“It is definitely a war song,” says Sgah’gahsowáh, the artist behind Blackbraid. He’s referring to the project’s new single ‘Barefoot Ghost Dance on Blood Soaked Soil’, and that sense of war-like brutality is certainly apparent in the track, the guitars swirling chaotically at breakneck paces. But for all its ferocity, it is at its heart a mournful and despairing song, the grim melody cutting through to a poignant heart that’s distilled in the pained vocals. Both the anger and the sorrow are more than warranted – the track directly deals with the suffering and genocide suffered by indigenous people in America. Black metal has long been a means of expression, and it’s often inspired by the land in which it is birthed. For Blackbraid that means finding meaning in the natural landscape of the Adirondack wilderness, whilst also reflecting on the atrocities that took place in that same country.
In just two singles, Blackbraid has managed to capture the attention of many, with excitement for an impending full-length already ramping up. So to learn more about the project, the person behind it and what we can expect going forward, we had a chat with Sgah’gahsowáh.
Thanks for taking the time to answer some questions. Can you introduce yourself and tell us a bit about how the project got started?
Absolutely. So Blackbraid is a solo project. I’m 32 and live a pretty solitary life in the Adirondack mountains. By day I am a residential carpenter and specialise in timber framing but I do a little bit of everything when it comes to construction to be honest. Black metal is one of many hobbies of mine. I also am an outdoorsman/hiker, an avid tracker, hunting/fishing enthusiast, and I tan hides/pelts and do traditional dry taxidermy which has become somewhat of a lost art these days too. So I tend to stay quite busy!
Your style seems to distil everything that’s great about black metal into one ferocious package. How would you describe what you do, and who would you cite as inspirations on your sound?
Well it goes without saying I’m a big black metal fan. I won’t bother you with classic influences like Bathory, Mayhem etc.. because they have influenced us all at this point. My goal with Blackbraid currently is just to write songs that I enjoy myself. It is primarily about my relationship with nature, especially the changing of seasons. Native American history is something I like to write about too as it is pretty much unknown to most of the world and a lot of people are unaware of the struggle we endured and still endure today. So although the first album is heavily nature oriented you will still see me write about war or other history occasionally as well. So I guess that’s what Blackbraid is in a nutshell. I try to bring a unique approach to black metal without sacrificing the best parts of black metal that already exist.
Your first single evokes the “swells of eternity”. Can you tell us a bit about the track and what it’s about?
Yes, so that song is about the passage of time and also the concept of how time can be fluid and eternal like a flowing river. There is some deeper meaning in that song as well but I don’t want to divulge all my secrets and I’d like to leave some of it up to interpretation for the listener as well.
And how about ‘Barefoot Ghost Dance on Blood Soaked Soil’?
This song is about the suffering and genocide of my people all across these continents, and our resistance to it. I think in my head I was loosely writing about the Wounded Knee Massacre when I started but it quickly evolved into something much broader. It is definitely a war song.
Your site mentions that there’s a debut album on the way. What can we expect from the album, both musically and in the lyrical themes it will explore?
Pretty much the two subjects I listed early. Nature and my heritage/history will be the main focus.
When should we expect the album?
Still up in the air. Hopefully we will do a pre-order very soon. Blackbraid has received an immense amount of attention in a very short amount of time and I’m currently reassessing how to release the album so I can get it to the most fans as quickly as possible. I will have an update on this soon!
You mentioned you’re from the Adirondack mountains. How does the landscape there influence your music?
Well the Adirondacks are a massive mountain range (20,000 square miles or so) in upstate NY near the Canadian border. We are Boreal forest full of mountains, rivers, lakes. We have extremely thick pine forest and all matter of wildlife. Moose, bear, bobcat to name a few of the bigger ones. We have hot summers and very cold winters and get about 100 inches of snowfall annually in most places too. 46 high peaks. So it is the perfect environment for black metal one would say.
On the one hand black metal has been co-opted by those on the far-right, but it can also be a tool of resistance. What does the genre mean to you?
To me black metal is a beautiful form of expression. It means so much to so many people, myself included. All forms of art have conflicting points of view. You could probably find a far-right subgenre in almost every genre of music, same with far-left. Obviously I hate nazis and consider them to be the biggest cowards on Earth, I’d happily beat a nazi’s ass any day but I’m not going to let the fact that they play music ruin black metal for me either.
Blackbraid’s music is available on Bandcamp here.
Words: George Parr