I was in a close contact with Lurker, the sole creator of black metal band Toil, in the middle noughties, and I guess this interaction was one reason for a few deep and profound, even intimate answers in this interview. I was also very impressed by Toil’s constant progression through the band’s four demos, but the greatest achievement was yet to come: Toil’s debut album Obscure Chasms (2007) is one of the underrated albums what comes to melancholic but still ripping black metal. Need proofs? Here’s one , although this song doesn’t even represent the best material from the album. Also Obscure Chasms’ somehow easy-going and laconic guitar work made definitely way for Lurker’s other brilliant band Frail, now known as Crooked Necks (which I interviewed in Kaleidoscope #8). But that is another story, as Lurker alias Shane puts it nowadays:
– Toil and Frail/Crooked Necks are completely different from one another in every way. We started Frail while Toil was still an active project, so they were separate entities from the very start. I wrote all of the music/lyrics for Toil solely by myself, while Frail has always been an equal pairing between Andy and myself. I write all of the music/perform all of the instrumentation and Andy writes the lyrics/performs the vocals parts, whereas Toil was more of a “solo” project.
– So in my opinion, the two projects don’t share any similarities at all. Toil was a Black Metal band in every sense, albeit not a typical one. Frail/Crooked Necks began as an outlet for us to attempt something that is completely unrelated to Black Metal and Metal in general. Lyrically, Toil was focused on themes of death-worship and darkness. Crooked Necks’ lyrics deal with disconnection, loss, and sadness. Musically, Toil was directly influenced by different strains of Black Metal. With Crooked Necks, we are influenced by post-punk, shoegaze, and some goth/pop.
So now you know. Here’s the death-worshipping words of Toil from Kaleidoscope #3.
Toil can be described as a shadow, or a ghost. This pale but spiritually powerful and pure demon invoked from the haunted dreams of one man, Lurker has released four demos so far, but the stains on time and Black Metal scene have been few – and maybe it’s better that way. Taking its notes from desperate shrieks of suffering and hypnotic but still aggressive Black Metal, Toil is not for everyone. Lurker gave us some keys for the doors of this enigma…
So, I guess the easiest way to start is to give a brief history lesson about Toil. Where does Toil come from, where does it stand now and where is it heading?
– Toil began as a solo project of mine in early 2002 in order to conjure atmospheres of pure death-worship. Focusing on the elements of pain, grief, and misery. As of now, the project is a 2-piece unit with myself on guitars/bass/drums/vocals and a close comrade of mine, Wraith, now handling synth duties. We have plans of advancing with this line-up permanently into the future.
Toil is quite an interesting name for a Black Metal band, if we look at it more closely. What’s the ideology behind the name? Do you toil for someone, or is life one long and heavy toil to its harsh end…?
– The ideology, for me personally, is the idea that life is a struggle. That can be a struggle against the society, against situations that one experiences, or against internal factors that may cause strife in one’s existence.
I personally can sense that “life is toil” metaphor in your music, there is a certain strong pain and agony present. How real is that agony, if you look at your own life and thoughts? Is life just pure suffering from the cradle to the grave?
– The agony present in my works is very real. I have experienced constant disappointment and failures in my life. By nature, I am a very negative/pessimistic person. Therefore, my view is one of utter negativity. In my opinion: life is shit, as well as everything that comes along with it.
Let’s continue with suffering… We can suffer in many different ways: internally, socially, outwardly, financially… What do you think about suffering: which kind of suffering is the most painful one, and can you see pain and nuisance as teaching and strengthening elements, the way Nietzsche sees it, in a way?
– Suffering is something that everyone will experience in their lifetime, in one form or another. Suffering of the internal kind, for example, to struggle with one’s emotions/internal conflicts, to me is the most painful kind. I completely agree with Nietzsche’s opinion that suffering can be enlightening. After every miserable experience I have always found that after that experience ends, we are wiser and stronger. Pain and suffering can teach us how miserable life can be, and therefore it teaches us to embrace grief and misery in order to deal with the constant disappointments that we must experience.
