by R.S. Frost
A youth spent in the Parisian black metal scene, unyielding chaos and insanity on the road, and the never-ending quest to find the Divine through art. Guitarist and vocalist BST offers some insight into THE ORDER OF APOLLYON.
- I was born, and have lived all my life, in the north-western suburbs of Paris. I grew up in a very calm town, which in itself probably hasn't had a great influence on my musical direction. However I happened to be neighbours with MKM (vocalist from ANTAEUS), and other actors of the "Parisian" scene, so I guess meeting them and hanging out surely had an impact on me.
From what I’ve heard over the years, the Parisian scene was quite a turbulent, and oftentimes violent, environment.
- I would describe it as a small(ish) community of very passionate and creative people. What is mostly referred to as the Parisian scene is a core that consists of very few individuals and bands actually, with many musicians playing in several projects at once, as it was the case for me (less so these days). I don't know if I would say it's that violent though. Like any group of mainly masculine people, there are a few fights now and then, mostly related to girl stories, but other than that we hurt ourselves way more than we hurt each other. That self-inflicted violence, on the other hand, is quite real: alcohol and drug abuse, depression, and sometimes suicide. There is a filthy sex, drugs, and rock ‘n’ roll vibe, definitely, and it leads to a form of tension which probably helps inspire musicians to create twisted dark art.
BST has been involved in a number of projects over the years, a good portion of them belonging to the French black metal consortium. Coming from an ostensibly idyllic starting point, I’m curious how this journey into chaos began.
- While playing in GIENTAL GRINDER, I started being more and more interested in black metal, so I started a solo project called BALROG, I also became the lead vocalist for a symphonic black metal band called MALEFICENTIA, just for one album in 1999. I later joined GARWALL, who were at the time a pretty brutal black metal band, and then evolved towards some technical heavy black metal shit... which caused me to leave them. I then got hired by Belgium's ABORTED as a guitarist and stayed with them for two albums and eleven tours all over the world within four years.
During my time with them, MKM offered for me to be the musician/producer for AOSOTH. We recorded two tracks, and then did the first album, without really thinking it was meant to go anywhere. As it turned out, weended up doing this for ten years, and five albums, plus a whole bunch of EPs.
During my last months in Aborted, the drummer and I started working on some songs for a new death/black metal project, from the ashes of his own first band, MISERY. That ended up becoming THE ORDER OF APOLLYON. Besides that, I've been a session live or studio musician for ANTAEUS, HELL MILITIA, and TEMPLE OF BAAL.
BST is responsible for the guitar work on almost every Aosoth release, holding down multi-instrument duties for the first handful of releases. In 2017 the band announced that the upcoming album ‘V: The Inside Scriptures’ would be their last.
- Aosoth started as a couple of tracks that the guys from Antaeus recorded when they had some spare rented studio time. One of the guitar players they had then was also ETERNAL MAJESTY's drummer, so he did the drums, and other than that it was pretty much the same lineup. I don't think they meant it to become something serious, just some almost improvised tracks to do the B-side of a split with Antaeus. And so after that, it remained just a name, but not really a band.
After Antaeus went into a hiatus, MKM got in touch and asked me if I would be interested in working with him and making some music under the name Aosoth, and see what happens. We had been friends for a long time by then, he had liked some of my work on Balrog, and I had recorded, mixed and mastered Antaeus' third album, ‘Blood Libels’, so it felt natural to push things further and collaborate in a band together.
For the two first EPs and albums, it was just the two of us, with additional session guys for live performances. At first, we used the guys from my first band, Genital Grinder, and then it evolved into full-time session guys, one of which would end up being included in the studio line up, namely INRVI, who had just then started working on VI's first EP.
From the third album on, things became more serious for us, with many offers to play abroad, even in the USA at Maryland Deathfest, which was fantastic. The fourth record achieved relative success, and I'd say we really grew together as artists through our work with this band.
