by R.S. Frost
Finnish black metal band DEVOURING STAR is an entity cemented in cosmic rumination. Having released two albums and a handful of other releases, the constant amongst this body of work lies in conceptual musings of Luciferian ideology and cosmic energies manifesting in the form of sonic adversarial grandeur.
I made contact with the band’s architect, J. Lilja, to gain insight into his work and the origins of such an intricate and all-encompassing thematic endeavour.
- The concepts I have been interested in for an unknown time, before Devouring Star. The band is a creative vessel for them. Therefore starting Devouring Star has matured them, although it is only a limited perspective as an album, for example, can only hold a certain concept. Black metal/death metal was a natural choice for me mainly through my interest in metal music, also because particularly in this genre of metal the output has been more focused on esotericism and serious topics, for example, than say in a lot of other genres. These days however, my view is that the genre of music doesn’t matter as a person can output these things in many forms.
I’m curious if the adversarial themes that you touch upon come from a classical Miltonian take on Satanic philosophy, or the more practical workings of Luciferian currents?
- Philosophy furthermost. The practical and traditional side of working is limited to pretty much meditation and self-exploration on my side. I consider ritual work and such as something that definitely has a lot of meaning for the subconscious, but I also consider that we as humans tend to place ourselves on a high pedestal of potential – on such potential that doesn’t exist. The philosophical side of studying the nature of our behaviour, faith, existence and left hand ideologies has been enough for me, without any unnecessary mystification – that isn’t even needed when exploring the nature of being.
When digesting your discography as a whole, themes of cosmic enormity and indifference are apparent, as well as the presence of, for lack of a better term, dark energy, in a conscious and sentient manner. Was it your intention to maintain a singular undercurrent throughout all of your releases when you first started Devouring Star?
- That is true, however the concepts vary on each release and I have opened them up several times. The dark energy and cosmic side might sometimes be overexaggerated, as I don’t really understand always what people refer to with “cosmos” in the context of Devouring Star. Mainly I think this has been brought up so many times simply because of the “Star” in the band’s name. Cosmos is naturally key when pondering metaphysics, or even faith, but the actual key centre concept in all of the releases has been a human being.
‘Through Lung and Heart’ focused on the concepts of physical and spiritual decomposition.
‘Antihedron’ focused on a three-song concept of the cycle of existing as a human being.
‘The Arteries of Heresy’ focused on Sin and humanity’s nature being bound to Sin.
All in all, Devouring Star is focused on the concept of the image of God and dismantling it. Death, esotericism, philosophy etc. are all a part of that and the cycle of existence as a human being – our subjective experience, or rather everything we experience, always comes down to the fact that we are as limited as that of a human being.
Do you then see each release as being part of a larger whole, or are they intended to stand alone as separate works with their own individual message?
- I would rather say that Devouring Star is a larger whole whereas individual works are individual works inside that context.
The first Devouring Star release, 2013’s self-titled demo, stands out in retrospect from the rest of your work. It has a lot less density to it and seems to lean on the more traditional approach to black metal, albeit still residing in the dissonant, nauseating corner of the genre. I’m curious if this material was perhaps coming from a different place than the music that would follow?
- It was a naïve start of something coming from a person who had not previously released music. Devouring Star has since matured more towards the direction it should have been from the start.
Two years later Devouring Star would release the debut album ‘Through Lung and Heart’. This would cement the band as one of the heavyweights within the post-DEATHSPELL OMEGA arena of dissonant and “orthodox” black metal and was received incredibly well, a fact I’m sure was, in part, thanks to the album being released through DAEMON WORSHIP PRODUCTIONS.
How did you find the response to the album when it was released?
- The response isn’t that important to me. We are working in a marginal genre of music and I have never thought that this sort of music should be something that should be big. Negative or positive reviews don’t really move me anymore at all – as it doesn’t affect the concepts or the music itself, which goes through my own standards and naturally then I should be my biggest critique. To add also, often these reviews and such that happen after a release don’t tend to dig up deeper to the concepts or are made by people who don’t have any sort of sense about writing music or doing creative work. They just like metal music.
And how did you come to work with Daemon Worship for this release?
- I contacted them and they were interested in working with me. Now, as we know, DWP is dead.
As far as I can deduce, the narrative of this album comes across as a loud and unnerving damnation of the pious and sanctimonious elements found within mankind.
- Yes, as mentioned before, it is focused on esotericism and the decomposition of the self in physical and spiritual form. This was written whilst still in, in my opinion, a very immature state of myself, but the concepts still apply. Naturally, the Universe works in energy shifting form and moving from one shape to another, so as everything is based on that, so is our faith in things and so is our physical being. ‘Through Lung and Heart’ as an album title refers to the piercing of Jesus with the spear of Longinus.
Around this time you also brought in guitarist Guillaume Martin (BARSHASKETH, HAAR) as a live member, an inclusion that has continued to this day. How did this partnership of sorts come to be?
- I think it was through his interest in Devouring Star? I can’t remember exactly, but he is a talented musician and a smart man. Things went naturally from there and he has played live with Devouring Star multiple times since.
In 2017 the follow-up to the band’s first album came in the form of ‘Antihedron’, this time released through DARK DESCENT RECORDS. The title of this EP would suggest a representation of a subject that has no form or solidity; the removal of any number of faces specified by a particular element. What is the accurate and intended meaning of this title?
- Anti – opposite/against. Hedron is a suffix for objects or particles consisting of planes. ANTIHEDRON, therefore, presents antimateria in a sense, or a negative shape.
Cosmology seems to be a keen interest of yours. When did this exploration of matter on a grand scale begin for you?
- Since I was young I was interested in space. However when philosophy and self-study – existentialism and metaphysics, esotericism etc. – came along then things changed to another perspective.
