Veilburner: The Toilet ov Hell Interview
Comprised of vocalist Chrisom Infernium and multi-instrumentalist and producer Mephisto Deleterio, Veilburner featured prominently in my installment of our “Don’t Miss This” series. The Philadelphia two-piece’s debut album The Three Lightbearers seems to have gone largely under the radar, but this is a band whose voice need be heard. To that end, I put together some questions for the duo which they graciously took the time to answer.
Welcome to the Toilet! Could you begin by introducing yourselves and telling us about the project’s history?
Mephisto Deleterio: First off Christian, thank you for showing such an interest in us and for formulating such good questions. Chrisom and I got together with the idea for this project just over a year ago. We’ve known each other for about 12 years, and I serve as engineer/producer for another band he does vocals for called Torture Ascendancy 1307. During one of those recording sessions last summer, we were recording vocal tracks and I thought his style and approach would sound good on a bunch of songs that I had recorded for myself that were just sitting around as instrumentals, wasting space on my computer. I played some of them for him and he was interested, so I emailed him the songs and he got to work on writing lyrics and formulating the concepts, and over the course of the past year we would meet up periodically to record, talk over email and text about ideas, bounce things off each other, and little by little the songs were refined and the album came together. I love writing music and crafting songs, but lyrics/themes/vocals have always been my weak spot and I’ve just never had much confidence in those areas, so he’s sort of been the yang to my yin, or vice versa.
Chrisom Infernium: As Mephisto said, we have known each other for over a decade and have been in a working relationship producing songs with my old bands and Torture Ascendancy 1307. He is someone I have always admired from a musical and production standpoint. He has an ear for the music and writes phenomenal stuff. I had one opportunity to join something he was in many years ago, but due to circumstances it never came to be. I’ve always wanted to do something with him music-wise, but never knew just how to mention it because I didn’t even know he was still writing after the split of his old band. Then, as fate would have it, he played “Nil Absolute” and I raised my hand like a child in class and said…”do you have anyone doing vocals for that?”
You’ve stated previously the inspiration behind your name came both from the song by Enslaved as well as being “something that defines what the lyrical and musical approach are trying to bring.” Could you describe The Three Lightbearers’ thematic and lyrical content and how the name ties in?
MD: Chrisom can probably better explain how the name ties in with the lyrical content and overall theme, as he was the creative force behind them both. I feel like it’s a good, strong name that captures what I’m trying to do on the musical end of things. What I mean by that is people can be very preoccupied with categorizing music styles, creating all these different genres, subgenres, sub-subgenres, etc., all in an attempt to keep things filed away in their own little separate compartments in their head. I think the human brain is just naturally programmed to want to do that for some evolutionary purpose, but it seems pointless and unnecessarily limiting when used in more free-form, fluid contexts such as art and music. When people start doing that, they tend to start making rules and drawing lines in the sand, and you end up with factions and groups arguing over what is and isn’t acceptable in this genre and that genre. What’s interesting is that things like religions form in the exact same way. Ideas get written down and passed around, people digest them and ponder what they just took in, attempt to mentally reconcile them with their current world-view, make conclusions, and then proceed to argue with others when their conclusions aren’t the same. And to an outside observer watching all of this, the little differences being argued over seem miniscule when compared to the big similarities that the different groups seem to share. So when you see all of these metalheads talking about how much they hate organized religion, then turn around and treat music like one, you have to wonder if they consciously know they are doing that or just simply caught up in it. I’ll admit when I was younger, I got caught up in it. As I got older (I’m 41), my mental filing system became so complex and convoluted that it just collapsed under its own weight and I ended up just abandoning all of it, and I opened myself up to whatever. The name “Veilburner” to me represents an effort to remain open to ideas that I might not otherwise consider if I played by the rules of “death metal,” “black metal,” “industrial” or whatever. The fact that I’m reading statements here and there about how we’re hard to classify, or how people are hearing a wide range of influences coming through is a sign to me that we’re on our way to achieving that. The challenge is being open to ideas and incorporating a variety of musical influences while still retaining a cohesive identity. I don’t want to write albums that are all over the map without something central to keep everything in a common orbit.
With regard to the fact that our name comes from an Enslaved song, my main concern with using the name “Veilburner” was doing the name justice, since we were taking it from something that an iconic band already came up with. I was a little “iffy” when Chrisom suggested it, but when he explained his ideas for how he planned to work with the name, I was comfortable with the fact that it was in the genuine interest of building and expanding on something, as opposed to just taking a cool sounding name that someone else came up with, and that was important to me. I don’t mind borrowing, but there has to be a creative purpose for it, and we want to use influences to contribute rather than just take.
