Urarv’s “Red Circle” is an Extreme Metal Oddity
Aldrahn's name carries thirty years of black metal's weight. Or "black metal," given Aldrahn's recent vocal absconding from the genre. The on-again/off-again Dødheimsgard frontman, who performed on canonical early material up through 666 International and returned for A Umbra Omega, has been known for his distinctive, animalistic performances. With a howling, ranting, raving voice which stood as a singular pillar in the midst of the second wave's distant rasping. Now separated from Dødheimsgard once more, Aldrahn has returned his focus to that of a creator as opposed to his tenure as the possessed orator.
Urarv is strange. There are elements of the band which seem familiar on the surface level: the black metal-esque riff-work, the harsh vocals, the rhythmic intensity. It all feels like black metal, but there is this air of avant, or at least progressive, rock which takes the band into a completely separate territory. Aldrahn, Patricia, Sturt, and the surprising addition of Ynleborgaz (Make a Change, Kill Yourself…, Angantyr) take the initial separation of black metal approached by the second wave stalwarts in the late 1990s to early 2000s -- what was initially called post-black metal -- and twist it into a jagged, uncanny valley version of itself. It resembles black metal on the surface, and yet there is something "off" about it, something unsettling which suddenly becomes glaring and upsetting. Of course, upsetting seems to be the root of Urarv's inspiration, first conceived by Aldrahn's meditations on modern ego during a stay in a mental care facility, and Urarv itself seems to separate from black metal's definition-obsessed ego.
Aurum will be released by Svart Records on September 22nd. Listen to "Red Circle" and read an extensive interview with Aldrahn below.
With a concentration on mental uncertainty and the project's impetus dating to a mental care facility stay in 2003, it certainly seems Urarv's debut taps into some very personal themes. What has it been like specifically meditating on these topics in a more direct, artistic sense?
It has been very therapeutic in the sense of being a catalyst. I underwent a great deal of confusion with my ego back in 2003. I was completely blinded by it. Utterly absorbed in my identification with what I have perceived all my life to be "my thoughts." So possessed by them that it formed an energetic entity which I viewed as ego. I was so merged in thinking and, at the same, time experiencing these thoughts as highly hostile and hurtful, that I became a destructive person both to myself and my surroundings.
As music and artistic expression have always been a way to deal with stuff, I, luckily, had my musical arena to use as a creative modulation of my inner turbulence. I still had to go on for several years until [my music] became solid stuff to work with, and, when it was crystallized inside me, it came pouring out as compositions accompanied with lyrics and visions as a whole.
In doing so, I have managed to step out of the streams of thinking because I could see my destructive mind patterns from afar, like a watcher or a silent observer. Not identifying with them, but realizing their nature as thoughts and the root cause of emotions, which I also came to realize are equally experiences in my observing awareness in the same way as thoughts. Putting my suffering into music has [granted me the ability] to look at it from a different point of view and, at the same time, disidentifying with it, as I see it as a result of being unconscious about the fact that the thoughts creating the suffering are only creating suffering because I believe them to be who I am.
Music and art, in general, is a fantastic tool this way, how it can open up doorways to altered states of consciousness. How it can help to create a shift in our minds that can change our lives into something much greater than we thought was real.
Was this process of coping with your emotions -- stepping outside of yourself as a means of analyzing this perceived suffering in order to produce this unique sort of music -- a satisfying task? Did it carry a degree of difficulty?
Well yes, I should say very much so. Satisfying on a deeper level than your "everyday-satisfaction,” as it has left me with a sense of dislocation from the world of thoughts and form, and, thus, a detachment from the source of not knowing who I am, which is equivalent to most of the human suffering.
It has helped me realize the nature of who I am, and that has also made me lose a lot of my fear of living. Losing my fear of living has automatically vaporized a huge load of suppressed anger and hostility that I carried [in my stomach for years]. I'm not saying that I have reached a level of enlightenment or imaginary Nirvana, but at least it has made me become slightly more aware of the world as it is in essence, as opposed to how I interpreted it through my veil of self-deceit.
