Band – Bull of Apis Bull of Bronze
Album – The Fractal Ouroboros
Country of Origin – USA
Genre – Black Metal
Release Date – December 21, 2023
Label – Fiadh Productions/Vita Detestabilis Records
Author – Hayduke X
I’ve been waiting for this moment since 2019. You see, that’s when Bull of Apis Bull of Bronze debuted “Offerings of Flesh and Gold,” an album which remains one of the most moving pieces of music I have ever heard. It was my distinct pleasure, in October of 2018, to premiere an excerpt of O! A Smile of Blood!, the first time any music was publicly available from the project. I have wanted to be a part of revealing the next album to the world, and today am humbled by being entrusted with the opportunity to do so.
Annihilation is the second track to be presented to the world from “The Fractal Ouroboros.” Suffocate O Earthen Lungs; They Now Lungs of Ash was released as a stand alone single on the summer solstice, and is a driving monster of a track. Annihilation patiently builds, spending over six minutes in the process of constructing the mood necessary for the moment of annihilation which comes when the composition explodes into furious oblivion. The build is a wondrous, ambient deconstruction of conscious thought, leading to a deep seated sense of nothingness, a preparation for what is to come. Approach this track with reverence. Let the ambience warm you. Float in it. Let the plucked notes pluck at your subconscious. Allow the whispered rasps to float alongside you. Allow the rhythms to pick you up and carry you towards finality. Allow the annihilation. And then…
Tendrils ache higher,
Gorging sun and moon.
A cairn, a headstone, a henge.
A colony, a garden, a growth.
In addition to introducing the track Annihilation, this feature also serves to introduce the cover art for the album, the full track listing, a review of the entire album, and an interview with the band. Keep reading and each of these will be presented in that order listed.
Spend some time consuming this visual masterpiece from the immaculate mind of Alex CF.
- A History of Cages and Broken Bones
- Suffocate O Earth Lungs; They Now Lungs Of Ash
- Liberation Ritual
- Our Overt Apocalypse
- Ekstasis, Enstasis, and The Fractal Ouroboros
Though Trophy begins in a quiet, ambient manner, it is not contemplative, but rather an ominous path up to the horror defined within. The fury that explodes is a personification of capitalism, with the horrors of conquest and extraction and theft through victory laid bare. Trophies taken through force, first by the protagonist themself, and then, through conquest and violence, others, are hung around their neck:
My thrall do it for me,
And when they die there are
The history of humanity’s journey to capitalism is threaded through the words sung here, the destructive nature laid bare, for there is no benevolent capitalism. The creature spawned by the worst impulses of humanity seems to have a lifeblood of its own; a lifeblood ready to be spent on the violence necessary to gain more, infinitely more, trophies to hang around their neck.
The cycle of compositional ambience and fury repeats itself, growing ever more vicious and ominous with each turn, as capitalism itself shows its vicious claws more openly through history to the modern day. The final section, like the final lyrics, present the first instance of ouroboros on the album, as it consumes the entirety of the lifeblood of its habitat, leaving “earth’s frigid corpse” to “hang…[a]round my neck.” In this final act of victory lies the defeat of the victorious creature, as there is nothing less to consume.
The music created by the trio of Yaeth (drums, mixing, mastering), Athshean (guitars, bass, synth), and Achaierai (lyrics, vocals, synth) is beyond gripping. I could talk about haunting and destructive riffs, dynamic blasts and fills, rasping, passionate vocals, and so on, but any breakdown of the compositions on this track, and frankly throughout the album would fail to capture the ‘other’ space created on “The Fractal Ouroboros.” As with “Offerings of Flesh and Gold,” I find myself transported into another place, perhaps outside of time, where contemplation of the larger message is mandatory on a visceral, near-molecular level. As I don’t have the ability to capture the power of the compositions with my words, I will say that each is perfection, and the whole of the seven movements found herein are greater still than sum of the parts.
