by RS Frost
French artist and multi-instrumentalist Vincent Petitjean, more commonly known as Dehn Sora, has been providing dark and otherworldly artwork to accompany album releases for over a decade, as well as creating his own multisensory compositions with THROANE and TREHA SEKTORI.
Whilst enjoying high praise and renown within the underground for many years, Vincent has, in more recent times, been propelled into the spotlight after working extensively with DEATHSPELL OMEGA, in particular on the video for ‘Ad Arma! Ad Arma!’, taken from 2019’s ‘The Furnaces of Palingenesia’.
With a lot of ground to cover, I thought it best to start with your plentiful career in album art and your better-known alias. Where does Dehn Sora come from and why did you choose it as your artistic identity?
- The language where it comes from is connected to Treha Sektori's way of expression, which is an instinctive language. My first name is Vincent, its etymology is from Latin, “Vincere”, meaning “To win in a battle” in some way. Dehn Sora stands for the same meaning. I tend to see life as a succession of battles, big or small, so it fits a way to represent it.
When did you start expressing yourself through visual mediums?
- I used to draw since I was a child. But I think I took it more as a “vocation” when I was older, as a teenager. Photography and graphic design crossed my path too, opened some possibilities and envies.
It might have all began with cinema. When I was a child I used to watch a lot of movies that were not for my age. My first visual trauma, as far as I remember, is Cronenberg's The Fly. There is a different meaning for reality when you are younger. And I felt all of this was a testimony of a true story, an actual documentary. Second biggest was Shinya Tsukamoto's Tetsuo. Reasons were different, but it seemed that this director made something complete. Visual, words, sound, everything was in there and so striking. Then I got more into dutch painting and primal arts. I find inspiration every day in a way. By travelling, by keeping my eyes open. Lately, I dig a lot of Roger Ballen's work, Richey Beckett and Nicolas Delort for illustrators, and recent movies from Lars Von Trier for example.
How did you come to work within the extreme music community, and how do you see the correlation between dark music and dark art?
- Black metal had a strong impact when I first heard some classic Norwegian bands. The urge and the connection to something “alter”. More focused on the spirit than on the will of doing something clearly understandable. You had to dig, and this is what first interested me. I have tried to form bands a few times before accepting solo was the best option for what used to come to my mind at this time. I made a very humble paper zine and used to write a few reviews in various webzines and filmed some shows for a growing webzine at that time. It socialised me a little, and gave me a few contacts, despite being on my side and hidden. When I started to feel more comfortable with the visual aspects of graphic design, some friends, or even enemies that turned friends (my first cover started from a meeting with a musician that was not really happy that I disagree with his spirit on a review, for example!), and I shared some samples to some people around, when they asked me. From friends of friends to new connections, I started to be called by some other bands, etc. My first biggest pride was working for ULVER for a t-shirt. It opened up more possibilities and I think it really started at this point. Before that, there were not a lot of moments where I felt good, to be honest. It gave me a brighter insight into the following years.
Whilst conducting my research for this article I came across a long list of your clients and was surprised by a few of them. For example, you had a hand in the visual representation of ARCHGOAT’s ‘The Apocalyptic Triumphator’, as well as MANES’ ‘Teeth, Toes and Other Trinkets’ compilation. To me, these pieces in particular stand out considerably when viewed next to the majority of your work.
Can you give any insight into these pieces and how they came about?
- I met Debemur Morti Productions with my first BLUT AUS NORD collaboration back in 2011. We became close, sharing a lot spirit wise, and having a very close and interesting collaboration throughout the years. I used to be, and still am, a customer of the label, and some bands from his roster had an impact, more or less strong, on my path. Archgoat, for example, have some resounding memories for me. Memories of an argument where only Archgoat could channel all the anger it brought to me. When DMP asked me to take care of the layout of “The Apocalyptic...” it was an honour. Same goes for Manes. But both of them were fluid and interesting. I think Manes wanted something more in my style, whereas for Archgoat I had to interpret more, despite being a huge part of my culture and background. There is always a challenge when you feel connected to the project to be the right eyes for the bands.
Aside from working with bands such as IN THE WOODS…, MISÞYRMING, MERRIMACK, and DEATH FETISHIST, you have also been working with Blut Aus Nord for quite some time, being responsible for the cover art for 2012’s ‘777 – Cosmosophy’, 2013’s ‘The Work Which Transforms God’, and the band's most recent offering; 'Hallucinogen' (2019).
How did you come to work with Blut Aus Nord?
- Among the biggest strikes I had in my musical path, ‘The Work Which Transforms God’ was one of them. Out of this world. I felt connected instantaneously and discovered all his details throughout the years. I went on to collaborate closely with BAN thanks to my friend Valnoir (www.metastazis.com). He worked on the previous chapter of the 777 trilogy and we talked about his work for the record. At the end of the conversation, he suggested we do the next one together. I’m still thankful to him.
