I was recently fortunate enough to have a conversation with Mephisto Deleterio and Chrisom Infernium of the shadowy and strange avant garde black metal project Veilburner. Enjoy the results below Bandcamp player, then check out their monumental masterpiece Lurkers in the Capsule of Skull recently released through Transcending Obscurity Records.
Hayduke X: Congratulations on the impending release of Lurkers in the Capsule of Skull. How are you feeling about the album at this point?
MD: We’re very excited that it’s finally being released. We had our moments of anxiety during the pandemic. We were concerned about everyone’s health, particularly Kunal’s since he is located in a part of the world that is particularly at risk due to the population and peoples’ proximity to one another, not to mention the disruptions to commerce that very well could have ended his business or those of his vendors and other contacts. He persevered like the warrior he is, and we feel very lucky. As for the album itself, we finished it in 2018, and I’m happy to say that we’re as proud of the material now as we were back then, if not more. It’s been great seeing peoples’ positive reactions to the pre-release tracks as we lead up to release day.
CI: It’s been awesome seeing everyone’s reactions, it felt like forever since we wrote it but being able to come back to it it’s still just as fresh as it was when we finished it back in 2018.
HX: Wow! That’s a long delay. I know there’s a time lapse from completion to release. I would assume that COVID is the cause of the extreme length of time though. Given that it has been complete for so long, are you working on new material already?
MD: Believe it or not, we have completely finished the two albums after “Lurkers…” (which will be albums 6 and 7), plus the music for album 8. We are always working on new material, even if earlier stuff is still waiting to be released. It’s a luxury that comes with not having a live aspect to manage or touring obligations to keep up with. I was finishing up the music for album 7 when the lockdown started, and just kept working through the pandemic, because there was nothing else to do and it was the perfect opportunity to lose myself in it. I finished up the music for album 8 just as things started opening back up again around here in the spring.
CI: Oh yea! We are done musically with album 8. I’m currently in the process of starting the artwork for 6 and 7 and in time will start lyrics for 8.
HX: Looks like I have a lot of listening ahead of me. Before we go too far, can you both clarify your respective roles in Veilburner for our readers?
Mephisto Deleterio: All music, backing vocals.
Chrisom Infernium: Main vocals, lyrics, artwork.
HX: Thanks. What is your songwriting process?
CI: Mephisto writes all the music. It used to be that I would get a song as he finished one, but with the last two albums (7 and 8) he turned over the completed albums. I wrote to 7 and once the lyrics were recorded, then he handed me 8. I feel like it’s a lot better when I get a finished album versus song, because it allows me to get a better sense of the whole mood versus just hearing one song.
MD: During the normal course of the day, I might have a melody or riff idea come into my head out of the blue. I’ll hum it into a voice recorder app I have on my phone and then forget about it for at least a few weeks. When I want to get to work on a song, I go back over the stuff I’ve collected in the voice recorder app and see what I still like. Once I have two or three ideas that sound like they would work well with each other in a song, I’ll sit down and flesh them out in my home studio and build around them until the song is done. It normally takes about four weeks to record a song, and that’s working mainly on weekends when I have at least a few hours of time I can block off for it.
HX: What lyrical themes do you explore on this album?
CI: Mostly the lyrics follow along with the story from A Sire, but from the perspective of the beings or voices that haunt the character from A Sire. With that said, it plays heavily on psychology with our usual occult atmosphere. There’s a lot going on between both records. The lyrics were written in a way that fuses both records together so people can, if they want to, dissect the songs and see if they can crack the mystery of the whole concept/story that’s been written for A Sire and Lurkers. I want to mention that the albums are accessible to those who just want to listen to music and glaze over the lyrics. They work on many levels!
MD: Chrisom is really the mastermind of the concept and thematic onion layers. My understanding of it (at the surface level, anyway), is that both the “Lurkers…” and “Sire…” albums concern a man in poor physical health, and this directly affects his mental health. He begins to feel tormented by what may or may not be hallucinations of two strange entities (the ones on the cover of “Lurkers…”) who seem to want to either influence or use him to some nefarious end.
HX: Chrisom, you also do the artwork. How do you create the art? What medium(s) do you use? How does that tie into the concept?
