Saturday, May 22, 2010

Interview: Krohm

Because I'm not aware of any other Krohm interviews available for the public, can you please give our readers a history of the band or a synopsis of the influences/inspirations that were responsible for starting your composition of this music? Go into as much detail as you like. Can you describe your own music and the releases you have offered so far? What makes Krohm different from other black metal bands? What made you decide to start writing material for Krohm? What, to you, are the most fascinating aspects of black metal? What does it offer that other 'styles' can not?

Krohm has been my own personal project since 1995. I began Krohm out of a desire to create the kind of music I wanted to hear. Some of the most important bands that have influenced/inspired me are Dark Throne, Burzum, Manes, Emperor(demo), Ulver, Ved Buens Ende, Disembowelment, Thergothon, My Dying Bride, Paradise Lost, Monumentum, Lycia. Krohm can be classified as black metal but it is also a very personal expression of my musical ideas. I write all of the music and play all of the instruments myself. I tend to spend hours alone with my guitar, keyboard and 8-track, dabbling around like a mad scientist. Writing music for Krohm is a contemplative process. My goal is to create the darkest, most depressing black metal I can conceive. My first demo "Slayer of Lost Martyrs" was recorded in 1997. The songs are real varied and I am still very satisfied with them despite the raw harsh recording. My new demo "Crown of the Ancients" was just recently completed last summer. It has a clearer production but from a musical perspective it is both an evolution and a digression from "Slayer..." and in a sense it is more extreme. Both are now available as one demo since "Slayer..." was never really distributed.
Real black metal has an ancient, timeless quality. It harkens back to older times and a pagan frame of mind. When I first heard black metal (as well as Death and Doom) I could completely relate to it and I fully understood the reason behind playing music in such a way. I think black metal (and Doom as well) has the power of mesmerizing and even overwhelming the listener if he or she allows it. In a way it is also fascinating that so many people don't know this type of music even exists!

Can you explain, as well as you can, the ideas behind the band's name - what it evokes for you, and what you want other people to understand by it?

I first heard the name Crom in the movie Conan the Barbarian. It was a powerfully graphic movie with great imagery and the story made a huge impression on me when I was very young. Crom originates from the name of an ancient druid god, Crom Cruach. He was a father god much like the Norse Odin. Krohm is the German derivative of Crom. For me the word has a strong pagan feeling behind it. It would be great if people can at least associate the name with Robert E. Howard's story of Conan.

How do you view the black metal 'scene' of today - especially the much-maligned American black metal scene? I know that you don't really take part in the 'scene' as it is, or that you try not to come into very close contact with other black metal bands (this may be just the result of circumstance rather than choice), but is there any pressing reason, for example, that the Krohm material has not been available until quite recently? How do you feel about the 'new' styles of black metal that the Norwegians are currently trying to offer? I know this is a hackneyed question, but I felt you might have something original to say about this.

I really try not to form an opinion or bias against any country's scene. If your music is good then that's all that matters. Unlike many I don't look down on the US black metal scene in any way. I think that bands like Absu, Noctuary, Demoncy, and Judas Iscariot have all written music that has helped shift the underground's attention toward the US. Americans will never achieve the same notoriety as the Scandinavians when it comes to black metal but I think we are prolific in our own right.
I have been involved in the underground for the past 9 years playing in different bands like Infester, The Meat Shits, Abazagorath and now Evoken but for some reason I never really felt the need to correspond with bands, labels and distros. I haven't been interested in distributing the 1997 Krohm demo because for a while I was quite content just sharing it with close friends. After finishing college last year I decided to start devoting more time to Krohm as a serious project and to work on getting it heard by more people who can appreciate it.
Most of the new music coming out of Norway sounds too contrived for my taste. The latest albums from Emperor, Dimmu Borgir, Borknager and Old Man's Child sound soulless and boring to me. I am also not very impressed with the recent black metal/techno experiments of bands like Mayhem and Dodheimsgard (although I like their previous album "Satanic Art"). I do like the way Thorns is sounding lately. Their new full-length should be quite interesting. It is clear that the more popular black metal bands from Norway have turned their priorities toward achieving a broader appeal, refining their image, and touring and selling albums/merchandise. You can hear it in their music. It lacks the dark creative spark it once possessed.

