Inquisition: The Quest & The Compass

"The truth is the modern day occult"

“I am here setting up for the show tonight. I’m at a club right now, no beer in hand though [Laughs] we’re playing in a small town in the state we live in, it’s called Bellingham in the state of Washington and Inquisition never, ever play local shows though we figured with our time off it would be good to do a rare, tiny mini tour through Bellingham, Seattle and Portland, so that’s what we’re doing this weekend”. Metal As Fuck caught up with Dagon, the mastermind behind America's Inquisition for a candid interview touching on topics of science, religion, the controversal days of Black Metal and the strong culture that is Heavy Metal....

2016 in general, can you give us a recap – “As far as 2016 goes well the year started with our upcoming album being mixed in Philadelphia so the album was recorded, it was tracked in the studio in December and sometime around February it was mastered and then throughout the months we were working on the artwork and the layout for the album, which did set it back a bit. We toured with Abbath and Behemoth in that time also, it was a great tour through Europe and it went really well for Inquisition, we were supporting yet every single venue was packed with an incredible amount of support so that was a great way to kick off the year. Since then we’ve been having some time off. We’re pulling back on the touring of late and being a little more strategic... Now we have Australia coming [Editors note: *sigh*]

Black Metal although embraced the world over; America, Australia even Africa was in fact born in Europe – so having toured a lot over the years are there any notable differences between the American and European Black Metal scene? “The immediate answer is, I think so, I think there are definitely some differences, yes – music as you know is not easy to break down into words and just as you think you’re saying the right thing, for a general consensus – you’re saying the wrong thing [Laughs] but speaking for myself; absolutely – you look at bands like.... well like the band shirt I’m wearing right now; Profanatica – old school, American, raw, nasty Black Metal from like 1993 when Scandinavia was doing something completely different. I would say the differences for a lot of the black metal over here was that we were going for more of a death metal, tuned down, girthy guitar sound and a lot of the early American bands almost sounded like they were members from death metal bands that were doing their take and that gave the Black Metal of the United States its identity. Early Masochist, Profanatica and alike. Nowadays the gap is narrowing....". 

Having been working within this style for quite a number of decades now what were some of the precedents you had set for the style of music you were doing? “On one end I’ve wanted to have things traditional; be conservative on certain aspects - yet knowing what the parameters of a genre are is a way of showing respect towards a style of music. The genre has taken its time to naturally evolve and forge its own sound but at the same time that doesn’t mean that there are unwritten rules – you need to expand on your own sound, music expands and it gets better – and sometimes during this process it will go through dry-spells and the not so great moments, you know, and some bands want to experiment a lot, other bands want to be very conservative and that’s fine too... If they do it good. Inquisition is very much in the middle; more inclined to be traditional in the sense of not adding a whole lot to the soup. Here we are on album number seven and it’s still the same approach. The band is contributing to some kind of growth – I know Black Metal isn’t necessarily about growth; it’s more of a feeling, an emotion – as a musical form it’s more about atmosphere and it really does not hold time as a compass. Its hypercritical to say it’s not important to look at the style progressively, I guess – Inquisition will always try to contribute to the style though in very small baby steps - to walk that fine line as conservative and yet breaking old chains”.

Considering some of the restraints contained within the genre it would be a finicky process yet many bands are doing quite well riding that cusp you speak of. Black Metal in its earliest forms had spawned from Thrash; Venom, Sodom, Bathory and alike – during the bands initial stages would you say you were 100% thrash at this stage and when did the Black Metal elements seep into the material? “So this is where I have a lot to do with that. I started this band when I was seventeen years old – I was also the biggest Kreator and Sodom fan you would have ever met but we’re talking about 1989 right now. After 89, looking at 1993 I discovered bands of the likes of Impaled Nazarene, Emperor, Immortal, Burzum – all the classics of the first black metal wave - all the stuff coming out of Greece and Finland, stuff from all over the world; that amazing period for music and that period inspired me so much that when people were on the Death Metal wave and of course Death Metal was doing some amazing stuff but I never really got into it, I never really walked away from my Thrash Metal passions but when I heard Black Metal, I connected with it and at the same time it was reconnecting, I could identify with what they were doing, I could identify to their approach and I told myself you know, its not that I wanted to start a new band - this is just what I wanted to do now and I copped a lot of heat for that, the local scene in South America where I was living at the time - most of my family is from there and I say that because some people don't often understand the connection I have there. There was a lack of support, people thought I was just jumping on the band wagon to this new genre that was taking the world by storm and it wasn't like that - it didn't bother me because I knew deep down what I was doing was authentic. I wasn't trying to be the next cool thing, it was a calling. So that's it, I evolved into the scene of Black Metal and by 1996 when I moved to North America I figured I'd find a drummer and continue this band. But for about a week I was thinking, do I change the name? and I was trying to think decades ahead of time - to a situation like this, an interview for example; would I want to have this history and the Thrash Metal roots connected to Inquisition so I went ahead and kept the name because I figured I was the same person, it was the same writing and the type of Thrash Metal I was making in the late 80's; deep down you can still hear that in the band today and that Inquisition was a direct evolution of what I was doing in the early days".

It has been stated by journalists and critics that Inquisition is not your run-of-the-mill Black Metal band - do you agree with this statement? "Oh, well it would be arrogant of me to say that we're 'not' run-of-the-mill. I'm proud of the band I'm in, I'm proud of what I write, I am proud of what Incubus [Drummer] contributes to the band - but you can't let pride influence too much about where you stand as an artist. So I am cautious when I answer this question because on one hand I'd like to say that Inquisition bring a lot of uniqueness through that minimalism. If you sift through the traditonal elements that Inquisition have - I think we are more inclined to be unique than not which is quite difficult to achieve and a lot of that is luck, in saying that though I think its imporatnt to have your own identity, it is ok to have influences and inspirations that sometimes surface in your music because at the end of the day, we're all sharing the same genre. I would like to think of Inquisition as carving its own path, absolutely". 

