Back to Beyond represents a homecoming of sorts for the British black metal act Ewigkeit; a proud “comeback” album from one James Fogerty, a.k.a. Jaldaboath from fellow acidic Brit black metallers The Meads of Asphodel. The album represents the first time Fogerty has used the Ewigkeit name since the 2006 effort Return to the Land of Fog, a re-recording of the early Ewigkeit black metal sound under the cover of Fogerty’s fixation of space rock, prog and electronica.
These experimental influences would permeate the music of Ewigkeit throughout the millennium on such stellar efforts as Radio Ixtlan and Conspiritus before Fogerty finally called it quits almost a decade ago. Back to Beyond balances nicely the band’s earlier, black metal direction with the space rock experimentalism which defined Ewigkeit until the band’s unfortunate, early demise.
“I think you are 100% correct,” agrees Fogerty via email, “and it is very much appreciated that you know the material well enough to recognize that. However, it wasn’t cynically planned this way. I began to write music of this nature once more in the past two years due to serious illness in my family which has caused these kinds of feelings and emotions to re-surface. If I hadn’t of done that, I probably would have gone insane. I think that when I had finished the majority of the songs, I was able to listen to the material objectively and see that the material had definite echoes of pretty much every Ewigkeit album I have recorded. Maybe this is a sign of my maturity as a composer – I am not sure. I don’t like to blow my own trumpet, but I’d go as far to say that it is ‘tasteful’ in its overall sound. “
The new album’s return to a black metal sound implies that the art form possess a particular level of importance for Fogerty, influencing his writing process and linking itself with him intrinsically as an artist.
James again concurs with this approximation, saying, “For me, there was a definite golden age of keyboard-infused black metal in the early to mid-90s which, for me, totally revolutionized what I thought could be done with heavy music. I think that also it appealed to my sense of expression; you have this raging maelstrom of (often) completely atonal noise and drums which appeals to the base instincts, and then you have this symphonic overlay of pure expression which appeals to the higher consciousness. It’s a complete paradox. Friends of mine who are not into extreme metal don’t understand how I could spend an age composing a mini-symphony, only to fuse it to an avalanche of heavy guitars and caustic vocals. They just don’t get it.”
Fogerty also muses how his time in The Meads of Asphodel made pushing “acceptable” sonic boundaries easier for him later on with Ewigkeit, having considered a broad palette of music very early on in his career.
“I grew up being bombarded with the records of my siblings through the walls, so I’ve a pretty wide understanding of the different genres. When I really got into black metal, it was (in retrospect) like acquiring tunnel vision. I didn’t even listen to death metal anymore – only black metal would suffice. Needless to say, this had to be overcome if I was going to create anything other than copyist music. I think by the time I recorded the second Ewigkeit album in 1998, I had started to come out of this cul-de-sac, and was widening my antenna to take in other stuff. Now, I don’t think I could really describe my musical taste – it’s too non-specific. I think that if you are producing music, you can’t afford to ignore anything. Literally every form of music has some merit (although that doesn’t mean I’d want to listen to it). I think this is probably noticeable in all music that I have written.”
The Conspiritus album in 2005 seemed to be the apex of Fogerty’s experimental period with Ewigkeit; a record which still sounds fresh today years after its original Earache release. Still, the ground wasn’t exactly fertile at that time for a black metal record which incorporated such widely diverse influences as Hawkwind and Pink Floyd into its sound, with only a small army of forward thinking bands--such as Norway’s Dodheimsgard or December Wolves here in the States—daring to cross these genre lines and boundaries.
“Well, to be fair, I had started this journey in about 1999,” counters Fogerty. “That was actually when I was writing Land of Fog. Unfortunately, I had put Ewigkeit on hiatus, and it didn’t get released until 2003 ! I know that Digby Pearson from Earache appreciated and supported what I was doing, but unfortunately those sentiments were not shared by others at Earache and, as a result, my time there was going to always be limited.
I think that it was inevitable that bands who had previously categorised themselves as black metal would start to incorporate more adventurous elements – most of us had started writing that sort of music when we were 15, and you are not the same person at 30 – by then, you actually have some life-experience and something to express.”
Of course, one can only burn the creative candle at both ends for so long, with Ewigkeit serving as no exception, having disbanded not long after Conspiritus and Return to the Land of Fog.
“At that point,” says James, “what I really wanted to do was to cover topics in the real world – not the one(s) inside my head. That is why I started The Bombs of Enduring Freedom project [for my own label, Death To Music], which is like an antidote to the world of bullshit 24hour news TV. I guess that the roots of this project were partly in the Conspiritus album and partly in the music project which I briefly did with James Cauty (Blacksmoke). I didn’t feel that the music I wanted to create at the time fitted with Ewigkeit at all. Also, I had gotten pretty annoyed with a label trying to enforce live performances on me (it really isn’t my thing at all – I’d rather be drinking and meeting real people, than be posing onstage).”
In the meantime, Fogerty is experiencing a whole new level of freedom with this Death To Music label, releasing what he wants in the manner of his choosing.
“Initially I was in contact with a few labels, but then I thought ‘what the hell am I doing this for?’ I don’t need to prove the quality of my music by getting some label to release it – I’ve done that before and it didn’t make me feel any better. I’d rather do things exactly how I want and when I want’ So yes – it’s incredibly liberating. Unless you intend to tour, you don’t need a label these days. Affordable recording equipment and the internet have done away with the need for all that. That said, a negative side of the internet is that music is instantly attainable and instantly also instantly disposable. The idea of ‘the album’ is pretty much eroding, and so is the idea that you can make money from music (which isn’t necessarily a bad thing).”
He adds, on the subject of Ewigkeit 2013, “I don’t think I have really ever set out to achieve anything in particular with Ewigkeit – other than it being a vehicle to express my emotions, thoughts and create music that I am driven to put into music at certain times in my life. Some people have enjoyed what I have done over the years, and this is the greatest reward any real artist can get. Commercial success and artistic success are certainly not the same thing – and more people are becoming aware of this fact now than ever before. The era of the ‘death of the record label’ is very exciting from an artistic perspective.”
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