Plenty of toxins have done plenty of damage to the world but, for my money, no toxin has been more damaging to the face of the Earth and the cause of humanity than the toxin of organized religion. If you’re a thinking adult, you really shouldn’t need too many examples to back this up but if you need any, just take a look at the cause of many of history’s wars, why members of the LGBTQ community don’t feel safe living their lives in public in the current American climate, or maybe just what all those Catholic priests get up to with the altar boys when mass lets out. The world is dying and, rather than take charge of being stewards of the world their God supposedly gave them, the religious would rather trust “god’s plan” than try and save the only home they’ll ever know. Maybe the toxin isn’t organized religion but rather stupidity. Maybe there’s not much of a difference between the two.
Formed in 2016 and named after the thought that organized religion can act as a poison upon the world, Theotoxin has been steadily making a name for itself as one of Europe’s most serious and seriously talented black metal bands. At the end of October, Theotoxin unleashed their latest record, Fragment: Totenruhe upon the masses. The Austrian outfit’s fourth LP is another blast of death-tinged black metal that’s sure to appease even the most cynical of blackened-hearted metalheads out there. I recently caught up with the band to talk about their latest ferocious offering and what makes the minds behind Theotoxin tick.
First off, what is the origin of Theotoxin? How did you all meet and what made you decide to start this type of band?
Ragnar (vocals): I was joining the band after their second output with the clear goal to create genuine Austrian Black Metal art with Theotoxin, bringing the ability to enlighten the original flame of Black Metal from Austria again. The others were appreciating and sharing my ideas of Black Metal and so we have decided to go on that way.
Flo Musil (drums): I am an active musician in this since the end of the ’90s, so I played in a lot of Black and Death Metal bands, some more successful and some not, but the one thing which was bugging me all the time was that too many individuals were always involved when it comes to songwriting and sometimes the ideas and visions were not the same. So I decided to do my own thing, write all on my own, and that was the beginning of Theotoxin, and of course my passion for Black Metal.
How did you guys come up with the name? Were there any other ones that you considered?
F.: It’s a mix between “Theos” which means GOD in old greek and “Toxin” is self-explanatory. It’s about how certain extreme beliefs are poisoning the minds of the people and leads them to insane behavior and cruel deeds.
What got you guys into extreme metal in the first place and who are some of the bands that got you into the genre?
Fabian: I came in contact with Black Metal / Death Metal at the beginning / middle of the ’90s. So Darkthrone, old Burzum, Abigor, Deicide, etc. brought me into this genre. I am not a big fan of the nowadays “Extreme” bands, especially all that Deathcore stuff. Programmed drums, weak or no attitude, mostly vegan kids…disgraceful in my opinion.
Ragnar: I would clearly say that Black Metal influenced me from my younger days on. It’s what I favoured back then and what I still favour now. Bands that I, for example, liked to listen to in the early times were old Mayhem, Marduk, Abigor, Dark Funeral, Satanic Warmaster, Ancient, Satyricon, Nargaroth, Belphegor, as well as other smaller, not that well known groups from Austria and Germany. But these are just examples – there are always some jewels out there in the world worth to discover…
What’s the writing process like for the music side of things? Has that changed at all as time has gone on?
Ragnar: We have pretty much established our way to go here I think, which mainly consists of F. writing riffs and melodies, often already combined with drum beats. F. is collecting all his ideas, constantly reworking, and revising them. He is a genius when it comes to creating catchy riffs and melodies as well as fitting them to drum beats. Another thing that I would like to state here is that I think that F. has created his own unique style of drumming, which is full of details and accents and that is enriching every musical output that we bring to life with something that is quite rare: drumming details that will forever stay in your brain. Personally for me, it is the first time that I have [had] the pleasure to work together with a drummer that is also 100% into Black Metal. This fact makes things much more fluid and natural in terms of songwriting, that my part becomes an easy one.
