– The spiral on the cover is maybe the greatest symbol for the name ’Below’. The album is a whirlpool into the common soulscape of Lantern, this album and myself. And to throw oneself into this soulscape requires some sort of a mental spin from a listener, says Cruciatus while I asked him about the symbolic objects on the cover of Below a few weeks ago. Big words, but it’s a big spiral, and a big album. Below is definitely a spiral, or a maze, which has insane logic – cold thoughts under a fiery passion. This character has been present in Lantern’s black/death metal from a start, and that’s why I chose to dig deeper the world of Lantern after I was swallowed by the band’s Doom-scrawls demo which later transformed to Subterranean Effulgence EP in 2011. This is a good interview, so please continue reading.
(originally published in Kaleidoscope #9 2010)
Europe has spawned many obscure death metal bands lately. Gone is the most obvious Swedish death metal plagiarism, and the fast and professional approach has never been the most precious thing in the realm of death metal. What is left is a monster of mysticism and mutilation: bands with swampy guitar riffs, tempo changes and, most importantly, a dark aura which is usually connected to black metal.
Germany has Necros Christos, United Kingdom has Grave Miasma, and now from Finland we can present Lantern. This darkened duo includes the multitalented guitarist/drummer Cruciatus, who has shown his talent in many bands like in the now-deceased Cacodaemon, and the more mysterious blood-gurgler Necrophilos. Although Lantern released their debut Virgin Taste of Damnation in 2008 already, it was their latest effort that turned heads like in the movie Exorcist. Doom-scrawls is a black trip to the dungeons of death, thrash and black metal, and it can touch the hearts of Aussie metal maniacs or fans of above-mentioned Grave Miasma – no wonder that a newcomer label from New Zealand called Internecion Productions will release Doom-scrawls again under the name Subterranean Effulgence with a mastering and a more professional layout.
Before this we have time to dig up some bones from Lantern’s graveyard. The first good catch is the band name, which sounds more like a doom band to me, but what got Cruciatus to choose it for his brutal and sinister band?
– First off, I must tell you that I’m quite fond of aesthetics and prefer certain cryptic minimalism in all approach. I dislike overly massive and brutal expressions, you know, I’d go with Mortuary Drape instead of Atomizer, old ‘n cheap horror films instead of splatter movies. Somewhere between my thoughts while taking a walk – I remember the exact moment and location – I came up with the name Lantern and even the primary vision of the logo at the time, heh. I decided to go with that without further hesitating, letting the name live its own life. I had already a few songs in stock, and this doom metal like vibe, like you said, supported what had been written and what I was about to write. So your doom comparison isn’t all wrong. The name makes you think at best, with quite a lot of potential burning within, even combustive nature and occult symbolism.
One idea I have about this name is a man as a lantern – how we all burn inside of us (or something burns inside of us?) and the world sees this flame through the different lenses of this lantern – that we can never see other person purely and without obstacles but everything is changed and embellished in one way or another… Or the flame is the occult force that we all see through our own lenses… Ah, too many different ideas! Comments about them?
– Interesting words. Burning inside, changing constantly, reaching for higher potential (as for fire) surely are elements that apply to all forward-aspiring life-forms. The lantern and man can be also seen as something containing potential, passion that must be restrained properly, illuminating the darkness instead of spreading and torching creations with its wild nature. What keeps the flame convicted is merely a transparent, fragile and thin sheet. Lanterns are also used in dark places exclusively, and with that burning we venture toward the unexplained, surrounded by the lightlessness that frightens and fascinates us, giving face to all the obscurities we later attempt to describe. Life and its mysteries, in my opinion, do not stand full illumination, no matter how science tries to gnaw all the nuts and bolts of existence. There is only small, lantern-like illumination for all of that, with these senses we have been given. Be that flame an occult force, lust to know what is beyond the veil of darkness, what ever you call it, it is something that is strictly bound to what defines humanity itself.
This lantern metaphor can also be seen in the creation process, where you usually try to forward the vision inside of you as pure as possible onwards, but there are always physical, social and mental obstacles… The long way from a feeling/idea to a riff and to a listener is full of stones… How personal is Lantern in the light of this metaphor? Can a listener see into your mind by listening Lantern’s music?
