by Daniel Vandenberg
April 14, 2014
CVLT Nation Streaming: T.O.M.B.
Pennhurst / Xesse + Interview
T.O.M.B. (Total Occultic Mechanical Blasphemy) is one of the most creative and distinctive entities currently operating in the realms of black metal and noise, with a singular approach and a slew of releases including Black Crypt Worship, Sacrilegium, Macabre Noise Royale, Uncovered Ancient Gateways, and the forthcoming Pennhurst/Xesse and Fury Nocturnous, the latter of which features contributions from the legendary Hellhammer and Manheim of Mayhem. In addition to that collaboration, T.O.M.B. has opened for Sunn 0))) and even counts Thurston Moore of Sonic Youth/Twilight as a fan.
1. How and when did T.O.M.B. come about?
T.O.M.B. was created in 1996. After being involved in a previous project, I wanted to start something different for myself and create a style of black metal that was extremely harsh and organic, in method and in composition. During this time as an artist, I was seriously absorbed in the ideology and execution of Norwegian black metal. But instead of focusing these efforts on black metal as a certain sound or style, I focused on it more from not something “metal” but something “black”.
2. One of the things that really strikes me about T.O.M.B. is the ritualistic aspect behind the recordings; it’s not just about the sounds being heard but the process by which those sounds were created/recorded, the locations they were recorded in, the materials and methods used. How important is ritual to T.O.M.B.?
I had learned that the environment and surroundings of any person is critical to one’s development. I have always been drawn to subjects or environments dealing with death, destruction and the occult. I decided when I started this project that I would literally record in and use cemeteries to create the foundation of T.O.M.B. music. I used doors from mausoleums or crypts as percussion and composed further from there. There was never a preplanned rhythm or set beat. I would go late at night and just walk the location, absorb what I was seeing, hearing and feeling. I would finally be directed to a doorway and I would set up, then create the piece. One take. This feeling became my own method or ritual in creating a style of music that was for me very personal and pure. Instead of recording in a studio and writing music about death, destruction and the occult, I began using death, destruction and the occult to create music.
3. Could you describe some of your recording practices?
I’ve always, to this date, used the same electrical devices to capture my field recordings and noisescapes. I have used different elements from cemeteries, crematories, morgues, asylums and abandon industrial locations. I’ve used many different instruments or objects in creating audio, such as metal, human bone, Aztec temple rocks, animal antlers or horns, crystals and cadavers.
4. You’ve recorded in a number of significant locations, the Lambertville High School, the Pennhurst State Hospital, the Eden Hall Church – locations with deep histories and a lot of myths surrounding them. How did this practice come about and what are some of the ideas behind it?
As the project expanded and grew, the mentioned locations were perfect. Rich in history and spiritual decay. At the time, there were so many different paranormal TV shows of people exploring places like these and “hunting” down sounds, ghosts and negative energies. I decided to let these energies explore me, my structure and vessel. This was not just an opportunity to record in these locations, but physically, spiritually and ritualistically allow those forces to use me, enter my decaying structure to communicate in ways they no longer can. It is a union, through sound, between the living and the dead.
5. What are some of the most interesting locations you’ve recorded at/what are some of the most memorable experiences you’ve had while conducting these field recordings?
Wavery Hills in Kentucky was extremely extraordinary. The events from that recording session are quite unexplainable. I was given the opportunity to record anywhere I wished alone, for one hour, no one else. Understanding beforehand the vast amount of deaths, experiments and abuse that were created there prepared me. These energies flooded my senses and feelings. Six recordings were conducted that night. Two appear on the Uncovered Ancient Gateways UAG release and the remaining four are featured on the upcoming Fury Nocturnous album. Another was at the Richmond Electrical Power plant in Philadelphia. I had recorded there at two separate times for our unreleased Richmond Curse Ep. The first session conducted generated several excellent bodies of material. In occult ritual, there is a calling forth and casting away of energies or spirits. During the first session this closure was not completed while exiting the property. This mistake had a very negative effect on me for about one year. I returned to Richmond to record and also leave behind this negative attachment. During the second recording, I composed a piece with a tool used for harvesting. The results during that recording consisted of my recorder buttons being pushed by them selves and extreme sudden temperature changes that effected the recording outcome. The song “Cleansing Them” is audio of this attachment that was removed and left behind. The entire experience was quite abusive and draining.
