(Today we present Comrade Aleks‘ interview of Jason Köhnen, one of the two main members of the Hungarian/Dutch “transcendental doom” band The Answer Lies in the Black Void, whose new album was released in October by Burning World Records.)
The Answer Lies In The Black Void is the duo of Martina Horváth (vocals) from Thy Catafalque and Jason Köhnen (all instruments) from Celestial Season, The Lovecraft Sextet, Bong-Ra, and ex-The Kilimanjaro Darkjazz Ensemble. Their first atmospheric doom metal album Forlorn was released in 2021 and got very enthusiastic feedback.
Horváth and Köhnen have continued their mysterious searches of an avant-garde vision and the result of this work is the second full-length piece Thou Shalt. Inspired by Carl Jung’s “shadow work” this new album was scheduled for release on October 13th via Burning World Records and I caught the band awkwardly right during their tour. That led to a few delays, and the interview turned out to be shorter than I expected. And yet, here is The Answer.
Hi The Answer Lies in the Black Void! Who’s online today? How are you doing?
All good! Jason here…hope all is well!
Nice to hear you, Jason. The Answer Lies in the Black Void’s new album Thou Shalt was released on October 13th, and there’s a small tour planned on the first part of November. I see that you’re playing just in Hungary, Netherlands and Germany. Didn’t you find (or search for) a chance to visit some other countries on your way?
We’re limited in time (work, families, etc) so this batch of shows was the best we could arrange for this first run. Plans are to organize more extensive tours in the future.
The Answer Lies in the Black Void has a full live lineup. Was it your initial intention to perform this music live despite the fact that the band consists only of you and Martina?
Yes, we always had the goal to perform live, and (luckily) it happened sooner than planned, mostly due to the fact Martina managed to pull together an amazing group of musicians who understand exactly where we’re coming from and want to go musically.
Did you write the album exchanging the ideas via internet for Forlorn? Is it comfortable for you to work this way?
Most of the work was still done online, some work was done either in The Netherlands and Hungary together. As we are now married it’s made things a bit easier.
Martina is from Hungary and you are from the Netherlands, and both of you have different musical backgrounds. Who put more of their own influences in Thou Shalt? How much of Martina is in the new songs? And how much of you there as well?
Martina writes all the lyrics and provides all the vocal melodies. In some cases I compose a song from a vocal idea that Martina has recorded and sometimes I provide her with a compostion where she adds her magic. It’s a natural symbiosis, we understand each other musically to a detail, and especially when it comes to the atmosphere and sound we want to create. So basically the focus lies on the details, how to express the emotions in the most powerful and purest of ways.
You supported the release with two videos for the songs “Virgin Fire” and “Ataraxia”. And “Virgin Fire” is quite a scary, uneasy thing. How did you connect these images with the lyrics?
“Ataraxia” is Martina’s visual concept. Originally the barren landscape was supposed to be a snowy / icy terrain, but logistically and financially this would be far far over our budget. The concept of “Ataraxia” captures the main concept of Thou Shalt, the embracing of one’s dark side, fusing of the light and the dark in one’s self.
“Virgin Fire” was my concept. I’ve been exploring AI-generated visuals and wanted to create moving images that could reflect a fever dream, strange images that are logical and illogical at the same time. A different world, strange but familiar simultaneously.
The Answer Lies in the Black Void has a sort of ritual, almost religious, vibe. How do you see its essence? The nature of your motivation to write songs like these?
Absolutely. Someone mentioned the term Transcendental Doom, and this I think is the best way to describe our music. I’m glad that you picked up on the ritualistic/religious vibe, it’s one of the main creative goals we have in this project. Meditation through sadness or melancholy.
The songs’ lyrics are quite abstract and open for interpretations. Was it your intention from the start? Or did you put a specific message in the texts? Is it in the words or is it the vocals’ lines?
Most of the lyrics (if not all) are based on personal experiences / life lessons. Yes, they are left open to interpretations as each individual can hopefully find similarities in these universal experiences.
You invited Folgl Botond from Needless to perform a few solos in the album. Why didn’t you just call someone from Celestial Season to fulfill the task?
Because we wanted a fresh approach. Also Botond has a more modern sound and angle of approaching Metal music, which brings a new dimension to the songs.
Another one of your guests is Gábor Drótos, who already took part in the recording of your first album Forlorn, and as I understand, Martina knows him from Thy Catafalque. But what about Chelsea Murphy? How did your ways cross?
Yes, Martina has worked with Gábor in the past, so we really wanted him to compose another piece for this album. Chelsea I got in touch with through Debemur Morti Productions on which we are label-mates (my other project The Lovecraft Sextet releases on there, and she performs with Cailleach Calling), I got her email through Phil and asked her if she would want to help out with some screams for a song on the album.
Do you feel Thou Shalt as a completed, solid work? Did you say everything you wanted to express through it?
Yes, I think a second album is always pretty hard to put together, especially if a debut album is very well received. We didnt expect it to turn out that good to be honest, but it turned out to be a monstrously good album! I think we have managed to establish our sound and our creative direction so we’re already starting the third album challenge and are ready to go further into deeper transcendental worlds of doom… let’s hope more people will discover and enjoy our music.