Straight From the Woundz
CoC talks to MkM of Antaeus
by: Andreas Marouchos
Pernicious, bleak, hateful; simply Antaeus. The pragmatics of black metal was never a complex matter for these French blacksters, or an ostensible one at that. From day one their mission was quite simple: the abrupt searing of hope or any other positive emotion through deflagrating musicianship -- something which their output to date can vouch for, par excellence, and their latest is hardly a shift from their modus operandi. CoC caught up with mainman MkM to discuss the latest Antaeus assault and more.

CoC: Hailz MkM! You were on the road recently with Secrets of the Moon presenting your latest album, how was it?

MkM: Hails, well this tour had been surrounded with a lot of indecision from our side; since our drummer left the band right after the recording of _Blood Libels_, we had to secure someone to fit behind the drums for that tour, which was not an easy task considering the conditions we could offer: close to nothing. Took some time, but Fabrice from Horrid Flesh did fit in and helped us out for those ten gigs. Turn out wise, it went from 40 to 350 paying tickets, with usually 150 to 200 people attending, which is rather numerous considering the fact that both acts remain very underground rooted, and obviously we were the "outsiders" when it comes to touring at the same time as bands like Enslaved, Satyricon and others... We couldn't really present _Blood Libels_ as we wished, since we never had the opportunity to properly soundcheck most of those gigs. A frustrating situation that did lead to some tension, easily perceived by anyone surrounding the band. On the Nuremberg aftergig night, it became obvious that AntaeuS as a live band was over, we had to cease performing. Now Antaeus will go on, with a different line-up or not: time shall tell... but we won't enter stage again. Positive aspects about that tour: gigs in Paris and Padova (Italy); the rest was not worth it for AntaeuS. All hails to Steve and all in SotM for all that they managed to achieve, they get my eternal hails for granting the band such a last tour.

CoC: I understand there's been a rough time for you and your bandmates what with financial problems and dissent within the band, yet still you've managed to produce the third album proper for Antaeus, tenaciously unwilling to settle down to more "acceptable" forms.

MkM: The situation got worse and worse with the years passing by. The deal with Osmose nearly did lead the band to dead. Norma Evangelium Diaboli managed to save us somehow. Though we do not fit the "bankable" kind of bands, we do not represent a "benefit" for any labels.

CoC: The paroxysmal, chaotic nature of Antaeus' sound is undoubtedly still present, dissonant and merciless, with the drum work having intensified considerably. Yet some say that when compared to earlier efforts the effect is not as caustic as one might've expected, even relatively tamer. How would you say _Blood Libels_ compares both aesthetically and in terms of musical dynamics to previous albums?

MkM: To those complaining about the album being less "caustic" as you say, well they can still find chaotic noisy acts around; for once we have a drummer that could perform both live and in studio, we would not complain. All past work was just random drumming that could never be reproduced live... so irritating after a while. _Blood Libels_ remains truly an Antaeus release, but for once, you can hear the guitar work, the song structure and the various elements added, still having a necro approach in the sound. We are far from the sterile sound of _De Principii Evangelikum_ for instance.

CoC: Rendering inherent razor-sharp qualities from earlier efforts with more structured and streamlined musical forms, _Blood Libels_ sees Antaeus progressing from the mind-numbing blasting of the past to a more refined and cohesive delivery. Would you say that this is possibly Antaeus' most mature album to date?

MkM: Without any doubt, it is our most mature album to date, what we were striving for. For once we did reach our expectations.

CoC: Ironic as it may sound; Antaeus have actually used female vocals for some of their songs in previous releases. I'm referring of course to Diamanda Galas, whose maniacal vocals can be heard many a time on _Cut Your Flesh and Worship Satan_'s eerie track intros. I have to say that there is something about her performances that chimes well with Antaeus' bleak mindscapes.

MkM: If you pay attention, Diamanda Galas has always been a reference in AntaeuS; all our releases have included at one point or another a "tribute" to Her and her vocal performances. For instance "Sono L'antechristo" was used on _CYFaWS_, _De Principii Evangelikum_ and "Covered" was also used as the ending part on the latest _Blood Libels_. I wouldn't use the term "ironic" to define such a combination, female vocals such as Diamanda Galas or Katie Jan G. (Queen Adreena) did reveal power and intensity in their work (as well as numerous others I don't feel like mentioning here or else it wouldn't be understood by most readers).

CoC: _Blood Libels_: two chained, blood-ridden hands stretching towards the heavens, seemingly yearning for salvation through unanswered prayers against a cold, black background. What is the lyrical subject matter behind the album and what is its thematic connection with the simple yet expressive cover?

MkM: "Sacrifices" mixed with achievement are the keys that are symbolised through the dynamics depicted on this cover. As you pointed out, the idea of "salvation" could be considered at first, since the idea of elevation could be seen through the "skies" reaching position of those arms. While the sigil and its aura are reflecting filth, rotting process...

CoC: Satan (or the figure of) has enjoyed a prominent fixture in your imagery. It is quite obvious though that it's not simply intended to project an antithesis towards Christianity; rather it attains a more sophisticated presence of something stemming deeply from your own personal angst. Who exactly is Satan then, under the prism of Antaeus' ideology, and what does it symbolically stand for?

MkM: The answer you seek resides in the way you did formulate your question. For once someone managed to sum it up properly.

