(What follows is Comrade Aleks’ interview with one of the founding members of the Siberian black metal band Theosophy, whose latest album in a 20-year career was released last October.)
Theosophy is the black metal band from Barnaul, Siberia. Started back in 2004 this band released their first full-length album …Out of Decades only in 2010 and since then hasn’t stopped in developing their sound and concept.
Despite being located in that remote region, Theosophy play their stuff live whenever they have a proper chance, and so they performed not only in Siberia but also in the western part of Russia and in Europe.
Bleeding Wounds of the First and the Last is their sixth album, it was released by Epictural Production on the 27th of October, and this time they prepared something new. I’ll try to dig out more about the band’s music with the band’s founder Phantom (bass, vocals).
The interview with Theosophy was published in the Spanish magazine This Is Metal, and we are able to share it with you here.
Hi Phantom! How are you? What’s the current situation in Theosophy?
Hi there! All is fine! We plunge into the Siberian winter.
The band has a relatively stable lineup, three of you have been in Theosophy from the very beginning. What was the cause of the quite big gap between the albums Eastland Tales – Part II (2016) and Towers of Dark Pantheon (2020)?
We spent this time very productively, despite the lack of new albums. We released a compilation CD with bonus tracks and delved into the Asian music space. We also recorded a cover for the official Therion tribute album and embarked on our first European tour, covering Poland and the Czech Republic. Following all of these activities, we needed some time to look for a new label.
Why did you release Eastland Tales in two parts? Were these albums recorded during the same period or are they united with a kind of concept?
Both album parts were recorded at different times and with different lineups (change in one of the guitarists). Prior to recording the first part, we had a substantial collection of stylistically similar stuff. It wasn’t feasible to discard so many songs. Nearly all album songs featured in the Eastland Tales embody elements of Nordic epics.
What kind of bands shaped your sound? Black metal has many forms and ideological directions, so what was your original intention behind Theosophy?
At the beginning… Of course, classic Norwegian Black Metal bands from the first and second waves were very popular in Russia in the 2000s. We just wanted to play this kind of music, and there was simply nothing like it around us at that time.
What inspired you in those bands? The sound? The ideology? The overall true and evil vibe?
In no case is their ideology an inspiration, which in the end turned out to be a teenage farce. The atmosphere, the mystery of music, something magical… All this was emphasized by their demonic images. This is very attractive to young brains. Hah.
Can you say that you managed to work out the band’s individuality through Bleeding Wounds of the First and the Last?
Any artist considers himself unique, no matter what techniques he uses and no matter what genre he creates. We initially did not try to be a copy of anyone, but we worked within certain borders. Time moves on and we are no longer the same as we were 15 years ago. This is not the end of the story, we will change and move forward with new ideas, but remain the Theosophy.
Okay, what are the features of Theosophy version 2023?
I would like to hear an outside opinion view and compare it with our vision. Well, at least in terms of musical and stylistic development, we did not remain static in that time.
The new songs’ duration is remarkably longer than on previous albums, did you change your approach to songwriting? What led you to this new epic form?
Yes, this time we wanted to create canvases that would have a lot of little things and nuances. Here, each song is a long story with many colors from dark tones to bright and emotional moments. We wanted to fit all of this on one canvas.
By the way, how did you get in contact with Epictural Production? I see that they released the album on both CDs and vinyl, and I bet that vinyl is a new format for you.
We pushed ourselves to the limit (in a good way) to create this album. We brought in a whole team of new people. But now is not the best time to promote any Russian band abroad. It is important for us to remain in the European space. Epictural Production discarded all non-musical aspects and focused on our music. We immediately saw genuine interest in this work; we were on the same emotional wave in our views on this release. The question of whether or not to release this album on vinyl was not even raised… We want to thank the label for this stance.
Metal-Archives point out that your songs’ lyrics are about “North, Nature, Fear, Social”, but it seems that you’re now more focused on local folklore (“Curse of Ak-Kadyn”, “The Spirits of Tarma”) and fantasy (“Sword of Elrik”). What’s with this?
Hah. I don’t know who writes this information there, but it’s probably something outdated from the time of our first demo. On each of our albums, there is something related to the location around us, be it nature or mythology. But there has definitely been a lot more of that on the latest albums. It always begins to seem that everything has already been said, but every time you immerse yourself in these topics completely with your head.
