Lord Belial - Interview
Swedish black metal legends Lord Belial are going to release a new album called "Rapture" on May 27th via Hammerheart Records which is going to be a killer album I believe. I asked the band if they were interested in answering some questions and guitarist Niclas Pepa Green was kind to answer them very quickly and detailed via email. Thanks for that again! Enjoy reading the interview and check out "Rapture" as soon as it is available. You won't regret it!
Hey Pepa, how are you doing? I hope you all got well through the pandemic and shit around that?
Hi, Michael! Yes, everything is ok! I went traveling during the pandemic, I was in Naples, Italy, Amsterdam, and Frankfurt, on different occasions. Frankfurt had by far the worst restrictions! Armed guards at the mall, guards at restaurants, paperwork to sign before having a meal, etc. In Sweden, there was not much of a difference - a face mask was not mandatory, and you could go to restaurants and the mall without any problem, however, all competitions and such were canceled.
You had an on/off status with Lord Belial the last couple of years, majorly because of health issues Micke had. Since 2020 you are active again – is all fine with him again?
Micke's health issues were never physical, he just had bad tinnitus. He is in very good shape! He exercises a lot and keeps up with the drumming all the time now. (I was amazed when we recorded the Vassago-album in 2020 because he said he had barely played anything for five years. Yet it turned out excellent.) By now, we all have tinnitus - but we have learned to live with it. We have pretty advanced equipment in the rehearsal room nowadays, we don't play as loud as we used to because we have a monitor system in which you can choose what you need/want to hear more/less of - it is like being in the studio more or less! In the old days, we just turned up the volume more and more on the guitars in particular, so in the end, it was a very chaotic sound (which has its charm of course) with feedback noise from every speaker. It was cool but it hurt like hell after every rehearsal.
You are currently on the Dutch label Hammerheart Records. How did this happen?
The contract with Regain was filled and we were free to search for a new partner. We asked around and we were pleased with the offer from Hammerheart. The cooperation is progressing as we wanted from the start, thus we are pleased with our decision to join Hammerheart.
In May you are going to release a new album called "Rapture". I was pretty surprised to read this news. When did you come to this decision and why? I mean the last album was released in 2008 and a lot of things have changed.
After the recording of Vassago, we (Lord Belial) said that we should just jam for a bit and see what came out of it. Three weeks later, we had all purchased a lot of equipment and we went for it 100%! Suddenly, we were feeling very creative and were filled with fresh ideas, because Lord Belial has its own sound and that part had been missing from the other projects/bands. We felt at home again, we labeled ourselves "The Unholy Trinity" of Lord Belial.
How was the feeling of being in the studio again, writing new songs? Did you have some problems writing new stuff or did you have some trouble getting into it after such a long time?
It became the best studio session ever! We were quite focused and worked really fast. Afterwards, we were exhausted, but we all said that it was the best session ever.
What can you tell me about "Rapture" in general?
We really dug deep into ourselves when we discussed the title. We were in the studio at the time and discussed different titles. The concept of Rapture in its essence for us is that Belial is exalted, the beast is unleashed in its purest form. Then, there is also the concept from the bible, about Paul, in which he uses the Greek word harpazo, meaning "to snatch away" or "to seize," a concept where believers in Jesus Christ would be snatched away from earth into the air. It is an end-of-all-time thing for Christians and Christianity. There are a number of people that have looked into the concept through history; e.g. Edward Irving's idea about the snatching of Christians being followed by the rise of the Antichrist. The concept of the album reflects the idea behind the concept of the rapture, and also, the cover art; it reflects the concept in a phenomenal way.
I had the chance to listen to it in advance and I have to say that it is a typical Lord Belial album with the fast-melodic black metal you used to play in the past. What would you say makes the album more different to its predecessors if there is such a thing?
