Interview with Balam of Pestilential Shadows


If music doesn’t instil emotion then it hasn’t done what it’s supposed to do…

With latest album Ephemeral released at the end of October, Balam, guitarist/vocalist for Australian black metal horde Pestilential Shadows took time out to speak to MR’s Jason Guest about the new album and the ideas behind it, the band’s development since their 2003 inception, and what black metal has become thanks to the cyber-cesspit known as the internet…

Thank you very much for taking time out for this interview and congratulations on Ephemeral (reviewed here). This is your fifth album. What did you want to achieve with it? Were there any specific goals that you wanted to achieve with it?

It was an opportunity for us to complete this album from start to finish on our own. Writing, recording, mixing and mastering was done by the band and not outsourced to anyone. This way we were able to get the right amount of atmosphere and the sound we were looking for. The art and design is also an integral part of the band so we carried those concepts through from the last releases.

When writing for the album, did you have an idea of how you wanted it to sound or did each of the tracks and the whole album take shape as it was being developed?

The tracks are written one at a time so the focus and strength remains throughout the whole song, but when working on the track listing the songs are arranged and changed to complement each other. The album was also strategically bookended by 2 classical ambient pieces, bringing the final cohesiveness to the album.

Does the album mark a progression since 2011’s Depths?

We definitely had more time to explore the soundscapes and concepts of this album so it has progressed quite a bit since Depths. Because we also had time to play around with the atmospheres ourselves, we got a sound closer to what we were looking for.

Can you tell us about the album title, its meaning and its relationship to the music and the concept?

The overall concept of the album is that life is short and fleeting, a constant reminder of the inevitability of death, to exist only briefly. The theme running through the album is the ebb and flow of predominantly the human existence and finality of death.

What are the lyrical themes on the album? And where does inspiration come from?

Pestilential Shadows portrays death, despair, vice, suffering, mysticism, melancholy. Even though we have Satanic and occult themes that run through the music, a lot of the concept is based around mental loss and the destruction of the human spirit through negativity. The inspiration comes from the world around us. The amount of negative energy in this world is amazing and is a constant reminder of death.

Pestilential Shadows - Ephemeral cover 2014Who designed the artwork for the album? And how much direction did you give them in its design?

I myself do all the artwork and design for the band meaning I have total control of what goes into the artwork. I find it important to have the music and artwork fit as one piece. In my life and career away from Black Metal I do art everyday so there is no need to outsource the artwork.

You’ve been making music since 2003. How does the Pestilential Shadows of 2014 compare to the Pestilential Shadows of 2003?

The music is much more refined now as opposed to 2003 but the concepts and core values of the music are still the same. The same driving force of death, plague and decay are still what is most important in the band.

You’ve been working with Séance Records since Depths. How did you come to work with them? And do you plan to stay with the label for future releases?

We’ve known Séance Records for quite a long time now, way before the conception of the label so as soon as they started SR we jumped on board, knowing that the work behind releasing and promoting the band would be 100%. We will continue with Séance Records because the focus is on true spirited Black Metal and is about the artform that is Black Metal opposed to making money.

For you, what is black metal? And what do you think of what black metal has become since its inception?

For me, Black Metal has always been underground gritty music full of emotion, anger and atmosphere. It takes the listener into realms of misanthropy, suffering and wonderment. If the music doesn’t instil some kind of emotion into the listener then it hasn’t done what it’s supposed to do and is therefore invalid as an artform.

Modern Black Metal has been ruined and twisted by the needs of this young impulse based society. No-one wants to wait or pay for releases anymore and will write about its flaws on their soapbox that is the internet.

How do you see the impact of the internet on black metal?

The internet has promoted but at the same time ruined Black Metal. It is more easily accessible now than back in the 90’s when it was only promoted by printed black & white zines and word of mouth. These days everything is downloaded and the concept and artwork is a meme or made fun of. Internet is a good tool for promotion and finding new bands that wouldn’t have been found in the 90’s but It has also helped in ruining the mysticism of Black Metal.

Any plans for live performances? And will we be seeing you in the UK?

There is a possibility of playing a handful of shows here in Australia but to get to Europe and the UK would be extremely hard for us being so far and so expensive.

Thanks again for taking time out for this interview. Do you have any closing words for our readers?

Channel your negative energies and push it onto others! Common people do not deserve life, only misery and despair on their pointless existence!

Pestilential Shadows - Logo