Apocalypse - Interview
"If anyone says they are into black metal, but do not know or like Bathory, they do not know what black metal is or where it came from. Sure Venom and Hellhammer were important as well, but Bathory defined the sound of black metal as it is known today." – Dolgar (ex-Gehenna) (Black Metal: Evolution of the Cult – Dayal Patterson)
This quote by Dolgar, former guitarist of Gehenna (Norway), has stuck with me ever since I read it in Bathory's chapter in Dayal Patterson's book Black Metal: Evolution of the Cult. If you are a fan of black metal, then you are definitely familiar with Bathory and the legendary Quorthon. This band has always been regarded as one of the forefathers of black metal along with Venom, Hellhammer, Celtic Frost, Mercyful Fate, Sodom, Kreator, Destruction that pioneered the genre in the early 80's with many more bands that joined in, launching the so called „first wave of black metal". Bathory isn't just considered as one of the pioneers in black metal, but also in Viking metal, and is regarded as a huge influence on the second wave of black metal in terms of its musicality and sound, which many Scandinavian bands adopted in the early 90's. This band remains influential to this day and has always been important for me just as it is for many of us worldwide, but to some people this band seems to matter much more than meets the eye, which I'll get to later. Unfortunately, Quorthon passed away in 2004, but if he was still around today, I would have definitely loved to do an interview with him and chat about so many things, especially since Bathory turned 40 this year. For this opportunity, I've decided to speak with an individual from Turin, Italy, who goes by the name of Erymanthon Seth. Erymanthon Seth is known for his one-man band Apocalypse, which originally started as a power metal band in 2015 but essentially turned into a Bathory tribute project in 2017 when he took over the band and continued on his own. From then on, Apocalypse has remained a one-man band and he managed to release 5 albums, with one being a tribute album to Quorthon ("To Hall Up High - In Memory of Quorthon"), consisting of Bathory cover songs. To clarify things here, Apocalypse isn't a Bathory cover band. It's a one-man band with actual original songs that resemble Bathory's style in both black and Viking metal, serving almost as a tribute. Apocalypse even collaborates with MiMo Sound Records & Publishing, which is a studio where Bathory recorded their last three albums. MiMo Sound Records remastered and released the entire Apocalypse discography on all digital streaming platforms, with the latest addition being the debut album "Si Vis Pacem, Para Bellum" as of May 12th. It was recently announced on Apocalypse's social media accounts that a new album "Retaliation" will be out this year, with a teaser uploaded on the band's official YouTube channel. Erymanthon Seth is also the vocalist and guitarist for the black metal band Feralia (Italy) since 2020, and has released one album with them called "Under Stige" in 2022. Please join us on this journey where I share some words with Erymanthon, talking about his work in both Apocalypse and Feralia, the musical and cultural significance of Bathory, and also its influence on his project Apocalypse.
Greetings Erymanthon! First of all, I'd like to wish you a warm welcome on behalf of the MetalBite crew!
Hails and thank you, the pleasure is all mine!
Not a long ago you uploaded a teaser for your new album "Retaliation" on your YouTube channel and when looking back at your musical journey up to this point, you have pretty much come a long way since your first album in 2018. How do you feel personally knowing that this whole journey managed to last this long and is gaining new listeners each day?
Apocalypse is a big part of me as a musician and music is my main interest and passion, it's what I live for, so for something I created to have any sort of relevance or following, that's a big accomplishment for me. I had people come up to me and say 'Hey, Apocalypse is my favorite band', I had people telling me I inspired them to pick up the guitar. I think that's worth more than one million albums sold, for you as an artist to inspire another person to get into music and make their own music, I think that's one of the biggest satisfactions you can get. And remember, we never even played live, we never toured, we never had any sort of big promotional campaigns and the whole project wasn't even meant to be released at first, it's just going into the studio, recording and putting it out, and that's it, so the fact that anything at all even came out of this is remarkable, I think. And it-s something that fills me with joy and pride.
