Volume I: The Bonds of Servitude By Mantus
Formed in the winter of 2008 in the frigid northern woodlands of Arizona, Unholy Baptism was originally a guitar/drums black metal project. The goal was to blend mid-2000’s new wave black metal with the grim tone of the early Norwegian scene. The band eventually became a three-piece, as Moloch agreed to contribute lead guitar in 2009. A five-track EP was recorded early in 2010 and was subsequently followed by multiple shows in Flagstaff, AZ. Later in 2010 the band went on hiatus due to a variety of circumstances but was reformed in 2012. Mantus and Moloch decided that the project would be recording-only and began the arduous process of re-evaluating both the band’s sound and tone. While the tone has taken multiple turns, it was eventually decided to blend the ambient, haunting melodies commonly found in both black and doom metal, with the mid-tempo riffing reminiscent of the early Norwegian black metal scene. Having released their debut album ’…On the Precipice of the Ancient Abyss’ to critical success, the band continued driving forward with the intention of taking their project to a higher artistic level. The band is currently in the process of writing an entire trilogy of albums, of which Volume I: The Bonds of Servitude is the beginning. ’Volume I: The Bonds of Servitude’ was released on October 5, 2018, and the band is hard at work with the second volume in the trilogy, entitled Volume II: Beyond the Veil.
The band originally started as myself playing the guitar and a drummer that wanted to do a band that was a callback on the second-wave of black metal – Darkthrone, Mayhem, Emperor, etc. – but with modern production techniques. After a few months, Moloch joined the band as the main guitarist and I moved back to bass, which is the instrument I have the most experience behind. We did some supporting shows around Flagstaff, AZ as local supporters for a number of touring bands but were forced to take a step back for a variety of reasons. Moloch and I got back together in 2014 or so and really wanted to jump back into this project, as we both had a lot of ideas we wanted to explore in the black metal vein. We spent every weekend we could writing and exploring our sound and started recording our debut, …On the Precipice of the Ancient Abyss in 2016, which was released in March of 2017. We learned a lot of important lessons during the recording of that album and have continued to grow as we keep creating music. After the release of that album – which is still free of charge on our Bandcamp page, links at the bottom – we delved almost immediately into what would eventually become Volume I: The Bonds of Servitude. Moloch and I both wanted to do something that had a story arc that would let us best express what we want to express through the medium of music and we felt that a trilogy of albums, while a huge undertaking, would be the best way for us to represent ourselves as musicians and as a band.
This first album was written with a clear theme in mind. We wanted to explore early American history, so it takes place around the mid to late 17th century in North America. There was no real reason to explore the politics of colonial America since that has been done many times before, but we did want to look at it from an individual level. The story follows a young woman that escapes from early American society with nothing but the clothes on her back, cast into a world she knows nothing about. The darkness in her mind is clawing its way to the forefront as she has to survive in the wilderness, and eventually, she stumbles into a large clearing, a huge fire raging in the centre and strange figures dancing in circles around it, a blazing light amidst the sea of darkness surrounding her. She strips down to the skin and embraces the light, opening her mind to the universe and to spiritual enlightenment.
So that’s kind of the story behind it. Thematically, we focused on chains being the focal point lyrically. The character we are following has been chained, both spiritually and physically. By the end of the album, she has broken the chains of spiritual enslavement and is “Baptized in the Majesty of Satan,” who takes her spirit on a journey which will be continued in the next volume of the trilogy. Lyrically, it’s exploring the darkness of humanity, not only on a societal level but on an individual level as well.
Unholy Baptism likes to define itself as a traditional black metal band. Lyrics are deeply grounded in Theistic Satanism, but I also like to write the lyrics in a very metaphorical way. When someone listens to our music and looks up the lyrics, I want them to be able to peel away layers and find more meaning in them than just Satan and scary. If listeners are able to take away meaning from the lyrics I write and reflect on their existence in some way, I consider that a job well is done.
I try to stick to a theme lyrically so the song is cohesive and makes sense within the context of itself and – in the case of an album – the songs that it is collected with. We recently did a compilation track with the digital label Cult of Osiris that was titled One. The song we contributed for that was called “Nihil.” We wanted to toy with expectations a little bit on that compilation, so in essence, we contributed “nothing” to that project, which I thought was clever.
Essentially, we try to have concepts in mind when we’re doing music, which I think is what will leave a huge impression on people. When people listen to our music, we want them to go on a journey and walk away from it feeling different than they did before they listened to it. I think that effort will leave a much more lasting impression than an amalgamation of songs that don’t flow within themselves or in the greater context.
Religion is, for sure, one of our biggest inspirations. Unholy Baptism is rooted in Anti-Christianity and always will be. That has always been a motivator for black metal and I don’t think that should change, but I would also argue that it’s beyond the mentality of “I should say I worship Satan because then people will think I’m scary.” For us, it’s a kind of spiritual freedom that allows us to explore every aspect of the human condition with our music, unrestrained by the fear of being vilified or rejected. We also use influences from movies and literature, H.P. Lovecraft being one of our biggest influences lyrically. Inspiration can sometimes come from the most unexpected of places.
Unholy Baptism isn’t a political band per se, but I believe that all metal should be political in some way. I tend not to identify well with bands that try to take an apolitical stance. Metal has always been a community of outsiders and I don’t think it has ever really been part of the mainstream, so – more often than not – metal musicians and fans have different perspectives on the world than the rest of society. I just don’t really understand why a group or solo musician would make the commitment of being apolitical and secular. It seems that commitment would lead to vapid music.
If metal still dangerous, or was it always dangerous? This is a tricky question because I think there are still pockets of danger within metal, but I think in general, the danger of metal left a long time ago. There have been a lot of shifts within the industry that have made it so much harder to make a living with metal, and much of what have seen trending in metal looks like a vehicle to make a living so bands can keep making music. I, of course, am not expecting new strings of church burnings every week, but I don’t find newer metal to be as challenging or stimulating as it used to be, which is why I personally tend to listen to older metal and don’t listen to much new metal. This is a discussion that has so many layers. I’ve had conversations with other audio engineers about how metal isn’t exciting anymore, which could have to do with lack of new ideas or stylistic choices or the immense pressure of not going broke every time bands go on tour. Unfortunately, I don’t know how to solve the problem, but I do think metal needs new life injected into it again.
Mantus: To me, the dark arts are representative of anything that is considered forbidden. The word occult means “secret or hidden,” and there are a couple of layers within that I would like to focus on. When Satanism was allegedly practised in the Middle Ages and even as recently as the early 1900’s, society generally was not tolerant of what was considered as “black magic,” and so the practices and rituals needed to be practised in secret for fear of persecution. Additionally – and this is what the lyrical content of Unholy Baptism revolves around – is that knowledge and truth aren’t readily available for human minds to comprehend, and in order to obtain the power that resides in that knowledge, it needs to be searched for and attained. The human mind has virtually limitless potential, but it is often locked down by the endless restraints that are put upon us throughout our lives. One by one, we have to gather the keys to unlock those restraints, open our minds to the universe and become one with the spiritual realm.
Interview by Alex Milazzo – Copyright 2019 © Heavy Music Artwork. All rights reserved.