Sacred son are a one man band who caused a bit of a stir with the debut album's cover. Setting the black metal world into a state of confusion with its not so black image of the band member on holiday overlooking a scenic view. Skip forward a few years and that same band are putting on blazing shows with a full band live line-up, and a sophomore effort named ‘Arthurian Catacombs’. Set to show a new direction, and stepping forward with a statement of intent, Dane Cross sat down to set the record straight and chat lyrical about his new album.
First things first, let’s get the obvious and possibly awkward question out of the way: Did you feel any pressure to top the infamous cover of your debut album?
At first I did. When I first started to think about the artwork there was naturally a bit of pressure as it’ll inevitably be the focal point of the album - initially at least. Then I remembered some advice a friend gave me - to just pretend the reaction that greeted the first album never happened and stay true to myself. What cover would I have gone with had no one heard of Sacred Son before? That’s what I ended up doing. It’s true that the artwork for the first album probably received more attention than the music itself, but once people got past that initial ‘controversy’ and listened to the album I’d like to think the reaction was generally positive. It’s a double edged sword - it would be nice if the discussion was more centred on the music, but had I ran with a more ‘traditional’ black metal cover then I doubt as many people would have been aware of it.
Briefly describe the concepts/ideas behind ‘Arthurian Catacombs’, your sophomore album release. Does the title having a part 1 and part 2 lead the listener to believe this is a concept album?
There are various different inspirations for this album, the most prominent being Arthurian Romances, the paintings of Hieronymus Bosch and David Teniers the Younger, John Carpenter’s The Thing (1982) and last but certainly not least, grief. Separating the album into two parts was a decision I made fairly late on. The theme and tone of the album changes quite significantly about half way through, so it felt right to separate it accordingly.
…and sticking to this idea of themes and tone, it's interesting you say it changed dramatically half way through as that links to the next question. It could be said there is an ebb and flow while listening to the album and it makes one think of waves, the way the interludes and songs crash over each and overlap. Was that an intention in the mix, and did you plan it that way all along?
Yeah, definitely. I’m a big fan of albums that just flow together effortlessly to a point where it’s almost disorientating, where you get 20 minutes in and you’ve no idea if you’re listening to track 5 or still on track 1. I feel the listener feels more inclined to hear the whole record as one long listening experience rather than a collection of individual songs. One of my all-time favourite albums ‘Choirs of the Eye’ by Kayo Dot does this beautifully. One of my biggest influences musically on this was second wave black metal, ie Darkthrone, Mayhem etc. whose albums almost always consisted of a collection of songs with big gaps in between. I suppose the transition (or lack of, should I say!) between ‘Blind and Feral Whiteness’ and ‘Black and Lustreless Spheres’ is in keeping with that style of album structure.
Did you set out to make something that would maybe surprise anyone who had pre-conceived ideas about what kind of band you are? It’s a big step forward in terms of musical development, more the feel of a band putting their stamp of authority on something.
I’m sure it will surprise some people who might expect a similar listening experience to the first record, but that wasn’t really a factor in my decision to go down a different route. I wasn’t overly interested in sticking to the same flavour of atmospheric black metal. I saw this as an opportunity to try out new ideas and explore different sub genres of metal while still retaining some of what characterised the first album.
Some bands might feel a commitment to what a label wants, or fans expect from them. Do you feel any association with a scene, or do you just make music and let it stand for itself without any sense of what’s going on around you? In your own bubble, as it were.
Not so long ago a PR company got in touch to see if I’d be interested in hiring them, which I politely declined. Sacred Son is essentially a hobby that got out of control, and as such not something I have any intention of investing money into beyond recording costs. Everything I write is on my own terms and created without any consideration for what other people want to or expect to hear. I don’t mean that to sound dismissive or like a ‘fuck you’ to anyone. I write music because it’s fulfilling and cathartic, and if other people enjoy listening to it then great!
Do there have to be boundaries set when it comes to what bands are influenced by? With an increase in controversial political motivations, and certain band members being removed or denial of associations, do you have any views on where the lines are drawn when it concerns creativity vs censorship?
It’s a very complicated subject. I feel very uneasy about promoting certain bands even though they undoubtedly have significant influence on my music. One of my favourite Emperor tracks is 'Beyond The Great Vast Forest' which I would love to cover, but it’s just not something I’d feel comfortable with due to the whole Faust thing. I suppose musical censorship and separating art from the artist is something that’s gradually going mainstream what with the Michael Jackson and R Kelly allegations so it’s a moral dilemma a lot of people are currently faced with. I’m not sure there’s a right or wrong answer, but I’d say publicly and enthusiastically celebrating or endorsing an artist who has knowingly caused harm to others and/or has espoused racist views is not cool, but enjoying their music in private maybe ain’t so bad?
Following on from that- is it essential that a band playing BM has to stick to dark subject matters and ‘evil’ lyrics? Obviously bands have moved on from praising Satan in every song, but elitists may claim that if it isn’t misanthropic in nature it isn’t Black metal. Do you agree?
I suppose what classifies as black metal differs from person to person. For some it could be anything with a blast beat, whereas for others it has to adhere to the entire iconography i.e. corpse paint, black and white cover, recorded on a microwave etc. For me, black metal has its roots in darkness and misanthropy so I would expect there to be an element of this somewhere.
Last question: You recently played at Darkness over Cumbria, a folk metal festival that has a strong Pagan/nature atmosphere. Do you have any connections or interest in Pagan mythology? Your music does not seem to reflect any religious affiliations, however with your latest release there could be hints of English history and folklore creeping in. Is it something you would like to dig into further, expressing such forms through music?
For sure. I tend to tell stories through my lyrics which will invariably end up incorporating elements of pagan and Norse mythology, English history and, as I mentioned previously, Arthurian Romances. Sacrifices, gods and goddesses, undead monarchs, rituals, visions of hell, kingdoms succumbing to nature all feature quite heavily.
Thanks for today, appreciate your time Dane.
'Arthurian Catacombs' is out now. Click HERE to order your copy now.