AN NCS INTERVIEW: MOREAN ON LYRICS, WITH A FOCUS ON THE NEW ALKALOID ALBUM “LIQUID ANATOMY”
(With a bow toward the Waxing Lyrical series begun by Andy Synn at our site, Karina Noctum posed questions to Morean of Alkaloid (and Dark Fortress) about his creation of lyrics for the ravishing new Alkaloid album, Liquid Anatomy, which will be released by Season of Mist on May 18th. The answers are fascinating.)
Alkaloid are going to release their latest album called Liquid Anatomy on the 18th of May, and I took this opportunity to ask about the lyrics. Musically, we know already it is going to be a remarkable album because the band counts among its members such metal luminaries as Hannes Grossmann, Christian Münzner (Obscura), Danny Tunker (Aborted, Prostitute Disfigurement, God Dethroned), and Morean (Dark Fortress, Alkaloid, Noneuclid).
Morean is not only a versatile vocalist, but also an excellent guitarist and a classical composer. His hymn to the city of Rotterdam was performed by the Rotterdams Philharmonisch Orkest not so long ago. If you are interested in classical music then I recommend you check his double guitar composition Schattenspiel.
We have Morean’s opening insights into his writing of lyrics and choice of themes, and that’s then followed by a more detailed dialogue.
I certainly put time into my lyrics. Already in Dark Fortress, but at the moment even much more so for Alkaloid. In fact, for Alkaloid, writing the lyrics and stories has become the part I enjoy the most; of course especially in my own songs, as “god of my world” where I can make it as far out as I want to. This was one of the reasons for me to join this new band btw – to be able to write stories and create worlds I could never have done in my other bands, like for example the Dyson saga. I know most listeners couldn’t give half a shit about the words, but if even a single person gets stimulated by words I wrote, I consider it a success.
I like working with language, I speak a few myself, and I looove the research phase of writing lyrics for an album when I collect words and concepts that are original and worthy of good songs. I spend weeks and months on my couch, sifting through wikipedia, youtube and obscure science articles, which in turn I use only as far as my musician brain will allow it. But since art is subjective and so are the worlds we create, it’s ok if not everything concerning the science part is 100% legit… however, I spend a lot of time trying to make sure that what I use from science is, if not probable, then at least conceivable. I love the idea that our stinky old universe is actually so rich and complex that it contains all we ever need to go from animal to man to god as “pedestrians” with no deus ex machina necessary, even if it’ll take millions and millions of years. This is in fact the story the Dyson saga is trying to tell.
My lyrical themes deal with cosmic destruction, human meaninglessness, outer space monsters, drug- or trance-induced visions of other dimensions, Lovecraftian abysses and monsters. I’m an escapist at heart, and understand my role as a creative artist to offer new worlds to my listeners rather than commenting on our reality. Building worlds is what it’s all about, in both lyrics and music. The occasional drive-by orgy of blasphemy is by no means excluded, tho 😉 And my imagery tends to be rather dense. The reason is that I want to offer as rich a tapestry as possible when painting my worlds. That you can space out on one line, one image alone already if you really go into it, and discover whole dimensions of meaning in everything. Crowley tends to write like that (e.g., in his monolithic Book Thoth, or Liber Al Vel Legis and a thousand other things he wrote), and I love if a lyric immediately catches your attention and gives you a feeling, but you only “really” get it the hundredth time you read it.
In Dark Fortress, the focus is more on the experience of strange spheres and dimensions from a human perspective. But when it comes to Alkaloid, to me it was important to write about the concrete bridge that exists between science and magic. First I brought in magic because even though I consider myself a total atheist, I’m still a spiritual man, and the occult has always been important in a free-jazz sort of way. No attachments to any existing religion, cult or paradigm — everyone who thinks they can bash others over the head with their metaphysical bullshit “truth” can fuck right off, whether it’s the pope, ISIS or the Fraternitas Saturni. But in the exploration of the abysses of mind and soul, which is an invisible and poorly understood realm still, the “astral sciences” can be a lot more helpful than empirical psychology, which is mainly groping in the dark as far as real knowledge is concerned.
My background in those things can be broken down to chaos magic (Peter J. Carroll, Austin Osman Spare), Aleister Crowley, and Krishnamurti). Second, it deals with science because these days I find waaaay more inspiration in the fringes of science than in published spirituality. My attitude has changed — I’ve made peace with “our reality” because it’s vaster, and vastly more interesting, than all the made-up fantasy stuff in spirituality, religion, and metal lyrics. There’s many an interface emerging between the two now, think of what quantum physics imply for our world view, and how close those insights maneuver us to certain realms traditionally more pertaining to “magic”.