CI: The art is usually always multimedia, between drawing and importing into photoshop. Album 4 was a painting I did for the cover and the rest were photos taken by my wife and then I imported and manipulated using photoshop. Lurkers is all photo manipulation in photoshop. All the masks for both albums were made by me also. My wife took the photos. Erin Sheppard. For A Sire I’d like to mention that Mephisto purchased one mask and that was for the main character of the whole concept. We use colors as an idea for each album, the first three were bronze, silver, and gold followed by black for A Sire and white for Lurkers. I always want the listener to be able to imagine their own idea of what the voices would look like or the character, but also want to have imaging that directly reflects how we see them. The masks themselves are made up of a bottom mask and a top mask, the top one is removable without any straps, it just snaps on so it makes for some cool photos when pulling them off. It’s a blank face atop a faceless head. I feel like they reflect how the main character feels.
HX: That’s really cool. I feel like album art is such an important part of the whole experience and love when artists are thoughtful about it. Do either of you have a standout track from Lurkers? If so, which one and why?
CI: I haven’t listened to the album for awhile purposely, so when we were nearing release, I could give it a fresh listen and I can’t really pick out a stand out. I really like them all, but if I were to pick one I would go with Para-Opaque. The only thing I’ve heard that even resembles the sound of this song would be Leviathan, which we kinda drew inspiration from. For those die hard metal fans, specifically black metal, I threw in an Easter egg lyrically…so it was cool to be able to throw something not Veilburner related in there to see if anyone does spot it. I feel like this song allows us to revisit its sound and maybe develop it more if we want to in the future.
MD: I think maybe “Cursed, Disfigured, Amen!” was probably my favorite one from this album to write. I remember I had recently seen Blade Runner 2049 in the theater around the time I wrote this, and I was blown away by the soundtrack. I really wanted to do something with an intro that was inspired by what I heard. We also have a friend from Ireland who had recently completed an indie film project and sent us a link to the trailer. It was an experimental sci fi film, and the visuals were giving me music ideas. The quiet part towards the end is something I heard in a dream and managed to capture after I woke up before it flew out of my brain, so it was just a very inspiring time period for me when I was working on that.
HX: What are your inspirations, both musical and nonmusical?
MD: Musically, I’d say 80s thrash, 90s death metal, french black metal, 90s industrial, some 90s alt rock (Faith No More, for example), movie soundtracks from different eras, a lot of 80s pop and new wave that I heard as a kid, and even a few things from the 50s and 60s like that twangy surf rock guitar sound and a song called “Harlem Nocturne” (if you’ve seen the 1983 movie “Christine,” you’ll know the song I’m talking about). Non-musically, my main inspiration is probably strange and unorthodox movies from all different eras. They really help get me in the right headspace to write the kind of stuff we do. I also get a lot of inspiration from one of my other hobbies, which is collecting strange and odd antiques and curios from around the world. If you’ve ever seen the show “Oddities” then you’ll know the kind of stuff I am talking about. I’ve spent the last ten years turning our house into something of a museum for strange old stuff, and my home office/studio especially. It’s definitely got plenty of atmosphere for helping get into writing mode, and I’ve even featured some of the stuff in some of our past photo shoots and promo stuff.
CI: Musically I listen to more black metal than death metal anymore, but grew up on death metal. Deicide, Cannibal Corpse, Morbid Angel, etc. With black metal, I got into Mayhem. Marduk, and Emperor when I was younger, but now I’m more interested in the American stuff and the French stuff. I also listen to other stuff like industrial bands NIN, Trepaneringsritualen, among others. Some folk stuff, 90s grunge like AICs, and even Florence and The Machine. I like to read and I try to catch up on the really bizarre odd films like Mephisto, but I seem to let my free time go to reading/studying for my ever evolving ideas on concepts and such for Veilburner and other projects. If I’m not doing that, then I’m playing Warzone, total video game nerd. I think it’s good to take breaks from all the reading and such because I want to write then and when that happens, my wife loses me for weeks at a time haha.
HX: If I’ve done my research correctly, this is your second release through Transcending Obscurity Records. How did you connect with the label and how has the experience been so far?