CoC: Awash in negative emotions, every release has never had even a hint of melody; it seems you creatively thrive on pure negativity. Where does it all gush from?

MkM: Education, adversity and our relation even within the band, this tension reaches its peak if we all get gathered in the same place. To give you an idea, we cannot stand each other, and studio wise, we went to record our parts one after the other, making sure we wouldn't affect the amount of time we had. All is genuine and that doesn't fool the few selected ones paying attention to such "details" that are primordial for Us.

CoC: Being one of the few bands that actually live as they preach, the pertinent question that arises in this case is what exactly can be attained through premeditated self-destruction/denial: enlightenment (if so, how would you define it), an eventual state of self-delusion, or something else even?

MkM: Enlightenment: yes, through the conception and the healing process as well as the final results and the connection you would have towards the results. No self-denial, rather elevation and ecstasy combined with devotion through sacrifices of images / self / skin / blood.

CoC: Essentially what is black metal for you; a necessity, or a conscious choice? Is it a medium which aids in achieving a higher goal, or do you see the music as the ends itself?

MkM: The range of choice is limited, it could be an achievement reached through a well thought decision.

CoC: Black metal has remained adhered to more or less the same musical paradigms since its early inception back in the late '80s / early 90's, yet the ideologies therein exhibit a considerable disparity; from outright Satanic idolatry to Pagan themes and from there to sheer nihilism. Ideological differences aside though, there is a "link" that bonds the true and devoted black metal units and differentiates them from the rest of the herd. Your opinion?

MkM: That term "true" tends to make me raise an eyebrow, especially when referring to the black metal scene, its use over the past years has destroyed its initial meaning, I guess. You mention "ideological differences", I just can't put those aside, but still I would perceive the genuine approach of some acts in their musical work.

CoC: Arkhon Infaustus, Deathspell Omega, Blut Aus Nord, and of course Antaeus. Although relative latecomers to the scene, it seems that French black metal has come a long way since its Les L├ęgions Noires days (back in the early '90s) and has successfully managed to become the inspirational hub for modern European black metal, drifting it away from its Northern fountainhead. How do you see the local scene evolving, or devolving even, from a first-person perspective?

MkM: Yes, "relative" latecomers! 1993 or 1994 would already be twelve years... Most of us were involved in the scene in a way or another prior to those bands you mentioned: I had my zine / distribution / label, others had numerous previous acts, so I wouldn't label us as the "flavor of the month" either. About the Northern formations, they somehow ruined it through their evolution maybe, I wouldn't care much. I still hail some of those individuals, while others only belong to some memories. About our scene as it is now, I simply lack interaction with it to really get to comment its possible futures. For instance, "death metal" wise, a band like Gojira is now getting all the media attention and touring massively...

CoC: Antaeus have recently signed unto Norma Evangelicum Diaboli, a stalwart French label with a keen eye for high-brow, intelligently themed black metal. How are you associated with the label, and what is its prime aim?

MkM: When NED did emerge; I somehow helped them out as much as I could, since they did represent all I ever dreamed of when I started SPK, without having the keys to reach such high schemes... Somehow, NED simply makes sense. In days when black metal and extreme metal is conceived / marketed, like any other generic musical form; getting to see such skilled individuals gathering their forces with a view to creating a label combining quality, devotion and Art provide the breathing I did search for in this sterile scene. About further details on their aims, I guess it would be smarter to ask them directly.

CoC: Deathspell Omega, Malign, Ofermod, just to name a few bands on the NOEVDIA roster, all exhibit a more intellectual grasp of the genre's ideological potential. Is this the next step for the genre's maturing and eventual survival against temporal pressures, by having a select, dedicated few centralized around a tightly-knit black metal intelligentsia?

MkM: I do not think that this is the next step, but yes, we are part of the EVILution, presenting, upon our standards, a more mature output than most of those acts based on nonsense and without the capacity to fully understand what IT all stands for. The term "intelligentsia" would imply that we would spit upon the lower acts, which shouldn't be used there, since we simply do not care, we do evolve in other realms.

CoC: What's your opinion on this ever-growing "revenge of the kvlt kiddies" subculture where any disgruntled teenager with personal recording equipment can produce sub-par, low-fi musical output and sport it as "black metal"? Isn't black metal losing part of its seriousness with these attention-seeking endeavors? Of course there are notable exceptions.

MkM: Mmmm, the Internet only made this more obvious, since anyone could open up a webpage and present their work, but I think it has always been like that. But since they are outnumbering themselves, any of those bands without convictions usually end up "buried" by time and dust within ten months. Simply do not pay attention, the worthy acts would come out anyway, though they'll get even more credit since they are facing a different kind of underground (compared to what we used to see back in late '80s / early '90s).

CoC: Finally, what does the future hold for Antaeus? Any planned tours?

MkM: The tour with SotM was our final tour, Antaeus can now be considered as a studio act only. We do feel like we have performed enough under such conditions. No need to go on that way. A split vinyl with Katharsis is the only release we have in sight so far, and we do not have a clue on when we will record it. Now, the band mostly focuses on the _Blood Libels_ release.

CoC: And I guess this marks the end of our interview. Feel free to direct any curses to the unsuspecting masses.

MkM: AMSG. Hails to you for the interview and the time you gave us.

(article submitted 10/11/2006)

11/20/2000 A McKay 8 Antaeus - Cut Your Flesh and Worship Satan
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