About Me

Interview with Naxen

After the acclaimed debut EP 'To Abide In Ancient Abysses', German black metal band Naxen announced the release of their first album on June 5th, via Vendetta Records, in which they reveal a dramatic progression in terms of sound and composition. In 'Towards The Tomb Of Times', Naxen consolidate their own contemporary vision of black metal and explore humanity's weakness, the inevitable loss and failure of our species. Vocalist / guitarist LN had an in-depth conversation with Metal Imperium, in which he shared all the details about this intense band.

M.I. - Why have you opted for the name Naxen?

Thanks to you as well and for the time you have put in research before sending us these questions.
The search for a gripping, fitting and unique name is always the hardest. We’d say it sets the course for a band and is the first directive of many. 
NAXEN in itself has no meaning. To me, it is a neologism conjured of two other words, one of them being the German expression ’Nacht’. It is the night, the most possessive part in the cycle of 24-hours when your mind begins to wander, when shadows move unseen and when things appear usually not apparent in daylight. We have chosen this name so it shall only reflect on itself and this band.

M.I. - On “Towards The Tomb Of Times”, NAXEN consolidates their own contemporary take on Black Metal which is truthful to the Scandinavian heritage and incorporates the atmospheric counterpart of USBM and East-European melodies. What are your main musical influences? 

Each of us has different influences and savors works of various sources that he tends go back to. The dictate is to write songs which would only cater ourselves and appeal to us foremost. We are widely inspired when it comes to art, literature, poetry and music. And I would feel very hindered if limitation is the frame I have to perceive the world in. The world is an open wide wound. Namedropping shall remain for another time.

M.I. - Acknowledging that all hope is lost and remains redundant in the end, transcendence is sought through fire, the perishing of flesh and death as the ultimate liberation. The album explores the weakness of mankind, the unavoidable loss and the inevitable failure of our species. What attracted you to these topics?

Life itself. To me, this concept of life is a desolate prison we as humans are captured in. Conscious of our surroundings, but trapped inside. All efforts will be proven in vain when our bodies wither and the moment comes that sickness and tragedy calls us in. Only then our spirits will be moving on and leave this carnal vessel behind. Death is an open door. This is the only hope I have. The songs and the concepts come from a dark place, a lot of pain and past experiences. I have nothing else to expect.

M.I. - Naxen has progressed dramatically in terms of sound and song-writing since their original conception “To Abide In Ancient Abysses” in 2018. What caused such a dramatic progression? What's the main difference between the first EP and the full-length?

We are not trained or elaborated musicians. Ironically enough, I, for one, might be the worst musician in this band. This band was birthed in my mind, then formed in the rehearsal space with my friends SP and FT. It was always our intent of playing live but only when time had ripened. I think we managed that and our appearances have happened with hopefully many to follow. Of course, with time on the instruments spent and with writing songs, you evolve. The more you do something, you sometimes grow to be better or experienced with it. Also you learn what works and what can be omitted. Songwriting for these songs started 2 years ago and some demo tracks differ from the way the songs turned out today and some song ideas may never make it to elaborated songs.

M.I. - What can fans expect of “Towards The Tomb of Times”?

I’d rather let time tell what one can expect of „TTTOT“. It is what it is for now.

M.I. - The album includes 4 tracks… if it isn’t too much trouble, could you give a small explanation of what one should expect of each track?

Each song was written to hold on its own. And still only these 4 songs make „TTTOT“ what it is to me: The sound of pain, weakness and despair. A sadness that is raging, the unforgiving loss, the existential disappointment and the spitting fires of darkness and loneliness.

M.I. - The tracks all have a spinning time over 10 minutes… why have you opted to make them so long? Why are you so fascinated with long tracks?

Does atmosphere automatically resolve in long songs? I tend not to think that way. There is an enjoyment in certain parts that I feel would be wasted if they wouldn’t be thought out more and drawn to the extent that we do. Also the songs come from the depressed mind of mine. My thoughts sometimes revolve around the same things over and over again. This sort of repetition transpires in our music. Still, I do write songs with an emotional climax in mind. I approach every song as if it would be the last riff I will ever write. If you spend 10min of your time with a song of ours, you deserve an emotional payout or the final part that hopefully makes it worth. The songs itself are structured and not overtly complicated. This makes them accessible. I try to avoid repeating something that already happened 5minutes prior. It is not a formula that NAXEN songs have to be 10minutes, but if I feel a song needs to be, it will be. 