Unfortunately, at some point, INRVI and MKM decided to start a business together, which was clearly a terrible idea, simply because of the gap between their respective personalities. I knew then that it would be the end of that project, and sure enough, the breaking point was reached while we were finishing up the fifth record, which had been recorded with a full lineup, including a real drummer, and a second guitarist, Saroth, who also plays in The Order of Apollyon now.
I do blame both INRVI and MKM for this demise, even though I'm still on good terms with each of them. This all clearly could have been avoided in my opinion, and took proportions it should not have. But I don't have any regrets, really. It was a nice project; we did produce some quality art in there, especially the last three albums, which I'm quite proud of. And who knows, maybe if we had continued on, it would have become stale after a while. At least we ended things when the band was at its peak, in my opinion.
I recall seeing your name attached to INRVI’s project VI as well.
- I am very proud of being associated with that project, but I wouldn't say it's one of mine. It's always been INRVI’s thing, and I see myself as the producer, who happens to record session bass in the studio.
My motivation simply comes from the need I have to create, to turn emotions into art. It is through this that I feel I have experienced being truly alive, being in touch with Magic and something Divine.
Do you have any thoughts on the prevalence of Magic within black metal, and do you identify with any spiritual practices or traditions yourself?
- Whenever I get my hands on a piece of text on the occult, or on a mainstream organised religion's esoteric tradition, I try to read it and familiarise myself as much as possible on the matter. In that respect, I consider myself as a mere student of these traditions, without being drawn to one specific current, even though some have caught my attention more than others.
As for practising a form of magic; I have my own forms of rituals, and I make artistic creation one of them. When I look back to some of my earlier work, where the music was more or less well constructed but soulless, mechanical in a way, and I compare it to my latest stuff, I see/hear that form of magic infused in the latter. The idea is that once I get caught up in the act of creation, I lose grip with what's surrounding me, and let something visceral speak, instead of just coming up with cool riffs. I've often lost track of time during this process, and I'd say I developed it the most with Aosoth. When I listen to the third album, it sounds to me as if it had been written by someone else, or it sounds like a vague memory, as if I had only dreamt about it. It feels as both my subconscious and something deeper have been speaking through the music.
I don't think artists must necessarily have bought and studied all of the Ixaxaar back catalogue to be able to give their art a magical essence, and I don't believe in intellectualising the process too much either; in my case, I prefer to keep it as instinctive as possible.
During our preparatory exchange for this article, BST mentioned that he had encountered a disproportionate share of lunacy whilst on the road.
- There was a European tour with Aosoth, Hell Militia and BLACKLODGE, organised by a maniac German friend, which included tons of abuse, little sleep, and total madness. I won't go into too much detail, but I can recall a specific feeling at a moment on that tour, after many nights of no sleep due to global excitement, and maybe some massive substance abuse, we all started getting sick. At some point, one guy had to finish almost a gram of some substance just before crossing the Swiss border, and chose to consume it all instead of hiding it in some cavity, and did not feel so well afterwards. One guy from Blacklodge broke his foot, everyone started getting flu symptoms, shivering, fever, and we were staying in this filthy old house in east Germany, sleeping on the floor in dirty rooms. One lead vocalist insisted that he would always sleep in his boots so that he would die with his boots on, if he did come to pass during the night. That tour lasted for only ten days, but it feels like we've spent half our lives there, and sometimes it feels like we never really completely came back from it.
Another one of the messier situations I was in was a three-week tour in the USA, opening for CARCASS. I had started dating a US chick I barely knew and took her with us, and it turned out we did not get along at all. With no intimacy whatsoever and not a lot of sleep, this was a complete nightmare. People should never take their girlfriend on tour. Ever.
Having such a strong and reciprocally beneficial relationship with the music you make, how do you see the overall attitude within the black metal community now compared to when you first began?
