Unifying the Musical Extremes
CoC interviews Cornelius of Solefald
by: Pedro Azevedo
I must say that it is indeed remarkable how only two musicians manage to make an album such as Solefald's _The Linear Scaffold_ (or, for that matter, any of Limbonic Art's superb symphonies). These two highly talented individuals, Cornelius and Lazare, have put together music that is simultaneously unusual and brilliant and lyrics that show considerable effort. The result, _The Linear Scaffold_, was one of the main themes of my very interesting snail-mail conversation with Cornelius, one which ended in a rather unusual way. Enter this "abnormal chase" through this interview and _The Linear Scaffold_...

CoC: "Red music with black edges," in your own words, is what Solefald creates. Would you like to tell us more about Solefald's musical concept?

Cornelius: Our music began with cries of pain and booming blastbeats, mixed with other scopes of feeling. "Red music with black edges" is an attempt to put something red into all the black that surrounds us, particularly in the world of music. It is basically a revolt against what we feel is existential injustice. The world order, so to speak. Maybe we can't change the whole, but we can change 39:21 minutes of somebody's personal life.

CoC: How close to black metal would you say you are?

C: Solefald and black metal are separated by a huge, larger-than-life size mirror: black metal tries to look outside itself and does not particularly like what appears in the mirror. We look at black metal from the outside, robbing it for its sublime tools, without stagnating in the mirror hall.

CoC: I think your music is very related to the creation of extreme contrast situations: you suddenly change from a quiet part into a blasting black-like sequence, and back into a softer part. The same can be said about the vocals. Do you agree?

C: Yes, totally. Have you noticed this: [drawing of a triangle in which an arrow is embedded in each side (all of equal length), forming a clockwise path; this symbol can be found in _The Linear Scaffold_'s booklet]? To me it represents all the changes in the music, changes that still belong to a wholeness. Stravinsky talks about this, how a composer must strain towards unifying the musical extremes.

CoC: I think the keyboard-only parts with blackened screams are exceptional, and a brilliant way to finish the album. Is there a specific meaning behind your choice of ending _The Linear Scaffold_ that way?

C: This section was the last thing we did in the studio, a fact that you can probably hear from the fatigue of my voice. It was the last sacrifice to complete the effort of those eight days. I normally smile when I listen to it.

CoC: What bands and what kind of music do you listen to nowadays?

C: Beethoven's nr. 9. Early AC/DC albums (with Don Scott.) Mono _Formica Blues_. Emperor _Anthems to the Welkin at Dusk_. Mi Solar _Paradisique_. Future Sound of London _Cascades_.

CoC: How do you view your label's other bands, namely the brilliant Katatonia?

C: Katatonia is a poetical band, classically inspired in words and sounds. I like the guy's lyrics, poor soul, he could need some encouragement; maybe a Katatonia-Solefald soccer match in Milan?

CoC: _The Linear Scaffold_ presents a rather unusual and original musical and lyrical approach. What inspires you to write such extraordinary material?

C: I think I have to pay my debts to the philosophical tradition by blaming the old writers for many weird ideas. Schopenhauer's "Wille zur Leben", in particular, and many Germans like Hegel, Fichte, Schelling, Nietzche, Kant, etc. I stress this so much because philosophy gives you such a complex and rich way of looking at things, it accustoms you to big thinking. A humble hail to "my masters of the past," as Crowley says it.

CoC: Your lyrical concept is bound to baffle many, in my opinion. Most of the tracks contain what seems to be a highly metaphoric lyrical style. What do you aim to create with your lyrics?

C: Our lyrics can be divided into the intellectual and the poetical. The first, like "The Macho Vehicle", aims at clarifying hidden connections, in this case between the student "revolution" in Paris, 1968, and a new way of looking at sex roles, paternalistic religion and the individual freedom. It may seem ambitious, I know, but at the same time I feel like stretching myself to my analytical limit. As long as I know there are at least two persons out there who understand, we'll continue. The second type, like "Countryside Bohemians", tries more to convey a concrete experience: a weekend at a bizarre cottage inherited from my deceased, deeply religious grand-aunt. Situated on the top of a mountain, with a tremendous view over the valley, this cottage sees you dead if you move more than five meters in front of it. Lazare and myself nearly did so in the nighttime, both drunk as drunk can be. We survived, the lyrics evolved.

CoC: In what way does the cover art relate to the album's concept?

C: "The Return of the Sun" depicts the grand cycle of everything that exists. Sunrise, sunset, day and night, life and death, etc. You can affect what happens to you to a certain extent, but in most cases we greet life with excited facial expressions, like those in the picture, and accept what we get.

CoC: _The Linear Scaffold_ is "an abnormal chase for those who still believe in a normal world," again in your own words. Would you like to expand on that idea?

C: Black metal's way of perceiving things is very abnormal, which is what I love about it. No trace of any compromise, just sheer will from A to Z. Black metal has already admitted what no one else dares, and is about to force you to do the same. I reckon that's why 97% of the genre bands share the same, Biblical imagery. "Under the sign of the Beast," etc. Just the same scrapheap of cheap literary cliches (yes, they do work very well) and hardly ever any CLEAR THOUGHT. Still, it's metal, and metal doesn't always mean everything it says. In an attempt to widen the scope of music travel, we invite you to that abnormal chase.

CoC: Musically, how satisfied are you with _The Linear Scaffold_?

C: Very. I feel happy about it, and I'm sincerely proud of what we have accomplished. Still, we know many things can be done better. The sound is OK, but next time we'll find a more advanced studio.

CoC: Have you started planning a new album yet? If so, are there already any changes that should be expected relatively to _The Linear Scaffold_?

C: Yes, we are now choosing from all the ideas we have gathered in the last years, to make a Grand Mean follow-up to "the Scaffold". The album will include France-beals, some flamenco influence, heavily-worked-on lyrics, blistering riffs and more clear vocals. We're both terribly excited about where we are heading. The hard will be harder, the passion will be more passionate, the ecstatic more ecstatic.

CoC: What other words would you like to share with our readers?

C: I would like to say this: thank you very much for your attention. Thank you for listening to our album, liking or not liking it. We have had so many great people helping us and showing interest in the band. Next time [...? And here it ends. Right at the end of a page; Cornelius misplaced the last page and thus the end of this interview shall remain a mistery... -- Pedro]

(article submitted 13/4/1998)

12/14/2010 K Sarampalis 9.5 Solefald - Norrøn Livskunst
11/28/2006 K Sarampalis 8 Solefald - Black for Death: An Icelandic Odyssey Part 2
11/7/2005 N Shahpazov 6 Solefald - Red for Fire: An Icelandic Odyssey Part 1
6/30/2003 P Azevedo 8.5 Solefald - In Harmonia Universali
10/19/2001 P Azevedo 8 Solefald - Pills Against the Ageless Ills
10/12/1999 P Azevedo 6 Solefald - Neonism
3/10/1998 P Azevedo 9 Solefald - The Linear Scaffold
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