As a combination of the words ruin and myst, of which the latter is presumably an abbreviation of the word mystery, what Mystruin means exactly?
J: Mystruin is a name we came up with one day on our way from rehearsal. It sounded good so we kept it. At that time we were a lot into mysticism and exploring ruins for gatherings together with our comrades. Simple as that.
The word liberation seems to be capturing the essence of your new album better than any other, maybe even better than the album title itself. That said, Calcination doesn’t sound like something that is supposed to liberate only the listeners, it feels as if it helped you unshackle some invisible chains and experience a certain liberation yourselves as well. Would you say that’s a fair notion? Has Calcination turned out to be everything you wanted it to be?
H: Yes, that is a fair notion in my opinion. The conceptual and lyrical work revolves around something that you could call a journey, if you will. The word liberation for instance is one of the archetypes that perhaps stands out as the strongest one and it is also the archetype that functions as the catalyst for the transformative process. But there are also other important archetypes such as the creative force or fire, that is much needed in order to reach liberation or, as you mentioned unshackle some invisible chains. It cannot happen by itself, you know. Dimidium facti, qui coepit, habet; sapere aude, incipe. I am very pleased with the outcome of Calcination but it is always hard to decide on where to stop and say, ok it’s time to release this now. It tends to leave you in a mindset where you are still kind of searching for things that need correction or different flow.
J: H was the one to bring forth the conceptual ideas for the record based on his own experiences. He has written the lyrics for two of the tracks, Sacred Fire and Mirror Of Consciousness. We co-wrote the lyrics for the first track, Cosmic Liberation and I wrote the lyrics for Within Life/Beyond Death. To me, the underlying theme is what you experience in altered or reduced states of consciousness. A liberating experience, in a sense.
A: Some of the material on this album is from even before we recorded our first full-length. The process of playing, writing, and spawning has thus been continuous just as it has been since we started as a band, without a musical release being a definite end to a previous period of work. With time we settled on a concept for the album Calcination which was at its final much founded on lyrics based on notes of personal experiences from a transcendental journey that H engaged in. J further provided lyrics and he and H together worked on lyrics as well. These were put onto already existing musical pieces that we had worked on since long before, as mentioned. The addition of the vocal performance completed the songs in a way that we are very pleased with. In such a way Calcination turned out into what we wanted it to be, as we have created songs and an album that we are satisfied with. On the other hand, we have not yet, as you know, released a physical edition of the album. This is something we very much want to do and are going to do in the future. The idea since earlier was without a doubt to release physical copies but because of difficulties of cooperation with the label we worked with it didn’t turn out as planned. And since we didn’t want to wait any longer, we released the album in digital form. With a future physical release we will be able to complete the album further with illustrative work as previously planned.
Speaking of the word liberation and its many possible connotations, the opening track sees the moment of death as the gateway to it. On the other hand, there’s no firm evidence that death is anything more than the physical decomposition of the body. Considering that the band is obviously no stranger to contemplating death from the metaphysical standpoint, do you believe that spiritual being continues to exist after death in some form of an afterlife, or do you see physical rotting as the ultimate liberation in and of itself?
J: Some part of us will forever exist, that I do believe. If the spirit or consciousness does live on, changing your conscious state could be a glimpse of what that would be.
H: That is an absolutely fascinating question that grabs my attention often. Once we die that energy we carry has to go somewhere, right? And perhaps it is to return to that black vast we once came from, the one our life moves toward the very moment we are born, to meet death.
A: The human brain and conscience are complex and fascinating. They can be altered tremendously throughout life, but once the brain dies I believe that’s the end. A person can live on through ideas and creations and as part of other people’s memories but the soul dies with the brain. The human experience can seem so great but what do we know of the experience of other animals or even plants and other forms of life? Why does the vivid feeling of being alive mean that we must live on in other forms than just cosmic particles?
Considering how difficult it sometimes may seem to go through life without eventually turning it into something horrific, or at the very least miserable, it seems that people are almost predestined to be unfortunate. That said, presuming that there’s an afterlife after all, do you think that any form of perpetual consciousness would inevitably turn into hell rather soon, considering that we are often incapable to wisely spend even these short lives that we are blessed or cursed with?
J: As we go through cycles of good and bad, we tend to lock ourselves in the part of the cycle that we are in right then and there. A perpetual consciousness, in my mind, would be beyond that. It would have no bounds and meld into everything and nothing.
