MACHINE MUSIC'S ALBUMS OF THE DECADE: AN INTERVIEW WITH WORMLUST
[This is the TENTH installment of the Albums of the Decade series of interviews. For the rest of the series go HERE.]
Album: The Feral Wisdom
Label: Demonhood Productions
Favorite Song: "Djöflasýra"
The Bare Bones: The first full length by the Icelandic one-man black metal entity, and, officially, the only solo full length Wormlust has ever released, having released a collaboration with American metal band Skaphe earlier in 2019.
The Beating Heart: The Feral Wisdom is one of the most important black metal albums of our time, and certainly one of the defining albums of Icelandic black scene, for several reasons. One of those reasons is its shockingly chaotic and experimental nature, grabbing anything from 70s psychedelic to raw Hellhammer-like riffs to create a soundscape that had really never existed before it came out. It was important, however, also for providing the first adequately broad stage for the ideas, music, and design of its creator H. V. Lyngdal. One of the most influential designers and visual artists working in the modern extreme metal scene, who has done work for artists such as Sinmara, Skaphe, and many more, Lyngdal has utilized every inch of his seemingly endless creativity to fashion not only terrifyingly unpredictable music, but one of the most striking and iconic visual objects in modern metal.
Perhaps in keeping with the nature of Lyngdal’s work and scope of interests, which also include his role as perhaps the chief documenter of the Icelandic black metal scene, as well as his shared governance over the spiritual offspring of the now deceased Fallen Empire Records, Mystiskaos, this interview was conducted in correspondence. There are times in which I feel written interviews are always inferior to “live” ones, and yet given the personage in question I feel like this format is quite adequate, in that it allows Lyngdal to articulate himself in his own unique way.
Before getting to the interview itself, I’d just like to, as always, remind that this is a part of an ongoing series, and that you can read all of the chapters released until now in this location. Moreover, if you would like to partake further in all things Machine Music please feel free to check us out on Facebook, Instagram, Spotify, as well as, if you are so inclined, support us on Patreon.
Was there a moment in your life, perhaps as a younger person that you remember changing the way in which you thought of music, or made you want to become a musician yourself?
My memory is very fragmented: Seeing a psychedelic John Lennon poster as a six year old, wondering if it was a picture of god. Getting lost in some sort of African tribal music before I could talk. Seeing Soundgarden on MTV in the 90s. Going to my first show to see my friends play. The stuff that musicians are born from; artists rise out of a primordial ooze of social and personal aspirations. However when you get to this point it is more a compulsion. We call it the longplay release itch.
The Feral Wisdom was released after years of releasing relatively short pieces, demos and the such. [Note of interest, one demo collection prior to The Feral Wisdom was released on tape at the time by local label Orgasmatron Records). What was the motivation to go from those shorter experiments and the longer/larger statement of The Feral Wisdom?
It was a response to the general zeitgeist in the Icelandic scene. I knew bands like Svartidauði and Chao – later renamed Sinmara – were recording full lengths and I felt I was up to the challenge. Before that I had mostly been exchanging songs with friends, only once sending handmade demos to labels that went nowhere. Stephan Lockhart of Rebirth of Nefast asked me to contribute songs to a split and that was what got this whole endeavor going. The Feral Wisdom is a concept album that mirrors my obsessions with psychedelic concept albums like [The Pretty Things’] S. F. Sorrow. Exploring the idea that ultimate enlightenment path is to live like the beasts of the earth without thoughts, to contradict the orthodox releases around that time.
How important was it for you to feel free when writing The Feral Wisdom, and in general what are some of the things you do to help you achieve a lasting sense of artistic freedom?
For me back then anonymity was freedom, being able to release music independently of my life outside it. Over time, out of necessity and egotistical reasons, I put that aside and merged my own person with the project. That has created more problems for me that I have had to overcome, in terms of going on a journey of learning not to care about the outside world and other egos. My own solution has been to completely cut myself off from the poisonous cloud of social media and letting my label take care of that for me. Artistic freedom is to not compromise because of how other people react to your art, an ego-death.
The Feral Wisdom has an almost anarchic feel to it, as if something is always being unhinged, with very few moments of simple catharsis. Was this just how the music “came out,” or also a part of a larger aesthetic/spiritual state of mind?
The whole thing is written so that one part transforms into the next, much like telling somebody a story that you are making up on the spot. I did not know where I was going to end up myself. It was more about the flow of creativity being let free than mapping out what would go where. It was to mirror being thoughtless, making something out of my animal instincts.
It seems the European metal scene has become quite politicized and spiritualized in recent years, not only in terms of nationalism or anti-nationalism but also in terms of esoteric mysticism and trans-historical spiritual archetypes. And it seems that you occupy an interesting space in this field, in which you seem to be both very influenced by these archetypes and yet somehow striking out for your own. Where do you see your own idiosyncratic philosophy as fitting the current cultural spectrum?
I would like to think my own philosophy is a sort of of humanistic solipsism since art is a very selfish pursuit but also deals with connecting with other people. At least when you are the type of artist that makes art and releases it into the world. In the end however I am most likely a nihilist that is fascinated by aesthetics and symbology. I used to be quite enamored by leaving behind art that would stand the test of time. But slowly my views are more of that in a closed universe such as ours veering ultimately towards heat death such small goals are inconsequential. Artists should not be like Sisyphean dung beetles but live for the now.
Part of the enduring appeal of The Feral Wisdom, to me is this sense of a heavy atmosphere or a general “heaviness” that isn’t necessarily the result of crushing, condensed riffs? What is “heaviness” in music, and how do you go about creating heavy by other means?
Heaviness in music is obviously very subjective. For example, in the late 60s it became fashionable for the pop rock acts to become “heavy,” birthing Prog rock. Here in Iceland rock acts divided into “heavy” acts and bubblegum feel good music. I think it was just a euphemism for music to smoke pot to and get mesmerized by, making your mind go to heavy places. If those stoners back then would have heard todays over-condensed and loud pop music they probably could not handle it. So in a way heavy music is a hypnotizer which velocity changes with the times, the antithesis of escapism. A trance-state that confronts you with inner truths.
Looking back, is there something about The Feral Wisdom, a fact about the process, a particular song, that you’re especially proud of?
Listening to The Feral Wisdom to me now is like looking at childhood photo of myself, I don't quite remember where it was taken but I vaguely remember that time in my life. I think it was made in like three months which to me right now seems like an impossible feat from where I stand creatively now. The power of creating without any expectations of you can be immense.