The most interesting point is where the science and magic meet and that’s the idea behind the Alkaloid concept. But in addition to this, on the new album, I’m also continuing the Dyson Saga, the Funeral for a Continent-Antarctica saga, and also the Cthulhu/Lovecraft stuff. I’m working more and more towards a point when these initially separate storylines will actually come together on future albums.
Karina: I think the fact that you personify the destructive, chaotic, and powerful nature of universal large-scale natural processes in Liquid Anatomy is an awesome thought experiment. I love eschatology, and your lyrics are full of it. I believe myself that earthly matters and any written stuff that we have so far can’t be compared with the level of destruction, emptiness, and total annihilation that modern science has to offer. It is the ultimate. And is perhaps the coolest and the most organic of all “end of time” tales. It is going to happen, and yeah it’s natural. Cosmic natural processes being worse than any horrid nightmare.
Morean: Exactly. There is one line in the title track of The Malkuth Grimoire that sort of sums it up: “Taking god out of the equation” I’m not talking about any afterlife scenarios — those are for discovering when we die, and any thoughts we waste on that during our lifetime are just gonna ruin the surprise. So I guess I don’t even wanna know what happens after death, and it’s not like anyone ever came back to tell us what happens then. But for the rest, all the magic, mysticism, and infinite miraculous mystery that is our ever-expanding world down here is already right here. No need for an invented creator judging your breakfast or masturbation habits.
In my opinion it’s impossible to make a sentence with the word “god” in it that isn’t bullshit, and even though everyone has the right to dress up their fear of death with the bullshit of their choice, I get so incredibly disgusted with religion that I decided long ago to totally ignore their entire world, including the vocabulary. Who needs god when you have the world right in front of you? Or, how one of the more significant people to come out of my little town, Feuerbach, said when atheism entered the philosophical stage: if I look out the window and there’s a beautiful tree standing there, why do I need to invent a god who put it there? Isn’t it enough that the tree is right there in front of me?
K: I like the first person point of view you take. It is like being a witness/protagonist of it all. It’s right in the middle of things. I wonder how you get to the mindset needed to write like that.
M: Yes, exactly. I go tripping in my head, escapist that I am, and then clumsily try to put what I see in my mind into words. And if I manage that other people go traveling through their own abysses because of the impulses they get from my words, I consider my job successfully done.
K: I would like to talk more about the song “Azagthoth”. To start with, the name is spelled as it is found on the Simon Necronomicon. Yet the spelling found in Lovecraft’s work is Azathoth. Are there any particular considerations for this preference?
M: Again, right on the money. I use the Simonomicon spelling, since I found it fitting better to a sort of gnostic approach to the extradimensional morphic field that is Azagthoth, than Lovecraft’s spelling. I think Simon’s book is mostly fake as well, of course, but there might just be a little core of actually practiced cultism in there, even though no-one can say if “Azagthoth” ever was a “real thing” for anyone.
I loved the Lovecraft stories, of course (well, at least the handful of better-written ones he has), that’s what started it all, but I always found my own astral explorations with those names and sigils much more interesting than Lovecraft’s “can’t look” sort of approach, where the protagonist invariably runs away or goes insane before things get interesting. So also in those Lovecraft songs, it’s my own occult first-hand experiences that matter, not what some role-playing game or shitty movie managed to come up with.
I spent years wanting to write a song about Azagthoth. But in DF, I never could, since my predecessor on vocals calls himself “Azathoth”, so that would have been a little weird… So now, at last, I could do it. But once I sat down to put it to paper, I realized I don’t even know where to start trying to find words for a hyperdimensional intelligence crunching up our world from outside our universe, and I allowed myself to say so in the lyric. I then tried my best anyway, and clumsy as the verbalisation might be, it still serves as a song lyric. But that short song wasn’t enough to say everything I have to say about Azagthoth, so I expect to pick up the thread I’m starting to lay here in future songs, I’m sure.
K: It is pretty genius to make Azagthoth, the Lovecraftian demon, an embodiment of a black hole destructive force in a the song. I find black holes fascinating myself because both space and time collapse and disappear at the bottom of the black hole. It is a pretty vast force to deal with and surpasses any conceivable imagination.
M: Yes! I’ve been busy for months trying to wrap my head around the dimensional distortions around black holes. They will play a big role on the next album, in the next Dyson chapters, when they actually escape our space-time-continuum thanks to black hole engineering. And as I linked “Cthulhu” to the idea of panspermia — building blocks of life travelling through the universe on comets etc, seeding new heavenly bodies resulting in local evolution of life, I’m linking Azagthoth to the dimensional crunch in gravity wells, when Einstein’s rubber sheet threatens to break. It’s gonna be a puzzle how to put the folding of space and simultaneous expansion of time into 3D into music, but I have ideas…
K: In “Turmoil’s Swirling” I think you succeed in being able to narrate a sort of out-of-body experience. Like you were a particle yourself. Is it that what you were aiming to do?