A History of Cages and Broken Bones follows Trophy with contemplation of the terrors wrought by the arbitrary lines drawn by humanity. Whether those lines are drawn to separate one so-called nation-state from another, (about which Propagandhi once screamed “They own us. They produce us. They consume us.”) or drawn to separate the wealthy from the rest of humanity, they are certainly drawn to cause division, which brings inevitable violence, death, and destruction. One needs only look at the current situation in the Middle East to see what arbitrary lines on a map bring to bear. A historically oppressed people have become the oppressors and are perpetrating a genocide against those they oppress. Humanity is eating itself. Ouroboros in plain sight. [Note: Views expressed here are those of this writer. I never support anti-semitism, and certainly don’t support what is labeled terrorist violence. However, the Israeli government is committing genocide against the Palestinian people as I type this, and the United States government, along with anyone else not calling for an immediate cease-fire is complicit. The Palestinian people have been made to live for decades in an open-air prison, oppressed by the colonizing force placed there by the West. There are books and books written on the history of this situation, so there’s no way I can comment on it all here, but oppression is the natural state of the cancer of capitalism and all oppression must be ended.] This current situation is just the latest and most current of hundreds of examples of “cages and broken bones” wrought by the lines we draw, the lines we accept in our daily lives, even if we are not the architects of them.
This track is a slow burn, with jangly tremolo riffs, harsh spoken word reality checks, and a slow motion near-military march from Yaeth, all serving to represent a funeral dirge of humanity brought on by the death machine of our oppressive modern world. It’s baked into the systems we have formed and this composition compels us to sit with that reality, made stark by the atmosphere created.
The third track on the album is the already released Suffocate O Earth Lungs; They Now Lungs Of Ash. As you already know, if you’ve listened, this is a driving track reminiscent of the more aggressive parts of the debut. To me, this track is a tale in two parts, both of which tell of the reactions of those oppressed by the insatiable greed of capital. The first half of the track speaks of the devastation of those oppressed, with lives such as:
A fire to shatter our sky
A fire to keep us kneeling
The second half, after the chorus, speaks instead to the rising up of the oppressed to fight back against the machine of capital. No longer on our knees:
We shall be the pit vipers
Our voice the wurari spat across a red sun
A poison to seize these horrible gears of industry
This is the moment that “The Fractal Ouroboros” begins to bend towards its own tail, preparing to devour itself through greed, so that, perhaps, life can rise again renewed, freed from the cages and broken bones.
Annihilation, described above, and ready for you to listen, is the hinge in the back of the dragon as it bends towards death and rebirth, “A skull defiant.” I’ll let you listen again to this crucial piece of the album.
After death (Annihilation) comes rebirth (Liberation Ritual). As the title suggests, this track is a ritual, or at least a description of one. Rhythmic and ambient, with haunting spoken word speaking forth truth into the atmosphere, the ritual is a preparation for the rebirth, an understanding of a more true, more righteous place we inhabit:
We are not our bodies
We are not our minds
We are not our spirits
All are yokes
Spoken like a meditation, allow it lift you up into freedom like sage smoke into the night sky. Be one with the path to true freedom in rising beyond all oppression to a return to oneness with all life, all being.
We are the light, molded as we will
Our Overt Apocalypse marks the penultimate track on the album. The haunting, droning track, which slips effortlessly into a raging fire, is a realization of what must come individually and collectively prior to a rebirth into true freedom. We must have at least a metaphorical apocalypse, and an actual end to many things held dear by most. The lie of unlimited growth potential, the drive for material wealth, the arbitrary lines drawn between nations, between us and them, between nature and humanity – all these must be destroyed in our own apocalypse. The violence necessary to accomplish this depends on how tightly we, as humans collectively, hold onto these trinkets of death. Will we release them gently and freely, or must they be pried from our hands after a more destructive apocalypse of our own design?
Progress is armageddon…
An ending is a gift we are all given
And we will value it til the next
The cycle completes with Ekstasis, Enstasis, and The Fractal Ouroboros.The dragon has eaten its own tail. Musically, this track contains many of the themes found in Trophy, a full circle end to the composition in its totality. I keep expecting to hear Achaierai’s throaty call, “Around my neck…neck…neck…” but the message here is different. This final missive is a spiraling cycle of growth, death, and rebirth. At times, the track feels hopeless, as with the line:
Change is impossible because it has never happened.
