Interview: Reverend Bizarre
When Abandon All Hope was first taking form way back in the winter of 2002/03, there was clearly some strange elements in the Finnish water supply! As part of that first issue of the zine, I tackled the triumvirate of Minotauri, Spiritus Mortis and Reverend Bizarre. Whilst the former two were unleashing some formidable demos Reverend Bizarre was the first to secure a record deal that gave birth to their legendary debut album. It remains a stone cold classic and has been re-released many times over. Here lies that original feature from the vaults…
Hail Albert! Welcome to Doom Metal Hell and another year on this god-forsaken planet! How are things in your neck of the woods?
There are some dark clouds in my sky, but I guess it is quite much the same with most of the people! Some of us are born in sweet delight and so on… This year will bring us as a band our first and maybe last tour, and at the same time, our first gigs abroad, a few split singles and perhaps the next CD. Only time will tell. Right, when there are just few days before our departure to Germany, everything seems just perfect. It gives me strength to know that I will see great bands and drink free beer every day. The return to Finland will be hard, but at least I can have this short time of total madness!
Your debut album “In The Rectory Of The Bizarre Reverend” is one hell of a dollop of Doom in the classic tradition! Did you achieve what you wanted to?
We could have done a bit better album if we had had a few days more for mixing and for vocals, but as the time has gone by I dare say that we achieved quite closely what we were trying to do! At first I was very disappointed about the whole album. I heard only the weak moments! The other guys were a bit more pleased right from the start, I think. To me these songs are closer. I have carried them for so long. It is impossible to record them just the same way I hear them in my head.
The album should have made a couple of laps of the underground by now. Should being the operative word as you had some problems with distribution. What did you learn from this experience? How will you handle future albums?
I know nothing about our future, concerning our deal. I haven´t got too much information from our label. We still have the deal with them, but I personally wouldn´t like to work with them anymore. If we have learned something it is the old fact: read the contract and don´t sign it if you aren´t really sure that it will work out fine. In our case, the sub-label with which we signed was brought down, and we were moved to the main label and now we have been licensed to another label again. Our album came out last spring but it wasn´t available in any shops. The official release date for the second edition of the album was just a few days ago and now I have seen the album even in one supermarket. A confusing sight! But I don´t know too much about these things sadly as I would like to keep as many strings as possible in my own hands!
How have the reactions been from those who managed to lay their hands on it? I have heard nothing but praise! You must be pleased to have made a strong impression on the unsuspecting masses.
Well as you said, our album has been quite much praised everywhere, which is of course a delightful thing for us, after we have done so much work and fought to get everything as we wanted it to be. As I said, I was personally very disappointed when I heard the album for the first time, but after reading all these reviews and hearing all the comments I have begun to accept this album. It is still our child even when it is a bit retarded. We have had such a good response so far that from now on it really doesn´t matter what will be said in the future about this album. In the end all these words don´t mean a thing, as we know what we tried to do, and we know where we succeeded and where we failed. In the future we will try to do everything a bit better. More than I am glad for our personal success, if we can speak about success with the record sales that we have had, even when we don´t know any numbers, I am glad for the fact that Doom Metal itself is getting more respect nowadays. Our album is just one piece of the tradition. Doom Metal is more important than just one band. We are very conscious of ourselves being a part of something bigger.
For those who have been deprived of this Doom masterpiece please describe it to them in your own words. What need they know about Reverend Bizarre?
It is a record full of music that is heavy and slow and has lyrics that don´t deal with marijuana, hot rods, tits or pussies, but death, horror, loss, judgment and destruction. The atmosphere is that of discipline instead of relaxation. This isn´t any chill out music. If I may say so, and I may, this is a very definitive Doom Metal record. The production is good and the playing is decent, not too good, but good enough. What you should know about us is that we know exactly what we are doing; that we truly cherish the tradition of Saint Vitus and Witchfinder General, that we don´t fool around and that we come from Finland which is the land of silent people hardened by the long and cold winters.
