The Corruption of Flesh and Spirit: A Conversation with Ad Infinitum of Vrasubatlat

Ad Infinitum

 

As one of the individuals at the creative core of the Vrasubatlat label and a member of projects like Triumvir Foul, Utzalu, Urzeit, and many others, Ad Infinitum has been involved with a number of pivotal releases in the last few years. As a fellow resident of Portland, I recently had the good fortune to sit down and chat with Ad Infinitum about the works of his many bands, the art that drives the label, and the future of Vrasubatlat. As a nice bonus to this feature, we’ve even got a brand new Utzalu rehearsal demo for your enjoyment. The song is tentatively titled “Cold Perversion” and makes great listening while you absorb this brief but illuminating interview. Enjoy the raw stomp and read on.

 

BM&B: Tell me about the unifying philosophy of Vrasubatlat.

Ad Infinitum: Vrasubatlat is a uniform conduit for expressing self-hatred, shame, suicide, and destruction. Each band focuses on one or more of these elements, with certain ones having a stronger emphasis on one or another. For example, Utzalu focuses heavily on suicide and betrayal, rooted in the writing of Emile Zola while Triumvir Foul is centered on disgust and hedonism using Sumerian mythology as allegory to explain these ideas. The references to literature and mythology work as a vehicle for applying and exploring these concepts instead of indulgently and aimlessly rambling about them.

BM&B: Describe the importance of the listener’s own interpretation.

Ad Infinitum: To answer this question I think the first thing to focus on is the sigil of Vrasubatlat itself. We can’t give a much more of a meaning to it beyond the themes we’ve previously discussed but it is entrancing and demands attention and personal interpretation. Regarding the music itself, it is more important for these feelings and concepts to naturally rise for the listener rather than guide the audience along.

BM&B: So with the visual importance, let’s talk about the visual artists Vrasubatlat has chosen to work with. How did you come to work with them and what do you feel they bring to the musical works of the artists?

Ad Infinitum: Let’s start with discussing Samu Salovaara. I first contacted Samu in the fall of 2014 because we were very fond of the logo he designed for Swallowed’s EP and we thought that something similar would be very fitting for Triumvir Foul’s impending plans. The more designs he sent, the more we grew to love his aesthetic and it was what we wanted to be the driving force behind sigils and logos for Vrasubatlat. Not only has he designed the Triumvir Foul & Vrasubatlat logos, but he has also done the Uškumgallu sigil and an alternative version of the Serum Dreg logo. What really appealed to us about his work was that he managed to make illegible but still interesting designs that were fairly unorthodox for death metal. His work really embodies psychosis and unhinged anxiety that gets to the very heart of Vrasubatlat’s philosophy. I would even go as far to compare Samu’s designs to the body horror works of folks like David Cronenberg. Samu manages to evoke that same organic feeling of terror that seems so rare these days.

 

uskumgallu

A month or two after working with Samu, we contacted Timo Ketola to work on the Triumvir Foul cover art. He had worked with us before doing art for Ash Borer but we wanted something more representative of his signature pieces, such as Teitanblood’s Seven Chalices. After months of communication we finally were able to reach a shared vision, which resulted in the piece which you now see adorning the cover of Triumvir Foul.

H.V. Lyngdal was the third artist we found ourselves working with. He’s done various designs for t-shirts and posters for Vrasubatlat projects. He captures a less typically “metal” feeling, creating a stranger atmosphere which complements our aesthetic well.

BM&B: Knowing that you’ve been involved with music for some number of years, when were the seeds planted for Vrasubatlat and where did you look for inspiration as you began to put it together?

