Frater: Sarru mass Artaud! The Merciful Nuns have, in a very short space of time, climbed back to the heights of the Garden Of Delight heyday. Already onto the band’s fifth full length release with three EPs and a live album and DVD in the discography. In this interview we will delve into the GOETIA IV and V albums of which the last one has just been released. The albums were released quickly as they are in essence one concept or rather one journey that You share with us. Before we delve into that I would like to express that GOETIA IV and V definitely prove what You claimed before during the global Nunhood interview:
“I am indeed partial to the deepest bass lines and cold, sober drumming void of emotions. They should accentuate the songs in a simple but very precise and effective manner. I am determined to drag the Goth Rock of the present into a new direction. Away from the time worn and dust covered Goth cliché into a hopefully ground-breaking approach based on good contemporary production in conjunction with intelligent concepts and a brooding emotion long thought of as forgotten and to bring it all together in one harmonious concept which finds its expression in the typical “Merciful Nuns” sound.” — Artaud Seth
The Kybalion is one the sources of which You have drawn inspiration for this journey and as not many are familiar with this text I will first put some background information. This will make clearer what You present us in both musical and lyrical ways as especially in the last album You take us on a very deep inner journey. For that reason it is best to listen to it while sitting in complete darkness as it is also a meditative journey that goes beyond time and all other material aspects. The Kybalion is a study of the Hermetic philosophy of Ancient Egypt and Greece based on the Seven Hermetic Principles:
“The Principles of Truth are Seven; he who knows these, understandingly, possesses the Magic Key”
I. THE PRINCIPLE OF MENTALISM.
“THE ALL is MIND; The Universe is Mental.” — The Kybalion.
II. THE PRINCIPLE OF CORRESPONDENCE.
“As above, so below; as below so above.” — The Kybalion.
III. THE PRINCIPLE OF VIBRATION.
“Nothing rests; everything moves; everything vibrates.” — The Kybalion.
IV. THE PRINCIPLE OF POLARITY.
“Everything is Dual; everything has poles; everything has its pair of opposites; like and unlike are the same; opposites are identical in nature, but different in degree; extremes meet; all truths are but half-truths; all paradoxes may be reconciled.” — The Kybalion.
V. THE PRINCIPLE OF RHYTHM.
“Everything flows, out and in; everything has its tides; all things rise and fall; the pendulum-swing manifests in everything; the measure of the swing to the right is the measure of the swing to the left; rhythm compensates.” — The Kybalion.
VI. THE PRINCIPLE OF CAUSE AND EFFECT.
“Every Cause has its Effect; every Effect has its Cause; everything happens according to Law; Chance is but a name for Law not recognized; there are many planes of causation, but nothing escapes the Law.” — The Kybalion.
VII. THE PRINCIPLE OF GENDER.
“Gender is in everything; everything has its Masculine and Feminine Principles Gender; manifests on all planes.” — The Kybalion.
GOETIA IV starts off with the song ‘Ars Goetia’ in which You summon clavicula Salomonis regis, the veritable Key of Solomon, to find clarity and insight. Actually continuing the journey that we have witnessed on the previous releases that You describe Yourself in the following way:
“I am driven by the search for the origins of faith, the source of all world religions and the eternal question why we dwell on this Earth” — Artaud Seth
This song takes us on a journey beyond time and space in which we experience some new influences in the Nuns sound. Slowly stirring into life and projecting a still, emptiness with great power. Can You tell us a bit more of how this evolved?
Artaud: Well Frater, “Ars Goetia” is evidently inspired by oriental influences. The tabalas used therein are of Jordanian origin and the female vocals recite Egyptian Gods. This song was placed deliberately at the beginning of the album with the intention of creating a kind of transformation into the sphere of the Old Testament. Although you may not be too pleased to hear as a devout exponent of the Thelema, there is no direct correlation between Aleister Crowley’s book “Ars Goetia” and the song’s literary content. Let’s be honest here; everything in relation to Crowley’s “Ars Goetia” is based on pure fantasy. Most of it was formulated in his own mind, or rather – in keeping with his usual custom – he allowed himself to be inspired by ancient traditions to create something of his own. No one really knows what the original Goetia contained as it was reputedly burnt along with the Ark of the Covenant during the destruction of the first Temple of Jerusalem in 587 BC. I am more interested in the “term” Goetia. Translated from Ancient Greek “Goeteia” means the Seeker. I found this to be a rather appropriate title for the album.