M: This is one of two lyrics on the album written by Danny Tunker, so you’d have to ask him, but it ties in nicely with my lyrics. Danny says the prime inspiration were patterns of bacteria spreading, which apparently form really cool shapes when they hit just the right sweet spot, and I think Danny saw himself transform to such a cloud of microorganisms or particles as a kind of spiritual experience.
K: It seems then the last song is kinda the background info for a bigger story. I like the fact that you describe the setting, give background information and all, within one song. It’s a short story rather than a song. I bet you had lots of other things you wished to say in the song, but it must be stripped down and every word counts.
I’d like to hear about the structure here. What other songs can be connected to it? How difficult was it to write? How to be succinct and yet succeed in giving the whole picture with your narrative?
M: In the structure, the first 3 “movements” or chapters deal with the tectonic process, whereas the last 3 focus on cephalopod evolution and emerging intelligence. This is the lyric I spent most time on, of course, also because I got this 20-minute-song from Hannes that would allow me to tell a big story.
It’s a rather opulent geological fantasy — if you want, the sequel to “Funeral for a Continent” off the first album, which raises the question what is hiding under all the Antarctic ice. I’ve been obsessed with Antarctica for many years, and managed to go there twice (which was an experience that changed me forever… talk about outer space!). So like the Dyson songs, the time scale here is millions and millions of years, in which the continents come back together to a new supercontinent, and cephalopods (specifically, octopuses) become the next dominant species on the planet.
There’s enough scientific indication that this is a probable scenario, given how incredible those guys are already now. It’s not much of a jump to fantasize what these guys could become given enough time, since they’re already intelligent and equipped with incredible biotechnology. So I tried to think that line of thought through to its extremes. No reason why they wouldn’t overcome their short life span (it’s a question of forming a society so the mother doesn’t have to starve guarding her eggs anymore), why they shouldn’t be able to live on land (some octopus species already cross land to get to the next sea water pond), and subsequently, why, with all their amazing transformer-skills, why they shouldn’t be able to develop flight at some point.
And then they will see the stars and eventually figure out the solar life cycle and realize they have to get away from earth at some point if they want to survive. So at the end, they manage to shoot balls of ice with frozen hatchlings towards other celestial bodies to start evolution again there. This is the point when, on the next album, this song will connect to the Cthulhu story (tentacled aliens seeding other planets); the only difference to Lovecraft is that in his cosmos, this happened long before humans were around, where in mine, it happens long after we have disappeared.
K: And of course last but not least you brought a bit of your spell-like language in the songs. You did that more with Dark Fortress tho. I wonder what the pace of this one will be? Because it is enthralling if you sing it slowly, but well it can be completely different with a faster pace. And if you add atmospheric ambience to it, I bet is going to be really cool:
Behold Wings born from the need to fly Flesh under will Bodily be my magic My alchemy Secret my soul Liquid my anatomy Somaesthesia Awakens
M: I must say, with all the science going on, I find it harder and harder to use classic ceremonial magic without cringing. The whole “begone foul fiend / the power of Christ compels you” school of invocation seems as off as those religious ramblings (because at the end of the day, that’s what they are…).
Don’t get me wrong — I can happily invoke Nyarlathotep in my mind still while keeping a straight face — but the true nature of astral reality is far beyond words or mere names, and I find myself able to ditch systems, names, traditional rituals, and especially the whole clutter of paraphernalia and costumes as completely unnecessary.
It’s a lot harder to “sell” it to people like that, of course; I mean, a couple of well-placed Hail Satans will double your listeners in the blink of an eye… but that’s a little undignified at this point, and the most fun I’m having in this band is putting those visions to paper, so the only thing that makes sense is to keep the lyrics as personal (and esoteric at times) as the music. All the songs are very different from each other on the new album, and when you get to hear it, you’ll find that the pacing and atmosphere of the different songs are indeed as you assume. From ballads to tech death and crazy space blasts, it’s all there, and this expanded spectrum is gonna shock a lot of people…
**DARK CASTLE, not DARK FUNERAL
***Dark Fortress. We’re both idiots.
You see how easy it is for the brain to send signals to the hand simply to make one appear idiotic? 🙂 The introductory error has been corrected (thanks).
Really looking forward to this one. Plus, it is coming out on my birthday! I was lucky enough to see Alkaloid live a couple of years ago. Killer. I got to talk to them a bit after the show. Nice guys.
Love this man’s work. HUGE Dark Fortress fan and Alkaloid is so weird in that great way. Awesome interview.
Ok, i’m a few years late to the party, but what a great interview. I need to pay some attention to the lyrics now. Can’t wait for the new album!