Interview with Sons Of Balaur vocalist Tomas| By Brandon Ringo
In this day and age, stories about black metal bands scorching their way across Norway and leaving a trail of burnt churches, corpse paint, and blood spatter in their wake have gone the way of Woodstock’s brown acid, CBGB’s hardcore matinees, and Poison’s hairspray. Though these tales of lore may have been relegated to the land of genre tropes, what if we told you that not only is the cult still alive, it is far more violent, sexy, and evil than you ever imagined?
Despite the world’s constantly grappling with social injustices, genocide, war, and psychotic world leaders—both current and pending—at a steadily increasing and terrifying rate, we haven’t seen anything yet. You see, in a small town in Norway, not far from Oslo, underground black metal enigmas, Sons Of Balaur, have recently broken their 15-year silence to release Tenebris Deos, their debut album. The first official release in the band’s two-decades-long history was released via Season Of Mist on Oct. 14.
Until the release of a graphic novel called “Realm of the Damned,” the only people to ever own any of Sons Of Balaur’s records or witness their live rituals were followers of the Cult Of Balaur, an intensely secretive group that exists in the deepest forests and back alleys of the Norwegian landscape. They stay purposely hidden due to their penchant for church-burning, massive orgies, and blood rituals in the name of Balaur, the mysterious and horrifying vampire they worship.
While the release of the band’s debut album 20 years after their formation may seem a bit belated, according to vocalist Tomas [last name redacted for legal reasons], the album’s creation actually represents the triumphant culmination of one epic quest—and the genesis of one far more nefarious in nature. “It all stemmed from my time of self-inflicted exile in Eastern Europe, searching for the final piece of the puzzle to bring about the rebirth of our unholy Lord Balaur,” Tomas explains. “Once acquired, I contacted the rest of the band with instructions, and we met at a secret location in Norway to finally see if the legend was true. It was, he is risen, and in this new endarkened age, we now unleash his gospel of blood and orgiastic violence upon an unsuspecting world.”
Though black metal is a well-respected genre with a legendary status, when spreading the gospel of a destructive entity such as Balaur, there are a few potential roadblocks on the path to success. First is the genre’s predominantly underground status. Another potential issue is the objectivity of music and cooperation from prospective audiences. This, of course, is of little consequence to Tomas and company. “It matters not about acceptance, as that implies a choice,” he coldly proclaims. “There is no free will here, no taste or fad. Balaur has risen and darkness is upon you all, so were there a question of choice, it would be a simple one: join or die.”
Though genre obscurity is a blockade that can usually be overcome when spreading the bloody gospel of a demonic deity, the band have not made things easier for themselves with their self-imposed secrecy. There have been many documentaries and novels made about the controversial church burnings and murders that brought fame to bands like Burzum, Mayhem, and Emperor, but Sons Of Balaur’s link to the scene has been stricken from history.
Even though most have since cut ties with these horrible acts—and some, with the scene in general—for legal reasons, legality is not something that concerns Tomas. “It’s no surprise, as even back then, we largely hated everyone,” he admits. “Fakers with big talk about burning religion and anti-human behavior, only to run and hide the moment the police turned up. If you’re a disciple of Balaur, there is nothing to fear from worldly rules and ‘authority.’ Balaur is the one ‘trve’ Lord, and we are his skalds. Everything else is inconsequential.”
Despite their confidence, Sons Of Balaur’s situation is incredibly difficult to balance. On one hand, they have sworn their lives to spreading their master’s word through their music and depravity. On the other hand, reaching any sort of notable status while doing so has its downside. “In the context of Sons Of Balaur, ‘celebrity’ means nothing and is potentially a dangerous thing for me,” Tomas admits. “That I would risk offending my lord Balaur by accepting fame or notoriety for myself could not only cost me my life, but more importantly, my place by his side, which is unthinkable.”
