and from the musical. As an example, “Silent Redemption,” the first single from the album, that’s a different track for Enthroned, a different atmosphere we’ve never explored before. So it’s another angle. There are some highlights in that song as well, like that calm, almost trippy part in the beginning, that’s still cold, but then it goes into that fury with the blast… it rips about societal beings if you read the concept and the lyrics.
I thought “Silent Redemption” was an excellent choice for the first single. To use more general, basic music journalism terms, it’s the “catchiest” song on the album.
Nornagest: That’s it, probably. We were thinking between that and another, but we went with “Silent Redemption,” it is the most catchy. You have a bit of the old Enthroned as well as a bit of the newer elements, so it is a kind of a compromise, to introduce the new album. Another song on the album that to me is quite special is “Smoking Mirror,” it’s probably the longest and fastest song we’ve had in a while.
The aim here is special, it was composed while thinking about a certain aspect of divinity, Tezcatlipoca, which is again something different for Enthroned and that song just never stops. You know, like in the beginning, people think, ah, it’s another midtempo number, but then it kicks in and it never stops. It’s seven minutes of pure happiness, debauchery and slaughter and anything you might want. To me, there’s highlights in every song but “Aghoria” is worth noticing and mentioning as well because it’s a special song for the album.
Yes, it’s very different, so atmospheric in relation to everything else, with the chanting and such.
Nornagest: Yes, it’s billed as a mantra as well. An Aghori mantra. We spent some time talking when I went to visit some Hindu people here in Belgium who are into the cults of Shiva and of Kali and I asked them how to pronounce the Punjabi and the Hindi that I invoke in the song. So I was spending at least half an hour repeating the same sentence over again, to have it pronounced exactly and correctly. So it was an interesting experience as well, to go to those people who come from there and who believe in what I’m singing, who since they’re born are learning to pronounce those same sentences. There are all those small details here and there throughout the album that are worth mentioning, little special things.
Taken from Cold Black Suns, “Silent Redemption” is sure to be one of the standout tracks on the album.
That’s wonderful, that cultural influence: to bring in a culture that literally worships death, that embraces it, it’s something that black metal needs.
Nornagest: But I’m not going to eat corpses on stage. I still have my limits. (Laughs)
Actually, when you were talking about “Smoking Mirror” being so heavy, I have a list here of all the songs and I’ve just written two or three keywords describing my initial feelings about each one, and for “Smoking Mirror” my keywords were ‘crushing weight.’
Nornagest: That’s correct, that certainly complies.
There’s a lot of that crushing feeling, that claustrophobia with all the atmosphere you build, like on “Vapula Omega,” it’s so frenetic that you become lost and are unsure of where you’re going.
Nornagest: Yeah, that song was written in a very specific, individual way as well. There’s a more modern touch in that one. We wanted to have one song about modern times as well. Each song is based on a different culture, a different time period in history regarding the occult, so that is the one that symbolizes these days.
Where people worshipped the icons of old, now they worship the industry; this is their new god – they worship their job, they worship their boss, worship those chimneys and machines like they used to worship their gods and divinities. And there’s a demon that rules over all of that, Vapula, so I thought, well, let’s make a song about that, and here’s the result. It was a different approach and I thought, why not?
It works, the whole album works for me. I’m very grateful to you for releasing it. Through PureGrainAudio I’ve been gifted with some really good black metal this year, Sinmara, Darkened Nocturn Slaughtercult for example – but Cold Black Suns and Enthroned is right on top.
Nornagest: I advise you to check out the new Mephorash from Sweden when it is released, that’s going to be a fucking hell of an album. That’s really awesome.
Listen to the previously released “Words In Tongues,” an unreleased track that came out in 2017.
I’ll look into that, thank you. Now let’s move on to my second area of questioning and that is the cover artwork. Tell me about that, as a designer and illustrator, good artwork always means more to me.
Nornagest: Yeah, me too, we are the same, I’m doing the same jobs. So the cover was done by our guitar player, we are both graphic designers in the band. I did the whole layout for CD, vinyl, etcetera, and he took care of the artwork. The whole idea of the cover art started with an intriguing and timeless visual: first, the cold and the black have inspired a more minimalist artwork, more than what we did in the past. We didn’t want any logo, we didn’t want any direct reference to a group of musicians or the band, just the artwork jumping in the face.
There is the unification of the macroscopic dimension of space with the microcosm that we are, for example, at the cellular level, or what composes us. That’s what it represents. The two main spheres are in opposition in reference to matter, and its asymmetry towards anti-matter in the physical instruction and the observable universe. It’s one of the enigmas that modern science attempted to decipher; how did matter succeed in becoming all that we can physically observe and its states and how it can manipulate itself in residual energy and collisions?
So this artwork is really vast, yet simple. We see two spheres and their symbolism at the centre of three points like you have on the artwork makes another reference to a universal principle. There are a few things that are alike, and the verb that expresses their likeness makes three. It’s a physical thing but is totally linked to some doctrines of the occult. Like in cosmology. So the physical world, the spiritual world, and the divine world are symbolized in those three spheres.
Having the visual reference to the snake as well comes from a distance and evokes the tradition of the Ouroboros, which in its true representation and circle shows the totality of the universe. Through its skeletal appearance, we give this balance between life and death; the material as well as the immaterial. So it’s a whole concept of balance between what you see and what you don’t. So it is complex, but for us, it’s kind of simple because that’s how we think.
Well it has been captured quite simply, in that you have so few elements like you said, it’s quite a minimalistic illustration but there’s a lot going on behind the scenes, deeper down. Very metaphysical.
Nornagest: Yeah, the cover is kind of a condensed view of a whole concept. It was not easy, but we were satisfied with it and Neraath did a fantastic job to put it like it is now.
Check out the official poster for Thronefest, happening June 8th, and 9th in Kuurne, Belgium.
That then brings me to the third area, and that is ThroneFest. See, I’m hoping to buy a physical copy of the album at the festival.
Nornagest: Are you coming?
Oh yes, all the way from South Africa.
Nornagest: Shit, man, that’s dedication. If you see me in the crowd afterwards, come and see me and we’ll have a beer.
I’ll definitely look out for you. But more to the point. With ThroneFest, it’s in Belgium, is that like a homecoming for Enthroned, is that the reason you chose the festival as a launch party for your album?
Nornagest: Yeah, we always did release shows in Belgium. We are home, we have our crowd, our team, it’s easier for us to take everything to make the full show, so we don’t have restriction with airports or anything, customs and all that shit. Because sometimes it’s a pain when you want to play a show abroad and you have one litre of blood or something like that, and they make a whole scene. Anyhow, we actually wanted to do a single show, like just Enthroned and two or three other bands but then realized there was ThroneFest and the guy asked us if we wanted to play. So we said, fuck, that would be fantastic because then we have all those other great bands…
There are some huge names on the lineup, Watain, Satryricon, Taake, Shining, it’s going to be big.
Nornagest: Yeah, it’s crazy. Plus, it’s the day after the release date of the album, so it’s perfect. We know the stage, we’ve already played there twice, we know the people, we know the venue, we know everything there so we will be like we’re home. And it will be the first time we play the new songs and we have the new show, etcetera.
Is there anything in closing that you’d like to add about the album or the show?
Nornagest: Well, just that anyone that reads (this) interview, get your filthy hands on the album and give it a shot; it’s an album full of variations, the lyrical concept is interesting and come and see us live as well. Enthroned is something intense live, something to witness.
I’m looking forward to it, I can’t wait.
Nornagest: We’ll see each other there then.