Unspeakable Horrors: An Interview with Unaussprechlichen Kulten
Unaussprechlichen Kulten is one of the best bands active today playing death metal. I’ve talked in depth about my feelings for them, largely via the reviews I did of their last two albums for this site (review 1, review 2). Fortunately enough for me, I got a chance to chat with them at this year’s edition of Never Surrender festival in Oakland, and to do a full interview with them via email after the festival had ended. To those who haven’t given them a shot yet, I’d recommend checking out their last few albums, their split with After Death (aka Nocturnus), and reading the reviews I posted up above.
How did you choose the album name of your new record, and how do the contents of historical “Books of the Devil” influence the lyrics and music contained within?
All this comes from our Lovecraftian devotion: Lovecraft, not only the author of a whole pantheon of deities, but also accountable for a complete collection of apocryphal books and texts, or as he himself would say: “dreaded repositories of equivocal secrets and immemorial formulae which have trickled down the stream of time from the days of man’s youth, and the dim, fabulous days before man was. He had himself read many of them […] a Latin version of the abhorred Necronomicon, the sinister Liber Ivonis, the infamous Cultes des Goules of Comte d’Erlette, the Unaussprechlichen Kulten of von Junzt, and old Ludvig Prinn’s hellish De Vermis Mysteriis.”
So “The Books of the Devil” was perfect for our new album: written in German, it had its pinnacle during the end of Luther’s existence in 1545 until 1604. In the period it was published with 39 original copies, they are in great deal the precursors of the great house of witches. The Devil acquires strength step by step, which will reach its zenith in the 16th and 17th centuries when Europe granted an enormous attention to the Devil. The Teufelsbücher stated firmly that every mortal committing a sin would inevitably fall under the powers of the lord of hell.
How did you first become aware of Lovecraft, and how has research into the occult influenced your life and music?
H.P. Lovecraft’s books have always been a source of inspiration to our music, the “Truth” whispered as “literature” between lines, the knowledge about occultism sarcastically delivered through “stories” poisoning your mind. I discovered H.P.L. accidentally as a pre-teenager; I bought a book (non-legal edition), and I remember one of the stories in that book was “Through the Gates of the Silver Key.” It blew my mind! In that moment I decided to get the entire work, and I read some stories so many times that I memorized them… Later I started compare H.P.L. with some other authors, with their “sources,” with traditional demonology… Imagine a pre-teenager with a poisoned mind with Lovecraft and Metal… To me one of the best is “The Case of Charles Dexter Ward” I was stoning by the personage called “Joseph Curwen”…. That little novel, it is to me the most important work of H.P.L. Almost like a “confession” about his knowledge and the information that H.P.L. had access to.
With each record, your material has gotten increasingly technical. The guitars often stray from each other, ranging more towards counterpoint than unison. Is the constant boundary-pushing conscious or natural?
In this album we strive hard for the guitars to create a devious, morbid, dark atmosphere…therefore we had to learn something about “the formal rules of music” and apply them. We also had to involve a lot of different things in the sound. We tried many techniques until satisfied. Therefore it is a process carried out consciously and done on purpose.
It is important to recognize this: Our recordings are full of metric and execution errors. We record without a metronome; there is no “copy/paste” of riffs or rhythms. What you hear is a metal band who composes its songs in a rehearsal room, not in front of a computer. Sometimes I feel that death metal with some bands looks more like a type of sport than an art, ie. It is more important to play complex riffs at inhuman speeds, often omitting the most important thing: the feeling, the sense of what the music wants to convey.
Is it difficult to reconcile an increase in strangeness and complexity with your simpler death metal roots?
I think it’s the natural way. One of the most boring things about death metal was the abuse of “generic riffs” repeated over and over again—forgetting the nuances, the emphasis, the dynamics, and the differences between each track. You can’t pretend to get the attention of a person with five monotonous minutes of riffs stolen from classic bands. The merit of the classic bands is that they invented their own style; if you repeat it as it is, it’s boring, so you must contribute something different (or at least try!). Sometimes I feel that “traditional metal” is nothing more than just an excuse for a lack of creativity. I really enjoy simpler death metal roots, but they are done.
How is the music written in Unaussprechlichen Kulten? Is it a collaborative process?
