Once again I have run into a band that is so bad ass and so awesome I am having a difficult time writing an intro that will do them justice. I guess if I am going to have writers block this is the best kind to have right? If you haven't heardWodenthorne's Loss , you need to head out and get it yesterday. It is one of the best Pagan Black Metal albums of the year. Drenched in battle hymns and the kind of old world honor that people talk about but don't really seem to understand.Wodensthrone doesn't bow to trends and is always true to the Pagan roots of England. So without further ado here is Wodensthrone
Interviewee: Chris Walsh (Rædwalh) – guitars/vocals
Earlier this year you were pulled off of Cancelfest along with a few other bands for reasons that I still cant seem to wrap my head around ( I think I am trying to use logic and reason on a situation that has none ) What happened? What is your take on those events?
We were pulled from that festival (duly and ironically named) because of some unfortunate circumstances which were brought about by an ignorant minority with ties to the venue in question. There may have even been personal motives behind the events which took place, but I don’t want to speculate. Ultimately, it was venue politics that resulted in our cancellation, where certain people took offense to the stupid implication we were a political band. Our name got dragged through the mud just like many other great bands’ names have. The promoter of that show, who we know personally, called us immediately after the controversy erupted and did his best to find out the exact reasons for our being pulled. Unfortunately, it seems the instigators of this witch hunt have acted in this way before. Negura Bunget themselves were pulled from a gig at the exact same venue a few weeks before we were for the very same reason. It doesn’t take much for a band like ours to attract unwanted attention, it seems, but this is purely due to people jumping to conclusions and clinging to misguided notions when listening to a band that takes pride in their heritage. Rather than finding out that Wodensthrone stands against reactionary politics, they chose to jump to conclusions about us. Sadly, our art has rubbed a few people the wrong way because we’re dealing with subjects that predate the modern political arena’s myopic view of the world, and often our critics come from this field of ‘left versus right’. Identifying with their own skewed ideas of liberalism – again firmly pitted in that left/right paradigm – they are threatened by a band that speaks of English history and ancient themes that betray the very different world we live in now. By default, they align us with politics when we want nothing to do with such a pathetic and divisive way of thinking. But the good news is that we are working again now with the venue in question and that same promoter is putting on an amazing UK Black Metal festival to make amends for what happened earlier this year. Whereas we don’t tend to give much time to ignorant people’s thoughts and judgments, they do have a negative publicity effect and we’ll always stand our ground and defend ourselves when we’re slandered. If people want to look for hypocrisy in our words and misinterpret our lyrics with their own twisted perception, we can’t stop them from being ignorant. But we can do interviews like this in response to these matters and hopefully draw a line under this nonsense once and for all, because we’re tired of false accusations and slander from these usual suspects.
Your sound and all of you lyrics draw upon Britain's Pagan/Heathen past. Were there any battles or events in particular that you wanted to focus on with Loss?
One of the most important battles to focus on is the one we’re in now as we try to preserve our cultural identities and traditions in the face of rampant globalisation and homogenisation. Of course, Wodensthrone relates our contemporary struggles to past events lyrically, but we’re not doing that to embellish past events in some kind of historically edifying way or as a way of rejecting the present. We’re trying to shed light on how ancient struggles against monotheism and other oppressive institutions emboldened many of our ancestors to greatness and how we must take up that mantle when faced with parallel situations in the modern age. Those of us who are culturally sensitive today, who see many traditions and values being done away with in the name of appeasing certain agendas, must be prepared to stand up and protect what we believe in. Because the dominant and pernicious religious and political institutions in this world will continue to usurp that diversity and true wisdom in order to further their own ends and continue to disassociate man with his roots. It is absolutely imperative that people like us don’t lie down and conform to the ever-growing culture of vapidity we see around us. With this in mind, Loss is a rebellious outcry aimed at the apathy of the postmodern world, but also an indictment of humanity’s inability to ward off these leviathans of religion and politics, who keep us ignorant and manageable. However, our lyrics do refer to some particulars from England’s history that we felt were worthy of attention and are linked to our modern struggles. The final song on the album relates to the year that Roman Christianity was brought to our shores, thus beginning the conversion of our native lands to that religious monopoly. Needless to say, the lyrics are a lamentation for the Pagan archetypes that were gradually eroded; much the same way our country has lost its sovereignty in a gradual and covert way over the years. Again, we’re not from those old times, so we must not spend too much time looking to the past unless we are doing so to illuminate our modern predicament through reiterating some of the challenges our forebears failed or were unable to fully realise and therefore overcome.