- It was indifference at first, and I tried to keep a low profile then anyway. Then I got involved in some projects which caught some people's attention, and at one point, when I released Balrog's second album, I noticed that some bands from the underground Parisian scene had enjoyed it, which lead to me being asked to be involved in some more things, and then started getting a little respect from the community. It's how it basically works, and I'm sure it's the same in any other country. There's this small core of people who collectively decide who's in and who's not, and it takes some time to be approved. Not that I really cared back then, to be honest, but having the local underground's support is a gateway to getting international recognition as well.
Now it sometimes feels like it's going in circles, I see patterns going back and forth, attitudes, some sincere involvement, and some parasitic posers trying to get credit for other people's work. Some great artists emerging, and some shitty ones. The fact that Antifa is trying to destroy any form of controversial thinking and that we even see Antifa affiliated black metal bands appear is quite new and does trouble me slightly, but not so much, they're mostly posers so not so new in the end.
The Order of Apollyon was recently announced as one of the legionsof bands performing at 2019’s ASCENSION FESTIVAL, to be held in Mosfellbær, Iceland. Alongside them will be fellow countrymen ANTAEUS as well as Icelandic mainstays SINMARA, MISÞYRMING and SVARTIDAUÐI.
- I was lucky enough to perform at ORATION's last edition with Aosoth and loved it for its unique atmosphere, and the fact that the people attending all seemed like real art enthusiasts, and not poser cunts there for the wrong reasons, or worse, silly festival goers wearing costumes and that type of shit. I am very glad as it will be The Order of Apollyon's first high profile show in its 11 years of existence! This is all I wanted for this project, really, to get opportunities like this one, to play in magical places, surrounded by extremely high-quality bands.
With the band’s third album ‘Moriah’ released in October of 2018 through AGONIA RECORDS, I’m curious how BST sees the progression of the band’s output across these 11 years of activity.
- In hindsight, I can clearly appreciate the many mistakes that were made during the making of this project. At first, I was in such a hurry to release something, not to fall out of the spotlight when Aborted went to shit, that I rushed into every step of the first album. There are still a few songs I like about it, but it does feel like a long demo, more than a finished piece. Also, the fact that the lineup was mostly based in England, and it dawned on us that finding underground black/death metal shows in the UK was pretty complicated, made everything a hassle. This one was never meant to make it.
The second one, now, that's another story. Despite ending up pretty much doing it all by myself on this album, I think the result is quite good. Maybe the style is not defined enough, and it lacks a bit of coherence, but I still believe it should have had its chance. The label I was with then had said they would not release it, since the first one had bombed, but when they heard the master I sent them, they changed their mind, saying something like: "Okay, we really love the album, let's go for a fresh start, we'll do everything right this time, promote it properly, and I'm sure it will be a success". Obviously, they lied, as the promotion was catastrophic, I got a handful of reviews one week before the release, one or two interviews, and no social network exposure whatsoever.
When I sent the album to Agonia Records' manager, he said he loved it, and couldn't understand why he had never heard about it. And to think I could have released it through them... very frustrating situation. The transition to Agonia was very smooth and felt like a rebirth for the band, and the three-way split (with VI and Temple of Baal) was in a way a celebration of that new beginning. It also helped fine-tune the lineup and find the right people, who were focused enough and on the same wavelength.
That led to ‘Moriah’, and I think the gained energy from this new start, with band members more coherent as ever, was a decisive element in making it what it is. It sounds tighter, monolithic, and as a producer, the positive force behind it helped me push my skills a bit further in making it sound as it should have. I'm glad it got the response it did, since it took quite some hard work to get there, and I'm especially satisfied because of the opportunities it is now giving the band.
Given these newly acquired opportunities, are there any plans for the near future that you can share with us?
- Musically, some of the same thing I guess, but I'm very much focused on The Order of Apollyon at the moment, so I'll be busy writing a new album. I have a few drafts of ideas for now.
This is an excerpt of the full interview conducted, which covers BST’s impressions on the industry at large, musical influences, future ventures and includes further tales of tour bedlam.