INTERVIEW AND PHOTOGRAPHY BY CARLOS DETRES
July 14, 2016
New Orleans, LA
It was a balmy night in New Orleans as a man with a dog collar roamed the sidewalk, some with corpse makeup, all clad in black milled near the entrance of the Mudlark Public Theatre. I had the post-month long trip to the West Coast daze. I sat quietly on the stairs of the old two story building in the Seventh Ward. A man with a mohawk brushed back against his head and a beard stood in the doorway, "if you want to experience the ritual, we'll start in ten minutes. Turn off your phones before you get inside," he announced...or something like that. I later learned he was the singer of Mehenet, a band due to play later that night. I powered my phone off, grabbed a beer from the bar in the lobby and went into the dark theatre.
The light smoke of incense burning, floated along the air, passing the aroma of sweetness that complemented the old, woody room where thick tape, pressed onto the floorboards, encircled a geometric symbol of a meaning I couldn't decipher and in the center was an altar. The other people from outside had come in, crowding on the floor and seats on the side of the theatre and, when it was time, the door closed. The chanting began. Four men walked out from the backstage and spoke the words. Greek? Latin? I didn't know.
Out of respect to this rite, I will exclude the details of what happened next but when it was over, a strange and heavy calm had generated from corner to corner. We quietly shuffled back onto the street to smoke cigarettes. The show would soon begin.
The speakers sounded louder than they looked. It's because of the small room. I could hear Caine Del Sol (singer, songwriter, guitarist) of Grave Gnosis scream in my brain. This is the band I was here for, the second act who had arrived that weekend from my home state of Florida.
"The end is revealed in the crossroads, where all and none entwine, where the mistress returns from aeons long passed to welcome her children long lost, and oh, how they long to return to her coils."
Lyrics for "Droga" off of BIRTHING (2015)
The performance of Grave Gnosis was intense, just the way I like it. It was loud, deep retching of words, thunderous drums, thick bass lines and keyboards, coming together to lift up the floorboards, for other, lesser things to emerge. The ritual hadn't ended. It was happening now still, against the backdrop of red banners with symbols that looked familiar, like from a long ago book you weren't supposed to read. A large occult symbol, beautiful and bold hanging behind the drummer, who beat those things; so brutally he beat those drum heads.
A black place where the demons we own are exorcised for one ear-shattering night (or invited).
That moment in death's abyss from which no one re-emerges.
That's what I was thinking about anyway and that feeling soon dissipated the moment I left the venue. The charge was strong in that room. Music can do that.
"Is this band big yet? How come I don't already know about them?"
This is what I ask our mutual friend, David "Zombie Boy" Storm. He's known the members of Grave Gnosis for a long time. There's Scarlett Nova (vocals and keyboard), Kur (guitar and backing vocals), Vikzaru (bass), Oxgringer (drums) and Caine Del Sol (guitar and vocals). Their latest record Birthing is sincerely one of my new favorite albums. It's brutal, beautifully written, very well conceived and masterfully performed AND it's a conceptual collection of nine songs, which you'll read more about below in the interview. This album is also the reason I went into a completely different, weird place with this post than any I've done before. The case is sitting just to the right of me on my desk while the CD plays loudly on my stereo. My friend, David, got a copy numbered in blood. Mine with ink.
When you talk to lead singer, guitarist and principal songwriter, Caine Del Sol, you'll notice a couple of things: 1) He is exceptionally intelligent and knowledgable 2) He's affable and easy to get along with. My last email to him read, " I could probably ask 30 more questions" I didn't but the answers to these nine are pretty strong.
*Special thanks to David "Zombie Boy" Storm for help during this interview.
I have readers who may not know the difference between Black Metal and Death Metal. Could you explain how they differ?
Musically, Death Metal is marked more by lower tones in instrumentation and vocals, with faster and more technical playing. Whereas Black Metal is more minimalist, higher tones and shrieking vocals with a focus on atmosphere.
What’s the philosophy behind your music?