There seems to be an underlying sense of irony in the band name for the sermon of the Reverend Bizarre is essentially subversive. But at the same time it follows the tradition of the forefathers of Doom…Black Sabbath, Saint Vitus, and Count Raven. Any comments?
There is a certain sense of irony for sure, but what pleases me is that you have noticed the similarity to these other classic names, especially Saint Vitus and Count Raven, which like our name refer to some person. If you had been thoughtless you might have added Orange Goblin, Captain Beyond or King Crimson.
How did you come to choose the painting “Witches’ Sabbath” for the cover of your debut album? Do you think it ties in with the music and lyrics?
I had some other ideas first, and even when I had already thought about this painting I feared that it is too obvious: Someone must have used it already and it was just too well known painting. But when the time to decide came, I thought that what the hell, let´s use it! I mean it just felt so perfect, and in my opinion it is a perfect cover for this album! It gives the listener some visual hints about what is to be heard. In some way it is like a gate to our world. The painting has much cruelty in it, babies are in the stakes and so on, but still it has also much beauty. There is lots of beauty in the most terrible thing in life. I mean right now I feel very miserable, but when I think about this situation I begin to see and feel how sacral is this feeling of emptiness inside. Of course this painting doesn´t tie up the lyrical context in any way, as all the lyrics were written before I came up with this cover art, but actually it gives you quite opposite information. Our lyrics in this album are quite Christian in some way, but this painting is almost satanic, and I am talking about satanic art now, not any religion. We have also an excerpt by Anton LaVey in the page three of the booklet. It is very opposite when compared to the lyrics. I like this controversial thing. I like misinformation and confusion. I want to keep my fellow people a bit aware all the time. Everything can happen. You never know if some lunatic comes and cuts your throat open. It is the same with our music and lyrics and artwork. You will never solve our puzzles that we hide everywhere. I don´t want to explain our means too much. It is more fun for the one who buys our album to think for herself or himself.
“You speak with mystic language utterly with no meaning”(taken from “Burn In Hell”). But the word of the Church was not always so transparent especially when it was shrouded in Latin in the Middle Ages. Do you find it at all surprising that the Church attacked movements such as the Lollards who only wanted to be able to read the Bible in their native tongue?
I don´t! I am not too familiar with these Lollards, but in general the Church needed to keep most of the people outside the very meaning of the dogmas and the doctrines, because it made the church more powerful. The whole idea of the Church and the State comes from the possibility of domination of the not so wealthy ones. Especially Christianity is good for this purpose as it teaches you to turn your other cheek and take what is given for you, even when it means you will be destroyed. In this song I take a role of a real Christian who understands what Jesus really meant, not what the Church wants to teach for people. This person feels anger when watching all the preachers trying to manipulate people and have more money and power. This song is done in the same fashion as Trouble did their Christian message songs. It fights for the goodness. Of course this song doesn´t reveal my own thoughts in any way, except that I do hate all these TV preachers and other liars.
With this “mystic language utterly with no meaning” I try to say that this speaker doesn´t even himself or herself know what he/she is speaking, because it is not important. Important is to speak the right words even if they don´t mean a thing. This is how I see our world nowadays. People speak a lot but they say almost nothing. That is why I try to speak as little as possible. It is hard for me as I have some gifts of speaking total nonsense.
I think many people would be able to relate to “The Hour of Death”. Have you lost any friends or family members to the grave? Why do you think that the only certainty in life is the most agonising to come to terms with even for those people who believe in life beyond the grave?