Frater: The songs create an atmosphere that is both fresh and progressive. There are plenty of standout songs on display here with ‘The Nazarene’, ‘Temple At The Dome Of the Rock’, ‘Kybalion’, and ‘Saturn Calls’ in particular harking back to the effective gothic rock of Your early career, showing why Merciful Nuns is billed as GOD’s only legitimate successor. Is that also due to the fact to Your work to re-produce with the latest technologies some of Garden of Delight’s classic albums in the ‘r e d i s c o v e r e d’ – series in which ‘Dawn’ has also just been released?
Artaud: Perhaps. However, the r e d i s c o v e r e d series should not be seen in context with the current Nun’s albums. They are self-sustaining and reflect the past. Though it was a deeply felt wish of mine and even an obligation to present the past with a contemporary raiment.
Frater: In the previous album ‘Xibalba III’ we encountered Ancient Astronauts and the Anunnaki in the search of the origins of the Ultimate question where All originated. In the ‘GOETIA IV and V’ – albums You continue that quest and we encounter Zion, Solomon’s Temple, the Cherubim (celestial angelic beings in the spiritual realm that are always associated with the holiness of God) who guard the Ark of the Covenant within ‘Kodesh HaKodashim’ (the holy of holies). Only once per year on Yom Kippur could man enter beyond the veil. The veil separated man from the holy of holies. It was behind this veil and in the 10 cubit squared room called the holy of holies that the most sacred piece of furniture in the whole tabernacle structure was found. This was the Ark of the Covenant which was mentioned first before all the other furniture in the tabernacle. In the new albums we literally travel through these spheres. In how much was this influenced by Your traveling and how has it deepened Your understanding? As known to most of the ‘Nunhood’ (Merciful Nuns fan base consisting of Lodges worldwide) You and Jawa traveled to Israel and Jordan prior to recording. In how far was this journey of influence to the albums and the sound?
Artaud: Indeed, I quite often use our travels as a trigger for forthcoming albums. In this respect our excursion into the Jordanian valley proved invaluable for the development of both Goetia albums. It is important for me to actually visit the original sites, the centres of the respective faiths and hence it proved to be the case on this occasion too. But let me be clear here: I have no intention of promoting any particular regional faith but am rather far more interested in the global parallels. Why are almost all world religions based on the same basic principles and assertions? Why do we find in virtually every corner of this Earth similarities or even the same sacred structures, identical rites and astoundingly similar descriptions of local Gods? And all this despite the fact that the paths of the majority of antediluvian cultures never crossed? The ancient religions, or rather: what was at the beginning features so many of the same events that I am at a loss to comprehend why the people of our world continue to cling to localised faith and traditions. According to EVERY religious tradition we have been visited before. Some called these visitors God or Gods, others called them angels, Annunaki, Nephilim, or Titans. Everywhere we can find detailed descriptions about their appearance, their activities and their respective mode of arrival. The world is full of pictorial evidence, all one needs to do is look – provided of course one wants to see.
Frater: The Nunhood was hoping that with the release of 2 new albums there would finally also be a new video. Is there a reason why that has not happened yet?
Artaud: A video which would do justice to the standard of a musical and graphical realization has not been possible due to financial constraints; at least thus far. Due to the costs involved we would have to rely on simple metaphors and synonyms instead of suitable film sets. And under such prevailing circumstances I am simply not sure whether I would want to go ahead with it.
Frater: Merciful Nuns is billed as GOD’s only legitimate successor. With the GOD ‘r e d i s c o v e r e d’ – series that are being appreciated very much the fans are wondering if we will witness someday another GOD live performance. Is this a possibility
Artaud: No. Although we have been offered quite a lot of money for it. Let me clarify: I am very proud of what we have accomplished with GOD. But we have only become truly unique and, to my mind unsurpassed in constructing gloomy atmospheres now with the Merciful Nuns.
Frater: You have been very productive the last few years and one of the most notable points with any Merciful Nuns release though is the steady improvement in the production and mixes. Despite their fast schedule the album has been given plenty of time in order to get the right balance of sounds. Is this due to the fact that You work within a bigger concept and are not just focusing on separate albums?