What kind of themes did you explore through Bleeding Wounds of the First and the Last lyrics? Are lyrics an important part of Theosophy?
The album deals exactly in half with issues of anti-religion on the one hand and mythology, the majesty of the Altai nature on the other. The fact that the tracks turned out to be quite long is also our desire to tell these stories in as much detail as we can. Of course, we messed around with the lyrics. Maybe no one noticed, but for the first time in our history we published the lyrics of the album’s songs. This speaks to absolute importance.
The band is located in Barnaul, and it is damn difficult to play live outside the region. How far did you get with Theosophy?
Yes, definitely. The nearest large city is more than 200 kilometers away. And there are not many large cities within a radius of 1000 kilometers… Despite this, in addition to the nearest cities, we went to concerts in Europe.
And in recent years we have already been to the European part of our country a couple of times.
How did you manage to get out to play in Europe? How long was your last tour and what are its highlights?
At that time there was no difficulty in this, especially since in Europe they knew more about us than in Russia, oddly enough. The tour was carried out by Metallurg Music, we gave 7 gigs in 10 days in Poland and the Czech Republic, 3 of which were with a Ukrainian band Aeternus Prophet. It was an unforgettable experience with a powerful reception and a warm reception in any city and on any day of the week. Just awesome!
Do you see a chance to play live in Europe again?
Yes, we do not lose thoughts and hope about this, although the situation is very difficult. There is a great desire, we will work on it.
How often do you usually play live? How often did you play in 2023?
We do not perform frequently in any city, even the closest one, as a matter of principle, although we have such opportunities, a band’s performance should be a special event. It is important for us to move forward and expand the geography of our performances. I want as many listeners to feel our energy firsthand. Yes, music is global now, but nothing can replace people’s live contact with the band.
You took part in festivals like the Moscow Black Metal Convention and T’ma / Darkness festivals. What are your impressions of these shows? How was everything organized?
These festivals are completely different in their concept and ideology. We received only positive emotions and saw many new faces. We have an additional incentive to move on after these events. Only respect to the organizers and guests.
What are the features of black metal gigs in your region? How good are they organized? Do the bands tend to do a show with different attributes and etc. to increase their performances’ atmosphere?
We hold a lot of concerts of completely different levels. For example, in Novosibirsk they put on world-class shows, just like they did for visiting musicians. The people took it well and the concerts are well attended.
Yes, there are groups that stage performances, and there are also classic club bands that have excellent command of the instruments and excite the audience with their technique. Organizers also began to understand that people are very happy to attend well-organized events where they feel comfortable. But of course, there are also niche concerts, only for their own people, and this is no less in demand in their own styles. I can say that metal is in demand here no less than in the capitals, of course, considering the density and size of the population.
How would you sum up your opinion about the Russian black metal scene? Can we define Siberian black metal as a separate phenomenon, like Cascadian black metal for example?
The Russian Black Metal scene is one of the best in the world today! These are not empty words, look and compare the views of our bands, for example on YouTube, with others. Yes, these are not the best times and maybe our bands are not always focused on streaming services. But this is objectively obvious!
I still perceive Siberian Black Metal as part of the whole. Of course, this is a powerful monolithic layer. But there are also many wonderful bands from the Urals, the European part. We are all one living organism.
What make Russian black metal bands as “one living organism”?
We share common ground, despite our potentially distinct sounds. We carry a profound cultural essence that resonates with every outsider. It’s our melancholy, our expansiveness, and our unique melodiousness (whether or not it incorporates folk tunes) that define us. We’re akin to a fairy-tale character stepping into the world of Black Metal.
The band was started 19 years ago, and there are six albums in your discography. How would you summarize your experience with Theosophy? Did you do everything right? Did you use all the chances you had?
We are only getting stronger. I wouldn’t regret what happened. We tried to do a lot for each of the times. Not everything always depends only on us, I’m not even talking about my group now.
We still have everything ahead and there will be many chances and opportunities; I would not focus on the past. We are still alive and moving forward.
Thanks for the interview, Phantom. Good luck with Theosophy. Did we miss something important?
Thank you for your interesting questions, see you at our gigs, no matter where you are in the World!