The album is in many ways a salutation to Belial, for instance in 'Rapture Of Belial': "Northern prince of evil, unleash your power onto this withering earth of human filth, Trample its burning soil"
Also, the song titles spell out Lord Belial:
2. O(n a Throne of Souls)
3. R(apture of Belial)
5. B(elie All Gods)
6. E(vil Incarnate)
7. L(ux Luciferi)
8. I(nfinite Darkness and Death)
9. A(lpha and Omega)
We have made a salutation to Belial, and the lyrics and the music reflect and represent our way. There is a common concept of rapture in its true meaning on the album; to make way for the antichrist and it is communicated not only in the lyrics but also in the music. "They shall cover the world in flames, The higher the flames, the greater the shadows" (from 'On A Throne Of Souls') "Lust and power for absolute annihilation, Winds of obliteration, fire, and death, Storms of destruction reaping all mortal souls" (from 'Destruction'). The frustration of being caught in the age and in the system/social function we all have to be caught up in is also reflected upon and is also from that same theme of rapture "Possessed by a thousand burning souls, Bound in human flesh, torment, and confusion, Centuries spent in chains" (from 'Legion'), etc. I think this album is a fresh restart for Lord Belial. Sure, we have been around for 30 years and we have seen many bands come and go. It is very flattering that other black metal bands make cover versions of our songs these days! We get a lot of feedback from people that ask about how certain riffs are played, they want to show us their own riffs and we communicate a lot with the fans via email, messenger, Facebook, Instagram.
One of my all-time favorite bands is Bathory, which holds an "unreachable place at the top" in Sweden. Then, underneath Bathory, there is nothing, and then nothing again, and then there are some 20 bands, and Lord Belial is quite high ranked in that league. Maybe you can tell a little bit more detailed about the different songs? What about a song-by-song walkthrough?
'Legion' - This song is about the frustration of being shackled in chains, be they mental or physical, still the same feeling. To not be able to do what you want because someone else says so - be it a dogma of religion or politics. It is about Legion from history as well, when a demon who is possessed by a multitude of demons is given the collective name of "Legion". It is a very fast and aggressive song, it is quite intense as well, you will probably feel that you need to breathe after it because you have held your breath while listening to it(!). Some short intense guitar leads drive the song forward, and then in the end it goes faster and faster, ending with a break and some feedback from a guitar and then the rhythm guitars + bass drums in unison, the end.
'On A Throne Of Souls' - It is about the destruction of the world as we know it, "Kill The King" (Rainbow) sort of theme - join the dark side, plunge yourself into the everlasting fire, join the hordes of darkness against the light. This song has a chorus that appears twice, the first time with the chorus riff and Thomas' vocals, the second time with a Pepa-choir and Micke's screams. There is a mid-part where a second chorus is played that goes "They shall cover the world in flames, The higher the flames, the greater the shadows, They shall bring me the heads of fallen kings, The higher the flames, the greater the shadows" where all three of us scream in the background, we call it "the choir of mental illness"!
'Rapture Of Belial' - A hymn to Belial, finally the time for the antichrist to be unleashed, the entity is in ecstasy about it "Ecstasy and morbid lust, feel the Rapture of Belial". The song begins with drums of doom and heavy slow-paced guitars that then continue to rise in intensity, along with double bass drums, and then it intensifies further with a harmony lead and blast beats + a disharmonic solo + even more drums of doom, then the drums and rhythm guitars follow tightly, moving into a death-metal sort of riff with darker vocals and then some twisted disharmonic chords, moving into a tempo-slow-down, and then back to the blast beats.
'Destruction' - This is a more old-school black metal song. The drums follow the guitars, it is a rather fast and aggressive song, but not blast-beat-fast. There is a chorus that goes "Life is torment, Death is liberation, Destruction is all" this song was originally more than 7 minutes long! We shortened it in the mix to 3:48. It ends with a chaos solo.
'Belie All Gods' - A clean guitar plays the harmony, backed by massive rhythm guitars and heavy-paced drums, a Georgian choir sings in the background. This is the most "progressive" song on the album, the chorus has some clean singing by Pepa and Micke in the background on the second and third time "The unholy trinity, slayer of gods, Faceless, fearless, dark shapes of perdition, Dressed in cloaks of burnt angel wings, We come to cleanse the earth". Towards the end, there is a break and a new riff appears with a harmonic lead. The song ends with Micke exhorting us to "Belie all gods".
