If you haven’t heard of Void Ritual by now…shit, you’ve lived a mindless existence! Void Ritual hit us with Holodomor in 2014 and released a split with Barshasketh early this year through Broken Limbs Records. If you’re a second wave style fanatic and don’t like Void Ritual, to hell with that shit you listen to instead of some real music. One-man-band Daniel Jackson answers our questions with equal enthusiasm and menace. Read on, fans of the bm elite:
Hails, Dan. I’ve covered your releases for Cvlt Nation in the past. Call me a fan. The split this year with Barshasketh is killer! Holodomor started things off with a bang. Tell us if these releases have only enticed you to do more killer records.
Thank you! I’m happy when anyone gets some enjoyment out of something I’ve made. I’m still getting used to the idea that people do like my music, so all I can say is thank you. As far as more releases: absolutely! Void Ritual has been, by far, the most rewarding musical experience of my life. I waited a long time, with a lot of trial and error, before I felt like the recordings were passable enough to make available to people. So now, I feel as though I kind of know what I’m doing and can keep things rolling.
As for a timeline, I’ve got a more melodic death metal project coming up first. It’s called Desu and the theme of it is based around Godzilla movies. I have a full-length’s worth of music recorded for that, and now I’m just figuring out lyrics and vocals. There’s a song available at the Dewar PR Bandcamp that you can listen to so you can get the general idea. Once that’s wrapped up, I’ll start writing for the first Void Ritual full length, likely starting late summer this year.
You seem to hold a bit of reverence for second-wave style black metal. What bands during the early nineties do you have the highest regard for?
There are hundreds, really. That 90s wave of black metal is a lot more expansive than people often give it credit for. Of course, you have the big names that even casual black metal listeners would know: Emperor, Immortal, Mayhem, Darkthrone, Satyricon, Gorgoroth, Ulver and so on. Ulver and Darkthrone are probably the two biggest inspirations for Void Ritual, especially on Holodomor. The Norwegian scene had some bands that were criminally overlooked as well. The first couple of Ragnarok albums are excellent, especially Arising Realm. People don’t really talk about how good Old Man’s Child were so much anymore, but Born of the Flickering was incredible!
There’s a lot more to it than just the Norwegian bands. Sweden had an insane scene back then as well. It was a bit more melancholy and melodic than the Norwegian bands, though. So, for Sweden you have bands like Dissection, Marduk, Dark Funeral, Setherial, Dawn, Sacramentum and Lord Belial. And again, these are just some of the better-known names. The Abyss is a project that a lot of folks forget about, but it was basically the Hypocrisy guys switching instruments (Peter Tagtgren was on drums, like he was on the Total War EP for the band War, for example) and it was fucking brilliant. It sounded like what Marduk might have sounded like if they followed up on the more melodic stuff they were working with on Heaven Shall Burn. Niden Div. 187 is another one; they were almost like black metal grindcore, because they kept their songs really short and blasty.
Anyway, there are a ton more and it’s a subject I never get tired of, but I’ll stop there.
I truly find you an incredible musician. One thing about your output on the Barshasketh split that I absolutely love is the ferocious and precise drumming. As you are a one-man entity and play all the instruments, would you tell us which instrument are you most fond of?
Vocals and guitar are what I love doing most, which is kind of a shame, because vocals are the thing I get to do least. I appreciate your compliment about the drumming, and I wish I could actually take credit for it, but the drums are programmed. I put a lot of time and effort into making them sound as realistic as I can, and I believe I have a pretty good understanding of the feel and technique drummers use, but I’m still not happy with it. I would love to be able to have a real drummer record with me some day, but I’m just not sure how feasible that is at this point.
The first two songs on the Barshasketh split don’t have the mid-tempo jams that your first EP did in each song. Was there a conscious effort to exclude them this time?
It wasn’t really a conscious decision, but I guess it did turn out that way to a degree. I think that’s just how the songs naturally turned out. I’m sure there will be a lot more variety once I start writing the full length, but not so much that Void Ritual becomes something else entirely. I’m a big believer in keeping a band’s sound connected to what people liked about it in the first place. Especially since I’m only one guy, so if I want to do something that sounds different, I can just create something new and call it something else. I’m the dictator of an island with nobody else on it. So, when I say there’s going to be a melodic death metal band writing songs about Godzilla vs Destoroyah, that’s what’s happening, and that’s how Desu comes together. If I were to put that out under the name Void Ritual, I think it’d needlessly annoy people.
The ending to the last track on the split has some strange harmonics. Was it your intention to add a little flavor to the ending, instead of ending the song abruptly, perhaps?
That song was actually an old Ancestral Oath song that I re-arranged a bit drum wise, because that song was the impetus for starting Void Ritual in the first place. I figured I should make it part of the Void Ritual discography for sentimental reasons. The ending chords with the semi-clean guitar tone is there to end things on a bit of an uneasy note. It was written that way as opposed to being tacked on at the end because I didn’t want an abrupt ending.
I don’t hear any leads on either of your releases. Is there reticence to incorporate lead guitar work in the music, or is there no room for it, as the music goes a million miles an hour sometimes?
