An Interview with Antti Boman of Demilich

Author's note - This interview was originally published on Examiner.com in 2010. Since then, a lot has changed for Demilich, all for the better. But here's a snapshot of what was happening with the band at the time.

It is unusual for a classic-era death metal band to have a more rabid cult following than some of the black metal bands that followed, but that's Demilich all over. The band released their sole album Nespithe in 1993, and their left-field sound coupled with an oversaturated genre saw to it that they were mostly ignored. Good art sometimes takes a while to find an audience (just ask Van Gogh), and a decade later the group had amassed thousands of dedicated fans worldwide. The only problem was that the band had been dead since 1995.

In 2005, Demilich surprised the underground by reforming with the key members of the original lineup. They performed shows in Finland and then embarked on their first and only a tour of America in 2006. Demilich went to ground soon after their US excursion and the announced compilation album, v34ish6ng 0f emptiness, was indefinitely delayed. Fast-forward to 2010 - the band resurfaces once more to play a high-profile final appearance for a very lucky national fanbase at the Jalometalli Festival in Oulu, Finland, despite promises that they would never perform again. Lightning rarely strikes twice, but Demilich vocalist/guitarist/mastermind Antti Boman deemed it should, and fortunately he felt like discussing it.

Let's start with the question that everyone asks - why won't Demilich continue?

AB: Demilich will not continue because I don't want the history to limit what we'll do next, or what I hope we will hopefully do next. My problem is that I don't want to be a band that tours with 1992 material. We could do another album, but with the Demilich monicker it would have to be Nespithe II or otherwise everyone would be disappointed, including me. So I want to start a new band, and fortunately we'll have a lot of “cover songs”.

What about the extra tracks for the planned v34ish6ng 0f emptiness LP? Will they ever surface? What's the status on the release?

AB: Yes, they are just being remixed now. After Jalomettali Festival, I will start handling them. Xtreem Music will release the CD, but I will release the double-LP myself, the 397 copies. I will try to get it ready for the Christmas market (laughs). Every [recipient of the LP] will be randomly picked from those who signed up to buy the album.

You realize that limiting the LP to 397 copies is even more exclusive than most black metal bands.

AB: Well, there are black metal bands who only release 100 copies, so we're doing a big thing compared to them.

True, but Demilich is far more popular than most of those bands...

AB: Well one reason for it is the number, it's connected to the numbers in the titles. But it's just another gimmick, actually. I want to make a limited thing, and I will put it out myself to make it as grand as possible – a double LP with gatefold and a great booklet.

What do you think about death metal now as opposed to when Demilich was first active?

AB: It's more quantity now, but there's still quality in there. I'm definitely not fond of the new style of mastering. All you see now [on the waveform] is a vertical bar. In Finland, metal has become our national music so it has gotten boring, especially when it becomes all about production instead of the songs.

A recent study revealed Finland as the smartest nation on earth in terms of academic performance. Similarly, Demilich is regarded as one of the world's most intelligent death metal acts. There seems to be a correlation here. Do you think your nationality had a direct effect on your music?

AB: My family is not very educated, but they are bright people. I'm a product of my parent and my surroundings, but still even without Finland I would have done something different because it's in me. When I was a child, my sister said that before I could tie my shoelaces, I would watch [my siblings] do it, and then she'd try to teach me and I didn't want to know. So I watched them and learned it myself, but I still do it a bit wrong (laughs). I do it my way and it's a bit clumsy, but I never wanted anyone to teach me. My sister kept trying to show me, but I always said, “No! I don't want to hear it”. So I don't know where it came from, but it's my personality.

Would you say that another factor in Demilich's unusual approach comes from the introverted nature of Finnish culture?

AB: Actually, you haven't seen as much of it compared to [Demilich's 2006 US tourmates] Biolich. When we arrived in New Jersey we saw them at the meeting point. And remember, they formed a band because of our band. I walked up to them and shook hands with each of them - you know, “Hello, I'm Antti”, and then went back to my group. The other guys [in Demilich] did the same thing, and it was very polite. Finns are always polite, but we do things like shake hands and then retreat to our “safe” surroundings. And the Biolich guys first thought, “Oh s—t, those guys are totally stuck up, and we can't stand two weeks with them!” Of course, after seeing the USA I saw that maybe our way may seem... well, irrational.