Ad Infinitum: We wanted to develop an imprint for the kinds of black and death metal we were interested in with some sort of cohesive structure. It was important to us to keep our vision focused without compromise. We needed a vehicle for all the styles that we wanted to explore but still keep an overarching theme and idiosyncratic aesthetic to fit. At the time before founding Vrasubatlat, we had numerous projects but felt that the lack of cohesion was inhibiting the music from progressing. As fans of iconic movements like Black Twilight Circle and LLN, we noticed how strong and commanding having a central image and philosophy was for these groups, and we desired to cultivate something similar with our own vision. It seems that having something central to unify several projects makes them collectively far more attractive. For us, knowing our shared ideals makes it easier to write music we are proud of and establishes the parameters of what fits under the Vrasubatlat banner.

BM&B: Most Vrasubatlat acts are primarily studio oriented for the time being, with infrequent and small shows on occasion, almost exclusively in the Portland area. Is this intentional and do you plan on making live performances part of the growth of any of your bands?

Ad Infinitum: Everybody involved in Vrasubatlat is pretty private on an individual level, so that absolutely plays a part in our infrequent live shows. All of those involved share a strong desire to maintain a certain selective nature with live performances. We would rather play house shows or something more secretive than in actual brick and mortar venues. We don’t want to be seen or known, so giving people fewer opportunities to put a face to our work allows the music to take on a stronger presence than the individuals involved. At least in our case, interacting with the artist may in fact detract from the art and we want to keep the experience about the music rather than our personalities. With the nature of the label’s stylistic and artistic goals, we don’t want fanfare or large-scale attention. Vrasubatlat is more of a vehicle for the self, which we prefer to operate through the most secretive means possible.

Utzalu live

BM&B: You keep mentioning aesthetic and message. In a lot of ways, the Vrasubatlat aesthetic seems more rooted in the Xerox art of DIY noise and punk labels than in typical modern black metal. Do you draw on these cultures and art styles? If so, how do you feel it fits in with your overall approach?

Ad Infinitum: Above all, the ethos for everything we do and want to do is based on the DIY ethos and punk presentation. We’re not interested in colorful and vivid “metal” album art nor do we want bold logos that have obviously been processed twenty times over. Having a very DIY aesthetic is far more appealing and explanatory, which suits our needs much better. We believe the most interesting aesthetics are coming out on noise and punk labels, even though we feel we greatly differ sonically from most of these kinds of labels. To us, this imagery feels more organic and honest. Punk and noise artists tap into their own expression with their visual art in a lot of ways that metal does not. We aren’t making punk or noise music here, but we’ve borrowed the important aspects of the art that we enjoy and are using it to serve our own ends.

BM&B: A lot of your releases are demos. Let’s discuss the importance of demo tapes as opposed to full lengths.

Ad Infinitum: Regarding bands that focus on demo releases, we found a lot inspiration from acts like Bone Awl, Bilirubin, Furdidurke, and Raw Moon, who have put out succinct releases. There’s something enticing about bands who release shorter demos that concisely get a narrative across – leaving you craving for more. At least for me, a solid demo can be far more effective than a full length album. There is a common criticism that demos are lazy, but I beg to differ. There are a great deal of hour-long black metal albums I have only listened to once, but plenty of 3-song demos that I find myself listening to over and over again for years. Although a tired and obvious sentiment, it is better to say less than to say too much which we generally follow with Vrasubatlat song-writing and releases.

BM&B: What’s next for Vrasubatlat as a label and its many artists?

Ad Infinitum: The future is nebulous for Vrasubatlat at the moment. Everything we’ve put out up to this point was recorded awhile back and slowly we’ve been releasing it all in small batches. We’re just beginning to record some newer releases now – revisiting old projects and introducing some new ones. Hopefully 2016 will see the release of a few new Utzalu demos, a Triumvir Foul MLP, an Uškumgallu full length, as well as demos from the new projects, Dagger Lust, Mmuo, and Atzalaan. The label will continue in relative secrecy with the occasional house show for our closest supporters. We’ll likely continue to keep introducing new projects to meet our sonic needs but growth isn’t really the goal.

BM&B: Since everybody seems to have established the association (and it’s often the focal point for other writers and website), would you like to discuss your involvement with Ash Borer?

Ad Infinitum: No.