From People of the Monolith until Lucifer, the composition was done the same way: I write the lyrics, riffs, arrangements and disharmonies of both guitars (according to the needs of the lyrics). Once I show the guitar compositions to Butcher, the drums are 100% his responsibility. The cuts are adjusted in the rehearsal room by Butcher and me. BUT, unlike previous recordings, from Baphomet until now, NAMRU invented the bass lines (in the previous ones I made the bass) and HERBERT WEST suggested a couple of cuts and arrangements that turned out to be good—although from this last one of course the highlight is their guitar solos. They delivered a feeling we didn’t have before.
When did your interest in death metal start? What do you listen to now?
When I was a kid (10-11 years old I think) the curiosity for Metal started, surely a visual attraction first from the cover art. I remember that the first original cassette I bought was Ride the Lightning. I really liked the sound of the guitars; the speed… but I didn’t understand the lyrics at all! Then with some schoolmates I got a “pirate” copy of Show No Mercy! That was pure Satanism! Cover arts like that make music become an obsession for children and youngsters when they initiate. Then in 1990 (I was 12 years old), the Incubus God Died on his Knees tape cover attracted my attention… a huge inverted cross on its cover. I think I listened to that tape everyday!… After Incubus I wanted to get all the material from that style; Death Metal was my thing! I tried copying everything I could; classics like Mantas/Death, Carnage/Dismember, Nihilist/Entombed, the whole Tampa Florida American era and the New York Death Metal scene… It really was a huge discovery when you listened for the first time to records like Altars of Madness. It sounded perfect, heavy and almost impossible to play by human beings!
Listen to now? A lot: Cultes des Ghoules, Vassafor, Negative Plane, Doombringer, Temple Nightside, Grave Upheaval, Antediluvian, Godless (CL), to name some fast.
Where does the band’s inspiration come from? Is it solely coming from metal, or does it reach outside of it?
In general, we have the classic influences from American Death Metal (Tampa, Florida, and New York in the 90’s) and all the good European bands from Sweden and Finland (Carnage/Dismember, Demigod, Phlegethon). Death Metal classics, you know. But we don’t consider ourselves an “Old School” band. This is 2019 and we don’t want to copy or be “nostalgic.” No matter how hard the style is, it is always possible to do a creative proposal, both musically and conceptually. Direct influences are Sadistic Intent, Mortem, Pentagram (Chile), Nocturnus, Incubus, Morbid Angel (R.I.P.) and Incantation, Immolation, of course, are notorious in our style.
Has it ever been difficult to keep going over the years? UK has now been together for more than twenty years, with consistent releases every few years—a rare feat for a band not living on their music.
Very simple: we really like what we do! And indeed we don’t gain a fucking coin, this is just a great vacuum to get money from our pockets.
How did it feel to split with legends like Nocturnus and Pentagram? When did you first hear them, and did you ever have an inkling early on that you’d get to work together with genre classics?
The original idea for this split (After Death / U. Kulten) came from Proselytism. They reached an agreement with After Death and booked the band under the label. Mike Browning listened to our material and then he sent his, and then we received the formal proposal on the label side. We accepted, since it’s obvious that we are fans of Nocturnus, Incubus, Morbid Angel and of course After Death. As is custom, it was released in the Giant Digipack format, in a two CD special edition, with 6 songs contributed by each band, covers in frames painted with oil in charge of Daniel Desecrator. With respect to After Death, it was incredible to share with them here in Chile. They are all good people. They were in Chile and showed their powerful show. We even made a photo session at the cemetery (with the picture appearing on the CD). Currently this split is available on LP under IRON PEGASUS.
About Ritual Human Sacrifice / La mujer, el Diablo y el permiso de Dios. (2015 Split con PENTAGRAM “IRON BONEHEAD 7”) The original idea is from Anton (Pentagram), he contacted me, proposed the idea and I think it finally worked very well, the Split brings together a monster like Pentagram, with a new band like us in the background brings a message implicit: The metal is A-Temporary. As always, Iron Bonehead showed his full support for our band, and we had the complete freedom to do all the design.
Is UK’s support strong inside of Chile? How do you feel like it compares to your fan base outside of Chile?
The truth is that I don’t think we have “exclusive fans.” In Chile, those who like U. Kulten are the same as Demonic Rage, Atomicide, Diabolical Messiah, Godless etc. Chile is a small country, with little population. We are a completely underground band, therefore they are the most “die hard” who support us… that turn out to be only a handful of good friends.
