A recounting of the facts as we know them: In 2004, a black metal band called Imperial Crystalline Entombment – I.C.E., for short – released an album called Apocalyptic End in White. It was the group’s first proper release following a self-titled demo the year prior. No musicians were credited by name, but the aliases Bleak, Blissered, Mammoth, and Icesickkill appeared in the CD booklet. Rumors swirled that the project was the brainchild of Aurora Borealis mastermind Ron Vento and Divine Rapture vocalist Mike Hrubovcak. I.C.E. never publicly confirmed their membership. In fact, they ran in the opposite direction, concocting elaborate lore involving an ancient anti-god called Råvaskeith, whose spirit inhabited the forms of the musicians to help bring about an icy apocalypse. Shortly after the release of Apocalyptic End in White, I.C.E. went dormant, putting the project on ice before its mystery could be unraveled.
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With a backstory like that, Apocalyptic End in White was practically destined for cult-classic status. The music on the album – a muscular mix of second-wave black metal coldness and melodic death metal stomp – certainly helped, but it was the band’s almost aggressively tongue-in-cheek presentation that proved too strange to ignore. Plenty of black metal bands through the genre’s history had embraced wintry imagery, but I.C.E. certainly seemed to be coming straight for the grim and frostbitten sons of northern darkness, Immortal. The Norwegian black metal icons set their albums in the fictional kingdom of Blashyrkh, a frozen realm ruled by the god-king Mighty Ravendark. With their Råvaskeith lore, I.C.E. seemed to be trying to out-Immortal Immortal, poking fun at the genre’s overarching obsession with winter at the same time. Still, the music was too serious – too good – to be interpreted purely as an extended joke. Apocalyptic End in White remains a quintessential oddity of early 2000s metal, a relic of the moment when message boards raged with activity but social media was still a distant twinkle. Like the dead-serious pranksters in I.C.E. themselves, the album feels like it belongs to a different era.
Imperial Crystalline Entombment didn’t seem like obvious candidates for a comeback, but earlier this year, the ice tomb came unsealed. “We are still fucking I.C.E.,” howled an uncredited vocalist in the opening moments of “Into a Frigid Bleak Infinity,” the band’s first single in nearly two decades. The line was a callback to the first album’s “Astral Frost Invocation,” but it also served as an assurance that their blitzing, blizzard-like approach to black metal hasn’t changed. Ancient Glacial Resurgence whips with the same subzero intensity as Apocalyptic End in White, and while it’s now widely accepted that Vento and Hrubovcak are in the band, I.C.E. still aren’t saying a word. Instead, they’ve doubled down on anonymity and fleshed out even more of Råvaskeith’s lore. All the quotes below are credited to “The Voice of Råvaskeith,” and that voice is resolutely hostile to the continued existence of humankind. Our questions were answered over email—vessels for ancient anti-gods don’t use Zoom.
This interview has been lightly edited for length and clarity. Pour yourself something frosty and read it in the spirit it was intended.
It’s been 19 years since the first ICE record. During that interim, did you think the band was done for good, or did you harbor hopes of bringing it back someday?
I.C.E. is never done and has not stopped. After years of spreading the message of hopeless frozen extinction upon the earth in 2003, we felt the instinctual call of the “Great Orbital Råvaskeith” to return our bodies to a hibernative state in our hidden arctic cavern, while our astral energies were displaced onto other distant planets and within four alternate entities. The last 19 years were spent spreading the cold white death further amongst the stars and dimensions in our alternate forms unknown to your earthly realm.
What ultimately made you decide to do a second album? And roughly when was that?
The repetitive howling shrieks of the “Astral Frost Invocation” from the loyal mortal servants below opened the archaic portal and reanimated I.C.E once more to reign over Earth, so that we may begin the second wave of convulsing frigid annihilation. We decided nothing. We are merely weapons for Råvaskeith. The mortal servants’ repetitive cries summoned us. We have been revived from the rage of their passion and have arisen from our tomb once more. Our spirits possessed our hibernative bodies around the winter of this past year and we rejoined on the astral plane to manifest this crystalline hate over the earth for a second time.
I.C.E. has such a specific vibe, from the cold guitar tones to the riff style, the arrangements, and the lyrics. What was it like to step back into that mindset after so many years away? Did you find it easy, or difficult?
There is no mindset. Only the instinctual cold rage from the ancient banshee legions that dwell within us. We are here to open the doors of frozen truth to the ears of the contemptible human race. Let them know of their upcoming demise. There is more pain and fear that way, unlike the wild animals who are oblivious to the approaching apocalypse. All these subzero and “cold” sonic manifestations come forth naturally as a combined unity of power and conviction. We do not handle things as normal human mortals can comprehend. It is hard to explain. This “cold” power and feeling just IS….as we just ARE.
Speaking of that specific vibe: As the man who writes them, what makes a great ICE song, in your opinion? How would you describe the special formula that defines ICE?
