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Esoctrilihum interview (07/2020)

With: Asthâghul
Conducted by: Auntie Sahar (e-mail)
Published: 20.07.2020

Band profile:


France has long had a reputation for particularly formidable, forward thinking black metal. But within the context of the past 5 years, I can't think of any other band or project that seems to have become as fine an heir to this legacy as has Esoctrilihum. A one manner centered around a mysterious individual known only as Asthâghul, the project has been an utter monstrosity of creative energy since its initiation, now boasting 5 full length albums that have all been released within the past 3 years. Originally grounded in fairly standard atmospheric black metal, Asthâghul has gradually pushed the compositional envelope farther and farther with each subsequent Esoctrilihum release, culminating in this year's Eternity Of Shaog, which in my opinion is easily his best work to date and currently the black metal album of the year to beat. Considerably floored by his talents and impressed at his seemingly unstoppable momentum as of late, I managed to track down the elusive Asthâghul for a brief, though enlightening chat about the roots of Esoctrilihum, his creative process, and the power he draws from isolation.

Apothecary: Hello and thank you very much for taking the time for this. Let's get started then.

What first attracted you to black metal? Did you have a background playing any other genres of music before venturing into it?

Asthâghul: Hello, and thank you for inviting me. Regarding my affinity to black metal, it's a bit complicated to explain, but it all started with my attraction for demons and the practice of esotericism. I always had a preference for evil and thereafter my musical orientation was obvious! But today I have a different vision, and my life is different than at the time I started (although my tastes are always turned towards obscurity). My attraction to this kind of music was very natural, because at the beginning my research always brought me towards the same source, and darkness is an aspect that I have always liked to experience. In fact, I never played in bands before Esoctrilihum. However, before launching my first album, Mystic Echo From A Funeral Dimension, I had already created a lot of music.

Apothecary: France has long had a reputation for very innovative, forward-thinking black metal. It seems, however, that Esoctrilihum only emerged very recently. Does Esoctrilihum have any roots in or connection to any previous French BM bands or projects?

Asthâghul: Indeed, France has very varied groups, which are differentiated by their occult theme. However, Esoctrilihum has no connection with anyone, because I created this project in total rejection of collaborating, but maybe things will change in the future. To make this music I have to be alone, and honestly I don't know anyone with whom I can make music. So we can assume that it all started with my sole desire to do something.

Apothecary: Are there any black metal bands in the French scene that you would say have had a particular influence upon Esoctrilihum, or whom you feel a special kinship with?

Asthâghul: Regarding influences, I try to have my own direction. When I compose, I prefer to avoid relying on any influence in particular. I try to create something specific, which denotes my current state of mind. I also allow certain energies to flow through my music. So my main influence concerns my own experiences, but I cannot deny the influence of my own listenings in the field of extreme metal. I try to make sure that Esoctrilihum remains a unique entity not inspired by any musical group, although it is always difficult, since we all have a specific background.

Apothecary: In Esoctrilihum you're responsible for pretty much everything, so you're quite obviously a multi-instrumentalist. What was the very first instrument you started on?

Asthâghul: Yes, I am responsible for all the instruments behind Esoctrilihum. The first instrument I had was a guitar. I started by practicing with it, and I quickly realized my affinity with this instrument. At the beginning, I wrote all my ideas on tablature leaflets, because I had the intimate conviction that one day I could master other instruments and combine them together. I have always learned alone, because I am more efficient when nobody is next to me.

Apothecary: What made you decide to transition to learning other instruments from there?

Asthâghul: Actually, very soon after learning the guitar, I had the opportunity to play the drums in a personal music room, and I spent hours training to master this instrument. It was a great time, because I had a lot of ideas in mind for the future. Learning each technique was pleasant, and the demon of turmoil had not yet come into my possession. But at the time I had no recording software, so I was blocked. Yet I knew deep down in me that one day I would create a project, and then things went very smoothly natural, as if an infernal entity wanted me to apply my ideas to create this music. Subsequently I found the means to transpose my draft drums on software, and record my guitar parts to accompany everything. It was only after a few years that I got interested in the violin and the kantele. I must say that these are two incredible instruments that allow you to develop very specific frequencies to explore other musical dimensions. Finally, when you know how to play the guitar, you can also master the violin more easily! The rest of the instruments, like the piano, trumpets, oboe, and orchestration work on my midi keyboard. Anyway, learning how to play each instrument required some time, and each allowed me to add new sound in due course.