But immediately this sense of hopelessness is put to death in being called out as:
A shameful fucking fear
Ultimately, the track is a glorious vision of what could be if we all rise up to throw off the shackles of our imprisonment in this death machine.
Linked minds, bonded ka
Arm in arm towards newfound light
Let’s have that “transcendent rebellion.” Let’s link arms and rise in rebirth from the death throes of this demonic creature of capital, “arm in arm towards newfound light.” This is the path forward.
Hayduke X: Thanks for taking the time to speak to me. Can you all start by introducing yourself and your role in the band?
Athshean: Hello! Thanks for doing this. I am Athshean, and I do guitars, bass, and some synth stuff here and there.
Achaierai: Hi Hayduke! Thank you for talking to us. I’m Achaierai, I write the lyrics, do the vocals, and also do some synth stuff here and there.
Yaeth: And that leaves Yaeth (aka me). I am responsible for hitting drums and the mixing/mastering side of the band’s audio engineering (we all track our own parts at our own studios).
Hayduke X: Thanks all. It’s been four years since the release of “Offerings of Flesh and Gold.” What’s been going on with the band in the interim?
Athshean: Well, work has been going for the second album, “The Fractal Ouroboros” since 2020, shortly after our first album. Being that we all live in separate places, our process has been interesting to say the least. Work has come in slow bursts when each of us have been able, and the process for getting everything as we want it has been quite an undertaking. Meanwhile, some of us also moved to new places, had other projects, and generally busy lives, all while slowly working on the next album.
Yaeth: And of course there’s the elephant in the room for conversations about the period of time we are discussing: the pandemic. Obviously it impacted everyone on Earth… for us it had a hand in slowing down this process. For me personally, I had multiple major life transitions occur between “Offerings” and “Ouroboros” – between those and being an essential worker through covid I had very little energy left to work on creative endeavors day to day. And this record is a beast… it demanded significant energy and attention to work on. So it took time. But I am glad that we didn’t rush it.
Achaierai: I was also classified as an essential worker and worked throughout the pandemic. The majority of the lyric writing happened pretty early on, with some tracks being written just as “Offerings” was releasing. One of my early pandemic projects was to work on a book of poetry, but almost everything that was written turned into the skeleton for “The Fractal Ouroboros” instead. Our special brand of online collaboration also let us give each aspect of the record time to breathe.
Hayduke X: And, of course, as you’ve all suggested, it’s better to give the creative process the time needed, whatever length, to produce the album you really wanted. Tell me more about that process. How do you work on creating music from different states? What gets done first, etc?
Athshean: Our workflow has been basically the same for both records. It all begins with the lyrical work from Achaierai. We are guided by the words and the feelings, from there deciding what the music will be like. Achaierai also has provided some general structural ideas for some of the songs. From here it has typically come to me, where I write, compose, and record all the guitars, the bass, and any general textures or flow the songs will follow. Once this is complete, it is sent off to Yaeth to add the drums. Then when the instrumentals are more or less done, Achaierai adds the vocals and any other synth textures before it is all mixed, mastered, and tweaked into its final form. It has been a wild process, but perhaps one of the most rewarding ones. Each of us works together in isolation yet the goal always remains so cohesive. It’s powerful, really.
Yaeth: On that last note, it’s worth noting that we usually check in with each other after each step in the process to see if anyone has any objections to anything we just added, but we’re pretty much always on the same page. A part length might change here or there, but that’s been about the extent of it. It’s one of the most cohesive musical teams I’ve ever taken part in.
Achaierai: Every time I talk about our recording process with other music people they’re always baffled, but it’s how Athshean and I have worked together for almost a decade now. Most of the time the lyrics start as something else. The first lines of “Offerings” were from a music review I wrote. Trophy (the first track of “The Fractal Ouroboros”) was a poem I wrote during the recording of “Offerings.” One of my unfinished pandemic projects was to work on a book of poetry, but after I finished the piece that would become the track Annihilation, I knew it had to be for Bull of Apis. I sent Athshean that song specifically and said “I think I just finished the lyrics to a song for the next record. It’s the best poem I’ve ever written.”
