- Sarah Stubbs
Belgian black metal fiends Enthroned reflect on the making of groundbreaking new opus 'Cold Blac
As an act forged in the blackly incandescent flames of pure and unadulterated creative instinct, few bands are more lawless and ever-shifting in essence than Belgian black metal mavericks Enthroned. Having recently emerged, phoenix-like, from a host of unexpected mishaps and upheavals that would have pushed lesser bands to breaking point, the year 2019 finds these satanically-inclined aggressors entering a momentous new era of boundless inspiration and productivity. Visionary frontman Nornagest recounts the story so far…
“We’re not necessarily thinking outside of the box so much as keeping out of it altogether,” notes Enthroned main man Nornagest of the mindless genre norms that all too frequently dictate and constrain an artist’s creative potential. Since first joining the band as a second guitarist back in 1995, this notoriously blackened collective has witnessed more than its share of gruelling trials and adjustments numbering an exceptionally high frequency of line-up reshuffles, problematic health issues and, most notably of all, the tragic suicide of founder Cernunnos in 1997. Graduating to the role of primary songwriter and frontman in 2007, Nornagest’s intense and emotionally charged creative direction saw the band waste little time in forging a uniquely constructed sonic identity that’s as bristling with aggression as it is steeped in occult mysticism. However, following the release of brutal and blackly expansive smash ‘Sovereigns’ back in 2014, the years that ensued saw the Belgians enter a period of unprecedented personal upheaval.
“It was a really intense period,” the frontman agrees. “It took a long time before the album came out as well – something like four, five years if I’m not mistaken. Due to all those things, line-up changes, the label change and, of course, like usual, everyone in the band seemed to be experiencing issues with their personal lives all around the same time period. All the chaos that we had during that period was a good kick in the balls to get the new record started. Lots of bands would be like crushed by the weight of all that, but we decided to use it as a motivation factor, even though it was a lot to deal with. Let’s be honest, some fresh blood helps for bands now and then.”
But despite their relatively newly-initiated status, Nornagest’s choice of fresh talent also stems from a highly advantageous place of established familiarity, with bass player Norgoth and guitarist Shagãl having both been close friends with the frontman since the early ’90s. And as a collective whose intensely thought-provoking occult philosophies form a pivotal starting point for the songwriting process, there’s no overstating the importance of bringing on board likeminded individuals who not only understand, but wholeheartedly embrace these unholy principles. With each of these five, fiercely creative compositional brains contributing a wealth of fresh and inspiring ideas to this meticulously crafted body of work, there’s no mistaking the instinctive chemistry and richness of sound that abounds from every inch of blistering new record ‘Cold Black Suns’.
The composer expands, “For the lyrics and concepts I am totally, 100 per cent responsible and of course that has a reflection on the music. And though I used to be the main composer, now that’s a pure, collective band effort. Absolutely everyone is involved and the interesting part was that the guys wanted to first read my lyrics and idea before then beginning to compose the music. We had a song on this new album called 'Oneiros' which I wrote the lyrics for. They read the lyrics and then went on to write a song that reflected those lyrics, and that was the case for several songs on the album, adapting some of the ambiences and moods in the music to fit the lyrics and it worked out great. I’m so proud of my guys and couldn’t have imagined a better result. It’s just...wow! I’m really happy we work like this, because at some point when you are composing on your own or with another guy, sometimes you run out of breath, so to speak. The inspiration is there but you have a tendency to repeat yourself, whereas here you have like five different approaches and sources of ideas, so that’s a big plus. We're very much a five-minds-working-in-unity kind of band."
With this richly inspiring collective effort producing a vast, multi-faceted wealth of material spanning everything from breakneck episodes of bitingly frigid, frostbitten tremolo through to luxuriantly expansive progressive sections that palpably glimmer with icy majesty, ‘Cold Black Suns’ is, quite assuredly, Enthroned’s most intelligently varied and accomplished body of work to date. So when the time came to select just a handful of tracks to preview ahead of the record’s anticipated release, the five-piece took suitably strategic and thoughtful action.
“Season of Mist asked us, ‘Which song do you want to release first?’” the vocalist explains. “So we put it to a vote and four people out of the five of us wanted to have ‘Silent Redemotion’ because that particular song was our absolute favourite. And it was a good compromise between the old Enthroned and the newer aspects of our sound. Then ‘Satana Hosanna’ came next because we shot a video for that one, and also because it’s a typical Enthroned song, yet with a different touch to it. The next one we release will also contain some newer elements too. Our aim is to present three songs that show the three different aspects of the album which I think is better than showing three songs all in the same vein. However, in this record, that’s not really that happening because every single song is different from its predecessor.”
Indeed, at every turn of the band’s illustrious, 26 year-long career, this constantly evolving entity has undergone countless stylistic shifts and adjustments, gruelling trials and tribulations, with each individual record powerfully embodying the spirit of the era in which it was originally conceived. And with ‘Cold Black Suns’ comprising a work of pure, lawlessly instinctive creativity, it’s clear this electrifying record is just the beginning of a hugely exciting and inspiring new era.
“I see Enthroned a bit like a human being. Here, the band is influenced by the character, experiences and emotions of four to five different people, so each album will reflect the period of its composition; how we felt, what we lived, our personal lives, on tour... And that will always have an impact on the sound, meaning also that we can never plan in advance how the next album will sound. The thing we said when we first started to write this one that is we don’t care about musical boundaries or what others might expect of us. We don’t want to be trapped by the walls of black metal, so we tear them down, pure and simple. That’s why on this album you’ll notice newer elements. Not because we consciously wanted to think outside of the box, but because everything we lived and did over the past five years got translated into the music, so there’s really no telling what our next album is going to sound like. I don’t even know myself. Maybe it’ll be a full-on brutal, blasting metal album or a dark, coldly atmospheric record or even something else. We will see. Let’s just take it day by day.”