The Meads Of Asphodel have honed their craft deep in the catacombs of the underground for years now. For well over ten years, they’ve been combining black metal in its most cold and remorseless sense – with prog soundscapes, female vocals, classic rock thunder and several other oddities that most bands wouldn’t normally implement into their music. They revel in lengthy song titles based around detailed concepts and are no stranger to just as lengthy epics, as well as a couple of punk rock covers. They even put their own unsettling lyrical spin on the classic “Wonderful World” that simply has to be heard to be believed. Their new album Sonderkommando brings us to the very worst of man and addresses the concept of human genocide from the point of view of condemned slaves. I spoke to the mastermind behind all of this, The Metatron as he not only enlightened me on the album itself, but on other topics that relate to the message of human hatred. Perhaps after reading these words, you too will feel a bit more enlightened.
Talk about the recording process behind Sonderkommando. Some parts of this album were actually recorded in Auschwitz, a widely known Nazi concentration camp. What parts were recorded here and why did you choose to record them in Auschwitz?
Parts of the narratives were recorded on site and I felt this would bring some authenticity to the concept of the Holocaust. It was a very emotional time to be wandering within the barbed wire fences of Birkenau and to absorb the inspiration for the lyrics. It has a ghostly atmosphere of distant foreboding horror and the chill of death permeates the air. There was no point in trying to create this album unless I actually saw with my own eyes the very place that the album is based around.
What is the story of Sonderkommando? From what I’ve read, it’s taken from the point of view of the individual who takes the bodies from the gas chambers and searches their bodies for valuables before finally putting them in the incinerators.
The story is of hatred and how racism can create such horror. The album deals with Hitler and the German war machine that cloaked the racial elimination of the Jews. It tells of most European countries being complicit to the crime of murder where women and children were slaughtered because of a twisted ideology. Anti-Semitism, no matter what your view is on this subject; can be no excuse for killing children and treating a race of human beings like vermin. Hatred is the key lesson the human race needs to learn as it is hatred that drives us to obscene cruelty and illogical acts of brutality. The Sonderkommando were the unfortunate Jews who dragged the naked corpse covered in piss and vomit from the gas chambers. They pulled out the gold teeth of the dead and cremated the remains. It was mass murder unlike anything else in history. Maybe not as vast as Stalin’s crimes, but the deliberate European scale of an industrial death machine that involved vast logistics and efficiency is beyond comparison.
For such a bleak concept, the release comes off as very trance-like, somewhat spatial in places. The title track alone seems to be reminiscent of 70’s prog rock. What was the inspiration for this?
There is a Pink Floyd feel to the first track but that is the calm before the storm. The ruthless heart of the album is brutal and raw, cold to the bone and bleak to the senses. There are moments of surreal visions and melody that is basically our sound. The first track is the longest and is a slow burning atmosphere that explodes into the jaws of death. It is meant to pull you into a dreamy realm of peace that will suddenly shatter about your senses and pummel you into the rabid jaws of death.
After doing many albums in the underground, you were picked up by Candlelight Records around the time of the last release. How has it been working with Candlelight and have they helped you to reach a larger audience?
The label spreads our music to a wider audience and that is never a bad thing. We have the label’s support and free artistic expression with our music. I prefer the raw charm of the underground and believe in its support. The underground scene is the life blood of all music. I still seek out obscure demos and splits from around the world. I hate downloading as it takes the heart away from the underground and all internet thieves can fuck off! (At the same time, all distro’s and labels who sell at high prices can fuck off as well…)
This album features many guests which is not unlikely for the band, but certainly adds to the flavor of the album. Can you talk about each of these guests and where they were utilized? Is “Son Of Metatron” your actual son?
My son does appear on the track, “Lamenting Weaver Of Horror” as a lost child that wanders in death the realm of limbo. He asks where and why he is dead and the voice of death answers. He recorded his narrative without hearing the answers as they are too adult for his ears. But I needed authenticity in this part of the album. It is the surreal, dreamy section that some may feel out of place or self-indulgent.
