Black metal as a genre can be pushed in a multitude of directions, creating what is technically an infinite number of possible sounds while still falling under the tag “black metal.” Australian one-man outfit Arkheth previously operated as a symphonic black metal act with a full band, but after 2010’s The Quintessence of Algaresh, sole member Tyraenos remained. Now, he pushes black metal in a new direction.
Eight years following the release of Algaresh, he has finally let a new album see the light of day. 12 Winter Moons Comes the Witches Brew is daring in its experimentation, creating an album that is simultaneously melodic yet discordant, aggressive yet hypnotic.
Decibel caught up with Tyraenos for his first interview in over a decade for a conversation about 12 Winter Moons to go with a full stream of the album. It’s available today through Transcending Obscurity.
Arkheth is obviously highly experimental. Where do you draw influence, as the sole individual in the band?
The guitars for this album were actually recorded back in 2011. Due to a myriad of unfortunate circumstances, I found myself in a very dark place and suddenly cut off from the world and the recording process ceased. By the time I had brought myself to record 12 Winter Moons Comes The Witches Brew, I had spent 5 years in relative isolation from friends, family and the music world entirely. I hadn’t touched an instrument or written a note in those 5 years. There are many reasons for this which I won’t go into right now but upon my mother’s unexpected passing, I suddenly felt the urge to finish the album. My inspiration at that point was a need to try and embrace life and escape perpetuating misery of my situation. At that point, Arkheth was more obscure than ever and I felt free to approach the recording and additional writing of this album without any preconceived notions of what it should or should not be. I honestly didn’t except or even intend for anyone to ever hear it at this point. I was completely free to write music however I imagined it because it was just for me.
As for being labelled ‘experimental,’ I feel that kind of infers that there was some guesswork involved in the album. I wasn’t experimenting, but I was definitely being more honest. The sound of the album came out just how I imagined, although it might not have if I hadn’t found Glen Wholohan to play the sax parts so perfectly.
What do you listen to in a normal day? Are you a metalhead, or are you more into a different style?
I listen to a wide variety of music depending on my mood. I’m really enjoying Ulver’s The Assassination of Julius Caesar and Shadows of the Sun as well as A Kind of Blue by Miles Davis when I want to relax. Oxygen by Jean Michel Jarre when I’m feeling inspired. I usually reserve my most precious black metal gems for the very rare appropriate occasions which may be years between listens. It has to be the right location with the right atmosphere.
Most of the metal I listen to is from the ‘90s and ‘80s but my musical taste is specific to particular albums or songs rather [than] bands or genres. For example, I’m really captivated with Oxygen by Jean Michel Jarre at the moment and would love to create and album with that kind of ‘spacey, ambient’ aesthetic combined with the intricacies of Supreme Immortal Art and the lush harmonies and unconventional song structures of Pet Sounds by the Beach Boys.
Strangely, I’ve never considered myself a metalhead and I feel a similar way about the people I grew up playing music with (and still play music with). If you met me in person you be quite disappointed haha. I’m naturally a happy person and don’t really adhere to a metal dress code or any for that matter (I have very poor fashion sense). I feel that the isolation from large urban areas has had a strong influence on our sense of self that almost makes us feel like outsiders in the only scene that we could really belong in. It’s no accident that we grew up resonating with the Norwegian Black Metal scene when you visit Orange in New South Wales, Australia and its surroundings.
12 Winter Moons Comes the Witches Brew is an interesting title for the album. What are the lyrics and themes about?
I happened upon some writings about an ancient figure by the name of Hermes Trismegistus. There are various texts credited to his name but one in particular caught my attention called ‘The Emerald Tablets’ allegedly dating back to the age of when Atlantis was suggested to possibly exist. Whether or not these texts are genuine or fake, they are fascinating, extremely detailed and insightful nonetheless. The text is a guide for a dedicated individual to seek knowledge and truth in order to gain enlightenment and wisdom and ultimately transcend to become one with everything.
My lyrical take on the subject reflects a personal frustration with Hermes Trismegsitus and his unattainable and cryptic attempt of providing humanity with the keys to emancipation from darkness. The lyrics are simultaneously praising the greatness of ‘The Master of Masters’ whilst also cynically questioning why in his infinite wisdom he has allowed the Earth to suffer for so long while watching idly by (obvious comparisons with major religions can be made here).
The art for your album is very trippy. Were you inspired by psychedelic music, or maybe even psychedelics in general?
The album cover was designed by T. Bare McClough from UK. He was suggested to me my label manager (and utter legend) Kunal. I specified what I was after and in what kind of style. The original was great but rather dark so I suggested making it more psychedelic with the addition of pinks, oranges, yellows etc. in specific locations and he delivered an absolute masterpiece! It really compliments the music and adds a slightly twisted aesthetic than what we are accustomed to in black metal.
As for psychedelics, etc., definitely inspirational but I am generally far more productive when I’m clear headed or with maybe a drink or two [laughs].
The last Arkheth album, IX & I: The Quintessence of Algaresh, is a symphonic black metal album. What happened to cause the shift? A change in your musical preferences? A desire to do something totally different? A spirit quest?
Algaresh was written in 2005 and only released in 2010. Back then, we set out to make the best version could of symphonic black metal inspired by our idols Obtained Enslavement, Abigor, Emperor etc. It was nearly 2 hours’ worth of constant riff changes, epic 10 minute songs and pretty much every trick we had in the book at that time. Unfortunately, it was a very draining experience and another tumultuous time in our lives which resulted in some poor musical performances on my part and a strain on relationships. By the time I started writing 12 Winter Moons… on my own, I wanted to be as honest as possible and just write music that I enjoyed hearing despite what genre it belonged to. It was a very liberating experience to write music without worrying if it was acceptable in a particular genre or if it would fit the bands image. Of course the foundation of this music is the ‘90s black metal sound but that is the result of it being so deeply enriched into my psyche after so many years. It’s how I naturally portray emotions and stories through music without consciously thinking about it. I don’t apologise for that.
What is your favorite song on 12 Winter Moons?
I would have to say “Trismegistus.” That song captures perfectly what I was trying to achieve with 12 Winter Moons. It came together in a matter of hours and believe it or not under a full moon [laughs].