Concerning my part, I am writing all lyrics and arranging the riffs and ideas of F. to become a whole song fitting to the lyrical theme itself and lyrical parts that I have written before. So I would say it is me, giving a structure on things overall. As I pointed out before, this is a huge, but in the case of Theotoxin, an easy job, because the ideas of F. are fluid and full of inspiration for me.
Then we have sessions together with Fabian to arrange the songs in a session and work on further details and parts. At the end there is always Fabian to add more stickiness to the songs and bring in ideas to give everything the polishing it needs – he is often delivering the so-called salt on top of the bread.
I think that we have created a team at Theotoxin that is able to work perfectly with each other based on values like respect and adoration for each other’s skills and knowledge. This is something quite rare and gives us an advantage over others.
What’s the writing process like for the lyrics side of things? What do you try to do with the words to a Theotoxin song and is there anything that you turn to in particular for inspiration?
Ragnar: I have very strong visions about life itself and as I am responsible for all lyrics within Theotoxin since I joined. I also feel the urgent need to transport these visions through my lyrics, where each of the songs consists of certain ideas, often full of provocation or criticism and visions or missions that I have either initiated or that I am following with dedication. I would say that most of my lyrics are based on actual happenings or things I was able to observe in the last decades of this life on earth.
Concerning inspiration: Candles in the dark, a turning disc in the record player in my living room (which is fully made of antique furniture – I’m a cork sniffer when it comes to that) as well as a glass of good wine (can be white from South-Styria or red from Burgenland, Italy (I truly adore Frescobaldi) or France) always inspires me, letting my mind go on its very own journeys, often coming back with new messages, ideas, and dedications I need to follow. Another part is definitely coldness and the outskirts, covered in snow and the beauty of father winter himself showing off in its full pride. That’s also what drives me completely nuts, being able to let loose completely, giving myself away to nature’s incredible power – dragging me away over thousands of miles and times, hoping to come back, not being frozen stiff at arrival.
Like a lot of extreme metal musicians, you guys take particular aim at the hypocrisy of organized religion. Have you gotten any pushback to your music from the religion where you live?
F.:Religion and traditions are very common here in Austria, but never were in my family. So no pushback. . .
Ragnar: No pushback happened so far and I think that religion itself is happening within our innermost self, accepting the inner light, and starting to breathe the air of true freedom from within. You are supposed to aspirate it, but you shall not drown others in your beliefs, except they are ready for it.
I’m always interested in how bands got the opportunity to record their first album and what that process was like. How did getting to make Atramentvm come about and how much of a learning experience was the process of writing/recording that one? What did you learn making that album that you took to future recordings?
F.: It was quite simple actually and it’s explained very quickly. I just wanted to make a brutal Black Metal record because that’s what I like to listen to, and I am writing all the songs in Theotoxin on my own (except 2 songs from Consilivm), so it went all smooth.
But after Atramentvm, I knew that I wanted to go down a little more melodic road in the future, which we made with Fragment : Erhabenheit and especially Fragment: Totenruhe.
Your lineup has been pretty consistent over the life of the band, particularly the last few years. What makes you all work so well together and how do you keep a healthy band dynamic?
F.: That’s actually not true [laughs]. We had a lot of changes in the lineup over the years. But I gave birth to this band with a lot of dedication, which some members did not have in the past, so I changed the lineup a few times. I need authenticity within Theotoxin, and I don’t want to waste any time with people who are not able to keep up with it or are not 100% behind it.
Ragnar: I think that we had some changes, but they always happened with respect and by following the will of the band to push our music and beliefs further on towards the next level. We follow this principle by respect and without overdoing it – I think that’s mostly the key to success in life itself too.
What was the writing/recording process like for the most recent record, Fragment: Totenruhe? How did the process go for you guys and how happy were you with the final product?
Ragnar: We have really found our way to go and we are working like that since Fragment : Erhabenheit. So the process was pretty much the same in Totenruhe as well.
