24.9.2011

Kaamos interview from Qvadrivivm #5 (2008)




Art le Art, Death Metal Style 

Interview: Kuronen

oh, the anguish and calamity. Sometimes, upon the most sacred of moments, death metal still catches itself rolled up in the crux of that violent obscurity and conviction that in olden times very much made it an object of fanaticism the cellars and 20-odd packed venues over. Bereft of any escape, under pressure, with emotions slain: for many people feeling this way, death metal was the Cross that led to a great outlet. Forged in mysticism and explosive power, prototype death metal was always more than an unreasonable bout of audacity, more than a feeble outburst of the formative years. It was neither wasted, wrongly channelled energy nor a state of alarm for living things and buildings in near proximity. Sending secular parents and horticulturists to mental institutions, death metal was often an ideological revelation with an exponential release—not a mere physiological phenomenon.

Masqueraded anarchy and rebellion vis-à-vis war, destruction, hatred, earthiness, unearthliness, gore—just about any imaginable thing was present in the lyric sheet, clad in any imaginable dark metaphor and oftentimes writ and arranged in the vilest possible manner to keep outsiders outside and the curiosity purchases and gossip talks high. Taking this route, the article came to drive itself into superfluity sooner than any enthusiast would’ve expected.

Kaamos’ eponymous debut album is the hydrogen bomb theory of death metal circa. third millennium. It is an anti-prêt-à-porter genre classic, a work neither disturbingly cool nor embarrassingly retro. It respects its precedents in a manner that an honest quarter-revivalist product of a parametrically conventional music style well into its third decade should. Therefore it seemed just the right thing to write to Konstantin Papavassiliou, the guitarist of Kaamos, and ask him a few questions about death metal and things related. “Jesus Christ what a thorough interview” was the first thing heard from him since. It took the man a few months to come up with the answers, but they did arrive all right. So, let’s speak death metal. Shall we begin? I ask you, shall we begin?

Picking up on the echoes of breaking bones and apocalyptic bombardments that make Kaamos, I cannot but feel that what we have in this album is one of the best metal things of the last ten years. When the CD is in the player, it feels as if somebody had released the metaphorical pause button after a very long time. Death metal has rarely sounded so full of life and death all at once. Imagine that a CD like this sells for €5 at the local shop, while subordinate death metal releases by Hate Eternal, Krisiun and whatever fzzzat! crap go for up to €20. Such is life.

Kaamos sits in perfectly with my idea of what metal should be about. It is superlatively dark, lacks any and all compromise, feeds on the strength of hatred and aggression, oozes everlasting passion, and attacks at once with precision. Konstantin, on the other hand, has quite a different mental image concerning the symbolical dimensions of metal, pure and simple.

“There is a huge difference between being metal and death metal in my world, the former being too much about the rock n’ roll star attached to it,” the intellectual-looking member of the Kaamos pack explains. “Death metal is more down to earth in the sense that it is the band that gets the credit and focus, not the cute guy singing in front of the stage.”

Then, what is death metal to him?

“I’ve received this question a few times already,” the guitarist tells,  “and I doubt that there is a simple answer to it. Or even if there is one! If I were to speculate though, I would say that it is darkness in musical form if done right. Of course, my idea of what death metal is consists of my projections of what I wish it to be and what I wish it to be perceived as. But these projections originate from the bands that more or less created and exalted the genre to its heights/depths. These bands mainly focused on and revelled in the mystical, morbid, satanic, dark, heretical, and occult spheres. This view hasn’t really changed throughout the years. But it has deepened in the sense that what once was a fascination with certain topics has now become a field of study. So it’s the devil’s musick indeed.”

before going any further, we have to set our minds back on the misdemeanour that was A Mind Confused, a softer death metal band consisting of Kaamos members that operated in Stockholm back in the early to mid 90s. If it was a misdemeanour in the first place, that is.

