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21st February 2012
METAL DISCOVERY: Hi there Aries! First, I have to say I’m most impressed with ‘Trist’. How pleased are you with the final recordings and did the album meet or exceed your own expectations?
ARIES: Thank you. We always set out to make the best album we possibly can, and we always seek to improve on what we’ve done in the past, so yes, we’re very happy with the way it turned out.
(Aries on the nature of his creative impetus)
"It’s the negativity that spurs my creativity. I use my negative thoughts as inspiration for my music; you could almost say I turn a negative into a positive."
Interview by Mark Holmes
Official Hellsaw MySpace:
Spiritual Twilight (2005)
Thanks to Andy Turner for arranging the interview.
Almost three years have passed since Austrian black metallers Hellsaw released their third album 'Cold' but a brand new full-length offering of melancholically blackened sonics is about to be unleashed in the form of 'Trist', once again on Napalm Records, their second record for the label. Metal Discovery posed a series of questions to frontman Aries ahead of its release...
Hellsaw - promo shot
Photograph copyright © 2010 Toni Härkönen
Official Hellsaw website:
Phantasm (2007)
Cold (2009)
Trist (2012)
MD: I gather there were originally plans to release a follow-up to ‘Cold’ by the end of 2010 – why was there a delay?
ARIES: Like most musicians these days we don’t have the luxury of being able to only work on our music, we also have to earn a living, so our time has to be balanced between the two. We also don’t believe in the converyor belt approach to creativity. The emotion to create has to be there, rather than a deadline staring you in the face.
MD: ‘Trist’ is another very nice sounding record, as with ‘Cold’, but it’s not overly polished so still maintains a certain raw quality that will seemingly always be associated with black metal of yore. Do you always strive to find a good balance between those two qualities – the resonant and the raw?
ARIES: No. We write what we feel at any given time. What we write has that particualar Hellsaw sound because that’s who we are, but it is instinctive - there is nothing contrived about it. We definitely don’t sit there thinking that we have to make things more raw or more melodic or whatever.
MD: There’s a very cool sounding choir at the beginning of ‘Death Bells’ – how was that recorded and did members of Hellsaw sing those parts?
ARIES: Yes indeed. The whole band sang on this part and we recorded it live in the studio as we did the rest of the album.
MD: You’ve previously avoided one of black metal’s clichés of basing lyrical themes around Satanism but you open the new record with a track called – ‘The Devil is Calling My Name’. Is there a satanic slant to this song?
ARIES: If you mean a satanic slant in that it mentions the Devil, then yes. If you mean in a religious sense, then no. We are not a prosthelytizing band.
MD: What are some of the other lyrical themes on the album? Presumably ‘Bedlam.1450’ refers to the year “bedlam” was coined as a nickname for the old Bethlehem Royal Hospital asylum?
ARIES: It’s actually Beldam, not Bedlam. Beldam is an archaic word for hags or witches. I use it here as a generic term for all the witches that were persecuted and burned. Amongst the themes we explore in the album are melancholy and remorse, the negative ones in other words.
MD: ‘Trist’ is your second release for Napalm Records – how supportive have they been compared to your previous labels?
ARIES: We’ve always had good support from our labels, each according to their means. Napalm is obviously one of the larger labels, and they have been able to offer us much more in terms of promotion and distribution. They also allow us to be ourselves and don’t place restrictions on us, which is very important.
MD: On your Facebook page, Hellsaw influences are simply described as: “The negativity that is inside each of us.” In saying that, are you simply adhering to the black metal genre’s nihilistic paradigm or would you say your creativity is actually born from negative sentiments?
ARIES: It’s not an adherence to any form of genre-related standard, whether that standard is actual or merely perceived. Everyone has negative thoughts at some time or another. It’s the negativity that spurs my creativity. I use my negative thoughts as inspiration for my music; you could almost say I turn a negative into a positive.
MD: Although you’ve established a distinct sound that’s instantly recognisable as Hellsaw, and more so with each new album released, you seem to still be flying the flag for traditional black metal, stylistically speaking, rather than seeking to be wildly innovative like certain other bands who still proclaim to be black metal. Do you see it as important to acknowledge the genre’s roots in your songwriting to be viably associated with the black metal label?
ARIES: The most important thing, and in fact, the ONLY thing, that matters is that you have your own style, and that you don’t compromise that style in order to fit in what is expected of any genre. If you try to please you end up producing something that’s artificial and devoid of emotion because it’s not really what deep down inside you, you want to say.
MD: Black metal has traditionally been a predominantly underground, esoteric genre. While a lot of bands can still claim an underground status would you say it’s become near impossible to remain enigmatic nowadays with the internet and social networking etc?
ARIES: The internet and social networking has made it easier for bands to get their music heard and has been a big benefit in that sense. I don’t see that the term "underground" automatically implies that a band is either esoteric or enigmatic. But certainly if a band wants to remain enigmatic they can still do that. Just because you have a presence on, say, Facebook, doesn’t mean that as a band or a musician you have to reveal the minutiae of either your personal or your band life. You can reveal as much, or as little as you like.
MD: In press materials it mentions your “powerful and confident stage performances” that have “made Hellsaw a favourite with festival audiences”. For people who’ve yet to experience Hellsaw live, what are they missing?
ARIES: Without a doubt the energy and passion that we put into our live performances. Performing live is a totally different experience, where you can interact directly with your audience, and can see the response to you and to your music. We are very natural on stage, and very much ourselves as individuals, and we relish the additional dimension that live appearances give to our music.
MD: Finally, what plans lie ahead for 2012 and have any UK promoters shown any interest in getting Hellsaw over to these shores?
ARIES: We have a tour in Austria and Germany coming up to launch 'Trist' and then we’re off to Russia in March to play ten dates there. It will be our first time in Russia, and we’re very much looking forward to that. We have nothing planned as regards the UK at the moment, but we’d love to come back as soon as we can.
MD: Thanks for taking time out for the interview and best of luck with ‘Trist’ and the rest of the year!
ARIES: Thank you, and hopefully we’ll meet up in person in the UK one day.