Interview: Predatory Light (2022) | From The Bowels Of Perdition

Conversation with

Predatory Light

Given the paleness and skinny ribs of the horse, and the fact that in the old woodcut art death was often allegorically represented as an archer aiming a bow and arrow at the living, does the front cover of Death And The Twilight Hours have anything to do with the quote And I looked, and behold a pale horse, and his name that sat on him was Death, and Hell followed with him?

L.S.: For sure, the allusion to Revelation 6:7-8 is apparent, especially in terms of the imagery. I think this best represents the evolution from a general contemplation of death as a spiritual practice to the characterization of death as an apocalyptic figure. This shift in perceptions really occurred around the Great Mortality of the fourteenth century, transforming macabre imagery into the active portrayal of death on the hunt.

It seems that the front covers of both your albums communicate the same message, albeit from a different perspective, with life being dragged down from below on the debut and wiped out from above on the sophomore. Was that a conscious decision or merely a coincidence?

L.S.: This wasn’t a conscious aesthetic choice. The beauty of artwork, in general, is that it’s always up for interpretation. For me, the debut cover is actually depicting a birth or an emergence from darkness. This was taken from a variety of mythologies depicting creation as a rising from the depths, a sort of abyssal genesis. On the other hand, there’s Death riding down, bringing all things into darkness. I think your analysis of the covers is still spot on, just a slightly different perspective from my end. One represents an ascension, a corrupted birth, and the other an apocalyptic descent, life drawn into the underworld.

Do you see Death And The Twilight Hours as a completely independent effort or as something that is inextricably linked with your eponymous debut, in the sense that a deeper understanding of the latter would considerably facilitate the understanding of the former?

L.S.: So much has changed since the self-titled release. I really see Death And The Twilight Hours marking a significant transition point for the project. The lyrical content and overall concepts driving the self-titled record don’t really translate to the new material. With that said, some of the rudimentary instrumentation for Death And The Twilight Hours took shape right after recording the first album, and I think the new songs represent a logical step for us as a band.

Predatory Light Interview 2022 (Death And The Twilight Hours)

Would it then be fair to say that there’s at least a spiritual and emotional kinship between the new album and the debut, beyond the fact that they were recorded by the same line-up?

L.S.: The new album certainly features more developed musicianship on our end, embracing a heightened sense of chaos and linear song structure compared to the debut. I absolutely think there’s an emotional kinship between the records as they signify a clear pattern of growth and movement within the band. After six years, things are going to be different. We’ve changed as people and our world feels very different than it did then. Still, the records are related, but more in that they represent a divergence, a polarity of tethered concepts altered by time and experience. The self-titled album is a record focused on emergence, spiritual transformation, and creation through the process of unbecoming. The self-titled record is based on symbols of cyclic destruction and regeneration through bodily sacrifice. Death And The Twilight Hours is centered on theological despair and confrontation with death personified.

Was it difficult to write this album?

L.S.: It wasn’t easy. Although the beginning of the pandemic offered ample time for writing and reflection, it didn’t really feel conducive to creativity, for me anyway. It was a struggle, but my bandmates are all devoted and highly capable individuals. I’m indebted to their enduring patience and incredible ability to generate structure out of formless lunacy. For the first time in a while, we had time to sit and work things out, with no real sense of immediacy to release or perform. Whether or not this extended writing process is evident in the final product, it was a humbling experience.

Is there an overarching narrative to Death And The Twilight Hours that ties all four songs together and dictates their chronological order or are they completely thematically autonomous?

L.S.: There is an overarching concept, albeit a loose one. Over the last couple of years, I became obsessed with the Trionfo Della Morte fresco from Palermo Italy, 1446. The painting depicts death on a horse, dispensing arrows into a crowd beleaguered by plague. The gathered throng all react differently. Some stare at the skeletal figure in abject terror, a musician tunes his lute while eying death askance, a man struggles to control his dogs, and others appear to converse, going about life business as usual. This type of death iconography from the Middle Ages forms the backbone of Death And The Twilight Hours.

