Band – Luctus
Album – Užribis
Country of Origin – Lithuania
Genre – Black Metal
Release Date – April 4, 2020
Label – Inferna Profundus Records
Author – Hayduke X
Musically, Užribis is an incredibly powerful album. The visceral nature of the playing draws you down into the rich, black tapestry created by this quartet. The album is a slow burner, relying on pacing and rhythm to mesmerize the listener, instead of blunt force and raw speed. All the pieces melt together like shadows in the forest, seemingly shifting and moving so that you can never get a true grasp of what’s around you.
Dovydas handled all rhythm and lead guitar lines, adding layers of riffs and sound which is layered and lushly pitch black. The riffs are sharp and intense, never boring, and subtly destructive. Kommander L. adds bass, providing a thick underpinning, like a darker layer of black within the night. Drums are masterfully handled by VJ, with a glorious sense of push/pull rhythm as he controls the pace of the project from ‘stalking predator’ to ‘out of control locomotive’ and everything in-between. That’s not to say he ever sounds out of control, just that there are passages of extreme, relentless aggression within what is generally a mid-paced attack. Finally, we are back to Kommander L. for vocals. His style is quite varied, but often resides in a death metal/black metal hybrid approach, too low in timbre to really be typical black metal, but not enough growl to really be death metal. The result is a perfect fit for the album, and very well done.
Somewhere in the dark of a bleak night in Lithuania, there are caves. Within those caves is a sentient evil. That evil is Užribis. Though it rests there in the dark, it’s tendrils of power have been extended worldwide. All who are touched are lost. Become one of the lost.
Hayduke X: Congratulations on the release of Užribis earlier this year. It’s a truly smothering release. Six months after the release, how has the reception been?
Kommander L: Thank you! The reception was positive. Of course, we expected more feedback considering that we had many projects and live shows in mind, but the album came out in the middle of the pandemic and this obviously had a weight. There is nothing we can do about it and it is useless to think that it could have gone differently – it went as it went.
HX: Now that the album is out in the world and has had a chance to settle, how are you feeling about the final product?
KL: I am very satisfied. It is a truly professional product, with attention to the smallest details, not only from a musical point of view, but also from a graphic and visual one. We and our label “Inferna Profundus Records” really put all our heart and hard work into it. In the end it’s something we do mostly for ourselves, so we want to be 100% satisfied. But we are also happy when other people appreciate our work.
HX: That’s great to hear. I’ve only seen pictures so far (but I hope to change that), but the physical product looks really great in all aspects.
The promotional materials I received state the Užribis is a thematic continuation of the prior album, Ryšys. I’ve read a lot of reviews of that album, but nobody really pins down the theme. Can you give some explanation about the themes of these two albums and how they’re connected?
KL: With the Ryšys album we had conceptually begun a work of exploring what I call the Other World. This entity can be identified as another dimension, another frequency, or the unconscious. In any case, a reality that is part of us, but does not belong to this world. The previous album was an attempt at contact and connection with this world (in fact one of the meanings of the word Ryšys is just connection, relation). With the new work, the exploration goes on. It goes further and deeper.
HX: Google Translate (not a very reliable tool, I know) says Užribis means “Outside”. Is that pretty accurate and how does it relate to the larger themes?
KL: Yes, it can be one of the meanings, albeit quite limited. Perhaps the best translation would be “beyond”, even if it is an archetypal word that communicates more than a purely literal meaning. The title means going beyond borders and limits. It could be not only physical and carnal limits, but also spiritual ones.
HX: I like how that expands my understanding of your themes.
The album cover is interesting, and I feel a unique representation of the album. Can you tell me about the artist, the process of getting that done, and anything else related to the artwork?
KL: The cover design was made by master Jose Gabriel Alegría Sabogal. I was very fascinated by the expressiveness and depth of his works and so we turned to him. I like when the artist gives his own vision of the opera. I always work like this. So I sent him the concept of the album and the lyrics and asked him to elaborate his point of view. The result was truly incredible – not only did he manage to perfectly grasp the essence of the concept, but he even extended and enriched it from his point of view. He is truly an immense artist.
HX: I know that it immediately grabbed my attention.
It’s my understanding that Luctus started as your solo project, and has since evolved into your current lineup. Is that correct?
KL: Yes, the project was born as my one man band in 2001, and it was until 2011. The first ten years I did everything by myself, because at the time I was living in Italy. In 2011, I returned to live in Lithuania and I found stable members for a complete line-up. We also started doing many live shows, while before I could only do a couple of gigs per year with some session musicians.
