The dark and corrosive world of black metal is full of bands that pose as Satanists, pagans, nihilists, and other practitioners of extreme theologies. While many of those bands may know the key words, catch phrases and iconography, not as many of them are practicing what they preach. Gevurah, from Montreal, are different. Even a cursory examination of their album art makes it clear that they have delved deeper into religious philosophy than most other bands. Moreover, Gevurah have developed their own unique theology unconfined by the walls of any singular religious system. Instead, they cherry pick concepts from the major monotheistic schools of thought to create something unique and enthralling.
The group draws heavily on Hasidic Judaism—particularly, the Kabbalah. The Kabbalah holds that a soul is made up of 10 Sephirot, which are essentially organic spirits that come together to make the whole of a person. Gevurah have taken that concept and intertwined it with Satanic and Christian theology (using classic hymns as well as iconography) to create a kind of religious helix. Their music develops an atmosphere in which this religious theology is able to shine. Combined with their dizzying musical abilities and their eye for evocative artwork, Gevurah have created something wholly unique—even for black metal.
We sat down with the band and talked about Hasidic thought, the Kabbalah, Christian hymns and the general idea of salvation.
When did you first hear the term “Gevurah?” Kabbalistically speaking, Gevurah can be seen as the “Left Hand Path.” How do you see the function of Gevurah working in the system of the Kabbalah?
We encountered the concept at an early stage of our spiritual journey, while exploring different traditions. Kabbalah proved to be quite interesting for its long history, large concepts and detailed significations and correspondences. ‘Gevurah’ has obviously quite a strong meaning. Both the direct translation (Power, Might, Severity, etc.) and its placement within the Tree of Life spoke to us. It is, indeed, the left hand of God, and often is associated with the principle of Separation—which many understand as the birth of Evil within the cosmic process of Creation. It seemed a perfect name for a project with a deep spiritual force and a profoundly dark, evil atmosphere.
What’s your religious background?
We both come from totally different backgrounds. One of us is from a Catholic family, and one of us is from an atheist family. Although we both shared an interest in the unknown early on, it really was in our teenage years that we began to wonder what was lying beyond our consciousness.
How has your fascination with the inner working of monotheism changed as the band went on?
Our interest grew into something far more all-encompassing, and now it’s the center of our existence. As for monotheism, there isn’t any truth in the unity of the divine over its multitude. It is unquantifiable.
This might be a silly question, but can you guys actually read Hebrew?
Not really. Although from learning to understand it, we have a little bit of an idea of how it works—although we couldn’t read a paragraph in Hebrew, let alone write one! However, we are bent on taking all the necessary steps to create a truly whole art form, and therefore when we came up with the sigil, which is featured as the Necheshirion cover, we asked someone who could to ensure its proper writing. We use Hebrew, as any other language, to conserve the original meaning of the text, and to separate the causal and the holy. The essence of the Word is not in the letters it is written with, but in the breath.
You have a song on the record titled “Lifting The Veils Of Da’at.” Da’at might be seen as the “Right Hand Path.” Where is the interplay between Gevurah and Da’at?
We don’t really view the different Sephirot as being more Left or Right Hand Path. To us, Da’at was always a gateway to a higher consciousness. Knowledge, unhinged by the materialistic Malkuth and the ego of Tipheret, is available only to those who have treaded through uncharted grounds and became one with their spiritual Selves. Some traditions also mention that it is a gate to the Sitra Ahra and the Tree of Knowledge, the Qliphoth. To lift the veils of Da’at is to cross the abyss, into a realm of unbound Light and divine presence. No matter if you reach higher on the Tree of Life, into Chokhmah, Binah and Kether, or enter the realms of the Qliphoth, you must lose all sense of ego and individualism. You become that spiritual presence. So in this sense, Gevurah and Da’at are connected on more than one level. First of all, to become truly aware of this light, one must separate their ego from the true Self, through Gevurah. Likewise, if Da’at is to be a gate between both the Tree of Life and the Tree of Knowledge, then it most certainly is through Gevurah that this gate becomes open again.
The current Tree of Life is a broken one, hindered through the act of creation and the Fall. However, it is not our belief that we must return to the state before The Fall, but rather to embrace The Fall and let the Tree of Knowledge become the more active, prominent force within us. A perfect, heavenly existence, though shackled by the chains of an all-powerful deity, as it was before The Fall, is not something which seems very attractive when one can become master of their own Self and forge their own path. We could even go deeper and make the statement that the original Tree of Life was broken in itself as well. The original state is not one of perfection and stability, like it was at the time of Eden, but rather an active, chaotic abyss.
The creating deity, the Demiurge, would instead be viewed as imperfect: an egotistical, selfish and irrational being which believes he is master of all, when in fact there is a much more powerful force which existed before him. He is simply unable to be aware of it. Indeed, in order for this Demiurge to exist, surely there had to have something before him? A chaotic force, within which all things exist and flow freely, yet without truly being manifested. A state of pure potential, all and none at once. From this primordial darkness, time manifested itself and the succinct process of creation was enabled. We could very well link this process to the modern explanation for the creation of the Cosmos.
In order to truly gain consciousness, we must not limit ourselves to one path. Da’at represents all knowledge, both of the Sephirotic Tree of Life and the Qliphotic Tree of Knowledge. By uniting these forces within, one may then proceed to cross the abyss and enter a world of absolute spiritual freedom.