About the new album, yes, we published a teaser and the album is scheduled to come out on June 9th, 2023. It is probably very different from what people expect from us at this point, but that's the fun of it I believe. It took just one week for me to write all the material and then for us to get into the studio and record it, except for the lyrics and vocals, which I added later, but then again, I was in the studio for one afternoon to do vocals for the whole album. It was a fun album, just blasting off and having a good time with the music. After two years of not doing anything, I felt I had been thinking too much about what I should do instead of actually doing something for myself and enjoying it. I aborted a lot of projects and albums in those two years instead of just putting the shit out, I was trapping myself in a downwards spiral. So when I came home from Stockholm last September I was full of energy and I said 'Fuck it, let's just have a blast'. It was very spontaneous. But that doesn't mean that it is half-assed, on the contrary, I was very inspired when making the album and I am personally really proud and satisfied with it. Some of the lyrics are very extreme and twisted too, and that's my rebellion against the current trend of censorship and political correctness that is spreading like the plague, sometimes even in metal music. So I said, 'this is Extreme Metal, not elevator music', fuck censorship and cancel culture and 'safe metal' and all that, get this punch in the stomach instead. Well, it's gonna be fun hahaha. Musically, I can just say that if you thought Collapse was fast, that's really cute. This is like Collapse was sped up 20 times. It's the heaviest shit that we have ever done before and it's surely one of the heaviest albums coming out these days, like, pick any of your favorite extreme metal bands and put them on cocaine, and there you have it. But we wanted an album cover that would be original and set us apart from all other bands, that always do either colorful intricate cover art or black and white grainy stuff, both of which are overdone ad nauseam, so we came up with something very different from what is being done and that would really stand out, I am curious to see what kind of feedback we get from it!
As of recently, Apocalypse's debut album "Si Vis Pacem, Para Bellum" has been remastered and re-released on digital streaming platforms, therefore completing the circle of Apocalypse's remastered discography. How do you feel knowing that your entire discography has been wonderfully remixed and remastered by MiMo Sound Records & Publishing?
Working with Micke Moberg (the guy who runs the studio and label) has been amazing. We get along great. And having my music remastered in the same studio where Quorthon recorded with Bathory, working closely with the same guy he worked with, it's really a dream coming true. Well, not even that, because I never, ever would have imagined that anything like this would have ever happened when I first sat down with my guitar at 16 years old writing the first songs for this project. This went beyond my wildest expectations. It's hard to even put it into words. But if anything, it tells me that I must have done something the right way with this project.
Let's talk about the beginnings of your one-man band Apocalypse. According to your webpage, it was unsuccessful at its initial attempt to be a power metal band with a full line-up, but luckily ended up being solely spearheaded by you and it became a Bathory-inspired band with a total 5 albums released. How come you settled on turning Apocalypse specifically into a Bathory style band?
I started playing guitar at 14 years old and that's when I really started getting into music. So, of course I immediately wanted to form a band, and at that time my main influences came from Nightwish, Malmsteen, Evanescence and so on. So long story short, I called some buddies up to play music together, but they were completely inadequate for their role, they never practiced, they couldn't play, they never consistently showed up to rehearsals and they had no ambitions, it was just a big clusterfuck. So I gave them all the boot and split up the band in late 2017. At that time, I found another local band to play guitar and that's what I did for a while. In the meantime, and I was 16 around then, I came across Bathory, and for some reason their music really resonated with me, especially their so-called 'Epic' albums. I heard "Hammerheart" and "Twilight Of The Gods", along with "Blood Fire Death", and that was it, I was hooked! In retrospect, I think I maybe heard some echoes of music that I grew up with, folk, traditional music and stuff like this, an artist like Angelo Branduardi above all others. Whatever the case, Bathory's music stuck with me and touched me deeply, and at the same time, the knowledge that Quorthon was no longer alive really saddened me. So, to find some solace probably, I watched and read a lot of interviews, I listened to the albums, and after a while I felt I wanted to pay tribute to such a musical genius, so I started writing music in the same vein of Bathory, and again, that is something that came very natural to me. I never actively went in and tried my hardest to copy their style, I just directed my mood a certain way, and the music flew out of me. Originally, I just made the music for myself and had no intention to release it. But then after a while, I thought 'Hey, why not?' So I just picked up my old band's name and put out Si Vis Pacem, Para Bellum in late 2018.