Walking the misfit road of Satanism is a heavy task in the modern society. What’s your relationship with the society around you? Are you trying to change it, or do you just take everything (its blessings and curses) what it has to offer?
– I am a very anti-social person. I stay within a very small group of comrades and don’t bother with the majority of humanity’s flock. In my opinion, there is no way to change the society at hand. Most of humanity will continue to exist as part of their blind and misled flock. Only those that strive to be free from the mundane will ever break out of society’s mould.
Sometimes we call an agonizing person ‘possessed’ and ‘haunted’. That haunting demon can be life, Satan or something else. Have you ever felt that your spirit is possessed by something? After all, you do have a song called Haunted by Unclean Spirits…
– Yes, I do feel that my spirit is possessed. What has possessed it, I’m not quite sure. Years ago, during channelling, a spirit stated to me that it would never leave me and would forever be my shadow. This statement has proven to be true, as I’ve felt its presence daily for years now. Others have also claimed that they sense a presence in my home and refuse to enter my dwelling again. This is a positive thing to me, to be connected with something from another plane, especially on such a constant basis. Also, I feel in some ways that it is a blessing to be cursed.
Your story about your “shadow” is quite interesting. How does this spirit come present in your life: is it just a feeling or something concrete? You said that you are not sure what this being is, but I guess you have some guesses about it…
– For the most part, it’s presence is simply felt. Other times, it has made itself present upon request, displaying various forms. From the information I have gathered form communicating with the spirit, it is one of a young male child.
How about in general, what kind of role magic and occultism has in your daily life? How did you get familiar with this side of world?
– It will always play a significant part in my existence, even though I don’t currently practice. I feel that once one is exposed to these other aspects that dwell inside us, and with open eyes and an open mind, it is something that will always remain very much alive within that person.
The state of being possessed can also be a very creative moment, and usually the gap between insanity and genius is not that wide. How would you describe the moments and atmospheres in which the music of Toil is created?
– Toil is most typically written/recorded in the dead of night and deep solitude. Recorded in either complete darkness or candlelight. I feel that the atmosphere in which material is written/recorded is essential to the final atmosphere of the release. Toil has always been conceived in my most hateful but melancholic moods. Feeling torn between sadness and anger is a very powerful state to be in… and these are the moments in which Toil is created.
Your newest material, the stuff I’ve heard at least, directs itself to a more flowing expression, in my opinion it, and sometimes even lighter shades can be found. Where has this change come from? Have you taken musical influences outside of Black Metal this time?
– The style of the new material is very much a natural progression. I never plan on what I will write, but rather let the music take it’s own form and life by letting it be developed at the time of it’s inception. However, I am very pleased to see that the more depressive and negative elements are shining through. I have very few influences outside of Black Metal, none of which play a part into Toil’s overall sound.
I have also a sneak preview of the cover art of your upcoming album. That is a very interesting piece of art, partly symbolical, partly dream-like a vision. Do you ever see your music as images, or where does this symbolical side of Toil spring from?
– Yes, I personally see all good music as images in sound. Very emotive music can conjure up the most intense landscapes in my mind. As for the symbolical meaning of the cover in mention, that would be answered best by Wraith, who drew the piece itself. The art does utilize different symbols of various cultures’ representations of gods of death.
Let’s take a look at Toil’s discography. You have made four demo tapes, none of which has become a scene favourite. What are your motives behind these demo releases? Have you just strengthened your skills and vision, and now the time has come for your first full-length assault?
– There are no particular motives behind the releases thus far, besides to subject others to Toil’s death-like aura. The reason for the full-length is that after over 4 years of doing this project I felt like it was time for a release that contains more than 20 minutes of material. Also, there is a very similar atmosphere throughout the course of the new material which would be best heard in it’s entirety and not split up into separate releases.
You have also been in some other bands, even a couple of ambient-based projects. What do you get from ambient music personally, if you compare it to Black Metal for example? I know people who use ambient for relaxing and even for some sort of meditation, but how does it work for you?