Predatory Light Interview 2022 (Trionfo Della Morte)

Who or what are the three living and the three dead mentioned in the title of the opening song?

L.S.: The Legend of the Three Living and the Three Dead stems from the same concept. This references an evolving memento mori motif throughout the Middle Ages and Early Modern period, probably best exemplified by the fifteenth century Middle English poem The Three Dead Kings. The Three Living and the Three Dead is almost a genre in itself, with most of the stories telling the tale of three kings encountering three walking corpses. The narrative depicts a confrontation with death, or the didactic corpse, for the purpose of imparting a moral, theological, and penitential lesson. Basically, the stories attempt to convey the universality of death and the need to live one’s life with the recognition that our indeterminate end lurks around every corner. This motif took on special significance during times of plague, evolving from cyclic, harmonious encounters with the dead to the more antagonistic portrayal of death on the hunt. This is the primary focus of the first song, The Three Living And The Three Dead. It’s a description of death riding down upon the unsuspecting world, an implacable force dealing its indiscriminate finality upon the masses. With this in mind, the record as a whole represents various mixed and undefined perspectives from both the living and death.

When it comes to the length, structure, and arrangement of each song individually, it feels that the eponymous one, as the second longest, might perhaps work better as the album’s finale and a counterpart to The Three Living And The Three Dead, the album’s opener. Was that at any point even discussed as a possibility?

L.S.: Not really. I think we all intrinsically felt To Plead Like Angels was the right ending. The song order on the record was how we naturally fell into practicing the songs, and based on that, the loose structure of the narrative came to fruition. To Plead Like Angels signifies the recognition of spiritual separation or the awareness of mortal acquiescence. In my head, it’s also where death addresses humanity from the churchyard, faith shall not vanquish death, so be still, for every man is free to die under my will… The discourse is there but the structure is jumbled and that’s because the personification of death is an abstract attempt to attribute human agency to an irreconcilable force. I think the shorter song at the end gets to the point and doesn’t belabor death’s purpose. Yes! The dreadful work is done.

Does the title Death And The Twilight Hours carry some kind of personal significance, apart from the already mentioned meanings and connotations? To be completely forthright, is this album perhaps a tribute to the experience of facing death together with someone close to you, at his or her bedside?

L.S.: I’m reluctant to get too personal as everyone has or will suffer the death of a loved one. I will say that my own experience with this has definitely altered my being, significantly changing how I approach so many things in life. When death is prolonged, in the case of an illness, it becomes palpable, almost as if death is a living presence. Shadows carry weight, colors appear muted, and the immediate world seems filtered through a dolorous lens. It leaves an indelible mark. Having undergone that process with someone close to me has definitely transformed my relationship with the subject matter. However, Death And The Twilight Hours is not a specific tribute to my personal experience, but a translation of death into broader existential terms, a general lamentation for humanity in a world gone mad.

Expanding on those sentiments, would you say that the syntagm twilight hours, in the context of the album title, stands precisely for the suffering stage that usually precedes death?

L.S.: The term twilight hours is absolutely a representation of the state just preceding death. It signifies the liminal space between life and death, the physical-spiritual in-between. To keep with the general theme, a lot of memento mori artwork depicts devils encircling the dying at their terminal hour, seeking to tempt them in their final moments or waiting to drag the deceased to hell.

Predatory Light Interview 2022 (Promo)

Do you find the twilight hours to be the most disturbing thing about dying, to the point that they even tarnish death’s good name and reputation, considering that, for all we know, the catharsis of death with our consciousness being aware of the soulside journey could very well be the most beautiful moment of the earthly existence?