Yes I have… My songs don´t reflect my thoughts or my ideas about life in any straight way, or sometimes at all. I sometimes take roles, like an author of a book does. If I say in a song something, it doesn´t mean I personally think that way too. When it comes to death and life after death, in some way I feel that when I die, something of me remains here, maybe in some electrical form or maybe in the work I have done. Right now I think that death would be a great relief as I am very tired of this life here. Sometimes I pray that I wouldn´t have to wake in the next morning. So I have thought about death quite a lot. In this particular song the idea is that the loss is so enormous that the person who has lost his loved one can´t bear it. He feels that the only solution is to “be in grave with her, slowly transforming back into dirt”. I can´t say that I have a similar feeling, or that I even have had one, but when I sing this song I can feel that loss inside me. This song touches me very deeply. Especially “remembering the days of joy not so long ago…”
There is the end in every life, this is a fact that makes some of us tremble, or feel depressed, but to some of us it gives hope for a better state of existence. Of course I hope that I would meet a few people when I have gone, but I don´t believe that I will. If I could believe, my life would be less depressing. I am interested in the idea of human life with only this one certainty – we all have just this short period of time here, then we must leave everything. Sometimes this idea of leaving gives me strength. Sometimes I would like to cry.
“War is raging somewhere. Every second someone will die” (taken from Doomsower) is difficult to deny. To what extent do you believe that religion has been the cause of war through the ages? Or is it a veil for humanity’s inherent lust for power?
I guess lust for war and domination and conquering is natural for the human race. Of course religion has had an important part in many conflicts, but when you study these conflicts more deeply you can find out, at least in some cases, that the importance of the religion is just cosmetic. There has been some kind of religions as long as there has been need to bury the dead and explain the forces of nature. To cut it short there has been religion from the very beginning of human race. There has been also violence from the very beginning. It is hard to divide these two from each other, and in another view it is hard to combine them. There would be wars without religion also! And there would be religions without wars. War is a natural process in the history of man, in my opinion. I don´t have to like the idea of war by saying this, but I don´t want to act like some cheap modern Jesus and say that I am against war and violence. That would be quite much same like I am against breathing, or natural ways of dying.
“Doomsower” describes the state where you don´t care anymore what will happen. It is like catharsis. Your own problems need so much concentration that you can shut your eyes for the suffering of others. I personally don´t care what is out there… In some way I have died many years ago. Maybe one day I will care again, but right now all is meaningless, but survival. Day after day, week after week.
There have always been wars and people have been dying because of violence. Take it or leave it. Religion has been the tool of power and oppression, but it shouldn´t be forgotten that religion has been the tool of survival too. Because people have believed in something they have had strength to carry on even when everything has been destroyed by war. Cities have been rebuild, badly injured people have kept fighting because they have believe, at least in something! Right now there are people living in warfare. Religion has strong psychological meaning. I don´t have belief, but I am also ruined. Maybe I could feel better if I could believe. Believe in love or whatever. I believe in friendship, but only because I have some very good friends, who will be with me until the day I die. Maybe in the same way God has revealed himself to some of us and that is why they can believe or actually they KNOW!
I haven´t seen God, or felt Him or Her, but if there is God I would curse that God anyway, as my life has been endless suffering in the spiritual level. I can´t worship God that has possibly decided that I will suffer and some other pigs can have a good life.
The lyrical content of “Cirith Ungol” is based on “The Lord Of The Rings”. What would be your favourite passage from this mammoth book? For me it would be the journey through the Mines Of Moria. The language is so dark and foreboding. My heart pounds in my chest as the company plod on and on. Then it rapidly accelerates once the drums begin to roll in the deep…
That is a good scene, but I personally like the house of Tom Bombadil. Not because I worship this semi-hippie character, but because this scene has so great atmosphere of safety and the horrors lurking outside. Bombadil is a strong character and yet he won´t take part in the action. It is interesting. It gives you a good picture of the strength of the Ring. Bombadil knows how strong the Ring is! The House of Tom Bombadil is like the last moment before the horrors begin. I also like the scene where the fellowship meets the Black Riders the first time. And the scene where they meet Aragorn… It is very exciting when you read the book for the first time. I like all the three books, but somehow the first one is my favourite. It brings you to this world first time and builds a base for the whole story.