Besides, I want to add that from a merely musical perspective, I think almost nobody really picked up from Bathory's 'Epic' albums. Okay, the Viking theme became a fucking trend after Bathory's albums and the early Norwegian black metal movement was made up of riffs inspired by early Bathory material by 70%, and most of those bands are now considered classics, but what about the music on the "Hammerheart" and "Twilight.." albums? Most so-called 'Viking Metal' (fuck I hate that term) bands today play pretty much classic black or death metal music, but just sing about Vikings, and I can think of very few bands that actually picked up from the music of the aforementioned albums, "Twilight…" especially. So that's where I decided to pick up from, and I have been fortunate enough to receive a mostly positive response from it, even though some people just called that a copycat move but when you are one of the very few bands if not the only one picking up so much from that kind of material for inspiration, then there is the risk of that happening. Norwegian black metal was called Bathory copycat material too in the early 90s, if you read old magazines and press. So, I don't give a fuck. It's a style too good to be just abandoned to that couple of albums, and besides, with every album we make I try to incorporate more of my own elements into that kind of music, be it folk influences, classical music, doom, ambient synths or whatever, check out 'Odes' for example, if people can't hear it then they must be deaf. And I made a promise to myself, to never ever make one single album about Viking mythology or history. Nowadays it's so overdone and it's just a stupid fucking trend that everyone picks up thinking that Nordic mythology is cool, to me that's just lack of originality, and it does not even belong to my own history and heritage! So, for example, our debut album was about war during the times of Ancient Romans. The Roman Empire is such a glorious time in the history of my nation and the whole Western world and it's something that I feel really proud of having in my own history, so it was an obvious choice, and I think I really want to make more albums about that in the future.
By the way, we have a real drummer now who works with me in the studio, so Apocalypse is currently a two-men project. He's a great drummer and plays in another thrash metal project here. But I still am responsible for all the songwriting and I have the final word on everything.
I would like to know what is the story behind the band name, was there any specific reason why you chose the band to be called Apocalypse? Was it named after the last track from Bathory's "Requiem" album or is there an entirely different story to it?
Not at all actually! As I said, I wasn't even aware of Bathory when I first started the band, and the name just came from me strolling through a Wikipedia page where I read 'Metal music often focuses on apocalyptic themes'. I was 14 and thought 'Hey! Great idea for a name!' Of course, it's a really generic and banal name, there are probably one million bands named Apocalypse out there, but you know what, in retrospect, I think it is a name that reflects the imposing sound and atmosphere of our albums really well, and I still really like the sound of it. The funny thing is that after a while that I already had the project with this name, I came across that song and I thought 'Oh man, someone will for sure think I named the band after this song, I wonder if anyone will ever ask me about it', well, it looks like we have come to that point today, hahaha! By the way, 'Apocalypse' was also the name of the first song I ever wrote when I was 14, and it's the song that opens the album Collapse, though the original one was in a different tuning.
Tell us a bit about your other black metal band Feralia. What led to you joining the band in 2020 and how did you get along with other members, especially since you're the youngest member if I'm not mistaken?
That is correct. Me and the drummer are in our 20's and the other two guys are in their 40's. The story goes that they came in contact with my music through a local black metal record shop called Pagan Moon, and by coincidence, at that same time they were looking for a singer that would step in to do the vocals for their new album "Under Stige", as their old singer (Tibor Kati from Sur Austru) was Romanian and it was always a hassle to organize everything as far as recording, songwriting and all. So I accepted the offer and joined in, and since we were getting along and they liked both my singing and my guitar playing I ended up being a stable member of the band.
Feralia and Apocalypse are two very different entities with very different styles. One is a grim black metal band with a full line-up that performs live, while the other is a one-man band which is heavily influenced by Bathory. Considering the fact that you're participating in both bands, where do you see yourself most comfortable in terms of musicality and musical contribution?