Apothecary: Do you see Esoctrilihum ever being something that would potentially include other members, or do you prefer to see things as continuing to operate under your sole direction for the foreseeable future?

Asthâghul: I think I'm going to be alone until the end of my days. Honestly no one could ever play with me, because something blocks the flow of transfer between me and other people, and when it comes to a collaboration, nobody can help me. I prefer to be alone, because I have more control over my work. And, furthermore, I will never be able to make contacts.

Apothecary: What about black metal do you think makes it an area of music so inclined toward one person projects, artists working in complete isolation, etc?

Asthâghul: Black metal is a style that is completely in tune with loneliness and isolation. Because it is only through isolation that we can create something that is the perfect reflection of our psychic state. Isolation is also the best way to get in touch with the invisible. When we are alone with our work, ideas come faster, and if it's necessary we can be helped by our unconscious, who above all does the work for us to some extent. Claustration in a figurative sense also allows us to be the most honest with our true feelings, the fact of not being forced to do something for someone makes the work all the more interesting.

Apothecary: The one thing that's probably the most notable about Esoctrilihum is how prolific you are with it. Really, five full length albums in just three years, all about an hour or more in run time. How have you been staying so active?

Asthâghul: I trust my musical impulses, and I work when my impulses show themselves. If it were up to me, I would release everything at the same time, but that would not be prudent. In fact I also stay active, because I still have the passion in me. My instruments reveal very precise aspects to me when the spirit wants it, and I must execute myself by playing an instrument chosen immediately. All the technique takes place at this level. But I don't hide that it can sometimes be very complicated, because HE torments me day and night.

Apothecary: When you're releasing music at such a steady frequency, how do you manage to continually keep it sounding so fresh and not run out of new ideas? Do you ever worry about going so hard with Esoctrilihum that you eventually hit a sort of "creative wall" of sorts?

Asthâghul: Actually, sometimes the musical impulse manifests itself at very detailed times, and sometimes nothing happens and I have to wait. This is a very dark subject, because I am not always able to explain how things are going. I feel that one day I will have to put an end to all this, because it is a suffering and a torment to manage Esoctrilihum. But I already programmed everything.

Apothecary: What sort of external, non musical factors have played a role in shaping Esoctrilihum, particularly from a thematic perspective?

Asthâghul: Lots of synchronicity played very important roles. I needed at some point in my life to pour out all the hatred I had inside me. My desire to create Esoctrilihum was quite natural compared to the context in which I evolve, but I cannot go into more details.

Apothecary: Do you go into each new Esoctrilihum album with a definitive plan in mind for how to make it sound different from the previous ones, or do you find yourself working from a less structured, more "let's just see how it goes" type approach?

Asthâghul: When I build a new album, I am in a rather experimental perspective. I am less structured in my approach, because I do not have specifications to fill. Sometimes I try with several of my instruments to ring the same note to see what it gives, and then record the instruments that surprised me the most. But I happen more particularly to make these experiences by intuition, because there is something which guides me in my research. And the album continues its way in a stream of more or less homogeneous experience, however without the melodies resembling each other. I try to vary my tests as much as possible, but in the end it is not me who decides entirely!

Apothecary: Your two most recent albums, Eternity Of Shaog and the Telluric Ashes one from last year, both appear to go in a more Eastern-tinged direction, musically and also perhaps thematically as well with the artwork and track titles. Would you care to elaborate upon this shift and what might have prompted it?

Asthâghul: I didn't intentionally have the idea to do something Eastern-tinged. At the base I just wanted to add kantele (as for Telluric Ashes), and after reflection, indeed the sound actually evokes a more Eastern-tinged direction, but it was absolutely not wanted! For the themes, I am rather inspired by demons, despair, the theory of globes, madness, infernal pacts, and other influence that I prefer to keep secret. It is a reflection of my thoughts. However I must also clarify that on this album, I gather certain entities which are the abstract manifestation of something alive, something invisible that governs all aspects of life. Energy is present everywhere, and if we know how to manipulate this energy, we can do very specific actions. I am also inspired by the works of Clark Ashton Smith. He is a great author, he knows a lot about demonic manifestation just like Lovecraft, and his metaphors are very appreciable.