By the way, for sure the song is based on the book, but when I got idea of doing a song called “Cirith Ungol” it was because I wanted to do a tribute for the band with the same name! I got the song ready and we did the lyrics in one sitting, Peter and me.
How do you think it has translated to film? My main criticism is it is too short. The sense of time is compressed into action only scenes. I guess grim days of nothingness would not make a blockbuster unlike the grim notes your massive monotonous song!!!
Of course it is too short, and I agree with you about the sense of time. In the book you truly feel how slowly the time goes, but in the films everything happens so quickly. These three hours has been the shortest I have ever experienced! Both films could easily be at least four hours. But my friend bought the DVD set of the first film and he told that there are some special scenes, and he also told me there will be lots of added scenes in the second film´s DVD edition. I really liked both of the films. They are very similar to how I figured the whole world and so on. Great acting, marvellous directing and great music. But too short as you said! Maybe they would add our “Cirith Ungol” to the DVD set of the last film. They could edit a music video for it out of the movie!!! Yes. In our song we tried to create this sense of journey and the sense of time! How the days are long and full of misery!One more thing. Before these films I didn´t like Liv Tyler, but now I am almost in love with her!
You mentioned recently coming across the old epic Heavy Metal band Manilla Road thanks to Ari from Minotauri! What is your favourite record from the band? Have you heard the latest output “Spiral Castle”?
Yes, I think it is Ari´s fault that I am nowadays a huge fan of Manilla Road. I may have had the “Crystal Logic” before he brainwashed me, but most definitely I can thank him for pushing me to buy everything I can get!!! Favourite… This is a very hard question, as you know! In some way, I like everything I have heard, but the least I like “Metal” and “Atlantis Rising” but I like them too! Maybe the favourite ones are “Mystification” which is a perfect album, and “Crystal Logic” as it has so great songs and it was my first time, but I like “The Deluge” and “Open the Gates” also VERY much! Great band!!! I haven´t heard neither the “Spiral Castle” nor “Circus Maximus” but for sure I will get them too! And what is this new re-release? ”Mark of the Beast” yes, I have to get it too!
Please share a few words on the “Friends of Hell” Tour with Minotauri and Spiritus Mortis. Do you enjoy playing live? If you could tour with any band past or present who would you ask to join you on the road?
I personally haven´t enjoyed too much playing live, so far, as I am almost neurotic perfectionist. Especially neurotic I am about tuning my bass!!! I don´t like to rehearse for the shows and I am worried about the lyrics. Do I remember them? I guess I would like playing more if I didn´t sing! Other guys like playing I guess. And our last gig was so good that even I enjoyed, and I am quite sure I will enjoy some shows in our Germany/Belgium trip! The audience has a very big role with this thing!
When we had these shows with Minotauri and SM I enjoyed more the backstage activities with the guys, and watching them play! They are great friends and great bands!
I have also some problems with my hearing and because of that playing live and even rehearsing worries me a bit. I damaged my hearing when I was a bit younger. I played in bands that had very high volumes, plus I also played some insane noise music.
The last part of this question is quite easy: Saint Vitus. I get an erection even when thinking about seeing them play live! Well, it will be great to go on the road with Revelation too. They were on tour with Vitus, and now we are on tour with them. After ten years have gone some new band will be touring with us! It is great to tour with Mirror of Deception of course too. But Vitus is the greatest. Trouble would be good too! Vitus, Trouble and Reverend Bizarre on the road and I could die as a happy man! I hope members of these bands are reading this!!!
By the way, I am waiting for a message from Paul Chain where he would say that he wants to have my vocals in the other side of his next album. It would be great to follow in the footsteps of Dorrian and especially Sanctis Ghoram! Paul if you read this, remember me!
Are you looking forward to your first gigs beyond the bounds of Finland? The bill for Doom Shall Rise is an impressive one indeed. I know you are a fan of Oversoul so how do you feel about sharing the stage with Revelation?