Well... I'd have to say Apocalypse. Apocalypse has existed since one month after I picked up the guitar, it's been my own creature for pretty much my entire musical journey, and being one hundred percent under my control it gives me the freedom to do whatever I want. Nonetheless, I also write riffs and songs for Feralia and I do enjoy it. But it's a different thing entirely, that's a band situation there and we write music together, we arrange together and everything. It's great, but it's different. I am not even a founding member, I was hired later on, so as much as I like working with those guys, that project is not as close to my heart. So Apocalypse is definitely my main project. Nonetheless, as you said, they are two very different entities and they allow me to show and expand different facets of me, of my musicality and of my creativity.
So far, be it Apocalypse or Feralia, is there any album in particular of the two bands which you're most proud of and for what reason?
You bastard, hahaha! That's the one question no artist is ever able to answer. Well, okay, the one album that I feel the most strongly for is Si Vis Pacem, Para Bellum. First of all, it marked the first time ever that my own music was released. And it probably was the only time ever when I was writing just for myself and my own pleasure. I didn't have a name, nobody knew about me, it was just me and my guitar, some ideas and a dream in my mind. It was me and my music and I was writing solely for myself. It's not that I don't write music that satisfies me now, I wouldn't do anything at all otherwise, but I think the fact that you are aware that at least someone is listening to your music and the fact that you receive comments and feedback on it must do something to you, on a subconscious level. Or maybe I am just romanticizing the past, I don't know. But I was remixing that album last month before sending it over to Sweden for the remaster and I had so many memories coming back, when I hear those songs, I hear true passion, and yes, I could not sing for shit and I could not play acoustic guitar to save my life, but the passion is there and the energy is there. Again, maybe it's just sentimental reasons. Of course I am proud of everything we have put out anyway, it's my music and I wouldn't have released it otherwise.
I can't say a lot for Feralia at the moment because I only have one album out with them and I was not involved in the songwriting, the album was already written when I joined so it was pretty much 'Okay, here's the lyrics, here's the song and here's the microphone, enjoy'. But I think it is a great album with some really original elements compared to a lot of what comes out these days and it was appreciated both by audience and press alike. So I am really happy to be a part of it.
Some tend to say that Italy has a weak metal scene despite having popular bands with strong spirit and will, but what opinion do you share about Italy when it comes to the metal scene as a whole? Are any of Italy's metal bands some of your personal favorites?
Well, first of all I don't know whether I really am the right person to answer because I don't even consider myself a metalhead hahaha, I listen to a lot of things, sure I have long hair and a leather jacket and all that, but I don't want to put that kind of a label on myself, I feel it's limiting. I consider myself a musician, 'rocker' is a word I like also, but not metalhead. I hate that word. I think the main problem in the whole metal world is that sometimes instead of being cohesive it gets really divisive, elitarian and full of inner fights. Instead of greeting a guy who likes heavy, guitar-based music like you do, a lot of people will be like 'Oooh, you don't have the right patch or listen to the right band, you are a poser!' Some people will just shit on you if you dare say that you enjoy listening to other genres than just metal music, but wait a minute, why would I want to listen to the same fucking thing over and over again and limit myself to that? Others have what I call 'the cult of the classics', so they will only ever listen to old bands and only form tribute bands and as soon as someone dares doing anything a bit different and original they will shit on it saying it's not true metal. On the other hand, a lot of modern metal sticks to a trend and a lot of bands use the same equipment and the same sounds and the same formula because it's fashionable and it all becomes stale and boring. I think it's great when metal can head into different directions because ultimately the listeners will get the most out of it and they will find something they like the most, you don't eat the same fucking food everyday, right? So for example, a lot of people were shitting on Måneskin winning the Eurovision, whereas I think it is just great. Think about it: in 2022 a rock band with actual, real, played instruments wins an international music contest and tours the world, potentially bringing a lot of newcomers to the world of rock and metal, and a lot of young people are listening to rock now instead of that shitty auto-tuned computer-made hip hop or pop crap that just sounds like someone being too fucking shitfaced on drugs to just utter two words in a row that make sense and too lazy to play an actual instrument and to learn a thing or two about music. How is this a bad thing? There are a lot of attitudes that I don't like or understand in the metal world. And I don't give a fuck now if someone will say that I am not 'TRVE' enough or that I am not a real metalhead. I never claimed to be. I don't give a shit.
