No One from Nowhere: an Interview with The Sun’s Journey Through the Night
Hailing from black metal's ancestral homeland (we're talking first wave, here), The Sun's Journey Through the Night is a British project formed in 2019 and has been carrying the torch of UKBM ever since. Created by the enigmatic figure known simply as "No One," The Sun's Journey Through the Night has spent the last three years steadily releasing a constant stream of chattering blackened invocations.
His earliest material, like The Endless Night and Silent Choir, were cold and skeletal, with the bare-bones black metal compositions roughly transitioning into eerie ambient pieces. The music was ugly and uncomfortable, but there was a feeling of authenticity that pierced through the inexperience that also made it oddly compelling.
In no small part due to the project's insane prolificity, it wasn't long before No One started to exude more confidence in his songcraft while also managing to hold onto the earnestness that made his previous work charming. The project’s first full-length, Eternal Black Transmissions was released a scant year after the band's inaugural demo, but felt almost as if it was the work of a different band; the album feels chasmal, like staring deep into an abyss filled with infinite nothingness. It evokes true and genuine terror, something every release since has continued to cultivate.
Recently, we had the opportunity to catch up with No One and discuss the importance of anonymity in black metal, the blessing and the curse that is social media, and the link between black metal as both a visual and sonic medium.
The Sun’s Journey Through the Night first debuted in 2019 with The Endless Night and has released a ton of material since. However, on a personal front, you have remained a more shadowy, enigmatic figure. You call yourself No One and have granted limited interviews since the band’s genesis. How do you feel mysteriousness plays into The Sun's Journey Through the Night, and black metal overall?
Anonymity was something that I chose to maintain from the beginning as it allows me to create characters on top of a blank canvas. Being No One allows me to be anyone, or anything. It allows me to be the most myself I have ever been, while keeping my 'self' as a separate entity. In terms of black metal as a whole, I feel that most who retain anonymity believe that who they are as a person is not important, and would rather their music take center stage, the product of their artistry trumping them as a person, which I feel is an honorable goal in a time where the vast majority of the population seem to crave fame at any cost.
The UK metal scene has a prestigious lineage in black metal that extends far back into the early 80’s. What are some of your favorite English bands and how do you feel they’ve influenced The Sun's Journey Through the Night?
If it wasn’t for a select few British black metal bands, then I would never have started this project, three bands in particular influenced me to start and develop The Sun's Journey Through The Night. I saw Abduction play live at the Darkness over Cumbria festival in 2019, myself and A/V have since collaborated musically but back in 2019 when I first witnessed Abduction live, I was truly inspired for the first time in a long while. I had spent a few years out of music after being part of a music scene which felt vacuous and boring, so wading back in to those darker waters, finding black metal again and seeing how a true master of the craft was doing it here in England was what I needed to push me back in to writing music. The second band is the incredible From The Bogs of Aughiska, I’ve been a fan of theirs for a long time but when they released Mineral Bearing Veins it hit all the right chords for me and showed me how black metal and dark ambient can live together within one space, a true eye opener from a band that I would class as compulsory listening for any The Sun's Journey Through The Nigh follower. And the third should be no surprise to any follower of the project, Revenant Marquis has been a dark flame by my side since this project’s infancy. I had never heard anything like RM before, and when I first listened, I felt challenged for the first time in years by what I was hearing. I’m lucky to be able to call RM a friend, collaborator and mentor, and his new offering Milk Teeth steps up the bar of raw black metal once again, in a gloom laden majesty that only he can conjure.
Alternatively, where do you think Sun's Journey Through the Night sits within the current UK black metal scene?
I think this project’s place within the UK scene will change drastically this year with the introduction of the live band, currently I think there's two scenes within one, we have the recording only solo artists who have their own circles, then we have full band live projects who have their own circles also. The two areas of music do mix but their goals are quite different within music. This project started as just myself writing music that was intended to be listened to by a lone person, headphones in trying to forget the world around them, but as the music changes, so does my intention for the listener, now I am interested in pushing this project sonically to see if I can retain that raw edge while creating music for a live setting, and thus a different type of listener. My goal is to always do whatever ideas I have, whatever the hell they are, this project is a playground for me from an audio and visual perspective, and my ideas are now branching off into being face to face with the listener, so that’s where I will be taking it next.
You use social media–particularly Instagram–to great effect. What do you think the advantages are for an extreme metal act to be involved in social media and cultivate an audience on different platforms?
Although I would argue that social media is somewhat of a plague on our species, when in the right hands it is a good tool for opening a dialogue between artists and their fans. Metal fans are by far the most loyal, respectful and passionate fans of any genre, so speaking with the followers of this project, and sometimes sharing pains, thoughts and ideas with them is something I relish. I don’t believe you create an army of loyal fans by keeping them at a distance, I want them to be able to walk fully into the world I’m creating, so that means opening the doors as wide as I can, and welcoming them in.
Speaking of Instagram, you’ve cultivated a fairly elaborate visual aesthetic for The Sun's Journey Through the Night that touches on classic black metal while also looking quite modern. Where did this sense of style come from?