HX: If I have the dates correct, based on Metal Archives, at least half the band is new since Ryšys. Is that why there is five years between the two albums?
KL: Well actually “Ryšys” was still recorded with the old line-up with which we also recorded the album “Stotis”. After that we decided to replace two members and yes, basically the long hiatus between the two albums is due to line-up change issues, which slowed things down a lot.
HX: That’s understandable for sure!
What is the writing process for the band?
KL: All the musical carcass of the songs and the lyrics are composed by me. But each member of the band during the arrangement phase contributes to the process by proposing different ideas and arrangements. In the last album, above all, the guitarist D.A. gave a great contribution in the arrangement of the pieces, by bringing several interesting ideas and proposals that were perfectly incorporated into the structure of the pieces.
HX: That sounds like a very collaborative environment and you can’t argue with the results. Do you enjoy working that way?
KL: Well, it wasn’t easy at first, because for a long time I was used to writing, composing and recording all by myself (except for the drums). But the contribution of the other members can only enrich the structure of the songs with different colors. Of course, not all ideas and proposals are always accepted, I guess it is not really “pleasant” to work with me because I am very rigid and selective, but usually the best ideas arise from the most difficult discussions.
HX: Track six, Tikejimo paslaptis, has some stunning backing vocals from a guest vocalist that help put it over the top as my favorite track on the album. Her vocals are such a nice contrast to the nasty slow burn of that song. It works really well. Who is she? Does anybody else guest on the album in any capacity?
KL: Well, that ‘she’ is me. I recorded those vocals. It’s very funny, because nobody understands it, even if we haven’t used any modulation effects on the voices other than reverb and delay. We plan to develop this idea live. That is, to have a female choir sing those vocal lines. A friend of mine, Xe Xe Chax Heyatha Zhaiyrhous of NAHASH, one of the oldest black metal bands of Lithuania, also contributed to that song doing some vocal lines. He also composed all the keyboards on the whole album.
HX: That’s crazy! But very cool.
I’d like to talk a bit about the history of the band. Specifically, I initially avoided reviewing Užribis because Ad Arma! (2004) shows up on at least two white supremacist websites, including Hammerstorm. In addition, some of the lyrics could possibly sound like they fit that philosophy (though there is more than one way to take them to be sure). The line: “No fucking mercy to inferiors.” from Song For The Enemy stands out. Can you talk to me about themes on this album and if the band has any connection to fascism?
KL: In the first decade of the band’s activity I was very fascinated by belligerent themes, especially those inherent to WW II. “Ad Arma!” is an album about war, as will be the subsequent “Jaučiant pabaigą arti” and the split “Sonitus Caeli Ardentis”. Dealing with extreme issues, they are clearly explicit albums. I have also written songs about Schutzstaffel troops and concentration camps. However Luctus was never a political band interested in promoting political ideas. I was never interested in doing it, otherwise I would join a political party instead of creating a band. The album “Jaučiant pabaigą arti” deals with patriotic themes, but even here they are not intended as politics, but more as a dramatic and heroic picture of a simple human who dies in war for he’s homeland. There is zero politics here, just guts and mangled meat flying into the bloody trenches amidst excruciating screams of agony. It is clear that I have some political ideas, some of them can be associated with the right, but certainly I have never used and will use music to talk about it.
HX: Thanks for the honest and in-depth answer.
The black metal scene right now seems to be in a culture war in certain corners between two opposing points of view, with many bands just avoiding politics altogether. Do you have any thoughts on this?
KL: Honestly, as far as black metal is concerned, I don’t understand people who get outraged by politically incorrect ideas. Guys, in case you haven’t noticed, in black metal (and so in death metal too) everything is wrong! We are talking about music composed of dangerous people, who live an unusual life, so what do you expect? It’s like going to a rave and then getting indignant that everyone is on drugs. Well, nobody has to go there. This is not to say that all black metal bands have to be fascist, or Nazi, but sometimes it is really ridiculous when someone decides what is right and what is not in a genre that is completely out of all schemes and settings. If in the lyrics you talk about killing and impaling priests, nuns, whores and children then that’s ok – you can do it. But if by any chance you put people of color, Jews or Muslims among the impaled people – then no, you can’t do that. Isn’t that ridiculous? As long as they are just words you can ignore it if you want or you can discuss it, as we are doing now, but when shows or even tours are canceled just because people do not think as they “should”, then there is fascism, but on the opposite side I would say..