A: That depends on your outlook or ideology or philosophy of life. If you believe that there is an afterlife, then only you yourself can answer that question, depending on what ideas and beliefs you hold. If you believe that this life is a test or trial and that you may end up in some sort of paradise or state of bliss after death then there will be no difficulties in the afterlife, right? The rules and laws that exist in different cultures and societies on this planet have the purpose of holding up a group of people, small or great, and keeping them within boundaries so as to create a situation in which the lot is organized and at peace. Individuals will always suffer because there is no perfect structure. Anarchy on the other hand would end up in more suffering and can never be prosperous in the long run and therefore all forms of organization throughout history contain rules and coercion for the greater good. What is the purpose of the perpetual consciousness and what relation will this have in regard to other spirits? Will there be a need for laws in the afterlife?
Calcination is a process of exposing solids to extremely high temperatures in the absence of air, for the purpose of removing everything that’s volatile from them. One might say that it’s a form of purification. That said, what about the literal or figurative meaning of that particular word felt fitting and made you think it should be used as the album title?
J: H came up with the title and it speaks a little about what you are getting at. I see it as a new direction that we took as a band, shedding our skin and coming out stronger.
H: While thinking about the conceptual work I presented the idea of incorporating my own personal journals into something that I noticed could be artistically and conceptually fruitful. It is based on the key element of the alchemical stage Nigredo. Mind acting in a negative manner is one of the hardships during the initial stages of the Nigredo because of the active work and introspection you are doing. The goal is to tune yourself to the true will and to restructure your emotional patterns for a greater outcome, one that should serve you instead of being enslaved by them. Make your mind sharp enough to see the structures that are keeping you from going further, to enlighten you about the emotional processes that aren’t working in your favour. It is a powerful subconscious work that will allow you to transcend the barriers of your previous lives (read as in assembled emotions) and make way for a new dawn. The process of calcination breaks down the assembled emotions, ideals, or prejudice for instance, a region that dwells in the deepest part of our mind, all this in preparation for The Great Work. Whether the goal is of magical nature or not, the key is that it is an active practice of transmutation.
The way the songs on the album unfold within themselves is surprisingly organic and effortless, especially considering their length. The same goes for the interraction of the songs between themselves, that all feel inextricably linked with one another, like four chapters of the same, almost 40 minutes long track. How difficult was to find the right place for each of these four songs on the album, and for every single riff within those songs? Was the songwriting process particularly draining this time around?
H: To be honest, it took a while for some songs, since we were exploring new ways of writing, and as we kept writing, a deeper sense of songs entwining began to flourish. We embraced the thought of trying to make something that you could actually feel as one longer journey more than just tapping into one track isolated from the other. It truly makes me glad to read that you find the songs unfold natural and effortless and that you have perceived a linkage of some sort since that has been one of our intentions.
J: Some of the tracks were composed during and just after we were working on our previous release, so yes, it did take time as it did not align with other duties.
A: The order of the songs was supposed to have been the order in which we more or less finished structuring each song but this order was changed not that long ago. Both would have worked. We have had the base for all of the songs since at least 7-8 years back and with time made some changes to the songs like adding details, removing a section from one song, and changing the speed of different parts. The songwriting has not had a clear finish and end like a fixed writing session, so in that sense the songwriting has not been draining. The songs have evolved organically as we have rehearsed throughout the years.
Now that Calcination is out of your system, would you say that the experience of writing and recording the album made you learn something about yourselves as people and musicians? Considering that some borderline pretentious sounding words like liberation and purification have been already used to describe your music, would it be fair to say that writing it helped you gain some deeper spiritual insights?
J: Reflecting on my own journey with Calcination, and what I have felt as I have performed these songs live or at rehearsal, has helped me feel closer to the unknown.
H: Of course. Working with the arts always gives you a deeper spiritual insight and everyone that practices the art knows this.
A: Mystruin is a part of our lives and as one grows and changes over time in all aspects of life, what happens within the band is intertwined with life as a whole. Whatever one is engaged in will obviously affect oneself regarding other areas of life as well.
The vocals are one of the main reasons why this album sounds so authentic, dramatic, and emotionally charged. There is something almost cathartic about them and it feels that you used no filters whatsoever to tame or subdue them. Were those complex and diverse vocal arrangements a completely spontaneous outpouring of your most genuine emotions or something that was meticulously developed upfront?
J: The vocal patterns have been kept mostly intact over the years. Only slight changes and some direction from H made it on to what eventually would become Calcination. As I have written all the lyrics for our previous work up until now, it made the vocal work more of a challenge for me. That challenge was to take what H wrote down and channel my own energy into it. I would say it was more spontaneous than carefully planned.
