The Belgian Black Metal band POSSESSION has developed in only a few years from an illustrious newcomer to one of the best underground bands from Belgium. POSSESSION also knows how to impress internationally, if you keep in mind all the promising and warm reactions in many foreign magazines. With the very strong album “Exorkizein”, the band recently released their ‘real’ debut. More than reason enough to contact V. Viriakh (vocals) and Pz.Kpfw (drums) right after the release party of the album in Brussels.
Your mini-album “1585-1646” was based on the life of Adrienne d’Heur, an alleged French witch who was executed for witchcraft. “Exorkizein” is once again a concept album dedicated to the life and work of reverend Gabriele Amorth, also known as the chief exorcist of Rome. What fascinated you so much about his life that you decided to build an album dedicated to his life?
"We like the devotion, the blind faith and the stories around it. Father Amorth surely was a brave and devoted man as much as he was a fool to believe he could make a difference by his work. We wanted to write about his obsession to fight evil as much as he could – even if he had to be evil as well to achieve this – until his death on the 16th of September 2016 when he finally realized that all this was done in vain. Such blind faith and blind devotion – or foolishness – is somehow fascinating. But most of all, POSSESSION’s aim is to tell stories. Stories that you can summarize in one sentence: evil can’t be defeated. Each of our release so far has that purpose, to be an example of that motto."
On the frontcover of “Exorkizein”, you can see an image of the Saint-Michael cathedral in Brussels which gets sort of sacrificed by the figure which also appeared on the cover of “1585-1646”. It’s actually a nice hint to the place you come from.
"That’s correct. We choose to represent the Saint-Michael cathedral of Brussels for two reasons. The first one is that “Exorkizein” has been written in Brussels, deep in the rotten heart of the dead city. The second reason is that through this album – and as stated before – we wanted to express that evil can’t be defeated. You can see there that for us, it is not the archangel who’s slaying the dragon. It’s the dragon slaying the house of God named after the archangel."
I’ve listened to “Exorkizein” already a lot. And to be honest, what I always find captivating about your releases is the whole flow throughout the songs. “Exorkizein” starts with a really haunting intro and then kicks off with the excellent track ‘Sacerdotium’ where Amorth is swearing the oath of the exorcist. Throughout the album, the demonic possession takes place and Amorth performs a ritual on the possessed one. In the closing track, ‘Preacher’s Death’, Amorth is tormented by demons telling him that evil can’t be defeated. If you close your eyes and just focus on the music by listening to it through headphones, you can really see the whole story in my imagination. Would you say that something like that is also somehow you goal?
"We are quite pleased to read that our aim has at least been fulfilled with you, as much with “Exorkizein” as our previous releases. Each of them – except our demo "His Best Deceit" – is telling a story. And each song has to be seen as a chapter of these stories. That’s why we are trying to keep that feeling flowing through all the songs and also through all the lyrics. So, yes, this is definitely our goal, to invite the listener to follow the story from it’s beginning until the end."
The music which you can hear on the background in the intro is Ludwig van Beethoven’s ‘Moonlight Sonata’. Somehow, Beethoven’s music often has a sort of menacing and even dark character.
"I – Pz.Kpfw – am personally very interested in Beethoven’s music and his very romantic and excessive way of expression. But the real reason of our choice here is the following: the introduction of the album leads the listener to a crypt in the Vatican where a possessed women is being exorcized in pain while the moon is shining through the night. The moon is a strong part of the identity of POSSESSION, one of our sigils is related to her. That is why we choose ‘Moonlight Sonata’ for our introduction."
When you had the idea for the story and the lyrical content of “Exorkizein”, how difficult is it to decide how the album should be build up, what part of the story comes where and how the music should sound? For example ‘Sacerdotium’ is up-tempo, fierce and full of energy. You can almost hear that Amorth still has his whole life ahead of him. While ‘Preacher’s Death’ has partly almost a sort of musing character, you can almost hear that Amorth sort of gives up and realizes that everything is in vain and that he’s overtaken by evil.
"Once again we are quite pleased by your way of reading and listening to our songs. When we wrote those songs, we had long discussions about the order we should put them on the album and about the lyrics. This final order seemed the most natural one for us… three very intense and fast songs as the first parts of his life when Amorth is convinced and burning by his faith. And the three last ones as the sign of his decline. These three last songs are in my opinion also more filled with negativity and the feeling of things done in vain."
What’s actually your opinion about probably the most known movie about possession, "The Exorcist"? Have you also seen the – in my opinion – not uninteresting series "The Exorcist" which was released last year?
"We like that movie. But it’s not really an influence for POSSESSION. We prefer to get rid of cinema’s representation in order to express our own visions on our releases."
How difficult is it to transfer the whole lyrical concept of your releases to the stage? For example, I can’t imagine that you always have the time to play “1585-1646” and “Exorkizein” live from start to finish. So, how hard is it to pick out the right songs for a gig, still get the ‘story straight’ so to speak and also maybe put a few songs of your single “Anneliese” and your demo in there?