HX: Well, I’m a believer in free speech, and will never say someone can’t say something, whatever it is. But I think that also extends to those who oppose hatred of definable groups. In other words, I believe that protesters have the right to voice their opinions even if it leads to a show shutting down. That, I think, is different from a government shutting a show down, which would be an actual infringement of free speech. I would also suggest that a show shutting down because of the band’s beliefs is a far cry from persecution of a group of people because of their ethnicity or skin color. I don’t think those are the same thing at all.
KL: Ok, but here we are talking about a niche genre, which is fine. Nowadays it too has become mainstream, but in any case it is not an imposed genre (indeed, it often propagates misanthropy and estrangement from society). You don’t see it on MTV, on newspapers, no one is obliged to hear it. I think very simply – if I don’t like a band, I don’t listen to it, I don’t buy its records, I don’t go to its concerts and I don’t waste a minute of my time about that.
HX: I understand that perspective. My general pattern is to ignore racist bands, regardless of genre. But, I would have a real problem with them playing live in my community. I’m talking about openly racist, spouting racism or nazi glorification in their lyrics. I’m not talking about “sketchy” bands, if you see the difference. I’ve seen both Marduk and Belphegor live, for example, both of whom I occasionally see lumped into that “sketchy” category.
KL: I understand what you say, but those few politically radical black metal bands you certainly won’t see them touring with Marduk or Belphegor. They are more underground, so even in concerts, they play in niche places.
HX: And usually through word of mouth, as I understand it. For the most part, I feel it’s better to ignore them and not give them oxygen, so to speak.
How has Luctus evolved through the years?
KL: This question is not simple – next year the band will turn twenty years of existence – for such a long period, you can say a lot of things without saying anything. In two decades, people, mentalities, interests and even beliefs change. From my point of view I can say that a lot of things have changed over the course of these two decades, both musically and spiritually, but the goal has remained the same. Without it this life would most likely be wasted.
HX: Yeah, that’s a pretty big question.
If I have it right, this is your third full length released by Inferna Profundus. I’m actually not that familiar with the label. What can you tell me about them? How has your experience been working with them?
KL: We have been working with IPR since 2013, when our album “Stotis” was released. It is currently the most active black metal label in the Baltics and this new record is the third under this label. We continue to work with this label first of all, because the boss has been a friend of mine for a long time, and therefore sometimes we meet not only to talk about business, but also for friendship. Second – it is a label very attentive to details, which takes care of every release, because the person behind all the work is a person who dedicates his whole life to this activity. I really admire people who turn their passion into business.
HX: What are your plans after the pandemic is resolved? Are there any tentative tour plans?
KL: It is very difficult to plan anything at the moment. This autumn we had to have some shows abroad which have not yet been canceled, but which I honestly do not think will take place, given the current situation. By now we have made peace with ourselves that the presentation of our new live album has been skipped, so we look to the future and we are already planning some important things for next year.
HX: Are you already writing new music? What’s next?
KL: I’ll be honest – no. At least for now. Every time it’s really hard for me to open a new chapter – it’s like shaping a new corpse. Once the first piece of a new album is finished then I know what shape this corpse will take – after that it has to be completed with blood, bones, organs, nerves and brain. If he has a soul – perhaps others will understand this.
HX: What are your musical influences when you are writing for Luctus?
KL: I listen to all genres, as long as they give me strong sensations. I have noticed that usually if something inspires me, creating, the opposite comes to me and therefore I have understood that associating genres to the compositional process is often useless. I feel a sacred devotion to the 90s black metal classics, but even nowadays, in the midst of so much trash, there are some bands that give me the creeps. Few but good. For the rest, most of my time, in addition to metal, I listen to dark ambient music, noize, rap and classical music, so I think this undoubtedly, even if in reverse, affects what I compose.
HX: Are there any other Lithuanian bands you want to recommend to our readers?
KL: Notable acts that still continue to create: Nahash, Dissimulation, Au-Dessus, Erdve, Regressive. While for the now dead and buried classics – Anubi, Valefar, Nyksta.
HX: Awesome. I have some listening to do then.
Biography: Hayduke X has been writing for MoshPitNation since June of 2016. Beginning in 2018, he also began writing for VM Metal Underground. 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.