by RS Frost
Swedish black metal band CHALICE OF BLOOD has spent the past 15 years lurking in the underground. With four splits, a demo and an EP to their name, 2019 saw the accumulation of essence and output, with the eponymously named compilation release.
Now, a new chapter is being written in the book of the beast and for the first time in several years, the band’s nameless representative engages in open discourse where we look to the past, present and future for the effects of, and reasons behind, sipping from the ever-flowing chalice.
- The foundations of Chalice of Blood were laid on the western shorelines of Sweden some 15 years ago. Whereas some of my previous musical endeavours had been trying to emulate the specific and rather unique feeling of the black and death metal of the region – think bands such as DISSECTION, SACRAMENTUM, LORD BELIAL etc. – with Chalice of Blood we wanted to do something completely different. Originally, the purpose was to create the most simple and ritualistic form of black metal imaginable, with bands like VON as the benchmark. Since then I guess we’ve developed a bit, but the strive for a sacred and ritualistic approach and feeling to the craft surely remains. So, one could say that the area that we hail from has shaped our music in some way, but rather as something we wanted to get away from with this project than anything else.
How did you find yourself drawn to music as an expression in the first place and what importance does it have on your daily life?
- Music came into my life in a somewhat serious way, I guess, with the introduction of guitar playing at a quite early age, and this surely influenced what kind of music I would become interested in later. Had I gone with playing the clarinet instead, which was on the table, I am not so sure that KISS would have led to METALLICA, which would lead to MAYHEM, if you know what I mean. Starting at a new school with new friends at the beginning of my teenage years, in the late 1990s, opened the floodgates to black metal, and it was just a matter of time until we would try to express something similar musically ourselves as well.
Generally speaking, music has always had a central role in my life, and even though the most significant artists for me at any given time of course change over the years, many of my favourite bands remain steady. Therefore, when it comes to Chalice of Blood, I would say that the most influential and significant bands are still primarily some of the bands that also were important to me early on. Specifically, ‘90s bands such as Mayhem, VON, NIFELHEIM and THE BLACK have perhaps been the most influential for our own craft, but also the wave of bands that later changed almost everything about the genre for me, such as the NOEVDIA crew (for us, especially KATHARSIS and FUNERAL MIST) of the early ‘00s. Honourable mentions also go to Sweden’s DAMNATION and FACE OF EVIL as well, since they are both so underrated and deserving of more praise. Nowadays, I will probably be influenced equally as much by bands in other genres, regardless of what kind of music I am creating myself.
My conversational counterpart has an extensive and rather profound back catalogue of musical activities, including a few very well-known Swedish black metal bands, amongst others. Why not be open about this fact; surely the resulting interest wouldn’t be a bad thing for the band?
- We made the decision early on not to talk about who we were or any other bands we were involved with – simply because we didn’t find it very interesting ourselves and were quite sure that no one would even care. But anyway, since then we’ve shared a band member with more renowned bands such as Funeral Mist, OFERMOD and MARDUK, and I suppose someone out there would be interested in knowing that. During the last few years, however, I haven’t been very active and creative musically at all myself. One of the last releases that two of us from Chalice of Blood did partake in together was when we revived our old band EXCESSUM for a split 7-inch with our friends in ORCIVUS. The same duo also released an EP a few years back with the project THE ASCENDANT. Besides dabbling with some other musical genres in the last decade, I have mostly been active as the live guitarist of GRIFT, which incidentally is about as much time I care to spend playing the guitar these days.
Chalice of Blood’s first release was the ‘Angelus Diaboli’ demo in 2005, through Sweden’s renowned SATANIC PROPAGANDA RECORDS. The band’s next offering would come four years later; a split release with Japan’s ARKHA SVA.
Can you tell me about the early days and formation of the band and this first demo release?
- For the first demo, we were just a duo, rather than the trio that we would become later, and as I said earlier, we were more or less attempting to encapsulate the most primitive and monotonous black metal imaginable really. At this time, we didn’t really write or compose the songs in any normal sense; we just went into a studio we had access to and recorded whatever came to mind. ‘Angelus Diaboli’ was the outcome of that first session in the late spring of 2005, and it was a spontaneous effort that wasn’t planned in any greater depth.
