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THE METAL OBSERVER - Interview - PAGAN HELLFIRE - November 2000

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Pagan Hellfire - March of Incarnatus - November 2000

…Just to the south of where the Vikings had first landed in North America over a thousand years ago, resides in the city of Halifax one man, who carries on the tradition of those who first settled our land so many centuries ago…
Well, not really, but given today's trend of weaving Nordic lore into Black Metal, I found it only fitting to use that as somewhat of an intro for this interview. You see, although PAGAN HELLFIRE may not present forth any hymns with regard to Nordic or Swedish heritage, Incarnatus more than delivers goods Black and atmospheric enough to cause even the most stalwart Euro-thrasher to cower in fear.
Yet behind the shrouded, dark, and obscure nature that is Incarnatus lies an artist. A creator who favours musical depth that will stimulate and please his listeners, rather than presenting an image of something he is not. This is PAGAN HELLFIRE…

Before "A Voice From Centures Away" was in the making, there was talk of PAGAN HELLFIRE being picked up by a small label, and even perhaps some artwork contributed by Stephan O'Malley (EMPEROR). Would you mind telling us of the events that followed, and how they have effected you and PAGAN HELLFIRE?

Ah yes, you say the word talk and that's about all it was. In a nutshell, here is the story. A California-based label called Conspiracy Evolve (C.E.) showed a keen interest in PAGAN HELLFIRE and planned to re-release select tracks off the second and third cassettes, "Honor Black War" and "Outlander," respectively, re-recorded, and in a DigiPak format. Following that release, a CD/LP was scheduled for release composed of new material. I was informed Stephen O'Malley would be doing the artwork for the DigiPak-CD. Things started rolling as I began recording the new versions of the old compositions in a local studio. However, I did not complete the recording as I had to wait for C. E. to come through with the re$$$t of the deal. They did not "come through" and so the recording remains unfinished and unreleased.
I really have no idea why they gave up half way through the process. I received no explanation and no contact. It seems like they just kind of faded away. Oh well, its not like I really lost anything, as the old compositions were already released in their pure, grim entirety years back. As for Stephen O'Malley handling the artwork, I do not know if this was true as I have seen nothing of it. I guess this event further emphasized my belief that if you want something done, you must do it yourself. Hence, my release of "A Voice From Centuries Away."

Explain the general message you are trying get across to your listeners with "A Voice From Centuries Away". Do you feel the music and lyrics successfully aid you in this?


I do not think there is a real message in a sense. Basically, I prefer to let the listeners decide for themselves how it affects them, which is why you see little writing in the CD. More artwork, pictures and music…less words. My intention is to create an audio experience filled with the themes and ideas of power, darkness, war, totalitarianism, victory, observation, wandering, aloneness, nature, mysticism, and so on.
At the root, PAGAN HELLFIRE is an anti-Christian front with anti-Christian ideology. It's the type of recording you listen to alone with low or no illumination, out in the dark of night or on the mountains and let it swirl in your mind. The lyrics and music go hand in hand and I feel I covered most of the areas that I wished to express in words and musically, too.
As you can see from the above themes, not all are necessarily "loud" and "in your face" so to speak. Therefore, the music could not all be so punishing and that's why there are elements on the recording that are more subtle and stirring. For me, the different ideas demanded different music, hence the (neo) classical sections, acoustic parts…

Aside from the fact that you're basically a one man show, are there any other reasons for PAGAN HELLFIRE's absence from the stage?

No performances have been done because I feel the CD is a better medium for the expression I want to give rather than the stage. Also, it's because here in Nova Scotia, the places I would be able to perform live are definitely not the proper atmosphere. PAGAN HELLFIRE is not about Heavy Metal, lights, and sweat and the like. Perhaps if I could play somewhere in the mountains or amongst old war ruins it might be a different story. Performing live is not really a concern for me though. I would not completely count out the possibility, however.

Do you find that writing/recording as a solo effort is more difficult than with recording with Blackthorn in the past? Or, do you feel that you've got more freedom to take PAGAN HELLFIRE in the direction you'd like?

I prefer to compose alone and it has never posed a problem without Blackthorn. I can handle all the instruments to the degree I desire and recording alone is actually quite interesting and a good challenge. Of course it takes a bit longer, but when all the layers are pieced together…boom! I think more freedom comes naturally when doing things yourself. Blackthorn is a fucking dictator, but a good comrade nevertheless. I do not know if he would allow such subtle elements on a PAGAN HELLFIRE-recording (heh-heh).

When producing this album, what were some of your main concerns?

My main concern overall was to create a dark, stirring atmosphere. This was to be accomplished by fusing together the extremes of subtlety/quietness and powerful, raw Black Metal. Also, I needed a march somewhere on the recording. As it has always been for PAGAN HELLFIRE, the older feeling of Black Metal was obviously going to be present. Certain kings have laid the carpet out for obscure and haunting Black Metal such as MAYHEM, DARKTHRONE, VLAD TEPES, GRAVELAND, JUDAS ISCARIOT, etc. and this is the pool from where I draw my inspiration. The sounds of "newer" Black Metal, I find, do not possess any dark feeling and are absolutely no thrill for me. With "A Voice From Centuries Away," I wanted and required a "dirty" sounding production, but with all the instruments audible.

I've noticed a few new elements on this PAGAN HELLFIRE album that don't appear on any of your previous albums. Do you see PAGAN HELLFIRE progressing in a similar manner to that of MORTIIS or BURZUM sometime in the future?

