Elysian Blaze Ascends From the Shadows of Time
There is something so uniquely black metal about the isolated solo artist, their total lack of sociability completely separating the enigma of their artistic self from whoever exists behind it. For fifteen years, the lonesome Mutatiis has wallowed in his own puzzling identity as Elysian Blaze within the deepest recesses of southern Australia. Initially entrenched in the grey area between the "depressive suicidal black metal" and "black/funeral doom metal" phenomena of the mid-2000s, Mutatiis's cavernous performances were in a league all their own, fallen victim to the category-imposing early era of Encyclopedia Metallum reviews and metal blogging.
As his career moved forward, his music grew exponentially; comparing the harsh fluidity Levitating the Carnal to the mammoth, doomed Blood Geometry double album exemplifies the arrow of time. Elysian Blaze only lurched onward, candleless, into the sepulchral darkness which defined its art.
Then there was silence. It is expected for an artist to unwind and recenter after releasing a two-hour mammoth like the aforementioned Blood Geometry, but correspondence with Mutatiis soon fell silent. Rumors of a follow-up in 2014 came and passed, and here Elysian Blaze stands in 2018, a silent monolith… until April. It was unexpected to see any new material from this project after fans had long-since resigned to the project's demise, and Mutatiis, too, declared a similar sort of frustrating stagnation which defined his six-year silence.
Reawakening with the twenty-minute "The Virtue of Suffering," Elysian Blaze, too, found itself redefined and revitalized. So suddenly crystalline and overtly melodic, the sinister nature which once defined this mysterious Australian's career is cast off, revealing the emotive, philosophical nature held beneath. In a rare interview, his first in years, Mutatiis discusses Elysian Blaze so long after his monolithic last album, putting the entire sequence of the project's music into a beautiful, unexpected story arc.
Elysian Blaze has followed a very linear progression when zeroing in on the concepts of album-length and grandeur, which appear to be correlating features of the project as a whole. Do you approach the creative project with these things in mind, or is this more of an unplanned eventuality of Elysian Blaze as a whole?
Internally speaking, I would say that the sonic/structural manifestation of Elysian Blaze is a consequence of intent. My intentions have somewhat changed over the years, that is true, but the core intent has remained the same; to explore consciousness through using music as a vehicle, so to speak. Consequently, the deeper I explore consciousness, the greater the manifestation of Elysian Blaze becomes. I never set out to write a long song, I just follow the flow and allow my intuition guide the way. Elysian Blaze is more about the manifestation of 'timing' as opposed to 'time'. There is no point in deciding to write a 'really long song'; that intent has never been a part of the equation. Instead, I intentionally seek the opportunity to create dynamics within a composition, which is all about timing. I find great joy in creating dynamic peaks and valleys in my compositions, which ultimately is the most self aware intention I have. Everything else is a direct consequence of this.
The idea of the portrayal of consciousness is unexpected, considering the general acceptance of Elysian Blaze as part of the greater "depressive black metal" canon. Which aspects of consciousness and psyche do you intend to communicate through the Elysian Blaze catalyst?
When I refer to consciousness, I am referring to the metaphysical; a realm of infinite and unbounded possibility. I feel that humans are receptors and generators of consciousness, and I also feel that the physical realm we live in is a manifestation of consciousness. I find it amazing to think that we have access to the infinite world of consciousness, but at the same time the degree to which we are permitted access is dependant on our physical well-being. Physical limitations can refer to our environment and our genetics. There is an internal struggle present right there, and I feel that is something I touch upon consistently with Elysian Blaze. Perhaps that is where the feeling of melancholy stems from; the feeling of yearning to exist beyond the physical, without limitation, and the pursuit of spiritual liberation and freedom. If we were to observe the thematic of Elysian Blaze, for instance, Levitating the Carnal or Blood Geometry -- those titles refer to the physical (Carnal, Blood), the metaphysical (Levitating, Geometry), and the interaction/struggle between these two dimensions.