Artaud: Actually that is quite aptly put. Yet there was not just a concept to begin with but the entire selection of instruments utilised during recording. And this is not just restricted to musical instruments but encompassing the actual recording and mixing tools. All sounds are of my own creation without factory pre-sets. I have, for example, taken over one year to prepare for the recording of “Liber I” in order to perfect the high standard ultimately achieved. What remained was a pure focus on the essential: songwriting.
Frater: In relation to ‘The Theory of Everyting’ that is presented as opening to the ‘GOETIA IV’ lyrics, what is Your experience relating to the following quote?
“While All is in THE ALL, it is equally true that THE ALL is in All. To him who truly understands this truth hath come great knowledge.” –
Artaud: The Kybalion explains the general correlation between all spiritual, material and immaterial occurrences. Kind of a “Theory of Everything” also known as God’s Grand Plan. This theory is generally referred to as “world formula”. The “Kybalion” itself is revealed to us when we become aware of the hidden messages of Solomon and Babylon. Freemasons still retain knowledge of the hidden meaning behind “SOL-OM-ON”. Once upon a time the Light was worshipped and revered in all cultures. The Romans called it “Sol”, in Sanskrit it means “Om” and to the ancient Egyptians the highest Light was known as “On”. Incidentally the syllable “On” is indicative for the City of Light: On. In combined form the syllables represent a synonym for the threefold light: the name “Solomon”. If we now compare these syllables with those comprising the word “Kybalion” we will find revealed the keys of Light:
Sol Om On = the threefold light
Ba by lon = Gate of the light divine
Ky ba lion = key for the gate of the light divine
Gates can be opened with keys. In order to open the gate of the light divine we require special keys. Once we realise that with the Kybalion we are holding the primary key to the truth in our hands, we will also recognise that the translation of the syllable “Ky” must necessarily be: “key”. And hence we hold in the Kybalion nothing less than the “keys to the gate of divine light” in our possession; or simply put:
The Keys of Solomon.
Frater: There is a clear distinction between ‘GOETIA IV’ and ‘GOETIA V’. The last one is without a doubt the most atmospheric album the Nuns have created to date. The song ‘God/Aeon’ from the first ‘LIBER I’ album and the ‘Hypogeum II’- and ‘Infinite Visions’- albums introduced us to this aspect of the Nuns sound. Can we expect more of this on the upcoming albums? And how do You create these deep atmospheres?
Artaud: The sinister sounds are an integral aspect of the Merciful Nun’s musical cosmos. This may be due to the fact that during an album’s creation an imaginary movie is playing in my mind. This may sound strange, but I am effectively just intonating the imaginary movie. These visualisations require, just like in any atmospheric movie, a good sound track. And good sound tracks tend to feature concentrations of spherical harmonies to leave sufficient room for the imagery. This is surely also the reason behind the cinematic feel to our songs and albums. And who knows, maybe this is exactly what makes us so unique: we leave room for the very unique and personal movie of every listener. It was my movie as it played itself out during the making of the album. When listening to it it’s yours.
Frater: ‘GOETIA IV’ ends with the beautiful and atmospheric ‘Love is Will Purified’ which ends with the words: ‘summon Kodesh HaKodashim’. This sets the theme for ‘GOETIA V’ in which we enter the holy of holies: incense, worship, praise, the Ark of the Covenant,… The song ‘Dark Water’ drags us into this dreamlike journey out of space and out of time which justifies the advice we find on the back of the CD case: ‘For maximum effect play this album at night’. Entering this atmosphere feels like crossing the abyss… How did You create such a clear distinction between the two albums? Did You initially started of with one album or was it already clear from the start that this would take 2 albums?
Artaud: It was clear from the outset that whilst both albums would share a common context, the sound would always serve different moods and ambience. On reflection I must admit a curious surprise in that the songs were indeed written in the same sequential order as they appear on the albums; even for me a rather unusual phenomenon. Whilst Goetia IV is represented in a rather factual and educational, its sister album Goetia V aims to transmit a clear and elitist message for the Initiated. Those capable of interpreting the album accordingly will find the Goetia’s entire glory revealed unto them.