Hayduke X: Fantastic! The lyrics for Offerings are anti-capitalist and anti-oppression. What are lyrical themes on “The Fractal Ouroboros?”
Achaierai: “The Fractal Ouroboros” is about the idea of cycles, and how actions reverberate through time. The idea of one system being the only way of existing, and that insidious idea working its way through the minds of generations. The machine eats everything until the only thing left is itself, and teaches its young to do the same.
And so we must impede and break the cycle to keep it from continuing, and that may require something that feels cataclysmic.
Hayduke X: Is this commentary? A call to action? Something else? All of the above?
Athshean: I can’t speak for Achaierai on the intention per se, but to me it is both an expression of grief as it is a call to action. There are numerous fragments of commentary throughout the writings which were the source of inspiration, but overall it feels like a deep expression of a desire for change—to break the cycle.
Achaierai: Yeah I would say they’re both commentary, both direct and indirect, while also being a call to action. I wanted them to flow in a way that shows the grief and pain folks are feeling like Athshean said, showing that grief and then using that grief to call to action. As the last track says, “each coal kindled by a soul taken too soon.”
Hayduke X: Are there any specific concrete actions you hope listeners are called to take? I know that’s pretty broad to the point of being unanswerable, but I think it’s worth throwing out there anyway.
Achaierai: I think the best and foremost action anyone can take is to have genuine conversations. That’s what gets the ball rolling and opens people up to learning what other aspects of action they can partake in. No one way of action is the right way, as long as it’s working towards the collective goal of dismantling oppressive structures. I think participating in a community garden can be as valuable as marching in a protest.
Hayduke X: That seems like such a simple answer, but I would agree with it.
Athshean: I agree with Achaierai. I also think if we are not working to foster community while dismantling the systems of oppression, we are not working towards a better world. I hope that this record inspires as much hope as it offers catharsis from the grief of living in this world.
Hayduke X: I really like that. I’ve often thought that we need to spend as much time figuring out how to build something new as we do dismantling the current hell system, otherwise the worst impulses of humans will just take over again anyway.
On the Bandcamp page, “The Fractal Ouroboros” is described as “A brief on occult liberation in seven parts.” Can you walk me through the seven parts?
Achaierai: It’s just each of the songs. But each one kind of peels back different layers, the first three being that which we desire to change, the following two being opening oneself to change, and the following two after that being enacting the change.
Hayduke X: Right. That’s what I was getting at. How each song is part of the whole narrative.
Achaierai: Trophy is the personification of “The Fractal Ouroboros.” A devil of capital and exploitation presented as such, to show its horrid face.
History of Cages is a presentation of colonialism, specifically American colonialism, not just of land but of heart and spirit.
Suffocate presents the scorched earth war waged against the land and indigenous people. It was initially written as the amazon was burning in 2021, but the following years have made it applicable to many different spaces.
Annihilation is the recognition that total change is needed. That to achieve freedom nothing of the previous cycles can remain.
Liberation Ritual is preparing for that annihilation in an intimate way.
Our Overt Apocalypse is enacting change both on a personal and macro level.
Ekstasis, Enstasis, and The Fractal Ouroboros is knowing that change will happen inside yourself and in culture, throughout the world, and recognizing that we will one day move beyond.
People should make their own conclusions about the words overall. But these ideas were what were at their heart when they were written.
Hayduke X: Thanks for that breakdown. In what ways does the music composed fit those ideas? Or more simply, how do you all feel the music connects with the themes?
Achaierai: Athshean can speak to it in more detail than I, but the idea of cycles comes through on the record really well. Repeated motifs. The harmonium that is the first sound heard is also the last sound heard. They did a really wonderful job of bringing the idea of crescendo, and quiet parts that have tension. I’ll let them and Yaeth speak on it more though.