Regarding the synergy between the vocals and the lyrics, do you think that singing on Calcination does justice to the issues you dealt with on the record lyrically? Would you say that, for example, four consecutive repeats of the verse purging pain in the song Mirror Of Consciousness, all in a slightly different manner, are something that vividly reflects that particular harmony between the lyrics and the way those lyrics were sung?
J: Speaking about that part exclusively, I did get some direction from H to be more subtle with that phrase than what you can hear on the album, although it turned out differently. One of the spontaneous outbursts I guess, but still aligned with what H wishes to express. As for the vocals in general, I do believe they do some justice to the lyrics. Though I will never fully grasp the depth of H’s personal journey, that is the essence of this release.
H: The purging pain mantra is all about survival. It deals with overcoming fears of spiritual nature, breaking barriers, and destroying everything that is holy. When you are connecting with a transformative process, you need to have a mantra that lets you stay put throughout the darkness. With that said, it is very important that the vocal work perfectly reflects the harmony and nature of the lyrics, which is understandable considering the context of the conceptual work.
The song Mirror Of Consciousness obviously deals with some kind of reflection of consciousness, and what that reflection may be is anyone’s guess. That said, the prominent escapist component in your music also indicates your admitted familiarity with the various different states of reduced consciousness. In that regard, would it be fair to say that the music of Mystruin was made within the corridors of reduced consciousness for the sake of being a soundtrack for the journeys through those very same corridors of reduced consciousness? Is that one of your music’s underlying purposes?
A: The purpose for us as a band and as individuals is to play and create music that we ourselves enjoy. This was also the reason when we started as a band. The music is an emotional outlet at that same time as it brings forth emotions.
J: The music is mainly written by A who always seems to be able to tie tracks together sonically. Most of the music was written already while H’s lyrics and the concept were to be the final building block.
All four songs on the album reflect a strong sense of longing, as if you’re craving for something. There is a layer of melancholy, suffering, and desperation in music. Was Calcination born out of sorrow or out of anger? What are some other emotions that radiate prominently from your music apart from these two, if any?
H: Each song is a representation and carrier of key methods through which transmuting the self takes place. When we write music, we also tap into this but in a more subtle way, since writing music also has the part of being an emotional release.
The more one listens to the album, the more riffs reveal how many layers they have beneath the surface. Is that depth something that’s reserved only for the listeners to dive into, or do you as musicians hear something new every time you listen to your own music as well?
J: Yes, I sometimes still hear something new that I had not noticed before.
A: Each member is probably most aware of his own performance but I believe that these tracks are very close and known in detail to all of us.
There are apparently two types of metal musicians, those that make music for themselves and are listening to it regularly, and those that never ever listen to their albums once they are recorded and released. Do you share any of these sentiments or do you have a completely different relationship with your music?
J: I listen to our stuff from time to time to remember where we were then compared to now.
H: It has to breathe for a while, for sure. I definitely listen to our own material and it often is for nostalgic reasons but also for future purposes like okay, we have done this now, what could be our next step? It helps in defining what I would like to expand on, whether it is related to drumming, lyrics, or concepts.
Is the front cover of Calcination a tribute to anyone or anything in particular? Why did you decide to go with such a simplistic artwork, considering that the music on the album is everything but simplistic?
J: Its simplicity stands as a strong foundation and further strengthens the expression of the release than a more chaotic canvas.
There seems to be a huge gap between Gånget Äro Ljuset and Calcination in terms of songwriting and production. Production-wise, Calcination is borderline perfect, with its incredibly audible, yet incredibly raw sound, unlike Gånget Äro Ljuset that sounds rather underwhelming. The same goes for songwriting. Would you say this is a fair assessment? Has Gånget Äro Ljuset aged well in your opinion?
J: The raw energy on our previous release is a force to be reckoned with. As far as being your own worst critic, it would be something to hear it recorded with better equipment. Although I am very proud of what we achieved as a milestone in Mystruin’s history.
H: It is rather interesting nowadays to look back at that because the mindset and our writing were a bit different back then, also our equipment and recording possibilities have changed a lot. Even if the sound is a bit underwhelming, the recording in itself captures the vibrant energy of that era and that gives the release such a bigger charisma than it would otherwise. We were very eager to record and release our material and what you hear in Gånget Äro Ljuset is a DIY oriented band that is pushing it to the maximum of what is possible within their reach. Something that we are still doing to this day.
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