Where is your biggest base of supporters outside of your home country?
Hahah, what kind of question is this! I really don’t know. I guess people who like Death Metal and have seen us in Berlin or Oakland should like our band.
How popular do you feel like death metal is inside of Chile? Have you noticed an increase in the popularity of the type of death metal you play over the years compared to when you started, at home and abroad?
There is a great effervescence! There are many bands, many metal shows, many zines… really the thing is very active down here. The overpopulation of bands also causes a lot of mediocrity but it is better to concentrate on the good bands! I think we will be the biggest scene of this and the next decade. For my taste, I can name Godless, Demonic Rage, Diabolical Messiah, Force of Darkness, Slaughtbbath, Ejecutor, and Communion, among others, that started approximately at the same time with the idea of doing dark metal with no cliches, nor obeying trends (right on the time in which everybody believed they were Viking Black Metal in Chile!). At the same time, good bands started appearing in all Chile: Hades Archer, Atomicide, Miserycore and many others that I must be forgetting!
But that is not the end of the story. Here in Chile there are two generations younger than us, which are making very good metal. Among them: Necrolatria, Ancient Crypts, Disembowel, Calvario, Infamovs, Invicible Force, Uttertomb, Necrobastard, Praise The Flame, Consumed, Worship Death, Oraculum, Ripper, Pagan Funeral, Devotion, Black Beast, Septiembre Negro, Concatenatus, Invocation, Buried, Horrifing, Putrid Yell, Sanctum Sathanas, Sadistic, Perpetual Holocaust, Funeralis, Worms, Consecrate, Black Ceremonial Kult, Verbum, Putrefactio, Samoth, Putrid Evocation, Coffin Curse, Violent Scum, Myst, Feretro, Perpetual Holocaust, Excoriate… and many, many others… sometimes I think that in Chile there are more bands than public, even more magazine editors than readers!.
Even when there are many bands and labels specialized in Death Metal abroad, I think the old days with big budgets for this style have passed.
When did you first become aware of Rodrigo Pereira Salvatierra, who has made more than one cover for you guys? How did you come to start working with him?
Rodrigo’s art was recommended to me by Atomicer Pig. His first painting for us was for Keziah Lilith Medea. The painting represents the final scene of Lovecraft’s short story “The Dreams in the Witch-House.” Stylized to our more global concept, the two owls represent Lilith, and with the other two witches we complete the trilogy. Since his work was of great quality, we decided to return to work with him for Teufelsbücher, and he really captured the rotten and dark atmosphere that we wanted to give the art.
What are some active bands from your home country that you feel deserve more of an international audience?
I do not know which “deserve” more audience, I only name the ones that I like and that seems very unknown outside: Putrefactio, Uttertomb, Rotten Tomb and Godless. These are bands with a history, an impeccable show, and I can’t believe that it is not enough for them to find a good label.
Do you have any particular favorites from the ‘80s or ‘90s from at home? Did you get into international metal classics first or local heroes?
I left as most of the children in the world and my age: Metallica, Slayer, then I met Mercyful Fate, Exodus and then a long time after that I discovered the Chilean scene, with names like Pentagram, Atomic Aggressor, Death Yell, Darkness, Totten Korps, Torturer Massacre, Necrosis, Sadism, Darkness… however all we are talking about were from Santiago. The situation in regions was (and still is) much worse… well and as happened to many of the old bands in the world with the passage of time many of these “pioneers” also fell. With the arrival of democracy to Chile, some bands also “softened” or adjusted to the new times of “Modern Metal.” For my taste the best thing that has been done in Chile at Death Metal level is “Our Almighty Lord,” the moment in which death metal stops being the brother of scarce resources and takes the strength and seriousness that the style demanded. Some of the good old bands from this region’s years I like are Apostasy, Xenophobia, Belial, Scrotum Death, Terror Perversity, Beyond Death, and Necropsy.
Unaussprechlichen Kulten has had a handful of shows in recent years all over the world. Will that continue as the band’s legend grows stronger?
Simply depends on the serious promoters—make us serious invitations! The only thing we can do is try to record good albums, be current, and play live each time as if it were the last time.
What’s next for the band?
Work on a new album! The best albums are the ones to come!
Do you have anything else you’d like to talk about or promote?
I appreciate the time you took to ask us these questions and the time it took people to read my answers.