Throughout history, humans have altered their physical states and surroundings in order to 'cross over' to the other side. Ritualistic behaviors, the construction of physical structures, movements in synchronicity with the cosmos, meditations etc. are nothing new in this day and age. To travel the infinite sea of consciousness and explore this dimension can inspire the formation of archetypes and higher forms. With this knowledge we then seek to manifest it on planet earth, typically through an art form. What I have come to learn from all of this is that the most important aspect is how it makes us feel. What feeling does these experiences give us? Fear, love, euphoria, sadness? Over the years I have learnt to become self-aware of the feelings I generate with Elysian Blaze. I cannot explain why I express my feelings the way I do; if they are my own at all. If I were to describe the ultimate, highest feeling a human could experience; I probably couldn't. But that is the destination of Elysian Blaze. The purpose of Elysian Blaze is to generate the highest feelings possible.
There is definitely a higher sense of that euphoria and counter-balance on your new song, "The Virtue of Suffering", especially when compared to the more cavernous and obscured feelings which precede it. Will this crystalline and awe-inspiring sound dictate Elysian Blaze's future and become a new staple of the project?
I believe the pursuit to reach euphoric "highs" has always been the main vision of Elysian Blaze; it has just taken some time to discover how to achieve this. Part of this process has been growing out of a comfort zone and not worrying about the expectations of what "black metal" should [or] shouldn't be. That being said, you are correct in referring to a 'counter-balance' so to speak... I will never cease to pursue the depths of darkness. To experience the dark side, and to feel its power and emotion and embrace it in all it's maniacal raging glory is absolutely necessary for me. It's all about contrasts and dynamics and the power of polarity. Of course, it's a balancing act at times, but at the core of it all one must remain honest and transparent as it is very easy to 'emulate' the experiential dimension of aural manifestation.
Is there any frustration in being associated with the one-dimensional emotional content and approach of something like "depressive black metal"?
The way I see it, once you release your own music to the world, you have to accept that certain conditions are no longer under your control. When it comes to the genre classification of Elysian Blaze, I haven't made any overt attempt to say "this is what it is!" -- instead, I've allowed others to come their own conclusions. Of course, I totally understand why it would be nurtured within the whole depressive black metal movement, especially when considering the first two demos and debut album. My intent at the beginning was the create the darkest music I possibly could; more like a horror soundtrack other than anything else. Even so, I knew I would be limiting myself if I didn't at least attempt to access themes alluding to spiritual growth and ascension. Maybe I was afraid to be overt about that intention at the beginning because I didn't know how it could, or if it should belong within the context of black metal. It sounds silly, but it really challenged my perceptions on how I should approach the art form. When I created Levitating the Carnal, I finally started to embrace my higher intentions and that pathway has been developing ever since. That being said, some things will never change; the emotional content of Elysian Blaze will always embrace the melancholic archetype, simply because it resonates strongly inside of me -- but for a higher purpose. And yes, I must admit, sometimes I feel Elysian Blaze is misunderstood when it is associated with other acts who I find uninspiring thematically, but, at the end of the day, things will fall into place as they should, thus I persist.
Is there any hope a sense of clarity will follow with the eventual release of the music you wrote shortly after the release of Blood Geometry?
It's hard to say really. The next album, and I've always felt this way, is going to be a 'bridge' to something else. So it will exist in a kind of grey area, so to speak, but it will definitely mark the end of an era and the beginning of a new one. Even though I've written it, a lot of the details and personality will only truly begin to emerge when I'm finally deep within the recording process. All I can say at this point that the next album will be a very controlled, composed, directed and focused release. Consequently, I think that will result in me pursuing more spontaneous and experimental ways of expressing Elysian Blaze in the future; something raw, primal, with plenty of free form swing. My intent will be to blur the lines between form and chaos, always seeking to evoke feelings unfelt. We shall see!
The statement you made regarding the release of "The Virtue of Suffering" exuded a bit of self-intimidation, given the desire to fully re-interpret the means through which the Elysian Blaze philosophy. Is it difficult to follow up something massive and grandiose like Blood Geometry, or is there something deeper and more personal at work?