Yaeth: The way I see it, black metal is often pigeonholed into the realm of evil and darkness. It obviously does that well, but this style of music is capable of expressing so much more than only that. Anxiety, agitation, intensity, hope, fear… By the time I am adding my contribution, the structures and the guitar parts are already in place, so maybe Athshean can speak more to the fundamental basis of the songs, but I feel that it’s my job to tie the instrumentals together with a feeling of purpose and directness, and above all to imbue the songs with life and power. This style is a great vehicle for expressing those feelings and it makes a perfect bedrock on which to express Achaierai’s lyrical themes.
Achaierai: Yaeth, I think you did a great job of accentuating the pace that needed to happen. The heft of some of the tom hits on for example, the end of trophy’s spoken word section right into the reprise of the fast guitar still gives me goosebumps whenever I listen to it.
Athshean: Yeah, I wanted to really highlight the cyclical themes in a musical way. The album in itself feels like a palindrome, as Achaierai mentioned. It begins the way it starts, a musical ouroboros. I also wanted this album to have motifs throughout making each song feel part of a larger and cohesive story. I agree with Yaeth as well, I have always been fascinated with black metal as being both a conduit for ferocity and catharsis as well as a source of meditation. When I write for Bull of Apis Bull of Bronze, I really try to find that middle ground. Just as Bull of Apis stands as a force of destruction and an expression of grief, so too does it stand as an intent for hope, for change, for grounding. I hope the music speaks that same message.
Hayduke X: I definitely think cycles are a good way to think of the album. To me, it also feels very connected to the debut, as an evolution of it. Can you speak to that evolution between albums?
Achaierai: I think with the first record we were kind of figuring out the sound as we went. While the new one we still let it develop organically, but we had ideas about which elements we wanted to emphasize. I knew I wanted to experiment with more of the creaking voice from the beginning of Offerings, and as Annihilation was the first thing we fully recorded for “The Fractal Ouroboros,” I used that as an opportunity to explore that. Same with the quiet spaces on the record, a lot of the ambient spaces were something else we wanted to extrapolate on.
Athshean: Yeah, I don’t have too much more to add other than I feel that “The Fractal Ouroboros” is a deeper development on the sound we began to establish with the first record. From my perspective, I wanted to give the album more space, more dynamics, more rumination. Especially since we all knew the album was going to be quite lengthy, we wanted to keep dynamics in mind to keep the listener interested. It is a lot to ask a listener to listen to an album that is over an hour long.
Hayduke X: On “Offerings,” the art felt very important and connected to the album. Is that true here also? What can you tell me about the art, who created it, how it’s related, and so on?
Achaierai: The art was one of the first aspects of the album to be considered finished. We knew we wanted to work with Alex CF again immediately, as he has a knack for knowing exactly what we’re going for. We wanted to try to recreate the emblematic aspects of the first cover, keeping the warmer color palette compared to a lot of our genre contemporaries, while also expanding upon the ideas present in the music.
Athshean: Yeah, and thematically I had personally wanted something more communal and hopeful that felt like a triumphant and collective celebration, especially after the isolation of the last few years.
Hayduke X: I can fully understand that. I think the cover art really captures that sense too. Is there other art as well? Given the length of the album, I’m guessing this will be a double LP, so there’s likely more room for art.
Athshean: There is other art, yes! Exploring some similar themes as well as some of what we talked about with the themes of the album. I will leave some of the surprises for people to discover themselves. But yes, there is additional art all done by the fantastic Alex CF.
Hayduke X: Will there ever come a time when this project will play live?
Achaierai: It’s hard to say. It’s not something we’re actively seeking, but maybe one day it will make sense.
Yaeth: At this time the logistics are a problem due to being so far apart. Merely practicing together would be a serious undertaking, let alone being able to put in enough time together to actually be a tight live unit. These songs are pretty demanding and we would definitely want to do the material proper justice. On top of that, we would need to find a few more musicians to fill out the recorded layers. That said, who knows? It’s certainly within the realm of possibility some day.