6. Your upcoming album Fury Nocturnous features contributions from Hellhammer and Manheim from Mayhem. How did this come about and what was the collaboration process like? How has black metal influenced you?
Mayhem, what they created, was a life altering experience as an individual and an artist. I had met Hellhammer and Blasphemer at CBGB’s show in New York many years ago. I had greatly admired their work since the beginning. It embodied an energy, style and sound I had never experienced before, and I absorbed myself in their work. After that meeting in New York we stayed in contact. Then in 2008, I spent 9 days in Norway and met up with Hellhammer again in Oslo. We drove to Euronymous’ grave where I conducted two songs on his tombstone. Hellhammer agreed to record drums over those tracks. Manheim was then later approached and agreed to contribute to the tracks as well. Creating music with artists who were souly involved in changing your entire outlook on existence is very rewarding. Black Metal music and philosophy, if taken at a very serious level, can have a positive impact on the course and power of that person.
7. What are your main influences, musical or otherwise? What drives you to do what you do?
A passion and possession to connect with death as an energy and entity, through extreme audio frequencies and mechanical experimentation in occult black magic ritual.
8. How did you get into metal? Black metal? Noise? What’s your musical journey been like as a listener and as a creator?
I was always into listening to heavy/dark styles of music before I started creating my own. Led Zeppelin and Black Sabbath were the first seeds of metal planted inside my mind. That grew into even darker forms of music. Bands like Iron Maiden, Dio, Metallica, Slayer and Misfits followed. I expanded onto early death metal like Entombed, Grave, Crematory and Carcass along with Black metal: Samael, Burzum, Abruptum, Havohej, Mayhem and Watain. Each artist mentioned has added their own element and effect to the creative inspiration of my material. Noise wise I respect and admire artists such as Vomior, The Rita, Funerary Call and Into The Thickets.
9. Your earlier recordings as T.O.M.B. featured some more traditional black metal instrumentation and playing. What inspired the move to focus more on a noise/ambient style?
I wrote my material based upon three fazes. My more industrial black metal/noise was the first faze. I used what abilities and resources I had during that creative time period. This was the beginning and birth of the project. Once I began the second faze, I had developed several new types of recording techniques and tactics. I also expanded on my equipment arsenal. Combined I wanted to create audio that when played together,effected the senses. Mind, body and soul. So we started conducting ritual practices of invocation, using instruments and objects associated with primitive ritual, and record this inside abandon hospitals or asylums were negative malevolent energy can be easily conjured. Conjuring was the second faze. Fury Nocturous marks the third faze of the project and exposes the results from the past fazes, cryptic occult audio experimentation and extreme black magic.
10. What do you still want to do as an artist?
A lot has been achieved, but there are many things that still need to be accomplished. Releasing Fury Nocturnous and performing live with proper support is the next task to achieve. A year ago, we opened for Sunno))) in Philly and literally shook the venue, so much several people buckled and past out. I would like to have that opportunity again, and perform together with my associates Brian Zimmerman of Panther Modern, Joesph Curwen of Ghorageist and Samath Viola of Skulsyr. I have also done soundscapes audio for the Animal Planet TV show “The Haunted”. I enjoyed being able to expose people to my music, without their knowledge or consent. Next I would like the opportunity to compose audio for movie and film, and conduct my audio experiments and measure it’s effects on subjects from a much wider, expanded scale. I also am involved in the apocalyptic delta blues/occult doom folk project Dreadlords. We conducted a mini east coast tour opening up for King Dude back in October last year. Since then we have completed our first album called “Death Angel”and are working with King Dude to release it under his record label, Not Just Religious Music.