by RS Frost
German esoteric ritualists TEMPLE KOLUDRA released their debut album ‘Seven! Sirens! To a Lost Archetype’ in June of this year through TRANSCENDING OBSCURITY RECORDS. This album will follow two prior EPs, 2013’s self-titled release and ‘Tooth and Nail’ which came out in March of 2019.
The band has previously touched upon philosophical subject matter from various cultures, including ancient Greek – the song ‘Panta Rhei’ from their first EP translates to “everything flows” and is connected with the philosopher Heraclitus – and Norse mythology with the song ‘I Ginnungagap’ from the same release.
Their second EP, which followed six years later, would introduce an affinity with Indian spirituals in ‘Annutara’, and also featured a rather impressive cover of DISSECTION’s ‘Unhallowed’.
With ‘Seven! Sirens! To a Lost Archetype’, the band have immersed themselves further into traditional Indian spirituality and have raised the bar considerably in regards to their musical prowess, thematic execution and general artistic output. The seven tracks on this album clock in at just over an hour and, when experienced as a whole, take the listener on an esoteric journey utilising immense sonic elements, ambient atmospheric interludes and utterly devastating maelstroms of well-executed black and death metal.
I reached out to the band’s architect, M:W, to discuss the new album and the esoteric musings that accompany his work.
What can you tell me about the concept/themes attached to the new album?
- It’s pretty limiting for me to summarise the spectrum of my motivations in a single line. Music and lyrics emerge from a hodge-podge of ideas, experiences, observations, visions, preferences, and they only deal with facets of a complex experience in a complex world. This consists of tons of different layers, and frankly, some of these things are very personal, so I'd rather keep them to myself.
If there are some themes to mention, then awareness, clarity and liberation, ecstatic rage, inner contemplation and consequent departure from society, also the destruction of illusions, for perceiving the world as it is, without self-deception and discrimination. So, somewhere at this point ideas and practises from Indian traditions come into the picture.
For sure, ‘Seven! Sirens! To a lost Archetype’ has an Eastern focus, and I feel in a strange way pretty connected to the East, which to me is something like a home that beckons. But despite all tendencies to reach for the East - these are just translation fragments of an underlying devotion, one that is not geographically fixed - the shining heart of darkness.
The album cover features Kali Ma, the Dark Mother - Hindu goddess of time and destruction, but also one of the most compassionate in the Hindu pantheon. Why did you decide to visually represent the album with Kali?
- There is some confusion about the Mahadevi goddess. The iconic Mahadevi picture for the album cover was taken at the Maa Kāmākhyā Temple in Northeast India and we got permission to use it. Maa Kāmākhyā is a form of Kālī, and in that place they worship her menstrual cycle. It's one of the many astonishing aspects of this culture because for the ordinary Hindus, menstruation is considered impure.
But consider the way the goddess appears here. In contrast to the usual Hindu goddess depictions with full breasts and a beautiful face, her characteristics are symbols of old age, death, decay and destruction. So there is a link to Chamunda, a terrifying and eerie deity. She appears as a frightening old woman, projecting fear and horror. It’s intimately bonded with creation, which can only be sustained if Chamunda’s own self-consuming energy is renewed again and again by the blood of human and animal sacrifices - a powerful metaphor for life itself, and a central theme for the album. A necromantic, universal connection of all creation, bloom, death - a revelation about the miracle of the archetype. So for me, it's the perfect representation for the visualisation of the album.
The opening track for the album, ‘Trimurti’, refers to the triple deity of the Hindu religion, personified by Brahma the creator, Vishnu the preserver, and Shiva the destroyer, who upon convergence take on the form of the avatar Dattatreya.
The following track is ‘Vajra’, the name given to a weapon and ritual object often depicted in old Hindu artworks, which symbolises the properties of both a diamond and a thunderbolt, and takes its name from the Sanskrit word which also identifies both of these characteristics.
Later on in the album, we come across ‘Namarupa’ which is a word predominantly used in Buddhism to designate an individual being. The word is a compound of ‘nama’, which refers to the psychological elements of a human being, and ‘rupa’, which refers to the physical elements, essentially a word used to communicate the union of “mind and matter”.
What, if anything, are you communicating with this album?