Vindsval was in for me to join the adventure. We started talking by mail on some diverse points; music, art, artistic wills etc. and he trusted me for other projects. I like the relationship we have. It's an artistic one like no other. Sometimes I work on visuals that will never see the light on a record, but inspires him. He challenges me a lot; his last effort was a way for me to explore different territories, based solely on his words. I never heard a second of music until its release, actually.
I’m curious if you have a specific fondness, or distaste, for any of your pieces in particular?
- Distaste, yes… a few, but they all have their history. So I don't really regret any of them. I am never really satisfied, or would like to change everything when something is done. But there's a moment when I feel “it's what I can do best at this right moment”. So I try to improve on the next one.
Have you come across any projects, or individuals, that simply proved too difficult to deal with? On the other end of things, have you come across any that seemed too easy and smooth to be true?
- Every collaboration is different. It rarely happens as I am a bit stubborn too, and mostly when I engage I do it till the end, despite being painful sometimes. It happened a few times; we stopped gently during the process before it can turn a real problem.
Too easy, no. I never find any project easy because I am digging a lot. If something is easy in my perspective, it means effortless, and I don't want to work with something as important as music as an easy and effortless process.
More recently you have been working with Deathspell Omega; providing multiple merchandise designs as well as various artworks and the video for ‘Ad Arma! Ad Arma!’. Are you able to go into the designs you have used for Deathspell Omega and the meaning or conceptual motivations behind them?
- Sorry, I can't tell more. It should be their voice speaking, or the visuals for themselves.
Vincent is also a member of the Saros Collective alongside the likes of Adrian Baxter and Void Revelations and, not unlike these artists, Vincent’s work boasts a morbid consistency in style and approach that has become something of an identifier of his artistic output.
When did you become involved with Saros and how did it come about?
- I’ve been in touch with Chris from SCHAMMASCH for many years, respecting each other's work. He grew the collective and asked me to join in. I’m happy to feature among those talents you mention, among others. I see the collective as a group where you can confront, help each other, share visions. I try to help the best I can; printing Void Revelation's exhibition for Ascension Festival, and working on the video for Schammasch, for example. I can share my humble skills in order to give more attention to some artists or help in shaping some visions.
The majority of your work contains characteristics that enable the viewer to not only connect it to you as an artist, but also share in an overall introspective experience. The colour scheme is typically a grey-washed approach, with rich-pigment highlights appearing sparingly.
I’m curious if you take the viewer’s experience into account when creating, or whether this consistency is simply your own individual creativity coming out?
- I can't let it come to mind when working on anything. It should be sincere, straight from the heart. I grow from criticism around something already done, but I can't think in terms of audience before creating anything. So yes, it's my own vision getting out. Some close people give me insights, when I am in doubt, about the shape but not the core.
One would be remiss to think that Vincent’s creative output lies only in the realm of visual art, for audible expression is an equally important part of his life. In 2016 Vincent released his first fully-realised black metal offering with Throane's; ‘Derrière-nous, la lumière’, through Debemur Morti Productions. The title of this album translates to ‘Behind us, the light’ and is an exercise in bleakness, indeed.
How did Throane come about and why did you wait until 2016 to start releasing music?
- The urge and the right timing. Nothing planned, but it all started with that timing in my life, a riff starting, and all getting done in a week. A need.
How do you approach writing music for this project?
- In the urge, really. I have thrown away an album this year because it was “an album” in my ears. Starting to overthink the writing process is not the right path for this project. It is, in my feelings, an answer to the impossibility of managing the flow of anger and anguish. Doing this rather than something irreversible.
What are you wanting to communicate with this project, and this album in particular?
- A pain carrier, an experience of lacking breathe.
The following year, Throane released ‘Plus une main à mordre’ ('Plus a hand to bite'). This album followed on directly from the debut and is a shining example of contemporary black metal, unmistakably French in origin, in the vein of Deathspell Omega, Blut Aus Nord and later AOSOTH, perhaps trading out excessive pace for sonic density.
I should mention that Vincent is responsible for all songwriting, lyrics, instrumental performances and visual artwork for this project and its releases. Two albums in two years is no easy feat, especially whilst taking into account the considerable amount of graphic design work that occurred within the same time frame, not to mention your inclusion on the OVTRENOIR EP ‘Eroded’ that was also released in 2016.
I’m assuming sleep is not one of your top priorities?
- I’m trying to find balance with my envies and my body tries to stop me sometimes. Lately, I have been involved in so many demanding and challenging projects at the same time, I felt a bit like I needed to go back to my own expressions. I’m spending a lot of time on other people projects, which drives me for sure, but I have a lot of ideas for my own projects that need time that I don't have anymore.
How did you manage to put these two albums out whilst working on so many other projects?
