by RS Frost
One of Poland’s most prolific black metal bands, BLAZE OF PERDITION, have been honing their chameleon-like artistic output for the past 15 years in the face of adversity, tragedy, death and rebirth. Vocalist Paweł Marzec (aka Sonneillon) and guitarist Łukasz Barański (aka XCIII) offer insight into the inner workings of the band’s contemplative conceptual ruminations and speak of their newest exploration of the otherworldly; ‘The Harrowing of Hearts’.
The band was formed in 2004 as PERDITION, releasing four demos, an EP and a split with Brazil’s RAVENDARK’S MONARCHAL CANTICLE – colourfully titled ‘Jesus Cunt’ – before changing their name to Blaze of Perdition in 2007.
These early offerings carried significantly unpleasant notions and equally grating sonic counterparts. What was the musical landscape you found yourselves in at that time in Poland?
XCIII – It was so long ago I barely remember myself! There was no deep philosophy behind it. I just wanted to create black metal music with no “serious” plans or ambitions. Before Perdition came to life I barely even touched the guitar and Perdition made me return to more regular practice. Basically, it was a kind of a tribute to the bands I used to listen to back then and nothing more.
S – Not easy for me to tell, as I wasn’t a part of the band back then, but Perdition wasn’t really a mature or serious a band at the time. Just a bunch of guys wanting to play black metal in the vein of classic BM bands they loved like MARDUK, MAYHEM etc.
The final release from this iteration of the band, 2007’s ‘Antihuman Divinity’, featured a cover of ZYKLON-B’s ‘Warfare’. Was there any specific reason behind covering this band, and this song, in particular?
XCIII – Why not! It’s one of my favourite songs, just like DISSECTION’s ‘Night’s Blood’, and I wanted to express my sympathy to it this way.
After this release, Perdition became Blaze of Perdition and seemingly took a two-year break from activity. The first release to come from the new version of the band came in 2009; another split, this time with Russia’s PSEUDOGOD. The title of this release, ‘In Void and Serpent the Spirit is One’, would be the first example of the change of conceptual direction that Blaze of Perdition would go on to embrace fully.
What was the reason for the change of band name at this point?
XCIII – There were a couple of reasons. First of all, the name Perdition was picked by Xaos Oblivion, the vocalist, so I thought it would be appropriate to change it after our “breakup”. The second thing was my idea of the band. It was changing, which essentially became the main reason behind those choices. I wanted it to become something deeper and more meaningful. Another reason was the fact that there were probably like five bands called Perdition at the time, so I wanted to give us more personality.
S – It was then when the band started being something more than just a bunch of guys making noise in their drummer’s garage. XCIII wanted to reflect himself more accurately and that required some kind of course correction.
What can you tell me about this split and the change in lyrical/conceptual approach to your artistic output?
S – As XCIII mentioned, Perdition wasn’t something that could reflect his ideas the way he really wanted, so decisions had to be made. That included some lineup changes. Xaos Oblivion, Perdition’s vocalist, preferred a different approach and ways of expression and he was a pretty problematic guy to work with, so something had to be done to keep the band on track. XCIII decided to cease working with him and approached me (and Ashgan, another vocalist) and invited us to join forces. That’s basically how Blaze of Perdition was formed and started it all.
The following year the band would release the first in a series of groundbreaking albums which would solidify their place as one of the leading bands in the Polish black metal community. With evident influence coming from the recent surge in what would go on to be classified as “orthodox black metal” – early works by bands such as FUNERAL MIST, MALIGN, OFERMOD, TRIUMPHATOR, DEATHSPELL OMEGA etc. – Blaze of Perdition submitted their own offering of twisted, meticulously researched and undeniably sinister black metal in the form of 2010’s ‘Towards the Blaze of Perdition’, closely followed by ‘The Burning Will of Expansion’.
What went into this severe change in style and approach to your music?
XCIII – Perdition was one huge compromise between myself and Xaos Oblivion. I was more interested in the occult, satanism and ethereal atmosphere from day one, while he didn’t quite feel it. He was a much more down to earth guy and preferred anti-human wet dreams with neither real substance nor quality to them. I felt it was too childish and immature. With Blaze of Perdition’s birth, I could bring my ideas and concepts to life and the people responsible for vocals (Ashgan and Sonneillon) shared my vision and attitude. It was a natural evolution.
I wonder how much influence the previously mentioned bands played in this?
XCIII – With no doubt, I was hugely under the influence of NORMA EVANGELIUM DIABOLI bands. I’d add ONDSKAPT’s ‘Dodens Evangelium’ as well, it was very inspiring to me back then.
What can you tell me about the concept behind this album? The lyrics and artwork are subjects of deep exploration by themselves, let alone the music.