In getting ready for this interview, I ran into a lot of posts and people on the Internet machine that seem to think that your music has some sort of political agendas. What I found odder still is thatWodensthrone wasn't the only target. Almost every Pagan Black Metal band has been accused of something similar at one time or another. Why do you think people still want to force political agendas onto this brand of music?
As I stated in answering the first question, the reason for this knee-jerk reaction is ignorance: both cultural and historical. The attack dogs with their politically correct mantras, unfortunately, can generate a lot of attention. But they never seem to admit their own shortcomings when we demonstrate that their assumptions are false; nor do they tend to recant with any humility when we show them why they are wrong to prejudge a band like ours, especially when they’re coming from that hollow political realm I talked about. I think having a split CD released on Ancient Nation brought about some of this unwarranted attention, due to their roster having some nationalist and political bands on it, but we’ve always been open about our reasons for working with them. When offered the chance to have our album released, it felt right at that time, and we wholeheartedly reject the notion that a label or other affiliation comes before what Wodensthrone as a band stand for. Perhaps we were a little naïve at the time and didn’t see the connections that people would make – maybe we didn’t even care at the time – but we maintain our right to have our music released and even if we don’t agree with the political bands and their messages, they are entitled to free speech, as is the label. But if it’s not Wodensthrone, it’s Negura Bunget or Drudkh who are slandered when they try to go beneath the superficial surface of reality and discuss their native culture and spiritual traditions. The impulse for this kind of false-branding, I think, comes from the detractor’s inability to recognise pride in their very native culture, which doesn’t mean you despise other cultures as a direct result. It is a type of ignorance borne out of a need to colour everything black and white. For sure, we do have our own ideas about which establishments are long ready for the dustbin, and we can argue emphatically why, but honouring our forebears is not synonymous with hatred for others and certainly it’s not a racial issue. Paganism in metal and elsewhere is seeing a natural revival currently and, of course, there are bands who abuse that to further some base agendas, but we will never be one of those bands. I don’t know how many times we have to state this before it sinks in: the realm of politics is absolutely beneath our musical vision. I would go as far as to say this band’s members hate politics, because we understand the dynamics at hand and that these allegiances mean nothing when our leaders are working towards an altogether different agenda than that which theypublically declare. But that’s definitely another conversation altogether, so I’ll digress! We have always been clear that what we are striving for musically and spiritually is something far removed from the political play pen others choose to embrace. However, let me be clear: freedom of speech is absolutely paramount and any human being worth their salt should recognise that. Whatever the agenda – political or not – we do not wish to censor bands because we don’t like what they have to say. That kind of censorship opens the door to tyranny, so we must guard that threshold when the mindless hordes come knocking. Even with the best intentions, those who seek to restrict human expression ultimately deprive us of the right to say no to the prevalent order of ideals or morals, which themselves can lead to despotism.
Your music is made to honor Britain's Pre-Christan and Pagan history. Are any of you practicing Pagans? Do you sometimes find it difficult to get Pagan ideals to coincide with the morals of the modern world?
We are Pagans in the sense that we believe nature is the pinnacle of truth and order, and that man is an intrinsic part of nature. But if you’re asking do we don arcane regalia and perform rituals and spells, no, we do not. If people want to call themselves Pagans and do that, that’s fine, but Wodensthrone are not interested in that aspect. There is definitely a conflict between the high ideals we engender in the music and modern existence: the two are polar opposites almost. We are very aware that Paganism is incompatible for the most part with the current state of affairs in the world, which is dictated mostly by ego-driven impulses and materialism. And this is why we play the kind of music we do; which laments what we have lost to a socially-dominant hierarchy responsible for bringing about this state of world affairs; the constant wars, the mass consumerism, the manipulation through fear and so on. In fact, our music can only ever be niche in this respect, because it stands against many prevalent institutions and speaks in tongues that only a few discerning listeners can really hear and appreciate. There would be no need for a band like Wodensthrone if humanity had not lost touch with the gnosis of the ancients and strayed waywardly into a situation where we seek guidance and welfare at every turn; where the herd mentality grows continually and therefore forces us into a smaller and smaller perception of reality.
