Pamirt translates to ‘to die gently’ from Latvian and is an artistic project by Kristiāna Kārkliņa. It emerged from experimentation in Berlin in 2017, creating a different sort of expression than her black metal band Eschatos. The result is a stunning display of darkness, and it’s regal beauty in sound. Pamirt has now emerged as a trio, with Kārkliņa being supported by Edgars Percevs (Eschatos) and Edgars Gultnieks (Protean, Eschatos).
What you get in recording, is quite exceptional, but there is a place that can be ascribed to the music of Pamirt. To me, that is somewhere in between DiamandaGalas, Dead Can Dance and LinguaIgnota. For the sheer recklessness of combining classical sophistication and composition with meaty bass lines and darkness expressed in the vocal style. Listening to the album, it is evident that at the heart of each song is just the piano and voice, the other instruments serve to enhance, thicken, macerate and fortify the sound into what it is: Pamirt.
The record starts off mildly, with the song ‘That Day’, which relies mostly on the basics, but when the sound does swell it is tumultuous, overwhelming. It’s there where the vocals pierce the haze of distorted guitars and mesmerizing keys. ‘Mausoleum’ as well, sticks to the more common sounds, with a doomy sound and sense of foreboding every step of the way, but towards the end, these notable sounds emerge in the noise. The voice whoops and soars, as Kārkliņa rides and tames the waves of sound.
The lyrics tell us stories, which are partly inspired by Pushkin’s ‘A Feast In Time of Plague’ and by own experience. The result, at times, is grotesque, confrontational and heavy. ‘This Dinner’ is a noteworthy track in that sense, with vocals that put us on the path of Diamanda Galas if I may be so bold to make that comparison. Banging sheet metals, diabolical laughter, unnerving…but bewitching at the same time in all its splendor. We slowly wander into ‘Early March’, an intermezzo instrumental track.
Whatever you may feel of this music, that radiates discomfort, the voice is ever-present. It’s multi-faceted, of many colors. It’s absolutely stunning in execution, wildly dancing through the songs. Though the piano is almost battered with the crushing sound on ‘Danube’, the singing is calm, measured and again has all the right ups and lows. “I flee the bright white fields, I once used to call home…”, Kārklina laments a few moments later, and the pace picks up into a marching rhythm.
‘Crazy’ is the only cover on the album, a classic by Patsy Cline. The song was recorded almost 70 years ago. Pamirt turns it into a dirge, with a trudging pace, that slowly swells. As the singing soars, the music reaches a grudging crescendo. On ‘Bloodletting’ you might notice more bass, which is the double bass from Stanislav Yudin (of H2O, not the hardcore band), a composer who has, in fact, won awards for his folk music. It adds more depth to the song, which already has some of the most gutwrenching vibes of the whole piece. The vocals provoke, gibber and taunt, but towards the end, there is merely repetition and surrender:
“…With the needles, we swallow. You hold me on my death bed, baby. You hold me on my death bed baby… You hold me on my death bed baby….”
Mausoleum is a mighty piece of work. A record that stands on its own, it doesn’t need any of my references above to convey its meaning. It’s all there, in raw honesty and daring artistry. It’s an album bravely created by a bold soul, and this you feel every minute it lasts.
The Latvian black metallers Eschatos have in my opinion never made a bad record. Sure, their production is not as high, but if you bring out stuff like ‘MÆRE’, I think we’re fine. It’s the third release by the band, that calls Riga their home and has had a steady line-up since 2012.
Interesting enough, this is their first EP. Maere offers a new look and feel to the band, driven more towards the artistic connections of the band members perhaps. More a voice of themselves, with a cover that stands out in a black and white adoring scene. Perhaps we are seeing Eschatos rise from the cocoon of the last few years here and find a unique voice in the black metal landscape.
This is immediately clear on ‘Luminary Eye Against The Sky’. The music works more as a flow, with a particular glow, seemingly moving in a more post-metal direction. The harrowing vocals of singer Kristiāna Kārkliņa are still there to raise the hair on the back of your neck, but it’s Marko Rass who really colors the sound with effects, keys, and even organ sounds. A slight folky element seeps into the song at the intro already. It’s the core of the music that changed most though, dynamic drum work by Edvards Percevs and a throbbing bass by Tomass Beķeris make the world of difference.
Guitars do much to even put more feeling and drive in the sound. Edgars Gultnieks, formerly of Grondh and also active in Protean, knows his stuff. Mārtiņš Platais, also in Pulse of Nebulae, adds work on guitars, bass, and keys to the whole array of sound as the producer. That wealth of instruments is particularly clear on the second part of the album, titled ‘The Night of the White Devil (part I, II & III)’. A big piece, filled with elements of postrock and even proggy sections as the suite spirals forwards, exploring various musical directions on its way. An interesting fact is that the mastering was done by DanSwanö, perhaps explaining the clear and melodic sound of the record. The second song is definitely a big masterpiece, where Kārkliņa can demonstrate the full range of her vocal talent.