It’s definitely something I could incorporate down the road, and there are a number of leads on the Desu album coming up, and there were a few in Ancestral Oath before I started Void Ritual, but I think a lot of it has to do with the style itself. Ulver had some great solos on Nattens Madrigal, but they were, and are, infinitely better musicians and composers than I’ll ever be, so they were able to make it work. I’m sure it could happen down the road in Void Ritual, but I guess I’d have to feel like the song calls for it.
Do you plan to do a full-length release in the near future? If so, tell us about it.
I haven’t started writing it yet, but that’s the first thing I’m working on once things wrap up with Desu. I know a lot of people like to take breaks and recharge their batteries, but I’m just not that guy yet. If I don’t make music, I get anxious and moody; my fuse gets shorter. There was a period of about four months prior to working on the Ancestral Oath album in 2013 where I couldn’t make any music because I didn’t have a guitar. It drove me nuts. I dealt with depression and anxiety a lot during that time frame. I was dealing with some huge changes in my personal life, which was the primary reason for the depression, but without having music as a creative outlet, it was so much worse than it would have been otherwise.
I look at someone like Chris Black, someone who is also worlds better than I’ll ever be, and he’s been on a hellacious run with Dawnbringer, High Spirits, and Aktor over the last year. If I can get to a point where I’m coming up with music I’m happy with that often; that would be a dream.
Little is said about the covers on your two releases, which is a shame because I feel they are quite good. Did you come up with the concept for each? What do you foresee doing next time?
With Holodomor, I really didn’t know what I was doing. I have negligible Photoshop skills, so I took a public domain photo, easily found if you do an image search for “Holodomor” on Google and just applied a veil of color over it and added the band name and title over it. Very basic, and not so terribly exciting. It fit the title and the title track, so it was alright.
The artwork for the split was done by a fantastic artist, Daniel Valencia, under the name Fenomeno Design. He’s worked with bands like Blut Aus Nord, Glorior Belli and Demonical as well. I left myself out of the visual aspect of the split, which I think pretty clearly worked to its benefit! It looks great, and there’s a reason why bands like Blut Aus Nord have used him before.
As for the future, it’s funny you should mention that! I’ve just reached out to an artist named Jeni Fitts who works under the heading of Provoking Drama. There was a piece she’d already painted that I absolutely love, and so I’ll likely be using that for the full-length’s cover. It very much fits the emotional tone I have in my head for the next Void Ritual album.
Have you played any of the material live? If not, will you ever get a live band together? If you have indeed played them before, what was the most memorable place to play your music?
I haven’t yet, and I would love to some day, because I loved playing live so much when I was younger. The problem is that it would take a lot of things falling into place in order for it to happen. I’m 32 with a family. I would essentially have to guarantee that bills were paid and mouths were fed while I were gone AND I’d have to find people willing to play black metal into which they’ve had NO creative input. Danzig can get away with something like that because he’s fucking Danzig and has had a legendary career. I’m some shithead with substandard equipment and 6 songs that some people have heard. It’s a tall order, especially in Albuquerque. Essentially, you’ve got Bon from Lamentation of the Ashen, which is fantastic, but he’s got his own vision he wants to pursue. Then you’ve got Predatory Light, who were out in Santa Fe, but Metal Archives lists them as living in Seattle now. I found a punk-influenced black metal band called Skarva Av Glas, but I can’t find anything about them newer than five years old. Albuquerque has a much better hardcore scene than a black metal scene. Hollow Tongue and Bath House in particular.
Are the lyrics especially important to you? Lyrics fly by most listeners. What are your lyrics typically about?
Lyrics are something I’m learning to appreciate more as I get older. Not so much in that they have to have a message or something like that – it’s more that they should enhance the music in some way. I still need a lot of work in that department, but it’s something I put a lot more emphasis on than I used to. Primordial’s A.A. Nemtheanga has a lot to do with how I feel nowadays. He finds a way to find things of importance to sing about without using the same word brushes (if that even makes sense) that everyone else has painted with before. It’s almost conversational with his lyrics. (“I never was a religious man. So why would I put my faith in you?)
Meanwhile, I’m still trying to find my voice lyrically, and I’m struggling, to be sure. Holodomor’s lyrics were a mishmash of things that struck me on a visceral level. The story of a genocide largely carried out by starving people to death was immensely powerful, but I dealt with it in the abstract rather than something a bit more poetic or clever because I’m just not a storyteller yet. It’s something I’m going to work on, but who knows if I’ll ever get anywhere. The split’s lyrics were related to cults in recent history. Awful human behavior feels like something that gels well with Void Ritual’s music, so I guess that’s mostly what I’m drawn to.
What do you listen to these days? Do you have aspirations of joining a supergroup (hehe)? If you could join a band line-up, which band would that be?
I enjoy the fantasy of my musical heroes calling me up and saying, “We want you to be our new vocalist!” – but it would be just that: a fantasy. I’m just a guy. If Fenriz, Nattefrost and Butcher from Sarcófago got a band together tomorrow, are they calling me, or are they calling Tom G. Warrior? Still, it’s fun to think about it.
In a world where I have the authority to force myself into a band whether they want me there or not? I’d be the vocalist for Vattnet Viskar right now. Sky Swallower was one of my favorite albums of 2013. I still listen to it constantly. Plus, Chris and I could dork out about wrestling like fucking goons. But, I’ve still got reality tapping me on the head saying “Come the fuck on, dude! Who’s paying your rent, and taking care of your family? Go to work, you fucking dummy.”