“Ehhh… You just had to bring that up, didn’t you!?” Konstantin snares. “Well, as you might understand I am quite fed up with this topic but I’ll answer your question. A Mind Confused was a band that was in its origin a project, a one man band if you will, that used session musicians to execute the ideas of this person, Richard. This might sound as if I’m trying to exclude myself from the musical aspect, which I don’t. It was a breeding ground for experiments that I really, both then and now, have learnt a lot from. Being in a band, arranging music, getting better to play, etc. With time of course the other members started contributing with their own material and it became a mishmash of ideas. This was quite fruitful. Still, at the same time there was a new trend around the corner that was more melodic à la Gothenburg. However, I am willing to say that whereas many bands that came out at that moment mainly concentrated on melody, AMC wanted to include melody and concentrate on the death metal part. Today, my view is that I don’t regret doing AMC at all. Would I do it today? The answer is no.”

There is a great sentence in the biography of Kaamos stating that the reason for founding the band was, no excuses required, death metal. Konstantin is convinced that death metal can be a person’s all-encompassing source of energy, an A1 motive for living.

“Art is greater than life! I have said that before. If you create death metal art le art, it is my firm belief that it can become one’s greatest reason for existence. What I mean with this is that the style becomes an expression for something that defines your entire existence, and thus you channel it through a vessel, which in this case is death metal.”

Is it possible for one to be in intensely close relations with death metal musically, listen to nothing else for, say, ten years, and still never feel that its power is waning?

“Of course one can listen to only death metal for ten years. But do you want to? After all, there aren’t enough albums to satisfy you for ten years of only listening to death metal. But you can have close relations to it for more than ten years, if you perhaps blend in something else. I know I have at least.”

In the black metal scene, and also partly in the death metal scene, there is an often-dominant way of thinking insisting that if you want to be in touch with the genre, you cannot just pick out the best of the genre’s albums, you have to go through all of them and know every single detail about them. Basically, you’re only allowed to listen to one type of music, which is also all you will have time for because you have to go through, in the best die-hard fashion, all the scene releases of a particular genre. Do Kaamos take sides in this business? Are you mental purveyors of only the purest death metal? If I wanted to, could I pop Same Difference in the stereo?

Konstantin offers a word of warning: “You could play it but not in my house. And I don’t know if I would talk to you again! No but seriously, I don’t really know if I understand you correctly. Either that, or I haven’t experienced what you refer to. But with all the shit records that are out in the market in the mentioned genres, I would say that you don’t need more than the best of them, and with best I do not mean the ones that sell the most. But I think we both knew that.”

There is, however, some importance in the guitarist’s mind for reputation, image and obedience to scene laws.

“Yes, there is indeed significance in them. They act as an intermediary for the bands in question. Take Unleashed for example: if they didn’t have an interest in ancient Norse mythology, would you take them as seriously? Or what if the most evil black metal band, promoting mass destruction and genocide, liked roller blades and sunny beaches on their spare time? Rhymes quite bad, don’t you agree?”

It would be an interesting prospect, that is what I say. Adventurous frameworks and angles to unadventurous ways of doing something should be strongly endorsed. For instance, do you really think there’s any meaning left within the death metal genre to the words ‘sick’ and ‘brutal’, which have turned into trite clichés mostly used by idiotic conformists who have nothing sick or brutal about them.

“They are descriptive words. So, used in their proper field and by bands that uphold them, I see them quite suitable. But that is like one in a hundred these days! Generally, when a word is being used as a descriptive term by quality bands, a lot of shitty ones (labels included) will start using it for attention, thus degrading and reducing its meaning to non-quality products that have to use as many terms as possible for mere attention. Look at the absurd proportions it reached with the black metal hype. Genuinely evil satanic black metal with a touch of majestic hyperborean frost. And there was a flavour for each month! In Kaamos’ case we have never used either ‘sick’ or ‘brutal’. I think the word ‘dark’ is quite suitable in our case.”

Sweden. The sun, the well being, the caring. In the past there used to be loads of bands coming from Sverige who tried to distance the country from its worldwide image as a haven where all women are Elin Nordegren doppelgängers and men, amiable to everyone, prance round in white shorts and light blue t-shirts. However, in the past ten to fifteen years, ever since the release of Storm of the Light’s Bane and Slaughter of the Soul, most Swedish metal has been closer to Volvo, Ikea, light-coloured casual wear and Björn Borg than hell, occultism or heavy injections of serious ideology. Whether it be the ordinary God-fearing neo-power pomp of Hammerfall and co., the blasé NWOSDM slew of the G-city or the ugly plethora of dictated-by-the-scene black metal, most of the stuff that has brought Sweden its fame and name in the metal circuits after 1995-96 has been anything but violent, oppressive or destructive. Compare Osculum Obscenum to Catch 22 and then tell your mother this phenomenon has been justified.