MD: Correct. If memory serves, it was in the fall of 2016 when we first heard from Kunal. We had just released our 3rd independent album (The Obscene Rite), and we had hired a guy by the name of Austin Weber to run a PR campaign for it. I believe it was through his connections that we came onto Kunal’s radar, but if Chrisom remembers anything differently, he can correct me. Anyway, he liked what he was hearing on the album, so he reached out to us via Facebook to see if we would be interested in working with him on our next album. At the time, we weren’t familiar with his label, so we did some research and we were really impressed with the way he had been building his brand up to that point, and we were also very moved and inspired by some of the personal struggles we had read about in an article and his efforts to overcome those hardships. So we knew that somebody like that giving everything they had, and that this was way more than a hobby or a business for him, but a life mission. So we jumped onboard with him and it’s been a very good working relationship so far. In the five years since, we’ve seen his profile grow by leaps and bounds, and it’s exciting to be part of the journey with him. He has a passionate, dedicated following of fans who are always eager for his next release, and the bands have been hitting it out of the park with the quality of their releases lately, so I feel like all of the ingredients are there for Transcending Obscurity to make a major breakthrough and become one of those ubiquitous brands like Relapse or Metal Blade.
HX: That would be really cool to see and I think you’re right that the label could have a breakthrough, or even is having a breakthrough. I know you choose to remain anonymous. Can you share your reasoning for that?
MD: A couple of reasons, actually. The first one is very practical. I try to keep certain parts of my life compartmentalized due to my day job. Without going into too long of an explanation, by day I’m an investigator in the quasi-private sector (a not-for-profit organization with state and federal contracts) for certain white collar crimes (specific types of fraud). In the course of my job, I may discover something that gets somebody into trouble, and they will of course hire an attorney to defend them. In most cases, there is a negotiated settlement and nothing else ever comes of it, but there is also the potential that it goes to court. If that happens, I may have to appear in order to defend my work product. In a defense attorney’s efforts to do the best for his/her client, there’s incentive to try to discredit our findings by poking holes in any element of the case brought to issue, whether it’s in the work product itself, or the personal credibility of the fact finders. I would not put it past any defense counsel team to dig through the bowels of the internet and social media platforms to try to convince a judge or jury that I’m not a credible source because I spend my free time dressing up in strange costumes and making creepy music, so I use a pseudonym to keep my worlds separated to minimize the potential for not only the potential problems I can anticipate, but also for reasons that I maybe can’t anticipate, because who knows what the future brings.
MD: For artistic reasons, I think the pseudonyms are good for the project. We don’t play live shows, so the only thing people get from us is the recorded medium, so we try to put as much effort into the presentation as we can. We try to give good visual stimuli to accompany the records in the form of photos and also in the names, because it makes the presentation more of a total package and gives people more to absorb and chew on. The character names help people get immersed into our world. Characters are interesting, whereas using our mundane names and standard musician photos kind of breaks the immersion factor and takes people out of it. We’re trying to stimulate as many of the five senses as we can, because I believe that that’s how stronger connections to things are forged. In an ideal scenario, I’d want to give people something to see, hear, touch, taste and smell to get our brand solidified in their consciousness. In my case, the name Mephisto Deleterio is something I came up with because A) the initials MD are the reverse of my regular name’s initials (DM), so it works on that level as an alter ego, and being a lover of strange movies and films, I’ve always liked the names of some of those foreign directors such as Dario Argento or Guillermo del Toro. They roll off the tongue well, they’re larger-than-life names, and they’re fun to say. So I put together Mephisto Deleterio, which references the mischievous character Mephistopheles from the play “Faust,” and the word “deleterious” which is synonymous with “harmful.”
HX: Any last thoughts or other things you’d like our readers to know about the project or album?
MD: In addition to the last two albums sharing a story concept, they also share a musical narrative. There’s musical Easter eggs written into the songs that link the last two albums together, if people are interested in looking for them. We like to do things like that to make it more interesting for us, even if nobody else gets into it. We like to do whatever we can to help give the albums more replay value, like the way a movie has a twist at the end that makes you want to go back and watch it again to catch the clues and things you missed. Thanks so much for the interest and the chance to discuss our project. Thanks to the current fans and welcome to any new ones that are just discovering us. It’s been a pleasure chatting with you, and we hope we get to talk again soon.
CI: In closing I just wanted to say thanks for taking the time in asking us some questions. We appreciate that people are interested in the project. As of the other questions about anonymity, I think it’s pretty easy to figure out who I am due to the other projects I’m involved with like Torture Ascendancy and Pyrrhic Salvation, but I think with Veilburner pseudonyms work best to help craft the world we are trying to create and allow listeners to explore in. I simply think our real names would take away from the otherworldly atmospheres and such that we have created. It’s been an amazing response to the record and it’s absolutely humbling.
HX: Thanks so much for your time!
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.