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Monday, January 25, 2021

Bestialis Interview


1. For those that have never heard of you before, can you tell us a little bit about the band?

We are Bestialis and we have just released our debut EP “Ritus” on November 13th, 2020, so our first sign of life is only two and a half months old. It would not be surprising if you have not heard about us yet, but then it is high time to give a listen to our music.

However, Bestialis was born already in 2012. The band is a duo consisting of Absorber (guitars) and me, Lastaurus (vocals). We do the songwriting for all the instruments as well as the recordings by ourselves (we only had some help regarding the drums on “Ritus” from O Grego). We are also working towards playing live with session musicians, but that is currently still in the future.

Looking into the past, we met and started playing metal together in 2008. After experimenting in previous bands, we decided to start anew together in 2012. The main characteristics of Bestialis were created back then: the name, a first logo, the basics of the concept behind the name, and the first song drafts. Over the years we recorded a few demo songs, discarded some of them, and took our time to let it all grow. We never felt any pressure to release a first record, concentrated on other things in life that were important at that time, and generally focused on slow but mostly steady work.

In 2020, to come to the present, we felt it was about time and we are happy that “Ritus” is out now, released by Vendetta Records and us digitally and as a beautiful 12″ screen printed vinyl (B-side), thanks to Stefan and Olli.

2. Recently you have released an EP, can you tell us a little bit more about the musical style that you went for on the recording?

Well, actually we did not go for a specific musical style. It was not a question of which style we chose, but ‘the style’ was simply what we did, what Bestialis stands for. I think the best thing is to listen to the record, but I will try to describe it. We play black metal music that deals with the animalistic in humans, or human animality, and with humanimal origins, so to speak. It is about primeval and generally other forms of living and becoming together, about needs, feelings and instinctive behavior. I can tell you more about our concept later.

To give our topics the appropriate musical expression, as we think, we have incorporated acoustic elements like guitars, percussions, chants and throat singing. We tried to build up kind of a strange ritual atmosphere, or as Islander from No Clean Singing put it: “[…] the feeling that we have been transported into the midst of a dark ceremony.” I quote him because I think he described our music very well and really got “Ritus”.

Bestialis is rooted in traditional black metal, no doubt about that. However, we do not think that our music actually is traditional black metal, nor that we belong to this subgenre. We do not stop at supposed genre boundaries, but go beyond by using traditional folk music elements on the one hand and unconventional, progressive arrangements on the other. This is not only for reasons of appropriate expression, but also because we draw inspiration from black metal as well as a lot of other music, just as cultural influences in general. I like to describe us as black metal border crossers.

And let me add, this musical approach also reflects our world view. We as individuals as well as Bestialis are convinced of a transcultural, progressive society that must be developed further. And, to point this out: If you are not with us in this respect, Bestialis cannot be for you.

3. The band has been around since 2012 but waited until 2020 to release any music, can you tell us a little bit more about the long wait?

As said, we took our time. We did not wait for something to happen from the outside whatsoever. No, we took our time to experiment, also to discard drafts, and to develop the music, the lyrics and the concept behind all of this. And we have done so alongside other, sometimes stressful things in life, with passion for what we do. Otherwise we would not run Bestialis at all.

But do not worry: Now that our debut EP is out, it will not be long until the release of the album, provided everything goes smoothly.

4. On the EP you covered the “Epic Of Gilgamesh” and prehistoric bull cults, can you tell us a little bit more about your interest in these topics?

Right, the song “Ur-Veneration” puts into narrative bull cults from the Stone Age, while “Non-Domestication: Fall Of Gilgamesh” covers a mythological tale from the Babylonian “Epic Of Gilgamesh”, titled “Gilgamesh and the bull of heaven”.