You all hail from the city of Sunderland which is an area that was once a major learning center of its day. Do you draw a lot of your influence from local lore, or do you prefer to branch out and pull from other areas of England's as well?
Sunderland is our spiritual home, but we don’t all hail from this location, so it’s hard to say whether we all take influence from the area in the same way. Lyrically, we do branch out and touch upon some historical themes from around the country. In the song 597: That Which Is Now Forgotten, we allude to the arrival of St Augustine upon our shores, who, on the orders of Pope Gregory, began to convert our Pagan lands to Christianity. This occurred in Canterbury, but was recorded by Bede, who was a native of the North East of England. In fact, any student of Anglo Saxon Britain will be familiar with Bede’s historical records. Our alignment with the Wodenist period of England’s religious history is not only a stance against the Judeo-Christian usurpation, but since it was firmly rooted and practiced in the North East, we’re also paying homage to the folk tradition that nurtured this faith. But while it was important for us to touch upon this conspiracy to pervert the minds of our forefathers with a Christian religious dogma, Wodensthrone are not trying to glorify this past age much beyond the Pagan worldview; when man recognised his symbiotic relationship with nature and was not above it. So we’re very keen not to hark back to the old times and denounce everything that is modern. Although we sometimes put a historical framework around our lyrical concepts, we can only use written records and our imaginations to connect with these lost times. Therefore our looking back is in search of lost wisdom without discarding all facets of modern life. For it is in this modern crisis that we must look back and see the truth about the destruction of heathenism at the hands of those who forced an alien religion upon us. Man nurtured these ancient Gods through oral and written traditions, and perhaps the deities were based on real events, so we must remember how offensive it is for our ancestors to be told their beliefs were improper and to have their monuments destroyed in the wake of a new religious order. That is the definition of despotism and provided us with much inspiration for this album.
When you're writing the lyrics, do you like to take a collaborative approach to writing?
On Loss, all the lyrics were penned by Hréowsian and Æðelwalh, who worked independently on lyrical ideas which culminated in an overall theme. In fact, if you pay attention to the lyrics, you can probably tell that it’s two quite distinct speakers. There are personal tribulations embedded in both sets of words, I think, as well as some uncanny confluence between the ideas presented on the record, resulting in a successful marriage of ideas that point to a deep sense of yearning for the spirit of Woden. In future, Hréowsian and myself will mostly likely take up the task of lyric writing. I only joined the band after Loss was written and didn’t get a chance to add my own poetic expressions to the album; something I would like to redress on the next record.
Loss is a massive and epic album, how is it being received at live shows?
Since its release, we have only played one show in Leeds, which was actually our album launch. It was an amazing night, not only for the band but for the fans as well. We had people who travelled from afar to see us perform and made lots of new friends that night, so I’d like to think people enjoyed the event. We were certainly encouraged by what was communicated to us after we came off stage. From a band perspective, it was particularly enjoyable to play a 50 minute set exclusively featuring Loss material. It was our first show with our new keyboardist, Michael (yet to find a suitable Anglo Saxon name!), who many will know as one of the visionaries behind The Axis Of Perdition. I think the audience enjoyed hearing the full aural spectrum Wodensthrone are capable of, because we had played a few gigs previously without synths after Æðelwalh’s departure. Being a six-piece again means that when you come to see us live, you can expect an authentic experience that does not betray what you hear on the record. Michael even embellishes some of the keyboard parts, which he has interpreted himself after listening to the album. So it’s important to point out that we don’t want to just mimic the recorded music in the live setting. And it’s fair to say we sound more extreme when we play live; partly down to the high volume, the higher gain amplifiers than which we used on Loss andBrunwulf’s unmistakable rasp, which the sound man will always struggle to hide in the mix, despite his best efforts. The ‘soft’ mastering and more ethereal qualities of the new album are done away with whenever we play live, adding another dramatic dimension to the overall atmosphere we create.