- There is neither a clear message nor missionary zeal in Temple Koludra. There is also not a single statement that can accurately summarise the whole project.
The art of Temple Koludra aims at the creation of a connection, a gateway for the marriage of the artificially polished modern spirit and the raw, chaotic current of the primordial creative consciousness that rests in all things and can never be fully erased - the lost archetype, the liberating beast with many names. The break with habitual and learned structures and the search for authenticity and clarity characterise this path. So this album offers seven aural compositions. They are the sirens howling in different directions in reverence to the lost archetype.
The Trimūrti concept, for example, is a fundamental principle, or let’s just say the Hindu translation of it. To understand birth, life and death and to experience existence as a dynamic process, something which isn't static, linear or separated, but a perpetual flow instead, including all cruelty of death and destruction, but also joy and bloom, endless ejaculation of creativity and birth. We all have to come to terms with the fact that everything we value, everything we love, will inevitably be destroyed. And in a way, this is an initiation to understand and experience the above-mentioned topics and also the songs you have mentioned.
I don't want to go deeper into the details. Everyone can experience and interpret by listening to the music and lyrics. And maybe for some individuals, it will open doors to a deeper quest.
How was it that you first came to find an interest in Indian spirituals?
- As I mentioned before, I feel connected to the East, although you can find very repulsive and frightening things there which are obviously based on insane religious beliefs. For example, this delusion about impure and pure things. I refuse that totally because it contradicts fundamentally to my views.
But the vamachara or tantrik aspects from this corner of the world are a source of nourishment, so to speak, for unorthodox and undogmatic minds. There is also an interest in Tibetan Buddhism, which, as is generally known, melted with the old Tibetan shamanism ‘Bön’. In some cultures, you still find this interface to the origin and knowledge intact. In European or Western culture, as a result of its development, nearly all of this was destroyed, therefore it becomes necessary to search for the roots, for parts of this deeply human knowledge that is still alive. I travelled to Nepal and Northern India, for example, to breathe and experience shmashanas, sacrificial ceremonies and pujas. To develop more of an understanding and dive deeper into that world is one of my main goals.
I’m curious as to your thoughts regarding the prominent rise in popularity of the “new age” usage of traditional Hindu and Buddhist phrases, symbols and, albeit simplified and commoditised, practices in the Western world today?
- The Asian spiritual world of ideas and culture is extremely complex as well as very contradictory. Buddha sculptures have become some kind of a fashion and furnishing item here in the West, which, of course, pisses a lot of people in Asia off. I can understand that well. Many Westerners simplify it or pick up something for fitting into their own concepts. There is nothing really wrong about it because that's a normal process. Ideas that are especially interesting to me are more the unorthodox and sinister ways. It’s not necessarily just about wellness and well-being. Of course, mental and physical health are basic and the Indian culture has a lot of tools in its repertoire. That's very positive and attractive.
But I truly reject these new age/neo-theosophist assholes as well. Simply for the reason that usually these individuals’ worldview is built upon lies and self-deception. The very thought of it makes me angry. It's not that I'm permanently aggressive or angry though *laughs*. With open eyes for different world views, I can somehow empathise and understand why someone has opted for one or the other. But every view or belief system seems to be based on the repression of certain things. Therefore, for me, only one view of the world comes into question that accepts the broad spectrum of human sentiments without discrimination, weighting or judgment. After all, all human aspects and emotions have equal value. Of course, I also realise that feelings depend on opinions, so sometimes you should not judge them. For example, hate is often based on ignorance, even stupidity or manipulation. The important question is: Why are you feeling this, and is it worth it?
There is something violent there, which you can also experience from the music of Temple Koludra, and I see that as absolutely natural, it contributes to the balance, there’s no need to deny it. There are plenty of so-called spiritual new age people, mostly humourless or adhering to a light-and-love-wellness-fantasy and repressing the destructive spectrum vehemently or connoting it negatively. Of course, it breaks out of them again and again and then really ugly habits come to light that disgust me. But I’m even more disgusted by their arrogance to deny it all the time, not to forget the fake moral supremacy of these idiots. I don't want to glorify violence, but it and the cruelty associated with it is just part of reality. I'm looking for answers, why this phenomenon exists at all. Of course, you can quickly have explanations ready and also do socio-scientific reconstructions, since at least violence develops and intensifies in interpersonal relations. But the very fact that this destructive energy or power is still in the universe, It's fascinating and at the same time absolutely disturbing. This is clearly a theological question that goes far beyond anything. And that's why I reflect and express with this kind of art/music!
