Re-Constructing a Pocket-Size Universe
CoC interviews Jaroslaw of Lux Occulta
by: Pedro Azevedo
Even though when Poland is mentioned the mighty Vader may be the band that will come to most metalheads' minds, others inside that geographical area are worthy of attention. And ever since I discovered Lux Occulta when their painfully doomy debut _Forever Alone. Immortal._ [CoC #18] came out in 1996, I knew they had the potential to create some highly remarkable music. And they have kept doing so. The talented symphonies of 1997's _Dionysos_ [CoC #29] have led to the band's greatest musical achievement to date, last year's excellent _My Guardian Anger_ [CoC #48], an album which once again displays Lux Occulta's ability to create tightly woven albums in which music, lyrics and imagery all play important parts. Musically, the aggression is still all there, their skill seems ever-increasing and creativity appears to be more abundant than ever as Lux Occulta prepare to record their fourth full-length album. Representing the band that has been producing the most interesting music in Eastern Europe to have reached my ears, vocalist Jaroslaw answered an e-mail questionnaire that should allow you to find out more about Lux Occulta.

CoC: You have come a long way since your debut _Forever Alone. Immortal._, during which you seem to have forsaken some of the doom and anguish in your music in favour of greater dynamics and symphonic arrangements. Do you agree? Would you say there have been changes in your musical objectives, in what you try to express through your music?

Jaroslaw: Well, everything changes, that's life. And since we are alive, so is our art. I don't know if it's good or bad, but we get bored quite quickly with music. You see, we were really into these gloomy, somehow ascetic sounds on _Forever Alone. Immortal._; we were into doom and primitive black metal back then. But some day we discovered that two guitars and a never-ending amount of instruments in keyboards can be used in a bit more complex ways, we discovered Cradle of Filth -- no, I'm not ashamed to admit that -- and Emperor. That was when _Dionysos_ was created. But after the recording of _Dionysos_, a few months later we realized that this kind of symphonic black metal has its limits as well. You can hear them in all these so-called symphonic black metal albums that the underground is still full of. That's why with _My Guardian Anger_ we decided to go even further, not to limit ourselves to metal, not to look upon so-called big ones of the genre. We have incorporated some jazzy elements to our music, we have experimented with music and the sound. But the result is the most aggressive and extreme album in our discography. And the less boring one, I'd say! <laughs> And we will keep on going in this direction, I can promise that.

CoC: _My Guardian Anger_, your latest full-length release, does indeed see the band stepping forward into more avant-garde experimentation in your extreme metal -- which in my opinion now has more of a death metal tinge than a black metal one as it used to as well. Do you agree? If so, what caused this?

J: I'm not sure if there's much death metal on _My Guardian Anger_. I mean, maybe some guitar lines, some of the vocal parts, but that's all. I guess the new stuff will have even more of that, but still, it won't be a death metal album. What caused these changes? No reason, really. We hardly ever think about our music, we just play it. I guess we did our best on the symphonic black metal field with _Dionysos_ and that's why we moved towards a more progressive style on _My Guardian Anger_. And we keep on evolving.

CoC: All of your three full-length albums so far are based on quite distinctive sets of subject, lyrics and artwork -- the change from your debut _FA.I._ to _Dionysos_ having been very noticeable, and the same again between _Dionysos_ and _My Guardian Anger_. Do you consider them as concept albums, or do you just create each of them around a certain different subject?

J: Yes, that's how we used to work so far. All of the above mentioned albums are more or less conceptual ones. I just liked this way of working with lyrics, and since I always enjoyed concept albums by other artists as well, I thought it would be interesting to come up with something like that. But I'm not sure if the next one is going to be a concept album too, I still have to consider all the pros and cons.

CoC: Were you especially satisfied with one particular album, on the whole: music, lyrics and artwork working together especially well?

J: It must be the last one. We have even changed our nicknames to make them fit to the whole concept of _My Guardian Anger_. But of course we've made a good job on _Dionysos_ as well when it comes to the correspondence between the lyrical concept and the artwork. That's what I always try to achieve: to make an album become a piece of art by all means. Of course the music is the most important thing, but it's not the only thing that counts. That's just why I'm a little bit afraid of this MP3 stuff. Not that I'm afraid of losing money because of pirate downloads, because when it comes to bands like ourselves it's a great way of promotion -- maybe the best one. What I mean is that when you have a Lux Occulta album downloaded on your hard drive, that means you only have one part of it, maybe some 70% of what it's all about. But I hope there are still some people who care about such "useless" things as lyrics and artwork.

CoC: Both the front and back covers of _My Guardian Anger_ are quite remarkable, in my opinion. What do they mean to you?

J: The front cover. I already had the album title, the lyrics and the idea of Tarot cards [for each of the band members] inside the booklet, but I didn't know what to put on the front cover. There were some ideas of some angel image, but it would be too simple a choice with this title. And the other day I met Jacek, the guy who painted most of the Vader covers. He showed me his works and there was one picture between these predictable born-to-be-metal album cover pictures that really grabbed my attention. It was this naked man, kneeling in front of Cosmos with the knife in his hands. I thought it would be a perfect illustration of what I wanted to say with this album... And the back cover. Well, I think of it as of some bitter pill to swallow. Some people say it's tasteless and maybe they are right. But you know, the message behind the album is something like "I am a proud human being, I can destroy and create worlds"... and the back cover was meant to be kind of a question mark put at the end of this sentence.