L.S.: I can only imagine what that vivid, hallucinatory state just before death is like. Is it a biochemical breakdown? Is it the spirit detaching from the flesh? Both? I don’t know… Either way, I definitely believe the twilight hours to be the most disturbing thing about dying. In various belief systems, this moment is when both the spirit and body become vulnerable to the supernatural. I mean, we’re these living, conscious beings tied to the earthly realm, and it’s hard not to view death as something that tears us away from all tangible experience. I can only imagine what frights and wonders are in store for us all. I don’t think it tarnishes death’s reputation but I think the twilight hours are something intense and inexplicable. Ultimately, we don’t have any control over this phenomenon. I’m not a religious person, but I think there’s something important about contemplating death. This was a big part of the medieval mentality, not just to reinforce some theological or moral element, but to be able to face our end with courage and respect for the inevitable finality of being.

Is there any deeper meaning behind the layer of transparent blue over the promotional photo of the band?

L.S.: No significance to the color, blue was just the color of the film used. I do think black metal has always evoked an otherworldly quality, something jarring that elevates the senses from the mundane. Stained glass offers the same effect in churches, or in the Early Middle Ages, places of worship were brightly painted, almost to a nauseating degree, in order to activate that hyper-sensory awareness. We live in a world of color, I think it’s worth using it to our advantage.

Predatory light, not unlike black or dark light, feels like another very picturesque oxymoron that serves as a suitable semantic construction for channelling occult, wicked, ominous energies. Can you explain a bit more closely its nature and meaning?

L.S.: Light or illumination is a process of revealing. This is precisely the meaning behind the Greek word apokalypsis. Some eastern religions speak of the clear light that dawns upon our death, the revelation that occurs with the dissolution of the flesh. This is how I conceptually perceive the Predatory Light moniker, as a fiery instrument of spiritual unveiling.

What are the musical and cultural foundations, as well as the underlying aesthetic principles that constitute the identity of Predatory Light?

L.S.: Our releases are greatly influenced by what we’re listening to during the writing process. I’d say Tormentor and Master’s Hammer have always been fixed reference points for the project. We’ve always been drawn to the more heavy metal sensibilities of old southern European black metal and occult rock, not to mention the insane brilliance of the classic South American bands. Death And The Twilight Hours is a strange amalgam of all sorts of things. I basically wanted to make music that sounds like if Quorthon decided to cover songs from Sin After Sin and Sad Wings Of Destiny or what if Jeff Hanneman and Tamás Buday met up with Geezer Butler and Bill Ward to play Wishbone Ash songs. Definitely unconventional reference points for a black metal project, but all of these people and bands have this amazing ability to channel some really wild ideas in an almost classical way. I think these approaches translate really well to black metal. There were some specific classical tropes I wanted to evoke in our music, especially some of the dark funeral themes that have become almost archetypal, such as Bach’s Toccata And Fugue In D Minor or Chopin’s Marche Funèbre. The Funeral March is such an incredible piece of music that has been reconceptualized again and again as a critical reference point for music meditating on death. I’ve always been inspired by how Sarcófago used this concept at the end of the song Christ’s Death. Just absolutely crushing and I aimed to do a similar thing on our record. Film and art have always had a significant influence on our music. In terms of film, Ingmar Bergman’s The Seventh Seal has been crucial to inspiring the record along with F.W. Murnau’s Faust. In addition to the Trionfo Della Morte fresco, I’ve sought to make music that sounds like how Hieronymus Bosch’s paintings look and feel. All these strange hypotheticals are more or less how we’ve approached Predatory Light.

Would you say that you have already reached that stage where you can confidently claim that the band has developed its own signature sound?

L.S.: The melodies we pursue and the structures we forge are uniquely our own. Predatory Light’s sound will continue to grow and change, but the core of our sound is unalterable.

Does weird dark rock still feel like an appropriate label to explain the band’s unconventional sound, even more so now with Death And The Twilight Hours than with the previous album, to which you attributed it in the first place?