"We always try to stay as coherent as possible while picking the songs we will play. As you just said, we can’t always play our releases from start to finish. But we always put a lot of thought into our setlist, trying to keep the tension between each song’s lyrical ideas. But sometimes we do have the opportunity to play a release in its entirety. This has been the case for our release party in Brussels at the end of May. A Thousand Lost Civilizations had once again put together a perfect ceremony for us, inviting some amazing acts – DOOMBRINGER, MALTHUSIAN and DREAD SOVEREIGN – and creating this specific atmosphere that only they are able to create. At this occasion, we have played “Exorkizein” in full and also for the first time with 5 musicians. A pact has been sealed with the fifth demonic head of the POSSESSION entity. Our brother N.Vmtr – known for his activities in more than respected entities – now also wears the POSSESSION’s leather on his back as each member of the band does. He will join us on the altar as often as possible and he is to us forever a member of our inner circle. Playing “Exorkizein” in its entirety for the first time has been a possessing experience. Also because of the meaning of this release-party for us… celebrating an important new member of the POSSESSION circle. The crowd went possessed as well… screaming, fighting, looking at the five of us with fire in their eyes and poison in their blood. Last but not least, our brother N.C. – who’s been helping the band since our very first shows – also joined us to summon Anneliese’s spirit with his screams."
What I always love about releases of underground bands is how much effort is often put in the whole packaging and presentation. POSSESSION is also a band where you can see that you put a lot of effort and great care in that. For example, the vinyl version of “Exorkizein” is a gatefold album with varnish, a cardboard insert with varnish and a poster on heavy paper.
"As we are both record collectors and also people who want their releases to be the best in every aspect, we think that the artwork, the pictures and the layout of an album is as important as the music. It has always been important for POSSESSION to have a strong and coherent visual personality That’s also one of the reasons why Chris Moyen has done every art of POSSESSION so far. We want to offer our listeners a piece of music which will make them proud to have in their collection, as much as we are always very proud to hold each of our releases in our own hands."
After the release of “1585-1646”, your vocalist Mestema left the band in September 2015. Your bassplayer V. Viriakh took over the duties as a vocalist and you attracted S. Iblis, the guitarplayer of the great band MALEFICENCE, as a new bassplayer. How difficult would you say was it to get the band back on the right track?
"It was quite difficult at the very start and very easy after a few rehearsals with the new line-up. Just before the beginning of the writing-process of the album, Mestema decided to leave the band for personal reasons. We had to reorganize the whole band and at this occasion, V.Viriakh became the new vocalist as he already had some experience through his previous band, DAWN OF CRUCIFIXION. S. Iblis joined us, taking over his duties as a bassplayer. S. Iblis was an old friend of the band, so it was a natural gathering after all. Nevertheless, we had some doubts in the beginning and feared that we were maybe not able to maintain the level where POSSESSION was at that precise moment. So we decided to write some new material with this new line-up. We sent some rehearsal-recordings to both our labels, Iron Bonehead and Invictus. And they both told us that if we were able to write such songs with this new line-up, we were ready and able to write an entire album as our next release."
When I did my first interview with you a couple of years ago, you had just played one single gig. In the past few years, you played live quite regularly and already performed in countries like Germany, Ireland, England, the Netherlands, Portugal, Finland, Spain, Denmark and France. In August, you’re even going to the US for the first time. How do you see and judge the evolution of POSSESSION as a liveband?
"At first, we were planning not to play so many gigs. Maybe one or two a year. But we quickly realized that POSSESSION is a live band. POSSESSION is our catharsis through this life. Playing our hymns is by far the strongest emotion we have ever experienced. We have played 26 concerts so far in almost 5 years of existence, which is not such a huge number either. We always try to choose our gigs very wisely."
If you would get the proposal by the organization of Graspop, Belgium’s biggest Metal festival, to perform at their festival, would you do it?
"Absolutely not. We are an underground band and we are proud of this statement. We see no point playing at a festival where most of the people watching you are not there to see your band and are just waiting for a useless and commercial band. That’s is definitely not the right atmosphere for POSSESSION."
On your website, you never talk about concerts but always about rituals. How important is it to make a distinction between concerts and rituals?
"As much as we know that this term is quite used these days by a lot of bands, we have always used it. It seems to us – and to a lot of our listeners who come to see us live – that a POSSESSION live appearance is more than just a concert. The atmosphere, the tension and the whole decoration around us makes it extraordinary. It is quite impossible to describe it with words. Come and see us and you’ll witness it with your own eyes."
In only a few years, POSSESSION has become a very known and respected Belgian Black Metal band. And I think, it’s totally deserved. I mean, you can see that you put a lot of thought in your music, that you work very hard as a band and that you progress constantly.
"Thank you for these words. Honesty and authenticity are mandatory in Metal, as much as they are in music and art. We write music and we play it live. In our opinion, this is also our strength. There are no pretenders in this entity."