CI: The album title “The Three Lightbearers” stuck out due to it being a trinity. It represents three cores. All of them will be revealed through the albums we put out. The first is Man. The lyrics tie in with the name because I write a lot about the human shell being the flesh and where we (as spirits) come from. Is hell actually just the mortal coil in which we live? Could we really be cosmic beings trapped within the filth of the flesh? Also, the concept of “As Above, So Below” runs through the lyrics a lot. Themes regarding the relationship between the macrocosm and microcosm are in full effect throughout the album. The songs “Nil Absolute” and “Purgatorium” are good examples of that.
The song “Masturbating the Obelisk” is about a book which explores a theory that Rome and Egypt came together to create a messiah which would snuff out the Judaic messianic rise. It basically ponders the possibility that Rome created Christ for people to adore through the works of Egypt’s mystery religion, which subsequently gained a foothold in the Jewish world, and brought forth the messiah that the Jews were preaching about in that time, and who we still hear about to this day, thus Masturbating the Obelisk.
The last song, Damnation A.D. is written about the abomination desolation. I did not want to use the actual phrase “abomination desolation” because, even though I may see the lyrics as a certain story, I’m definitely happy for people to take the lyrics and form their own conclusions, and curious about what they think they mean. That’s cool too. All the songs have an occult base or religious base, and things like that have always been open for interpretation.
I had many names/words written down which seemed like they were good candidates at first, but became dull after a while. I threw “Veilburner” out there because I love the way the two words combine with each other, and the Enslaved song is amazing. Therefore, it was an easy sell for me just from that. We had “Nil Absolute” and “Purgatorium” written, and based on where my head was at the time and the way those lyrics are written, I thought it was a good moniker for what we were doing musically and lyrically. Every artist borrows from someone or something that inspires them to a certain degree, and when you listen to this album there’s no doubt that it pays homage to a lot of different musical influences and philosophical ideas, and as Mephisto said earlier, we’ll continue to integrate them in our attempt to “burn away the veil” with respect to the preconceived genre rules, and the religious rulebooks which try to tell people how to live. We are Veilburner. People can decide on what genre we are, but hopefully for most part they cannot define who we are. That is one of my goals with this project. The name allows us to literally be free in what we do and inspires us to not be confined to a specific genre.
Our initial write-up saw comparisons made from your music to bands as diverse as Deathspell Omega, Gorguts, Morbid Angel, Autopsy, Decapitated and of course, Enslaved. The Three Lightbearers obviously takes influence from all over the spectrum, but were any artists in particular significant in the development of your sound?
MD: For the music, the biggest influences on me are the rule-breakers and pioneers who found success with their unorthodox formulas. Morbid Angel is probably my biggest influence. I’ve been a fan since 1991 and at that time, they were changing the game. The stuff coming out of France these days, particularly DSO, BAN and Igorrr are also inspiring me to look outside the box for different harmonies, melodies and sounds. There are a lot of other artists I’m into that have that similar pioneer spirit. I’m sure some of these influences are standing out on the album, and as happy as we are with how the music turned out on this album, we really only consider it a good jumping off point for future work. We’re still searching for some ingredients that are uniquely us to add to the recipe. I imagine it’s a lot like running a restaurant. You might be making dishes that a lot of other restaurants are making, so you have to make them a little differently if you want customers to remember your dish and come back for it. It’s like I said earlier, we don’t mind borrowing, as long as we use the inspiration to try to create something new out of it and give something back. Lately, I’ve been looking pretty far outside the world of metal for some of those extra ingredients, and we’re looking forward to showcasing them on our next album.
CI: Lyrically, I pride myself on being my own voice and my own writer, but I love Nergal from Behemoth and Erik from Watain. For me (this will probably be taboo to say), they both write catchy, memorable lyrics in a way that is very similar to how pop artists create lyric and vocal hooks that get in your head and pull you into the song. The riffs have almost a classic rock aspect to them, in that they’re memorable and almost anthemic. I try to shape everything I do vocally and lyrically in a way that captures those qualities. Also, George Corpsegrinder Fisher has, and always will be, the best death metal vocalist in my mind. He’s low, he’s clear and he has range. It’s because of Corpsegrinder that I don’t cup the mic when I sing.
Chrisom, you’re credited with creating all of the band’s artwork. How does the album’s cover fit into the overall theme?