While their methods aren’t exactly what you’d call normal, the band have devoted their entire lives to serving their sanguinary deity, and that is all that matters. “From the moment I discovered the ancient scriptures, I knew my mortal life now had purpose,” Tomas enthuses. “From then on, Sons Of Balaur became a reality in my mind, a musical conduit for our great Lord’s will. So, to clarify, I didn’t exist in my current form before that time, ergo, that time doesn’t exist for me and is not worth talking about.”
As Tenebris Deos is released and the world is exposed to its bloody gospel, one question remains: how many American venues will Sons Of Balaur be banned from due to their gore-filled bacchanalias? “As I stated before, there is no choice, there are no plans, only Balaur’s will,” Tomas gruffly reiterates. “His gospel of blood is the word, and we exist to perform his bidding, so with that in mind, I can only conclude the live shows becoming more extreme. How else would you properly instruct a pure and complacent people on these new endarkened times? I am sure some will try to ban us, some will even try to hurt us, but we are prepared for all.”
“The soldiers of Balaur are coming. Our army grows with every day that passes. You can’t stop the inevitable.”
Realm of the Damned: The Comic that Transforms Print
Interview with Werewolf Press’ Steve Beatty and Maniacal Publishing’s Greg Ross | By Brandon Ringo
In addition to the release of the Sons Of Balaur album, Tenebris Deos, 2016 also sees both the print and animated publication of “Realm of the Damned: Tenebris Deos,” a graphic novel chronicling the band and their demonic idol. The graphic novel was originally released in the U.K. earlier this year in serial form via 2000 AD’s Judge Dredd Megazine. It was also collected as a trade paperback through Werewolf Press, a publishing company run by Candlelight Records/Plastic Head Distribution head and October File bassist, Steve Beatty.
For Beatty, the initial decision to release this graphic novel—written by Alec Worley and drawn by Pye Parr—might have been controversial, but it certainly wasn’t difficult. “I was contacted by a member of the Cult Of Balaur who basically said if I didn’t help with Sons Of Balaur, then I was vampire food, so I really had no choice. I had no wish to be sucked dry of my blood.”
In addition to aiding in the creation of both the printed, and currently-in-the-works animated versions of the band’s adventures, Beatty also served as a conduit for the graphic novel’s release in the U.S. through Maniacal Publishing, a company created by Go-Kart Records founder Greg Ross specifically to release this book. “When [Steve] asked me to distribute it in North America, I came up with a company name that seemed to fit the tone of the graphic novel, and Maniacal Publishing was born the next day!” Ross says.
While running both a record label and a comic book publishing company can be tricky, for Ross, it does have a very specific upside. “I have never had a graphic novel tell me that it can’t go on tour because the bassist’s girlfriend will dump him if they do,” he says. “And I have never had a graphic novel tell me I need to send it bail money because it got drunk and punched a cop.”
Morbid Tales: Five More Extreme Music-Centric Graphic Novels
5. “Band for Life” / Fantagraphics
A noise rock band in an alternate reality version of Chicago endure disastrous scenarios alongside their community of friends and acquaintances.
4. “This Damned Band” / Dark Horse Comics
A documentary-style look at the 1974 tour of a rock band who pretend to be devil worshippers, only to find out they are actually worshipping the devil and their souls are at stake.
3. “Detroit Metal City” / VIZ Media
A manga about a meek boy who dreams about playing bubblegum pop—until he transforms into his alter ego, the psychotic frontman of the craziest demonic death metal band ever.
2. “Black Metal” / Oni Press
Twin brothers randomly pick up “the most extreme” album ever, only to have it reveal their true destiny, which involves surviving a trip through hell, a trip through heaven, and even their own deaths.
1. “Slayer: Repentless” / Dark Horse Comics
Inspired by the music video for Slayer’s “Repentless,” the comic includes full cooperation from the band. It is sure to be incredibly violent and totally befitting of Slayer’s perfectly violent sound.
Check out the first 9 pages of Realm of the Damned in digital issue #26 below!