Apothecary: Eternity Of Shaog saw the establishment of a more grandiose sound for Esoctrilihum: more melodic, the folk instrumentation more pronounced, and almost quasi-symphonic at points. What brought this about?

Asthâghul: The melodic aspects were provoked by my passion for orchestration and parallel universes which one generally discovers in fantasy literary works. In my corner I always liked playing with several software that allow me to create symphonic sounds, and as my project evolved, I simply incorporated these symphonic elements in my music because I felt more in tune with that! It may seem enigmatic, but the practice of kantele pushed me in my approach to create symphonic sounds. And I think that the combination of several instruments at the same time (several layers of melody) creates a clearly symphonic aspect. At first with Esoctrilihum I did not want to create something symphonic, but over time things changed.

Apothecary: Do you see this being a sound you'd like to continue exploring with future Esoctrilihum material?

Asthâghul: Yes, of course. You will see that in the future, because I still have a lot to show (if all goes well) before my project stops completely!

Apothecary: On Eternity Of Shaog, what is that twangy, stringed instrument you're playing here and there in the background? It comes out most on "Exh-Enî Söph," "Amenthlys," and "Namhera." Looking at the album credits, it could be violin, but it definitely doesn't sound like one.

Asthâghul: Ah yes, as I said above, it's a kantele, a Finnish instrument. This stringed instrument is really incredible, because there is clearly a mystical character in the frequencies emitted by this instrument! Actually, I discovered the kantele in a very surprising way. I think that certain entity led me to obtain this because it was necessary. It is in a way like a sort of bridge between my ideas and reality. I knew that I had to obtain a new instrument, but I did not know yet exactly which was going to reach me first! I now use it quite frequently, but I know that I cannot use it in all situations, so its use remains fairly intuitive.

Apothecary: Obviously the world is upside down at the moment and now wouldn't be a suitable time for doing so, but, post COVID, would you ever consider bringing Esoctrilihum to the stage for some live performances?

Asthâghul: This is a question I was still asking myself a few days ago, and honestly I don't think that could happen because of my rather annoying complications. This could be a really interesting idea, I already imagined how concerts should work, but another problem arises: how to make a song work in concert which has 70 recordings of different instrument? Maybe it could be possible, and I think the experience could be intense, but for now I prefer to focus on my own compositions. And besides, I don't know anyone in the field.

Apothecary: If you ever did perform, do you have any ideas of other bands you'd like to tour with, musicians who might come to make up your live lineup, etc?

Asthâghul: I prefer not to think about this too much, because - as I said before - that's impossible.

Apothecary: Do you ever feel as though you may need an outlet other than Esoctrilihum in the near future, perhaps with which to explore a different aspect of your artistic identity? Not merely music but maybe visual art, writing, etc?

Asthâghul: Yes, I was also thinking about painting, because from a very young age I have always been attracted to dark art in representation. And I made a lot of drawings. I have already given birth to some personal projects in that field. But, after all, I prefer to keep that as a secret passion, without disclosing it to the public. I prefer to keep on drawing without any outside judgment. I also have a passion for writing, but I don't think it will make another outlet. I don't know what future will be reserved for me.

Apothecary: What other types of music do you enjoy other than metal? We're pretty open at Metal Storm, so feel free to drop some solid nonmetal recommendations if you'd like.

Asthâghul: Aside from metal, I have other interests in music, I particularly like works of: l'Orchestre Noir (Tony Wakeford), Björk, Lycia, Dargaard, Evgeny Kissin, Art Zoyd, Sol Invictus, Antonín Dvořák, Rachmaninov, Them Are Us Too, Kirill Pokrovsky, The Ensemble of Shadows, Androis Lust, Radiohead, Univers Zéro, Ra Al Dee Experience, Goatcraft, Great Grindstone Earth, etc.

Apothecary: This last question is purely self serving for the sake of expanding my horizons as an elitist cinephile, but would you mind recommending some great, recent French films or new French directors worth keeping an eye on?

Asthâghul: Sorry, I am not really an expert on the subject, but I always like watching horror films. Visual art is also a means of transmitting great emotions! Recently I watched some horror films, but alas they, are not French.

Apothecary: No worries. Thank you again for the interview. I leave this last bit to you as an opportunity to say whatever you'd like to your fans over on Metal Storm before signing off.