And how do you see these various areas of study coming together in the context of Devouring Star?
- Well, we exist in space essentially, Earth is just a minor part of it as is the human race. Therefore it is crucial to extend your thoughts into a bigger whole than just the small environment that is our planet. Also, this should be kept in mind when studying esotericism.
This release toned down the pace found on ‘Through Lung and Heart’ and replaced it with more density and dirge-like movements. Was this a conscious decision whilst writing the material, or simply a natural progression?
- Conscious! Always when I start to write a concept for a release, the first phase is that the music needs to describe this concept – therefore I also research what sort of chords and soundscapes I should use.
- To be honest, ‘Ekstrophë’ was supposed to be a more in grandeur compilation made by DWP – but since DWP disappeared, I picked up the project with some others and we moved to Terratur Possessions, who was kind enough to take over and release it. It would have been a shame if all of these songs and effort went to nothing.
Was your song ‘Mors Invicta’ written with this split release in mind?
- ‘Mors Invicta’ was written for that compilation solely, it is a rare “one-off” song from Devouring Star.
Later that month a second split, this time with Scottish band CAECUS, was released, featuring a song from each band and a joint composition which shares its title with the release itself, ‘Apostasis’. How did this joint-effort come about?
- A long time ago Caecus and I started planning a split together and it took years to make due to a lot of reasons. We wanted to make a special split which would not be the typical side A side B sort of thing, but rather where we focused on creating a larger entity which mixes both bands. Therefore in ‘Apostasis’, the band changes naturally during the song, all of the lyrics and such were written together.
Devouring Star would have had chances to do splits with bigger and more well-known bands, but I have not been that interested in success in terms of popularity, rather I’m interested in challenging myself as a musician.
After spending time with your more recent work, I cannot help but consider the influence of certain psychedelic compounds playing a role in the construction of compositions, in both audible and lyrical approach.
- I believe trying psychedelics should have an effect on anybody – it is a wasted potential if it doesn’t.
Do you choose a particular substance for a particular desired effect or outcome, with a mission in mind, or simply let the experience impart what it will?
- No, I don't, as everything is subjective I can't say anything on behalf of anyone else when it comes to these topics. I have done both, but the latter is usually better.
The way I see it is that psychedelics are a catalyst to your subconscious. You enter a dreamlike state while being awake and therefore have much more potential in processing all this “raw data” that comes and goes after the experience. It can be, in my opinion, compared to working and studying your dreams.
In October of 2018 Devouring Star released their second album, and most recent offering, ‘The Arteries of Heresy’, which features a staggering visual counterpart thanks to artist David Herrerias.
This album seems to combine elements of both ‘Through Lung and Heart’ and ‘Antihedron’ and seems to change course in terms of concept from previous releases. Whilst still unabashedly anti-Abrahamic, there is a sharper edge to the lyrical approach, a more focused and linear narrative in which mankind is identified as the personification of Sin itself and ruminations on the unavoidable sufferance of such an existence are riddled throughout.
- The motivation for the concept comes from my own observations on the nature of humanity and myself. It is ironic in a sense. Also, a big part of it comes from dismantling Christianity or other Abrahamic religions.
How much input did you have regarding the artwork for this record?
- I presented the concept to Herrerias and he took over from there. I was surprised at how easy it was for him to manifest something as eerie as the cover art of ‘The Arteries of Heresy’. I recommend reading his book, The Book of Q’ab iTz, to understand his creative flow and personal studies better – which are very profound and respectable.
Once again, I’m very interested in how you see this album fitting in with your larger body of work?
- I think it fits the context of Devouring Star just fine and foreshadows other things to come – hopefully.
Following the release of this album Devouring Star made several festival appearances in 2018, including ORATION MMXVIII and Steelchaos, and has since been a staple at various underground-leaning black metal festivals, many of which cater to the more gnostic iterations of the genre.
In April of this year you were a part of the lineup for Armageddon Descends VI in Lithuania alongside the likes of ULCERATE, BÖLZER, OUTRE, LUCIFYRE and many others.
How was your experience at the festival and how do you feel your music is communicated through a live performance versus on record?
- Well, I remember some distractions on stage, but anyways – what I aim towards with live performances is to create a trip-like energy coming from the stage towards the audience in loud and powerful noise. The set lists are intended to be built as such and we don’t enjoy silence during our shows. I consider live shows to be, and should always be, separate from the record.
We have never toured with Devouring Star and there isn’t intention to either, at the moment at least. I have focused on playing with the other band I am involved in these days – KRYPTS – and with them we have done plenty of live shows already this year.
Essentially, I have found myself far more interested in writing music and researching the concepts in Devouring Star than necessarily playing it live.
This interview is featured in the print edition of Inner Missive #3, alongside discussions with ASCENSION FESTIVAL, SLIDHR, VOID REVELATIONS, DAWN OF AZAZEL, PERDITION TEMPLE, WINTERFYLLETH, TEMPLE KOLUDRA, CULT NEVER DIES, TODD HANSEN, BY NORSE MUSIC, MUNT, THE FUROR, ZAZEN SOUNDS, THE SENSELESS, FUCK I’M DEAD, SUFFERING HOUR, DISENTOMB, DEHN SORA, A MILLION DEAD BIRDS LAUGHING, KARMAZID, ENTHRONED, KRIEG, WEREWOLVES, GRAVEIR, SUNS OF SORATH, KAFIRUN, UMBRA CONSCIENTIA, EARLY PSYCROPTIC, MEPHISTOPHELES, MALAKHIM, BLAZE OF PERDITION, CHALICE OF BLOOD, MANNVEIRA, HAXANDRAOK and ZHRINE.