How did you come to work with SPR for your demo? I’m also curious as to what the label was like back in its infancy, given its rather unflattering reputation in later years.
- SPR were newcomers at the time, having put out just a small number of somewhat interesting so-called “orthodox” black metal bands in the year or months preceding the beginning of our cooperation. Andreas, who ran the label, was obviously not a capable person at all, to put it mildly, but we were glad that someone wanted to release our cassette and distribute it globally. E. of WATAIN designed the artwork and intended for it to be printed in red ink on black, but Andreas printed it in plain black and white, and I guess that speaks for itself. But he managed to build a decent catalogue anyway in the years to come before he suddenly disappeared without a trace. That was the first time that happened to us.
How did the split with Arkha Sva come about?
- I’m not sure any longer; whether it was through the SPR connection (Arkha Sva had released cassettes there as well), or a connection through our second label, SIGILLA MALAE. In any case, I liked their cassette demos from SPR, so we eventually agreed to do a split 10-inch with them.
At this point, I had recruited a new friend of mine who actually knew how to play the drums, which truly was a step forward for the band’s sound. Our material for the split was recorded already during Samhain 2006, and again it was mostly improvised, or at least semi-improvised. But as fate would have it, Sigilla Malae also had their fair share of problems. The person behind the label was the opposite of SPR in many ways, as his artworks and attention to detail was most excellent, but the split 10-inch with Arkha Sva was not released in 2007 as intended, but rather sometime in 2009 after a lot of hassle. Shortly after that, the person running Sigilla Malae suddenly disappeared without a trace. That was the second time that happened to us.
It would be another five years before we heard from Chalice of Blood again, which would turn out to be quite a strange affair. In December of 2014, the band released ‘Sacrament of Death’, a song that would be featured on not one, but two split releases, within the same month. Firstly on a CD release alongside ISRATHOUM, MONTE PENUMBRA and HALF VISIBLE PRESENCE, then a few weeks later as a 7-inch, this time just with Israthoum.
- That is actually just a misunderstanding, but I don’t blame you, as the information available certainly is confusing. The split with Israthoum is the real split release for Chalice of Blood, and the CD is just a promotional thing that someone from Israthoum made in a very limited edition to promote our split together with a split that those other two bands, who were in some way Israthoum-connected, had done. We do not consider the four-way CD to be an official release of ours, as we were not even informed about it until it was done. But that’s fine. No harm, no foul.
Why the long gap between releases?
- In the years between the split with Arkha Sva and the split with Israthoum, I had re-located a few hours away, across the country from where our drummer lives, which obviously created some geographical issues. But he and I had in fact worked on another small project together in the meantime (THE ASCENDANT’s ‘The Spiritual Death’ EP) that had taken some time to finish and release. In the spring of 2012, we eventually regrouped to record some Chalice of Blood material that had been brewing since at least 2007. This session resulted in the ‘Helig, Helig, Helig’ MLP, the split with Israthoum, and the six-way split ‘Ekstrophë’. These three releases were not mixed or completed at the same time however, so that is the reason why they don’t sound the same.
What can you tell me about the song ‘Sacrament of Death’ itself?
- Musically, it was just part of the aforementioned session with several other tracks being recorded at the same time, but this was the piece that I felt was a bit different when it came to the riffs and sound and it was the track that fit the least into the whole with the others. That’s why we picked it for the split 7-inch with Israthoum. Lyrically, I remember that it was influenced by Aleister Crowley’s adventures in the desert.
In 2015 the band’s first major release would come to light, the previously mentioned EP, ‘Helig, Helig, Helig’, which was released through the now-defunct DAEMON WORSHIP PRODUCTIONS.
Was there a conscious effort made in regards to the messages and intentions within this release, and resulting experience for the listener, given the five-year gestation period behind it?