Frater: The last album is introspective, dark and gloomy stepping deeper and deeper in the search towards answers. Looking back to ‘Xibalba III’ in which way has your experience since evolved as a searcher towards truth?
Artaud: What does that actually mean: searching for the truth? I have neither sought nor found any truths. But I am certainly not in agreement with the theories on offer from the churches of this world. I do not subscribe to any faith in the religious sense. And if I ever had one then surely I would have lost it by now. But there certainly is something out there. Somewhere, someplace in the vast expanses of the universe is the true mystery. And THEY have been here before.
Frater: The songs ‘Moving Through Still Times’ and ‘The Maelstrom’ take us beyond the material world in search for what is/seems lost on earth. Really befitting to how You describe Goth as it should be: ‘sensitive, intelligent, dark and meditative, based on obscure books, manuscripts rituals and ancient beliefs’. You further stated: ‘I do believe to being close to the truth about the meaning behind our existence and its origins. What exactly is religion? And where does the desire for spirituality originate? And why do we seek to be close to God or the Gods? The more I delve into the multitude of different faiths, the clearer its core or source becomes. Everything has one common denominator: We have been visited and called this visitor: God.’ The last part of ‘Goetia V’ implies that we need to transgress ourselves to be able to be free enough to experience what is/seems lost on earth. This is an important aspect of my own spiritual and occult practices. On the Merciful Nuns website there is a Library where one can find further information on these kind of topics. Any advise to Nunhooders that wish to delve deeper into this?
Artaud: No, certainly not! I‘m not the kind of type who is constantly compelled to enunciate a message; that sounds far too high-and-mighty in my opinion. Especially in view of the fact that I am after all a Marxist to the core. No, I have no intention to proclaim anything; but I am quite prepared to share my insights; of which I have amassed a significant amount by now. Everybody may, if they so wish, extract from the Nun’s cosmos as it pleases them. We offer plenty, but it is not necessary to absorb everything.
Frater: The song ‘Astral Light’ drags us slowly back to the ground and ‘Resting Deep Under Water’ finishes the journey and album in a trancelike fashion….’as above so below’… The band craft atmosphere around a solid rock core with ease and show that even the more progressive inclinations they have are well within their comfort zone. Any clues You wish to reveal in which direction the next journey will take us?
Artaud: It’s rather difficult for me to share a starting point so early in the process of writing a new album. Maybe a somewhat cryptic clue may be of help here: I am trying to survive in the EXOSPHERE and becoming through it and together with you: immortal.
Frater: We started off with a few Merciful Nuns Lodges in the beginning and by now there are Lodges in many countries. These are local fan bases that facilitate information, concerts and such in different languages and spread the message of the Nunhood. What are Your plans for the Lodges in the upcoming years?
Artaud: Indeed it has been playing on my mind for quite some time to alter the structure of the Lodges. I know WHAT I want to reform, but I am not yet sure HOW to go about it. The practical implementation of the restructuring still requires some tweaking and fine-tuning and will some time before we see the results. In principal I would like to strengthen some Lodges by working closer with them. Furthermore I want to see more emphasis and value placed on content and elitist principles. And lastly I want to improve mutual cooperation amongst the Lodges; there is still room for improvement in some instances.
Frater: Last year we had a wonderful Nunhood Gathering in Berlin and of course everybody is curious in which country the next Gathering will take place. Is it too early to shed some light on this or can You tell us something more?
Artaud: Initially the Gathering 2013 was supposed to take place in Western Germany, The venue was booked, dates agreed and the preparations were almost complete. Since then our booking agency has organised three gigs in the region which we felt was too much and hence we decided to switch the Gathering into 2014.
Frater: According to Hermetic quabalists the way to enlightenment is represented in the Ouroboros symbol, a serpent or dragon swallowing its own tail, thereby forming a circle. The emptiness of the circle is a great zero. This zero can be found in the tarot cards The Fool and The Universe… the Alpha and the Omega of beginning. The negative issuing into manifestation; and manifested being, its purpose fulfilled, returning back into the negative. I can not think of a better way to describe the journey that You have taken us on in these albums. Any last words You wish to share with us?
Artaud: Could there be any better closing words than yours? I concur entirely. My sincerest thanks Frater, for this extraordinary interview.
Interview by Frater Fidens, head of the Benelux Merciful Nuns Lodge