– The metaphors concerning potential I gave in the past section allows us to ramble on: the fire of inspiration is burning in there constantly as the source whence to fetch, yet it needs a bit of guidance to illuminate what it needs to illuminate. I’ve been said to be always on fire, and lantern can be thought as a tool of not only lighting up but ignition as well. The small spark that may be harnessed into further benevolence or demolition may also be reflected my own self. My passion is the key to much innovation but also to many problems, and it takes a steady hand to create proper balance, guiding me through that rocky road. It takes patience and discipline. And as much as there is fire burning in our music, a listener surely can see into my mind, although that long way sure as hell is full of stones. There still is this small thin glass in between that can be called crypticism and poetic approach in my lyrics, something that prevents you from directly touching the fire and just making you fingertips go numb. And I’m sure you can hear clearly the fire twist and dance in our music, when you hear our future time signature and old pattern ravishing songs, haha.
How about these morbid and cryptic lyrics – do they come from your own experiences (transferred to a more lyrical form) or are they more just stories from your own imagination?
– Both, and sometimes a mixture the mentioned elements. Some examples: Manifesting Shambolic Aura from the first demo describes a goodly share of my agenda, emotions toward occultism, my personality and henceforth. It is also kind of a theme song to Lantern and what the band is about deep inside, as the chorus mentions the band name and so forth. Now that I think of it, the same song actually has almost all of the various elements Lantern is about musically… Revert the Living into Death from Subterranean Effulgence (and Doom-scrawls) instead follows one’s return from life to death, progressing toward the finish rather poetically, compiling visions of life and death. That song is also quite charged with personal experiences, as I will explain farther in this interview. Ritual Unearthing on the other hand seems like a very typical graveyard-themed metal song, but there’s a “sublyric” written between the lines, dealing with “unearthing rituals” in another way: the effects of tinkering with grave matters, breaking the thin border with excessive enthusiasm and foolishness et cetera.
– So, although some songs are good to read text over describing most intimate personal experiences, much philosophy, attitude and message may lie included in the lyrics. I also believe that there’s a metaphysical side to aesthetics: some “stories” written by instinct to sound dark and fascinating can end up taking forms that even the song-maker could not imagine. Something unexplained, faceless had after all been behind the fascination that the artist later tried to reconstruct.
It’s obvious to this point that these lyrics differ from typical guts-and-gore death metal approach, that’s for sure. Nowadays many death metal bands have absorbed occult and ritualistic elements to their lyrics: Grave Miasma, Ignivomous and of course Necros Christos. How do these two things – occult and death metal – work together if you compare this mixture to occult and black metal? Or is the form (music style) indifferent, it’s just a shell which the real content (lyrics etc.) chooses?
– I do not think that the style of music is important at all when it comes to dealing with the occult. Styles are like materials, one crafts wood, another forges steel, what suits them best. Death metal, to me, has the most dynamics to work with, having a deep scale of heavy and demonic sounds, seasoning them with a bit of doom metal every now and then, serving me best to put my inner darkness on canvas.
This occult atmosphere is usually considered to be more serious and “true” if you compare it to basic death metal lyrics. The same thing could be said about your previous band, Cacodaemon, which had a more primitive and straightforward approach compared to Lantern musicwise and lyricwise. How would you describe your own personal evolution between these two bands?
– Even though Lantern may sound much more complex than Cacodaemon, I’ve become more straightforward and also aware of what I can do best. My mind is more open, and I’ve certainly developed some pride and relentless attitude toward making art. I dealt with a lot of unbelievable shit, badmouthing, rumours and such in the Cacodaemon years, which only taught me to keep on pushing straight ahead. I have stronger faith in my own works. And when moving from Cacodaemon’s grave to work with Lantern, I gained massive amounts of professionalism: Cacodaemon was always about raw energy, youth’s rage and so forth, even a bit too much sometimes. Although the old days and old songs had a truly dark aura that still fascinates me even more than what I have made in the recent years, it had withered through time due to certain recklessness, suffered from decreased motivation of the group and so forth.
– With Lantern taking its first steps, I tried to get rid of the very negative effects of the mentioned elements, while still being able to see the good old state of mind that made me start composing metal and try to reconstruct that with the present knowhow and willpower. After all, what has once been can never fully disappear, now there’s new kind of raw energy involved.
If we go back to Lantern’s lyrics… You write them but you don’t sing them – another part of Lantern is the growling throat called Necrophilos. Because Lantern is about strong emotions and, as previously said, very personal-sounding feelings, I guess the communion between you two must be very tense and trustful to keep all the energy?
