"Forest Of Grief"


07/22/20 | J.R.

Black metal is not fun. Black metal is serious business. You cannot desecrate black metal with humor. Yet "raw impressionist black metal" trio Old Nick are an exception to an ages-old unspoken rule. Combining black metal and what can only be described as video game music (the band prefers "dungeon synth," but this is far too, as a Bandcamp review describes, "harlequinesque" to be dungeon music), Old Nick spits in black metal's face while at the same time worshipping at the throne. This duality seems off-putting when written down, and Old Nick definitely treads that thin rope with reckless disregard, but, rest assured, Old Nick's body of work is impressive in a unique, self-aware sort of way. In the band's first interview, vocalist Abysmal Specter delves into the spontaneous, mythological life which is Old Nick.

Old Nick stands out in the raw black metal world. What led you to this sound?

We wanted to take a fresh approach to raw black metal. We like to refer to our music as raw Impressionist dungeon synth black metal. It's Impressionist in the sense that it's a snapshot in time, it's not a well thought out masterpiece that was meticulously planned, more akin to a Monet than the Sistine Chapel. Quick brush strokes that invoke an instinctual reaction, rather than a showcase of technical prowess  This music is written as it's recorded, allowing for a rawness that wouldn't be possible otherwise. As far as the artwork goes, we take tons of pride in the visual side of Old Nick, it's comparable in importance to the music itself. It sets the stage for the entire project, it prepares the musical palette. 

There’s a sense of humor found within your material which has really blossomed over the course of your demo works, which isn’t necessarily something you find in black metal. Am I far off with this assumption?

Yes, we do write our music in jest sometimes, I like to think of Old Nick as the political cartoon of black metal, a caricature of sorts. We emphasize the flaws and create our unique sound. One review on Bandcamp says that we are "harlequinesque." How eloquent! Flamboyant, exaggerated synths, buzzsaw guitars, and lo-fi drums. NO BASS! Unless it's a distorted synth! Hahaha. Old Nick pokes fun at black metal while simultaneously worshipping it. 

Artwork from <i>Collection 1</i> by Droll Meadow

In 2020 alone you've released five EPs and a full-length album, all of which are consistent in quality. How are you able to churn out so much material?

So like I said in a previous answer, our music is written as it's recorded. No planning, not much thought, and NO preconceived notions. It's all feeling, it's all mood. It's all based on imagery. The music needs an image to go along with it. When a setting, time in history, or story is decided upon, it becomes a no holds barred creative frenzy. The vocals are entirely improv, there are lyrics though! Do not be mistaken, they are just secrets. We all have 10 plus years experience writing black metal so churning out riffs and compositions is second nature to us. Plus, we have tons of backlogged material/ideas when we feel inspired enough by an image that needs music to go along with. The artwork always comes first!

From an outside perspective, it would appear Old Nick deals with a different, almost storybook-like evil and mythology when compared to black metal's Satanic forces. What inspires this project?

I couldn't have described it better myself. We love storybook mystery, mythologies, fairy tales, urban legends, etc. Totally inspired by tales like Baba Yaga, the Babushka who wanders around presumably Russian forests with a house that stands on two chicken legs. Tales of banshees, witches, vampires, ghosts and other oddities. As a child, these types of tales captivated me in ways others did not. As a child, I loved to look through books at my library about vampires, old photos of ghosts and so on.

I think one of the reasons this has been our main source of inspiration is the tangibility of these mysteries. There's NOTHING like a convincing ghost story, especially to a child. That's the other child-like wonder no one talks about much. Transylvania is a real place and that's where vampires live. You hear a bump in the attic and your older sibling tells you it's a ghost. Witches live deep in the woods. These are all much more convincing than some omnipotent being who resides in some other realm. These stories are far more plausible, therefore much more terrifying.  Our goal is to enchant one with that same sense of dread and terror you felt as a child hearing about these stories for the first time.

Old Nick MMXX

What's wrong with the 17th century?

I am so happy you asked! This is easily one of my top 5 Old Nick songs and we are very proud of this one. The final result was far beyond our expectations! Anyway on to the song title. It's from the perspective of an anti-enlightenment derelict who roams the streets of Europe while everything around them is changing, mostly for the better. Another way to think about the title is "Fuck the Renaissance, Bring back the Dark Ages”

Old Nick seem to get lumped in with the "dungeon synth" style which has seen a resurgence, but I feel that is reductive due to the more active nature of your music. Do you feel an affinity to the dungeon synth genre?

Dungeon synth is another passion of mine, so being lumped in with that crowd is totally fine and dandy. Old Nick is definitely not a dungeon synth project. Old Nick is a black metal project with strong dungeon synth influences. I think that if it weren't for the subject matter and association with RPG games that a lot of black metal already loved, there would be a lot less crossover appeal between black metal and dungeon synth. There are way too many sonic differences for them to be lumped together in a serious way. I know plenty of people who love dungeon synth and aren't into black metal, but I know zero people who are into black metal that aren't also into dungeon synth.

Artwork from <i>Collection 1</i> by Droll Meadow

You recently released a collection of tapes—is there a chance that your other works will see physical releases, as well?

First off, big shout out to Night Rhythms for believing in us! And YES! We do have lots of things in the works: We are releasing a double vinyl of Flying Ointment/Witch Lymph through a Russian label by the name of Obscurant Visions. A second collection 3xCS through Night Rhythms of the latter three Old Nick releases. Grime Stone Records is gonna do some CD releases of Witch of the Northern Vill and other Old Nick EPs. We're doing a split with Finnish band who will not be revealed yet (SHHHHH!). And we got some insane long sleeve shirts on the way.

Thanks for the interview and follow Grime Stone Records on Bandcamp for any and all things OLD NICK \M/.