As is typical in these sorts of situations, it seems to me that the black metal 'establishment' in this country (i.e., those who have sunk to the bottom through sheer force of mediocrity) seeks to enforce a strict and very rigid system of subjective ideals over the musicians who would try to create in this style of music - in other words, they have a pernicious, negative effect on the artists who would try to be creative or write anything other than the accepted (and cliched) 'true' black metal. Now some people (idiots, basically) would compare this to Euronymous's heavy-handed 'control' over the Norwegian scene in the early '90s - a control, or guiding influence, that was actually responsible for turning a fair amount of half-hearted death metal bands into above-par black metal entities - I am not of this opinion at all, and I actually think that the sort of situation that arose in Norway was a combination of unrepeatable fortuitous circumstances, and that it is folly to try to resurrect that creative 'hothouse' atmosphere. Is it possible that the American black metal scene or the black metal scene on the whole, across the world, will ever see such a series of events and creative strides forward ever taking place again? Is America just too large for a unified 'movement'? Are such movements even necessary - or should they be sponsored? Is the black metal aesthetic on the wane? If so, what would cause it to die?

It's hard to say. Modern black metal, in it's early nineties incarnation, was a harsher interpretation of what Bathory and Venom did in the eighties. It was an evolution of a musical style. The collective creative surge that happened in Norway will never happen again over there but it could happen again elsewhere given the right circumstances. Black metal could eventually experience a renaissance in another country and it might turn into something that we cannot even fathom right now, perhaps even a new style of music. I don't think America is too large for a unified movement. We do lack a single unifying style or niche but considering how almost all the bands coming out of Norway tend to sound the same I think this is what sets the US black metal scene apart. Our diversity is an asset and I don't think that it would be crucial for the US black metal scene to become unified. I think that the black metal aesthetic is stagnating but certainly not dying out. It has become a tradition and an established musical culture but luckily traditions are also broken, ignored or revamped. I think there can be a fine line between passing mediocrity for excellence and successfully conveying excellence. If anything is contributing to the waning of the black metal aesthetics it is the bands that successfully conceal their mediocrity.

Krohm's material, in my opinion, is completely contrary to the 'accepted' black metal styles of today, and it hearkens back to older, idiosyncratic utterances by bands like Manes, Burzum, etc. Was this is a conscious decision on your part - to play in an atpical style, or was it just the result of a 'natural' originality on your part: i.e., is it perfectly normal for you to write in this vein? Or is it a combination of these factors? Why do you think so many bands just flat out refuse to try to bring some kind of originality to their writing? How can their music satisfy them? Do you think there is a real, legitimate split in the 'arts' between artists who create for themselves and 'artists' who create for other reasons, other people?

It is a bit of both. It is natural for me because I write and play music in the style I enjoy listening to the most. It is also my conscious decision to stay within this particular style of black metal because it conveys the emotions I choose to express better than other forms of music I also like. Everyone writes music for different reasons. I could compare writing riffs and composing songs to hunting for game and then displaying your best catch. Do you settle for a second-rate riff and display it to others with the pretense that it is good or do you practice and search even harder for a better riff before you are truly satisfied with it?
I think there is definitely a split in the music scene. There are the so-called "musicians" who work harder on their image than on their music and then there are those who can truly care about creating music and put their heart and soul into it. Ultimately the quality of a musical work should reflect the musician's confidence in his own abilities and his ambition to achieve a desired result.

Also, I'm curious about this: just what does this term 'obscurity' mean to you when applied to music, especially black metal? How is it possible to write 'obscure' music?

In order to be considered obscure, music has to have an ominous, mysterious aura, a strange occult purpose and rare qualities that only discerning ears can appreciate. Being a lesser know band that is appreciated by few can also classify one as obscure. I suppose one could try to intentionally write obscure music but I think in most cases it will probably sound forced. True obscure music becomes so on its own.