XCIII – It was a very natural and spontaneous process. I mainly wanted to express my inspirations dealing with the occult and spirituality. Every song refers to topics I was interested in, such as Chaos Magick, Luciferianism, Tantrism, Crowley & Thelema etc. Although lyrics were written separately, with no one rigid concept binding them together, it was more or less naturally interconnected I think. As for the artwork, it was made by my friend with my guidelines in mind. I told him to keep the central area empty so we could add something there ourselves. In the first version, it was a sigil of Lucifer and for the remastered edition we swapped it with our own sigil and added some cosmetic changes. The artwork itself might not be the most amazing ever, but it gets the message across in terms of expressing both the band’s and the album’s ideas of the time.
Following this statement of intent, Blaze of Perdition would go on to release perhaps the most savage and introspectively unsettling album of their career, 2011’s ‘The Hierophant’.
When this album first came out I was driving around two-and-a-half hours a day for work and recall this being one of two CDs that permanently lived in my car, the other being AOSOTH’s ‘III: Violence & Variations’. I spent hours upon hours of road time exploring every corner of this album and after a good few months, would still find new things to explore almost every spin. At one stage I even had a notebook where I would attempt to tab out the bass lines for the songs by ear.
I can only imagine the amount of work that went into piecing this album together.
S – It was an ambitious attempt for the time it was made, yes. The whole interconnection of lyrics and ideas, artwork, photos etc. took a lot of time and effort to develop and grow into something coherent and logical. The photo session was very ambitious too, especially with almost zero budget to cover it. Mixing at the famous Necromorbus Studio was also a pretty fancy whim for such a small band. Somehow we made it and managed to forge something really different than what the Polish black metal scene used to be back then. But we’ve always been off the beaten track and had a different attitude in comparison to other bands in our country. As for your obsession, I can only thank you for spending so much energy on exploring our music! It’s always humbling to see people really getting and being involved in what you want to express.
I’m interested in what this album meant to you, as an individual and as a band?
S – I think it was our first artistically successful attempt at being something more than a regular band. Not everything went 100% as we wanted, it never does, but it’s still much more than most bands used to do at the same time. For me, it was my first opportunity to really shine with writing lyrics and having more to say in terms of concept and direction of the band, because on “Towards...” there was only one song written by me, the titular one.
From what I’m led to believe, the lyrics for this release were comprised as a group effort with almost every member of the band working at it at the same time?
S – Yes, three people were involved in piecing the concept together. We allowed each one of us to express his personal thoughts and ideas with Tarot as a core concept piecing them together.
In the realm of the occult, The Hierophant plays an important role in the art of Tarot. Typically seated on a throne between the two pillars of obedience and disobedience, this Major Arcana card is sometimes called The Pope, signifying great power and responsibility over its subjects or followers.
S – In the context of the album, The Hierophant serves as an initiation to further self-development, a sacred gateway and the one who invites and guides people on the road to wisdom.
Does Tarot, or the occult in general, play a large role in your personal lives, or did it at the time?
S – It used to at that time and it directly inspired the whole concept of the album.
After the release of ‘The Hierophant’, the band seemingly began touring quite extensively, taking a short break to release 2013’s ‘Necrosophist’, which features an exceptional cover of Dissection’s ‘Night’s Blood’, as previously mentioned by XCIII.
What was this time like for the band and why did you choose to cover this song in particular?
S – To be honest... I don’t remember. I know we used to tour in Poland pretty much, but that’s about it, it was still very underground and local I think. We played in Germany twice as well.
We’re all big fans of Mr. Jon’s work and wanted to pay a tribute to him. Amazing band and one of our all-time favourites. To be honest, I’m not fully satisfied with this cover, but it is how it is.
In 2013, at around 6:30am on November 2nd, whilst on the road travelling through Austria, the band’s vehicle lost control resulting in a serious accident. Bassist Wojciech Janus was killed and both drummer Krzysztof Saran and Paweł were gravely injured, with Paweł being declared dead for a number of minutes before being resuscitated.
Paweł has spoken about this incident extensively in previous interviews, and I am not interested in poking at old wounds, so if the reader wants to know more, they are invited to find it for themselves.
S – It’s in the past, and extensively referred to in the ‘Near Death Revelations’ lyrics. Let’s leave it there.
As you say, the musical result of these events came in the form of the band’s next album, the aptly titled ‘Near Death Revelations’, which was released in 2015, a mere two years after the accident.
To some, two years may seem like quite a short amount of time between such a life-changing event and getting back on the proverbial horse. Obviously, this album acted, in part, as a cathartic exercise for you all.
