New Blood From the North
CoC talks to Varanger of Martial Barrage
by: T. DePalma
At some point in the last year I wandered onto the web domain of Canada's Martial Barrage and, struck by portraits of men clad in spikes, posing in hoods and dark sunglasses, anticipated some kind of Revenge clone. Nothing could have been more deceptive, nor my thinking more off-base, as the music soon attested (said photos have been removed since, with the website redesigned). After successfully distributing their demo across the continent, the band entered the studio in April and released their sulphurous debut, _Call of the Serapeum_, through the Sinister Sounds label. Founder Varanger offers an honest repost to questions on the new record, tradition, politics and the ends of music.

CoC: Greetings. When was the band formed?

Varanger: The band was formed when I recruited its members in the spring of 2004.

CoC: Had you played in other groups previous to Martial Barrage?

V: All members of Martial Barrage have played, recorded and toured with several different bands through the 1990s and beyond.

CoC: Has the band performed live before? Do you have any interest in future live shows outside of your country?

V: Martial Barrage has yet to become a live band, and may or may not ever do so; it is not seen as a necessity at this time. With legal issues, the complications of recruiting a live line-up from outside the area, high gas prices and several other factors, any prospects of international shows would have to be unusually lucrative to be considered.

CoC: What I was most surprised with on this record was the very industrial nature of some tracks. Quite a few songs integrate these sludgy, baleful grooves, feeling very controlled and near to something Godflesh might have produced, while something like "Imperative Processional" uses metronomic rhythm underneath the main guitar riff and creates this kind of imperious glide. Certainly much progress between the CD-R and now.

V: Interesting analysis. The only bands which I enjoy that get the 'industrial' label are not metal bands at all -- bands such as Arditi, Toroidh, Der Blutharsch, Karjalan Sissit, etc. I did hear Godflesh in their early Earache years, but it didn't make enough of an impression for me to follow them further. Military music, and specifically its drum patterns, have been a lifelong fascination of mine, and likely also come into play in what we do. Playing with any semblance of control has come only after long hours of rehearsal. When the fire is summoned, controlling it is paramount if you want to properly perform these types of songs live or record them without resorting to digital editing or electronic trickery. As a drummer, I try to play with the most even meter as possible in order to provide optimum support for the other instruments. While drums in metal are more at the forefront of the sound than in other types of music, they are still, in my opinion, a support instrument for the guitars, which carry the 'melody' in this type of metal. Thus, accidental / careless changes in volume or speed disrupt the song as a whole, while dynamics and steady time shifts are positive techniques in the context of the song. The track you mention, "Imperative Processional", has the slowest tempo of those on the album, and this might give it a certain distinction next to the faster and busier numbers. There were, in my opinion, similar sections on the demo, as well, as there will be in the future. 'Progress' is often an ambiguous and subjective term when used to describe music; perhaps there has been further consolidation in the writing and delivery of the songs since the _Hail the Valkelion_ time period, but there has definitely not been a conscious effort on my part to write them in a different way.

CoC: Have you thought about remixing any tracks under the right circumstances?

V: The sound has always been a direct reflection of the budgets we had to work with. To be honest with you, the mixing process tries my patience very quickly, but I suppose that remixes could be considered given the right circumstances.

CoC: How has it been so far working with Sinister Sounds?

V: Great. Larry has done what he promised to do when he promised to do it.

CoC: One could infer from your nom de guerre and the allusions to Asatru's blot rituals on the album that the Norse tradition and history is of significant value to you. Could you explain the meaning of these rituals and the words used in the lyrics for "Blot" and their importance?

V: The Odinic mysteries, along with Norse traditions and history, are of both interest and importance, though not exclusively. Past use of these themes in modern music seems to have trivialized and almost commercialized certain aspects of the Norse culture. The Varangians are often forgotten as contributors and trailblazers next to what is known of the Vikings, with the latter's more familiar conquests and trips to North America. While some Norse people were expanding westward and southward, excursions into the east by others helped to bridge the gap between post-Roman western Europe and its eastern bastion of Byzantium. Russia was also built up from an area ravaged by Asiatic hordes by the Norse, who came down the Volga and Dneiper rivers to trade, settle and found families of nobility. As far as Asatru goes, ideas from Von List and Willigut through to Flowers, McNallen and Murray, to name a few, are all of consequence. The song "Blot" is, obviously, based on an actual Yule blot ritual, from the initial bell chimes to the additional drums. There is definitely substance to the theory which ties various Indo-European mystery religions together, and since other primordially linked traditions are also of interest and importance, they ended up being synthesized to a certain extent in the lyrics of "Blot". Spoon feeding the meaning of lyrics is not something I like to do, as I'd prefer interested parties to both interpret them on their own and follow up on their interests with study. A couple of elaborations, however: the line "stand as that which drinks of Urd", for example, refers to the life rune / Yggdrasil stance taken early in the ritual where the place of worship is consecrated to Wotan, Yggdrasil being the world tree which is watered from a water source below; "realms three by three" refers to the nine worlds of the Odinic mysteries.

CoC: What is the significance of the ancient serapeum and the Apis bulls used in the new material?

V: Again, without trying to spoonfeed the listener, the serapeum represents an archetypal structure, and in this case specifically that where some believe Hypatia of Alexandria fell at the hands of a Christian mob. This serapeum then becomes a rallying point for the call of the blood; a place where martyrs are recognized; one which prosaic mobs of sheeple who hate and fear truth, knowledge and wisdom, mobs which are still very active today despite delusions of enlightenment and freedom, will besiege. Apis appears in a song set in Aryo-Persia, with a Mithraic solar rise after the sacrifice of a bull, which is Apis. In this context, Mithras also represents the genesis of civilization in that area, rising from the pure flame guarded by the first Persians, and again there is some synthesis of common traditions taking place.