I wanted to ask about the lyrical and musical inspiration for a few songs on that album. Could you tell me how the song “World Burn For Us” came about from a musical standpoint and where you got the ideas for the lyrics on that one? That’s a hell of a great opener for an album!
F.: I don’t have any real or active influence, maybe life itself. But I really enjoy bands like old Mörk Gryning, Naglfar, etc. maybe this could have a subliminal influence on me.
Ragnar: The lyrical theme of this song is quite clear, easy, and understandable. It’s about how we treat the gift of life as well as the Earth itself. Recent happenings all over the world show us that humanity has been on a destructive path for ages and that we are continuously pushing ourselves and this planet towards the void. The song can be seen as an accusation towards those who are letting the world end up in chaos.
“Towards the Chasm” is another favorite of mine. Where did the musical and lyrical ideas for that one come from?
Ragnar: [Laughs] You picked the second easy one from the Fragment. “Towards the Chasm” is a clear statement on what “War” is and that everyone of us is carrying it in us – the grand beast of aggression, destruction, and mutilation always trying to scratch through the sick surface of everyone’s skin.
“Totenruhe” is another song I really dig from there. Could you talk about the inspiration for that one?
Ragnar: This song is inspired by a short poem that I wrote a long time ago, which was called “Totentanz.” I was revising old material of myself when we were within the songwriting process of Fragment :Totenruhe and found it worth a try to rework, extend it, and make a song out of it. The original thoughts for the poem came from a funeral I attended at a graveyard in the woods near my hometown Villach in Austria, which I experienced to be spiritually very intense and haunting.
Sidefact: I wrote the song “Totenruhe” in both German and English and let the [boys] decide which way they would like to go. They voted for the German version, so Totenruhe made it on the album as a German track. We still have the English lyrics of the song ready to go, so this might be material for a bonus track in the next years – we will see.
The cover for that album is really memorable and I really dig the imagery and colors used in that painting. Who did it and, to you, what does that cover represent?
F.: Cover artist is Jose Gabriel Sabogal, an extreme and sophisticated artist. We have been in contact with him since Fragment :Erhabenheit and he is amazing and has the perfect style for us. He also did the last Whoredom Rife record, etc.
Ragnar: For me, this cover represents humanity in its current form, with all its rotten roots and low hanging, poisoned fruits, ready to be picked up, eagerly being watched by the guardians and keepers of our society. It was a perfect match to my lyrical approach for the Fragment :Totenruhe and I truly adore this piece of art and its creator.
How affected has the band been by the COVID pandemic, either in terms of recording new music or getting to play live?
Ragnar: We were affected only in terms of our tour being postponed two times, but that of course hurt a lot. Theotoxin is a band that shows its true potential on live shows, creating a unique, raw, and brutal atmosphere and end-time energy towards the crowd. We are glad that the tour is going to happen in the next weeks and we are eager to do the new material on stages across Europe.
What is the metal scene like where you live in Austria and how has it shaped the band?
Ragnar: I would say that it hasn’t shaped anything concerning Theotoxin. The Black Metal scene is very small in Austria and full of guys doing softer variants of Black Metal and/or Post Metal. There are not many people left who are craving for the burning flame of the original Black Metal.
We have close contacts to decent guys from the scene in Austria as well as fans across Europe, but we are picky. We are respectful, but Theotoxin dislikes [the] nowadays softened style of Black Metal and are therefore trying to avoid that, as best as we can.
F.: As Ragnar already said, no scene has influenced Theotoxin, we do our thing and that’s the way it will be in the future.
Lastly, what’s next for Theotoxin? What are your goals for the future of the band?
Ragnar: We are going to devastate half of Europe during the next four weeks together with Whoredom Rife and Archgoat. Afterwards, we will welcome the new year and more calm times, to focus on inner Theotoxin. to start songwriting again. to work on the next and maybe last Fragment.
F.: After the tour, I will start to write the next Fragment for sure…
Photo at top: Fragment: Totenruhe album cover.