by R.S. Frost

Swedish black metal band MALAKHIM have been condoning the fiery gospel since 2016. With two EPs under their collective belts and their debut full-length release ‘Theion’ on the way, vocalist E shares his thoughts and feelings on the endless night and ruminates on the eternal fire.

- We all hail from the northern parts of Sweden and have roots in the early days of the scene here, so that certainly forms the music we make and the music we listen to even today. We all have backgrounds in various bands, some more known than others. If people are curious then they can search for that themselves.

Image credit - M Norman

Given you have all been involved with music for the better part of two decades, I’m curious as to where the initial spark of musical creativity came from?

- This varies from member to member. I got obsessed with music myself at around age ten due to my parents subscribing to this cassette club thing and I was allowed to pick a few to fill the quota. I just went off covers and scored ‘Kill ‘Em All’, ‘Use Your Illusion’ and Swedish punk band EBBA GRÖN.

I think I started getting actively involved in music at 16 with some random cover bands as a vocalist. We played a lot of heavy metal covers mainly and never wrote anything together. I was also in a death metal band around that time that recorded one track. As for why, it’s hard to really say. I think I was just fascinated with the feelings that this music stirred in me when listening to it. There’s something about the goosebumps you get when music is good. There’s that certain feeling when standing in the rehearsal room or on stage that nurtures that creativity.

To me, it’s a gateway into other things, and when it’s good it’s really good, almost trance-inducing. There’s a lot of important artists to mention, but a lot of the classics that always get a mention also impacted me. I guess that’s natural. But DISSECTION, MAYHEM, DARKTHRONE, MERCYFUL FATE, MORBID ANGEL, ANGELCORPSE – the classics? Of the later wave of bands, I’d say the Swedish ones made the biggest impact – bands like MALIGN, OFERMOD, FUNERAL MIST and WATAIN, together with SVARTSYN, made a big impact on me later. The NORMA EVANGELIUM DIABOLI roster around the early 2000s is pivotal in the same way that the old DEATHLIKE SILENCE PRODUCTIONS roster was.

From going through the lyric sheet for the first EP, it is quite clear that a great deal of care has been put into the conceptual identity of the band. Some songs read as bible passages, although appropriately altered to fit the band’s philosophical leanings.

Take for example ‘A Thousand Burning Worlds’:

“My eyes Have seen the glory Of the endless void! Of the endless night! My eyes Have seen the glory The arrival of a storm! The coming of our Lord! I have seen Him In the pyres Of a thousand burning worlds I have read A fiery gospel Carved into the bleeding earth”

What can you tell me about your approach to lyrics and the scripture-based style of narration that you employ?

- I personally do not have a set approach when writing lyrics. Most of the time I build from a line or an idea, kind of like a core word or sentence that I then structure the lyrics around. The song you mentioned here was greatly inspired by The Battle Hymn of the Republic, and I do find that biblical passages or songs of faith prove quite inspiring as to how to structure my lyrical approach.

The end of this song contains a familiar incantation, “ZAZAS ZAZAS NASATANADA ZAZAS”. This line appears in many occult and magic grimoires and generally acts as an opening statement or invitation when dealing with entities from other planes. “Zazas”, in itself, is commonly understood to mean something along the lines of “They are in this world and manifest”.

Is this your understanding/purpose for including this line?

- Somewhat. It is used, as you mention here, as an opening of the gates to the other, tied back to the lyric itself. A presentation of what is to come, and then an invitation/beckoning to this to appear. To open the gates to the abyss.

The part of this incantation that has always troubled me was “Nasatanada”. Whilst my research was inconclusive, I am very familiar with a slight variation of the back end of this word, “Ananda”. Ananda is a word used primarily in Buddhism, but also found in Hinduism and Jainism, and represents extreme happiness which is considered one of the highest states of spiritual being.