Before I get to our interest in it and go into the conceptual background, it is important for me to say that both songs do not reproduce original evidence though. There actually is not a lot of evidence of prehistoric bull cults, but this subject seemed so interesting to us that we could not resist the appeal of a lyrical interpretation. In the other case we even used original lines from the “Epic Of Gilgamesh”, but tell a completely different story. Our figure of the bull of heaven rebels against its divine rulers, no longer allows itself to be tied up by their web of intrigue and power, and throws off the yoke of their oppression.

This may already give a first idea why we are interested in these topics. We have transformed an old tale of enslavement, exploitation and lawlessness unto death into a narrative of liberation from our (own) chains that is still relevant now and here. This myth from the past travels as a ‘rebel story’ into the present, offering a glimpse even into the future. It is universalized and expresses an emancipatory striving. I said that our music is about other forms of living and becoming together. It is a search for a different conception of human being and being human. Further, it is a formation against post-industrial functionalism, against belief in progress and supposed civilization. A post-modern motivated ‘back to the roots’ in the sense of a ‘back to the future’: We overcome the limits of time, look back from the present, into the past, and ahead into and for the future – without getting stuck in the past.

This approach feeds our humanimalistic perspective, and the other way around. Behind this lies the desire for the supposedly alien, animalistic other: which is nevertheless always profoundly our own. Our basic premise is to understand humans as – primarily and in the most positive way – animal beings, and thus, at its essence, to explore, proclaim and worship the bestia or beast in man. We set this against a widespread image that devalues inhumane behavior as animalistic. And we turn this image around by welcoming the animal in humans.

Bull cults, or cultural engagements with cow and bull, appear again and again in different cultures in the mythological explanations of the world. This of course has a historical basis: Encounters with bull and cow are among the most important early human-animal relations. As we became aware of these things rather by chance, they would not let us go and quite organically became ‘our field’.

We implement this concept in our songs primarily in stories that often have a concrete starting point within literary history, such as the “Epic Of Gilgamesh”. Overall, myths and mythologies, including later reinterpretations, have proven to be an interesting field of inspiration for us. We take the teachings they contain, take them apart, and put something new together on that basis, another piece of the puzzle of a strongly individualistic and, in our way, animalistic worldview.

5. According to the press release of the record labels bandcamp page you are also going to be exploring Greek, Egyptian, Roman, Indian Mythology, Ancient History and the literature of Dürrenmatt, how long have you been studying those subjects?

Your question concerns our first album that we are currently working on. By now we finished writing the music in its basics and are currently working on the details of the songs, the lyrics, and doing prerecordings. Lyrically, this album will explore some narrations from the fields you mentioned, as well as from Dürrenmatt, and probably other authors, right. Of course we will present you the reworked Bestialis versions of the subject matters once the album will be released.

Since it is me who has laid out our concept and writes our lyrics for the most part, your question is a personal one. I think tales, history and mythology have accompanied me almost all my life. More than that, story telling is to be human. When I was a child, my parents told and read stories to me, not only from a classical-humanistic educational canon, but also greek myths. I took books from them and elsewhere, and read more tales myself, when I grew older. A cultural curiosity was awakened, which, besides other factors, led me to study history and literary studies. The tools and methods I learned give me the access to the topics that interest me, that I like to have. However, in terms of content, it is all a kind of self-study. And everybody can do so, but I think its easier and gets more direction, when you learn to use some methods – which everybody can do as well.

I have been doing this in my personal life for a long time, but it is the same procedure with Bestialis and has a great influence on what we do as a band. I do not see myself as an expert – but who needs experts? Over the years the picture naturally expands, the approach becomes more differentiated and the hunger for stories still continues to grow.

6. What is the meaning and inspiration behind the name “Bestialis”? 

We have chosen this name because Bestialis is dealing with the bestia or beast in man. ‘Bestialis’ is a latin word, which means: bestial/beastlike, animallike, wild like animals. When we were looking for a name back in 2012, we thought about it and researched for a while, before we came across this. And since a name and logo always carry meaning, in other words stand for something, we found ‘Bestialis’ suiting us. Of course we still feel that this represents us and our concept well.

