BLIGHTMASS is a brutal Death Metal band that actually has its roots in France, but after a couple of member changes their line-up now almost exclusively consists of established Florida musicians, with founding member / guitarist Nattewølf being the only original musician left. The band has already released two full length albums, “Severed From Your Soul” (2019) and “Harbinger Of Lucidity” (2021), that are both highly recommended to all fans of DEICIDE, MORBID ANGEL, MONSTROSITY and the likes and reason enough for us to get in touch with guitarist Nattewølf and vocalist Jechael for the following interview…
BLIGHTMASS originally started out as PURGATORY UNLEASHED back in 2014… Who founded PURGATORY UNLEASHED, how did the other members get on board and was it the first band for all of you?
Nattewølf: “The roots of the band could be traced back in 2014 when I formed the band PURGATORY UNLEASHED right, but BLIGHTMASS became the real BLIGHTMASS as you know when Jechael came in and brought the name. I feel it more like a new band built on the ashes of PURGATORY UNLEASHED, from the point Jechael joined in because he basically didn’t use any of the former singer’s lyrics on the songs we had written. So it’s not like he came in, sang the established songs and just wrote lyrics for the new songs. We started from scratch for every song we already had written, so it’s more like we used the soundtrack we already had recorded with PURGATORY UNLEASHED to put Jechael’s lyrics and vocals on it as a brand new band. Plus our drummer Enno, re-wrote the drum parts of the former PURGATORY UNLEASHED drummer and re-arranged the songs in another way not that long before Jechael joined in, so after such radical changes… But as far as PURGATORY UNLEASHED, my previous band just split up, but I kept the rehearsal space and left all my recording stuff there, because I wanted to form another band right after the split of the previous one. I started to compose new riffs in that place and from the moment I had a few songs, I started to search for members to complete the line-up. I asked Seb (the former guitarist) to join me, because we met on a few occasions in the past and we’d already talked about playing together. He was looking for a new band to play with, because his other band ANGEL’S SPERM was temporarily on hold and he had a few songs to contribute as well. He knew a bassist (Johnny) that would eventually join the band, too. Then I made an announcement in order to find a drummer to complete the line-up and Nathan joined in. We did 2 tryouts with another drummer prior to Nathan, but he didn’t make it. We basically gave him a big no in the middle of the second rehearsal.”
Which bands influenced you musically the most when you started out and have those influences changed over the years?
Jechael: “My musical influences really began with METALLICA. I am originally from a small town in North-East Tennessee, so there was not very much access to the more extreme music until I was a bit older, in my teens. I soon discovered Death and Black Metal, certainly changing my artistic direction to favor these genres. I continue to be inspired by the greats such as DARK FUNERAL, CANNIBAL CORPSE and DEICIDE. Just to name a few. Though I’m also a huge fan of vintage country music, and projects such as PSYCHOTICA still inspire me quite a bit, in many ways and I’m a huge KING DIAMOND fan.”
Your first official release was the “Pathways To The Vøïd” demo CD in 2016, which was limited to 100 copies… Was that a real CD or a CD-R?
Nattewølf: “Correct, “Pathways…” was our first demo. We made a cardboard sleeve for it and paid a factory to duplicate it for us. So, basically it was a CR-R, because it was duplicated as opposed to pressed. However, it was made by a professional factory, so we can say professional CD-R.”
Nattewølf, on that demo you personally were still responsible for the vocals, but it seems you weren’t 100% satisfied with it, since you re-mixed the whole material in 2017 and re-released it as “Darker Pathways” with different vocals… What can you tell us about all that and also about Soliiterre, the guy who took over the vocals on that release?
Nattewølf: “I did the vocals on “Pathways…” mainly because I didn’t have a choice to be honest! We didn’t have a singer at the time, and we had a few songs written. None of the other members felt at ease with singing, so I handled the vocals on this one, but it was rudimentary grunts in the old school vein. But I was not very comfortable handling both the vocals and the guitars at the same time. I felt like I couldn’t concentrate 100% on any of the two. Then an acquaintance of mine asked me if I knew of a band that was looking for a singer. I know he already had some Death Metal vocal experience in a band-setting, so I asked him to audition for us at the next rehearsal. After that I passed him the torch. Because he joined in just after the release of our first demo, but before our first show, I felt it was more legitimate for him to re-track the vocals. But we never released that recording. It was mainly for our presskit, to send it to webzines and radios.”