“It irritates me when the remaining world thinks that that is what Sweden offers these days in terms of death and black metal,” says Konstantin. “But if you analyze it, it becomes a bit clearer. Question! Do you like extreme metal? Do you like lyrics that offend, and promote dark topics? If the answer is yes, then does one seriously think that bands that are covered in the mainstream are the ones that are carrying these ideas? I think not, Tim! So what the listener fails to do is putting pressure on the mediums that feed them. But I can’t say that it irritates me for long. After all, this is the way that it’s always been, in all sub genres. People are sheep, that’s the explanation. But it’s never an excuse.”

As we quickly scalpel through the Swedish metal climate of today, it turns out Konstantin does not like the current efforts of most of the bands I mention (Entombed, Merciless, Dark Funeral, Bathory). One band he dislikes outright (Soilwork), one he hasn’t heard (Paganizer) and one he praises (Murder Squad). And, apart from the case of resurrected heavy metal noblemen Entombed and Bathory, I do not necessarily disagree with him.

the first four songs on Kaamos form a totally blackening slam-shot-in-the-forehead kind of beginning. They truly pack an enormous punch in them. One of the main ingredients in the great initial impact is the very subtle and tactful use of speed and rhythmics, something that is almost as well handled on sophomore Lucifer Rising and Scales of Leviathan, the band’s mini album of departure. Even though the music rumbles on at a relatively fast pace, the band hardly deploy any blast beats or grinding parts at all. Konstantin says this both is and isn’t something they’ve learnt from the generation of death metal of olden times.

“Blast beats are very enjoyable. But the way they are used today is just pathetic. It’s like, look at us; we can blast for 45 minutes in a row. Yes you can, but you forgot to write some good riffs and songs on the way. So most of the time the new way of using blast beats becomes quite meaningless. Pointless actually. Kaamos’ style is quite fast death metal with additional spices of blasting and slow ‘doom’ parts. This is because when we have a new riff, we try different paces to it. And the pace that best brings forth the meaning of the riff is the one that is used for it. Of course the olden death metal is ever present, mostly in arrangements.”

Unlike with so many Yankee bands who rush heedlessly forward at uncontrolled super G speeds, there is a fine sense of dynamics at play on the material put forth by the four Swedes. This, among the extremely muscular song material, seems to be one of their strongest assets in creating a brand of music that resembles very few others, apart from the occasional Sadistic Intent resemblance.


“For me personally it is important to have a dynamic sound,” Konstantin relates. “Today’s bands within this genre use equipment that makes the sound as clear and crisp as possible at the expense of dynamics and spirit, i.e. becoming static and saying nothing. Anyway, it’s their choice. There’s no doubt that the dynamics is the strongest thing in Kaamos. I think that the musick, lyricks and everything else emanates from this source, meaning that we constantly try to re-invent the songs and manners of approaching arrangements. I think that our fundamental viewpoint and strife to have an art le art approach is the reason and engine for our difference in sound. And the fast and slow parts come naturally in this case. If you consider a song to be a sole entity, then you want to keep to the ‘structure’ of its creation. And instead of you making the decisions for it, it makes them for you. So an entity indeed.” 

The infectiously thrashing groove which Kaamos songs show a good deal of is something most bands tend to forget from the recipe when they go for their idea of all-out diabolical metal. This, more often than not, prevents the possibility of throwing any glorifying ‘metal-up-your-ass’ declarations towards them. As to where the Kaamos type of thrash and groove derives from, Konstantin guesses it must have something to do with the bands that came into being along the transformation from thrash metal into something faster, nastier and more rhythmic. Prerequisites of this context include Death, Morbid Angel, Autopsy and Sepultura—all names that inspired Kaamos to play the music that they do. The technical side of things, according to Konstantin, does not have a significant role in the music. No flash on the horizon, then.

