INTERVIEW WITH UNHOLY BAPTISM (BLACK METAL)




1. How would you describe your music?

Mantus: In relation to genre, we definitely describe ourselves as a traditional black metal band. We started this project initially to blend second-wave black metal – bands like Darkthrone, Mayhem, Emperor, etc. – and bring a more modern production to that sound. Our first album, …On the Precipice of the Ancient Abyss was more reminiscent to the production of the early 90’s scene and had a much rawer tone to it than our upcoming album, Volume I: The Bonds of Servitude.

Conceptually, however, we think we bring a lot of unique aspects to the genre as a whole. Our albums have always had a story-arc to them and will continue to do so. Both Moloch and I are strong proponents of listening to an album front to back, as we believe that even if an album seems to be an amalgamation of songs, there was intent behind the organization and production of the music. Our project seeks to take things one step further, where every track is a continuation of the previous and the entirety of the album tells a story. Volume I: The Bonds of Servitude is the beginning of an entire trilogy of albums and our goal is to have every album in the trilogy not only stand on its own, but also bleed into the next to help tell the story we’re trying to tell.


2. What gave you the idea for the album title?


Mantus: As mentioned, our upcoming album is the first in a trilogy, so we wanted it to be written in volumes. Visually, we want all of our album covers to look like old medieval tomes, which is where the volume idea actually came from.

The latter part of the title, The Bonds of Servitude, is a little bit more complicated to explain. When brainstorming ideas for this album, we wanted to bring a setting that was prior to the Industrial Revolution, more of a medieval or even Renaissance setting to it. As we all know, Christianity has been an integral part of European and American history for a very long time, and it’s arguably still an integral part of American society to this day. We were intent on exploring the path to enlightenment, but in a time where superstition and esotericism still existed; tales of witches deep within the woods, of demons dancing around the fire and snatching babies from their cribs.


Our concept was always going to be around chains and shackles, in a spiritual sense. Christianity chains humanity, bound to their laws and their traditions, but there is so much knowledge and power to be explored. Religion does not have the answer, and in fact actively keeps people blind to the majesties of the universe. This is the spiritual meaning behind the album title, but the title, the imagery and the music is multi-faceted. There is a sexual element, as can be evidenced by the album cover, and there is a liberating element to it as well. We believe that the best albums are not the ones that deliver the intent of the musician, but the albums that deliver the intent of the listener. Music means something different to everyone, and we like to write our music where the listener gets their own meaning from it.

3. Do you work together with others in the writing process?


Mantus: Moloch and I both work together to write all of our music. We both have different experience and different ideas that we bring to the table, so I would say it is very much a mutual effort. Usually, we try to explore concepts and themes before we ever write a single note so we are aware of how we want the music to sound; for instance, when we were writing Volume I: The Bonds of Servitude, we knew what story we were trying to tell and we wanted more of a familiar sound to it, but with a layer of mystery as well. 
 
Lyrically, I knew from the beginning what story I wanted to tell, but getting the guitars, bass, drums and post-production elements to tell the same story was challenging. We spent an inordinate amount of time ensuring the guitars especially sounded the way we wanted them to, agonizing over this chord or that chord, and that was the most challenging part. We wanted it to sound like it existed between dimensions, especially near the end of the album, and we think we accomplished that goal.


4. How much time do you take to record songs?


Mantus: We do all of the engineering ourselves, which is successful to varying degrees. The nice thing about that is we can hear what we’ve written and what is or is not working with it, without fear of wasting someone else’s time.

During our production of our debut album, …On the Precipice of the Ancient Abyss, there were a lot of dual guitar parts that we thought sounded really good live that really didn’t work well when put into recorded form. We learned an inordinate amount of valuable lessons recording that album; it was the first time either of us had recorded anything ourselves, let alone doing post-production work like mixing/mastering. Going into the production of this album, we were prepared to not make the same mistakes we made with the last one, which is why the tone is so different compared to our debut.

Recording-wise, this album took us about three months to do, but it was not a five day a week kind of deal. Both Moloch and I had full-time jobs at the time so we could only really invest time on the weekends, so we would work on it for 2-3 hours a day twice a week unless one of us was out of town, in which case we would reschedule for the following weekend. We feel that we get better with each release we do, each coming with its own mistakes and learning opportunities, and we’re hoping that the next album will end up being even faster.

 
5. Does this release differ from past music releases? How?


Mantus: Absolutely! As I mentioned above, our production has improved significantly, but I think our writing has drastically improved since the band’s inception as well. In 2010, when we were a three-piece doing a short live stint, we released a self-titled EP with five tracks on it. At the time, we were a garage black metal band, ala early Mayhem, and that album had the tone and writing skills one might expect from a band like that. After dropping from the live scene in late 2010 for a variety of reasons, we took a hiatus to regroup and restructure the band.