The reason I bring it up is because when Demilich plays live, it feels like you turn the music in on yourselves. It all seems so esoteric and internalized, and it struck me that this pointed to the Finnish way of being.

AB: It mostly is, but there are also bands here who imitate an extroverted kind of presence. It's fine for most bands who want to “kick the balls as long as they they break” and make people shout and do pits and so on, but could you see us doing that? It would be embarrassing to me.

Demilich is almost a mythical band due to only having one album and so few appearances. This last show here at Jalometalli is basically a zombie performance for the band. Did you plan on this when you released Nespithe?

AB: No I didn't. I wanted to be a rock star and spread the good word, or my word. But I thought it was how I would make my income. It didn't happen and it couldn't have happened because I'm the kind of person who, when I try to make my living off something out of desire, I cannot make it work. I will quit if it goes in a direction I don't want, and if it's about income you usually have to make sacrifices. At least I think so. I don't know, I've never made music professionally.

So no, it was not planned, but nowadays it feels good to me to be able come play this gig, and practice for it for three months, and remember the reasons why, and then call it quits. I'm obviously a bit perverted about it, but those rehearsals are meeting points for me. They are places where I can play and forget about everything else.

You lyrics and concepts are very abstract. Is it hard to remember the words on stage?

AB: No, but last night I read all the lyrics and found a paper with the original version of one of the songs, though I can't remember which one. It was a bit different, and in reading them, I thought, “S—t, what's going on?”, and then I started remembering how it really goes. But suddenly I couldn't remember the words because they are so in my head these days. Some of the words are such that I don't really recall them until I play. When we played last Thursday [in Kuopio] there was one place where I forgot the lyrics, but then I played and it flowed out. It's like the words are rhythms in my head and that's how they come to me.

Regarding Winterwolf, are you guys going to try to make that into something bigger?

AB: It's a fun project, but I can only speak for myself. For Corpse [Winterwolf/Deathchain guitarist], it's something he cannot do with Deathchain. For me, it's something that is lots of fun to play, and it allows things I want to do but cannot bring into my own projects. It's my trademark to be very hard to get (laughs). So it's both. In April, we recorded Deathchain's new album, and then we played one show with Winterwolf and made two songs for a new 7 inch. Now we have this Demilich thing, then after that more Winterwolf again. It's a band that gets ahead in between the bigger projects, but it's not like we're just putting our leftovers there. It is relaxation for us, because it's a lot easier and something fun to do, rather than sitting on the couch. But it's nice because it doesn't require as much concentration.

Would you say that it is important to remain active in your work in order to maintain musical integrity?

AB: No. After 1993, I didn't do anything until almost 2000. I occasionally did something programmed on my Amiga PC. Then we recorded the new Demilich song, which people actually say... well, there's one guy who doesn't really understand Demilich - the bassist of Winterwolf. And even he said that the new song is close to greatness. So it's something that is “baked in”, and it doesn't fade away. Of course, if you want to play guitar well, you have to play it. But you can relearn it again.

The reason I ask is because the newest song is unmistakably Demilich. I was amazed at how much of a continuum there was between the original album tracks and the recent one.

AB: That makes me smile, but it also raises the uncomfortable situation where I start to think that we will do another Demilich album. But no, the new band will get the name it deserves. I want to keep it so I don't have to think of it as a continuation. If it sounds like Nespithe, then it just happened because it was played by me and those two guys [guitarist Aki Hytönen and drummer Mikko Virnes]. Corpse is a great addition on bass, but without them there would be no Demilich. I've played our songs with three different drummers, one of whom is really great, but he doesn't sound like Demilich; he sounds like his other bands. The “bossanova” is missing, which Mikko has in his style. And Aki's playing style- I remember back in 1991 I told him how to play it, and he forgot and put in the “dampi” [palm mute] differently. I don't want to correct those things, because it brings those small variations that adds up to the mystery of our sound.

