The Workhorse Chronicles is a celebration of the most prolific songwriters in metal. And few people make more music than Matron Thorn, the multi-instrumentalist probably best known for his work in progressive dissonant black-death/whatever-you-could-possibly-call-it outfit Ævangelist.
In addition to that band’s fifth album, Matricide in the Temple of Omega, Thorn has composed all of the music in various projects, including Benighted in Sodom, Praeternatura and now his perhaps most personal work yet, Devil Worshipper. We’ve got a stream of that LP in full below, as well as an interview with Thorn about his near-death experience, his relocation from America to Finland, and the importance of the occult in his music.
So, in 2018 you released at least six albums or EPs from Ævangelist, Benighted in Sodom, Devil Worshiper and Praeternatura, and in most of these projects, you handle most if not all instruments. To what do you attribute your increased output this year?
I nearly died due to a freak medical emergency earlier this year, and I had a lot of time to think while everything I held dear hung in the balance. When I did eventually survive and make it home, I found myself in need of an outlet for this depressive episode I was then stranded in, so I turned to what was most natural to me which is creating music out of hardship and pain.
I know you moved to Finland recently, do you think the relocation has had something to do with this uptick in output?
My new environment certainly has its inspirational qualities, especially if with regard to the icy darkness of the winter months, but everywhere I’ve lived has given me some kind of emotional effect. Everywhere has a story and an atmosphere that contributes to its significance in the creations of an artist. Portland’s gloomy urban sprawl and late-night wanderings were a big part of my life. I’ve walked that entire city, I’ve slept under its bridges and in its cemeteries, I’ve conversed with its elites and its gutter punks, all of these things have made an impression on my view of this world, which augments my range of emotion available to me when I write music.
We’re running the Devil Worshiper album premiere with this interview, what can you tell me about the genesis and process of this album in particular?
My ideological perspective is my own, and considering myself on the more esoteric, outlier side of Theistic Satanism, I wanted to experiment with music that reflected these concepts as we interpreted them. The idea was to give the concept of devil worship a lavishness, a complexity of both beauty and madness, qualities that originate from the very distant, hidden side of Satanism that is often alluded to but never divulged outright. When we conceptualized the subject matter discussed, we asked ourselves more outré questions on the nature of evil grounded not only in mysticism but in real world practice. Sin and depravity exist all around us, yet we abide as though they are merely taboos or fleeting dualities to benevolent things, when, truly, their shadow looms even over that which is benevolent. By design, I submit that this is intended to be truly Satanic music, a common declaration among those seeking to achieve something of ideological meaning where all else has fallen short. It sometimes seems like the best-case scenario is that to truly do the devil’s work, you, yourself, must allow even your art to become a product to be bought a sold, become a parody of yourself, and mean something only to those looking to scratch the surface and need nothing deeper. This is what separates Devil Worshipper from others making similar claims of avowed allegiance to the sinister: we are aware that the true Satanists carry the seal of the almighty dollar/euro and dangle it above their zealot slaves willing to sacrifice everything just to be “heard”, but are they truly heard? If the music is demanded to be watered down, neutered for a wider audience, then yes and no. Yes, superficially, no, introspectively. Devil Worshipper will never lend itself to such subjugation, nor can it by its nature.
When did you first begin to compose music, and how were you trained? Were you self-taught?
The earliest compositions were dungeon synth-like, back when I was 14 and thoroughly immersed in Bergtatt and Fra Fjeltronen, albums I still enjoy today for the nostalgia of being a teenager. I started with piano and guitar but eventually I taught myself other things like bass and autoharp in lieu of an actual band of my own, since in a place like South Florida back in those days, everyone was only interested in gory death metal or commercially viable Marilyn Manson goth industrial, both which do have a place in my heart, but it just wasn’t what I was passionate about personally. Much later on, I picked up live drums again, having first performed them on an e-kit for the earliest Benighted in Sodom albums, in order to record for the eventual split Ævangelist made with Blut Aus Nord.
I know you play guitar live, so I’m inclined to think that’s your primary instrument, but you also play drums, program, know synthesizers etc. Also, not all your songs are based around electric guitar all the time. How do you pick an instrument to begin writing a song? Is it all guitar? Does it depend?
It really depends on what emotions I need to get across. I’ve invented songs purely from the bones up, or that is to say, starting with a drum pattern in my head and gradually building on it from that, but usually it starts with guitars and synth. I’m very driven by atmospherics, by creating soundscapes and audial environments to lose myself in, instead of just “making songs.” I honestly prefer instrumental music, because I feel there’s certain limitations to the human voice that no manner of production, modulation, or effects can surpass, but lately I’ve been experimenting with different vocalists other than myself who share the same emotional depth. Marcos, the vocalist of Devil Worshipper, impressed me with his performance in his now-past project Tod Huetet Uebel, and his penchants for turn of phrase. He has a very neoclassical perspective and theological way of writing lyrics that captured the essence of what I had created musically. Sofia was a natural inclusion for her immediate understanding of our purpose and ambitions, sharing them, and manifesting them through her vocal performance on the album, which will be beautifully expanded upon in future releases by Devil Worshipper as well.
What do you use for your home recording rig? I assume direct-in to a laptop? You don’t strike me as someone who fetishizes about having a lot of maps and pedals and such.
I prefer to say as little about this as possible. It’s not impressive. More consisting of tools acquired for their necessity rather than glamour or excess. I’ve lived by the thesis statement of “make music, any way you can with whatever you can” for nearly 15 years now, and I don’t expect this to change with time.
What inspires you to keep working at your high volume?
I quite literally risk slipping away into irretrievable madness if I don’t create regularly. My music is much less about anyone else than it is about creating a world for myself because I don’t, and perhaps refuse to, belong to this one.
How do you sort whether or not a riff or piece of music will fit into which individual project? I’m curious how you keep them all straight since, to my ears, they all roughly adhere to a certain style of metal music.
All my projects are centralized around certain motifs and themes that distinguish them from each other. If they all sound the same to someone, they may be too sane to appreciate the subtleties that separate them.
How does the occult factor specifically into your music planning? I know you care deeply for aesthetics, concepts, and you’ve alluded to spirituality, and I wager that these all factor into how you put together a song or record at least in some sense.
The Occult is ever-present in my writings, in my compositions, in my life. But I find more value in keeping it vague, concealed behind the mystique it deserves. Revealing too much to the casual listener robs them of the chance to search within themselves to discover what this art has to reflect within themselves. In certain ways, like all musicians, I am a conduit for powers and principalities that are beyond our grasp and creating is performing magic of the highest human order towards equality with these forms of divinity. Some are charlatans, but you know the ones who have tapped into the other side when you hear them.
I know you may not want to discuss this in depth or at all, but you’re not always in good health, as anyone who follows you on social media can probably tell. Does your health impact your ability to write? Does it inspire you to make more material while you’re well?
I use these moments, near-death experiences and times of profound illness and suffering to draw inspiration from within, as an artist should. Even things like unwilling sleep deprivation, hunger, all forms of pain contain wisdom, closer still to the wisdom of the grave.
Is there one album or project of yours that has any special meaning or importance to you?
Difficult to say. Each one means something significant to me, has brought something significant from behind the gates of the unknown parts of my existence.
What is the most rewarding part of making music, to you?
Reconciling my innermost self.