Due to a lot of life circumstances, we didn’t end up working on the production of what would become …On the Precipice of the Ancient Abyss until August 2016. We took a few songs we were working on when we were still a three-piece and rewrote them to better fit the aesthetic of what we were going for, but the production just was not there at the time. That album still tells a story in its entirety, which is how we like to write, but we feel that our skills at the time couldn’t accurately portray what we wanted to portray.


Now, we feel like our stories are getting bigger and better, and we’ve taken on a lofty goal in trying to tell this massive story in three volumes, but we feel like our writing has become much better and we take every detail into consideration when we produce our music. We think that’s something fans will certainly appreciate!
 
6. Do you like to change it up for each release with lyrical themes
?


Mantus: We change our themes for every album, yes, but there are some things we like to incorporate for every release. We are a traditional black metal band, so anti-Christianity and Satanism are staples for us and are concepts we try to stick to. Those are very basic concepts, though, and so we play around with anything else that fits the concept of our music. As an example, our debut album was about removing oneself from human society and what lies deep within the natural world.

With our upcoming release, however, we knew we wanted to tell a bigger story, a story so large that one album simply couldn’t contain it. Volume I: The Bonds of Servitude tells the story of the path to enlightenment, shedding the bonds and breaking the chains that contain all of humanity to meaningless lives, shackled to the mundanity of the terrestrial, but it is part of a larger continuity. Our next album will be exploring the depths of the farthest, coldest reaches of the universe and the powers that dwell within it.


7. Where do you draw your influences and inspirations from?


Mantus: There are so many areas where we draw inspiration from, but I can certainly name some of the biggest influencers.

Obviously, both Moloch and I are huge fans of the second-wave of black metal, the Scandinavian scene most significantly. Darkthrone, Mayhem, Burzum, Gorgoroth, Emperor… the list goes on. There is a certain level of mysticism and occult ideas in those early bands that I don’t hear as much anymore, and we try to incorporate those ideas into the music we make. We also like to incorporate slower and contemplative guitar work often found in doom metal. Our big thing in trying to find our sound when we were reevaluating our sound back in 2012 was blending sadder, reflective styles – like doom – with the raw aggression of black metal.

As a lyricist, I try to find a marriage between Satanism and much deeper ideas. I like to explore the human condition and enlightenment in the context of the occult. H.P. Lovecraft influences me greatly, not because of the Cthulhu Mythos in a traditional sense but the ideas he explored. I’m fascinated by his exploration of existentialism and of insanity, and the futility of human existence.


8. What has been the most enjoyable thing you have done as a musician/singer?

Mantus: I think honestly, writing and producing this album was extremely enjoyable for me. I have wanted to make a full-time living in the music industry, and I feel like having done this album from start to finish and hearing the final product has helped me prove to myself that there could be a place for me in the music industry. I’ve always been a big fan of concept albums, but it’s a big production and it takes a lot of energy and attention to detail to pull it off correctly, which I think is why concept albums aren’t commonplace. With this album, I feel like we absolutely accomplished what we set out to do and has really helped to give us momentum to keep the trilogy going.


9. What do you feel is the biggest challenge going forward with your career?

Mantus: Without being too predictable, I think money is going to be the biggest hindrance for Unholy Baptism as a band. The music industry has changed drastically, but I think with that change it has created opportunities for people to find income in other ways, instead of getting signed to a big label and having all of the positives and negatives that come with those types of partnerships. All of our band expenses do come out of our own pocket, but we’ve been willing to shell it out to bring our music out to the masses. We genuinely want this to be a full-time project, but our monetary situation has been and probably will continue to be a hindrance for us.

Outside of that, Unholy Baptism has operated as a two-piece outfit since 2012 when we restructured the project. As such, we do not currently have a drummer to play live for us and – due to issues in the past with previous members and applicants – are very hesitant to add a full-time person to the group. There may be an opportunity in the future for us to add a live drummer to the project, but we will cross that bridge when we get there!


10. What do you enjoy outside of music?

Mantus: I’m kept pretty busy with music projects in general; I’m working on a solo project, trying to open a music production studio and putting time into Unholy Baptism. I like to play video games in what little spare time I have. The Binding of Isaac is one of my favorite games to date and I could play that game forever. I read books regularly and even do a bit of writing here and there, though nothing professional.


Unholy Baptism

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About Ancient Visionz

Gaz Visionz is a writer and Internet Radio DJ with the punk/metal show 'The Wastelands'. He is also a YouTube podcaster/creator, host of Ancient Visionz Talk Radio, co-host of Paradigm Radio with Planet X Films, and a passionate fan of hardcore punk, metal, underground hip hop, movies, science-fiction, comics, and indie film.
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