Metalenema Episode 10-24-16 Live from Calfornia Deathfest

Slitzkrieg and The Undertaker take the show on the road and do a broadcast straight from California Deathfest! They got pretty drunk the first night, so there's lots of yelling and noise on the recording. It's fucking metal, deal with it!



Metalenema Episode 10-10-16, Texas old school!

Things get all weird because the guys went to Houston this weekend for a killer old-school show featuring Anialator, Dark Reign, and Militia, and even though the episode is posted today, complete with a photo of Anialator playing the gig, they actually recorded the episode last Tuesday, so you'd think this episode was all about the show that happened on Saturday, but it isn't. That's actually next week's episode, which will be the pre-game show for California Deathfest, which will again be posted once they get home from it, and then that whole review will be NEXT week's show. Jesus Christ!!!



Winter music: Black Metal of Québec

Trails of Anguish

Québec is a land apart, claimed by bold frontiersmen whose legacy resonates in the tenacity and passion of its people to this day.  Accordingly, the Québécois metal scene features rarefied versions of the established styles; black, death, and speed metal are all represented, but the presentation of the bands stands apart as much as the province itself. They operate in a vacuum enforced by language and distance, and many of the highly-regarded bands in their regional scene are almost completely unknown to the outside world. Their lyrics and often the band names remain in their French mother tongue, so the isolation is willful. This doesn't seem to stop them from making some truly great black metal, and the lucky few who get in on these well-kept secrets will find a treasure trove of killer riffs and excellent musicianship. Check out the list below to chart a course through these obscured metal hinterlands.

1) Chasse-Galerie – Like most bands on this list, this hunting party plays and impassioned brand of black metal that relies on a combination of staccato strings and dire minor chords. Their approach tends to run towards the mid-paced and muscular, like a tribal warrior trudging through the untamed reaches of the northern climes. Chasse-Galerie's work feels traditional and rustic, and their understated presentation on stage is free of corpse paint or spikes. The music speaks for itself just fine, rest assured.

Recommended release: Ars Moriendi

2) Malvery – This infamous band has always had a difficult reputation, even within their unconventional scene. A lot of people simply couldn't tolerate their anguished brand of suicidal black metal. Vocalist Amer Le Chatier wailed, moaned, and screeched across songs crammed with spastic drums and dementedly fractured riffs, and then he killed himself just to prove he wasn't kidding around. Suicidal black metal posers, take note. Their sole full-length is not for everyone, but its avowed indifference towards cultivating an audience makes for an unnervingly memorable listen.

Recommended release: Mortal Entrenchment in Requiem

3) Frozen Shadows – It's mystifying how this band didn't get bigger, other than the aforementioned nature of their insular scene. Everything a fan of blazing black metal could desire is on display here, with icy guitar tones, cruel vocals, and explosive drumming that will crush you flat. Seriously, the drums are unbelievable. Despite their regular application of speed, the band maintains a musical center that prevents them from spinning out into a wash of noise. Accordingly, the songs are memorable, powerful, and black as black can get. Frozen Shadows also has a share of slower numbers that are every bit as effective, much like the better efforts of fellow speedsters Marduk. This is a band that deserves to sit alongside the best works of the Norwegian Black Circle, so if you haven't added their albums to your collection, fix that immediately.

Recommended release: Hantises

4) Forteresse – Here’s a band that may not even want to exist outside Québec. Forteresse is tailored specifically for the region, as they stump for the province’s sovereignty with straight-ahead black metal with anthemic flairs. While there aren’t a lot of surprises here, the content is very well-executed and quite listenable. All content is in French, and if you’re not aware of the complex socio-political situation within Canada’s Francophone culture, you might not fully grasp the point of their message. Fortunately, the music stands up well on its own even if you blow off reading about the Québec sovereignty movement.

