Void Ritual have a new album, Heretical Wisdom, coming out this summer via Tridroid Records on tape and Throats Productions on CD. The album is a satisfying document of pure black metal. I predict it will end up on more than a few year-end lists. Honestly, it’s a refreshing testament that there is still more to be said through the art of straight-forward black metal without the need for dissonance, atmospheric flourishes, or industrial or post-rock touches. That’s not to say those things aren’t interesting in their own right, but it’s been awhile since I’ve been excited by a one-person black metal album that just strips things down to basic, second-wave awesomeness. I was fortunate enough to interview Daniel Jackson, the man behind the project, about his thoughts on the genre and the upcoming record. We’re also excited to bring you an exclusive stream of a track off the album, A Mockery of Flesh and Bone!
Black Metal seems to always come with myriad modifiers and extra adjectives these days – how would you describe the music you make?
In Void Ritual’s case, I’d really keep it pretty simple and just call it Black Metal. I tend to think of black metal as being pretty musically diverse genre. From the harsh primitivism of classic Mayhem and Darkthrone to the densely layered and sprawling compositions of Emperor and early Satyricon. Even looking at the current day scene, you have more traditional bands like Sarkrista or Norrhem on one end of the spectrum, and then Vattnet Viskar or Terzij de Horde pushing those boundaries out further as the years go by.
I believe Void Ritual’s music is pretty orthodox on the whole. There are elements taken from different parts of the 2nd wave, both the Norwegian and Swedish sounds, along with some of the more current Finnish melodic sounds worked into the mix as well. But I still think all of those pieces still add up to a pretty straightforward overall sound.
What is your opinion on all the sub-genre tags and different spins on black metal?
It depends on the sub-genre, really. I find “symphonic black metal” or even “black doom” useful because those give me a relatively concise explanation of what I can expect. The more derogatory tags, like “hipster black metal” or “norsecore” are a lot less useful, because they essentially just boil down to “music made by someone I don’t like, culturally.” That doesn’t help me, because I don’t give a shit if you think they don’t dress or act the way you’d like, nor do I care if you dislike the scene they come from. “What does it fucking sound like?” is the only question a subgenre name should answer.
You’re a one-person act, but the sound is very full in the sense that it feels like a full band. Can you talk a bit about your gear and recording techniques?
I’m sure this is going to be disappointing to folks who are really knowledgeable about gear and especially to those who are sticklers for analog production, but the truth is I’m the stereotype of a bedroom black metal guy. Everything is digital. The drums I program via a midi controller using Superior Drummer 2. The guitars and bass are modeled using Amplitube 4, which I chose because you know specifically you’re getting official Engl/Soldano/Mesa Boogie models and there are room/mic customization options. My guitar and bass are both low-end. My budget for equipment is really limited, so I’ve just had to learn to do the best I can just playing it by ear and putting that money where it can do the most good.
Heretical Wisdom is your first album after a very well-received EP and split (not to mention the digital compilation earlier this year); was your plan always to do an album next, or did these songs just coalesce that way? Or another way of putting it: did you set out to write an album as a whole work, or do you write individual songs and they fell into place as an album?
After the split with Barshasketh, I’d always intended on making the next release a full length. Originally, I had an album finished in January of 2016. It was recorded in a way that sounded relatively similar to Holodomor, before I had been able to update some of what I was using to record. There was a label that was interested in releasing it, but it wouldn’t have been until the summer so I took that time to rework the album a bit and update the recordings.
Unfortunately, the label that was going to put the album out needed to go on a hiatus for non-business reasons, and so I needed to find a new label. I used that as an excuse to address parts of the album I felt hadn’t aged so well, or didn’t fit in as well as they had before. Finally, around February of this year I finished the album for the third time. All of that is to say that the album changed multiple times; by the end, my goal was to try to maintain a somewhat consistent experience.
How important is it to you that an album work as a full definitive statement front to back?
I think albums can work either way. An album that’s musically all over the place can work well as long as the band does well enough with all of those different styles. I think of more off-the-wall bands like Pensées Nocturnes or—going back in time a bit—Lux Occulta, the only real musical theme to those bands is that nothing is off limits. They’ll chase any musical flight of fancy, but it just works anyway. Lyrics are kind of the same way. I can appreciate an album where the lyrical themes have very little or no connection from song to song. The same goes for an album with a continuous theme, be it religious, emotional, political, fantasy, history or whatever.