- As mentioned earlier, the need, the urge. The next one could be released in five years, or in one, it will need the right time. I also had the chance to have the support of Debemur Morti behind it. When it was ready I carried the artwork, and it was a short timeline before I felt it was done and getting ready to be confronted on a physical release.
I’m interested in your musical influences and motivators in regards to Throane?
- Might be a sum of some musical experiences I had during my life. Blut Aus Nord, GODFLESH, SWANS may have crossed my mind. Motivators might be appeasing the knots I can have in my throat; passing some forces to other hands.
Vincent is also a prominent member of the dark ambient community, creating and performing under the guise of Treha Sektori. After spending time with this particular audible expression, I am immediately reminded of the old Cold Meat Industry movement and subsequent musical legacy.
- That label has been a great entrance to dark ambient / industrial works. I think of RAISON D'ÊTRE, ATRIUM CARCERI, SEPHIROTH, and IN SLAUGHTER NATIVES for example. They proposed something so vast; millions of worlds to explore.
Can you tell me about Treha Sektori and how it came to be?
- Treha Sektori was born instinctively. I was doing music on my own since my teenage years and after a few attempts to form bands it became some kind of clear that I felt this growing inside me, but in a solitary experience. I try to build my own world, somewhere I feel safe. I question, not necessarily in order to find answers.
How do you see this project in the broader spectrum of your artistic work as a whole?
- It is central I think. I don't disconnect the project to my own life. I see the world through it, on how I can interpret visions in sounds. Not that I privilege any of my expressions, but TS might be the core of it.
Do Treha Sektori, Throane and Dehn Sora art all express different parts of yourself? A trinity of works if you will, all catering to a different set of emotions and cognitions?
- There is a connection between all the manifestations, but they are part of the same obsessions, same doubts. Some monikers can be more down to earth, while I am seeking altered states in some others. I am still trying to find my balance in life, I always feel in between many bridges… they are my way to gather all of them in a way.
I understand that you are involved with the Church of Ra, which makes sense given your previous work with AMENRA. For those who may not be familiar with this particular conglomerate, the Church of Ra is a collective of artists, including the likes of Amenra, WIEGEDOOD, OATHBREAKER and BLACK HEART REBELLION, as well as various dancers, poets and artists working with a variety of visual mediums. The collective seems to have been established in 2005 following the release of Amenra’s ‘Mass III’ and published a book regarding the collective and the band itself in 2008.
Can you tell me about the Church of Ra and your involvement with it?
- It's more a brethren than a general collective. Some of the people involved are some of my closest friends. Brothers. My involvement, besides friendship, is from visual participation to music collaborations with some artists on records, splits, and concerts.
I understand that members are not only connected through artful expression, but also philosophy and ideology to a certain extent?
- It stands, in my opinion, to be hands on the shoulders of each other. To not feel left. To constantly feel inspired by each other. To be an engine. We have all fears to deal with. Together, we can break what we want.
In June of this year, Dehn Sora held an exhibition at Iceland’s Ascension MMXIX, alongside Void Revelations, where he displayed his most recent work and provided prints of various pieces for sale to festival goers. Treha Sektori also performed on the third day of the festival to a packed audience, the likes of whom may not have been aware of what they were in for.
How was your Ascension experience?
- A very great one. Exactly the kind of festival I enjoy; a human-size one, with passionate people. I've met great new people, had some good conversations with known ones, and the diversity of the line-up was very impressive. Everything was aligned; I had a one of a kind experience in this country that has a special place in my heart.
What was behind the decision to hold the exhibition at this event specifically?
- Since I was invited with Treha Sektori, thanks to Stephen (Lockhart/REBIRTH OF NEFAST) who organises the festival, there was a good sense. I worked with a few bands present at the festival (ANTAEUS, Misþyrming…) so it was a good way to present another aspect of their presence also.
How did you find performing with Treha Sekroti? Any feedback, good or otherwise?
- It’s always challenging to play in front of a different audience. Most of the line-up was metal oriented, musically. Playing a more interior and calm music can confront incomprehension. But I had a lot of positive feedback, from people that weren't expecting being caught into the performance.
I recall overhearing a group of attendees, who were not familiar with the project previously, giving praise and expressing some level of morbid confusion after the set. I can only imagine the latter reaction was due to the projections that accompanied the audible experience.
- I see the videos as testimonies from other worlds maybe. Some experiences of knowledge of death, not being driven by the fear of it. Throughout the years I had some feedback on how people feel about the videos. Feelings were sometimes diametrically opposed. I like the fact that it can relate to personal experiences. Everyone places their confusion cursor at his own level. On stage, I should feel like a shadow, and if videos can be the mirror of some experiences for the audience, I feel good about it. Not giving too many keys, just for everyone to seek what they need or feel.
Thank you for your time and insight into your work. I now invite you to offer any closing sentiments you may have.
- Let's keep the fire, let's try to do something that makes us grow, let’s stay the outsiders.