- At this point, the material had loosely been in the works for a few years. I remember that at least two tracks were partly written already in 2007, but other than that, we went about it in a similar way that we had done before; just recording and producing it ourselves over a few solitary days and nights in a small village in the forest somewhere in the southern parts of Sweden. Rather than aiming for a full-length album, we decided to do a five-track MLP and save a few tracks for other releases. A few years down the road, perhaps we should have gone for a full album release instead, but alas, at the time we chose another way.
Although the “Helig…” project didn’t have a unified theme or concept as such, with each lyric more or less dealing with different topics, when we worked on the visual presentation with Brianvdp, we still managed to tie them in nicely together. The five hands of the figure on the cover would each represent one of the lyrics/tracks of the MLP. The empty hand is for ‘Hoor-Paar-Kraat’, the key for ‘Nightside Serpent’, the flame or fire for ‘Shemot’, the chalice for ‘The Communicants’, and finally the sickle for ‘Transcend the Endless’. Sometime after releasing the “Helig…” MLP the person behind Daemon Worship suddenly disappeared without a trace. That was the third time that happened to us.
Helig is a Swedish word that essentially means holy or sacred. Given that Chalice of Blood had shown a keen interest in Satanism and Left Hand Path currents by this stage, I’m curious as to the usage of the word for the title? Why three times? I’m going to take a stab and say it’s comparatively related to the holy trinity in some way?
- Indeed, what you say about the word is correct, and I would also agree with your estimate of our interest in Satanism and the Left Hand Path, but this specific usage is as a matter of fact coming from a far more Christian context. The track ‘The Communicants’ is loosely based on the Ingmar Bergman film Winter Light (1963), and we used a sample from the film where actor Gunnar Björnstrand, portraying a spiritually defeated priest, resignedly is proclaiming: “Helig, helig, helig är Herren Gud allsmäktig. Hela jorden är full av hans härlighet” ("Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty. The whole earth is full of His glory"). So, whereas a lot of our lyrics certainly would be connected to the so-called Left Hand Path, some deal with other topics as well, such as, in this case, the notion of God’s silence.
Do you follow any particular school of spirituality or philosophy?
- Well, in a sense, yes, but Chalice of Blood is not a vessel of any particular school or current or the like, as such. Various strands of Western esotericism from the fin-de-siècle and onwards is primarily my own field of interest – not least from an academic point of view – and I am in one way or another inspired by authors such as S.L. MacGregor Mathers, Aleister Crowley, and Kenneth Grant to name just a few. But our lyrics certainly draw from a more diverse palette than that as well.
After this EP it would be another three-year gap between outputs. In 2018 Chalice of Blood were featured on the highly revered six-way split release ‘Ekstrophë’. This release is comprised of six songs, one from each band included, those being DEVOURING STAR, FLAGELLANT, ARFSYND, IBEX ANGEL ORDER, DØDSENGEL and Chalice of Blood.
‘Ekstrophë’ was initially intended to be a very different release in conjunction with Daemon Worship Productions, but before it could be fully realised, the label collapsed leaving this project without legs. It’s my understanding that J. Lilja of Devouring Star picked up the pieces and took ‘Ekstrophë’ over to TERRATUR POSSESSIONS, where it would eventually find a home and release.
- For sure, “a mess” is probably a good way to describe it. This project was originally intended to be a much bigger compilation, with some 15-20 bands or so, mostly related to Daemon Worship Productions. DWP was building quite an interesting roster at the time, so it was a shame that the label vanished. I guess it was a herculean task to compile this album, so it was already heavily delayed by the time we realised that it wouldn’t happen. Alex of DWP sent me the artwork for the original release at one point, which was painted by one of the most renowned artists of the last 20 years of black metal artworks, but other than that I don’t recall much of the process other than the constant waiting and countless delays.
How did Chalice of Blood become involved with this project in the first place?
