Some time ago, I connected with Athshean and Achaierai, the two artists responsible for the new ritualistic black metal project Bull of Apis Bull of Bronze. They agreed to answer some questions via email, the results of which can be read below. I will say I give full support for these two artists, this project, and what they stand for. There are some important thoughts shared here.
Hayduke X: Thanks for taking some time to answer some questions about your new project. First, can you tell me who is involved?
Athshean: Thank you as well, friend. Bull of Apis Bull of Bronze consists of Achaierai and I, though we have brought on our friend Yaeth in on drums.
Achaierai: Thank you for your interest. It is most appreciated.
HX: On a related note, how and why did this project come together? You are both in other projects. Why the need for this one?
Athshean: Personally speaking, each project I am involved in always has a set intention. The frustration and anger I wanted to express did not fit into the intention of existing projects for me. In addition, Achaierai approached me with ideas for this collective project and even had the lyrics entirely written at that point. Once I read those, I was immediately inspired. I began recording my end of things pretty soon after.
Achaierai: We have been in bands with each other and involved in each other’s work for a number of years now. Recently we had been feeling a collective anxiety regarding the state of the world, and a brimming anger that our other projects were not able to address. My work mostly lies in the dark ambient realm of sounds, so this was a new experiment for me.
HX: Bull of Apis Bull of Bronze is an interesting band name. Where does it come from? Does it have some meaning to the project?
Achaierai: The name stems from the purpose behind the project. The Apis Bull is a deity from the Memphis region of ancient Egypt, who manifests as an actual bull that the people would find due to its distinct markings and bring to a house of worship to care for and pray to until its death. This animal would be pampered and fed better than most people living at the time. I found this little bit of human dynamics interesting, the things people worship. Bull of Bronze comes from the torture and execution implement the brazen bull. Thematically a lot of our work has to do with the means that people in power use to control the lower castes, and to contemplate ways of dismantling that power dynamic.
HX: On the band Facebook page, the project is being billed as Occult Ritualistic black metal. What does that mean? Can you tell me some bands that are doing similar stylistic work?
Achaierai: Ritualism is giving an act a deliberate intention and respect. It is building an atmosphere not just for the listener but for ourselves, to get us into a state of being which allows our ideas to flow freely. Grasping and utilizing that flow is very important to our sound. Stylistically speaking I get a lot of inspiration from riffing and rhythm of the Icelandic black metal scene, the layering and restraint of post rock, and the unease of a lot of different drone artists.
Athshean: It’s difficult for me to pinpoint direct inspirations or similar styles. I mostly do not listen to black metal. I absolutely agree with Achaierai on the definition of the ritual aspect. The recording process for me was a ritualistic practice.
HX: You are using the stage names Athshean and Achaierai. Do these names have any meaning? Why the use of stage names?
Athshean: Athshean is a word from the fantastic book The Word for World is Forest by Ursula K. LeGuin. Athsheans are the dwellers of a planet called Athshe, which is a planet being colonized by humans for its forests. The Athsheans are very connected to their forested world and the dream world and are overall very peaceful creatures. That book has a lot of fantastic themes of colonization, violence, and the destruction of the natural world. Something about it all really spoke to me and I felt it aligned with my intention for Bull of Apis Bull of Bronze. I highly recommend that book as well as any of Ursula K. LeGuin’s other writings.
Achaierai: This scene and this world are volatile, and when one is critical of these things it helps to remove the personal from the equation.
HX: I know this is a long distance project. How does that work?
Achaierai: There is a lot of back and forth, with renders of songs going out almost daily for a while. We each take our time to add in our layers and slowly build the sound. Weirdly enough it’s the way it has always worked for the two of us. We have been in bands together for four years, and we have only played music together in the same room once. It takes some time but I feel like the end result does not suffer. It can even benefit from having both of us working so in depth with the music for a longer period of time.
HX: Who else are you working with in terms of album art, production, mixing, etc? What can we expect on these fronts?
Athshean: We had some art done by the brilliant and wonderful Alex CF (from the bands Fall of Efrafa, Morrow, Lightbearer, etc.). He created several pieces that we will ideally feature on the physical format of the album. Much of the mixing, drums and production will be done by our friend Yaeth. He has recorded and produced several albums and is an incredible drummer.