Do you think that black metal should be free of all sociological and political implications or subject matter (I am not just talking about NS or fascist ideology here)? Do these influences or considerations really have a place in black metal, or music as a whole? Should music be completely free of the 'real world', in your opinion? Should it be reserved as ideal world, an 'escape', a realm where expression is not constrained by the confusion of reality?

No, I think black metal can actually be used as a vehicle for certain ideologies and subject matters (just as any type of music can). There is nothing wrong with incorporating the influence and consideration of certain ideologies into BM as long as it is communicated and expressed in ways that engage the listener. Subject matter should neither be required nor omitted as a part of black metal. There also has to be a relationship between the message and the music. These don't have to be similar but they should complement each other in ways that are stylistically interesting. I personally don't seek out bands that have specific ideologies. I am more interested in the immediate feeling music provokes in me independently of any subject matter or message. To me black metal offers escapism first through sound and then through imagery and subject matter.

Do you ever find the internal limitations of the black metal aesthetic to be chafing or constricting? I mean: are there melodies, ideas, or subjects that you are hesitant to include in your writing because they do not fit into the 'accepted' ideals of what black metal should sound like? Are there really, in your opinion, 'true' or 'necessary' (fitting) subjects for black metal - subjects, emotions, and reserves of expression that are treated in the best manner possible by black metal music? If so, why? I mean: why is black metal so perfect for expressing certain 'negative' emotions or ranges of thought like: anger, revenge, loss, misanthropy, rebellion, hatred, etc.?

I don't think there are any real limitations to the black metal aesthetic. The constant truths we see in black metal are only the result of a lack of originality on the part of the majority. I think that it is still possible to create something unique even within a seemingly constricting musical style. I say "seemingly" because I think creative limitations are our own illusion. Krohm is a musical entity (a part of my being) that I use to express personal feelings and in turn it becomes my own interpretations of what black metal should sound like. For me it is normal to omit musical ideas or subjects that don't pertain to my desired result.
Black Metal IS pure negativity. The ranges of emotions and ranges of thought you mention are exactly what constitute the essence of black metal. It's all there in the sounds, the vocals, the lyrics and the nuances. Playing and listening to black metal is a perfectly natural tool for expressing and experiencing the dark aspects of our existence.

What do you see happening in the future in the black metal scene? Will there be further experimentation and/or combinations of different musical styles - other styles brought into the black metal fold? Will this help to expand black metal's ability to express a greater range of emotions? Or do you see black metal collapsing in on itself again, becoming harder, darker, 'pure'? What would you like to see happen?

It seems to be going in both directions. I can even appreciate when black metal incorporates other styles as long as they go well together. In theory this can help black metal express a wider range of emotions but I think that in reality only few bands do this well. Let's face it, the majority of black metal musicians haven't really displayed the talent to write more emotional and expressive music than what the black metal status quo has established. My hope is that black metal will become darker, moodier, more extreme and more inventive. Right now I am listening to Dark Throne's "Goatlord" and I am realizing how these songs perfectly entwine black, death & doom metal with ease. What they did with this album was WAY ahead of their time. They were pushing the boundaries of their creativity and experimentation while still expressing the vehement, malevolent energy that is at the core of black metal. That is what I would like to see happening!

Lastly, what can we expect from Krohm in the future? Will there be an album soon, or are you going to try to release another demo tape? Has there been a great deal of interest so far in Krohm's music on the part of the industry? Do you see this happening in the future?

Right now I am trying to get my demo distributed to labels and zines. It's a slow process since I dub each copy myself and I find little time to keep up the mailing process. A third demo will probably be out before any album deal will come my way. I am dedicating more time to writing music now than I did in the past as it helps me soothe the stress of daily life. Many close friends of mine have taken notice of Krohm and I have been humbled by their compliments but I have not given Krohm a chance to receive any more attention than it has so far. Hopefully Krohm will receive a deserved deal from a label and if not I will always just be content writing and recording music on my own, for myself.

Thanks for this interview, and if you feel like it, please add anything else here that you would like our readers to see.

Thank you for the great interview Umesh (my first official Krohm interview!). I wish you much luck with Erebus & Endymion. Keep supporting the underground!