Ānanda was also the name of the primary attendant of the Buddha during the 5th-4th century BCE and was considered one of the Buddha’s ten principal disciples.

I’m very interested in your take on all of this; whether it is sheer coincidence or otherwise.

- That is an interesting find, and far more research into the linguistic origins than I have done. The invocation does lack one of the Ns that is present in Nasatananda/Ananda so it may be sheer coincidence. Then again, Crowley did have quite an interest in Eastern mysticism as well.

I find it interesting how part of this word is, potentially, used to describe a higher state of being through peace, whilst your use of it clearly points towards reaching a higher state of being through chaos.

- I think these are simply different paths to the same goals, much as how the right-hand path and the left-hand path are different paths to the same destination. One is more fraught with danger, but the rewards may come faster. And while both paths are treasonous and surely hold their own challenges, they both are a means to an end.

The band name itself is a topic of considerable inquiry. The word “malach” has its origins in the Semitic languages and is generally translated to “angel”. The plural form of this word, “Malachim” is then used in Hebrew in reference to “angels” or “messengers” and is derived from mal’ach (מלאך). The band takes its name from the Judaic iteration of this work, “malakhim” being the plural form of “malakh”.

Furthermore, in the 16th century, German theologian, physician and occultist Heinrich Cornelius Agrippa created an alphabetic system derived from both the Hebrew and Greek alphabets, which he named The Malachim Alphabet. Commonly likened to the Celestial Alphabet and the Transitus Fluvii, the Malachim alphabet is said to still be used by high-degree Freemasons.

What can you tell me about how you landed on Malakhim as the band name?

- There was a long discussion around this when the band was in a state that it needed a name. I stumbled upon the word and was quite drawn to its very dual meaning of messenger and angel. I spent some time discussing its meaning with a more educated friend and then we discussed it in the band.

Are you familiar with the Malachim Alphabet at all?

- Vaguely, having spent some time with the book in question in my earlier years, but not at a level where I would claim any deeper knowledge.

Do you have a vested interest in ancient languages/scriptures in an academic approach at all?

- I find a lot of inspiration in older scripture and text and, had I some more time at hand, I guess it would be an interesting venture to go into this in an academic context as well. I’m sure it would be an interesting study.

The music on this first release is steeped well and truly in Swedish “orthodox” black metal, with the prior-mentioned references clear. But there is also a hint of swagger, if you will, an unkemptness that brings to mind Nidrosian bands such as ONE TAIL, ONE HEAD, RITUAL DEATH and DARVAZA.

- That’s some good company there, thanks.

How do your songs come together? What is the process of writing music and lyrics and does one come before the other or are they tied together from the beginning?

- Separately. Usually, I write lyrics without a specific track in mind. We have some songs that were written with a specific lyric behind it, but usually there is a moulding process where a song and a lyric is paired based on the theme and feel of the song and the lyrics. For the two EPs and for the upcoming full-length, I had a library of finished lyrics that we drew upon and continue to draw upon. I just fill that up when inspiration strikes.

When writing music, what is it that you want to achieve with your music and does that end goal play a part in the creative process?

- The key thing when writing is that it feels like it fits into the band. There is no set idea that it needs to sound like this or that, or really any rules that it needs to follow the threads of the earlier releases or tracks. The first EP was written during quite a long time, with almost two years between the first track and the final one. The one thing we spend some time with is the ebb and flow of the tracks.

The band’s second EP came in 2019 and was once again geared towards adversarial musings, exhibited by track titles such as ‘He Who Devours’ and ‘Sworn to Satan’s Fire’.

Did anything change for you with the second batch of songs, or was it simply more of the same approach?

- That second batch of songs was almost done when the first EP came out via IRON BONEHEAD. We have had quite a surge in creativity since the first one came out, so we just pressed on with that. I would say that because of the much narrower timespan, the songs fit together a little bit more for an EP.

