(For this week’s edition of Andy Synn‘s column devoted to lyrics in metal he posed questions to Paulus Kressman (Rites of Thy Degringolade), and obtained very illuminating answers, as you shall see.)
As much as I hope you all enjoy the information and insight offered by these articles, I have to admit, there’s a certain amount of self-interest involved too, as the work of putting some extra focus on this underappreciated aspect of the metallic arts grants me an opportunity to talk to some of my favourite bands/artists and to (hopefully) gain a deeper understanding of their music.
Case in point, I was recently able to speak with Paulus Kressman, the founder and prime creative force of Canadian Black/Death esotericists Rites of Thy Degringolade – a band whose work I’ve followed and supported for years and whose most recent record, last year’s phenomenal The Blade Philosophical, was one of my favourite albums of 2018 – about the process and philosophy behind his arcane and abrasive art.
Not only was he more than happy to oblige, but his in-depth responses have given me an even deeper understanding of, and appreciation for, the band’s entire discography.
So, without further ado, I present to you the latest edition of Waxing Lyrical.
Firstly, allow me to give thanks for taking interest in a much overlooked aspect and integral part of our work in relation to the visual, spiritual, and audio output we have come to know as Rites of thy Degringolade.
Rites… started as a one-man project. The beginning was a result of itself in simple truth. And, naturally, the lyrics were a necessity as the songs started to manifest.
At first it was just that, simply a necessity, a part of the puzzle that had to be put together so all would fall into alignment.
Lyric writing and song composition were new to me. Not in all aspects, as I had already done many years of work with past bands, but as sole creator this was definitely a new world!
I was eager to meet my own challenge head on. As I see it now, the hand and the mind were ready to meet the blank canvas in full force. I can say now the beginnings had a lot of energy, drive and inspiration.
That was over 20 years ago.
Wroth joined soon after the second release and the project was truly born, not only with a new refined musicianship, but with another lyrical voice.
Inspiration is everywhere at all times, there has never been a time when it was not present, nor shall there be a time when it will cease to exist.
To put it in Ritualistic context, the will or ability to channel this inspiration lies wholly upon the individual to tap the undying well of knowledge and ever-flowing source of ritual.
This is the process from which all great works, accomplishments, and ideas spring from. Channeling this is in itself a form of enlightenment that comes with experience and dedication.
I’ve found it does not come to one with ease or simplicity at first, but only with vigor and constant want of an end goal or intent. Then and only then can the state in which one seeks come with simplicity.
This is the craft that wields unending ideology, ingenuity, thought, and philosophy, leading us to modern civilization and art as we have come to know it. This has of course led to our topic at hand, simply put… artistic design in literary form.
So I must admit I am in a constant state of engaging with inspiration around me, drawing from what has been (in all aspects), what is (occurring due to that which has been), and what shall be (according to predetermined ritual).
The process has always been written, and focus is the main element I require when pen greets the paper.
Once it starts there is no limit to free flow, subject, reason, or un-reason. These are all open sources of inspiration. I can think of no greater topic or subject than one’s comprehension of self and that which surrounds them, infinite and unending!
That is our illumination.
Growing up I was introduced to classic literature at an early age. My mother was very well-read and had a great sense of things.
I always had a library to gravitate towards in the house with everything from Greek and Roman mythology to Latin learning texts, fantasy, history and sci-fi.
At a young age I became entranced with science fiction writers such as Ray Bradbury and the like. That was some of the first literature I read freely and on my own, meaning it was not part of the school curriculum.
I’m thankful I had the opportunity to be exposed to great works of the past. They definitely gave to the well of flowing thought more than what the present youth seem to have. We did not have television, nor was it the age of the computer, so music and an old library of books were my foundation.
It was a great time to be so impressionable and young. Those readings along my path have significance in my journey, and of where I am today.
A quote by Percy Williams Bridgman:
“Not only are there meaningless questions, but many of the problems with which the human intellect has tortured itself turn out to be only ‘pseudo problems,’ because they can be formulated only in terms of questions which are meaningless.