CoC: You mention the mob as a continued pestilence. Can you elaborate on its different aspects and how these currently affect your own country, Canada?

V: Assuming we're talking about the same thing, and in a potentially futile attempt to condense what could be a thesis, I would try to define "the mob" as those fickle and parochial throngs lead by sophists throughout the ages in frequently tangential causes which, especially in our day and age, often work against the very things they claim to support. These are the crowds who came out to spit on Giordano Bruno, and who allowed their masters to keep them from the works of Galileo after the Council of Trent. The "mob" mentality was alive and well during the French Revolution, and when Boer farmers were interred in the original concentration camps. Here in Canada, this type of rabble took part in the Lusitania Riot, and imprisoned Ukrainians and Italians during the World Wars. More recently, they have supported the harassment and deportation of working and elderly citizens who happen to disagree with their dogmas, yet have no problem having convicted rapists, pedophiles and disease-ridden drug dealers as their neighbors or supporting them with their tax dollars. The mob marches against genocide in a country which has yet to recognize the Holdomor, and against "war crimes" while allowing Zimbabwean and Israeli delegates to visit with little to no protest. They boycott the apartheid of South Africa and ignore the same system without the Pavlovian appellation on their own soil. Mobs in Canada will call for "free speech", yet support the banning of certain books and ideas, and rail against "fascism" while attacking the homes of those who disagree with their opinion of the week. These types claim to support what our government heralds as "multi-culturalism", yet demand that ancient cultures adjust their treatment of women to conform with that of the modern West. Environmental damage is cited as a reason to boycott certain companies, while the subsidization of the exploding population of the Third World is continued to the detriment of all mankind. "Diversity" is supposedly encouraged, yet Western education is demanded for those countries not yet adhering to global monoculture, in order that they might be susceptible to its advertisements and gravitation towards the lowest common denominator. Just enough "tolerance" and "religious freedom" is demanded to have fanatics from all corners of the world set up shop here for the likes of the Flight 182 bombing and to plant the seeds for what has transpired in countries like England and France with their oh-so-inclusive ways. Christian churches are ordered to overhaul their doctrines while hordes practicing similarly "intolerant" religions are allowed to pour in under the banner of "cultural enrichment", soon to rule as a democratic majority not known for leniency with the mob. This is but the tip of the iceberg of mob action in Canada.

CoC: Do you think there can be a national unity without Nationalism?

V: Coming up with a definition for "nationalism" could in itself fill several pages and, considering the demographic patterns of late, won't be a practical concept for the visible future, if it ever has been. National unity and Canada are, to me, very much antonymous. The Battle of the Plains of Abraham didn't fully settle the conflicts here between French and English settlers in the 18th century, as the FLQ activities of the 1960s and continued threats of provincial secession prove. Some do try to acquiesce to this supposed utopia of mediocrity which the Canadian government advertises as its "national identity", but if the problems of three centuries past fester on today, this Balkanized polyglot which we are now faced with has absolutely no hope of true unity in the future, despite how events are interpreted or staged to this end. Nationality to me means less and less as the years go by, and very little as a citizen of what was originally one of many colonies. Canadian sovereignty is challenged from within and without, and its supposed representatives are more worried about coming off as "open-minded" than securing this massive country and its wealth of natural resources.

CoC: From a more cosmic perspective, it seems that metal (in any form it takes) is ultimately an obstacle that needs to be overcome rather than treated as it if were born inside a vacuum, thus as a rule -- pure commodity. I think to a large extent musicians in this milieu (at least the ones really worth listening to) create in reaction to more permanent malady, just as I am receptive to because I perceive similar conditions, manifested in anger and revolt. Is an end to this music still possible even if it may not be achieved through the music itself?

V: Again, a challenging query to be settled here. Deep analyses of art, and especially music, always seem to end up bordering on Otto's mysterium tremendum to me. While there are surely many bands pandering to the limits set by "scenes" and "genres", and thus existing solely as a fleeting commodity, I still feel that there is a deeper purpose to some metal bands both of today and yesteryears, though it may not ever be fully developed in the consciousness of the creators. This could be interpreted as -- or perhaps mistaken for -- a reaction to the musical weakness and total degradation of hippies, grunge types, wiggers or today's pretentious acts or, as we still often see, ideological bankruptcy in art as a whole; indeed, some could see it as a rejection of the last few decades altogether. Some seem to contribute beyond post-modernism in their musical approach, and others lyrically; a very few do both. Further speculation will become too metaphysical for this exchange. Manifestations of anger and revolt in art would surely be at home in this type of music, though only when its fundamental potency is at least retained and hopefully augmented. A discussion on the properties of music, and thus art as a whole, in future epochs is pure conjecture on anyone's part unless it is approached in a thorough study. Regardless, what I feel to be genuine metal doesn't necessarily have to be a reaction against the external: endogenous power knows no end.

CoC: Thanks for taking the time to answer these questions. The final word is all yours.

V: Thank you for the support.

(article submitted 2/12/2005)

12/2/2005 T DePalma 7.5 Martial Barrage - Call of the Serapeum
4/27/2005 T DePalma 5 Martial Barrage - Hail the Valkelion
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