A visual look inside the larger purpose behind the new Texan black metal unit.
Words by Luis (@luis.hoa):
As the revered saying goes, the devil is in the details. Art in its millions of forms is testament to these revered words as it invites a curious audiences to delve further into a world of endless possibilities. Not everything will appear at once, and rightfully so, encouraging viewers to look beyond the surface level perceived at first glance. In this same vein, graphite maestro Burney has crafted a spiral of duality that graces the raging hell of Necrofier's debut record, Prophecies of Eternal Darkness. It's more than black and white, it's more than spinning figures. It's a balance of two extremes with an invigorating presence within.
Arriving on October 22nd via Season of Mist, Prophecies of Eternal Darkness is more than a record with a cover that appears to have been pulled directly from the Baroque art period. It's a composition that strengthens the stance of contemporary American black metal by harkening back at genre greats and bridging it well with the boldness of the Texan persona. It's aggressive yet controlled, knowing very well when to explode and when to step back and let atmosphere take the forefront. It follows their inaugural 2018 EP, Visions in Fire, with a riff fest that is meticulously layered and intentional. Like Burney's cover would entail, Prophecies is turbulent and constantly unfolding, welcoming all to a tantalizing black metal affair that further strengthens the Lone Star State's acclaim as a regional hot spot for metal.
To explore Prophecies of Eternal Darkness, we sat down with frontman Bakka Larson to talk behind the energies guiding their debut, their cover partnership with Burney, Texas as a metal stronghold, and more:
With a debut album fast approaching and a brief yet electrifying run of shows just concluded, Necrofier is running on a wave of excitement that marks the start of a promising existence in American black metal. That said, in what headspace does ‘Prophecies of Eternal Darkness’ find you all?
Larson: I really wanted to explore some other worldly topics on this record. Death ended up coming up over and over, especially since the writing was in 2020 and it seemed the whole world was engulfed in it. Also, I wanted to touch on how consumed we are by our superficial lives rather than the spiritual things we are oblivious to. Call them darkness, call them light, whatever you choose, but these forces or energy are everywhere and ever flowing. That’s what inspired ideas for the album, and also into the cover art with the struggle between angels, demons and souls. Necrofier lives in the area of sacred energy in the darkness.
That's an interesting note, and we'll touch further on how that's conveyed on the cover shortly. Though the genre is best known as being more prominent overseas, contemporary American black metal holds a special place with bands like yourselves carrying forth the new wave. The Norwegian and Swedish influence is at times inevitable, but where would you say that stateside bands find their distinction? For Necrofier, that appears to be your Southern background.
Larson: Of course, we draw influence from the northern bands of old. They started this genre and we are bringing our take on it from a different region and climate. My family immigrated to the USA from Norway some generations ago, so in some way, I feel I am connected to it through blood. Being from Texas, it's hot here most of the year and I feel that affects the sound. Texas is loud and in your face, and that shines through in a lot of metal from here. Big riffs and high energy. It feels different to burn than to freeze. I would maybe compare it to how bands like Rotting Christ have a similar but different sound to the northern black metal bands. Their guitar tone is warmer, has more heavy metal influences, etc.
Definitely, and ‘Prophecies’ is truly a large leap from ‘Visions In Fire’ where you were all still finding your footing as a newly formed unit. This is the case visually too as you enlist the incredible talents of Burney for album cover akin to something you’d find centuries ago. What drew you to working with Burney initially? This isn’t the first time you’ve worked together of course, but I’d argue that this is an artist who is criminally underused.
Larson: We knocked out 'Visions in Fire' right when we first started playing together, so we have grown a lot playing together as a band. I really wanted a cover that would stand out, and when you see it, you would have to buy the record even without listening to the music.
I have known Burney for a while now and have always loved his work. It has a timeless, dark vibe. Sometimes you don’t know if it was him or some artist from hundreds of years ago. There's an attention to detail and so many small things that make every piece special. The more we talked about music and art, the more I knew he would be the only one that could achieve what I was envisioning. I was going a different direction before this and scrapped the whole thing so we could have Burney do the cover because I knew it had to be him or I would regret it forever.
A wise choice! His graphite works really manage to capture that Baroque feel, breathing new life to your black metal in such a unique fashion that perhaps few other bands have managed to master in the album covers we’ve seen this year. Where did you feel that Burney’s work aligned with the themes and interpretations of the themes and ideas you presented?
Larson: I think that a truly good work of art can change the way you hear an artist. It breathes extra life into the music. I was watching the pieces he was working on, and we sent each other black metal bands to check out all the time. We were on the same page on many levels. I knew he would nail the theme and style before I even asked him. Luckily, he was very interested after we discussed it all.
