Cover of Boreal <i>The Battle of VOSAD</i> original tape cover, 2006

Boreal: The Battle Of VOSAD

12/26/20 | N.J.

If you stick around long enough you start to notice patterns in black metal (life in general, really, but that’s another thousand words) as certain styles come to fashion while others fall to the wayside, only to be dusted off again later until the cycle repeats. I bring this up because there’s a center to all of these patterns, so dense that it somehow manages to deflect the rise and fall of trends. These bulwarks are records that have the feeling of timelessness, the feeling of meaning that will shine through the unnecessary bullshit we distract ourselves with sonically from time to time. Boreal’s “The Battle of VOSAD” is one of those records.

The Battle of VOSAD is itself a re-recording of an old demo from over a decade ago but when you listen to it you don’t get caught up in any sort of year-mark in the music. So why revisit an old record, ten years on? Was there something missing? I asked this to AEF, the creative mind behind Boreal’s long and sparse lifespan. “When I finished recording The Battle of VOSAD some 15 years ago, I felt it to have symbolically ended an intense chapter in my life. I carried those songs around with me for over a year. It felt done and I could close the book on it. It wasn’t for several years afterwards that I began to wish it were recorded better. If it hadn’t been for JR and AW, who encouraged me to record it over again, and for them to lend a bass and drum skills, I likely would never have touched it. I was approaching a great change in my life and I had also recently discovered some sketch recordings of a song I was writing around the same time as the original was being recorded. There were enough good reasons to revisit this album and give it new life.”

There tends to be a manufactured air of mystique to black metal these days, this kind of intentional obscurity. Boreal is very much the real deal, appearing once every so often when the time is right. But why the gaps between recordings? AEF explains “This project has always been important to me and I really strived for my intentions to reflect that. I only brought an idea to the table of Boreal if it genuinely suited the project. There are only two albums that had exact purpose. Abyss and The Battle of VOSAD. Both of those albums took everything in me to complete The Battle of VOSAD was an experience in nature that spread over a year. During that time, I was going through a lot of inner reflection, transition, and, in a way, trying to find myself. I had been living out of my car for a period of that time and lost people. I felt as though I had lost myself, even. The Battle of VOSAD was my score for that time. It was exhausting. By the time I had landed on my feet, I promptly finished the album and felt it was over. Abyss is no different in that way. Completing it exhausted me because I had experienced so much during the years I recorded it.”

&quotLost In The Dark"

Revisiting an already deeply personal piece of art can be difficult, just from a listener’s perspective, the challenges and rewards to the creator must be an enormously heavier burden to bear. “Patience” begins, regarding the hill he needed to climb for this record. “Knowing that once I began to embark on the whole recording process, I would also likely experience a parallel with my prior experience recording this album, which is mostly true to what actually happened. I recorded guitars and synth for this album a little over 2 years ago, packed up my studio and took on a new life. The reward, though, has been coming out of yet another huge transition that had all the potential to ruin my life. With all the challenges that had stood in my way over the last couple years, I am beyond elated with how this album ended up turning out and honestly it was a different sounding album before Déhà got his hands on it. He transformed it into a much more lush and dark album.”

The first thing that grabbed me about this record is the excellent painting used as its cover art. I was curious about the meaning behind it. “White, black, and with a touch of red have always been a fascinating color trinity to me. It’s foreboding and ominous. If you’ve ever walked through the winter forest and have seen blood in the snow, it stops you. It’s not something you forget. My partner Inga Markstrom did a fantastic job taking my vague descriptions of what I wanted for artwork and making it a reality.”

<i>The Battle of VOSAD</i> cover art by Inga Markstrom, 2020

One of the most interesting things about the record to me is how it doesn’t seem to fall into any particular category of black metal yet somehow feels firmly entrenched in it as well. I wanted to know when AEF was working on any of his projects is genre ever something that he wrestles with or is it just a case of whatever the music that comes out of him is, that’s what it is? “It comes down to influence really. Not just musical, but based influence but influence of my surroundings, my environment, my emotions, my dreams, my visions. Perhaps even more importantly my intentions to influence the world around me. This does remind me of a drug-induced anecdote which I have told myself to refrain from doing. Shortly before Boreal was conceived, I was tripping pretty hard in my room one night. I lied on my floor, tangled with instrument cables, pedals, cigarette butts and empty bottles of booze, and began to ask myself why I liked black metal. I threw on Mactatus and really started to listen. Mactatus, at the time, was something that I listened to regularly and thoroughly enjoyed. But as I listened, I really could not deal with it. The music was lackluster, so I turned it off. I continued to ponder why I liked that music for a while longer but I got no answer. Although I never did answer that question for myself immediately, the question left a permanent mark on how I approached music. It left me with an open mind as to what kind of music I wanted to create and why. For example, I really didn’t enjoy electronic music at that time in my life, but I ended up finding people who made very unique electronic music that didn’t fall into any sort of genre. Their live performances were like a microenvironment. The outside world would melt away and all that was left was you, the performers, and the people participating, whether it be dancing or listening. It was inspiring to see what can be created when one becomes untethered from what is expected from a style of music.”

Boreal is obviously an American black metal band but I don’t really see it as traditional “USBM”, which I can only say is a compliment these days. But how does AEF feel that Boreal fits into the greater American black metal conversation? “I never did see Boreal as something that would be discussed by more than the handful of people that heard it all those years ago. I feel that the more creative bands and projects would likely have a similar take on the matter as well. As cliché as it may be to say, most more creative acts that I personally have come across are total acts of self-expression and the audience or listeners just happen to be drawn to it for their own personal reasons.”

I’ve come to the end of my questions so I decided to leave the last bit for him to express whatever grabbed him. His response? “I have always kept my thoughts and experiences with writing for Boreal fairly guarded. There has been a lot I’ve divulged with writing this and what I have written recently when asked. Yet, this project is just a small piece of a larger story in which one day will come out. Maybe not by me, personally, but by those that are better equipped to tell the tale.”

Boreal The Battle of VOSAD is easily one of the best black metal (or any metal, really) records to come out this year, a record I absolutely encourage you to spend some time with while the nights get colder. I don’t think you’ll regret it.

Follow Boreal on Bandcamp.

Follow Nebulae Artifacta on Bandcamp to keep abreast of Boreal and related entities.