Metal stands in opposition. The mainstream, the church, politicians, pop culture…all tend to thumb their noses at metal and metalheads. Who gives a shit though? What’s popular is very rarely what’s good, and what makes the big bucks is usually, at the least, compromised and at worst, completely manufactured. If the music we loved was playing on the speakers down at the grocery store, then it probably wouldn’t be the music that we love. If we have to work a little harder to find bands that we love, well, that makes the reward all the sweeter when they’re as downright destructive as Germany’s Lucifuge.
Since forming in 2016, Lucifuge has proven to be one of the most consistent bands in the world of blackened thrash with five killer albums. The most recent, Monoliths of Wrath, was released earlier this year and is another fine addition to the discography. Like all the rest of their work, the band’s latest is another high-octane thrill ride with deeper lyrical content than most bands put out. I recently caught up with main man Equinox to chat about the new record and the band’s history.
First off, how did Lucifuge get started? What made you want to start this kind of band?
Equinox: I guess it all started somewhere around 2015, when I found these demos that I had recorded on my laptop for songs that were pretty much Bathory/Hellhammer kind of stuff. I had been trying to get a band together in Bremen, but it didn’t work out, so I decided to just do it on my own, and took those songs, and recorded a demo in two afternoons: no metronome, four cheap microphones, and an old analog mixer. I wanted to replicate that sound from Hellhammer and the first Bathory album, but also throw in some more Immortal kind of riffs and some more atmospheric elements. I made 66 tapes and just sent them around to friends and magazines, and two old friends offered to play guitar and bass if I ever decided to play those songs as a live band.
How did you get into metal in the first place and who are some of the bigger influences within the genre on the band?
Equinox: I got into metal mainly through my skateboarding friends, and skateboarding VHS tapes that I got from them that had Black Sabbath, Iron Maiden, Misfits… Probably the bigger influences are Bathory, Celtic Frost, Venom, Motörhead, and Slayer.
What’s your process like for writing the music side of things?
Equinox: I usually just grab a guitar every morning, make some coffee, and sit around playing guitar while my daughter is playing Legos, and when I come up with a cool riff, I make a video of that riff, and once I get enough parts for a song, I just record a demo with a click track. Once I get enough tracks, I try to come up with drum patterns, and record the drum tracks (with the first three albums I did all the drums in one day, with the last one I took two weeks, so that I had more time to develop fills and song structures) and then I do guitars and bass, only at the end I add the vocals, which still I just write at the day of recording, and try to do them in one or two takes, and also the solos are all improvised in a few takes.
How do you write the lyrics for the band? What do you turn to for inspiration for the songs?
Equinox: I look for a lot of books with themes on the Occult: Aleister Crowley, Nietzsche, Cioran, William Blake… I like to find quotes in those books, and I keep a small notebook where I develop those quotes or ideas into lyrics. I also take some stuff from classic heavy metal like Sabbath and Priest, and try to do my own take on those, so that something catchy can come out in the end.
You recorded your first LP, Ride the Beast, in 2018. How did getting to record that one come about and what was that process like? What did you learn from your time in the studio that you’ve taken to future recordings?
Equinox: It’s a very rough recording: four mics on the drums (two overheads, snare and bass drum) and I used a tiny 15-watt Peavey amp that was all I had at the moment, for both guitars and bass. I definitely wish I had recorded it with a click track, because the tempo is all over the place in some tracks, but it also captured a very dark atmosphere. I guess I learned with every record something that I worked on on the next one…. probably the most important is to try to get it recorded well in the early stage, and not try to fix mistakes later. Now I spend a lot more time practicing and doing better demos before doing the actual recording.
I really dug the latest record, Monoliths of Wrath! What was recording/writing that one like? Going into the creation process, did you want to continue what you did on Infernal Power or go in new directions at all? How happy were you with the final product?