Is Kabbalah something you’ve studied (have you read Likuetei Amarim aka Tanya)? It’s somewhat similar to transcendental philosophy, with the idea the God is all around us, and there are spiritual sparks everywhere that connect animate and inanimate objects. Do you see any merit to that belief?
Unfortunately, we’ve not read this work. However, we read and explore different traditions and moreover, we believe that spiritual work is more important than reading. You can read all you want on spirituality, but if you do not go and experience it yourself, if you do not tread the dark paths of the unconscious, experience the deepest abyss within yourself and meditate to reach the highest state of mind, all the knowledge you might have read from a thousand books is worthless. “Wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead?”
Indeed, God is all around and within us, though we do not see it with our own eyes. If we close them and open the third, we can definitely sense it. A spiritual purity, unhinged by the prison of matter, within which all things exist and yet are none. Through meditation and spiritual work, we may attune to It and unite with our truest Self, which is part of this primordial darkness, unifying our spirit with the divine. We just have to reach for the tree, and eat the fruit.
Let’s move on from Hasidic Judaism and talk about Christianity. You guys use “Dies Irae—Lacrimosa” as a song title and, clearly, as inspiration for your ‘updated’ version of that hymn. How does the message in the original differ from your message?
That song was somewhat constructed as a Christian hymn. Quite simply, it represents the Judgement, both of the world and of the soul, just as the album concerns both the macrocosm and microcosm, and the mourning which follows. That is why the title is separated as well—it represents both movements of the whole piece. The earthly ties are forever cut off and the soul is liberated from all materialistic bonds. We mourn the loss of all things, rotted away by the painful fermentation of the spirit, only to move on to the last stage, the liberation, represented by the last song: “Hallelujah!”
One song I couldn’t figure out was “Un Feu Indomptable.” Can you guys tell me a bit about what that song is about, and where the title comes from?
This title is actually in French and means “An Indomitable Fire.” It deals with the Separation of the Self from the Ego. After having the Ego dissolved and the reality which it held dear destroyed (the death of the Demiurge YHVH within us), the fires of Lucifer raise from these ashes in a magnificent pyre, which symbolizes the unified body (Might), mind (Sight) and spirit (Light).
Would you guys define yourself as Satanists? Do you think of Nihilism as a religion or a philosophical outlook?
We are not Satanists, but rather Luciferians. Although Satan is part of the forces required to break the bonds of matter, Lucifer is the one which grants illumination. Nihilism, by definition, cannot be a religion.
How do you view the interplay between Satanism and Christianity/Judaism/Islam?
The problem with most modern interpretations of Satanism is it has completely lost any spiritual connotation. These days, anybody can proclaim themselves as Satanist. From the atheistic approach of the Church of Satan, all the way to even some heathen approaches, the essence of Satan has been completely corrupted. Their general idea of being in simple opposition to these religions and embracing a life of “sin” is but a youthful rebellion.
Living only in opposition is missing the point—at least on a spiritual perspective. It is important to oppose whatever dogmas are chaining your life, but once that opposition has been made and understood, one must rise above such matters and begin to create something of its own. To be honest, we find very little interest in any purely Satanic ideology. Satan is the sword which destroys the illusions before us, and Lucifer is the Light which shines once those illusions have been shattered. We would rather worship the Light and increase consciousness rather than the sword and live a life full of strife and opposition. Although it is a necessary step, one must go beyond the gates of known existence to grow spiritually, even if that means entering the deepest abyss of the soul. The weak shall always tread the path of the sheep.
Do you believe in heaven and hell? Salvation (particularly through death) pops up on the album a few times. What is the path to salvation, and can human beings be saved? What is salvation?
Heaven and hell are two concepts brought in by the dualistic monotheist religions. Perhaps there is a subconscious heaven and hell, the abyss and a paradise, although they are intertwined and there are grey areas. One must reach the deepest pit to attain the highest peak. Salvation is a deeply personal work of liberation from those questions. To die a spiritual death in order to be risen again from the ashes of the former life, where the humanity disappears, the earth turns to dust, the stars burn out. Salvation is the liberation from the binding of the clay, becoming a pure entity of spiritual force.
Is there any difference between the massage on Necheshirion and Hallelujah!? The words alone connote very, very different images. Necheshirion brings to mind evil serpents in the Bible, and Hallelujah! brings to mind more of an uplifting, “saved” sort of religious feeling.
Indeed they are different. However, they are steps towards the same end. If Necheshirion was perhaps darker, more primal in essence, it is because that was where we were at in our spiritual path. The destruction of the ego, the tearing of bounds of flesh, releasing the spirit from its chains. In Hallelujah!, we continue that path, but towards a higher scheme, deepening the fall and truly embracing the Light. This path goes on and we shall continue to tread it with devotion.
There’s a lot of Latin, in both the lyrics as well as the artwork in the CD booklet that accompanies “Dies Irae,” but I didn’t see any of that in the original text of the hymn itself. What’s does it all mean, and what are you hoping the listener takes away from it?
Those lines are from Zephaniah 1:15–16 and are actually the main inspiration for the “Dies Irae” hymn. They are words of judgement by the hand of God, of complete destruction, almost like the Revelation. It makes a lot of sense in the context of that song, a lot more than the words used by the Christian hymn.
Are you expecting all your listeners to head off and research the depth of the lyrics on this album?
Our only hope is that it will speak to those with the heart to witness and the eyes to see. We’ve created this album mostly out of necessity to express something hidden deeply within us, which had to be let loose, to be exhaled from within; the work was being done as much on us as it was on the art itself. That is the only thing that matters.