This is Eschatos at its best this far, I love it. MÆRE offers a journey that is exciting, every step of the way. Full of surprising elements, but in all its variety always coherent in its majesty.
Another year comes to a close and that means lists. I never really get excited when the prospect comes around because a list is never as complete as you’d want it to be. In a way, it’s a moments recollection of all the good music that came by in the past year. Still, it’s important to look back and share with the world what it might have missed otherwise.
I can mention a load of bands I would gladly have included here. For example, I didn’t really get around to listen properly to Enslaved and Converge’s new records and I had to chose to omit the likes of Power Trip, Akercocke, and Pillorian. Oh, and Dool came to me in a big way. Well, you can’t have it all, but here is the list as it is:
I would also like to express thanks to the labels that have kindly supplied me with promo materials and support for realizing my goals. In particular thanks to Transcending Obscurity and Qabar Extreme Music PR. Also, thanks to Echoes & Dust for lending weight to my 195 bands project, by publishing these interviews.
May 2018 be a great year in music again. Live long and prosper.
A bit more than a year ago I did an interview with Latvian black metal band Eschatos. It was published on Alternative.lv and can be found here.
I loved the sound of this band and their genuinely intellectual approach to the genre. This is the unedited version that I received, giving you the raw insights into this band, which I hope to see in action some day. Reading this interview again also gives me some insigths into my own journey. I really was not sure about the stance I was supposed to take, so rather than being inquisitive I might have seemed boastful to the band. Lessons to be learned I suppose.
What remains is my admiration for this band, who make amazing music and have received raving reviews from pretty much anywhere
What can you tell more about how you guys got together and formedup a black metal band by the name of Eschatos? What have you guysplayed in before apart from Grondh and Ocularis Infernum?
Jānis: The formation of Eschatos was a natural outcome of things. We all knew each other, we knew what we wanted to achieve and what to expect from one another.
If we talk about other bands, Edvards is playing in a prog/death metal band „Opifex”, I – Jānis, Edgars and Edvards played together in another black metal band, called „Velna Krusti”, back in the days.
Did you have other names in mind as well? What does the word Eschatos mean for you guys?
J: The name symbolizes many things for us. It’s the end of something and life after death. It is also the highest point. It came to us pretty naturally. Before that we did briefly pass some other names, but when „Eschatos” rose up, it cleared all the doubts.
What do you guys do in daily life?
J: I earn my daily hunk of bread by working as a graphic designer. It’s one of the things I don’t dislike a great deal amongst the rest useless shit.
Kristiāna: There are a very few things I do not.
I am studding theory of art, designing, taking pictures, painting, making movies, organizing exhibitions, etc.
Edgars is studying Theory of Culture.
Edvards: Most of my time is occupied with Social Anthropology studies, but I somehow always find myself to be immersed in a vast variety of things, ranging from playing music to doing graphic design, video or audio editing, building something, and learning every new thing that I come across.
I find it interesting that you call black metal music Art, can you elaborate on that? Do you approach it as making art in the sense of creating something with beauty? (I’m asking this, because early black metal musicians and many purists still heavily oppose the term art)
J: Art is not necessarily associated with beauty. Although that which is ugly and rotten to one, is beautiful to another. Art is a product of creativity and imagination that triggers an experience. We use the term to describe the passionate and majestic work of our creation.
For me black metal has always been a really deep form of art. I can understand, that some people don’t understand, how destruction can be labeled as creation, but you do create it, right?
K: Considering the fact that the essence of art is still in discussion among art critics and theoreticians, especially due to the strong conceptual tendencies in visual art emerged on the other half of 20th century, I will not argue the nature of it. There is one thing I can say for sure, in “Eschatos’s” case music as art presents itself as combined spiritual experience resulting in a birth of entity of autonomous existence – music.
Is Art something outside of the personal, a product or expression if you will, or is it a part of life as you lead it?
J: Art is always personal. It’s the expression and reflection of the artist. A little piece of the artist’s soul, if I may say so.
K: I would supplement that the true art always involves personal perspective whether it is a painting, sculpture, symphony or a black metal composition for that matter. Art is the only way to travel to whatever layers of consciousness you can endure.
What are your main inspirations, musically and otherwise?
J: It is hard to emphasize specific things, because there are so many things that inspire me. Mostly it is not music that lights something in me that I strive to manifest in our creations. These are experiences from meditations, visions and vivid emotional bursts I’ve had.
