Blackened Expressionism in Tenebrae in Perpetuum’s “Anorexia Obscura”
Abject terror. It’s difficult to truly communicate such an emotion through music, let alone make the listener feel it, too. To be frank, music generally isn’t scary, and albums which are touted as the most terrifying generally come off as your average haunted house soundtrack. It just doesn’t work, at least most of the time, but, as it is with every rule in music, there are exceptions.
The recently revived Tenebrae in Perpetuum, laid to rest by its mastermind Atratus in 2010, seeks to terrify, or at least make the listener feel the terror. “I would define the new album Anorexia Obscura as pure expressionist black poetry,” multi-instrumentalist and vocalist Atratus posits in an interview, which can be read below, “and I think that’s how black metal should be, like wandering all night in a snowy forest and finally seeing the clear light of dawn.” Expressionism, of course, referring to a style of art which concentrates on the emotional experience rather than an impression of said experience (see: “The Scream”, Emil Nolte’s “The Prophet”, et cetera). Listen to an exclusive stream of Anorexia Obscura below.
Steeped in layered minimalism and jagged sounds, Tenebrae in Perpetuum’s revival emerges from the crypt rather than some divine ascension. “After 2010,” Atratus continues, “I realized that I should try to dare more and create more personal music.” And dare Atratus did, from his throat to the listeners ears is a stream of pure trepidation, a psychotic meditation in pure emotion and experiential dread.
Bearing superficial bases of comparison to Tenebrae in Perpetuum’s pre-2010 discography — the blackened chaos and expressionistic disgust — Anorexia Obscura is a slow disintegration. Across the album, Atratus descends further into vocal madness, literally shredding his own throat as a means of self-destruction and expression of madness. The destruction of the body, slowly disappearing into nothingness, the suffering found within Anorexia Obscura is a new level of art found within Atratus’s now-lengthy career. And it is terrifying.
After announcing your retirement from music and ending Tenebrae in Perpetuum almost ten years ago, what led you to resurrect the project?
The decision to revive Tenebrae in Perpetuum was not sudden but took thanks to various circumstances. In 2016 I resumed writing strange NON metal music, experimental and in any case depressive with the aim of creating something profoundly different from everything I had done before, and this was the first step.
But that wasn’t Tenebrae in Perpetuum yet.
Later I took up and completed a black metal song written in 2017, thanks to the invitation to join the compilation for the 15 years of foundation of by Debemur Morti Prod, that contained some influences of that strange music. This song seemed very interesting to me and I thought it could be a new beginning. After 2010, thinking back to the music of Tenebrae in Perpetuum, I realized that I should try to dare more and create more personal music and probably a little of that experimental music started in 2016 could be the way to do it. So I came back because I have really something to say again e penso che.
What inspires you to create darker, more personal music like Tenebrae in Perpetuum?
I think everyone starts to play imitating their favorite bands and this is fine in the early days but then it is right to find your own way, if it’s possible. In 2010 I stopped Tenebrae in Perpetuum also for the lack of ideas and inspirations to be able to continue.
Black metal is a genre with very specific rules to be defined as such, I refer to aspects such as dark atmospheres, extremism and violence of sound and little melody, but I also believe that there are wide possibilities for evolution and personalization to its indoor. I don’t know if Anorexia Obscura can stand out from everything else but I think it’s a first step to be able to do it in the future. In addition to the sound, I am obviously referring to those new raw electronic parts in the analog type that have been merged with Black metal in the Tenebrae in Perpetuum style.
The new album might seem a little different from the music made 10-15 years ago but it’s been a long time and that’s right so and I would say mandatory too. Even the lyrics and the artwork follow this kind of evolution. If everything were exactly the same as our old stuff, it probably would never have been finished and published.
There is an abstraction in the way Anorexia Obscura moves, something much more experimental and fragmented. What led to this?
When writing an album there are things that can be decided and planned while many others are born from a stream of consciousness that is not always possible to control.