“I do not respect technique for its own sake,” the guitarist tells, “when the result is what Death (the band, good people) did on their later albums. But if the band has it in their style as a natural thing and I enjoy the band, I am all for it. Atheist would be a good example, and early At the Gates. Or why not Liers in Wait, hell yes! But I do not emphasize it in Kaamos. It has its natural outlet and I don’t really question it. For Kaamos this is just a part of our creative riffing if you will. And it comes in naturally when we arrange the songs, albeit we do try to keep it as simple as we can.”

In their eight-year existence, Kaamos seemed to examine the number of duality and division quite thoroughly; they made two albums, two EPs and two demos, for one. This may seem swift enough, but between the full lengths there was a three-year gap, hinting that Kaamos, training twice a week, were either ambitious or lazy songwriters. Let us please be graced with an answer.

Konstantin responds, “I’d say that we are meticulous. Or that is how I view us. There is no lack of ideas, but we want them to be good. We throw away some 90 percent of the written material so that is why it takes some time to do new songs. So why do we do that? Because if you view everything that you do as the last thing you will do, you’ll try a bit harder. Won’t you? Apply this idea to fucking, eating, reading or whatever you fancy and you’ll see what I mean. But at this point we do have almost an entire new album written. So progress indeed.”

Progress on a suicide mission, unfortunately. Some people made it their business to accuse Kaamos of being nothing more than a bastardised version of Into the Grave. When I mention this to Konstantin, he marvels at the association.

“A bastardised version of Into the Grave!? I’ve never heard that actually. I know we have been compared to them on a couple of occasions, much to my disliking because I never liked them. So as you might understand, I do not take them religiously. But we haven’t been compared to them more than to, say, Sadistic Intent and Grotesque. I disapprove to the retro marking that some have branded us with. They can fuck their mothers’ assholes with razors ‘til they bleed to death because we have never claimed to be retro. We have claimed that we come from the old school of death metal and wish to follow that tradition. People tend to mix up retro and old school as terms that are interchangeable. So it is their mistake, not ours.”

If likening Kaamos to Into the Grave is a weighty inaccuracy, it is an error of even greater proportions to expand the comparison to the recent comeback album of Grave, Back from the Grave. Despite some cool moments, that album is a bit of a sleeper. Tyvärr.

From one Grave related topic to another: Chris Piss, Kaamos’ drummer who also used to handle session sticks for Grave among many other duties, is one motherfucker of a drummer. Is he the meanest guy in Sweden?

“Chris is one hell of a drummer indeed,” agrees Konstantin. “The meanest guy in Sweden!? Could be, yes.”

the lyrics of Kaamos seem to have more than a slight touch of able mysticism in them. That the lines aren’t churned out of the same regular mill most death metal lyrics come out of is, of course, an excellent thing. It’s easy to see Konstantin confessing that there is some thought and mind put in there.

“Yes, there is plenty of thought behind the lyricks,” the author affirms. “They are written in a rather new way that I’ve never tried prior to Kaamos. The words are mainly used in a fashion to evoke certain ideas that are inherent within left hand path philosophy, but even more in the practical sphere of actual experiences with occult forces.”

For a post-Kaamos extension of this propensity, see the doom black magick of Saturnalia Temple, Konstantin’s current musical endeavour.

You’ve said that you don’t want Kaamos to be a band one can get the gist of easily. Then, what elements or factors do you put to use in building a sort of hermetic facade to Kaamos? What is the meaning of chaos for Kaamos?

“Chaos as used in Kaamos could be compared to the void prior to the emanation of the tree of life in cabbalistic lore. It’s a dynamic force that erupts into the calm creation and disturbs it. Ok, I am using metaphors, but there’s something in it. The structure needs chaos in order to be dynamic. So allowing chaos to intrude on the structure of a song is important. I’ve said before that people have a form, or structure, which they try to apply the idea to when it ought to be the other way around. You should let the idea create the form. I don’t think that we make Kaamos difficult to understand. Well, not on purpose anyway. However, having the lyricks mainly in mind, I do understand that there are certain areas that the listener can find difficult because they are done in a certain manner in order to either make it an ‘a-ha’ experience or have it pass unnoticed. The musick too to a certain extent.”