S – It was. But, to say the truth, music for the album was like 90% ready before the accident, so only lyrics had to be written to complete the work. Before the accident, the working title for the album was ‘Dreams Shall Flesh’, but this whole event left such a huge mark on us all that I had to artistically express it somehow and that’s where Blaze of Perdition really became one with me and the accurate reflection of my inner world. Cathartic, yes, very therapeutic and helpful along the road.
How did you approach this album as a band and what did you want to say with it? What was the mindset going into writing music after all that had happened?
S – As you can imagine, I had a whole lot of thoughts and reflections on life and death after actually being dead for like six minutes (if I’m correct). Life-changing events like this tend to make us more self-aware and that’s what happened to me. I became much more focused on my inner self and began to explore my soul with no certain worldviews or currents in mind, just pure, sincere introspection and then expression through lyrics, as it’s pretty much the only way I’m able to communicate such thoughts without this uncomfortable feeling of being emotionally exposed, if you know what I mean.
Do you feel, looking back on it now, that you achieved what you wanted with this release?
S – Definitely, it allowed me to gather my thoughts and make something worthwhile and meaningful of them. Or, at least, I hope so.
The follow up to the band’s rebirth of sorts would act as another turning point in their musical direction. 2017’s ‘Conscious Darkness’ opens with the line, “Everyone must learn that it takes sacrifice and suffering to find God”; a fitting motif for moving forward, and possibly upward, after experiencing significant loss.
This album has much more breathable space within the songs’ compositions and utilises more majestic and grandiose melodic sections, which generally find their sonic conclusion in the flourishing depths of atonal devilry.
What can you say about the change in musical direction used here? Was this a conscious shift in sound or a natural evolution of the band?
S – I’d say it was a natural follow up to NDR. There are obvious differences of course, but our albums always have nods to previous ones as well as elaborate on new stuff to keep things fresh and interesting for us. We left dense and savage death metal influences alone and allowed ourselves to go a more subtle and refined path with some rock influences hinted here and there. Something we explored even more on the latest album.
How does this album sit compared to previous material in your eyes and ears?
S – It’s definitely my favourite album of ours, along with the latest one. It was probably the first time I felt I did everything right as a vocalist, with no room for frustration and this itchy feeling that something is lacking. It’s a 100% complete effort and, in a way, our greatest achievement.
What are the themes presented here and how do they differ from 'Near Death Revelations'?
S – The album is focused on further self-exploration after such a tragic event, but doesn’t refer directly to this topic at all. It’s about finding inner peace and equilibrium by grasping the shadow side of our nature and coming to terms with it. That’s why there are so many nods to Carl Jung’s work present here, the title itself is directly inspired by his quote: “One does not become enlightened by imagining figures of light, but by making the darkness conscious”, a quote that was also included in ‘When Mirrors Shatter’ on NDR. So, as I said, all albums are logically connected and evolve naturally from one to another.
How do you personally see the relationship between suffering and the divine?
S – That’s a very hard question to answer. We would probably have to go through the whole history of religion and its attempts of reaching God through understanding both carnal and spiritual torment. It’s also one of the topics present on the debut album of my new side project, that’s sadly still in progress, as well as on the latest Blaze of Perdition album. The first song’s title isn’t accidental, after all. In the context of Blaze of Perdition lyrics, suffering is a reminder of our reality and the fragility of life as a way to understand ourselves. What we experience as suffering is mostly negative by default, hard to argue there, but the sole act of suffering might also have positive effects, such as inner growth. To put it more directly, without getting into too much philosophical nonsense, I wouldn’t be the man I am if the accident never happened. I’d obviously prefer to be a healthy guy, that’s not up for debate, but I would lie if I told you that this whole trauma hasn’t brought me any good personal growth. It brought me closer to understanding my real self, and there’s nothing more divine than that.
On top of vocal duties for Blaze of Perdition, Paweł is also responsible for the majority of the design and layout work for the band’s albums. Through his graphic design cognomen, KONTAMINATION DESIGN, Paweł has worked on album artwork for the likes of TAAKE, WHOREDOM RIFE, SLIDHR, HAXANDRAOK, MISOTHEIST, and many more.
S – I used to draw a lot as a kid, although I was never too good at it, to be honest. I have a certain sense of style and aesthetics, but I lack the manual skills necessary to be an artist who would be capable of drawing or painting something worthwhile. Graphic design allows me to make pretty things while skipping the manual part, such is the era of computers, and I can’t say I’m not glad I live here and now. I started with my first crappy designs around 2005 I think, gradually learning new things and tools to make my works closer to what I actually had in mind.
How do you generally approach a design commission? How much input does the client have in your work?
S – It depends. Some clients just say, “Go mad with your ideas and we’ll see what happens”, while others tend to almost directly guide my hand, which isn’t my favourite way of working, as you can imagine. But I always listen to them if the input is valuable and try to correct their course along the road if necessary, as not everything clients want is always possible, logical, or for the good of the whole work in general.