We also have Mirai from Sigh doing a wicked keyboard solo on the track, “Children Of The Sunwheel Banner Part 2” and Roibéard Ó Bogail from Mael Mordha playing whistle on the track “Lamenting Weaver Of Horror.” Oristalla from the UK band Diversis adds some gut ripping shrieks on the track, “Aktion T4”. You have to hear her unearthly screams to behold pure death itself. Vitaly Abramovic from Gods Tower also plays lead guitar on that same track. Rob ‘Baron Miller’ from Amebix does some vocal on the track “Hourglass of Ash” while J.D. Taits (master Meads song smith) has his father doing Saxophone on a few tracks, and there is also a harmonica player as well as J.M from Wolves of Avalon contributing on the intro to “Children Of The Sunwheel Banner.”
What was it like working with Sigh on their recent album, In Somniphobia? It’s personally one of my favourite Sigh albums and I was surprised to hear your vocals on that record.
Mirai is a great gentleman and a really nice fellow. We get on very well and it was great to be on In Somniphobia. I wrote the lyrics for the song, “Amongst the Phantoms of Abandoned Tumbrils” and it was an honour to contribute to this album. The Sigh MCD, The Ghastly Funeral Theatre was a big influence on my ideas for forming the Meads along with other bands like The Doors, Hawkwind, Venom and Warfare.
Did you have an idea of how this album was going to sound from the beginning, like maybe in the fact that you wanted more hypnotic keyboards and more theatrical effects, or was it something that came together piece by piece? Are you satisfied with the final product?
J.D Tait crafted the songs with the elements of the song titles in mind. It was a year of crafting different moods and dark, cold atmospheres. My lyrical concept was then laid upon the music J.D had created and like a massive puzzle, the pieces slowly came together. The guests then added their own mark on the songs to transform and add another dynamic to the sound. We always have a rough idea of how we want the album to sound, but it always grows and expands into the final version.
“Lamenting Weaver Of Horror” comes off as slightly new territory for the band, in the fact that it’s almost a complete theatrical skit. Could you explain this skit and what exactly is happening to this child who appears to be facing death?
My son narrates the part of a lost child recently murdered and I am the voice of death. It is a very theatrical piece and sits in the middle of the album. I wanted to weave the Shakespeare Macbeth witches scene by changing the text and creating a cauldron of hatred where all the evils of the holocaust are boiled into a hell broth of hate. Then death mocks the child in the afterlife and finally the track bleeds into the whistle of death and the final part of the song. It’s a very surreal moment in the album and something we have never tried to do before on this emotional scale. You will either love or hate it.
Tell me about “The Musselmans Wander…” which has a title that is almost a paragraph in length. Why is the title of this track so long and what is the concept there?
We always have lengthy song titles at the end of our albums. It’s just something we have always done. The song is about the 12th Sonderkommando that actually tried to fight back against their oppressors. They were all executed, but they did manage to blow up a crematorium. I find this moment in the Holocaust very inspiring as most Jews were confused into their deaths by a very efficient Nazi death machine. It is not really spoken of much but I feel it is very important to know that these condemned people did occasionally fight back.
Who is Maher-Shalal-Hash-Baz? It sounds like some sort of Middle Eastern character of sorts. What does the concept of this track illustrate, that the same actions could be perpetrated again in the Middle East?
Being that the whole concept revolves around the Jews and the Nazi war machine I ended the album with this cryptic song title that alludes to the ancient Jewish prophet Isaiah’s first born son. It is a confusing prophetic name that is explained in detail on the web page www.themeadsofasphodel.com, as are the rest of the lyrics. It is a reference to the steadfast faith of the Jews in the death camps and does not have anything to do with any current or future events in the Middle East.
Obviously, the Holocaust is one of the most horrifying instances in the whole of mankind. There certainly must be a reason why you’ve chosen to tackle this topic at this uncertain point inhuman history. Do you think there’s a possibility of something like this happening again? Why?