Achaierai: Alex did an absolutely wonderful job with the artwork. He read our lyrics and ran with the themes that stuck to him, and I think we ended up with something entirely beautiful, absorbing, and striking.
HX: Tell me about lyrical themes and content.
Achaierai: I wrote the lyrics in bursts, starting with the first part of the first track, “O! A Smile of Blood!” That track in particular began as a piece inspired by the works of Efrim Manuel Menuck. I wanted to make a song that felt “of the now,” rather than the black metal that tends to be either of the past or of a nebulous future. The second part of that track came as a direct response to criticism of the first part, in that it was not direct in regard to intent. The second track is more vague, centering around a thematic element present in my solo material that I had a chance to expand upon here, the Celestial Maw. The idea of giving oneself so fully to an ideal or goal that our carbon isn’t important anymore, just the idea that we come to represent. The final track, “Bull of Apis and Bull of Bronze,” is a more direct call to action regarding those that suffer from the excesses that few have. My main goal was to confront this paradigm, and start seeking ways to dismantle it.
HX: More broadly, the black metal scene seems splintered right now, especially along political lines. Shows and tours are being targeted and shut down to the horror of some and the applause of others. What are your thoughts on the scene right now?
Athshean: Absolutely. The black metal scene has become toxic to say the least. Black metal has also had a very tumultuous history with many ties to terrible people. That said, I think it can hold much power as well. I have plenty of thoughts on the current state of the “scene” but I will limit myself to a couple statements. Firstly, there is a disturbing rise of ideas of supremacy not only in black metal but in all facets of the world these days. I personally have no sympathy for it. I don’t really think that shutting some band’s show down is necessarily tackling these issues, however I also do not subscribe to the idea that free speech means freedom to have any platform you want. If a band gets shut down by a venue for the imagery they are using, that is entirely the venue’s decision, even though it oftentimes comes from the pressure put on them by opposing parties. There is much conversation around free speech these days. I am a total advocate for this, yet I also side with those who use their own free speech to share their opposition. Free speech does not mean speech without opposition. Also, many people talk about the whole idea that “everybody is offended these days.” To me, it is not about being offended. It is about being threatened. This is about people who use imagery or have statements that are directly threatening to myself or those I love. I can’t stand for that. Additionally, there is a lot of talk around the idea that black metal should be apolitical. I stand completely against this. There are certainly bands that can pull off having less of an overt political message, but I am a firm believer that all art is political and should be embraced as such.
Achaierai: Black metal has always been about the concepts of power dynamics to me. For some, they leverage that backbone of power to denigrate minorities for that all too familiar purpose of supremacy. For a genre with themes rooted in power and violence, it is not surprising that white supremacy found a comfortable home within the genre. At this point I think it is blind ignorance to point the inherent aggression within the genre we love towards minorities when we can use that aggression to affect actual change towards the powers that be. I also think that the consumers of black metal need to try to understand that, as Athshean said, all art is political, and everything is a statement of the artists’ experience relative to their place and perspectives. I don’t want the fire of black metal to be extinguished or diminished in any way, I just want it to be channeling towards something that is deserving of anger.
HX: When can we expect to hear some music? Can you give me some hints as to what’s in store?
Achaierai: Recording is in its final stages now. This project gestated as I was in the middle of a massive life change, and so it has been slow going. I expect to have a single out in a few weeks, with the full release coming before the end of the year. As for what to expect, Offerings of Flesh and Gold is three tracks and around 45 minutes. There are ambient passages and there are blast beats. I feel like we have made something dynamic. I am very excited to share it with people.
HX: What else should we know about Bull of Apis Bull of Bronze?
Athshean: Bull of Apis Bull of Bronze is against hierarchy, domination and systems of power seeking to perpetuate the two.
Achaierai: Agreed. The genesis of this project centers around the idea that the proletariat has been too long abused by powers that be, and has been stripped of the ability to make a future that benefits themselves. We seek to channel our frustration and anger at the systems that perpetuate this balance, and move towards a world where there are no kings and no waste and the only ones who fear the next day shall be the ones that bring hardship to that day.