The realization was not difficult, but being "asleep," though, was killing me from the inside, and this album is based on the whole process of emerging out of a deep dark sleep completely in the grip of Ego, which I also realize to be the necessary adversity in life in order to become aware of awareness itself. It has played an important role in my life, as it does for the rest of humanity as a whole, because it's only through the blindfolded conduct of living that we have the possibility of stepping out of it and seeing things as they are. This is why Ego, to me, is a more moderate term to use than the word Satan, but, in essence, is exactly the same. The oppositional aspect of being, the false self, the self-deceitful nature that leads us to oppression and ruin. The unfulfilled level of evolution. This is what URARV is about, to bring forth an ancient memory that lies buried inside all of us. To bring it alive through the realization of what human darkness is about, what role it plays and the self-destructive mechanism that lies built within it, and, thus, the realization of what lies there beyond.
Do you believe ego is a modern coping mechanism in reaction to this road to ruin?
It IS the road to ruin, both on a personal level as well as on a social level. It is the very prison humanity is caught in and has been so for thousands of years.The very reason why we look for fulfillment in the external world not knowing that we are already complete.That we don't need any sense gratification to make us satisfied when it comes to completion or perfection. The reason why we think involuntarily all the time, why we "just can't stop thinking,” especially in the middle of the night,hehe. Forced to "think this through, solve this issue of me and my life," haha. It's a joke, the greatest joke of all time.
So, no, it's not a coping mechanism, but more like a self-destructive mechanism, whose main purpose is to give energy to the rise of awareness so that we can realize the space in which all things appear and subside and in this way realize how ego is created and how it dissolves and finally who we are as a unified spirit of pure consciousness.
The press release for Aurum stated Urarv's earliest incarnations were as a folk project. How did it progress to this point, and what ultimately made you choose black metal as this vehicle for Urarv's anti-ego message and expression of your own experience?
I never conveyed it as a folk project, nor did I ever tag it as black metal. I never went out to put it under any specific banner at all, but I guess the label had to name it something due to the release.
It's not anti-ego, that would be a misconception. On the contrary, really. Its purpose is to manifest the nature of ego and its shadow bound entity and how it operates within the human soul. "Anti" would be to deny it, but I do the opposite. I want to welcome it into the present moment as much as possible so everyone can see it for what it is -- especially myself, as I find it highly nutritious to shed light on the lightlessness within. How liberating it is to conjure my suppressed emotions and unwanted thoughts and feelings into the complete acceptance of its existence instead of running away from it and denying it.
Now, that's not the entirety of the concept behind the band. It also has the purpose of bringing about certain characteristics of what it means to me to be a free spirit in an artistic environment filled with restraints like the black metal scene, which I find completely hilarious.
I like to move objects, especially those you're not supposed to move, or even better, those you're not allowed to even touch, haha. That's so funny, how attached we are to the world of objects, how much we cling to it. So much that we detest when someone tries to change it.
This must be why we humans are so afraid of change because we are deeply identified with the form that's subjected to change, haha. That's ridiculous, and I love to fuck with that.
What restraints were imposed upon you during your lengthy bout as part of the Norwegian black metal scene? What objects do you move within the scope of the Urarv project now that you are free from limitation?
On me, well, none as such, as I never did respect [the restraints] much, but there are clearly restraints in accordance with what you can and cannot do within the field of sound and in the culture as a whole. What you can and cannot express through your lyrics and how and how not you can evince them. For example, if you bring a hint of humor into the picture, that was always frowned upon, and still is, to a certain extent. If you write about yourself from a weaker point of view, some may consider that as not being "true" because it's supposed to be about strength and honor and whatnot. If you, on a private personal level, care about, let's say, environmental issues, animal rights, or just a life conduct based on compassion, you are not "true" to the style. A lot of people seem to have this compulsive need to be alike and to be worshiped for their arrogant, fake "wanna-be-bad" attitudes. Talking about the same things in the same manner. Clinging to each others perception of how things should be, what you should wear, and how to look. How much you have to collectively hate the world and the people in it. It is a forgery of ideas and concepts and, if you move outside it, you aren't "true." It was always like this, and still to this date. As I said, it endures. Now, for a scene that is of an artistic nature, I find that very contradictory. Especially when, considering the fact that back in the day when we made this genre, the few of us who were pioneers at the time molded the whole creature black metal out of our own individuality and free-minded pursuit .That was the main source of inspiration we had when we shaped this beast into being. So, you can say, it has become a parody of itself in many cases.