After all these years in which I obviously suffered influences of various kinds (musical, visual, cinematographic, personal experiences, etc.) this stream of consciousness must have evolved and changed and the result was writing and producing Anorexia Obscura. This could be the reason why the album took this form. This album is certainly more experimental, complex and fragmented than the previous ones, but I hope is that people will be willing to take the time to listen and understand it, which is certainly not easy in this age of bulimia about listening and watching. Only in this way, perhaps, will it be possible to understand the balance between complexity and proportion of the structures. There is a clear method behind the madness of Anorexia Obscura!
When you refer to “bulimia” about listening and watching, does that refer to the amount of media we take in on a daily basis?
Yes, of course. We are continually distracted by a thousand of sounds and images and the attention time we are able to dedicate to a song is ever smaller. Unfortunately, I also fall into this type of trap many times. That is why, when you record an album, it is even more important to have a sound that manages to capture the listener.
Having too many things available is often a bad thing, minimalism is better.
Do you try to apply this minimalism to your art?
About Tenebrae in Perpetuum, especially if you look at the first works, I think it is quite clear [there is a] minimal approach with regards to melodies and arrangements, as well as for other aspects such the image of the band. Of course the minimalism can be taken to the extreme consequences and far beyond what was done by Tenebrae in Perpetuum but also in this case the role of the musician is to seek a balance between too much and too little.
I try to follow a minimalist approach also in general life and as far as possible I try to eliminate all that is not essential.
What do you feel are those essential elements with regard to Tenebrae in Perpetuum?
I could simply tell you that what you listen and see in Anorexia Obscura is all that I currently consider essential for Tenebrae in Perpetuum. Perhaps it is easier to say what is NOT essential. There is still absolutely no need for a clean and professional recording of our music, as well as not doing live shows. Until 2008 it was not even necessary to publish photos of the band, which we started doing only with the 2009 album. Until a few months ago Tenebrae in Perpetuum didn’t even have a real band logo, preferring a simple writing in gothic font. I can therefore say that I have always preferred to communicate almost exclusively with music, patiently waiting for the band’s name to spread thanks to it. Honestly this was mainly true for the early years of the band’s life, now we have adapted a little by posting some photos, taking more care of the artwork and giving a few more interviews.
What does the title Anorexia Obscura mean in the context of the album? Is there a concept behind it?
Almost all the lyrics on the album talk about the relationship between mental and nervous diseases and its consequences on the body. This relationship is often described as self-tortures by devices of cold silicon, sharp steel, strange oscillations that induce hypnosis, et cetera, all in a very dark and sick context. I consider anorexia and its extreme weight loss as a sort of will or need to disappear because of the incapacity or unwillingness to exist in this world. It’s a concept that I feel very close to.
The title Anorexia Obscura and the artwork arranged by Cold Poison summarize all this very well.
Do you want to disappear?
Yes, sometimes! By “will to disappear” I mean something that is NOT rational, of a deep desire of an individual to no longer exist. Anorexia could be one of the tools that a being puts into practice unconsciously to achieve this goal.
Do you find the Tenebrae in Perpetuum project following this general line of irrationality beyond the single desire to disappear?
When I write music, the first approach is certainly irrational, instinctive, that comes from the depths and is the one that is most connected with the personality of its creator, who represents it better. In my case it coincides with the creation of the first riffs and general structures but also with the recording of the vocals, where it is necessary to pull out everything myself. In particular, if in the music of Tenebrae in Perpetuum there is an element that perfectly represents the desire to disappear, that element is certainly the interpretation of the vocals. The subsequent phases are necessarily more rational and technical, more the result of a brain calculation, when it is necessary to refine the details, arrange the structures, choose the most suitable sounds, etc.
What do you think fully defines Tenebrae in Perpetuum?
Tenebrae in Perpetuum is a band that has always tried to embody the primordial black metal spirit made of really dark, violent, insane and disturbing music and which follows values like isolation and misanthropy.
I would define the new album Anorexia Obscura as pure expressionist black poetry and I think that’s how black metal should be, like wandering all night in a snowy forest and finally seeing the clear light of dawn.