7. Can you tell us a little bit more about the artwork that is presented on the EP cover?

The cover artwork shows a circle of figures grouped around a piled up fire against the background of a forest silhouette and the night sky with a dark moon and the constellation of Taurus. One of these figures in ritual garb holds a shaman drum and a mallet, also wearing a mask with horns. The scenery is a visualization of my imagination of an ancient bull cult ceremony in the wild and therefore an iconic sign and depiction of the musical heart of “Ritus”, which is “Ur-Veneration”.

The 12″ vinyl edition features more than the cover artwork: There is another illustration on the inside of the cover that refers to “Non-Domestication: Fall Of Gilgamesh”. We printed the lyrics too and of course there is a backcover. Special feature of the vinyl edition is the screen print on the vinyl B-side, again a ritual scenery, but more personal, more intimate than the one on the cover. Technically, it is a digital rework of a copper engraving (artist and title of the original n/a).

I did the complete artwork for the EP myself under the name Lastaurus Logo/Artwork Design. It is a mixture of hand drawings and digital drawing and design. Everything was screen printed in the end, so this is hand-made work. And well, we are very happy with the result. All the better that other people seem to like it, too.

8. Currently there are only 2 members in the band, are you open to expanding your line up or do you prefer to remain a duo?

Both of it is true someway. We will certainly continue the band as a duo. We have made the experience that we can work very well just the two of us and perhaps best in this way. We simply are in tune with each other, and we like to not have to be considerate of anyone else.

However, we prepare to play live on stage in the future, and therefore we will establish a live line up with additional session musicians, as said. It still feels a bit distant, but we are curious how this will succeed.

9. On a worldwide level how has the reaction been to your music by fans of black metal?

The reactions to “Ritus” are almost all positive, as far as we are aware. During the premiere by Black Metal Promotion there were many friendly comments, the video has now +6,5k views and a lot more thumbs up than down. In the other official and adorably detailed presentation (and a review) by No Clean Singing, we also received very kind words. The reviews so far are good to very good overall, and if there are ratings, we have mostly received 8/10 (or more). Most of the reviews, not all, come from Germany or the USA. Cvlt Nation made a short feature in which they spoke of our music in high terms.

There were also a lot of positive messages and comments on social media and orders. A fan from Mexico City made a small video in which he discusses the record. We still have to translate it, but of course we are very happy about all of this. Many thanks to all our supporters out there!

10. What can we expect musically once the full length is released?

Well, we have taken a musical path that we will not leave any time soon. The same goes for the concept and the lyrics, which will be continued on the album. But it is still at the beginning and everything else remains in the stars for now.

11. What are some of the bands or musical styles that have had an influence on your music and also what are you listening to nowadays?

We listen to practically anything we can get our hands on, whether it is randomly confronted or specifically sought out, as long as it seems interesting. Accordingly, we have broad, diverse listening habits and are naturally inspired in turn by what we hear. This does not only concern black metal, just as Bestialis is beyond old school black metal, even though we are rooted in the traditions of this genre. Our ears are always open for new, progressive, and sometimes also a little crazy music in and beyond metal. We are also interested in folk, acoustic and world music.

I mention the following names to illustrate this a bit (in alphabetical order): Black Space Riders, Borknagar, Dark Fortress, Emma Ruth Rundle, Enslaved, Faran Ensemble, Helrunar, Khusugtun, Marcel Khalifé (the instrumentals foremost), Maud the Moth, Melechesh, Nàttsòl, Negură Bunget, Satyricon, Tenhi. We could add tons of artists, but we leave it at this cross section for now.

12. Before we wrap up this interview, do you have any final words or thoughts?

Thank you very much for the interview. I hope I was able to shed some light on Bestialis, the things we do, and the background behind it all. Thanks to the readers, thanks again to our supporters. Looking forward to hear your thoughts on the album once it is out. Bestiae sumus. And the hunted become hunters.

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