For my own work, I’m still learning how to give an album a consistent feeling throughout. It’s one of the drawbacks of being on your own. No one’s in your ear saying “that’s fucking stupid” or “this song doesn’t fit.” So, I have to learn to be my own editor, and that’s an ongoing struggle for me.
Your music is clearly driven by a love of second-wave Black Metal; are there any records that you’d cite specifically as inspirations? When you’re writing music, do you purposefully listen to anything in particular, or on the flip side, do you AVOID specific music so as not to be overly influenced?
There are certain albums that are just sewn into the tissue in my brain. Ulver’s Nattens Madrigal, Satyricon’s Nemesis Divina, and Emperor’s Anthems to the Welkin At Dusk among many others. Emperor doesn’t factor into my own music really at all, but the other two are consistent influences for Void Ritual. As I think about Heretical Wisdom, I hear echoes of different albums throughout. I hear Sacramentum’s Far Away From The Sun or The Abyss (the black metal band made up of Hypocrisy members switching instruments) in parts of “Breathing Ice.” I hear Sargeist or Mgła in songs like “The Flood” or “The Frozen Altar.” There’s obviously a big De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas influence on “Nachzehrer.”
I’ve never been one to pretend like I have an original vision. Void Ritual is absolutely grown from bits and pieces of the albums I’ve listened to over the 20 years I’ve been into black metal. That’s what Void Ritual is. It’s my own love letter to the genre I’ve spent the entirety of my adult life following.
If you found yourself writing music in a separate vein (say you started naturally writing a doom record), would you create a different name for it, or is Void Ritual whatever you personally write and record, regardless of genre?
I definitely would, and already have. I was mentioning flights of fancy earlier, and I’m definitely prone to those too. For a lot of those random impulses, I have a project called Dead Wretch. Dead Wretch kind of has two separate components. There’s the primary Dead Wretch, which has an EP out called Fuck it and the musical style is sort of this weird punk/black metal/grind hybrid. Then there’s something I do call “Dead Wretch Presents”, which is what I call these sort of just one-off releases. So far there’s been “Nekromura,” which is an EP with a lot more traditional heavy metal influence, with lyrics about about pro wrestler Shinsuke Nakamura. Then there’s “Hellfire,” an EP with a black/thrash first wave black metal feel to it.
But coming back to your actual question, I definitely view Void Ritual as one specific thing, and I can always think of some other goofy name if I want to make something else. Bands like Ulver or Opeth might be able to make a drastic musical shift work for them, but I’m nowhere near respected or talented enough to pull that off.
You’ve worked with Tridroid before; what brought you back? And how’d you hook up with Throats for the CD version?
I feel like I owe Tridroid a lot. It was Tridroid that invested time and money into my music and got me covered in places like Cvlt Nation and other big name blogs to begin with. The only way I end up with any kind of audience at all, is Curtis Dewar checking out my bandcamp page and Tridroid agreeing to put out a tape. I’d put Holodomor up on Bandcamp for months before anyone took notice. But Curtis listened to it and pitched it to the label and got people to give it a shot.
Tridroid is under different management now, but Christine looks set to make Tridroid even better than it was. She puts so much effort into her releases. Just look at the Uprising album from earlier this year. She goes all out on packaging to make her releases feel as special as they can be.
Throats Productions was something where they had contacted me about releasing an album, but it was during a time when I’d pretty much already had a label lined up. When that fell through, Throats was one of the first labels I contacted about putting out the album. They put out albums called Ascetic Eventide by Pure Wrath and Nightscapes by Black Faith which are albums I enjoy, so I thought of them immediately. Thankfully, they were still interested after so much time had passed.
What’s next for you?
That’s up in the air at the moment. I’ve had some projects brewing for a while now. I’ve been sitting on a weird, Godzilla-themed death metal album for over a year now. I’ve been in the middle of recording a follow up to Dead Wretch’s Fuck it over the last couple of months, which has more of an emphasis on the rock n’ roll end of that style’s sound. I’ve got a new black metal project called Vereiteln that I’m doing with M. of Rêx Mündi, which is going to be recorded over the summer and fall. I’ll be doing bass and vocals for that. It sounds like a mix of Arckanum and Moonblood. It’s a bit more melodic than that, but still minimalist and raw like those bands.
Thank you so much for taking the time to answer these questions.
I appreciate you taking the time to talk to me. Thanks, again!