The initial stages of Black Metal and where Inquisition came to be a part of that movement; we've touched on issues that you faced during its inception however what outside obstacles did you have to overcome during the bands formation? "Well there are two beginnings. The first being when I was in Columbia in the 80's trying to start a band as a kid - I think its less relevant these days because you know, all bands face these obstacles in the beginning; not being able to afford the best equipment, what your parents think, not having the support you need. But what I like to tell people are the professional obstacles - the real deal. So it was 1998, our new album is out, ok so 300 copies are released into the underground. I got all the beautiful stuff; the shows, the fans, the reviews. That romance we had going on with the underground in the old days - Inquisition was a part of that. This wasn't an obstacle, the obstacle was, once you find your spot and you start to capture people's attention, at the beginning its good - you're different, you're new, you're fresh, you know you're going to be a hot thing for the cult guys and the collectors but once you get over that you have to prove yourself even more - primarily in the live arena and people start getting needy, you start getting the first critics and judgements. So the 'good' is only for a very little time, when the bad rolls in you need to be able to understand what is good criticism, so you need to be aware. I would say that criticism can be an obstacle, its what most people see as great or horrible; I see it as both, and I'm not afraid to say that critisism in your early stages is very difficult because you're doing the best you can, you want to do better and it takes such a long time to evolve into your sound. Once you do get better and you're there seven albums later, everything inverts - all the albums at the start of your career, the one's nobody wanted are considered hot property - I think you know where I'm going with this. Now comes the nostalgia. Everybody wants the albums you were critiqued so harshly on so I think the moral of the story and the biggest obstacle is that a musician; an artist needs very strong mental capabilities to overcome the psychological warfare that you'll go through as a musician, so a really strong mental discipline is needed. There are a lot of things though, typical things all bands go through - we've managed to overcome them, things like financial issues, getting on better line-ups. Though we've never pushed this band ahead of itself, Inquisition has grown organically over the years and I think when you grow organically, you're going to have less problems". 

What has Inquisition taught you about Black Metal personally? "Well this one is a quick one to answer and I don't think its the answer you're expecting; what I've learnt over the last 3 - 4 years now is that Metal Heads; we are truly, truly a culture now, we have so many smart people, we have so many well cultured people - this is an incredibly rich culture in the sense that it's not just Rock n Roll anymore - we wanted to think that in the early 90's, the fun, the mosh. Yet we've evolved into so much now, Metal fans now are tough people to convince - it doesn't matter how good you are as a band or a guitar player or how good your production is or how decent your song sounds - people don't want decent anymore, they want a lot of greatness and it gets tougher as you climb. On one end you can think that people are just simply spoilt brats - technology is spoiling people yet on the other side I think that it tells me that people; Metal Heads are a lot brighter today. The culture of Heavy Metal - I mean look how far we've come as musicians, as artists, as promoters, touring agents, media, journalists - everything is just massive and massively well done! This type of music died out for us in America during the late 80's yet came back so strong and with such force that independently Heavy Metal is doing so much more now and I think that's because of the mind power behind it - we have a lot of smart people in this, we're not just beer and Rock n Roll anymore and I am so proud of that and proud to be a part of that". 

You believe that it is Black Metal that inspires people to look for answers, so firstly can you elaborate on this but also share what truths you have uncovered personally "Black Metal was within the umbrella of Heavy Metal as we know, Black Metal I feel with no exaggeration is one of the first genre's of Metal that really, really made me want to learn things. Something that school or any teacher wasn't able to do, able to convince me - it lead me into Satanism, how much of it was bullshit and how much was real and I think to what early Satanism was - the teaching of individualism, being independent and what Satanism 'attempted' to teach us; carving your own path, the thirst and the hunger on your quest for knowledge and the next step was how you applied that knowledge - I applied it to my music. Black Metal gave me a sense of discipline, and I adopted it into my life. Some people think that us all in Black Metal are uptight and take things too seriously, we're not and we don't - its just a lot of us are thinkers; we're always thinking, always observing. It's also taught me to appreciate what science is - it wasn't just about questioning religion or being anti-religious but appreciating the importance of science and how the earth works. That is the reality of life, those are things that aren't faith based. The truth is the modern day occult and I don't think I would have discovered all these things if it wasn't for this genre of music".

Well now we are finally going to talk about the latest album for Inquisition; 'Bloodshed Across the Empyrean Altar Beyond The Celestial Zenith.... Or for short 'Bloodshed Across The Empyrean Altar Beyond the Celestial Zenith'.... What can you tell us about how the album came to be known? "The important thing for me was to merge everything of the occult, ancient Paganism, and the quest and lust for life purpose from our ancestors with science; who has almost answered all of their questions - setting a parellel between the two. It is an album talking about the truths that science has given us and the laws of the universe".

What does the new album reveal about the band at this stage of your career? "That we continue having no fear of expression - no fear of what Black Metal stands for, the essence of Black Metal is to carve your own path, to question the universe and I think when you experiement within this genre at the end of the day you get extreme emotion and it is a clear obvious sign in this album that Inquisition have a variety of contrast and dynamics displayed in the album. It went from a block of stone to finally showing me its true form and I started to find meaning behind it early on, I thought this is it - this is the one".