When it comes to Italy especially, it historically never was much taken into consideration when it comes to rock and metal, not because we have no bands but because of what the mentality in this country is. First of all, it is a really Catholic country (fuck Christianity and fuck the church, by the way), and that mentality spreads to average people and to politics also, so those kind of initiatives were always fought against and censored. Furthermore, a lot of people in Italy have that old, academic mentality, that you must get a degree and cut your hair and fuck someone, have a kid and have a great career and that's the only thing you should focus on, so in that context, who gives a fuck if you have a passion that you want to dedicate your life to. And don't get me wrong, I think it's great to get a degree if you have the desire to and to have an interest in culture, I read a lot of philosophical or poetry books, I like going to the museums, I am educated, and you should definitely have something to do to put bread on the table, because the reality is that nowadays, 99.9% of musicians will not be able to live off their music, unlike it was in the past. Today's music industry sucks big time, but it is what it is and we have to do our best with what we have. But anyway, if the average mentality does not promote personal initiative and creativity in areas that are not just what you do to pay your bills, then something like music really has a hard time coming out. Combine that with the bigoted mentality and moralism derived of Christianity, and there you have it. It's not that bands abroad are necessarily better or faster or 'more true' or whatever, it's a mentality problem in my opinion. Metal was never particularly promoted or supported internally in this country, not even in the 'golden era' of the genre, that is the 80's and 90's, except then in the underground, and as a result, no big record companies ever cared to check out that many bands from this country, I think.
As I said before, I don't listen to a lot of bands, but I do like to support the underground and I go to local gigs occasionally and I think there are good underground bands that I know of in Italy, so I'll give you a handful: Kormak, Bloodshed Walhalla (I am not too fond of their Viking lyrics, but the music is great), Alchemist, Lilith Legacy, O, Hellgeist... oh and Apocalypse and Feralia of course, hahaha! Just kidding.
How did you get in touch with MiMo Sound Records & Publishing and made a deal with them to remaster your previous works? How did they react when they heard your music for the first time?
A few years ago I joined a Facebook group dedicated to Bathory, which is basically a place where fans can gather up and post about the band. Photos, fan art, music and all that. After a while I became a moderator of the group. Micke joined the group some time in late 2020 I believe, I remember he posted a photo of his mixing desk, with a framed photo of Quorthon sitting beside it. I got in contact and we chatted sometimes, and when Pedemontium came out on CD in February 2021 I mailed him a copy of it with a dedication written on it. I explained to him the history of the band and everything. He listened to the CD and got back to me saying that he loved the album, which made me very happy. We still chatted some time here and there but not that consistently. Then In Summer 2022 I planned a one-week vacation in Stockholm with a friend of mine, so I texted Micke and told him I was coming so maybe we could hang out and have a coffee or a beer or whatever when I was there. When I came to Stockholm I called him, and he invited me and my friend to visit his studio the next day, and I was shocked, in a positive way of course. So we did go and meet him the next day and he drove us to the studio which is just outside of Stockholm somewhere. I walked in and not even one minute later he went 'So, do you want to be on my record label?' and I was like 'What?!' Hahaha! So that's how it went. And it was just great. He showed me around in the studio, the rooms, the gear, the folk instruments that were used on "Nordland", he even let me play his acoustic guitar that Quorthon was using in the studio at the time they were working together. And we talked a lot about a lot of things. We went out for lunch together another day, it was great. It was a moving experience and I will never forget it. Of course now we are working together and I very well see us working still in the future, besides that, we are in contact often and he is a good friend.