M.I. - The band parted ways with drummer Alboin amidst the preparation of the first full-length. How much did this situation affect the band and the writing/recording process you were going through?

This is true. But the parting happened after the full-length was done and recorded. Alboin deserves his spot on the record and his involvement with NAXEN shaped us, but also molded the core of the band. It came to the point where it did not fit anymore. The differences in personality and creative deviations came apparent. The parting itself did not affect or hinder the band. He left on his own terms. We finished the record on our own terms.

M.I. - Your drummer joined the band a few weeks ago… how complicated was it finding someone suitable for Naxen?

When we announced the search for a suitable drummer, there was a wave of support. We got contacted by a few, but only one guy stood out. We exchanged a few talks & calls. He was asked by us to prepare for the rehearsals. His ambition, his concentration and his character are a healthy and welcomed addition. He also comes from a DIY (sub)culture background and has been involved with the underground for quite some time now. So many facts speak for this guy and I haven’t even mentioned his abilities as a drummer, yet.

M.I. - The album was mixed and mastered by Andy Roscyzk (Ultha) at Goblin Sound capturing the veritable coldness and giving transparency to the multi-layered essence of the songs. Why was Andy your choice? What makes him special?

Andy and I have known each other for years. He is a vital member in Ultha and has built his own reputation as a recording engineer for them and other bands. I believe only in a circle of selected few. With Andy, I knew that we can trust the outcome. There is no ego involved with him, only ambition, therefore he is the perfect guy for NAXEN and this record. When you hand your songs over to someone like Andy, you can be sure that he spends his good time with it. You can deem it in the hands of somoene interested in truly finding the sound that fits the band or the particular record. This may not always sound like the typical black metal record and to me that is the real attraction.
We are grateful to have Andy in our circle or it is really that maybe we are the ones in his circle?

M.I. - What’s the meaning of the cover with its crown of bones? 

I tend not to explain the lyrics and themes of NAXEN more than necessary. They might mean something different to someone else. That is the spectacle of words. The crown of bones to me is a looking glass, the frame of life, where we find the desolated, despairing and death. 

M.I. - The feelings of existential disappointment, depression and despair flow through the melodies, revolve in the lyrics and are captured in the visuals by Arjen Kunnen and in the layout by Tobias Hahn. Did you give them full artistic freedom? 

As music is an outlet for me and might be the only way to express myself truly, it is important to me that it all is interwoven and makes sense. The artwork was done by Arjen Kunnen, a man that has grown as a friend to my heart. He was with us from literally the day we released the first songs. I approached Arjen and told him, how much I respected him and that I admire his previous work. Before I get involved with someone there is always talk and exchange of ideas. We both have experienced severe loss in the past (this of course does not make us special). Therefore I felt that there is and was an emotional connection. About a year ago I sent the lyrics to him and gave him the demoversions of the songs. I said to him: „Here this is what it is and I know that it will be heartfelt with you and not only a task to be fulfilled.“ It was an art project that then began. Over the course of the year, we interchanged, talked and worked on it. He made suggestions and I provided directions or gave feedback. I tend to rely on emotional impact. If something resonates with me, then I know that it is something we need to pursue. Nothing creative in this band happens without the consent of the others.
I know Tobias Hahn of his work for Ultha. It was my friend Chris of said band that suggested him to me. Tobias Hahn was then the one who was tasked to bring these pieces of artwork together. There were also phone calls with him in which I told him about my impression of this record and what I wanted it to be. He did a terrific job. And what strikes me the most is how he manages to bring the best of the artwork over the various formats. 

M.I. - The album will be released via Vendetta Records, a label from Berlin and the finest home for blackened underground music. How did you get this record deal? Did you contact more labels and this was the best offer you got? Being a label from your own country has had any impact on signing to them?