When I say "Objects," I'm obviously not talking about things as such, but mental activity, as thoughts and ideas also belong greatly to the world of shape and constructs. Listen to the music and it will explain it better than words do.
I want to keep on exploring the uncharted territories of music to see what else I can find and use.
As a pioneer and, as you said, "sculptor" of the black metal genre back in the early '90s, what has your experience been in watching it change into what you deem a parody of itself? Can you pinpoint when it failed? In your mind, is there any hope for a resurgence of what your definition of "black metal" is?
I've seen it change from a very passionate pursuit for personal freedom, ideological or spiritual truth and dedication to each other, into an environment of drug addicts, spiritual decadence, and betrayal. The evolutionary decomposition has been impossible to not notice, but it's ok, that's the way it is. I have no problems with that, and maybe it had to go down that road in order to face itself in the mirror, because when you deal with the darker side of existence and you tap into these fields of no light, you also deal with forces that can easily break you if you're not fully aware of their presence. This is where I think a lot of it goes wrong -- when you play around with something as potent as the shadow of life is and, at the same time, mix it with huge doses of drugs. I think it's safe to say that drugs have separated a lot of creativity and passion for the ideals of the arts with personal slum and disregard for the core values of the music and its nature.
Where do you and your compatriots in Urarv hope to take this newly unveiled effort as a separation from black metal's decadence? What are your goals for Urarv beyond Aurum?
Good question. I don't have any particular goals or hopes for it. For the others, you have to ask them, though I know that Patricia is very fixed on the live performance side of it. For me, personally, that isn't very important. I would consider it if an interesting proposal was handed to us, but I wouldn't fall apart in misery if we didn't. I just want to make more music and release it with the underlying intention of being an angel from the abyss, rising for everyone to see it and, thus, realize their true nature, *laughs*. Sounds pretty heavy, but that's my poetic way of explaining it. There is already a follow up mini album that hopefully will be released six months after the debut. I'd say we will take it from there. It's so dependant on the audience, as well, and how it is been conceived. I mean, knowing that people enjoy the music I make creates a lot of necessary motivation for further participation., so I'm eagerly awaiting the release and to receive the feedback.
Is this a different sort of eagerness in comparison to your large body of work as a musician?
No, not really. It's the same every time. [It's] always exciting to hear what people think of [my music]. I mean, after all, if it weren't for the fans, there would be no releases, so it's pretty much due to the people and their support that this is possible. A nice symbiosis of musicians and listeners. The way it has to be.
However, it's the first time since Kronet Til Konge with Dødheimsgard that I have put out a record for which I am largely responsible in the sense of compositions and soul work, so I guess you can say I am extra excited this time.
With what mindset should listeners embrace when first listening to Aurum? Is there any further insight you would want to offer regarding the album and Urarv in general?
They should embrace it with any mindset they would want to. Open-mindedness has never been a damn disgrace, *laughs*, and for approaching URARV it would still be a thumbs-up attitude to start with. I guess it will need a few spins for some before it gives or takes and, in the end, it's like everything else: some will like it and some won't, and that's exactly how it has to be.
I think I've stated what needs to be said about the album and the band for now. The rest lies beyond thoughts and form, and that is difficult, if not impossible, to transmit through words. Only the soul and especially its hidden gateways of discontent can interpret it with its own secret language, *laughs*.
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