CoC: I also found your representation of the band members through those Tarot cards quite curious. Did everyone just choose his own different card without any conflicting options? I mean, how representative of your personalities are they?

J: No conflicts at all. To be honest, I expected some. I thought everyone would like to be Death or Magician; but no, everyone agreed with the card I've chosen. Yes, I have chosen all of them, simply because I'm the one in the band who knows most about Tarot, occultism and the meaning behind it all. They trust me totally when it comes to these things, as much as I trust them when it comes to music, if you know what I mean. Of course I wanted the cards to be very representative of our personalities as well as the whole concept of the album. Some of the choices were pretty obvious to me, some more difficult (like Martin being The Sun), but I think I've succeeded anyway.

CoC: The phrase "Re-construction of one pocket-size universe with the patchwork method" that you applied to _My Guardian Anger_ makes sense considering the variety of material contained therein and the way it flows; but again, what does it mean to you? And how successful would you say that re-construction was?

J: Well, the above mentioned phrase is the key to understanding the album. It's about destroying the links to the outer world and choosing the way of creation... It says that we all can be gods, at least to some extent, and we should use the power that we have, even if we're destined to fall. In my opinion, the act of creation is more important than its result; the road itself is more important than the place it leads to. My personal re-construction of my own pocket-size universe is not finished yet, but if your question is about the album itself, I think it came out pretty good.

CoC: This time you seem to have tried to bring in a myriad of elements into your music, much more so than in previous albums, despite their considerable variety. Where is it that you draw inspiration from to create such music?

J: Lots of different inspirations, not only the musical ones. I think the music we play is first of all the reflection of who we are, our twisted personalities, our dreams and fears. This is like a fundament on which we built the Lux Occulta style. But of course then comes the music we listen to. We are all into extreme and original metal, we all enjoy bands like Morbid Angel, Opeth, Nocturnus, Emperor, Nile, Samael (with the exception of _Eternal_, which is pretty boring, I'd say), Master's Hammer, Phlebotomized, Sigh, Forgotten Silence, Kobong (last three being one of the most underrated bands in the history of extreme music). But we're also into David Bowie, Sisters of Mercy, Faith No More, Portishead, Massive Attack, Apollo 440... Some jazz and classical stuff as well. We're very open-minded when it comes to music we listen to and sometimes we "borrow" some ideas from non-metal bands and transform them into metal. I guess that's one of the things that makes our music interesting and fresh.

CoC: You have also released a collection of miscellaneous material titled _Maior Arcana_, which I haven't heard yet; what does it consist of?

J: It's our only demo _The Forgotten Arts_ remastered, as well as supposed-to-be-vinyl-EP _Maior Arcana_ stuff, consisting of a new version of "Love" from the demo, a song called "When Horned Songs Awake" (it always kills live, but I don't like the studio version) and two covers. One of them is Danzig's classic "Heart of the Devil" and the other "Burn", an oldie from Sisters of Mercy. I wrote my own lyrics to the second one, which are inspired by the church-burning accidents [I wonder if he meant "incidents" -- Pedro] in Norway in the early '90s. I guess _Maior Arcana_, being a half-priced CD, is a good purchase for fans -- but for fans only. I guess it wouldn't be wise to begin with that one if you'd like to know what Lux Occulta is about.

CoC: I believe you have left your old label, Pagan Records, and signed with Portugal's Maquiavel Music; is that correct? What motivated this change after such a long stay with Pagan? What are your expectations for this new deal?

J: As I said before, we like changes. Changes are always good, they help you to look upon everything you did before from a different perspective. We have signed to Maquiavel Music because we feel they're able to push us on another level. Maybe not in terms of sales, because it's up to the fans after all, but in terms of professional promotion and distribution. You know, we're doing very well in Poland, we're maybe second to Vader here, but that's Poland only. We're almost unknown abroad and I believe that our music is good enough to do something more. We also believe that Maquiavel Music would be able to send us on an European tour, which was too difficult for Pagan Records. Anyway, it's quite possible that Pagan will still represent us in Poland.

CoC: What are your plans for the future now? Are there any details you can reveal about your next album yet?

J: Our main and only goal at the moment is to record the fourth album, tentatively called _Mother and the Enemy_. I hope we'll be able to do that in February 2001. All I can say at the moment is that the new stuff will be much more advanced on the technical side than _My Guardian Anger_, more extreme, but also much more experimental. We'd like to set our own standards in metal music and I guess this time we're able to do that. And when the album is recorded we will think about some touring. We've been already asked by Rotting Christ to support them on their journey across Europe, and I guess that would be great. But nothing's certain at the moment.

CoC: Is there anything else you would like to mention before ending this interview?

J: Thank you for your support. Be prepared for our fourth coming in 2001, we're going to steal your souls... Anybody, feel free to visit our website. Some sections are still under construction, but I hope you'll find it pretty interesting and informative anyway. There will be some MP3s soon available for free, so all of you not familiar with Lux Occulta, download them to your hard drive and enjoy. And you can always contact me at <mailto:luxocculta@poczta.fm>. Magick. Freedom. Art.

Contact: http://luxocculta.rockmetal.art.pl

(article submitted 10/25/2000)


ALBUMS
4/12/2002 P Azevedo 8.5 Lux Occulta - The Mother and the Enemy
8/12/2000 P Azevedo 9 Lux Occulta - My Guardian Anger
3/10/1998 P Azevedo 9 Lux Occulta - Dionysos
3/16/1997 P Azevedo 9 Lux Occulta - Forever Alone. Immortal.
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