Ysengrin

To celebrate the launch of the “Initiatio” LP, Pariah Child has dug deep in the vaults to exhume an old conversation. Ever since indulging in the “Alchimete” EP and an intriguing interview in Devilment Zine, I knew this would be a band to hold close to my heart. Six summers later that sentiment remains unchallenged. With a haunting, resonating, and almost funereal atmosphere, Ysengrin conjures up images of Abysmal Grief in a parallel plane, inspired by similar sources yet pursuing a different destiny. Base Metal has been transformed into Gold…

Greetings Guido! How’s life in your neck of the Normandy woods?

Greetings Danny! Life is going pretty well with our new house in these old woods, amongst elemental powers and messengers of God… A great place to compose new anthems for the Beast!

Please elaborate upon your motivations to form a band under the banner of Ysengrin! It bears medieval and mythical marks that recall the figure of the wolf…

I raised YSENGRIN from dark and dusty rooms, praising the fantastic writings of Lovecraft and Poe. The wolf was already born since many years in the womb of putrefaction and stench. Death is the constant tendency, from the beginning to now. You cannot find any Ysengrin release without a drawing and so related to Death. “Despise not the ashes as they are the crown of your heart…” had said Morien.

When I said band, you really are the heart and soul of Ysengrin. Do you consider it a solitary venture? How much do you compose, create, play and illustrate alone? Are the current session and guest musicians (or were those in the past) integral to this quest?

Not a solitary venture but more a guild with different individuals gathered together under the sign of the wolf. That’s the reason why other members, be session or guest, are really important! Still most of the riffs come from me. I’ll always be the master (if the word is not too pompous)! I cannot see Ysengrin nowadays as a one-man band…

Given that our readers may be wholly unfamiliar with the band how would you expand upon the sound you have forged? To my ears, it is distinct and whilst I could attempt to draw broad parallels with the untamed spirits Necromantia, Abysmal Grief and Necros Christos would it really be enough to understand Hermetic Dark Metal?

I’m mostly influenced by old music from the ‘70s, ‘80s and ‘90s. I don’t really like etiquettes, but Hermetic Dark Metal is really the perfect description of what Ysengrin stands for! Of course, I share lots of things with the bands you quoted. You can also add to that list MORTUARY DRAPE, MYSTIFIER, UNHOLY, NEGATIVE PLANE, AFTER DEATH and a few more…

To your credit, Ysengrin has been fairly prolific and incredibly consistent over the years spawning essentially five distinct EPs (of sorts) and two full-length albums. Having had a little time to reflect, how do you review this trajectory?

Well, it’s not really 5 EPs… Anyway, “To Endotaton” is really a peak of what I have accomplished and for the moment, I cannot think of a third album! I don’t really see any trough, but the track “La Procession Noire” on the 4 way split CD suffers a lot from a bad mix in my ears now…

The only composition I have not yet sourced! Anyway, your latest offering, the self-released “Palimpseste” MLP is a revamped version of the split recording with Borgia. Whilst the remastering for vinyl was essential, what I find particularly interesting is that that was only one of the many steps taken to enhance its personality…

I decided to change to running order to fit the 45 RPM vinyl, and also I prefer how it sounds now! It’s definitely a good opportunity to seal on wax, with a proper sound, those old tracks in the YSENGRIN quest…

The name, although obscure, is very fitting! In this case, it’s a musical recording rather than an original manuscript that has had content superimposed. Given your vocation and personal studies, was it only a matter of time before you applied the concept to your artist work?

Before I started to play music as a teenager, drawing and reading were my main distractions since my childhood. Even I was (and still am!) a bad drawer, I tried to put into reality what I had in mind. I would say that the artistic streak was already in me!!! But music is really the best way to express my feelings…

The new artwork is reminiscent of your back catalogue. A trademark touch. But would you expand upon why you used this particular image here and now?

The hooded monk is definitely a trademark. If I do another album, there will be for sure another hooded monk on the cover! This XIXth Century etching (which I reworked a lot by the way) was perfect to reflect both title and music, and as I self-financed the MLP, I cannot afford to pay an artist for the artwork. Money is always a pain in the ass…

Speaking of asses, would you be willing to elaborate on your lyrics? Whilst the particular brand of French is often beyond my comprehension I was surprised by how crude “Abîmes de Joie” reads!

Not all the YSENGRIN lyrics are about assholes! Ha! Ha! Anyway, yes, “Abîmes de Joie” mostly deals with women, associated with lust and blasphemy, all daughters of Eve, sin of flesh… I’m particularly proud of the sentence about a parallel of the fall of the Lucifer emerald to an anal plug (from wisdom to decadence). A pure piece of poetry!!!

“La Soif de Vulcain” on the other hand is much more poetic, which appears fitting for the themes contained within…

That’s right, on the contrary, the lyrics of “La Soif de Vulcaïn” is definitely more male dealing, like an overview of Alchemy (yes, mostly a male science), something more solar and luminous. Both tracks can be seen as the two sides of the head of the god Janus. Nothing is purely black or white you know…

And what do you share in common with the infamous François Villon so that he became the thrust of “Frères Humains”?