There were no strings pulled, no favors done. Vendetta Records contacted us immediately after the digital release of the „To Abide In Ancient Abysses“ EP. And with us being longtime fans of the man and the label, it was a no-brainer to join bonds. We were thrilled that we gained the recognition. The label is a household name in underground black metal and has released several influential records. Influential not only to us but to an entire scene. Are we part of that scene, that is for others to decide. I am extremely proud to call the individuals behind the label friends. And therefore NAXEN will raise the banner of Vendetta Records and their cause with flaming fists and remain true to this friendship.

M.I. - From 1 to 100, how much impact does the label have on the success of a band/album?

We are not a band that cares about success to an extend. At this point we are the wrong band to be asked this, anyhow. If someone has connected to NAXEN in his or her darkest times, then all of this was not in vain. I know what NAXEN is to me and my bandmates. I want to be in a healthy relationship with a label that shares and supports my vision.  I have heard many stories about broken promises, egocentric approach, hybris and finances corrupting the artistic outcome. It is debatable that 1000 more sold copies and a paycheck are worth it. 

M.I. - Your Facebook page mentions Watain, Dawn and Nachtmystium. Are these your major musical influences? What’s your favourite album of each of these bands and why?

To us these releases of these bands are unfuckwithable: 

Dawn - Slaughtersun. „Slaughtersun“ is underrated and is a prime example of coldness in sound but majesty in riffs. I wish I would have been able to write the opening riff, but iI did not. Woe (Vendetta Records) from the US have recently covered the opener „The Knell and the World“ on their latest release. You should check the cover and the original out.

Watain - Lawless Darkness. „Lawless Darkness“ is a modern classic and much has already been written about it. Immense sounding & haunting intricate melodies.

Nachtmystium - Silencing Machine. The persona of Blake Judd aside, this album is a strong and ugly beast that pushed the boundaries of USBM once again. It contains aggression and despair unmatched with delicate sounds and good songwriting. 

There are other bands and artists that influence us. I do not see those too resembled in NAXEN though.

M.I. - What are Naxen’s short-term goals? And long-term ones? 

We do NAXEN because we need to do it. There is no main goal or agenda here and for sure no business plan. We write the songs we want to hear and it is our way to tread the path of pain. This might just be the beginning or it was just an attempt with all of our will doomed to fail.

M.I. - How’s the current German Black Metal scene? Any bands one should pay attention to?

Bandwise the German Black Metal scene is flourishing. Of course, there are uninspired bands that play the same rehearsed shit over and over again and not every band is for me. But there will always grow new ground before a genre implodes with saturation. To me, the most important bands are my friends in Sun Worship, Unru and Ultha. These bands have pushed the boundaries of the genre, were a breath of fresh air and spawned controversies with their uniqueness. On Vendetta Records you can find the destroying forces of Verheerer and Friisk that are able to write encaptivating songs. Also Friisk have some amazing and astonishing releases coming up, that one should await patiently. 

M.I. - You wrote in a post “These are troubling times indeed and much has been said about the ongoing Corona pandemic that affects all of us, our (sub)culture, our friends and families.
The truth is we are all responsible for those around us that are affected (and nowadays might be infected) by our actions.” How much has this affected you already? Do you believe the scene might change because of this? 

Each of us has family or is part of one. Also there are always persons in our surroundings that should not be exposed to risk and sickness. This pandemic has already changed a huge amount of our cultural landscape and the impact on this (sub)culture is immense. Music and the cathartic experience that comes with it thrives on live performances and the gatherings on concerts, shows and gigs. Most venues are struggling, bookers and agencies have their tours and festival cancelled. It is safe to say that well-established bands suffer, especially those that are able to run a business, but it is really the unseen basis that is bleeding. We miss whats makes the world outside a better place, once you are among outsiders and likeminded. Support artists, bands, venues and labels that you love and that are close to your heart. Never take anything for granted.

M.I. - Do you have any last words to share with our readers? 

All the best for Naxen! Stay safe! Keep on making great music!
First of all we would like to thank you again for taking the time and conjuring a nice set of questions. 
So, in the end, the last words should really be about you and your readers. If your readers are already aware of us, thank you for being with us. We all have to carry a load and I hope nobody really feels
alone. I know how that kind of desolation and isolation feels. In a way through black metal and this sullen art we are not alone and can connect with each other. Reach out and take care of yourself. There is always hope in hopelessness.

For Portuguese version, click here

Questions by Sónia Fonseca