New Zealand blackened death metal group Vassafor have just returned home from ravaging Europe as part of the “Under Four Wings of Death” tour, as well as releasing the sickening new split Call of the Maelstrom with Temple Nightside already this year. Guitarist/vocalist VK has taken the time to answer some questions for Swirls of Noise…
Hi, and cheers for taking the time to answer some questions for Swirls of Noise
For those who are unfamiliar with Vassafor, how would you describe your sound?
Vassafor is Satanic metal darkness. We aim towards that with our sound, so I guess it’s up to the individual listener whether they consider us successful in achieving that…
You’ve just put out a new split “Call of the Maelstrom” with Temple Nightside, and it’s fantastic. How pleased were you with how it turned out? And what do you think of Temple Nightside and their contribution?
Thanks. Yeah both of us in Vassafor are really satisfied with our contribution to the split. The Temple Nightside tracks are absolutely killer. They did a great job and both bands sent each other demos & the recordings as everything progressed so I think there is a synergy to each side. We discussed themes from the outset and it was ideal having HT do art as he has a long association with both bands over many releases, his artwork and layout perfectly complimented the spirit of the release.
Iron Bonehead is the ideal label for us to release this on as well. Patrick has been a champion for truly underground metal filth for so many years and we are proud to release this and the previous split with Sinistrous Diabolus as our first Vassafor records on his label. First of many…
Your sound is oceanically heavy, while the production is filthy as fuck, especially on this new release, what gear do you use to get this sound?
Nothing particularly special. My guitar for this recording was a J series BC Rich Mockingbird and the bass was an Ibanez BTB. Thru my usual 800 Marshall amp for guitars and and an Ampeg SVT for bass with pedals in front of it for extreme panzer assault. However I firmly believe that the most important element for a guitar or bass sound is the attitude and right hand attack of the person playing it. As for Ben, he assaults his drums without mercy, whether it’s blasts or doom. Single foot blasts only, unless he’s adding double kicks under the whole lot. No cheating halftime bullshit! He’s a purist that way haha. But most of all we both try to get rid off as much show-off shit from the music as possible and let the songs do the talking. We have nothing to prove to anyone and couldn’t give a shit about musicianship….that’s why there are always simplistic, ugly parts in every song.
I record mostly in protools but more or less use it the same way I would a 4 or 8 track. No looping or editing of drums. No quantizing or click tracks. We prefer to keep dynamics in our music as much as possible
Vassafor have just gotten back from their first European tour, how did you find the experience, especially playing with such killer acts as Destroyer 666 and Bolzer?
We have nothing but good things to say about that European tour experience. Patrick from Iron Bonehead got us over there and Sven from WTC put it all together with our buddy Steve Attacker as the road general so it was fueled by total maniacs right from the beginning and went accordingly from there. We had our close comrades KS and VB join us from the States and we had what I consider the perfect lineup for Vassafor. KS is the most rampaging barbarian bass player I know and VB is an absolute beast on guitar, as anyone who has witnessed his (unfortunately split-up) band Anhedonist will know. Perhaps in some ways we were the odd band out, but the other 3 touring bands were great guys (and gal) and every band gave it total death on all nights. Certainly was a surprise to have such an underground tour travel on a nightliner bus, but it really showed the worth and health of the underground scene with good crowds in all but 2 shows and tour broke even for everyone. Ascension really proved what a killer band they are, I’m confident I can speak for everyone on that tour when I say how mesmerizing the guitar playing in particular was every damn night from them. But having quality bands such as D666 and Ruins of Beverast joining the lineup at one off shows showed the strength of the bill. Both of those bands really shone in London and Oberhausen respectively.
Vassafor had something to prove however, and I personally enjoyed going out and hammering those fresh victims that hadn’t been infected before. Paris, Erfurt & Berlin in particular were shows that we annihilated. Best part was that they were filled with an older BM crowd that weren’t part of any trend of the present…played by old cunts to other old cunts!
Vassafor seems to be busier in this decade, with the full length Obsidian Codex, splits with Sinistrous Diabolous and Temple Nightside, and the Live EP Death Transmission being released in the last few years. Why did you leave Diocletian, and has this decision enabled you to focus more energy on Vassafor?