I remember when you put out a video of you and your friend traveling to Stockholm and visiting Quorthon's grave in 2022, where you left some of your Apocalypse CDs on his gravestone as a proper tribute and "thank you" to the almighty mastermind. I must say that it was a really heart-warming thing to see someone honoring their idol. Could you please describe that personal experience? How did you feel at that very moment when you visited the grave of the man who was a huge influence on your work?
Well, first of all I hate the word 'idol', hahaha! It gives me images of wet 14-year-olds lining up for a selfie with Justin Bieber if you know what I mean. I don't think it describes my feelings towards Quorthon as an artist. I consider him a mentor, an 'artistic father' to me, if you know what I mean. He single-handedly had the most impact on me as a musician, on my view of music and on the way of composing and everything, I owe him a lot. And I wish I could just have told him, you know, mailing a letter and saying 'Hey, thank you for what you did with your music, thank you for inspiring me and thank you for the emotions that your music has given me'. I wish I could, but I can't, because he is no longer alive. And this is something I have felt pretty much since the beginning. So when I first printed my own Apocalypse CD's, and I was making them by myself at the time with a printer and burning the music on my PC, I saved the first ever copy I made and I promised to bring it to his grave, some day. And so I did last year. I brought him the first copies I made of the first two Apocalypse albums. That's the closest thing to thanking him in person that I could do, besides remembering him in my music, and it was a really moving experience, when I was there kneeling on his grave. But I will not go into the details. It was a personal experience and I think it is best left as such. I can tell you one thing though, the music I used in that video is a cover I did of 'Song To Hall Up High', and the guitar and lead vocal on that one were recorded at Micke's studio, as he was shooting a video of me playing on the guitar that Quorthon used back then. I added the rest of the instruments back in Italy.
Bathory is regarded as a key player in the evolution of the black metal genre, especially the first wave, but I would like to know your take on this particular topic. Why do you think Bathory is so important, apart from the fact that it's one of the founding fathers of black and Viking metal? Also, tell us why Bathory matters so much to you?
What more can I add... everyone in the black metal movement regards Bathory as the true pioneers of the genre, if you listen to early black metal, like I said, 70% of the early stuff is made of Bathory-derived riffs, and we are also talking about the band that first introduced screaming vocals to this extent, we are talking about the band that coined the phrase 'Death Metal'. These are facts and a comment from me is not necessary. People that disregard their influence on the whole extreme metal movement have no idea what they are talking about. I consider them probably the most influential act in the history of extreme metal. As I said before, I don't think their 'Epic' side has had the same following when it comes to inspiring other acts in that style, it was almost every time mixed with the more extreme side of things, black/death and all that. But nonetheless, it's still great, and it's my favorite side of them for sure. I don't like the term 'Viking metal', but whatever, it's a commercial term now. I just get pissed when people call my music 'Viking metal', I have never defined it as such, I have never made a record about Vikings and I have said it a million times in interviews, that no, we do not play 'Viking metal', but people still call us that. Oh, I am wandering off haha. Nevermind. You asked why Bathory is so important to me. I don't know. I just know that when I was listening to their music for the first time, I felt 'That's it, that's my music!' I felt I connected with it immediately on a very deep level, especially after listening to "Hammerheart" and "Twilight…", those albums really, really moved me since the first listen. It's hard to explain! It's not something you can sit down and analyze, it's like when you are in love with a girl, you don't try to sit down and ask yourself 'Okay, why do I love her? Is it the blue eyes or the smile or the voice or her blonde hair?', you don't do that, you know what I mean? You are just in love.
Erymanthon, thank you so much for taking your time! I am really looking forward to hearing more from both Apocalypse and Feralia. Keep up the good work! Are there any final words you'd like to leave to all your followers and supporters reading this interview?
Well thank you for having me, it was a pleasure being here! And worry not, more will come, we are definitely not stopping here!
I want to thank all my supporters and all your readers who made it this far, thank you all, and stay tuned for the new album, maybe do some neck warm up exercises beforehand, because I promise it's gonna be a blast, hahaha! And as always, feel free to let us know what you think about this one or any other of our records, I always value and appreciate your feedback. Keep Metal at Heart!
Hail the Hordes!
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