– I and Necrophilos have known each other from our teenage years, and we’ve always shared our quite unobsctructed musical and thought-wise interests. We have spent much time talking about deeper things throughout the years, so he, if someone, is the one I can rely on him with handling even the most personal lyrics. The fact that he’s very enthusiastic about the band improves his output and the strength of my texts overall. He does occasionally come and suggest some own ideas, and we’ve agreed that he can bring his own lyrics and themes to me if he comes up with something good. Hopefully there’ll be even more synergy in the future days of Lantern.
You are also heading to conquer stages in the future, so what new dimensions would this bring to Lantern’s music? What things will be the most important ones in order for you to reach the perfect Lantern atmosphere on stage?
– The live situation, in my opinion, will most likely emphasize the primitive energy in the songs, if we only manage to harness the technical side and are able to concentrate on just playing on instead of trying to remember how the riffs and structures go. That would create the proper flux to the music, making it hypnotic and psyhcedelic at best. Combining that to some visual elements that would be easy to perform would encourage unique atmosphere for sure. Producing extra audio material with lots of stereo effects to be played in between certain tracks would also be quite fascinating and potential for making the experience more unique, but that shall be left into the future to be thought about. However, mastering our instruments considering the difficulty of some song material is the most vital thing, no matter how boring that sounds.
And which instrument will you choose for the live situation and why?
– I myself would have to choose guitar, because that is the instrument I’d most define as my own. And because Ischanius (Cruciatus’ comrade in Cacodaemon and Death Thrashers Kuopio) says so, ha. He told me that although I might be hard to replace on drums, because of my loose, nearly brainless style, I’d still be so much harder to replace on guitar.
Many of your lyrics deal with death – how the human soul travels to the great unknown, and how in some circumstances, like in a dream, one can almost touch these other realms. Maybe I come too close with my next question, but what kind of supernatural experiences have you lived through and how have they affected on you?
– My near-death experience in 2000 is the best answer I can give to you while talking death here. I have sort of been at death’s gates and returned, be it a dream or not, but it bears a strong influence on how I see life and death nowadays. Of course there are a couple of more essential ones, a few strong ones, and some that I can only call morbid or odd nowadays. But you know, those are experiences not to be chattered about, ha…
And what is Lantern’s – and music’s in general – role in these experiences – is it a tool to deal with them or maybe a tool to strengthen and even create them in a ritualistic way? We all know the power of mantras and shamanistic drumming, which can help people to sink into a trance or to concentrate on their inner self and beyond…
– I’d have to go with the latter option: ritual reconstruction of the aura that created the song, finding new aspects by unearthing the occurred. In that ritual the growling demonic vocals, deeply roaring and reverbated guitars, pulsating bass and animalistic drums join to convey the experience to another level, give it new life.
At this point it would be nice to hear your scariest/gloomiest moments with (metal) music – what songs/albums/artists have given you the chills and why?
– The scariest ones surely are concerning the ones from my own pen: the unreleased Inferno sessions from the Cacodaemon days had a few parts that were very strong and could not be listened to with “lower focus”. The “I played this?” vibes hit me quite furiously. On the other hand, some may know that I’ve worked with some rather regular non-heavy music projects. I’ve written some lyrics by the instinct and later come to understand their rather strange symbolism while undergoing certain phases in my life. I can tell you that is really something able to chill you from head to toes, when symbolism unfolds in a very decipherable form.
– From material by others, the first place is taken by Darkthrone’s Natassja In Eternal Sleep; it’s a pretty standard song and a standard album, but the way the riff goes and vocals growl is something that cannot be replicated. Dark art, simple as that. Barathrum’s Infernal is another one that comes to mind: the atmosphere on that album is very powerful compared to wide array of black metal albums. The whole opus just speaks late summer thunderstorms that devour the light from the skies.
And so we have reached the end and we can turn our interest to something of utmost importance – the listeners! If music gives a lot of, er, everything to its creator, what kind of feelings would you like the listener to experience while listening to Lantern?
– It would be ideal that the listener felt like reading a good leather-cover book (aesthetics do matter!) that could captivate them and lure them back to it to discover new elements. It would be ideal that the listener could for a while feel they are elsewhere, in another time or no time at all. It would be ideal that the listener could just take it as it comes, without reservations or restrictions, the way it is made.