What happened to your drummer Nathan “Nerfaath” Faure, who still played on that demo? It seems he was the only member who didn’t continue on with you guys after that demo…
Nattewølf: “I’m still in touch with him, actually. Nathan was pretty young when he joined PURGATORY UNLEASHED, he was still in high school, we were older than him. He recorded the first demo and the split album (“The Fallen”), as well as the first draft of the drums tracks for the album that became “Severed From Your Soul”. He eventually left because he needed to move for his studies.”
In 2017 PURGATORY UNLEASHED was part of “The Fallen”, a digital only split release with ANGEL’S SPERM and TEMPLE OF WORMS… Tell us a bit more about it. Was there never a plan to release a physical version of it as well?
Nattewølf: “We did, in fact! We pressed around 100 or 200, if I recall correctly. Basically the split exists only because the band TEMPLE OF WORMS had some unreleased tracks from their first EP I recorded by the time and they wanted to release them. They asked us if we wanted to share the bill and we’d already begun recording our first album. We used 3 pre-production versions to put it on. That’s the only PURGATORY UNLEASHED release (along with the re-release of the first demo) which features Soliiterre, by the way. ANGEL’S SPERM was a band, which featured Seb (our former guitarist) and his brother (who was also the vocalist for TEMPLE OF WORMS). We used their 3 unreleased tracks for an album that never saw the light of the day to complete the tracklist.”
Jechael, the final release as PURGATORY UNLEASHED was the digital single ‘Misery For Martyrdom’ at the end of 2018… That song already featured you on vocals… You have already been part of a bunch of Florida Death Metal bands (AFTER DEATH, AMON, BLASTMASTERS, DIABOLIC), so how did Nattewølf convince you to become the vocalist in a rather unknown band from France?
Jechael: “Essentially he reached out to me via social media and not long after we found ourselves basically becoming the best of friends, in quite a short time. The story of me becoming the fulltime vocalist began with the band’s previous vocalist, who became a bit upset after hearing my version of another song from the album. He became frustrated that the band was favoring my performances over his and he left the band. I assume this single was released in the interim of me joining full time and when we agreed to change the band name. Me joining the band didn’t take very much convincing at all, honestly, because I was really feeling a strong connection with Nattewølf as well as the potential for the music. I was quite excited to become a part of it.”
‘Misery For Martyrdom’ later re-surfaced on the BLIGHTMASS debut album “Severed From Your Soul” in late October 2019… Is it the same version or did you re-record it for the album again?
Nattewølf: “It is a slightly remixed version (the version we released as a single was an advanced pre-production version), but it is not re-recorded. It has basically been used as a single off of the record to promote it just before we officially unveiled the name BLIGHTMASS. Like I said, we used the soundtrack we already had recorded with PURGATORY UNLEASHED to put Jechael’s lyrics and vocals on it as a brand new band. Jechael proposed a few names for the band, but we were not fixed on the name by the time, so we released it under the moniker PURGATORY UNLEASHED. I guess the other proposition for the band’s name was INVERT ASCENSION if I remember right. In the end, we used it as a track name on our debut.”
In 2019 you changed the name of the band from PURGATORY UNLEASHED to BLIGHTMASS… what was the reason for that? What does the name BLIGHTMASS mean to you?
Jechael: “That was primarily my doing, in terms of pushing for a name-change. It was a certainty that we would not only be trying to make our name in Europe, but also in America, where the term “Purgatory” really doesn’t send a very threatening message or invoke the dark visuals that Death Metal is so known for. So, knowing that we were releasing our debut album, I wanted us to consider a few options for what title would really fit the sound and vibe a bit better. BLIGHTMASS was not my very first recommendation, but it was the one we all felt good about, mutually. To me, BLIGHTMASS can represent a few different visual aspects, depending on which form you use the individual words. “Blight” is commonly associated with disease, ruin, famine, death and destruction. “Mass” also has a few different meanings, which include a mass of something (like cancer cells) or a religious mass. So, there are a couple of ways it can be thought of and interpreted.”
