Sargeist – Free Will Sacrifice

Thursday, 3rd April 2014

Quick on the draw and quick on the snappy barbs towards his Norwegian counterparts, Sargeist mainman Shatraug (also of Behexen and Horna, among a half-dozen other bands) makes a salient point in our below interview when discussing where Finnish and Norwegian black metal bands stand in comparison to one another: In essence, the Finnish BM bands have stayed the course and have remained ”true,” while the Norwegian acts have suffered a spell of very public mishaps, sound alterations, and for some, have more in common with rock and/or punk than they do their beginnings. He hits the nail on the head, even if some the more mainstream Norwegian black metal bands are still making music of substance and value.

For Sargeist, though, it’s business as usual, even after a four-year break since 2010’s Let the Devil In. Their new Feeding the Crawling Shadows adheres to the general guidelines the band started with 15 years ago: Misanthropic riffing, a cacophonous production job, and a hazy, unforgiving atmosphere that is pushed to the brink by full-blast tempos. The result? One of the year’s more tried-and-true-and-worth-every-second-of-it black metal albums. Here’s what the ever-active Shatraug had to say when we hit him up via email:

Dead Rhetoric: To start, the band will celebrate its 15th year of existence this year. Have you done any sort of reflecting on this span of time?

Shatraug: Hails! Haven’t even though about it to be honest. There’s much going on with both Horna and Sargeist, our main bands, celebrating 20 years of existence that it has left no additional thought over Sargeist, in any case.

Dead Rhetoric: You started Sargeist right when black metal was very much en vogue, but since then, the scene has undergone numerous transformations and trends. From your perspective, how has black metal changed over the last 15 years?

Shatraug: Black metal has evolved into a point where it seems to be quite divided.. on the other hand, we have bands who are devoted to the ancient art, worship and cultivation of darkness, and on the other hand there are simply bands who create music. For me personally, black metal has always been a reflection of Satanic visions, therefor not a mere musical genre. Of course, we also have the full-blown orthodox occult trend going on which is very hard to judge if it’s a genuine spiritual evolution for all the people involved, or just another imagery copied until it waters out. The spiritual approach would be far more interesting as a whole, but I’m afraid when talking about human beings… it’s not that.

Dead Rhetoric: Along those lines, the Finnish black metal never quite had the big names of the Norwegian scene. Did that make it more difficult to become established in your early days?

Shatraug: No. Slower perhaps, but never more difficult. We have also seen clearly where Finnish black metal stood, and still stands at, proven by time and time again when the so-called Norwegian “pioneers” have nothing but shame for their past and act like common rock stars now. Finnish darkness was always for real.

Dead Rhetoric: You are involved in a myriad of projects and/or bands. Are you a restless creative spirit?

Shatraug: You could say that, or simply put one word on it – possessed! It’s not exactly something I can control nor wish to. Creativity comes when it comes, I’m just a medium for the dark currents.

Dead Rhetoric: You started the band as a solo project but have long had a full band. Do you think Sargeist would have lasted this long if it were still just you doing everything?

Shatraug: That’s just as possible as the next thing, can’t really say how it would be if it went somehow different.

Dead Rhetoric: Horns and Hoath have been with you for well over a decade now. Describe the relationship between the three of you.

Shatraug: Hard to say actually. I suppose we share the same dedication for black metal and the art immersed within it.

Dead Rhetoric: At this juncture in your career, how time do you devote to the band? Is it more of a “fun” project now, or, are you able to devote a lot of time to it?

Shatraug: I don’t really do anything for the “fun” of it;  as much as it’s my passion it’s sometimes also a burden, but I would not change this for anything. All the time I have is going to my bands and for that I’ve sacrificed a lot through the years. There’s no stopping now.

Dead Rhetoric: As for Feeding the Crawling Shadows, I’m particularly fond of how mesmeric and extreme some of your riff choices are. When composing the new album, was it a conscientious decision to push the envelope when it came to the riffs and atmosphere?

Shatraug: Nothing conscious about it, the only thing on my mind was to return every element that was missing from Let the Devil In” and further emphasize the strongest points of that album as naturally as it could be done.

Dead Rhetoric: Better yet, the album has the necessary elements of a black metal album, but it doesn’t feel “traditional” per se. What do you think the result of that is? Doing this 15 years? Or a natural evolution?

Shatraug: Evolution, personal growth, depth of vision. Everything changes as we get older but one thing that is certain is that Sargeist has not jumped on any trendy bandwagons. We are taking our own vision one step further, as any true artist should.

Dead Rhetoric: Do you pay much attention to what’s going on in America, specifically with the post-black metal scene? As in, “normal” looking guys playing supposed “black metal?”

Shatraug: Not really. As I’ve said many times, black metal as a mere musical genre does not exist to me, I don’t care if you do the best damn “music” there is if your soul has nothing to do with the spirituality and devotion belonging to black metal.

Dead Rhetoric: Finally, what’s on the agenda for the rest of 2014?

Shatraug: For Sargeist, there’s Martyrdoom festival in New York City at the end of June followed by additional live rites in Austin TX, Chicago IL and Los Angeles, CA (or maybe this last one was in San Diego, but either way close…). After that we have no idea what will be happening next besides putting more focus on our two other bands, as usual.

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