Asthâghul: I would like to thank all the souls who follow Esoctrilihum, and support this project, thank you for giving me the floor.

*Cheers and thanks again to Asthâghul for the interview. Metal Storm salutes you, and yours truly is eagerly anticipating your future endeavors.

Posted on 20.07.2020 by Metal Storm’s own Babalao. Comforting the disturbed and disturbing the comfortable since 2013.


Comments: 5   Visited by: 71 users
20.07.2020 - 19:30
I'm not really the most spiritual dude around, but I often wonder if the source of creative inspiration is interior or exterior, as I seem to recall some philosopher saying that music is out there in the universe and we use our minds to "capture" it instead of creating it ourselves. The way that he talks about it being demonic in nature might allude to something of the sorts, but with his lonely nature I genuinely hope his mental health is not in any danger.

I don't think we'll ever see it as a touring band, but something like a one-off performance at a cult festival could work if properly compromised.

Considering how well black metal and silent horror movies go together, I'm surprised he didn't mention Belphégor, Fantômas or Les Vampires, whose lengths and episodic nature makes them more like TV shows than movies. And on the same topic, it's probably extremely ironic that some of my favorite French films were made by a German.
Do you think if the heart keeps on shrinking
One day there will be no heart at all?
20.07.2020 - 20:25
Auntie Sahar
Drone Empress
Written by RaduP on 20.07.2020 at 19:30

I'm not really the most spiritual dude around, but I often wonder if the source of creative inspiration is interior or exterior, as I seem to recall some philosopher saying that music is out there in the universe and we use our minds to "capture" it instead of creating it ourselves. The way that he talks about it being demonic in nature might allude to something of the sorts, but with his lonely nature I genuinely hope his mental health is not in any danger.

At times it seems to be exterior, as if an outside entity is bestowing people with the talents to create such music in the first place. But, depending on the belief system you subscribe to, that outside entity could just as easily be seen as the larger extension of the individual, internal soul, Self, Gnosis, Kundalini, what have you.

Being a very spiritual person myself, perhaps this is what attracts me largely to black metal, as it is indeed this specific subgenre of the metal sphere where I most often see bands and musicians talking about this sort of external, nonhuman influence over their music. It's something I've felt here and there with my own work at times, and this Esoctrilihum interview certainly isn't the first time I've talked to a BM musician who has expressed such a concept (see my interviews with HV and Elijah especially). When I finally get to the black metal book, which is still something I'm loosely outlining and working on here and there, this will definitely be one of several topics to address.
I am the Magician and the Exorcist. I am the axle of the wheel, and the cube in the circle. “Come unto me” is a foolish word: for it is I that go.

21.07.2020 - 11:58

Written by RaduP on 20.07.2020 at 19:30

I genuinely hope his mental health is not in any danger.

I got the same vibe too from his replies, some were quite enigmatic and open to very dark interpretations. His latest album is by far his best and it is currently the black metal release to beat for 2020.
25.07.2020 - 16:43
Bad English
Tage Westerlund
From his artists i know birch trea if we translate and listen only sol invictus. Great int man, seems cool guy, philosophic thoughts there. I like what i hear and album artworks as well. Good job. Hehe who said that music recons the kantele
Life is to short for LOVE, there is many great things to do online !!!

Stormtroopers of Death - ''Speak English or Die''
I better die, because I never will learn speek english, so I choose dieing
25.07.2020 - 17:04
Auntie Sahar
Drone Empress
Written by nikarg on 21.07.2020 at 11:58

I got the same vibe too from his replies, some were quite enigmatic and open to very dark interpretations.

A lot of these guys struggle with this kind of shit, I hope he's OK too. From a lot of his replies I was somewhat reminded of Malefic's (Xasthur guy) comments in the One Man Black Metal documentary. Black metal is an environment that seems to attract a lot of bleak, depressed individuals as a coping mechanism, but paradoxically I think in some instances it also becomes a drainer in its own way that may only compound some of those more negative feelings. Understandable then, why Malefic eventually chose to leave black metal behind. Perhaps Asthaghul will too eventually.
I am the Magician and the Exorcist. I am the axle of the wheel, and the cube in the circle. “Come unto me” is a foolish word: for it is I that go.


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