CI: The artwork will have a continuing theme which ties in to the overall idea of what each album will represent. With The Three Lightbearers, the heart represents man, and it is floating above a planet, or star. I will let people decide on what it is, be it the sun or Mars or maybe Venus? Regardless, it represents yet again the Macrocosm and Microcosm which is the flesh and where it lies in the universe.
Obviously a massive amount of thought was put into every aspect of the album’s production. The work you two put in shows in spades, and to me the album comes off as a complete, holistic experience where the music, lyrics and presentation are all very clearly unified. Do you worry though that some listeners may just take the music at face value, ignoring or not caring about the deeper meanings behind the songs?
MD: I’m grateful for anyone who gets something out of our music, regardless of the level they enjoy it at. With so many bands out there competing for listeners’ attention, it’s a monumental feat for any band to build a following or sell an album. If someone just likes to jam to the music, but isn’t interested in the concept or deeper meaning, their time and attention is just as valuable. They could be listening to anybody right now, and if they choose us, it’s a compliment and an honor regardless of how it was predicated.
CI: I don’t worry about people taking the music at face value. Not all of us are into the same things. I am into conspiracies, and though I believe in a lot of really crazy things, I know there are people who listen to music or read to get away from all the craziness this world brings to them on a daily basis and therefore, if someone reads the lyrics and listens to the song and get into what we are trying to say with it that is great, but if they listen to it and like it because it’s what they are into and it hits home for them, that’s awesome too.
Do the two of you have any plans to create a touring unit or do you wish to remain solely a studio project?
MD: There are no plans to create a touring unit or live act. There are numerous reasons for this, but the biggest one is that I’m 41 and at a point in my life and career where it would not be practical to leave my family or job to go on the road. If I had entrenched myself in the touring musician lifestyle at an earlier age, and built this thing over a period of several years to a point where it was my livelihood and a reliable source of income, I imagine it would be par for the course to jump in a bus and make the rounds, and even then I would probably be getting to the point where I’d be tired of it by now, but my life up to this point has followed a more traditional trajectory (wife, house, gainful employment) and I’m happy with it. I’ve played in live acts when I was younger in the local/regional scene, and I’ve played enough shows that involved loading and unloading gear, waiting around clubs for hours and then being told to hurry up and get our stuff on/off the stage, and driving all night for little or no money to know that I wouldn’t be happy making a career out of that. Plus, not having to put attention into a live act and its obligations means that we have more time to focus on putting out more music, which we’re keenly focused on doing.
CI: Man, I would love to tour but it’s hard enough getting together to record. Also, my other project is very demanding and that’s my outlet for “being on the stage.” I love doing the actual show, but I hate the driving, the hauling, the lifting and everything else (like paying to fucking play) that goes into doing a show. I knew coming into this that it was a studio project and I think that’s what makes this band so great. We can pour all of our energy and all of our efforts into releasing good songs on great albums and hopefully some good merchandise for people to get their hands on.
According to your Facebook page, progress on your second album is already underway. What direction do you see the album taking in respect to The Three Lightbearers? Will it be a continuation of the same concept or do you plan to go somewhere completely new?
MD: From a musical standpoint, I’m planning for it to continue where The Three Lightbearers left off (we’re considering using The Three Lightbearers’ outro in the new album’s intro), but overall, I’m trying to refine the recipe with new flavorings like I was talking about earlier. For the songs I’ve written and recorded so far, I’ve been incorporating more of those subtle influences from outside the realm of metal to explore possibilities and see if they add something of value to the basic recipe, all in an effort to help build a more unique brand. I try to self-monitor as much as I can, and only include the ideas that come to me if they work in the context of the song and fit nicely in the mix. I want to avoid throwing in a bunch of random ingredients just to be “different” for its own sake. At the end of the day, I’d rather write a good song, and avoid a situation where I ended up ruining it by overcooking it or adding too much spice. With that, all this talk about food has made me hungry as hell, so I’m going to go grab a bite to eat before I starve to death. It’s been a pleasure talking to you, and thank you again for your interest and support. You have a great site.
CI: Lyrically, it will continue where it left off. The first song on the album has a working title of Astral Caskets, Abstract Flesh, so yeah, it’s a continuation and it also helps me with my other band because I can now compartmentalize my ideas for both projects. This one is demanding more of the occult concepts and my artistic side, and allows me to be more daring. The other project is a beast, and I can concentrate on religious topics and the occult within the conspiracist’s way of thinking. Hey, thanks for seeking us out. We appreciate the fact that someone is interested in us. Stay in touch.