Was there a particular reason for the six-year gap between the first two releases?
- Since the release of the EP in 2013, many things have happened that have constantly delayed or even sabotaged completion. Be it interpersonal torments, private experiences, as well as computer crashes or stupid things, like having two scalded hands. There have been periods where the work was totally in shut down mode. I also travelled a lot and did some smaller musical projects. Although it was a struggle, I always had this strong vision of finishing it.
The essential outlines of the songs were finished in mid-2013. Due to the delays, of course, some minor changes took place and over time the compositions improved further and reached a new level. Some more subtle details were added, like synths and percussion. At least that's the positive aspect that I see. There is truly much to discover in the material. But all in all, it was a nerve-wracking and gruelling process.
The music has been mixed and mastered beginning in late March 2018. But it is being released only now - due to the schedule of our label it couldn’t happen earlier. But all in all, the whole thing definitely took me too long. Now that it's finally done and soon to be published, there is, of course, a good feeling, like giving the finger to all the adversities this project had to overcome. This is really quite a big deal for me, and I am immensely grateful to all the spirits involved, everybody who has contributed to bringing this piece of work to life.
Incidentally, seven more pre-recorded songs and tons of additional ideas from these sessions already exist. A second album, so to speak. We are still working on this new chapter, although there is some stuff to do concerning the actual album; promo stuff, preparing some merchandise and special items, like strictly limited hand-dubbed and hand-signed tapes. We’re also still looking for artists to collaborate with, especially regarding a video.
Throughout the album one is accosted by an array of unsettling dark ambient passages that include various instruments not commonly heard in extreme music. Given that M:W is credited with these audible manifestations, I’m curious as to how this interest into a plethora of instruments began?
- Honestly, it started a long time ago for sure because of my love for DEAD CAN DANCE. They opened doors and I was especially very fascinated by this Chinese hammered dulcimer, which Lisa Gerrard is still using. For me personally, it’s one of the most beautiful sounding instruments and you are able to express very different moods with it. So over the years, with curiosity, I developed an interest in the ritual use of musical instruments from different cultures and bought a lot of them. Especially to adapt ritual instruments, which represent or are associated with important aspects of my personal life. Before the first EP some years ago, for example, I took workshops in Tibetan throat overtone singing. So it's something that goes a long way back and feels totally natural for me to marry these sounds with my musical background and socialisation. I can't achieve my expression and visions on a regular metal or rock instrumentation. That's not satisfying.
As I was spending time with the album, I couldn’t help but consider the influence of certain psychedelic substances within your music?
- *laughs* No, I didn't take any drugs for opening portals to achieve this album. I think I am able to get this creative connection when the time is right. Maybe you should try out mescaline or ayahuasca whilst listening to Temple Koludra though.
The prevalence of “magic”, in its various iterations, in black metal is something that has seemingly been on the rise over the past decade. I’m curious if you subscribe to any particular spiritual practices in your everyday life?
- As far as the development in black metal is concerned, I appreciate bands like WATAIN and THE DEVIL'S BLOOD which uplift live performances to a deeper experience for all the senses by integrating this magical or ritual aspect. Because it’s frightening enough that heavy metal has such a widespread impact nowadays and for a lot of people is just another stupid entertainment event.
Creating music in this manner is, in itself, a spiritual practice. In its origin, music was used in order to achieve spiritual transcendence and to experience or influence reality in deep contemplation - that's the ultimate purpose of music in general. After all, if you do it this serious way it's not about entertainment or similar crap. It's really about a basic need to express or communicate. It's, if it goes around, a source of spiritual power, but at the same time a meditative place of rest and perfection. But it can also be the opposite, it can still be uncomfortable. Everything else is irrelevant to mention here, of course, I regularly deal with certain things for reasons besides the music.
This article is an excerpt of the full interview conducted, in which we discuss, amongst other things, the enigmatic Aghori sadus and the time-consuming turbulence of personnel changes within a project that demands the utmost focus and dedication.
The full interview will be available in a later print edition of Inner Missive.