When and how did you get together with Great Dane Records then, did you get any other label interest as well and was it a one album deal only?
Nattewølf: “We contacted a few music labels back then, throughout 2018, but since we were relatively unknown, Great Dane was the one that offered us the best deal. He proposed to us a deal for a few albums, but we chose to move forward on our own after the release of the debut album. The main reason was the delays between the album being recorded and the release of it. Also, we wanted to press vinyls and it was not really an option with Great Dane Records by the time. Nothing against Great Dane, we are still in touch for a few trades.”
Your debut full length “Severed From Your Soul” was released via Great Dane Records in late 2019 and also featured the CARCASS cover ‘Black Star’, from their not so popular “Swansong” album… A quite unusual choice for a band like BLIGHTMASS, which is way more rooted in the Florida Death Metal style, so who came up with the idea to cover ‘Black Star’ and how was the response on it? Did you have any other songs in mind as well, which you could have covered instead?
Nattewølf: “Personally, I am inspired by all the old school Death Metal scenes, I’d say the great US, Swedish and UK classics (DEICIDE and MORBID ANGEL from the Floridian scene of course, but also CANNIBAL CORPSE, OBITUARY, ENTOMBED, DISMEMBER, UNLEASHED, GRAVE, CARCASS, NAPALM DEATH and BOLT THROWER), as well as the second wave of Scandinavian Black Metal from the ’90s that probably brings a dark vibe into our music. MARDUK and IMMORTAL, for example. So for me, it was not that unusual of a choice. We could have covered a lot of songs from these bands instead. I pretty much love all the CARCASS stuff, like “Symphonies…” or “Necroticism…”, but “Swansong” is definitely one of my very favorite albums from them. It’s very underestimated, in my opinion. It is shunned by many, but that album also has its fans. I know people that love it, really love it. So, the response was pretty good from them! That’s a tribute, that’s why we covered it. We tried to bring some justice to that album, justice that it deserves!”
Olivier Gabriel (BENIGHTED) played the solo on ‘Black Star’… are you friends with those guys or how did that come about?
Nattewølf: “We are from the same area. I know most of the guys from BENIGHTED, but I am personally a friend of Olivier’s. We spoke about him being a guest on the album and he shared the love we have for “Swansong”, so when I told him we were going to cover it he expressed his interest. I asked him to play the lead and he accepted.”
Talking of guests… Ralph Santolla (DEICIDE, OBITUARY) also contributed a guitar solo on that album to the track ‘They Will Listen To The Dead’… how did you get him on board for that? Did your vocalist Jechael introduce him to you?
Nattewølf: “Jechael did know him for sure, but I contacted him, personally. I sent him the songs and asked him if he could eventually record a lead for us on one of them, to which he agreed. Ralph was the nicest guy and he accepted without any hesitation. He only asked me about the tuning and the tempo of the song. A few days later, he sent me 4 versions of 4 leads, so 16 in total, totally improvised on the song that would become ‘They Will Listen To The Dead’. He told me to ask him if we need leads for any other song. Unfortunately he died a few weeks later, before the album was even released. That’s why we dedicated it to him. Jechael partly wrote the lyrics of the song in his memory.”
Your second album “Harbinger Of Lucidity” was released in September 2021 via Grave Embrace Records on CD (500 copies). I never heard of that label before, so how did you get together or is it your own label? And how do you judge the cooperation with Great Dane Records in retrospect?