This album is the natural successor to the previous (The Murder Of) Jesus The Jew album. It is the climax to a slow growth of anti-Semitism born from the Roman Church. I feel the racial hatreds indoctrinated into Europe over the centuries made the Holocaust a reality that could never have happened if the Jews had not been cited as God Killers by the Catholic Church. Genocide is not restricted to the Jews, and it happens all across our unstable world and will happen again as it is happening now. Until we grasp the root of hatred and try to live in peace there will always be human cruelty and mass murder. Again, the web page deals with this subject in great detail if you wish to know more about the album’s deeper meaning.
I will never forget the speech at the end of “Aborted Stygian Foetus” from your album “In The Name Of God…” I’ve found more truth in those words than in most I’ve heard since. It really seems if man is dooming himself to failure due to his own confusion and irrational actions. Fast forward many years later and things seem to be even worse these days. Sometimes I just sit back and smile like Nero as I wonder, “Can it really get any worse?” Your thoughts?
From the days of the pharaohs to the Romans and from the Romans to the mighty world wars, the plight of humanity remains the same. Medicines have improved, but so have the weapons. We live in a world of religious confusion, of racial disharmony and cultural disintegration. Fanatics preach hatred as they always have and wars are fought as they always have been fought. I think the world is slowly getting wiser. Life for many is better, freer and less ignorant. This applies more to the West than the east. The third world nations are the breeding ground of extremism and fanatics as this is where the ignorant exist. It was the same in Europe 500 years ago when only the clergy could read, and the masses were ignorant to the truth of the world. Now the west is less inclined to believe that the world is flat and that God will burn the unbelievers in fire and brimstone. It is a question of evolution and in time no religion will exist because it cannot do so in a world of truth where every person is aware of its meaning.
This being said, do you think mankind will last another ten years? Five, if we’re lucky?
Of course it will last another ten years. We have today the hot beds of Iran and North Korea, which is where the instability resides. China and Russia are no threat to world peace. Africa is too disjointed to cause too much fear and the religious extremism of Islam is but a magnet for psychopaths who can acquire a licence to murder children. I believe Iran will succumb to democracy in time and North Korea will never start a war because they could never win it. So now we are left with the Middle East and the Jews. Here amongst one of the biggest evils of humanity, religion simmers the woes of hatred. Beyond this human madness there may be a disease we cannot contain, a meteorite that will smash us into oblivion, or maybe even a God to boil us all in piss…
What bands would you consider inspirational to your work, and what bands are you currently listening to now? Are there any that you’d recommend?
As I have mentioned for my part, Hawkwind, Sigh, Venom, Bathory, Warfare and many others. J.D Tait is the main song smith and he likes everything and anything so his influences are vast, which makes him such an expressive musician. Nothing is alien to him when it comes to music. It is his life’s blood.
I am listening at the moment to the depressive black metal band, Hate Sworn a slothful, morbid band that calms me in moments of stress. I find this music invigorates me and although the music feels like you need to slit your wrists, it makes me feel the opposite…
What kind of instruments did you use on this album? (What kind of guitars, drums bass, effects, keyboards exc.) What makes up the signature Meads of Asphodel sound?
J.D Tait is best to answer this but he is afar and I am not qualified to give you an in depth answer. J.D Tait is the engine room of the Meads, it is his creative spark that crafts the music around my lyrical themes and together we add the twists and turns that mark our sound.
What are you working on for the next album? Will there be a next album?
I am now working on the next Wolves of Avalon album and J.D Tait is working on his projects The Higher Craft, and Ebonillumini. I shall rest from the horrors of genocide and the hatred of the human heart. The next Wolves of Avalon album will be titled Boudicca’s Last Stand and shall embrace my land’s Celtic past. It is a welcome change to absorb a different pagan metal musical atmosphere.
Let’s talk touring. What are some of the best experiences you’ve had while doing shows, and some of the worst?
We have never toured and will probably never will.
Thanks for your answers and I hope that this album gets the proper promotion that it deserves. You’ve always worked exceptionally hard as a musician and this album sees that effort in paramount form.
Many thanks for your time and interest in the Meads of Asphodel. I wish you well in your endeavours to promote underground metal and honour your passion and metal soul.
I bid you well,