To celebrate the release of their stunning 9/10 album Carrion Skies (Code666 – review here) The Watcher, guitarist and vocalist of England’s atmospheric post-Black Metal band Fen spoke to Ghost Cult on a range of subjects. In the last of our four part feature, with a further feature to follow in the next Ghost Cult digimag, he opened up about the lyrical concepts and themes prevalent on the new release, and the folly and failures of mankind…
There seems to have been a change in your lyrical themes and style. Would you say you’ve changed the emphasis and topics as you’ve gone on?
“We have. The last couple of albums Dustwalker and Epoch were quite personal, it was internal thoughts being expressed via metaphors of the external – the inner landscape being presented as an outer landscape. We really ploughed that furrow extensively on Dustwalker, in particular, and that led to a lot of the lyrical themes being quite spiritual and transient discussions. This album is going back to The Malediction Fields (all releases on Code666) and is a lot more of an external reflection on mankind, the follies of the human spirit, and how we engage in endless repeating cycles tending towards self-destruction, failure and misery.
“People have said how lyrically it speaks of ancient times, but we’re trying to draw that line, because we are here in 2014 and we exist in a really technocratic age and society but, really the same failings that have plagued humanity since the birth of civilisation still occur and continue to haunt us, and that’s where a lot of the thought processes have gone on this album.”
It’s worrying that in 2014 and we’re still witnessing people being executed due to beliefs, a high degree of exclusion and negativity towards diversity and in the UK, with the rise of UKIP, we’re seeing a worrying trend in terms of what is becoming popular in people’s politics.
“It’s worrying. I was talking to Gunnar (Sauermann) and he was saying there’s similar themes on the new Winterfylleth and was asking ‘Is there something going on in England? Is there a problem, and is it serving as an inspiration?’ The answer is, not consciously. We’re not a political band, I have no interest in discussing politics, and in fact I’m sick to the back teeth of this whole English Heritage Act concept that keeps getting thrown at us, but I suppose, subliminally, the entire discourse of society at the moment, and I don’t want to sound dramatic, but day by day there’s more negative news stories, and there’s the whole rise of UKIP…”
That’s a big part of what worries me, thousands of years down the line and a right wing party with an exclusive agenda can still be popular and on the rise…
“People don’t learn. Everyone that lives in the present day thinks we’re more civilized and advanced than in the past, and it’s not true. It’s a lie. Just because we’re more technologically progressed than we were 50 years ago, 500 years ago, 1000 years ago, well, human mentality and physiology doesn’t evolve that quickly. Every person is 3 good meals away from a riot, we haven’t advanced. It’s just a Western perspective, too, as there’s vast tracts of this planet that still live in medieval conditions.
“In the last 6 to 12 months there’s been some very unpleasant discourse that is becoming increasingly mobilized, and that is the first step to badness. I went to the Holocaust Exhibition the other day, now, a visit to that is always going to be sobering but looking at it through the prism of where our political discourse is going at the moment, it sent a chill down my spine. The holocaust isn’t some evil entity that happened in biblical times, or distant past – it was only 70 years ago. It’s within living memory, and it started with rabble-rousing discourse about “others”. That’s how it starts; a charismatic demagogue talking about “others”, gradually normalizing demonization through political discourse.
We’re also in a society that’s awash with Middle Class apathy…
“I don’t want to get too bogged down in this, because my band isn’t about this, but if you’re ruminating on human failure, you’re ruminating on human tendencies towards conflict, and violence and aggression, this is happening now. There’s a lot of misplaced anger, saying ‘look at the different, look at the others’ and it’s always about ‘blame the foreigners’, because that’s an easy one. But look at where the real problem is, and it’s in the paymasters of this country, they’re playing people like puppets.
“But what is quite interesting, though, is that a lot of the lyrics for the album were written over a year ago, and this wasn’t happening, and it’s since I’ve written them, now I’m even more heightened to what’s going on. The first two tracks, ‘Our Names Written In Embers’ [which comes in two parts – ST], it’s human beings are just this endless cycle of conflict, of war, and then the obligatory introspection and “we can’t let that happen again” and then ten years later the same thing happens again. It’s a propensity for, a lust for slaughter, yet nobody ever “wins”, nobody gets anything out of it, it doesn’t have to be that loads of normal human beings get killed or wounded and then that’s it.
“As a species it hasn’t stopped. We are so-called evolved in 2014 with our ipads and iphones and all that bollocks, and yet people are still being massacred on a daily basis. Is it ever going to stop? And that’s the over-arching theme for the album. You look at the title, you know, Carrion Skies, and that’s the future, that’s the future of man, it’s just a blood-drenched. carcass-strewn horizon. Throughout it, I don’t think nihilism is the right word, I think there’s a sense of furious despair.
“‘Menhir – Supplicant’ is about sacrifice, because you’ve also got this propensity towards sacrifice and subjugation. You talk about a middle class apathy to our political environment, and this is people just giving up and surrendering, surrendering their responsibility. Why are people so keen to throw away their responsibility and tether themselves to some abstract yoke? Why? Why sacrifice themselves towards ideals and values that only do harm? It beggars belief.
“The lyrics, they’re addressing those concepts. You do have to consider what’s going on around you because it’s all well and good to mull over these things on a higher-level abstract point of view, but when things are happening at a slightly lower level, more local point of view, you do look at it with a sharpened perspective. It’s happening now, it’s happening around us as we speak. Society is built on foundations of sand, the illusion of freedom, and easy comfort and distraction and that’s the only thing keeping people from marching into the streets and burning things.”
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Order Carrion Skies here
Words by STEVE TOVEY