Nattewølf: “Raph (Great Dane’s director) was interested in releasing “Harbinger…” too and asked us to release it on Great Dane, but like I said earlier, the delays to release it were pretty long (too long for us at least). It was the same situation for the first album. “Severed From Your Soul” was already recorded when Great Dane basically forced us to release it 7 months later. I totally understand the logistics behind it, so no grudge against Great Dane, but we didn’t want to revisit the experience, so we preferred to create our own music label Grave Embrace Records (that is also the name of my music studio) to release it asap. At the same time, we didn’t try to contact any other label because we knew that it would be the same problem at that particular time. It was the main reason. Also we wanted to have a LP release, as well as the CD release. We took the opportunity to release “Harbinger…” on LP and CD, as well as the LP reedition of the debut album “Severed From Your Soul”. Great Dane Records couldn’t really afford it at the time. As far as the cooperation with them, they met their targets with us, i.e. the CD release of “Severed From Your Soul” in October 2019.”
Nattewølf, on “Harbinger Of Lucidity” you are the only French member left in the line-up, since next to Jechael (on bass / vocals), the recordings were done by Jack “Jackula” Goodwin on guitars (who used to be in PATHS OF POSSESSION) and Ronnie Parmer on drums (who already played with AMON, BRUTALITY, KERASPHORUS, MALEVOLENT CREATION, PERDITION TEMPLE). How did this line-up come together and what happened to the former French BLIGHTMASS members?
Nattewølf: “After the tour, Jechael went back to Florida and I moved to Canada. Jechael and I had some discussions with the other members about the future of BLIGHTMASS, because he and I wanted to tour more. But except for Enno, they didn’t really want to record and tour as much as we would have wanted to and they considered it more like a hobby than something more serious. So, our perspectives differed so much in the end that it became clear that our paths had to separate and it was easier to move on with the majority of the line-up located in the same area, so we planned to base BLIGHTMASS primarily in Tampa. As far as the new line-up, Jack and Ronnie are Tampa based musicians that already play in more established Florida bands like PATHS OF POSSESSION or MALEVOLENT CREATION. The line-up came together, because Jechael played with Jack in PATHS OF POSSESSION and with Ronnie in AMON so we knew it would be a great fit.”
How do you actually write the music for BLIGHTMASS? Do you write it completely on your own and then you send it to the other guys who then play their parts? Or are the other members involved in the writing process as well somehow?
Nattewølf: “That is a nice aspect of BLIGHTMASS, there is no ego-problem. Everybody participates in the writing process. I mean, literally everybody. Jechael, Jack, Ronnie and myself. Sometimes you will bring only one song, sometimes more, but that is not a problem. Each member comes with one or a few songs already demoed and shows it to the other members. The tracks are not really rearranged by anybody since everything is pretty much in place when the song is sent to the other guys. Sometimes a slight arrangement is proposed, but it is really a simple matter of details for the majority of them. So, basically the music is written by everybody. All the lyrics are written by Jechael as well as the melody and vocal arrangements though. Then I mix all the recordings in my studio and there is a lot of back and forth between all the members about the sound direction and the production.”
Nattewølf, will you personally stay in France or do you have plans to move to Florida at some point maybe? Have all of you guys ever met in person?
Nattewølf: “Man, I wish I could (ah!). Florida is definitely one of the best places to be when you want to play extreme Metal. But it is really difficult to get a green card, so… Only time will tell. I was closer for a year or so, because I moved to Canada, but this was just after the start of the pandemic and I needed to return to France a few months ago due to personal reasons. We have met in person on multiple occasions and we communicate practically every day!”
Tell us a little bit about the tour that you did in France in early 2020… With which bands did you share the stage, who was in the band’s live line-up at that point and were you able to play any memorable gigs on that tour?
Nattewølf: “It was an 8-date tour in the south of France to promote the debut album. The line-up was the same as the line-up on “Severed From Your Soul”. So basically, we rehearsed, instrumentally, for a few weeks. Then Jechael came 3 days prior to the first show and we practiced 2 nights as a full line-up. We shared the stage with different local bands each night. The first and the last shows of the tour were particularly intense. We filmed our first live video clip during our last performance that took place in Lyon for the song ‘Misery For Martyrdom’.”
Did you play any live shows as PURGATORY UNLEASHED back then already or did you start to do that as BLIGHTMASS?