Musically, there is a broad variety of genres, that I listen to, starting from black metal, to experimental, progressive, classical, ambient and even some indie music, to name a few. What I do search for in music is strong atmosphere and artistic and ideological background, because without that the music is empty. I really admire the Swedish and French black metal scenes of nowadays. They kind of have these profoundly dedicated scenes with so many good bands, but, as I said before, many things inspire me, and this is just the tip of the iceberg.
It’s probably a lame question, but how’s having a female vocalist working out in a scene that is pretty much from its start been devoid of women?
K: I believe this question was not meant for me, but I will answer it anyway. At first, I think that women in black metal are not something entirely new. There are bands like “Darkestrah”, “Astarte”, and “Darkened Nocturn Slaughtercult”, etc., but unfortunately none of these bands are amongst my favorites.
Secondly, I cannot start to explain the insignificance of gender when it comes to musical abilities, talent, if you will.
So, about the Latvian black metal scene. How is that, are there many bands that play black metal and does it have some typical sound or own identity to it?
J: There is no Latvian black metal scene. You can count the active bands on the fingers of one hand, if you skip all the bedroom projects. There have been many bands that come and go without leaving much legacy.
Skyforger is a great band, but they haven’t got much black in their metal anymore. Dark Domination are the sole survivors of Latvian black metal, as they are the only band that has lasted so long. Urskumug is a notable act, also I want to believe, that Ocularis Infernum and Grondh have left a mark of influence on the scene. The rest, for me at least, are just dust in the wind.
If you try to find parallels in the sound, I guess you can stumble upon few bands, that had something in common, but not enough to talk about typical local sound.
Can you give me an overview of how black metal came to Latvia and what developed there?
J: I think, that black metal is still „coming in”. Of course, we have our history that started in mid 90’s but I don’t feel that black metal in Latvia has strong foundation and dedicated scene.
Is the Latvian metal scene tight knit or divided into the different genres?
J: I would say, that it is pretty divided, with emphasis on some genres like death metal and alternative metal, where the last one is like a completely different scene. I’m glad that the last years have brought more tolerance and appreciation for more experimental and unorthodox music in the metal scene.
Edvards: I would like to add that the whole scene thing, while being much divided, maintains certain interaction, due to the fact that almost every metalhead plays some kind of an instrument and is usually involved in a number of different projects. There is a saying in Latvia that “where there are two guys – there are three bands”, or something like that. Everyone seems to know everyone. And in concerts, the genres are usually very inadequately mixed together, which results in the mixing up of the sub-scene representatives attending those concerts.
Black metal has been associated with Satanism, white supremacy but also paganism ideals. I’ve noticed that Grondh for example also mentions Satanist philosophy as one of their ideals. Do you feel confined by the overall black metal culture and the strict anti-attitude towards what is conventional and what do you consider to be the views that Eschatos represents?
K: As unconventional as it may seem there are no such boundaries to our art as traditional black metal ideals – Satanism, racism, paganism or any other “ism” for that matter.
At this point I believe black metal has grown to be more of a unifying phenomenon than restrictive bridle.
It is not our purpose to express absolute ideas. Our art is quite autotelic, but surely – one who is willing to listen, will find one’s own truths as well as ours.
Edvards: In a way, the black metal culture with its ideals can also be seen as the conventional black metal culture, which seems to be in contradiction with the anti-attitude towards the conventional. I do not believe it is wise to present our attitude through some already given instructions/manuals, like the above mentioned “-isms”, because it is often the case that those ideals become in themselves the main point, and not what they represent or were used for in the first place.
Where from do you get lyrical inspiration?
K: I have always believed that in art only pain, suffering and loss can awaken the true genius. For me to write, a strong trigger is required, and the last year has been just that. Of course, amongst the sources of my inspiration there are literature, philosophy, visual art, music and after all – a human being, concealing such a great variety of different self-destructive passions.
What is a show of Eschatos live, what do you try to give people and let them take home from a live performance? Do you prefer to record or to play live?
K: I can say for sure that those are both completely different experiences and both – vital. Record gives the advantage of perfectionism when one is needed. Live performance appeals to all the other senses. For me it is hard to comment on the last one due to the fact that during performance the bound with reality is quite loose.
Edvards: I do not prefer any one thing over the other. When we play music it is almost as a spiritual experience, and during live shows we provide the opportunity for others to immerse in it. That is a difficult thing to capture in a recording, but nevertheless it is an inspiring and a very creative activity, which provides many new insights and ideas.
What do you hope to achieve in the next few years as a band?
K: We have already achieved the only thing that truly matters – we create.