For sure, it will be our first time playing abroad and for a REAL Doom audience! Helsinki was a little before-taste but now it is for real!!! I was a fan of REVELATION already when we started back in the mid 90s. “Yet so far…” was one of those few Doom records I had back then! But we never tried to play like them as we wanted to reach even further back to history! As I already told you, playing with Revelation is a dream come true! They influenced me in the beginning and now we will meet them, see them play, have beers with them. Great! Absolutely, I have had some contacts with Dennis and Jim. Dennis seems to like our music.
Will the split 7” with Orodruin (which ultimately became a 12” vinyl) be released in time for this tour? What can you tell us about this new song?
No it won´t be. We will enter the studio 18th April 2003, which is the memorial day of the suffering of Jesus on the Cross!!! This new song, “the Demons Annoying Me” is one of the darkest I have done for Reverend Bizarre. The composition is very traditional in the fashion of Vitus. The lyrics have a very evil atmosphere, and they sound very personal. I won´t tell you how personal they are. Everyone can decide for himself or herself when they hear it! The title has been taken from a painting by James Ensor. This song is one of the latest I have done. I have made only a few songs after this one. You might be interested to hear that all these new songs will be released before our next full-length album. Actually there will be much older songs in our third album.
You have already contributed one song to “At The Mountains Of Madness II”. Please tell me which one it is. What do you think you the other bands and songs on the compilation? Do you think this collective effort is a good means for spreading the name of underground bands?
Yes, we did “Doomsower” just for this compilation in 2000. In the same sessions we did also “Funeral Summer” which was released in Out of Focus compilation (Psychedelic Fanzine). Right now it seems that this “Funeral Summer” will be our track on “Mountains II” too. I don´t know why. Perhaps Rich likes it better. Both of these songs are already pretty old recordings so of course they sound a bit weak, but I guess it will be interesting for people to hear this old recording, whichever one it will be! This early version of “Funeral Summer” is pretty good, and I like “Doomsower” too, even when it is faster than the album version plus my singing isn´t too strict.
I haven´t heard all the other songs yet, but I am sure they will be all great! This compilation is a very important release. I respect Rich Walker very much. He was the first person that gave us a chance to appear on CD. This compilation was supposed to be our first real CD appearance. Well, now we have the album out, but still it is great to be on this compilation. If I had known it takes so long time to have it out, I would have liked to record some new track for it, but still I am happy for this release!
Have you prepared many new songs? How have they developed from those on the album and your demos? Will you be playing them live?
We have all the songs for our second and third album ready. I mean all the music has been written, I still have to do some lyrics. We also have a few songs that will be perfect for some special releases and whole material for a MCD. Most of the songs that will be on our fourth album are also ready.
We have played live so far songs from our first three albums. In our Doom Shall Rise gig, we will play songs from the first and the second album, and same goes with the tour plus we will play some songs that will be released as a MCD someday, hopefully! We have played “Funeral Summer” a few times live, but now it has been dropped from the list. This song will appear on the third album.
Our second album will be bit faster than the first, but the third will be much slower. It seems that the fourth will have a kind of an epic feel to it. But these are only plans of course right at this moment. There will be songs coming from all three of us in the future.
No doubt your demos and rehearsal tapes are long sold out. Might you re-release them in the future? If not are fans welcome to send you a blank cassette for these old cuts? Personally, I would be keen to do so missing out on “Slice Of Doom”.
Well, I have some good news for you and if there are any others who would like to have the songs from the demo. I have already talked with one label about an official CD release of “Slice of Doom” with lots of bonus material including most of the other recordings we have done before the album and one rare rehearsal tape excerpt from around 1995 with the original line-up. So please don´t send us any blank tapes, but wait for this release. It will be a great one. I am personally taking control over the track list, remastering and the booklet. I am happy that these recordings will be available for a wider audience even when they aren´t of course of the same quality as the album material. But they are still essential for the possible fans of our music!
It would come as no surprise to me if you were a record collector. If so please tell me of some of your favourite records. Do you prefer their sound and atmosphere to the CD versions?