– Dark/Black Ambient music, to me, evokes the same feeling as Black Metal although performed with completely different aesthetic methods. Both styles are typically brooding and negative in nature. I do find some ambient-based projects very relaxing, yes. Which is nice that it calms, but still maintains a dark and death-like nature.
Sometimes (dark) ambient, at its furthermost borders, is very far away from the music we call “typical”. I find this very interesting, ‘cause if we think of Black Metal, for example, it’s quite contradictory that we use very basic, “human” instruments in expressing very inhuman feelings. What do you think about this?
– I agree completely. Dark/Black Ambient projects utilize less human-like instruments to create, which I feel adds to the atmosphere of that style immensely, helping to create something very unhuman.
So, is the inhumanity some sort of goal to you in your life? Some say that inhumanity is like descending on the animal level, but some people (like me) think that being inhuman is being free from dogmas and shackles of this society and its morals.
– Yes, I agree with you on that subject. Being “inhuman”, to me, is to be free of anything that humans have created as criteria to being a “good person”. There should be no constraints on individuality and free-thinking. What is morally wrong to one person is more than likely not wrong at all to another.
I haven’t read many of your lyrics, but your song titles in themselves draw atmospheric sceneries like Distant Howling Winds as well as strong declarations like Desecration of Christ. Where does Toil stand between these two aspects, or would you say these two aspects are entwined somehow?
– I feel that those two aspects are indeed intertwined with Toil. Being an anti-christian, it is rather natural for me to express my contempt for religious beliefs. Although, I’ve always attempted to combine the anti-religious beliefs with the barren mental landscapes that Toil creates. As I mentioned previously, it is very important for me that Black Metal conjure images in the listener’s mind/imagination.
What do you think about leaders, books and rules in the sense of mysticism, Satanism and occultism? Many seem to take their ideas and influences from Crowley etc. (and even from some Black Metal bands) instead of searching for their own identity and thoughts.
– I am an admirer of some writer’s works. Indeed the likes of Nieztsche, Crowley, and even Lovecraft have inspired Toil to some extent. However, in my opinion it is essential to have one’s own identity. It is a shame that some walk blind throughout their existence, never truly existing.
You mentioned Nietzsche, Crowley and Lovecraft as your literal influences. Could you tell us why these three quite different writers are so important to you.
– There are distinct differences in the aforementioned writers, but each writer created something of their own. Something that was unique and personal to them. Their works show the spirit of individualism in full force, and this characteristic is what I personally admire the most.
We talked about the suffering before, and the suffering can be linked to art as well; if we think about those three writers, they all had a quite hard time. So, can we talk about “creation through suffering”?
– I feel that negative states of emotion, for example, suffering, can be the most inspiring times to create in. Pain and agony are powerful emotions and can often lead to a cathartic release that could not be achieved otherwise. If utilized correctly, these ugly emotions are evident in the completed piece of work.
Besides suffering, usually in Black Metal lyrics deal the triumph and power of Satan, which lives in us. How do you see this dualism: on the other hand we search for the lowest pits of pain, on the other hand we are invincible in the shadow of our Lord…
– I personally see this dualism as being a necessary thing. It comes from the tendency that all things have to be equally “balanced”. Light and dark, coldness and warmth, and so on. In even the darkest realms there exists varying degrees of darkness.
So, Toil stands on independent ground for sure, but let’s imagine a situation where Toil has been hailed as the new king of Black Metal, and the dedicated ones, as well as the mp3 kids, are worshipping you. What would you feel in that kind of situation? Shame, pride or something else?
– I would hope that never happens. If it did, I’m sure I would feel pride when respected by those I respect, shame by those that should never obtain the material, and apathy towards all others.
Anyway, before that happens, tell us something about the future plans of Toil.
– The full-length, Obscure Chasms, is finished and will be released by the end of this year. We are currently preparing to begin recording material for an upcoming 7” EP as well. Other upcoming releases will be a split 7” EP and the release of all four demos on CD, entitled Relics of Decaying Splendour.
I guess we have reached the end. Thanks for the interview, and if you have anything else to say, say it now!
– Thank you for supporting Toil, my friend. Infernal regards!