I recorded the first three albums between 2005 and 2007; that has been pretty much the entirety of my material, and it is the year 2018 [laughs]. Back then, I had no fear. It was simply plug in and play. I didn't care too much about my equipment, about sound quality, about musicality. All I had was an intense energy and vision to create those albums. It was a magickal and glorious time, it truly was. Especially the writing and recording process of Blood Geometry; that was a [really] otherworldly experience and feeling and [it is] something I can't explain nor will I ever forget. However, when I finished recording Blood Geometry in August 2007, I would listen to it, and simply hate it. There was something not right about it. It wasn't speaking to me on a deeper level, I wasn't feeling the feelings I wanted to get from it, so I just had to shut it away for a while. Sometimes I wonder what would've happened if I had have released the 2007 version right there and then; there are no regrets of course, it just interests me to think about it. But, I think I know what happened: I became self-aware. Sounds strange, but I felt I had exposed something very important with Blood Geometry, and I hadn't done it justice. It was at this period I started to finally understand music; I started to appreciate timbres, timing, swing, songwriting -- things I had previously neglected to absorb because I was so possessed with my vision. So, between 2008 and 2012, I would touch upon Blood Geometry, remixed the entire album several times, removed sections, changed sections, added sections; nothing overly significant at all, just small touches here and there over the course of three or four years until I felt confident enough to send it off for release.
Even so, through all of that, I never stopped writing new material, nor stopped envisioning the next stages and steps of Elysian Blaze. So, I started trying to record the follow up in 2012 and finally stopped trying in 2014. I could no longer "plug in and play." My vision was still as intense as ever, but my methods of capturing that vision had changed. I became more controlling, meticulous and analytical. I started to worry too much about guitar tone, drum timbres, timing, and the smallest details. But it was something I had to go through. I had to stop and rethink my ways. Taking on an entire album was just too much for me, I had to start over again, hence the decision to record "The Virtue of Suffering" -- and even that process was difficult. I started trying to record that song in the beginning of 2017, and the same cycles I experienced before started again. My problem is that I'm a perfectionist, far too self critical with the strong tendency to overthink and analyse. When I finally committed to a recording cycle with "The Virtue of Suffering", I persisted and eventually succeeded. It's been a totally ludicrous journey but I wouldn't have it any other way.
If Blood Geometry came from a mixture of impetuousness and this eventual ideological shift toward perfectionism, what should we expect from your future, detail-driven efforts?
As much as I go on about things, in pretty dramatic way mind you, it's pretty interesting how some things tend to remain the same. Future compositions will still be sprawling and multi-faceted, there will be lots of reverb [laughs], ethereal soundscapes and distorted riffs. Ninety percent of what we know of Elysian Blaze will still continue to exist. The biggest change has come across with song tempo and choice of drum beat. I have opted for more consistent tempos, and stronger, simpler drum work. This has laid down the foundation to allow me to create more defined and controlled compositions, and create space for finer detail. For example, if you listen to "The Virtue of Suffering", you would find the drumming in the song is very linear for the most part, almost militant in execution. During re-working how I approach drums, I started to slow down significantly. Slow, intentional, and controlled, that is the name of the game now. There is still room for speed, but it's more about creating space as opposed to creating chaos. We have a destination to reach and we must remain focused and vigilant.
It's funny you mention tempo, I always found the public imbuing of the "funeral doom" tag to Elysian Blaze to be a little short-sighted until now, which is, what... fifteen years later? It's interesting how the practice of music categorizing can be so poorly executed by the listeners.