There were bits and pieces of his other work that really spoke to me. If a piece that was commissioned to someone else hit me like that, I knew when we worked together that only greatness would come forth. The process of us going back and forth about ideas and concepts went really well. Since we are on the same page about music and art, we were inspired by each other’s ideas, and that led to the masterpiece he created.
It's incredible to see how it evolved over time. Judging from Burney’s time lapse videos and progress shots, the cover painting appears to have taken a few months to complete. It’s insanely detailed and surely makes for a record you’d want to own on vinyl. Was the goal always to immerse audiences from first glance at a time where black metal and metal in general arrives by the dozens on a weekly basis?
Larson: Since I started listening to metal when I was a teenager the art has always been one of my favorite parts after the music. When you can look at a cover and just imagine what it sounds like, or just think ‘this album has to be amazing with artwork this good’. So yes, the plan was to have something that would inspire those thoughts…Something you would almost want to own as a piece of art in its own right. There are a lot of decent looking covers these days, so a cover must be a little different, and at the same time just absolutely jaw dropping. This was a really big piece to take on with so many different characters, so it took a little longer than we thought. It was for sure worth the wait.
It really was. Furthermore, what role would you say the arts play in the development of a black metal identity? This goes beyond album covers, but stage presence, t-shirt design, logos, and overall imagery.
Larson: It is imperative to have amazing art. This matters so much, putting a lot of time into thinking and then implementing all of these ideas. It’s always on my mind, and I am always on the hunt for new inspiration to use in the band anywhere from artists to stage props. Its all-consuming to me. Black metal is more than just a musical genre, it embodies a searching in the darkness for something more. Pulling things out of the abyss into the world motivates me to want to search for more. The connection to the art and image brings your music to life physically. When you have all of these factors working together is when you really see it shine, and people can be engulfed by it. Art will transcend a band from just some people playing music, to something sacred, maybe unsacred. People embrace bands they love like people do religion. It's very powerful to feel it all come together.
Speaking further on the shirts, you enlisted Key Svn Cult for one of your new ones. This of course indicates that you all like to keep an eye on artists across the spectrum for artistic variety, whether that be on Instagram or any of the social platforms. Is that the case?
Larson: First, Key Svn Cult is an amazing artist and I love the shirt design he did for us. He puts a lot into his art and even discussing the design with him was very intriguing. As far as artists, I can’t get enough. I am always searching for new ones to support and commission work from. Luckily things like Instagram make them a little easier to find these days, but you still have to search them out. I like to take everything in, the art itself, the vibe the artist puts out, how they present their work. That’s all really important to me. It is a special feeling when you see an artist's work, and you sense it really fits perfectly for your band. Imagine the image and see your music in it, let them breathe life into each other.
That's a neat perspective, and one that should be followed quite commonly. You’ve shared the stage with the likes of 1349, Goatwhore, Uada, Cloak, and appearing on the SXSW platform. Quite a feat given your short existence! Do you feel as though you’ve harnessed from these experiences in ways that found yourself incorporating on the record?
Larson: Experience is the mother of all teachers. You can dream and read about things only so far, and then you have to get out and go do it. There is so much you can learn from legends like 1349 and Goatwhore. Even little things you pick up can change everything. I won’t reveal any secrets.
Touching back on your recent run of shows with Frozen Soul, they’re also a strong up and coming band from Texas that seem to ride heavily on camaraderie. Is said camaraderie between you the Texas underground a key component of the strength of the state’s success in contemporary metal?
Larson: Absolutely! Especially in these times, bands don’t make a ton of money. I think one of the core things that keeps you going are the relationships you make with people. I have made lifelong friends through music and that bond is really special. Focusing on the end result isn’t the actual goal, in my opinion, it’s the journey. Texas especially has a lot of camaraderie across metal in general here. Even through the different genres, we all know each other.
And the music Texas puts out surely speaks for it. In closing, you’ve been sitting on ‘Prophecies’ for some time now with the art being worked on throughout the late months of 2020. As we inch closer to release and you’ve performed the new material live, what did you look to achieve with your full-length introduction to the world?
Larson: Necrofier was just a dream years ago, and to watch it come to fruition with a full length out on Season of Mist, is still quite surreal. I wanted the world to see that we can create something in a genre known for its northern home and recreate it here in the heat of Texas, having it burn with the passion of the old but have a little bit of something new breathed into it. Music can transcend space and time and take you to a different place. That’s what we look to achieve.
Prophecies of Eternal Darkness arrives October 22nd via Season of Mist. Order it HERE.