- As suggested before, you are right that Devouring Star probably were instrumental in getting Terratur Possessions involved with the new project, and even though I never asked, I think that Flagellant probably vouched for us to be included. When the original project fell apart, we weren’t sure what to do with our track, and I was thinking about asking Arfsynd to do a split with us, as they also had recorded for this release. But when we were approached with this six-way split idea, we were instantly game.
The latest activity from the band is the 2019 release of the ‘Chalice of Blood’ compilation album, featuring all of the band’s previous vinyl releases, re-mastered for CD and packaged with new artwork courtesy of MISANTHROPIC-ART.
Can you tell me about this release and why you decided to compile all of these songs together?
- Since the labels we had worked with in the past had all imploded under mysterious circumstances, we felt the need to make our releases more widely available again. As far as I know, it’s probably not even possible to purchase any of our releases anywhere any longer, which is a shame. A long-time acquaintance, the man behind the Mexican record label DUMAH, was interested in releasing something with us, and this seemed like an appropriate project to do at this time since we didn’t have anything newly recorded to offer. We did a minor re-mastering of the tracks at Twisting Serpent Studios, where we’d also recorded everything on the compilation. Even though we wanted a very simple artwork and layout for this un-titled, or self-titled, effort (I had something like an early ABRUPTUM release in mind), Misanthropic-Art was chosen to execute it. He is indeed a skilled artist, so he handled the task well. We have used a different artist for more or less every project we have done so far, so we wanted to continue with that approach.
Taking into account your tenure within black metal and the numberof bands and people you have crossed paths with within the underground community, I wonder how you consider the black metal and extreme metal industry at large, and where you see yourself within it.
- For Chalice of Blood, the “industry” side of things has always been very frustrating, and I guess that is simply because there is not enough “industry” in most of the people and labels we have worked with. Don’t get me wrong, the plague of capitalism that has spread to black metal since it developed some commercial potential is surely disgusting, but it is also extremely annoying to work with people completely incapable of executing what has been promised. That being said, it is always very satisfying to get the final product, which usually is a piece of vinyl, in your hands, and that is primarily the thing that makes releasing music into the tangible world worth it in this respect.
Have you been aware of any shifting focusses or trends within black metal in your career, or have you been subjected to any stand-out situations regarding the “scene”, for better or worse?
- Hard to say, as I don’t really keep up as much as I used to. To me, it seems as though things are just moving on as they always have and always do. I don’t think I have found anything really unique or truly inspiring in the last decade or so. However, I am sure this is just my own fault: surely there must be something exciting and worthwhile out there still. Don’t get me wrong, I do indeed like some newer artists as well, but I haven’t seen anything close to what I’d consider a paradigm shift in a long while.
We haven’t had much of a career in any sense of the word, as we haven’t released much — not even a full-length album — and never even played live. The band has served mostly as a project aimed at producing a certain brand of black metal which didn’t fit within any other of our projects, so our expectations have not been high in any sense either.
Considering the fact that the band does not play live, paired with the considerable gaps between material, I wonder where your perseverance comes from in regards to this project in particular, seeing as though other projects you are involved with are far more active and therefore offer a greater spectrum of experiences?
- Difficult or impossible to say actually, since I’m currently so inactive that I can’t claim to persevere at all. Rather, mundane things and other interests have, to a large extent, been in the way of this kind of creativity in the last few years and I haven’t felt that much of an urge to express myself through any kind of artistic endeavours at all recently. I’ve also been quite tired with band politics (mostly in other bands, however), so being in a situation right now where I don’t have to deal with that is also a relief.
What does the future hold for you musically and/or personally?
- As I said earlier, I’m mostly active as a musician in someone else’s band at this moment, but I have some musical ideas that I hope I will manage to realise sooner rather than later. I think there’s a great chance that this will be under another moniker than Chalice of Blood, however, and I am not sure if this particular project is a thing of the past or not yet. In any case, it’s certainly about time that I create something new, but there’s unfortunately not much I can tell you about that at the moment.
Thank you for your time and insight into your work. I now invite you to offer any closing sentiments you may have.
- Thank you for taking the time to do this interview and showing an interest in Chalice of Blood. It’s much appreciated.