Recommended release: Thémes pour la Rébellion

5) Trails of Anguish – Several notable black metal acts have traded on violent reputations, but the sadly defunct Trails of Anguish remains unsung as one of the most singularly dangerous bands to ever malign the underground. Their output was compressed and spasmodic, with harried screams egging on the machine-gun drum tempos; it was essentially rabies set to music. The band notoriously expressed this sound in a live setting by making their shows a full-contact experience. Self-mutilating on stage, attacking the audience, and even assaulting each other in mid-song were all regular features. They also usually wore gauntlets covered in 10-inch nails while all this went on, by the way. If you’ve never been punched, stabbed, or clubbed with a bass guitar by a member of Trails of Anguish, you’ll never really know what made them such a phenomenon. The two EPs they managed to release between blood-lettings are all that is left to tell the tale.

Recommended release: Relentless Abhorrence of Misery's Grievance

6) Sorcier Des Glaces – Alongside Frozen Shadows, SDG stands as a blackened jewel in the scene’s metal crown. Contemporary of the 2nd wave black metal out of Norway, this duo sporadically releases albums that remain unchanged by trends or styles. Shades of classic Darkthrone, Emperor, and even early Satyricon co-mingle with the inimitable Quebecois sensibility, and the results are truly forbidding. The world of Sorcier Des Glaces is one of permanent winter, a black spell that few bands are able to conjure in the current era. Burn, fire, burn!

Recommended release: Ritual of the End

7) Csejthe – Similar to Chasse-Galerie and Fortresse, this QC trio offers a clear-headed interpretation of black metal, but with a little more in the way of atmosphere and melancholia than their counterparts. The Songs are layered into a wall of sound with sustained notes and chamber voices in places of keyboards for an immersive and moving experience. The difficult name is enough to keep them out of most metal conversations, but the music is definitely worth exploring.

Recommended release: Réminiscence

8) Monarque – This group is much more locked into the traditional black metal model than many of their peers, replete with corpse paint, buzzsaw guitars, and relentless shrieks. Sustained synth tones and gothic organ music augment the melodies with ominous effect. While Monarque doesn’t deviate much from the standard approach, their version of it surpasses many of the more celebrated current acts.

Recommended release: Lys Noir

9) Esker – Rising from the walled city of Quebec in the early 2000s, Esker defied convention with a sound that has since come to define black metal in the new millennium. Their three demos showcased songs full of knotted and discordant passages full of open chords and meandering melodies. Even with such an odd bent, this group remained focused on writing with coherent anchor points that allowed the chaos to bloom around them. Like every band on this list, the passion and ardor of the work is palpable, and the performances point to a high degree of natural talent. Totally obscure and ahead of their time, Esker is another band that deserves to garner a posthumous fan base.

Recommended release: Du nord...

10 ) Brume d'Automne –  Pastoral with a mean streak, this act fuses primitive black metal with traditionalist themes attached to the land of their pioneering ancestors. This could be a much uglier result if it wasn't for the adept musicianship and the requisite ear for a solid melody. Even so, their recordings feature tinder dry production, so adherents to the raw approach should definitely apply.

Recommended release: Brume d'Automne

11) Sombres Forêts – Epic, atmospheric, and mystical, this dark forest assembly creates hymnals that are affecting and powerful, and sometimes winsome. Vocals run to overwrought in places, but the authenticity keeps them from becoming absurd. The instrumentation is top-flight on all fronts, and the band's affinity towards classical music in the way they build, release, and rebuild once more makes for a grand listening experience.

Recommended release: La mort du Soleil

12) Gevurah – Despite being the newest band on this list, Gevurah have already distinguished themselves with a great demo and even better EP, and now a confident full-length. Taking arms somewhere near the territory of French overlords Antaeus, this Montreal duo is probably one of the heaviest examples of métal noir Québécois. With downtuned guitars, pummeling drums, and ragged howls, Gevurah channels the Qlipphothic current with a devastating force that surpasses many of their forebears. Highly recommended.

Recommended release: Necheshirion

A majority of the releases above are available through Sepulchral Productions.


Metalenema Episode 10-3-16, Return from the Wasteland

The Undertaker just got back from Wasteland Weekend, and the theme of this week's show is post-apocalyptic (how that's a change from the usual is hard to discern). Anyway, here it is!