The visuals tend to follow the music in my opinion, it isn’t something I have planned out too elaborately. The music comes first which then inspires the visuals, which is why the visuals for The Black Pyramid (Created by the brilliant Seanen Middleton) are a bit more modern, clean and grand to match the production and direction of that song. I definitely have my visual influences that I bring in to The Sun's Journey Through The Night but just like the rest of the project they will also blend and burn into one another to keep creating this weird dissonant pact between what we hear and what we see
What do you think of the connection black metal has between the visual and the sonic? What bands have impacted you visually?
Initially I was obsessed with the archetypal black metal imagery of the '90s bands, the grungy black and white photos and the corpse paint was what caught my attention the most. I spent my early teenage years listening to bands like Joy Division, Bauhaus and Sisters of Mercy, all of whom had that same style of black and white, dark photography at times of their careers. Then I later discovered Godspeed You! Black Emperor and remember being obsessed with one particular photo of the band, silhouetted on a train track, faded, black and white. Their projections that they use during their live show gave me the same feeling also. Bleak but beautiful, something was so refined and thought out about those grainy black and white images that I am forever pulled into an artist’s orbit when they nail that look, it isn’t something you can get right easily, and many fail to meet the mark now with this type of imagery.
You once said you wanted your music to be a blend of DSBM and Nick Cave. For you, what’s the through line there that connects the two?
Raw emotion and brutal honesty, when it is combined in music and lyrical themes it’s like blunt force trauma, it’s like being beaten to death with your own weapon, and I love when music has that effect on me. DSBM has more of those melancholy melodies that I tend to write a lot of, but you can hear those same types of melodies in Nick Cave songs, or even bands such as The Cure or Joy Division, we’re all writing the same sad songs, just different. Nick Cave's lyrics are always poetic, honest while remaining veiled beneath a separate narrative, something I do in almost every song.
Your latest song, "The Black Pyramid" is a return to black metal after the wholly ambient Veiled Beneath the Shroud of Grief & Misery. Did you find it difficult at all to get back into the headspace of creating black metal?
I have a bad habit of writing a song and being convinced that I will never write another song ever again that I will like as much as that song, and when I do that I shy away from writing out of fear that I will be right in my insecurity. So, after I wrote and released "Aeons of Suffering…" I thought I was going to never be able to write heavy music again as I have such a love and fascination for that particular song, and I had to actually force myself to sit and start writing, and what came from that was The Black Pyramid, and what is happening now as I force myself to write again, is album four.
The production for "The Black Pyramid'' sounds amazing and is a far cry from the rawer material of your early career. It's not overproduced, but certainly better from a technical standpoint. While some projects prefer to maintain that classic, underproduced style, what drove you towards a cleaner sound for your more recent works?
I was getting frustrated as I was playing ideas on guitar and keys and I was unable to hear them beneath the wall of noise that was the way I was producing my music, so I decided to go for a cleaner approach this time so that I could properly hear some of the more nuanced parts of the song. I also feel like the production suits the song, there’s a lot of dynamic that I think would have been lost amongst the muck of the same production of say Eternal Black Transmissions.
Lyrically, your music has always been a more conceptualized interpretation of your feelings and emotions. With the world being in such chaos right now and songwriting being your catharsis, what is the story you’re trying to tell with "The Black Pyramid"?
The Black Pyramid has two stories that run alongside each other, the first is the final chapter in a story I’ve been telling since Eternal Black Transmissions which follows a series of events that circle around a black hole and the creation of a physical god, and then that god’s turmoil and subsequent self-destruction. I plan on writing out the full story as a short book with accompanying images and audio to best illustrate the story in full. The other half of the Black pyramid is me coming to the end of a long road of personal struggle, like most people, the past two years have been difficult for me, my life has changed in very big ways. I became a father a month before the pandemic hit, then lost my job, and lost family members to COVID, had financial and housing issues and then was faced with my child having to have a large surgery, all in the space of two years. The Black Pyramid to me was this mighty black monolith signifying all of this struggle, a way of me putting it all into one space and leaving it behind. I wanted this time of my life to make me better, and not bitter at the world, which is why myself and Church Road made the decision to donate all profits from the single to the amazing hospital that cared for my child here in Birmingham. I’m not a "woe is me" type of person, I take these things and make them in to something else, art, photography, films or music, it is my way of communicating with the world, it’s a language, and the more I speak it, the more I realize how many other people do also.
The Sun’s Journey Through the Night has been a very prolific project since day one. How do you manage to create so frequently, and when we can expect more material?
It’s a cliché at this point to say that "music is my therapy," but to a degree this is true. I have great difficulty articulating certain feelings, rage, anger, hate and my own internal black hole of depression that over the years I have managed to keep under a degree of control. I write because I feel like I have to in order to function, then I try to do it whenever that buildup of emotion gets too close to spilling over. It comes in waves so that’s why I have managed to write quite a lot since the start of this project. For now, I am writing for the next album while also working closely with my live band to create what I promise will be an awe inspiring live experience. So, although I'm busy with the live band, I am hoping to have the next album ready before the end of the year.
Any final words or shout-outs you'd like to give?
Hail all, followers of No One, you know who you are, and I cannot thank you enough for your loyalty and your energy. And thank you Invisible Oranges for this opportunity to speak.
The Black Pyramid is out now on Church Road Records.