Diocletian was never my band. Sure, I was part of the writing, playing & recording/mixing of it but the direction came from a different member. So when we came back from US shows in MMX and I received notice that it was being disbanded I just focused on Vassafor. Whatever they did after I have no idea of. But I was/am always creating, Vassafor is my main focus but the songs take a very long time to write and revise and tweak until they are ready. Half the Obsidian Codex album was already in progress and recorded by time I’d finished with Diocletian. But I’ve also done the Terror Oath demo since then and worked with another band on 2 albums, as well as many engineering and live performances with other bands also. I like to keep as creative as possible. In fact, I doubt I use even 50% of the music I write…
But Vassafor has always, & will always, remain my priority
The lyrics in Vassafor are very esoteric, even for black metal. What inspires the writing process? And how important do you find lyrics to be to the overall music in black metal?
Without the lyrics it cannot be Black Metal. BM IS the message. I find myself writing music to lyrics more and more these days rather than the music first and lyrics later…but mostly it goes hand in hand. Many lyrics require certain passages of music and a certain mood. And often a section of music will suggest ideas for lyrical content, so I guess I’m trying to say there is no hard and fast rule. Its much easier to create now that I am older and have plenty of experience anyway. The first 15/20 songs are the hardest to write!
You’ve joined Debemur Morti productions, a great label for more experimental metal music, what made you decide to work with them? And what can you tell us about the upcoming 3 disc set Invocations of Darkness you have coming out on the label?
So we are going to work with Debemur Morti for the Invocations of Darkness triple CD set and then next will be the CD version of the 2nd album. Iron Bonehead will do the vinyl as usual, that’s not about to change! DM is a label we have always admired and we sent demos to them as we released them. The opportunity came to do something and it’s progressed from there. Doesn’t hurt that they are Ben’s favourite label either!
Invocation of Darkness sees all of our material since the MMX demo released on CD for the first time. It includes some tracks that are as yet unreleased and everything that has been on our various vinyl and cassette releases. A while back I didn’t see any worth in doing CDs….but I have since changed my opinion of the format after having released Obsidian Codex. I wanted to do something a bit different so that each release has its own merit and isn’t cheapened by coming out in multiple formats with trinkets and useless junk to try and sell it. The most important thing is that any CD is done in a proper Vassaforian way. Not interested in issuing disposable garbage like many bands and labels vomit out. I learned my lesson from the first self titled mCD we did which came out looking like shit, which was entirely my own fault! Debemur Morti are label that releases quality and takes pride in the aesthetic of their releases. Our views are mutually inclusive
And you’ve also got a new full length on the way, how are the recordings for that coming along? Has your recording process changed over the years?
We have almost finished the writing process and now its the rehearsing stage, followed by demoing of the songs next. I guess the methods have been refined but really the process is much the same as its developed over the last 4 or 5 albums I have put together as part of various bands. Only change is slowly accumulating better gear to do it with. Although I’m considering changing the process somewhat for tracking the new album, its healthy to change elements to see if things can be done better…
You’ve been involved in music for several decades now. What have been the high and low points of your career so far?
Certainly the last few years have been the strongest for Vassafor. I always wanted Vassafor to be true to itself and build organically without outside influence. And this is exactly what has happened. We are still underground. We don’t resort to any of the garbage I despise in bands, like worthless merch whoring or spamming a bunch of bullshit trying to get some “fans”. This music is done for us only. If like-minded others find it resonates with them then thats great, but that’s a byproduct, not the goal. So for us to be releasing music we believe in 100%, to an audience made up of people who have found it for themselves, on labels we have respect for (and that have respect for us) is perfect for us. Trust me, 20 years ago in NZ I didn’t see this as being the path, but I would still always have done it. I’ve never stopped and I’ll die doing this
Lowest points have been the seemingly endless quest to find the right members between the initial burst and until Ben arrived. But that just made the willpower even stronger so that’s a benefit in hindsight…
How is the underground scene in New Zealand and Australia? What bands do we all need to be checking out?
No shortage of bands throughout both countries doing great and original things. I’d say alongside the usual suspects from Queensland it’s mainly our brother bands that I listen to the most. Grave Upheaval, Temple Nightside and NZs greatest metal band Sinistrous Diabolus. But I guess if I was to throw some names for people to check out in the next years I’d say Consummation from Aus and the bands Vesicant and Blood of the Moon both from Wellington in NZ. I’m very curious to hear what’s coming next for Vesicant in particular, there is a unique musical mind behind that band…
Cheers again VK, is there anything else you wanted to say?