Cosmic Black Metal: Spectral Lore on Astrology, Spirituality and Breaking Genre Boundaries

For the past few years, Spectral Lore have been gradually pushing away at the boundaries of black metal, challenging many of its tropes, musically and otherwise. The latest recorded evidence of that is the mighty Wanderers: Astrology Of The Nine, a conceptual two-hour collaboration with Mare Cognitum based around the planets within our solar system. And yet it’s not the first time sole member Ayloss has looked beyond the accepted tropes of black metal for inspiration, or put himself in opposition to many of its worst tendencies. Here, we ask how Wanderers came to be, and chat about spirituality within black metal and the importance of standing up for what you believe in.

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How did the recent collaboration with Mare Cognitum come about? I gather it’s been in the works for quite some time, and it’s not the first record you’ve released together.

Ιt’s been a little different than the previous time we worked together, because the idea about the new split album came from Luciano, owner of I, Voidhanger records, who also retained creative input through several stages of the project. Wanderers is, however, simply a direct continuation of our previous collaboration, Sol. We had made an album about the sun and now we’ve made one about the planets that revolve around it. As simple as that.

It’s true that this record was in the works for quite some time and passed from a lot of stages to became this huge two-hour record that it is today. Some of which entailed complications and endurance to overcome them. In the end, we’re both very satisfied.

 

What made you both settle on the astronomical/cosmic theme of the record?

Even though Gustav Holst’s Planets suite was an obvious reference, it’s literally an expansion of the previous album’s concept. Comparing the two albums, I’d say that while Sol was a very intense effort in a kind of philosophical reading of cosmology, Wanderers has somewhat of a more free approach, which we hinted towards by using the word “astrology” rather than “astronomy” in the title. The multitude of different planets allowed us to focus on a different subject for each song, which in the end resulted lyrically in a wider and more human-centred exploration, I’d say. In my tracks I focused more in giving a different spin to the mythology associated with each planet, while Jacob [Buczarski] took a more poetic and cosmic approach. But there are also some connections to the previous album to discover here and there.

 

Spectral Lore’s music always feels, to me, quite spiritual. Would you agree with this? And do you think black metal has scope for being spiritual without relying on traditional/Christian interpretations of Satan?

Definitely. Black metal is all over the place these days and the connecting thread is indeed that there is some form of “spiritual” or transcendent or otherworldly feeling/motivation behind its creation. But I’m not at all interested in discussions about what a genre should “be” about. If one feels like doing atheistic or materialistic black metal, I don’t see why they shouldn’t. Let’s try to avoid gatekeeping because black metal is a genre so afflicted by it. Music is an ever-changing organism.

 

On a different note, were you surprised at the negative reactions you got when you recently posted against fascism on your Facebook page? After all, you’ve made no secret of your politics for quite some time now.

Νοt at all. It’s known that right-wing ideas have a big presence within black metal culture, so these reactions are pretty much standard. It was a conscious decision to speak about politics in my page because the world is in a fucked up place right now and we have to use every platform that is in our disposal to speak about the absolute basic things that we have to do in order to keep humanity from self-destructing. We have about 10-12 years until the first great climate disasters happen that will cause mass waves of immigration and Europe’s intent to answer with force against anyone who is non-white and poor is already evident in the treatment of refugees by Greek authorities that took place right before the coronavirus crisis hit. Excuse me if I sound dramatic, but we have ten years to defeat capitalism and nationalism worldwide before another world war happens, basically. During the first year of which we’ll be stranded in our homes to contain the damn coronavirus so that 2% of humanity doesn’t die. Anyway, what I’m trying to say is that that the reaction of a few black metal nerds isn’t interesting to me. We have much more important things to worry about.

 

Do you think it is important that more bands, even if their music is not explicitly political, make similar statements against fascism? Especially within the context of black metal, where it seems far-right and reactionary politics can be tolerated more than in other genres.

I do think it’s very important. We all are in a different place in terms of our ideas, but we all should take a few more steps to be more radical and political in these times. And saying that we don’t like fascism and it has no place in our music scenes is the minimum that we should do. If that is still controversial in 2020, perhaps we should start thinking about what does this mean for our future.

 

You also have another black metal project, Mystras. What inspired you to create two separate projects?

I’ve wanted to take a rawer black metal approach in my music again for some time now. Mystras is a project I made to combine historical themes, which have to do with medieval peasant uprisings, with aggressive and raw black metal combined with influences from medieval music. I’ve always loved the style of medieval black metal and wanted to do a record in that vein. And also get a chance to experiment more with sound and production to do something more chaotic. Since that idea became so focused and particular it made sense for me to present it with another name. I’ve already got a Mystras LP to be released around summer and it possibly won’t be the only record out with that name.

 

So, when you’re writing, do you set out to create music for either Spectral Lore or Mystras, or do you listen to the end results and then decide?

I’m usually just picking my guitar to play whatever comes in mind, however very quickly an idea shows itself to be more appropriate to end up in a Spectral Lore, Mystras, Divine Element or Anointed Legion song. So I hardly exchange ideas between projects because I think I’ve managed to keep a separate “character” for each project/band that I do. 

 

What can we expect from you in the future?

It feels weird to have so much upcoming music to release this year, but life must go on, right? So yeah, I was working in a lot of albums in the previous one or two years that are reaching completion very soon. I’ve got the Mystras LP, a new dungeon synth project called Ontrothon – Saga of the Ancient Glass, a Spectral Lore full-length album, a Divine Element EP and an LP by this new band (you might have noticed the name earlier). Hopefully all or at least most will be released this year. So yes, I’m doing a lot of music and quite excited about it.

 

Any final thoughts you want to share?

I’d like to say congratulations for your website, it’s a breath of fresh air both with the musical and more politically oriented content, hope you continue this way.  Hope that everyone’s spirit keeps being strong and creative during these days. Keep fighting and never forget solidarity.

 

Wanderers: Astrology of the Nine is out now, check it out here.

Words: Stuart Wain