The Arabic intro of “Doom of Man” greatly fascinates me. It is without doubt one of the most intense exhibitions of spirit heard on a musical recording in quite a long time. Apparently it was one friend of the band that performed this rite of audio psychosis. What is he bellowing about and how does his burst of emotion tie in with the concepts of the song itself?

Konstantin: “Yes, a friend made that one for us. More correctly, it was Karl who had the idea that we ought to do something in the likes of an Arabic chant or incantation. Luckily we had a friend that could execute it. He wrote it in Arabic after getting details on what the song was about. From that he created the incantation. He translated it for us prior to recording it and it fitted with the concept of the song. I remember roughly what it was, but prefer to forget it. It feels better if it is just a ‘weird Arabic incantation’. It has more charm to it that way, wouldn’t you say?”

May well be. To continue on the subject of helping hands, Kaamos also had the massive figure of Messiah Marcolin of the mighty Candlemass to draw upon in the recordings of their album debut.

“I don’t know if he boosted the engineering that much. It was more the atmosphere and the dead hours between the different guitar sessions and recording. The story from the start was that we had booked the studio without knowledge of his presence. The very same day that we arrived the owner and main engineer said that he was to have a pupil doing some engineer training, and wanted to know if it was all right with us. He mentioned that the guy was called Messiah and used to play in a Swedish band called Candlemass and perhaps we had heard of them. We of course thought that he was fucking with us, but along the road came a figure that actually was the man in question. So it was a nice little surprise indeed. And he was great to have in the studio. Except for being very much into the work, he had some really funny stories and anecdotes to enlighten us with.”

On the booklet of Kaamos there’s a photo in which the letters ‘r o t’ are very conspicuously coming out of a stone cross round which the band is situated. Now tell me, am I right in assuming that it’s actually a person’s name (something like Lönnrot or the like) on the stone cross, and that Timo Ketola, being the wicked beast he is, has decidedly told Karl to stand back a bit so that the word ‘rot’ could come out of the inscription on the cross? Don’t tell me this isn’t true.

“Ha ha ha... You are onto us! Yes, you are correct. That is a person’s last name that Karl manages to hide with his immense figure. Don’t recall what the name was, but it was quite similar to your guess though. I don’t really remember but I think it was Karl’s idea to take the picture after he saw the name.”

When it comes to doing layout, Mr. Ketola’s visionary eye is the one for Kaamos to abuse everlastingly

“As far as I am concerned, I don’t feel comfortable with anyone else handling the visual aspect of Kaamos but Mr. D himself. This has far-reaching roots in that he is a personal friend and has been involved in Kaamos since the beginning. And I dare say that he is the medium through which the visual aspect comes to life in Kaamos. I mean, he is a great artist and one of the few who don’t overdo bloody Photoshop, using happy colours à la power metal covers for death metal. Spit! He really has an ‘I’ for capturing a band’s aura and representing it through visual means. So yes, we will most certainly use his professionalism again, and again, and again…”

Seeing as I’m in the process of turning this magazine into a genuine bubblegum escapade with a print run of about 187,000 copies, we’ll use some space now on personal territories. What happens when Kaamos are off the immensely elemental duty of bringing to life their satanically deformed morphosis of earth-shattering, hell-bent, grave-robbing killer death metal insania?

“We spend our leisure by submitting to our interests which most of the time are reflected in and through Kaamos. Be it art, musick, movies, books or whatever. Whatever medium we can find it in. As long as it serves the purpose of igniting inspiration, it is of interest. And that is what we submit to. Hell, Kaamos itself can be included in that.”

Suppose the late Dead of the late dark death metallers Mayhem were to judge you by your customs and habits outside of Kaamos. Do you think he would regard you as a bunch of life-loving, wimpy ‘death metal’ nerds?

“If Dead were to judge us, you say? I don’t think he would consider us ‘life-loving, wimpy ‘death metal’ nerds’ as you so neatly express it. But then on the other hand, I haven’t got the faintest idea what he would have thought. Shitty question!”

Aren’t they all? Thank your lucky hectograms you weren’t the slum bum coming up with them. But hey, this is rock n’ roll journalism. You cannot ask for much. Now, just to conclude with another shitty one: What is the primary emotion you personally receive from the kind of music you play?

“We receive and bring Spirit and Fire!”

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