Why do the heathens rage?

We’ve been waiting 10 years for The Soft Pink Truth to release a follow-up to the career defining, Do you want new wave, or do you want The Soft Pink Truth? At even the slightest hint that Matmos was considering a break from recording and touring, our hopes would swell with the anticipation that Drew Daniel would adopt his Soft Pink Truth moniker once again. We’ve been disappointed several times and I was about to consider the reality that there might never be another Soft Pink Truth album, but before it could manifest itself as a foregone conclusion, a miracle occurred. It was as if the Dark Lord himself heard our prayers personally when he bestowed upon is the latest instalment in the Soft Pink Truth’s catalogue, Why do the Heathens rage? Like, Do you want new wave, this latest album is Drew’s interpretation of a specific genre, and on this occasion he has chosen to re-appropriate music from the Black Metal genus. Why do the Heathen’s rage? is quintessentially a Soft Pink Truth album with it’s electro fuelled textures alongside the various vocal additions supplied by Drew Daniel and the likes of Anthony Hegarty. It has already been well received amongst critics so I didn’t want to go into intricate musical anomalies that make this album successful, because at the heart of this album there is a question that begs to be answered. Why do the Heathens Rage? Like the first two albums this question is proposed in expectation of opening up a dialogue with The Soft Pink Truth’s listeners, and this left me with a slight problem. Although I am familiar with the Black Metal genre and it’s less than favourable accounts of murder, Satanism and religiously fuelled pyrotechnics, I’ve never fully immersed myself in the music, and could only offer an educated guess as to the question Mr. Daniel is posing on this album. I had to enlist the help of an expert on this occasion and thanks to a Norwegian connection, I was able to call on Thomas Sømme, lead singer of Plaag and Raseri. Both bands have cultivated a unique sound within the Black Metal genre, with Thomas’ distinct vocals delving into the darker side of human nature. As an active contributor to Black Metal’s contemporary kvlt and an avid fan of music – he later confides in me his admiration for acts like Venetian Snares and Igorrr – he has a great perspective on Black Metal and after mulling over the music for a while, we attempt to answer just exactly Why do the Heathens rage?

Hey Thomas, You’ve heard the album, what did you think? 

Very interesting interpretation I must say, I was positively surprised!

Surprised in a good way. Do you think it does the genre justice?

Absolutely in a good way! When I listened through the songs, I felt like I experienced black metal through a new set of eyes and ears, and I think that it reflects that the musician is serious yet playful about the genre, which absolutely does justice to black metal.

Yes, Drew Daniel is a genuine fan. What do you think of the selection of songs he covered? Are there any songs you would’ve liked to hear?

I liked the range of songs. If I should suggest additional songs I would like to mention these; Dark funeral-demons of five, mysticum-black magic mushrooms, marduk-world funeral, Taake-voldtekt

Do you suspect it will be a regular feature in your playlist?

I love strange creations like this, so this is already incorporated in my mp3 lists, and will also be added on spotify if it is released there.

It’s really impressive how he re-contextualised the genre in an electronic idiom. I know you like electronic Music too. Is there any hint that black metal is moving more into an electronic format?

Well, black metal is constantly evolving, even though the genre itself is fixed in it’s late 80’s/early 90’s roots. You can say that technological progresses have made room for broader ideas (since everyone now can record music on their computer with little equipment). Earlier, one had to have a record deal in order to make a decent record, now everyone can do it. And this naturally brings more ideas to the surface.

I saw a video of a live performance of this album and people were moshing to TSPT version of Black Metal. Do you think the album has the potential to be a crossover hit for black metal fans?

To be honest; No. Not the black metal crowd as a whole. But, certainly for parts of the scene, there is a great potential. One thing I have noticed over the years, as a black metal listener, is that there are a lot of people like myself, that are mainly music fans and secondly a black metal fan, who tend to take these obscurities to our chest. Artists like Die Antwoord, Igorrr and many other are spoken of well in many parts of the scene, so although Why do the Heathens Rage, certainly has the potential to make a name for itself in parts of the scene, I doubt that this is something everyone, involved in the scene, will like.

That brings me to, what may be considered, a touchy point. There’s a disclaimer that accompanies that reads amongst other things, “Black metal fandom all too often entails a tacit endorsement or strategic looking-the-other-way with regards to the racist, anti-Semitic, sexist and homophobic bullshit politics that (still) pervade the scene”. As a contemporary contributor to the scene, what’s your opinion on this statement?

That may still be true for parts of the scene, but the way I see the scene, most people reject those kinds of “values” and are in it solely for the music. There are rotten apples in black metal, just like in any other scene. What distinguishes the black metal scene from most of the other genres however is that the music is almost without exception, driven by hate and coldness. I myself write lyrics about misanthropy, death, rape and torture (I like to reflect the pale, rotten face of humankind; the sides of us that we don’t like to hear about) to hit a nerve in the audience. And that rhetoric may be the case for some of the bands that have a NSBM (National socialistic black metal) approach to the music, but all in all, Nazi bands don’t have a lot of credibility in the “mainstream” black metal scene.

I don’t know if you noticed, but the album title is in the form of a question. The artist suggests it’s to start a dialogue with his listening audience about the issue in the disclaimer. When you write your lyrics about the depravity of humanity, is it also your intention to start a dialogue about these issues?

Mainly, it is like a bucket for me to vomit my disgust for many sides of the human race. I have always reflected over questions like “What are we REALLY? What are our objectives here? Are we fulfilling our end of the bargain in accordance with the rest of the biosphere on earth?” And when I see the arrogance and stupidity of the human race, how we look at ourselves as the centre of the universe, how we think, we are “the crown of creation”, how we poison our very home, how we treat animals ect. It just makes me sick. And many people will probably call me a pessimist for focusing on that negativity, but I do not agree. I look at myself as a realist and if people get angry about my lyrics, it’s not really my lyrics that are the issue; it’s what we are. People know it. Dialogue is progress, and progress is good. I’m a man of science, and debate is a good thing, especially when it comes to the very dark sides of humanity.

Do you think, now that you’ve heard this interpretation of the genre that in the future your lyrical observations will include a closer look into the black metal scene’s own darker side?

Maybe in my rhetorical ways, but I have already written a lyric or two about the scene (in Plaag). But all music I listen to contributes to form my performance to a certain degree, and this record is no exception. I will most certainly learn a thing or two from this record as well!

So Thomas that leads us to the all-important question, Why do the Heathens Rage?

It’s a good question. I can speak only for myself, as there are as many reasons as there are “heathens”. In my case, it’s at least opposition to conformity. It’s a celebration of my primal being. I feel free when I scream my profanities into the microphone, I feel like I’m the messenger of the cold hard truth.