Verboten is a northern Kentucky-based post-punk/black metal band started and staffed almost-exclusively by one Alexander O. It doesn’t seem completely accurate to call Verboten a one-man band, though, as the liner notes for their demo—both of their demos—cite the help of friends. All the same, the post-punk/black metal hybrid demonstrated on Invitation au voyage… has a distinctly lonely feeling to it. Even if a collective of some seven or thirteen individuals stood behind these tracks, they would still feel like time-expanding isolation chambers of songs.
Invitation au voyage… sounds like the ghost of a demo. The music here is at time so ethereal as to seem somehow intangible. Everything is killer, but nothing hurts. Certain things sound familiar, as if you heard them in a past life. Riffs carousel around your head at varying speeds. Sometimes dizzingly fast. Sometimes so slow and so sweet it feels like going under, deep under. The drums are rigid, but driving, and energetic when they want to be.
It’s a moody, manic and, by turns, depressive demo that wants to be several things, and demonstrably is. Yet nothing sounds accidental, or thrown together. But above all, Invitation au voyage… is unique.
Alexander explains that coming up with Verboten’s sound “wasn’t a conscious plan.”
“Just the result of my musical tastes, and a desire to do things a little different,” he writes. “I always felt black metal at its best pushed the musical boundaries of metal. Post-punk did the same with punk. So it’s not such an unusual mashup.”
As for the name, Alexander explains that Verboten is the “German for forbidden.”
“I always thought it would make a great band name. It also has a very ominous ring to it. But I guess it can be seen as a commentary on the sound itself. Doing what’s forbidden and not what’s accepted/expected.”
Verboten released its first demo three years ago. There’s consistency in Verboten’s sound between the two demos, but Alexander says he thinks “the musicianship and production are much better” on Invitation au voyage… But, he says “it’s not just a xerox of the first demo. I didn’t repeat myself.”
When it comes to composing the hazy and densely-layered noisey music of Verboten, Alexander says: “I’ll usually come up with a riff, and then hammer it into a song. Then add different layers of guitars ‘til it’s just a blanket of noise.The lyrics usually come later. Sometimes I have lyrics first, and then I’ll compose music that captures the feel of the words.”
“I play guitar, and some bass and synth, but not drums,” he explains. “I was lucky enough to get Oliver Stockert to contribute the two drum tracks he did. The other drum tracks were programmed.”
When we attempt to nail down some of Verboten’s influences, Alexander says:
“I’m not familiar with the first three artists you mentioned, but I am a fan of Brian Eno, especially his work with Bowie in the 70s. I’m a big fan of the first wave of Norwegian BM bands (Mayhem, Darkthrone, Burzum, Immortal, etc.) also of the Les Legions Noire bands from France like Vlad Tepes, Moevot, Belketre, Mutiilation, and others. In terms of influences that aren’t so apparent, I’d say No Wave and The Beatles.”
As for his songs on Invitation au voyage…, Alexander explains that “the songs mainly deal with sadness, loss and the passing of time. The things that are gone but still haunt you.”
When he was working on this demo, Alexander says he “reading a lot of Baudelaire,” his favorite poet.” It was from Baudelaire that he got the name for this demo.
“I thought it would make a great name for the record,” he says. “It’s also the name of an obscure French movie from 1982 by the director Peter Del Monte which I’ve always loved.”
Enjoy a track-by-track breakdown of this week’s demo courtesy of its creator.
Invitation au voyage…
“I wrote the song last year and liked it so much I made a video trailer for it. But I wrote so much new material for the demo that at various times I thought about not including it. I finally decided to because of the positive reaction to the trailer. I was going for something that was slow, heavy and lo-fi, but that was also melodic underneath the noise. I think it works well as an opener.”
“It’s the one song that was always going to be on the demo, It dates back to 2015. It’s more punk then post-punk, like the Buzzcocks jamming with Darkthrone.”
“Wasted on you”
“Originally the song had another name and had vocals throughout the entire track. The lyrics were more upbeat, but things went south with the inspiration for the song. So I rewrote the last verse “two months later what a difference it makes / never foreseeing how it will play / I thought I was clever, but I’m really a fool / and this song is truly wasted on you” I then decided to remove all the vocals and just keep the last verse, i thought it would be a nice unexpected touch, and maybe more fitting to have no words ‘til the very end.”
“And you know . . .”
“It was a riff that I came up with earlier in the year and really liked a lot. I ended up bumping some older song off to make room for it (just like with ‘Unforgiven’). It’s a song that if you re-arranged it, and slowed it down, could work as a shoegazer tune or even something electronic/ambient.”
“I wrote this in March and just had to include it. It’s a sort of NWOBHM riff that goes into this really melodic chorus. I thought it was pretty different from anything else I had recorded and would make a nice closer.”
For those, like us, who are wondering where is the physical manifestation of this demo, Alexander says he “would be willing to [work] with the right label.” And he hopes to with his next release.
As for playing live, Alexander says: “I’ve always conceived of Verboten as a recording project but who knows? The main issue would be finding the time to rehearse, not to mention finding other musicians that get what I’m trying to do. I’ve thought seriously in the future about making short films to go with the next release. Sort of what Devo did with their first record.”
Alexander says he hopes “to record a full length record before the end of the year.”
“I have enough material for three or four albums,” he says. “I also have a lot of other projects I want to do. Bands that exist only in my head for the moment.”