Monday, 9 March 2009

Thoughts from the Sanctum Sanctorum of Bal-Sagoth

Will there be any further BAL-SAGOTH albums?

There are currently no plans for any further Bal-Sagoth albums, at least not for the  immediately foreseeable future. That's not to say that there's any shortage of inspiration... far from it! I have the content prepared for albums 7, 8 and 9, including lyrics, titles and even the cover artwork. That material has existed for years, and includes the final chapters to all of the stories which were left unfinished on the existing albums. But now is not the time. Perhaps one day… if the stars align.

How did BAL-SAGOTH start?

How did the band start? This question has been asked so many times over the years, so here’s the definitive version for the archives! Here you will find out about the origin of both the concept and the band itself. I came up with the idea and concept for Bal-Sagoth many years ago (around 1989), and had tried unsuccessfully to start it up with a succession of different musicians. Unfortunately, it was the era of socially aware thrash metal, and nobody was at all interested in commiting to a fantasy oriented black/death metal project. I was determined to start the project however, and continued my attempts to find musicians who might be interested in the idea. Then, a guy I knew called Mac, who had played guitar in a prominent local thrash band called Systematic Insanity, asked me if I wanted to jam with some guys he’d met. They were only playing Metallica and Napalm Death covers in their bedroom (in an old manor house which had once been a lunatic asylum), but they were interested in starting a serious band. So, I went and met the Maudling brothers Jonny and Chris (Jonny Maudling had previously been in a thrash band called Igniter, playing the regional pubs and clubs) and also Jason Porter, and we jammed some stuff. Unfortunately however, I really wasn’t interested in playing the kind of material that they were into, so I figured it just wasn’t going to work out. Jonny and Chris weren’t at all familiar with black metal, and also Mac didn’t like the fantasy/mythology concept I had in mind for the band, or the name “Bal-Sagoth”. Mac wanted to do a sort of thrash/death metal band with contemporary socio-political lyrical topics. He was also, at that time, somewhat horrified at the suggestion of a metal band with full keyboards. I figured I might as well keep jamming with Mac until I found someone else with whom to start Bal-Sagoth, so we called the non-serious bedroom outfit “Dusk” and continued to spend Sunday afternoons making a horrific noise. Well, this went on for a few months, but absolutely nothing came of it. I wasn’t happy that I couldn’t implement the Bal-Sagoth concept fully, and Jonny and Chris also confided in me that they too weren’t happy with the kind of material which we were playing as Dusk. Then, for a variety of reasons, we parted company with Mac (but ironically, Mac would later re-join us on bass). At that point, I explained to Jonny and Chris in detail the kind of music I wanted to do, and gave them a rundown of the Bal-Sagoth concept, saying that keyboards would ideally play a prominent role in such a band. Back then, I kept all the lyrics, logos, and ideas in a large black folder, which I showed them to give them a firm idea of the whole concept behind the band. They thought it was all pretty weird, but Jonny, who was a trained pianist, was very intrigued by the idea of keyboards, and when I showed them material by black metal bands such as Emperor, they were sold. And so, Bal-Sagoth was formally implemented during the summer of 1993. We still had Jason on bass guitar, and for keyboards we recruited Vincent, and we began crafting the music which would ultimately end up on our demo and later on the debut album. And that’s how the band started.

Over the years, a few people have asked me the following questions, so I've added them to the FAQ...

Q: Wasn't the Circus Maximus used just for chariot racing? But you have gladiatorial combat taking place there in "Blood Slakes The Sand At the Circus Maximus".

BYRON: The Circus Maximus was very much an "all purpose" arena. Although it is perhaps best known for the epic chariot races, many different events were in fact held there, including parades, beast hunts, plays, recitals, athletics, religious ceremonies, gladiatorial contests and horse racing.

Q: Isn't "chthonic" pronounced wrong on the album "The Chthonic Chronicles"? 

BYRON: Sure, the "ch" is technically silent, but I chose to pronounce it as "katonic" for a couple of reasons. First, I liked the alliterative qualities which the "hard c" sound afforded when paired with the word "chronicles", which neatly paralleled the alliteration of the previous Bal-Sagoth album title "Atlantis Ascendant". Second, I always liked the Lovecraftian connotation which the "katonic" pronunciation suggested.
As editor Simon theorizes in the fictional "Necronomicon" publication:
"The pronounciation of chthonic is "katonic", which explains Lovecraft's famous Miskatonic River and Miskatonic University, not to mention the chief deity of his pantheon, Cthulhu..."
So, although he is technically wrong about the pronunciation, I always rather liked that theory and the phonetic link to HPL which it afforded. So, that's why I decided to use the "katonic" pronunciation.


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BYRON Winter 2011 (C.E.)