Equinox: I was actually very insecure about it, I felt like I overdid it a little and that might be too complex with all the changes and dynamics on the songs… and sometimes a rough production adds something to a record that more professional recordings don’t have. But it’s definitely the album where I found a direction for Lucifuge. I was searching for a recording studio, and found this tiny space that was for rent, so I took it over, and I was building the studio while doing the album, so a lot of things were recorded in a half built studio, which made it take longer than I wanted, and I just felt like it was taking too long, and did not want to have the feeling like I would get bored of the songs. It definitely challenged me a lot, but by the time I finished recording it and mixing it, I already had the feeling it could be even faster. I guess it’s a good thing to feel unsatisfied because that pushes you to want to write better songs.
Being that this is the band’s fifth LP, how do you feel the band has grown over the years? To what do you attribute that level of growth?
Equinox: I feel like my music skills have improved a bit from the first album. When I recorded Der Antichrist I wanted to play double bass, and that was as fast as I could play, so my drumming abilities (or the lack of them) was holding me back a bit. On the next ones, I started to get faster and tighter, and just now I feel that I can play the drums the way I had on my mind, so I can write more complex stuff on the guitars, and at the same time I’ve learned to engineer the sounds that I want, so Lucifuge has been a bit of a quest to find that sound that remains highly influenced by the first wave of black metal, without being just a direct copy of any specific band.
I wanted to ask about some of the songs on the new record specifically to get the story behind the musical/lyrical inspiration for them. What’s the origin of “The Cult of Infinity?”
Equinox: That one is based on a chapter from On the Heights of Despair by Emil Cioran. It’s about not limiting ourselves with boundaries, norms, or beliefs, or with the fear of death. I think in a philosophical way it’s about freedom, but from a nihilist point of view, which I wanted to keep as a theme through Monoliths of Wrath.
What about the origin of “Enemies of the Sun?”
Equinox: That one is based on another quote from Cioran in his book A Short History of Decay where he says that “Life would be intolerable without the forces which deny it” and I tried to combine that with Lucifuge (which literally means He who runs away from the light), so it plays with the idea of light being creation, and living in darkness as being opposed to everything holy but also remaining underground and true to ourselves.
How about the story behind “Dissolving into God?”
Equinox: This song is also based on how the belief of a superior being ruling our fates is denying the possibility to think for ourselves or to believe that we have any control on our own lives, and if there would be such a thing as a God ruling the universe, it would have to be a sadist who is enjoying watching humans as we destroy ourselves.
How did “Resources of Self Destruction” come about?
Equinox: This is a song about suicide, about how contradictory it can be that the institutions that try to enslave us are pretending to defend life, how hypocritical the religions and the governments stand against euthanasia, and how something that could be the ultimate rebellion against them would also mean to end ourselves. Suicide was considered the ultimate sin, as the murderer can always repent but the one who commits suicide is beyond salvation, so it becomes in a way the most radical way to oppose against the idea that at the end of life you will be judged and sent to heaven for eternity.
That album cover is killer too! I love the design and central figure on it. Who did it and how much direction did you give them? To you, why does that best represent this album?
Equinox: It was done by Karmazid. I love the artwork that he did for Urfaust, and I felt this record needed to step a little bit away from the Bathory-inspired artwork and go with something darker that would fit more the songwriting and the themes in it. So I just asked him to do a painting that would depict Lucifuge as a Demon in armor, the ruler of the armies of Hell. It definitely works with the music.
What’s your local scene like where you are in Germany? Is there one to be active in and what kind of effect has it had on you all as musicians?
Equinox: There’s a big metal scene, and also a big metalpunk crowd, so you have a lot of gigs where both metalheads and punks hang out together; it’s also great for touring, as you have many cities quite close to each other where you can play gigs without driving too much like in the States. For the next tours we are trying to go a bit further away, as we don’t want to always play the same places, and from Germany it is very easy to go to Scandinavia, or to the Eastern countries or the Mediterranean, so there’s a lot of touring bands passing by all the time.
Lastly, what’s next for Lucifuge? What are your goals for the future of the band and plans for the rest of 2023?
Equinox: We are doing a tour in July, going to Obscene Extreme festival, and playing a couple more festivals in September, then an Eastern Europe tour in October, and after that just working on the next album, which is already half written, and you can expect something in the line on Monoliths, but with a bit more NWOBHM influence on it, so it has like a bit of both worlds.
Photo at top: Monoliths of Wrath album cover.