“Many of the traditional problems of philosophy, of religion, or of ethics, are of this character. Consider, for example, the problem of the freedom of the will. You maintain that you are free to take either the right- or the left-hand fork in the road. I defy you to set up a single objective criterion by which you can prove after you have made the turn that you might have made the other.
“The problem has no meaning in the sphere of objective activity; it only relates to my personal subjective feelings while making the decision.”
Like anything else the lyric-writing process grew from primitive or naive states, so to speak. As one ages so does one’s perception and experience. It grew much like the audio process that it encircled, or which encircles it. Either way the sphere is complete. A symbiosis in all regards, strength and purpose with primordial raw simplicity.
I’ve always used channeling and free flow thought as the basis of getting thought to text. Of course this too has been greatly developed over the past decades. I now allow much more editing, re-writing, and disposing of that which is not perfectly right for the audio piece in question.
There was an inside bit of humor in Rites… about using an old style 1950s type-writer to write lyrics, which I used to do until somewhat recently.
It actually produced some of my best work, to be honest, however I have since given the old ink machine a new home.
Not only is this a great question to include in any article with focus on creative works, it also allows one to re-examine their own past in a subjective type way. I’d like to start with the 2001 album Totality.
As I see it now It was a complete work of transformation. It consisted of 8 songs each linked together as a whole with a thematic purpose of placing the individual as supreme creator, destroyer and master of all things past present and future. Throughout it all, the presence of awareness of being is intact.
Being objective, there was the fact that Wroth and I were only in our mid 20s, and still had much to do and learn. There was a great deal of both exact execution of song composition and free flow consciousnesses in lyrical terms such as these, from the title-track:
Before mortal tongues muttered he hath departed
These events occurred. Oh thy journey, how thee
hath given me power to become as all.
Now the hour is at hand.
They gaze at the sky for the final time.
Knowing this not their kingdom.
Behold the apparition of the Anti-Transport
My grail is knowledge
We the purest
Devotion our life’s work
I’ve become Totality
This theme would indeed continue many years later with The Blade Philosophical.
The track “The Universe in Three Parts”, from our latest album The Blade Philosophical, resonates as the strongest piece in my opinion for many reasons.
This was the most reworked piece, composition-wise, and continues the thematic philosophy of the trinity of self as creator, past present and future (and is the third song on the album as well). The lyrics and music are in perfect union with each other.
I can honestly say this entire piece was channeled from another place, yet speaks in perfect relation to the present. I view it as an entity itself observing the here and now…
As with all parts, as with all things
To disassociate with the whole, is to associate with the self
When total separation is achieved, procured
Complete connection is thus obtained
Oh, great releaser of then, you, of what is all to be, bring, me thought of being
The universe is in its first part
Oh, great releaser of now, you, of what is the here, bring, me the thought of this unbeing
The universe is in its second part.
Oh, great releaser of the past, you, of what hath always been, bring, me the cycle once again
The universe is in its third part
Oh, great releaser of all three, you, who shall return to nil, bring, me the serpent and its tail!
The twain hath merged yes with the now, the blade it doth philosophize
The hand and the mind they are as one, again the three as I
The then is now, whats been shall be, the three they are as none
To cleanse that which is eternal sin, is to cleanse god’s mortal skin
So grasp ye blade and plunge thus deep, know not of other deeds
Make this sin that of ye own, and “THE I” shall be your name
Knoweth not, of the outside, for the I is the solipsist
Know only of ye own trinity, for this is all that (must) exist
The universe in three parts
Everything that has evolved and been produced under the moniker of Rites… is best represented in this third song, both lyrically and in audio form.
I would like to take the opportunity to thank you for shedding light onto an often overlooked facet of this world, namely lyrical composition and its power to produce limitless possibility.
Rites of thy Degringolade thanks you as a whole and we will see you in Europe once again for our 2020 tour.
Oh very cool. Rites are one of my favorite bands and though they remain somewhat cryptic it’s good to see more light shed on their process. Thanks.