Nattewølf: “PURGATORY UNLEASHED only played a handful of shows, with Soliiterre holding the vocals. Nathan played the first few shows and Enno (the drummer that replaced Nathan and played on the first BLIGHTMASS album) handled the few last ones.”
I guess we can easily say that BLIGHTMASS plays typical brutal Florida style Death Metal (with a couple of Black Metal elements here and there), but the vocal delivery in the titletrack ‘Harbringer Of Lucidity’ is more in the Black Metal direction… What made you use a different vocal approach on the title track of the album exclusively, Jechael?
Jechael: “I’ve often said that people shouldn’t be surprised if BLIGHTMASS releases an entire album in a similar vein. My love for the two genres is relatively equal and I’m comfortable in both realms, when it comes to what BLIGHTMASS creates. For the title track, in this case, it was simply just a great Black Metal song that Nattewølf wrote, in addition to most of the album. I knew instantly when I heard it that I was going to make it the title track and it was going to be sung in that style. We did a similar one-off song on our first album (‘Bleed The Price’).”
Jechael, do you have strict rules when it comes to the lyrical topics that you write about, what kind of stuff fits the band and what not? Tell us a bit about the lyrics on both albums in general… Any particular ones that stand out from your point of view for whatever reason?
Jechael: “I suppose, I do have certain rules or guidelines I try to adhere to, when writing the lyrics. I generally start with either a vision of a certain scenario or landscape. Possibly a form of conflict or tragedy. Then I try to create an effective title, which I can always refer back to if I start to lose my train of thought. Sometimes I spend weeks writing one song and other times I can write most of one in a single session. The trick is to learn ways of expressing ideas, using alternative phrases or expanding your vocabulary to allow you to say things in a more creative way. I could spend all evening talking about the inspiration for each and every song I’ve written, lyrically, for our two albums and trust me I would love to (Haha!). I would say that although it’s difficult to pick an absolute favorite for each album… lyrically ‘They Will Listen To The Dead’ is a very personal song for me, because it deals with the concept of going unappreciated until posthumously being mourned and in some cases idolized. As for “Harbingers…”, I had a really fun time with ‘Skincrawl’. This way of twisting the details of the holy resurrection was very strange and interesting to envision. Perhaps my favorite phrase of the album: “My hide lumbers forth into the night. The son returns. Vermin fuck to form my word.” You’d probably have to read the whole song to really bring it into context, but this idea was a lot of fun to flesh out.”
Tell us a bit more about both albums artwork… In the CD booklet of “Harbinger Of Lucidity” Kumislizer Art is mentioned for the cover art, while Moon Ring Design is mentioned in “Severed From Your Soul”, but there’s also always talk of “Deathstar” when it comes to artwork and design for both albums…
Nattewølf: “Deathstar is a friend of ours that takes care of all the graphic-design from creating the logo to practically everything that relates to the visual aspects of our artistic direction. For the cover art, of course we try to search for artwork that evokes intrigue. So, Moon Ring is an artist that designed the debut album, while Kumislizer designed the second one. You can check out their art on their respective websites!”
Why didn’t you use your band’s original logo on the front cover of the “Harbinger Of Lucidity” album?
Jechael: “After a bit of consideration, we felt that a more straightforward logo was best suited for this concept. Simply it just seemed to fit the art and the vibe better. We haven’t retired our original logo, and it will likely be with us as we work to produce future albums.”
You call yourself “Nattewølf” in BLIGHTMASS, which to me sounds very much like Black Metal, so where does that come from and why don’t you use your real name?
Nattewølf: “I was part of a Black Metal band called WOLFSHADE a few years ago. They used to use pseudonyms and when the time came to release my first album with them (I recorded the 2 last ones), I went with the name Nattewølf. Natte means “overnight” in Norwegian. That sounds pretty cheesy out of context!”
Ok guys, that’s about it for now… If you’d like to add something that we might have forgotten to mention, you’re welcome to do so now. Thanks a lot for the interview, take care and all the best to you and the rest of the band.
Nattewølf: “I believe this was a very thorough interview! Thank you for reaching out to us and for the support!”
Color live pics: Didier / k photolive
Interview: Frank Stöver