Interview with Baazlvaat

10/20/21 | C.C.

Baazlvaat promo photo

Reconstruction. Realignment. Regeneration. All pillars of music since time immemorial and the basis on which most bands will structure their own sound around genre tropes and personal inspiration. For Baazlvaat, those influences run the gamut from traditional Celtic tunes to the synthesised processes of Midnight Odyssey, both of which are represented in The Higher Power alongside a myriad of other elements that come together in a curious work that has piqued the interest of many.

Baazlvaat seemingly appeared from nowhere this September with The Higher Power, an album that immediately engages due to its use of Irish progressions in a sound that is rooted in black metal but lives outside of the usual borders. The band are from Flint, Michigan and are led by Declan with a little help from Nlorgpipe on vocals and drums—both are still in high school, which leads to further intrigue as to how two teenagers have created this bizarre palette of sounds and how it has blown up over the last weeks. There’s something pure in The Higher Power’s spirit that could only come from having no interest in genre expectations or rules and sticking to a formula. Instead Baazlvaat play the music they love with unrestricted passion. Being young only adds to the curiosity surrounding the band, and as you’ll come to understand while you read the interview below with Baazlvaat’s guitarist Declan, there is no pretension here, no illusion and The Higher Power is all the more successful for it.

First things first, how did Baazlvaat come to be? What was the inspiration for the band?

I started recording the first Baazlvaat album last year when I first got into black metal. Back then I was into a lot of atmospheric/depressive black metal. Bands like Agalloch, My Useless Life, Make a Change…Kill Yourself, and especially a band called Midnight Odyssey. Our new album was inspired by more epic/folky kinda stuff such as Windir and Cruachan. Of course the usual black metal inspirations go for both albums—Burzum, Darkthrone, Bathory, etc.

The sound and influences on the album are completely at odds at times—there’s that classic rock vibe in the first track that sounds like Thin Lizzy, and then you have “The Bay of Arvon” with intense and harsh black metal screams, the folk-like guitars and that old school rock atmosphere. How did these elements come to be in your music?

I tried to change up the styles a bit between songs to keep the listener engaged. I never really understood the Thin Lizzy comparison, I guess because the first track is a shuffle and there are some guitar harmonies. This track and others are inspired by Celtic or Irish folk music. “The Bay of Arvon” is mostly inspired by Bathory during their Viking-esque stage. As far as the rock atmosphere, Baazlvaat is all about rockin’ in the free world. I think a good bit of classic rock is pretty trve and we did try and keep it rockin’ for most of this album.

Baazlvaat promo photo

There’s an undercurrent of a psychedelic style running through some songs, “The Black Quest” comes to mind as one, and there’s a track called “Psilocybcasm” which is also curiously bonkers. What is your experience with that world?

I love psychedelic music: Hendrix, Sabbath, Cream, the Doors, and Pink Floyd (only their first album). I think a lot of this is quite trve and kvlt. We were inspired by other bands that had mixed the psychedelic and black metal worlds such as Black Magic SS and Edelweiss. “Psilocybcasm” is supposed to be an extreme and crazy tune like you are blasting through the stratosphere.

If I’m reading the bandcamp information correctly, usually someone else is drumming and providing some or all vocals? On The Higher Power both of these are attributed to Nlorgpipe (great pseudonym, by the way). Do you contribute vocals at all? Why did you seek out another for the voice? It’s not super clear as to who is in the band or what their role is, is that intentional?

Nlorgpipe (aka Zolgorm aka Jesse) is my good friend with whom I’ve been recording for years. He did all drums on both albums as well as vocals in “House of Chairs” on the first album and almost all vocals on the new album. I did most of the vocals on the first album but only a few on the new album - the clean parts in “The Highest Power” and “Infinite Forest.” Nlorgpipe is better than me at vocals and drums and since we wanted this album to be the most epic, I had him do most vocals. We usually write and record the vocals together. Nlorgpipe has an album out called Zolgorm and we are also in a psychedelic funk band called Slippy Cat.