Do you take influence or inspiration from any specific artists working in the field today? Or any artists who are no longer with us?
S – The only one I’m consciously inspired by, and can’t admit I’m not, is METASTAZIS. I love his sense of style, though I’m far from his level of artistry. I like DEHN SORA’s works as well. Guy is insane.
I recently read in an interview that there are potential plans to resurrect the Blaze of Perdition side-project, OREMUS. This project involved both Paweł and Łukasz and released a single album, ‘Popioły’, in February of 2011, eight months before the release of ‘The Hierophant’ in fact. Since then, the band has been put on indefinite hiatus.
S – Oremus is dead. I can’t count how many times I have tried to convince XCIII to continue this project, but he’s not feeling it at the moment, so it would be pointless anyway. Still, there is some kind of spiritual succession to come sooner or later. The name is MANBRYNE and it’s still in progress, but we hope to finish the album as soon as possible (with Coronavirus around and quarantine laws it won’t be easy, but, well...). It will be released by MALIGNANT VOICES. It will all be in Polish and will continue numerous ideas and aesthetics started on Oremus. XCIII is not involved in its creation though, so the music itself will be different.
Can you tell me about how Oremus came to be in the first place and what the drive behind it was?
S – We wanted something rooted in more traditional ‘90s black metal, and entirely in Polish, to keep the vocal expression even more emotional. It was heavily inspired by films The Seventh Seal and The Devils, and lyrical themes were more or less close to these movies. Poetically expressed existentialism, medieval fear of God and awe of death.
In February of 2020, Blaze of Perdition released their latest offering, ‘The Harrowing of Hearts’. It is the first album released under the band’s new signing with METAL BLADE RECORDS and, as such, has received significant attention, exposing the band to a far wider audience than they have previously experienced.
How does it feel being signed to a “major” label after all of these years?
S – Our work ethic hasn’t changed much, so I can't say it’s all that different. We do what we’ve always done, but with slightly more resources and backup than we used to have.
Was it an easy decision to go with Metal Blade, given that the move would distance the band from the “underground” in the eyes of many long-time fans?
S – We had our doubts, but I can’t say it was because of what people might think. We weren’t sure if we fit this whole “mainstream” side of things as we’re neither super popular in the underground nor “plastic” enough for a random audience. Still, we released two albums on AGONIA RECORDS and we already knew their capabilities and work ethic, so we were curious where this new label might get us. Why not take such opportunity when you don’t really have anything to lose? As for the “underground fans”… well, the only way artists can remain honest is to pursue their own goals instead of trying to satisfy others in fear of backlash.
‘The Harrowing of Hearts’ is the band’s most ambitious release in terms of musical composition and a far leap from their early material. The compositions are far deeper and more progressive than previous works, with many people comparing the sound to that of fellow countrymen MGŁA’s more recent work.
Did making this album feel like a leap of faith of sorts in terms of stylistic approach and change?
S – Kind of, yes. It’s our most subtle and melodic album after all, and paired up with a “major label”, it made some people think we were trying to get “commercial” or some nonsense like that. But judging from dozens of reviews and opinions, this album is actually our most tricky and difficult one to date and it obviously requires people to really listen to it and discover what it has to offer. That directly contradicts the commercial factor by default. It might appear as an easy listen at first due to its rock-oriented compositions, that’s true, but there’s still a whole lot of detail to explore through guitar arrangements, subtle vocal elements etc. I wouldn’t compare us to Mgła though. Mgła plays much more straightforward and traditional kind of black metal, while we are openly romancing with different genres.
There are numerous references to faith and divinity in here, tied in with the spiralling nature of insanity and suffering. What is this album dealing with conceptually?
S – The concept revolves around Christ’s descent into Hell as a metaphor of individuation and self-discovery through facing the darkest corners of our hearts. It directly continues some of the ideas from ‘Conscious Darkness’ but from a slightly different perspective. It’s a little less intimate and personal, but with more nods towards society, humanity and our place in the universe in general.
How has the response been so far?
S – Mostly positive, I think? Not everyone is liking it and there’s some sort of controversy around the album due to its ostensible accessibility, but one can never satisfy everyone, so it’s fine. I’m not following reception that much, so all I know pretty much comes from reviews and people’s opinions when I happen to stumble on them in the social media.
What have you got planned for the foreseeable future?
S – We have pretty big touring plans, but those will have to wait as everything has been postponed for obvious reasons.
Thank you for your time and insight into your work. I now invite you to offer any closing sentiments you may have.
S – Well, not much else to add I guess, you squeezed me pretty well! Stay safe and look out for the Manbryne album to be out some time this year. Everything has already been recorded and we’ll be mixing it ASAP. Take care!