[Laughs] As I was answering that previous question and brought up the point of tempo, straight away I started to think about the whole 'funeral doom' tag I've been associated with. I have never, ever considered Elysian Blaze to be any form of 'doom', and I was actually quite surprised when people started to describe the music as 'funeral doom.' I've always seen what I do as some form of atmospheric black metal; simple as that, really. I slow down the tempo because it creates atmosphere and heaviness... I guess they are defining features of doom, but black metal can be slow, mid tempo explorations. The whole practice of music categorising is interesting. It doesn't take much for listeners to latch on to some general terminology and stick with it, but I can understand why. Giving an artist a genre label is ultimately the greatest form of 'face value' validity available. A genre tag can mean something different to every individual, but at the end of the day there is an accepted 'general' view of what a genre will offer. It's a quick, efficient way of communicating something to a wide audience. The genre 'black metal' evokes numerous images in the mind, but I would argue that there is a standardized form which we can all agree to be valid, but therein also lies the problem... Artists all strive for their own unique platform and identity, thus the whole genre tag predicament can cause some interesting conflicts. Even so, as fickle as it all may seem, it's still an important discussion to be had, because when we start to define what we do, and what it should be called, we begin to become self-aware of associations and what our artistic purpose may be.
Do you think the idea and value of the artist's intent can be lost in this greater ontological abstraction?
Yes, it is very much possible... we are in a way discussing the concept of a psychological schema; artist intent/behavior and its relationship with classification and preconception. Inevitably, one will influence the other, and the outcome is strongly dependant on an artists initial intent. If an artist chooses to create simply to 'sound' like something, they will become lost within the preconception of how they should sound, not how they could sound. Artists and listeners are both responsible in this process, and the schemas between the two will interact and reinforce movements within the scene... What sounds work? What sounds do people generally 'agree' to? Thus, our preconception begins to create a framework, paving out a pathway towards what is considered actualisation... but, of course, anything that has been built up can be torn down, and that is the responsibility of the artist. Artist idea and intent has to be a strong, simple and reliable structure to stand the test of time. We will build upon the structures of others, until one reaches the loftiest of heights, but if that structural foundation (initial idea/intent) is weak or poorly designed, no matter how high you build, the end result will become lost within the collective schema of true art.
What do you hope to tear down with Elysian Blaze?
I will keep it quite simple, and internalized. My targets are not set on the outside world, nor on other people. I simply seek to tear down my limitations to express. Even so, I feel that no matter what, Elysian Blaze will always have to filter through some limitation, namely during the recording process (physical/environmental limitation). Trying to capture the vital, unfiltered essence of the vision is a true challenge... At the end of it all, some aspects have to be compromised simply because I don't have the ability to physically manifest the vision to the degree that I want. However, the greatest limitation resides within; ego, fear, complacency... These constructs must be torn down. The schema of what Elysian Blaze is or should be must always come under attack, torn down and rebuilt. I have to remind myself that Elysian Blaze has nothing to do with me; it exists in the world of the metaphysical, I'm merely a receptor, chosen to manifest, therefore my job is to make sure my connection with the source is as pure as possible.
"This Temple Must Fall"
Precisely. "To destroy this Temple and in 3 days rise..." The whole idea of self-destruction, perhaps self-sacrifice, as a means of rebirth is constant with Elysian Blaze. I don't really know why, but I guess the act of self-sacrifice brings out emotions that closely resemble what Elysian Blaze expresses... The emotional content came first, then it had to be manifested into words, visions, stories... this is what has resulted. It's interesting.
How do you expect this new cycle of rebirth to propel the project itself, if there is any expectation at all?
On a superficial level, I aim to further establish Elysian Blaze as its own unique world, so to speak. Comparisons are inevitable, [and] that is fine, of course, but to shift further away from the crowd, and to create an aural environment that is distinct, both in sound and purpose, would be gratifying. Again, it all comes down to how the listener feels at the end of it all... To evoke feelings from the listener that are unique in intensity and emotion, to enable the listener to experience the highest feelings possible, is always the intent with each cycle of creation.
There exists a universe of sound and there are infinite combinations in which we can manifest and compose from this universe in order to create music. This universe of sound exists on a continuum, from the slowest, lowest vibration, to the highest, fastest vibrational force. Elysian Blaze is a manifestation of this continuum; which has resulted in the Elysian Blaze possessing its own 'category' of sound. To strengthen this category, to make it something vital, true and moving is an expectation of mine. Whether it can even be achieved is something entirely else; I can accept that. What I can't accept is not possessing a vision that goes beyond the norm.