L.S.: Weird dark rock is essentially what we look for in everything we listen to. Predatory Light is undeniably black metal, but I’m wary of the limitations created by all labels. In my mind, Predatory Light is not for the faint of heart or those who would prefer to dwell in the confines of tradition and orthodoxy. I’d say weird dark rock is more appropriate than ever.

The press release for your debut album featured the following statement: Carved from the vermin womb, a spinning sanctity of non-material suffering, the Predatory Light seeks to peel the mind and inseminate the spirit-cortex with the corrosive fluid of divine transgression. We preach spiritual disintegration, we speak of physical degradation so we may pass through the psychic membrane, defleshed, defiled, and ecstatic in our feral devotion to the beyond. We offer reincarnation through ritual excarnation of the mind and total liberation from this skin that binds us in torment and filth. Is it possible to deconstruct this philosophy down to more earthly terms?

L.S.: These words were never really meant to be put in coherent terms, but I’ll try to make some sense of them in relation to our current standing. The passage alludes to that unveiling process I spoke of, the idea of illuminating the hidden shadows of human consciousness in pursuit of what lies beyond. It reflects an attitude accepting death as fundamental to defining the creative value of life. We all move ever toward a process of bodily separation and spiritual transformation. The medieval focus on the macabre was an allegorical means of explaining profound existential threats such as plague, warfare, strife, famine, and spiritual disquiet. We’re currently dealing with these same stressors. It all goes back to the Three Living and the Three Dead and the tradition of ruminating on death to provide some form of awakening or conscious deference to our certain end. This might be about as earthly as it gets at this point.

Do you tend to write music clear-headed or do you feel that the states of temporary intoxication are more conducive to creativity? Is writing a Predatory Light song an organized, meticulous process, or the one guided by instincts and intuition?

L.S.: I’d say the writing process is usually guided by intuition, but it becomes a little more meticulous when we’re trying to be critical of song structure and put the finishing touches on things. I’ve worked on creating music in a variety of mental states, intoxicated or otherwise. Honestly, I’m probably the most creative and productive working clear-headed in the early morning. It seems to be when I’m the most open to inspiration. When playing together, each member has their own means of finding that optimal mental state. It’s a pretty fluid process. Sometimes states of intoxication work, other times…

When creativity starts flowing, do you feel that you are in charge of the songwriting process or that you’re at some higher power’s mercy, dependent on something greater than yourself?

L.S.: I think I’m hardly ever in control of the creative process. It’s rare for me to sit down with the intention of coming up with something and it actually ends up being good. In that sense, it does seem like I’m dependent on some sort of outside force to influence my creativity. That outside force is usually just listening to other music or bands that ignite that excitement to create. I don’t believe in a higher power, but I do believe human consciousness is like an aperture, dilating and constricting based on external stimulus. The mind has to be fed in order to open up to that creative process.

What were the most crucial decision and the most important moment in the career of Predatory Light thus far?

L.S.: The most crucial decision has been to make and release a new record after six years. We’ve renewed our commitment to creating this music and there’s a lot of work to do going forward.

If our rotten genesis, to quote a sentiment from one of your older interviews, implies us arising from the viscous murk of the void only to be eventually fostered in a gaping chthonic womb, does that notion renders our entire conscious existence completely futile and meaningless? Does it make any sense to go through life feeling potent, confident, hopeful, or just plain good about the physical existence, given its origin and ultimate destination?

L.S.: Another old reference to emergence mythology and the idea of humanity being fostered in darkness, only to rise from these depths to the current state of existence. Rotten Genesis describes the creation of life from death, stemming somewhat from the ancient Indo-European tales of gods sacrificed and dismembered in order to build the cosmos. I don’t think any of this renders existence futile or meaningless, it presents cycles of death and regeneration. We go into darkness and emerge from it anew. However, Death And The Twilight Hours is far less hopeful, expressing spiritual judgment and damnation. Humanity brought into darkness with no hope of renewal.

 

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