'Evil Incarnate' - "In the deep murky chasm only darkness dwells" If you don't bang your head to this one, you need more beer. This is pure black metal, mid-paced yet forward-going. Towards the end, there is a slower part with an extinguished solo, then back to the chorus, and out.
'Lux Luciferi' - Explodes with energy and Thomas' fantastic voice tells us about a salutation to Lucifer - the fallen angel of enlightenment. This is a very dynamic song, one minute in - there is the chorus. Super heavy, with Thomas' scorching vocals "Let shine thine luminous light from within the realm of the dead, The radiant light of the son of the dawn, Hail to, the fallen one, hail to the flame, The radiant light of the son of the dawn" backed by Pepa and Micke on "Hail to the Flame". Background choirs and piano. Then the song explodes forward again, followed by a super-heavy riff that will put your speakers to the test. Then, a second chorus "Tu verus mundi lucifer". The song ends with heavy drums, a harmonic lead, massive guitars, Thomas vocals, choirs in the background, this is a really massive song.
'Infinite Darkness And Death' - This song begins with clean guitars followed by massive rhythm guitars and heavy drums, soon it explodes into blast beats, quickly followed by the chorus "The one we call our dark lord drains your temple of breath, Legions of war burning those of the light" that makes your hair stand up on your arms. It is followed by a speech by Thomas, exhorting us to crush all and kill all. The song ends with massive rhythm guitars, topped by clean guitars, and blast beats!
'Alpha And Omega' - This is a sort of reversed salutation to the most common religions of our time, "I deny your beliefs
I deny your gods and prophets" It explodes with double bass drums, massive rhythm guitars, topped by a clean guitar, into a really cool downward going marking, into a pre-chorus with mid-tempo drums, and then by the markings with the clean guitars, Mr. Andy La Roque makes a guest appearance. In the end, we talked about fading it, but we just cut it and it became really cool.
'Lamentations' - This song begins with strings and clean guitar, then comes the rhythm guitars and drums, as it continues more and more guitars are added. It is a very beautiful song, with lots of emotions, a perfect way to end the album. In the middle, Thomas says "I called upon thy name, O Dark Lord, out of the lowest of dungeons, Thou have heard my voice; hide not thine ears at my breathing, my lamentations". Then, as it goes on, there is a Georgian choir and then a beautiful solo.
You all are all 50+ years old now (except Thomas who is a little bit younger). Do you think that people still take it seriously when you are singing about demons and the Devil? I guess you all have families and stuff like that, haha!!!
We are always reading more and more, and we research everything thoroughly, the theme of Rapture is eschatology, and the subject is esoterism.
What do you think has changed in the black metal scene the last 20 years? I guess there are a lot of things. And would you say that the scene has changed in a more positive or negative way?
We grew up in the pre-internet era, it was totally different - we had to write letters via the underground movement, and we met other metalheads at parties before a show, during a show, and after a show. We had to listen to taped vinyl or the actual vinyl itself and then word of mouth spread via underground magazines. Today, it is spread globally with access to anyone, instantly. In that aspect, Black Metal has lost a lot of the mystique surrounding the genre in the early years. Like, going to East Germany to play before the wall fell. Quite the adventure compared to clicking on a Spotify-link!
Do you already have plans for touring or play at least some gigs or festivals?
We are talking about doing maybe some festival gigs, but nothing is yet settled.
What albums did you purchase lately, and which are your all-time faves?
I am mending the holes in my vinyl collection, last I bought Bathory "The Return" for the fifth time in my life.
My last question is one I have had in mind since I bought your first album "Kiss The Goat" in 1995. Why the hell did you choose this pink color for the cover? This wasn't too evil at all (at least for me being a teenager back then), haha!!
I know, it was supposed to be blood red, apparently, that is a tricky color to print!
The Black Curse
Revelation - The 7th Seal
Mark Of The Beast
The Seal Of Belial
Scythe Of Death
Lord Belial / Runemagick - Doomed By Death
The Unholy Crusade
Enter The Moonlight Gate
Kiss The Goat
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