“Our society swallows up everything with time…”
Interview by Jason Guest
Jason: Hi Sathor. Thanks for taking time out for this interview. To begin, Ars Macabra has been in existence since 1998 and you’re the founder and only remaining original member. Have the line-up changes affected Ars Macabra’s musical identity?
Sathor: Simply speaking from a musical standpoint, I would say that the band’s music has matured and, perhaps now more than ever, expresses what it really is. If you ever think about why you were born with that name and if the name can go further and be even a sigil or represent an archetype, nothing happens by chance. Ars Macabra has retained its identity and not only that, I think it is more a day-by-day thing and meditation. The name consists of two words that conceptually indicate “meditation on death”. This concept requires a lot of time and energy to be digested and understood. This representation can describe the band both musically and conceptually.
Jason: Musically, how has the band evolved since 1998?
Sathor: Gaining more musical maturity, becoming more technical but never with the intent to reach one aping of some musical icon of technique or style; we were born into a musical path already carved out from other bands and we channelled through that. However, we have always given more value to our style and our arrangements ideas, melodies, etc. If you hear the old records of course, you will hear a style with an affinity with other groups but our songs are ours, and strong. I’m extremely convinced of this.
Jason: Do you ever listen back to those earlier releases? What’s your view of them now?
Sathor: It’s like seeing your old paintings from when you were young and inexperienced and then seeing the improvements as your true style comes out and cleanses itself of all the superstructures that the outside world with its pressure pushes you to create. I think that starting from the album Hate Induced Trance (2007) our albums are a brand that cannot be confused with others but are at the same time valid of music’s extreme aggressive resonant vibrations that lead beyond the veil.
Jason: III (reviewed here), released in January 2013, sees another line-up change for Ars Macabra. What were you looking for in the musicians for the band?
Sathor: Most of the time in the reality of the events and coincidences of life, people divide, their paths cross each other’s, and everything happens for reasons that cannot be guided by your will, unless you have not already uploaded a lot of energy on that process previously and then, rationally, completely forgotten. Then your subconscious mind (which is the real world) is working for you. So I think I’ve ridden in a very lonely way this energy and found who I can truly call fellow group members.
Jason: Why did you choose Nekrom and Adranor? What do they bring to the band and its music?
Sathor: Nekrom was with me prior to Adranor, and I must say that their contribution is definitely based on their confidence, talent and inspiration. What I want you to understand is that finally, all participate in the group and enjoy in their own way. We are three very different people but at the same time we realize that we are the group we represent, and we also live in times that are individually our own. This I think is our strength and is expressed in the concept of give and take. The group is not an excuse to have a stage for our ego or a way to be put on a pedestal; we are interested to enjoy our music and material rewards it brings us.
Jason: What was it that you wanted to achieve with III?
Sathor: An artistic process begins but it never really stopped, so the album III was born just as an evolution of our musical subject. Our aim has always been to get the best out of our ability, not to exceed in doing something that we are not in complete knowledge and understanding of. So we just gave our best naturally, in a very instinctive way. We are a very-much underground band and our goals are limited at the start, and, honestly, to get something in the scene right now is so unpredictable and dictated by a good dose of luck. I think then better to set yourself a few “goals” and do what really makes you feel good.
Jason: How did the tracks on the album evolve since you began writing for it? Were there any that were re-written or saw a significant overhaul since they first appeared?
Sathor: Sometimes, the songs have been completely revised. Experience tells me that a song has to work from the first second to the last, and that its path must be fluid in rhythm and speed of the person’s feelings. In other words, if the songs do not reach a perfect fluidity of listening, it will be destined to be revised and re-arranged. A song must be able to stand on its own legs even and, especially if extrapolated to an album in my opinion, it should be recognizable and traceable to that perfect moment of the artist; this also means putting the soul in the song.
Jason: How do you approach composition of your music? Do you have an idea of how you want the songs and your albums to sound or do they take shape as they are being developed?
Sathor: To take shape during the creation is how to hack a sculpture, to take away everything that is not necessary to remain the ultimate form, perfect for your eyes, geometrical proportions of the colours of a song one step at a time. If any thing led to a point, I follow and I do my other things that produce that harmony that creates an emotional process within me.
Jason: Is there a theme or concept behind III?
Sathor: All that is behind the meaning of III is just a sigil; who knows how to see it, grasps its meaning.
Jason: How long was the writing process for the album?
Sathor: Almost a year. There is no idea how it can go. I prefer not having datelines; “datelines” sounds much like an industry product.
Jason: Is there a track on the album that stands out for you?
Jason: The artwork was designed by Perversor. What was it about his work that drew you to him? And how much freedom did you give him in the design?
Sathor: From a really general idea we gave him total freedom; it went well but next time I want to try a more focused subject.
Jason: How does the artwork relate to the music?
Sathor: Well is art at the same level , I notice that artists that put much effort in another aspect of this artistic product and process are not considered that much, especially since the beginning of the metal music; metal heads hardly have any good taste for visual art, sometimes to embarrassing arrogant levels of ignorance.
Jason: Other than Nil Sine Deo, the 2011 split with Cosmic Ekpyrosis, your last album was 2007’s Hate Induced Trance. Why so long between albums?
Sathor: Because we had many line-up changes and those broke a lot of harmony in the band and feeling, and those feelings between band members take a lot to recreate. So the writing process is inevitably affected.
Jason: Why did you choose to work with Odium Records for the release of III?
Sathor: Seems to do what he says so it’s not bad at all during this period of time.
Jason: Some argue that black metal has become commercial in the sense that, because now that anyone can access the music, the true spirit of black metal has become diluted and dulled. Do you agree? And do you think black metal can ever retain the potency it once had?
Sathor: No I don’t think Black Metal has become commercial because anyone can access the music. On the other hand, there is that there are also too many bands around and the genre itself has fractured in to many different styles that are sealed with their strict followers. I remember when there was only “metal”, now it’s a sea of genres and subgenres that, sometimes, are quite a recycling of one another with different clothes on. Anyway, it’s the people’s mentality that has changed and actually has exposed those for who they really have always been.
90% who listen to black or play black metal have nothing to do with nothing, not just metal; they are just as commercial as any other style out there in the fashion world. When punk metal has been swallowed and obliterated by the masses, it was obvious that also such phenomenon as black metal would have been commercialized and globalized.
Our society swallows up everything with time… it’s just a matter of time, and most of the people inside the scene are not too distant from any other pop, rock or commercial mentality.
Jason: What impact has being based in Rome had on your music?
Sathor: To know from the beginning that everything was going to be hard to get and being recognized. Probably, that is also something that makes those who really can hang in there for a long time, but surely it’s time-consuming and depressing at times. But I guess I would be more damaged by the hype and glamour than accepting that yeah, we are in a shitty country. But then again, it’s turning now in a good direction that I think is essential, not being under the spotlight.
Jason: What does the future hold for Ars Macabra? Is there more music in the pipeline?
Sathor: Yes, there is more music we are going to put out; we are just considering what the best way to do it is. We’ve got enough material for another full length but we don’t really know what will happen.
Jason: Do you have any shows planned for 2014? Any plans to play in the UK?
Sathor: Not yet. Playing live in this underground scene seems to be just a matter of luck and who you know. There is no genuine interest in letting bands play for a specific reason; all is based on how many connections you have and how in vogue your attitude/music is considered by certain “promoters”, etc.
Jason: Thanks again for taking time out for this interview. Do you have any closing words for our readers?
Sathor: Practice what you preach. Thanks again, and thanks a lot to you.