The band’s logo, designed by Sindre Foss Skancke, and release artwork, designed by KARMAZID, all share elements of totemic visual appeal, sigils aplenty and some fetching imagery. How do you guys approach your visual representation as a band?

- It is quite important to me that there is a red thread through the visuals. Both the EP covers were doodles that Karmazid already had made, but somehow, they thematically fit together so we decided to get them instead of more custom work. For the full-length, we have taken a similar approach but included two more artists in the fold. I look forward to sharing more on that later.

Karmazid has been a key part of Malakhim so far, and I consider the artwork and presentation of the album as important as the lyrical or compositional parts. It needs to fit together in a trinity of music, lyrics and artwork.

How much input do you have and is there a general concept that you try to keep to along the way?

- Truly little input of our own I would say. We select an artist based on what their portfolio presents, and then we will answer whatever questions they may have around the piece. Usually, this involves a short presentation of theme and access to the lyrics. When we collaborate with an artist, I think it is important to allow the artist to make their own interpretation of our art. This also means we will carefully select the artist so that we get a general framework that the lyrics will be set in.

Although having been a band since 2016, Malakhim didn't play their first show until 2019 at the House of Metal Festival in Umeå. This particular edition of the fest included TAAKE, ROTTING CHRIST, THE HAUNTED, NECROPHOBIC, AT THE GATES and a slew of other veterans of the genre. Quite an event for a band’s first-ever gig.

Image credit - H Leemann

- The debut gig far exceeded my expectations. I guess you know the feeling when you’ve prepared for so long and you’re stressing over what will go wrong because you’re convinced that something will go south. We had not expected the turnout to be as good as it was, and the whole gig went really well.

Malakhim are, as previously mentioned, currently working on their first full-length release, “Theion”. Once again utilising meaning in the title, Theion is an archaic noun which refers to divine fire, commonly associated with the concept of fire and brimstone. The word is also a Greek term for sulphur, which is full of Luciferian connotations itself, as previously discussed in a conversation with UMBRA CONSCIENTIA.

How did this title came to be used and what, if any, further-reaching implications are present here?

- When the first few tracks for the album manifested, we did not really know if we wanted to push for a third EP or do a full-length album. The number of tracks grew to a point where an album was the natural outcome of the creative process, and due to this, we decided to deviate from the naming protocol of the EPs.

The general themes of reaching a higher state through ordeal and fire are present in the lyrics, and so it felt like a fitting concept to wrap around the album and give it a proper name. The fact that the word has dual meanings/interpretations fit well with the name of the band also having such, and as such it became an even better fit.

Are there any particular aspects of the extreme music community or industry that has acted as a motivator, or deterrent, for you as a musician?

- The passion and attention to detail that some bands pour into their creation are what I personally find most enjoyable. When you really see that someone put time and effort into making this release a great representation of the contents. This doesn’t mean it has to be complex, the simple layouts work well too. As for dislikes, the over-saturation of magicians in the genre. People are so quick to flaunt their pedigree, and while this certainly was true back in the good old days too, it’s at a different level now. I guess it’s just grown exponentially.

Image credit - O Vindelfors

Given you have all been around for some time, I wonder if you have noticed any major changes or shifts within the scene along the way?

- More accessibility to the scene as the internet has grown more and more as a platform for bands. It’s certainly moved more into the public light than it ever was before. I remember you had to struggle to find any mention of black metal bands in the bigger zines and only really the good old fanzines covered the topic and the bands extensively. Now it’s present in all major metal outlets. It seems the threshold for starting a band has gotten lower and lower with the years which is also an effect of labels that wouldn’t touch black metal in the past now actively wanting that as part of their roster as well.

What does the future hold for you musically and/or personally?

- Right now we’re focusing on recording our debut LP that will be out on Iron Bonehead Productions during 2020. We’re also confirmed to play at the Never Surrender Festival in Berlin and there will be more live activity once the bat plague releases its grip on mankind.

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 the support and interest in the band.