We are no longer men. We do not write. We manifest as a conduit through the great ancient anti-god of old. The vast and bleak cryonic powers of old, which live in a permanent state of writhing hate, longing for the blood of the rebellious energy of life, will spill forth and destroy that which should not exist: life itself and every creature birthed from it. Each sonic manifestation is equally as GREAT, as seen through the cold frozen emptiness that emanates from within. The formula is the formation of the imperial apocalypse, and the foreboding of the END, when the almighty Råvaskeith will tumble forth through the epic spinning orifice of astral space time. Before the vast space of black matter, there was an endless bleak abyss of blinding white. We are the ones who shall restore the universe to that proper alignment within that bleak and painful blinding white light.
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Apocalyptic End in White was one of the great one-album wonder cult classics. I think a lot of people were very surprised to see I.C.E. come back. How important was it to deliver something that could stand up next to that beloved first album?
Capturing the surprise of the mortals is a triumph, but our history means nothing, as such is true with human existence and that of every life form on this planet. This life evolution was an accident, a mistake. We are here to correct that mistake, for in the eyes of each blackhole and each dying sun, history is future, and future is history. The icy bleak kingdom of the blinding frozen Råvaskeith came before all and shall return to all, from history to present, and back to history again, as an ever-repeating force, always cold and always present. The fleeting sparks of warmth that created your existence and your sun are like accidentally birthed cattle, misguided and blindly wandering within an army of a million uniform brethren. It’s soon time for these cattle to die, and the world will go with them.
Give us a brief summary of the Råvaskeith lore: who or what is Råvaskeith, and where does Ancient Glacial Resurgence take their story?
The alphabetical accumulation of letters into speakable form is not the true name or calling of the great Råvaskeith. It is indescribable to human ears. All your human scientists have comprehended that the concept of time is nonexistent, and “just is” and has been, far before humans designated the linear concept of “time” to it. They also have stumbled upon the hundreds of traveling black holes that sift through this sun’s star cluster alone, and yet they are still far from realizing the origin of these shifting masses and there power, as well as the empty black matter that fills the vast, cold abyss of space. Råvaskeith came before the creation of time and before the creation of black matter and all the parallel dimensions that lie within. Råvaskeith longs to bring the mistake of creation back to its origins and invert this creation back into the bleak blinding white emptiness that existed before all. Råvaskeith summoned our dead souls because he chose us, chose us to be the ones to lead the incantations into evoking the portal and cosmic alignment. We are merely mediators between the ancient and this corporeal universe. The ancient anti-god needs a mediator force created from the inside in order to spread outward and freeze all creation back to the cold empty white light that came before. We were chosen, conjured, and brought to the north to be the first creatures of this universe to conjure and summon the waves of ice through the ever-expanding universe. We have no control nor invention over this power, Råvaskeith will make the truth known soon enough, and then all will know of Råvaskeith without explanation.
There are some obvious parallels between the winter-based lore of I.C.E. and Immortal’s Blashyrkh mythos. Were they an inspiration on I.C.E.? Consciously, or unconsciously?
We retain no memory of our past lives and hence cannot understand this question? Perhaps these things you speak of were relevant to our lives as mortals, but this we cannot recall. We keep hearing this reoccurring name of “immortal” whenever we speak to an inquiring human such as yourself. We do not know of this “Immortal”? Surely there can be no immortal on this planet. This is a corporeal planet, and thus all living energy will eventually be frozen dead once the Banshee Legions make their way from the abyss across the frozen emptiness of space, all will perish. There are no immortals but those who still dwell within the strain of the frozen black holes and expanding nebulae. If there are some forces within your world who produce similar soundscapes and sonic summoning, then they are among those who instinctively feel the pull of the great orbital Råvaskeith, as we did as mortals before the CALLING. Let them embrace the Ancient Glacial Resurgence, and welcome their deaths with open arms. When the cold winds come and the screaming begins, take your knife with you into the snow and bury yourself deep, then and only then will you who understand, perish in emptiness without the vicious pain of the astral cosmic regime.
There’s been some disagreement over whether the aliases Bleak, Blissered, Mammoth and IceSickKill correspond to specific people in the band or not. Do you care to comment?
I.C.E. is but one force. There are no “people” or “band.” All we know is that before the transformation during that great blizzard of the 33rd orbital eclipse, we were mortal souls, musicians, outcasts, and astral spacetime thinkers. Those general genetics are still engraved in our corporeal field, but each of us retain nothing of who or what each of us where or from whence we came. The only thing each of us remembers from our pathetic mammalian lives is the extreme pain of the CALLING. We were each individually beckoned to give up our futile and pathetic human lives and to travel north and strip our mortal flesh naked into the freezing wastelands of arctic snow. We were each drawn north for possession, to become entombed in the crystalline hypothermia, and cast upon the great “Blizzzard shrine” to become one with Råvaskeith and become the chosen astral gateway keepers (chosen to invoke the return to glacial doom). Only after our communion and ritual initiation were we able to discuss this great rapture that had been given to us, and affirm our new conviction together as MAMMOTH, BLEAK, ICESICKKILL AND BLISSERED. Together we are intertwined as one unstoppable force, the freezing breath of Råvaskeith, all acting as one for the obliteration of all mankind.