Hayduke X: That all makes sense, but I can hope right? I’ve noticed that the solstices and equinoxes seem important to the band. Can you talk about this a bit?
Athshean: I can speak personally that Solstices are meaningful times for me because they are days of extremes, either the longest day or the longest night of the year. Aligning myself seasonally and in a cyclical manner has been something I have been really drawn to in my personal life. The winter solstice in particular and the meditation on darkness and introversion has proven quite powerful in my life. These solstices have also historically been times of celebration for many cultures across the world. Aligning Bull of Apis with those seasonal markers of simultaneous introversion and celebration feels right for what we are doing.
Achaierai: Solstices and Equinoxes have always been moments in time where I try my best to be self reflective. They’re celestial events that can have a tangible effect on my physical and mental well-being. By releasing our music at those intervals, it helps us instill that purpose into the music. And when everyone experiences it at the same time, there’s something powerful there.
Hayduke X: I know at least two of you have other projects. Can you update us on what’s going on with them?
Achaierai: Most of my projects lie dormant at the moment. I find it hard to focus on more than one at a time, so “The Fractal Ouroboros” has been absorbing most of my attention for a long time. I have been tinkering on some writing stuff, but if anything those are more related to Bull of Apis than anything else.
Athshean: Most of my projects are in the dungeon synth and ambient realms and I am constantly working on new things. I have some new music for my project Delmak-O in the works, as well as some of my projects under my Windkey Tapes label. Most of it is pretty outside the realms that Bull of Apis lives though.
Yaeth: I like to produce music under many names and within many different genres. I’m literally always making something or other. To keep it concise here I’ll stick to the most relevant project to BOABOB, which is a direct spin off under the name I use here, Yaeth. It’s my own take on similar thematic material, but with a microtonal spin. I’ve slowly been developing ideas for a follow up to the project’s debut MMXX. Once BOABOB and the two other albums I have in the pipeline (one instrumental psych/prog and the other tech-metal/hardcore) are out by EOY I can finally focus effort into another Yaeth record, which is an exciting prospect.
Hayduke X: Very cool. I’ll have to check that out. To wrap things up, what else would you like to share? What else should we know about this project or this record?
Achaierai: I’m very excited for people to hear this album. We all pushed ourselves in our performances and writing. I think some of these riffs are the nastiest that Athshean has ever written. Yaeth is an absolute machine, and having him on from the beginning of the writing process helped us a lot. I hope it resonates with people.
Athshean: And Achaierai is being super humble here, because we could not do it without these beautiful words and the powerful vocals. I am really just excited to see and hear the response to this album. We have worked for a long time on it and I genuinely think it is a powerful record. I hope it brings as much catharsis as it does introspection.
Yaeth: I definitely agree with what these two just said about each other. It’s a pleasure getting to be part of this group. I hope there are people out there who resonate with this album. It’s a chaotic and hectic world and we really appreciate anyone who takes the time to give our efforts an honest listen.
Hayduke X: Well, there’s at least one person who resonates with the album. Thank you all so much for your time.
Achaierai: Thank you for taking the time, Hayduke.
“The Fractal Ouroboros” will be available December 21st on both cassette and vinyl, through both Fiadh Productions and Vita Detestabilis Records. This is more than a record. It’s a lament on the destructive creature humanity has created and propped up in so many hydra headed forms. Let’s resolve to use this time until the release to begin to have or continue to have the conversations Athshean, Achaierai, and Yaeth call for in the interview, and then let’s continue to build beyond the release until the time of rebirth from the death being enacted both literally and metaphorically as you read this (whenever that is). In solidarity!
Biography: Hayduke X has been writing for MoshPitNation since June of 2016. He is also a contributor to The Metal Wanderlust. Prior to joining the MoshPitNation team, Hayduke published reviews on his own blog Rage and Frustration. In addition, he has DJ’ed an online metal radio show of the same name as his blog, written for TOmetal.com, done interviews for Metal Rules, and collaborated with The Art of B Productions to create video interviews with a wide variety of bands.