It’s not intentional that it’s unclear who does what in the band, I think we simply didn’t think it was that important as long as people were hearing our music. But yeah, Nlorgpipe does all the drums and most vocals and I do all guitar, bass, and keyboards. When we play live we have our friend Wraithlord play rhythm guitar, my brother Garvin plays drums, and Nlorgpipe plays bass.

Baazlvaat promo photo

The band has been active for over a year with a couple of releases already, and the sound has changed considerably over that time - why do you think this has happened and what led to the sound of The Higher Power being so different to say, Guitar Exotic or even the first release?

The sound of each album is based on what I’m listening to at the time. Each album will be somewhat different than the last. But it will usually be some kind of black metal. I apologize to the fans because I kind of feel like I have a responsibility to keep doing whatever it is they like but in the end I’m just trying to make the best music I can and want to make. That’s how we will keep Baazlvaat trve. I’m not trying to make music people will like or buy, although that is nice. The idea with the Guitar Exotic album was that I would make a line of guitar themed albums separate from the trve and kvlt Baazlvaat albums I make with Nlorgpipe. Just as a fun kinda thing. But I probably won’t make any more albums like that and kinda regret releasing it just cause it’s kinda silly sometimes.

<i>The Higher Power</i> cover art

The Higher Power sounds more serious, in a way, to the other music that you’ve made available. how has your vision for the band changed over the last year and why do you think this is the album that has people talking about you in such high regard right now?

Baazlvaat is always just the name I use to release music, however it may sound. I have no idea why people have liked this album so much. Does anyone ever know why people like what they like? But I’m stoked about it and I think it’s real cool and stuff!

<i>Baazlvaat</i> cover art

I think people like it so much because it sounds so… pure? It’s obviously made with joy and passion for music. How did you get into playing guitar and recording/mixing music?

Basically the same way most people start playing guitar, it’s just a universally cool instrument and it’s fun to get better at something that also can make you seem cool. I started recording when I started coming up with riffs I thought sounded rockin.

How does the artwork for the album tie in to the themes you want to present?

When I made the album art after recording the first song for the album (which ended up being the last song), I was just trying to make something cool that exerted power. After making the rest of the album, things in the album art took on meaning to me. The man wielding a sword is on an epic journey to attain the higher power. The waves behind him represent the strength of the natural world. The pyramid or staircase represents the accomplishments of mankind. The symbol on the bottom left represents the three persons of God and was a symbol of protection for the Celts. The skull represents physical death and the chains illustrate the constraints of the modern world. The lightning bolts represent electricity and the filling of someone with power. The stars and moon I just thought would look cool and the eye is the all seeing eye of God.

Baazlvaat promo photo

You’ve mentioned Celtic music, the Celtic symbol of protection and your name is also Irish. is that your heritage and do you use your music to connect with it?

Yes, my mother and father are both Irish and they used to play Irish folk music on the radio. I think Ireland is an epic place with a cool history. Thus I began making melodies to sound as if they were meant to be played on a fiddle. It’s important to remember where we come from and I always enjoy people connecting their heritage with their music.

I’ve heard on the grapevine that you’re still in high school, so this kind of attention must be pretty weird/overwhelming - I guess that was not expected when you released The Higher Power? How are you managing that personally and as a band?

Wow props for your research skills cause I’ve only told like one person that I’m in high school. High school certainly does suck, especially when no one knows about trve and kvlt music. The attention is not wierd or overwhelming to me but fun and cool. The rest of the band feels the same way.

<i>Guitar Exotic</i> cover art

What is “The Higher Power” to you?

The Higher Power is a state we try to reach through accomplishing various things and tasks. When making this album, we were trying to expand the black metal boundaries and create a new voice whilst remaining trve and kvlt. It is a human album with a handful of mistakes. This is what separates black metal from mainstream music of the modern world. Popular music has become detestable and completely void of humanity. The higher power cannot be attained through such shallow things. Rather, the higher power is a path requiring struggle, pain, control, and strength. A road on which we must remain until death.

Follow Baazlvaat on Bandcamp.