The philosophy behind Grave Gnosis is what we call a Transcendent Reverence of Death. An adoration of the taboo and morbid as expressions of Holy Death, and gateways to higher states of consciousness, that we may see all things for what they actually are, void of bias or Ego
What is the concept behind your latest album, Birthing?
Birthing is an initiatic sequence, appropriate for a first effort. It is the story of a Soul in its journey through the underworld, into the arms of the Dragon of the Abyss, Tiamat. In other means of understanding, it is an introduction to the work of our coven. It follows a musical and lyrical path much like that of the mental process associated with the First Gnosis (a coming into knowledge or total esoteric understanding) of Death.
Much of Death Metal is based on gore, making it more of an extension of horror films rather than Black Metal, which is based on the Occult and Satansim. Your lyrics read like ceremonial rites. Do you believe that there is a power in the words you use and, if so, could you describe it?
I most certainly believe there is power within the words. Every detail of our art is formulated to bring the listener into a specific receptive state of mind, that the work of the performer and practitioner may be amplified. Each song can be seen as a specific step, as part of one larger process, built within the lyrics and atmosphere, all pointing to the apex within the closing song, Kiss of Tiamat. It's based on my own study and spiritual practice.
The song “To Drink From the Chalice of Lilith” feels like a call to the demon mother. Some believe that she was demonized by the patriarchy and, instead, represents childbirth and sexuality. How did you come to this version of Lilith?
This particular interpretation comes from a mixture of traditions -qliphotic, hindu, akkadian, greek - all linguistically and conceptually correlating with the daemonic archetype of the Dark Goddess. The blessings of Lilith are often interpreted as curses by those still desperately clinging to this life and the attachments they have made.
The lyrics are very well written. I noted in particular this one from Xeper: “The serpent mark of Qayin, in conexion with thy will to see the end of Adam’s seed, sever the creator’s tongue.” How long have you been writing songs and how did you get introduced to songwriting?
I've been writing for about ten years now. I'd like to say that I've gotten better at accurately portraying the subject, but I am also definitely working with much more complicated concepts now than when I began, so that is debateable.
I always enjoyed music that had deeper meaning within the lyrics, and those that are heavily laden with metaphor. The first bands that inspired me to start writing were Cradle of Filth, Behemoth, Dimmu Borgir, and Nile. The subject matter and style of lyrical composition were extremely appealing when I first started writing. By the time I began writing for what became Grave Gnosis, those stylistic inspirations changed to those that are more spiritually minded, yet also extremely poetic in nature, such as Watain and Nightbringer.
When I was growing up in Florida, Black Metal only existed in Scandinavia (or so I thought), it wasn’t until the church burnings that people began to take notice of the music that was coming out of there, or at least beyond underground trading perhaps. Has there been an influx of Black Metal bands in Florida since the early 2000s? How has the scene changed?
There has, in fact. There's a surprising number of Black Metal bands in Florida nowadays, though many are solo projects, or only ever play a couple small shows. However, there are bands that have appeared all across the state that have seen success outside of the underground. Lustravi, Promethean Horde, LORE, Vitreous, Kult ov Azazel, Bhavachakra, and Black Witchery, just to name a few. The cult is alive and growing
What more can you tell us about your band's purpose and drive?
I will simply say that we are here to follow the black flames within us wherever they may lead. Anything further can be understood from our art.
Any cool news you want to share?
We are currently working on two split EP's, both of which are due before years end. The first split will be with Gloriam Draconis, and it is entitled Ophidic Nexion Genesis. The artwork, which can be seen on our social media sites, was done by Jan of JDW - Death My Only Friend artworks, and by Luca Devinu. I believe you heard the first of song from that split during our show in New Orleans. The second split will be with New York's Teloch Vovin, and it will be entitled Transmissions. We are very excited about both of these endeavors, as well as our upcoming appearances at Anticosmic Music Festival this weekend [July 22-24, 2016], and Shadow Woods Metal Fest in September. These will be legendary shows and we are honored to be taking part.