I am collecting some records, but I know how bad a collecting habit can get, so maybe I can´t speak about myself as a collector. I don´t have to have the first vinyl editions and such. Witchfinder General is the only band whose vinyl I am hunting! I need “Soviet Invasion” and the original edition of the first single. Most of the doom classics I have on CD. I have almost everything I need. Soon I will get some rare Hellhound gear, promo catalogue and so on. I have all the GOOD Rise Above CDs, all the GOOD Hellhound CDs… I am also trying to find everything from Burzum. I just got “Once Emperor” bootleg. Well, okay, I admit I am a collector. I am collecting also other music than Metal. I like these march bands like Blood Axis and Der Blutharsch. I just ordered a pile of rare compilations including BA songs. I sent money all over the world and I got everything I needed! I have all the missing Der Blutharsch CDs waiting for me in one place. I am still waiting for one rare split w/ Blood Axis and Allerseelen.
I found the original CD version of “Ancient Dreams” some time ago, and “Heavier Than Thou” from a local store, can you imagine? I like vinyl but I like CDs too. I think the Hellhound CDs for example are rare enough FOR ME so to speak. They haven´t been too widely available here in Finland. I am not going to hunt down the vinyl. It would make me mad. Of course I will buy them if I find them by accident!
But I have some rare vinyl such as Witchfinder General, Candlemass, Cathedral and Sister of Mercy (I am not joking). I even have some rare cassettes!!! More than a record collector I am a book collector. I collect occult literature, especially Crowley and such, but also Finnish translations of Lovecraft, Ken Parker books… Ha! Ha!
As I said I almost have all the CDs I need. BUT if some of the readers would like to get rid of the first Iron Man CD and the first Saint Vitus on CD I would be very interested!!! I have them on CD-R and cassette, but still.
One of my favourite records is the re-release of the first Witchfinder General single, as I bought it from one of my heroes, Angelo/Cold Mourning. Along with it, I also boughT the Cold Mourning splits!!! Of course I like my “Death Penalty” on black vinyl and my “Friends of Hell” picture disc, and my “Filosofem” (book version) and many others!!! “Blessed by Sabbath” original demo cassette by Warning… One think that I would like to have is the Burzum demo cassette. I have held it in my hand and I have it on CD-R, but I would pay a great sum of money for that. The copy I saw even had a short message from Varg himself! Written with a pen. Void has the first Paul Chain album in CD format, with slipcase, so I perhaps have to kill him one day. That is the only solution.
If you could only take three albums to your deathbed that you would listen to for eternity what would they be?
Only three! This is difficult. I apologise all the Doom and Heavy Metal fans when I am not choosing only metal, but I hope you understand. Iron Maiden “Piece of Mind” vinyl because it is SO important album for me, and brings me warm memories. I got it after I had been in the hospital when I was about nine years old! Musta Paraati “Peilitalossa” CD, because this album has so deep meanings inside it, and great songs. Finnish Gothic Rock/Futurist classic. The CD has lots of bonus material. Burzum “Filosofem” because Burzum is one of the best bands and because this album has both main elements of Burzum ambient and that other element… Ha! Ha! So it will be essential listening.
I didn´t choose any Doom or March (like Der Blutharsch) as I guess I won´t need it in my days of dying. Hey! If I would be wise I would have said I want to have these following albums, because it would mean that I have had the chance to do them before my dying. Right now I am not so sure if they will ever be recorded: Herven Agal “Cursed are the Weak” and “All Hail Father Winter” and the Reverend Bizarre songs from the “Funereal World” although I would choose the first list, plus I would listen to “Musiikkiluokka” by Leevi and the Leavings as much as I could before my deathbed times!
Albert, I thank you for your insights and more importantly for one of the greatest albums I have heard. May many more follow! The last words are yours…
Thank you for your very interesting questions and all the kind words! Keep up the good work. I hope we will stay in contact and you keep checking out our coming releases! Cheers!