The classical and acoustic elements you hear on "A Voice From Centuries Away" are simply other forms of expression I saw as necessary at the time of the release. I do not know for sure if they will appear again on the next release, but chances are they will in some form or another. I actually write a lot of classical-oriented music and marches. I know at some point I will definitely release a recording full of marches, classical, acoustic, and hypnotic sounds. The Black Metal will not vanish, though!!! I cannot see myself progressing to a complete synth-project. Not bloody likely! That is the foundation and roots of PAGAN HELLFIRE. These other elements are without a doubt due to my fascination with "old" classical and folk music and the ancient/mediaeval past. My contribution to the tribute to BURZUM, the song "Frijos Einsames Trauern," displays my salute to European Folkish soundscapes (and Varg, of course).

Could you explain where the name PAGAN HELLFIRE came from, and what it means?

There are probably a few interpretations I could give, but when it comes down to it, its just a name.

Who are some of your direct influences as an artist, and why?

Inspiration for PAGAN HELLFIRE and for me personally comes from DARKTHRONE, GRAVELAND, VELES, MAYHEM, BURZUM, ULVER, JUDAS ISCARIOT, VLAD TEPES, PUISSANCE, BLOOD AXIS, LORD WIND, PERUNWIT, various classical music, soundtracks and so forth. These are all artists who produce unique and amazing dark music that sticks in my mind swirling around. I listen to tons of other stuff too. Björk is queen!
I also take influence from war, nature, visual art. It is not uncommon for me to have some form of visual representation in my head when creating music and lyrics.

What is Black Metal, and what are your views on the progression of the Black Metal-scene since the early 90's to the present?

To me Black Metal is a hybrid of Metal-music, uncompromising in every way possible, and with an anti-Christian stance. I use to think Satanism was a requirement and I believe that at a time it was, but that does not stand anymore. I think the key is anti-Christian ideology whether it is from a Pagan, Satanic, nihilistic, or personal standpoint. Ok, please nobody take this statement the wrong way, but I think in a way Black Metal is fascist by nature. This DOES NOT mean Nazi or racial or anything like that! It is just a form of art that tends to be extremely powerful, uncompromising, and often terror-oriented.
Anyhow, nowadays Black Metal is rising to new heights, more money is backing up bands and "dark art" is being recognized by more and more people. All I can say is for those people who have put a lot into their creation, dedicated much effort to their band/project AND who have been met with some form of success and they want it, then power to them. I mean, a lot of people slag EMPEROR, SATYRICON, MAYHEM, MORTIIS, etc. for their accomplishments, but fuck, if those guys want that level of success, then let them have it. If others would rather stay underground and more mysterious, then stay there. Nobody forces record contracts on you and you do not have to accept them. Each band will do as they do regardless, so there is no point getting all bent out of shape over it.
The so-called Black Metal explosion probably would have happened anyway and I do not think anybody could have stopped it. I did prefer it when Black Metal was more underground and more dark-natured, but there is still music that is terrifying, mighty, and cult-sounding, so I just choose that kind.

I recently read in an American band's profile, that they consider themselves "True Norwegian Black Metal". Of course, that's silly, but do you think that Black Metal has a home outside of Norway and Sweden?

Black Metal holds many honourable territories worldwide. Poland has the stronghold on underground, fierce (neo) Pagan/Folk-oriented Black Metal that I like a fair bit. There is no doubt that most of the good extreme music comes from Europe. While Norway and Sweden have significant bands, there are other places also.

On your website, you refer to PAGAN HELLFIRE as "Nova Scotian Black Metal Art". Is that simply a matter of location on a map, or do you find there is a certain image or mood that the words "Nova Scotia" conjure as opposed to "Canadian"?

I thought it might be wise to inform people where PAGAN HELLFIRE is located. Plus, Nova Scotia is somewhat unique as there is shit all here for this type of musical expression, which does not really bother me as I like to "walk alone," if you know what I mean. There are some spooky parts of this province, and the landscape has definitely inspired me even if it's an indirect influence just from living here. History and folklore exist here, but I am not overly familiar with it. Some, but not all. I prefer Nova Scotia to Canada if one is to say where PAGAN HELLFIRE is from, but I know Canada might be better for international location reasons. I could just as well live in Europe and do this project there. The inspiration I could draw from those lands would be amazing as I journeyed to a few countries over there this past summer.

Let's say you have the opportunity to influence somebody new and foreign to the scene. What CD's would you give them to listen to, and why?

MAYHEM "De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas" - BM in its purest form.

DARKTHRONE "Transsilvanian Hunger" - just as pure, high degree of rawness.

GRAVELAND "Thousand Swords" - Pagan-oriented BM at its best. Incredible atmosphere and folk melodies.

EMPEROR "In The Nightside Eclipse" - to show someone how symphonic elements work into the picture.

BURZUM "all" - Because Varg's creation is elite, to show the effective use of monotony and repetition and how BURZUM is ever changing but in a way not…

ULVER "Kveldsanger" - folk music for the wandering soul.

VLAD TEPES/BELKETRE "March To The Black Holocaust" - this release is probably the reason I cannot see myself stop playing Black Metal anytime soon. I cannot recommend this recording enough. If you can get a copy, do it. They are defunct now. Salutes to the Black Legions of France.

BLOOD AXIS "The Gospel Of Inhumanity" - pure gold.

What does the future hold in store for PAGAN HELFIRE?

First, thank you for the interview and thank you, "Metal Observer". (You're welcome, hehe - Alex).
Future? More releases, more collaborations, wider distribution, more mystery, more terror. MARCH ON!!!

"A Voice from Centuries Away" CD is available directly from Incarnatus for $13 (Canadian) or $10 (American). These prices include postage/shipping costs. All inquiries please contact: Incarnatus.


2000: A Voice From Centuries Away (CD, Self-production)

Carl Wood

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