Earlier this year a French black metal two-piece flying the banner Kriegsgraben blitzkrieged Bandcamp with Seasons Of Blood & Fire, an 8-track-long debut full-length that indiscriminately chewed up and rolled over everything in its warpath. Seasons Of Blood & Fire appeared as one of those too-good-to-be-true albums. That first listen rings almost like a traumatic experience, unforgettable yet hard to think back on. By the sixth, or seventh time, something like enjoyment shines through a waning disbelief. Finally realization comes, this is truly an unprecedented and incredibly heavy debut, quite unlike anything we’ve ever heard before.
“Ave!” greets Olarik, one-half of Kriegsgraben. Olarik’s responsible for Kriegsgraben’s “wardrums” and does half of the vocals and guitars. “Myself and M22 Lokust formed Kriegsgraben, out of a long, mutual love and fascination for war and heavy extreme music. We have been long time comrades in many endeavours, this just came naturally at the right time […] I think we were driving 2 hours back home from getting tattooed and started discussing ideas. I made some demos and more ideas, I showed them to Lokust and the blood started flowing…”
Olarik says Kriegsgraben center their music around war “because war is the ultimate horror. War is extreme, terrifying and horrific, and so is the music that we are most interested in making. Themes of the supernatural and darkness I think those are very personal, but Kriegsgraben is a collaboration or team effort, and so is war. There’s so much to draw from, complete sensory overload. The insignias and symbols, the uniforms and materials, different textures, the designs of machinery and weaponry, the tattoos, the hand painted art on sides of tanks and planes, the scenery and the battlefields, so much art.”
Furthermore, Olarik says Kriegsgraben’s lyrics are in English because, according to Olarik, “English is more universal.” He assures us that Kriegsgraben “have no side to take with regard to any national or global political stance or value, we are trying to best represent the experience of war from all angles, for all to revel in.”
Seasons Of Blood & Fire
Olarik says Seasons of Blood & Fire came together in “a few months.” He continues, “I had initially written and recorded demo instrumentals of ‘Death Every Minute’ and ’Infernal Machine.’ Lokust would come to my home studio with ideas and lay them down, I would make the drums, then we began finishing everything off together.
“We ended up writing and recording 3 tracks of instrumental and lyrics each, with some overlap, Lokust then did the intro, I did the outro. We both recorded vocals for every song in 1 session at a more isolated studio, the result of the vocals being like a two-headed beast.”
Despite their originality, Kriegsgraben brand of black metal warnoise is not without its influences. The influences are there alright. They’re just deployed wisely and camouflaged by a genuine earnestness from the two men behind the music. “We are both into a lot of the same stuff, and some really different stuff too,” says Olarik. “For instance we are both equally inspired by traditional French music, LLN, New Orleans Sludge (French influence again), some psychedelic old Americana type stuff. We both have interest in old world things, antiques and ancient history.”
As for how Kriegsgraben turned out so heavy, like We Are War played by EYEHATEGOD, or if Antaeus had written a Bolt Thrower-worship record, the answer is both simple and metaphysical. “We decided to use a low tuning for the guitars,” confirms Olarik. Their riffs rip through your flesh, but at that lowered tuning, they’re rendered gnarly as corroded barbed-wire glistening with infection.
“We both have collections of instruments and pedals, old and new,” says Olarik. “But it’s not always about equipment, it’s in the hands, it’s how you play, the mental state or feeling cultivated while writing and recording.”
We couldn’t agree more. As for why they recorded straight-to-tape, Olarik says, “We love using tape, it captures more than just the music, you know?”
The one thing they handed off was mastering. For that they went to Travis Nordahl, whose mastery in mastering seems to be growing much faster than the number of records he’s worked on. “Travis was great to work with,” Olarik says. “We asked him to run an experiment, to have his imprint on this by running it through another layer of tape in his presence. Again the collaborative team aspect of this project was honoured, we think he got the perfect sound out of the recording.”
Our personal favorite tracks on Seasons Of Blood & Fire are “Death Every Minute” and “Pulverised In Foreign Fields.” Olarik says, “It’s interesting you pick those two tracks, ‘Death Every Minute’ was the alpha point for this project, and ‘Pulverised In Foreign Fields’ was roughly the midway point for Lokust’s input, really in the thick of battle! I think all the tracks are as strong as each other, the total running time is only around 30 mins excluding the intro and outro.I think this is short enough for it to be taken as a whole, and something I’ve been proud of is having the album sound so congruous in regard to the 50/50 effort of writing.”
For you collectors out there, Olarik says that copies of Seasons of Blood & Fire are now available on pro-tape and 12” vinyl. According to Olarik: “Craig Lagace has been generous enough to put our debut recording out on cassette and vinyl through his new label Bestial Rape Records, with Appalachian Noise Records handling distribution.”
As for what’s next, Olarik says, “We have been busy finishing solo albums, other collaborative efforts, planning and recording new projects too. I have made a new Kriegsgraben instrumental and lyric for a track titled ‘Sawing Through Infected Limbs’, Lokust is working on a track he calls, ‘Pile Of Inoculated Arms.’ [Little bit of a Morbid Angel nod there, perhaps?] I also have written and recorded 2 additional Kriegsgraben instrumental demos during March. We will most likely spend the next quarantined months addressing these demos and working on the next album.” Olarik promises: “It will be truly gut shattering.”