This poem is probably the most famous French medieval poem (Villon, by the way, is really a reference in this domain). There is something already very contemporary in Villon words, also a vanguard of the magnificence of the poetry of Charles Baudelaire or Gérard de Nerval. I choose Villon because he fit totally with Metal in the darker form, with a medieval touch of course!

Are these his words? Any recommended further reading?

Yes “Frères Humains…” is really his best poem. I’m pretty sure there are some English translations of his whole body of work. Then you can feel pure French poetry of the XVth Century, from the end of the Middle Ages!

Having not heard any material prior to “Archivum MMV-MMX” and “Alchimëte” EPs when the vinyl landed I was pleasantly surprised by how much it carried a harsher cavernous sound. It reinforces that sense of trajectory we discussed previously as both “Tragédies” and “To Endotaton” have been considerably more refined and feel expansive with, for example, the medieval elements and acoustic interludes. Will you continue to move away from this rough and ready approach or is anything possible along the hermit’s path?

So I guess you still missed “T.R.IA.D.E”, the first opus?!

I have since purchased what appeared to be the last of the cassette copies available in England, Guido. However, I have not yet immersed myself in those hymns…

When you do, you’ll hear some great acoustic interludes too! Well, as a worshipper of old vintage sound, I cannot see Ysengrin adopting a clinical polished one. By the way, the two full-lengths are still quite raw in the guitars and bass sound…

I agree wholeheartedly! It’s a subtle evolution I speak of in terms of song writing as well as the impact of opening up the guild to aid the recording process. Now if I remember correctly, you vowed to drop lead guitar, focus on bass and possibly adopt (again) two basses! I cannot help but recall the glorious sound of Necromantia. However, I should ask why deny the guitar a role?

In the past, I once used two bass guitars, the track “Abstinence” that can be heard on the “Archivum MMV-MMX” compilation tape. No Danny, it’s clearly not a denial of the guitar (whether it be lead or rhythmic), but more a necessary rebirth! Guitars will be used here and there, as acoustic or lead, but bass guitars will dominate proceedings. That’s in evidence! Riffs, words on paper, ideas and improvisations… Always the same shit of development and not prefabricated or so…

Only today, you revealed that there are a further four split vinyl releases in the works that will be coloured to match an alchemical path or process! What can you reveal about the material scheduled for each? And why have you taken this communal approach rather than a single full-length album?

The first split 12” will be with my Chilean mates of BLACK GRAIL! They already released two tapes and soon an album will surface (on which I played guest piano!). They are really one of the best bands coming from their country! Awesome Black Metal, the way it should be! The second split 12” will be with Spanish band SARTEGOS! Their name is starting to become known as another great purveyor of Death/Black Metal! The two other split 12” vinyl are with an Australian Death Metal band and a Hellenic Black Metal band! I cannot say more for the moment..

Each of these splits will be in relation to the alchemical process, from nigredo to rubedo, so the whole thing is a concept and will also be put into both CD and cassette (so a bit like the full-length you described), hopefully when all the aforementioned splits will be out! But nothing before fall 2015, I imagine…

How would you actually describe your music intended for these respective EPs? Single longer compositions for each, comparable to the Ysengrin back catalogue?

There will be four tracks for the first split: two quite short and two at a normal length with a total running time around 13 minutes. For the second one, there will be three tracks including one short interlude with around 14 minutes of music. Don’t worry Danny! The music cannot be more fucking Dark Metal! Mostly mid-tempo, obscure keys and mystic riffs! The only difference is that there are no rhythmic guitars on the split with SARTEGOS whilst there are still guitars on the split with BLACK GRAIL so it’s the last YSENGRIN release with rhythmic guitars…

With different bands and presumably labels involved, how will these split EPs be bound by fitting artwork?

NUCLEAR WAR NOW! And I,VOIDHANGER RECORDS will co-produce all the four split 12” LPs and yes, there will be only one artist involved, my Croatian mate, Marko Marov. I already worked with him for the poster of tape version of “Tragédies…” album.

Then we are in safe hands on a steady path! The last matter of concern is if, how and when the music would be performed live? What circumstances would be required?

Hopefully, for 2016… But first and foremost we have to rehearse! There won’t be any tour or the like. But a few gigs with selected bands. I really hope our rituals will be something intense and refreshing.

If Ysengrin was a book, painting or tapestry, what would it be?

Very interesting question but difficult as well! Please let me choose one of each (in a non-exhaustive way).

The book would be mixture of “The Monk” of M.G. Lewis, any of Lovecraft’s novellas, and René Guénon’s books on Symbolics…

The painting, hard choice again, would be another mixture with a gothic medieval miniature from Limbourg brothers, a hermetic woodcut between XVIth and XVIIIth Centuries, and a German Romantic painting from the XIXth Century.

The tapestry would have to be “The Apocalypse” Tapestry from Angers.

Without further ado, Guido, thank you for taking the time to shed a little light on your obscure laboratory. If anything left unsaid should be spoken let loose your tongue…

Thanks a lot for your interview and I hope more Irish folks will taste the occult world of YSENGRIN! “Regnum Dei intra vos est”. Luc, XVII, 21.

Danny Angus
July 2014

Stream the new studio album now:

https://i-voidhangerrecords.bandcamp.com/album/initiatio

To order any item from our catalogue, please email pariahchild@yahoo.co.uk for current pricing, shipping, and bundle discounts.

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