It’s been a while since I spoke to the man behind Ifernach, but the band’s intensity has not diminished. That’s a good thing since Ifernachis one of the torch bearers of traditional black metal, full of fury and hatred. It is radically opposed to all, defying mainstream appropriation. Yet, this album shows a gentler side of Ifernach as narrator and guide on a journey through his world.
I’ve seen some conflicting reports on the tracklisting of this album. For example, some reviews state that the song ‘A Cursed Spear…’ is an ambient track. I listened to the version on Bandcamp and have described songs thusly.
Ifernach is built on the Mi’kmaq heritage and the Irish roots of its sole member. We previously would mostly see the first; this album takes a swing for the second element. I think this is exemplified by the title ‘The Green Enchanted Forest of the Druid Wizard.’ though there are tons of cultural parallels. Yet, the folky part on this same track, after a good 6-minutes of eerie, melodic black metal, speaks for itself. It also fits the style of Ifernach, who never really sounded like your run-of-the-mill band in the first place.
If that wasn’t surprising enough, now follows the fingerpicking, 9-minute acoustic ‘The Passage of Dithreabhach’. It’s of remarkable beauty and takes us deeper into the forest that is this album before we truly get hit with its force on ‘A Cursed Spear…’. It’s a solid track, meticulously rhythmic, filled with gurgling vocals and an abyssal, dark quality. That’s what you get for awakening the dark gods of the ancient forests, I presume. Under that skintight drumming and bass-ing, chanting and melodies weave and spread out, which add to the mystique. It’s really, really tasty, and as we then enter ‘In the Hollow of the Togharmach’, I’m sort of sorry for the break with this intermezzo track. I want more violence from Finean Patraic.
And so, that is exactly what he provides on the two-part ‘Teinm Laida’, a reference to ritual practices banned by Saint Patrick. There’s a proper groove to the second part, actually, which really works in its favor. I’m surprised at the accessibility of these songs, which is not something I would say Ifernach is widely known for. It doesn’t take away from the ferocious nature of the barrage, the gritty hailstorm of the guitars and cymbals. The hammering fury of the blast beats; it’s all there. However, my favorite track must be ‘A Winter Tree Clad in Black Frost’. An almost Burzum-esque effort of a hypnotic journey through nature, amplified by synth elements hidden in the repetitive riffs’ haze. Ok, maybe there’s a bit of a mellow part to it, but I think it’s an apt description anyway.
‘Hidden Palaces Under the Green Hills’ is the closing track on this album, another collection of nature sounds and ambient, heightening this record’s mystique.
Our ancestry is often a source of pride our base of how we identify ourselves. But sometimes, it can be a cause of strive, of clashing entities. It would seem that this is at the base of what has become Ifernach. A band that looks to consolidate the Celtic and Mi’kmaq heritage in fierce black metal on this EP ‘Gaqtaqaiaq’.
Ifernach has released a series of records and though it is a solo project by Finian Patraic, has also been playing some bold live shows where knife-wielding and bloodletting appear to be a big part. Also interested in the style of corpse paint, which appears to evoke images of the native cultures of the land emulated in the music.
After a classical sounding intro, which sets the mood in bombastic tones, we move to ‘Extinction’. An eerie song with melancholic, twangy guitars and gritty, primitive sounding black metal. The vocals are also snapping, biting and raw, conveying the lyrics in French. The sound is eerie, strangely dissonant as if it comes from a different realm. In a way, it does of course. The punky beat meats intricate melodies on ‘Coeur boréal et païen’, creating an enigmatic track.
The guitar mesmerizes me constantly on this record, by invoking a kind of magic. It’s the alienness of the music, the strange different vibe it creates that sets Ifernach so apart. Yet, mostly what you hear is the sound of rebellion on a tune like ‘Elle Danse Avec La Mort’. Repetitive riffing, grooving bass and a thick palette of grimy, grinning anger, here you go. It hardly compares to the gnashing ‘Un Matin Fénien’, with a true menace to the riff.
We end the record with a traditional jam, yet even this sound ghostly and distant. It’s just out of touch with our reality, somewhere lurking in the wild. That is the spirit, captured by Ifernach.
Black metal is rapidly becoming a kaleidoscope of styles and themes, which is not necessarily a bad thing. Gone are the days of strict confines in the music, but at the same time… something goes missing. Luckily in the strange corners of the world, we find bands like Ifernach, who bring the danger and violence back to the genre with a distinct voice.
Ifernach is a one-man project by Finian Patraic, who has a heritage in the native Micmac people and the Irish immigrants. His identity is much intertwined with the project. Ifernach uses French, an expression of the regional identity of Quebec, which metal scene is close to Patraic’s heart. His native language is English and he hails from the city of Chandler on the east coast of Canada. Ifernach has released the latest EP ‘Gaqtaqaiaq’ this year.
Finian Patraic was kind enough to answer some questions about black metal, his roots, the need to protect what is left of his heritage and his way of life.
Ifernach: Roots, bloody roots
Can you start by telling a bit about yourself, your roots and how you started Ifernach? (and when, because that appears to be a mystery). Also, have you been active in other bands?
Ifernach started as my life turned into something really dark.
I was in terrible sadness, madness. I am an active musician, done 9 years of classical music, I play all kinds, but I kept black metal away for all these years because I just wasn’t ready for it. I think black metal was the only option left this time, my punk riffs turned darker, so did the lyrics, so did my opinion of life in general. When you go into black metal, it’s a journey, and maybe there is no way out. It’s hard to explain, but I found peace in this whole darkness, a quiet place where I can dwell and suffer in peace. I won’t mention any of the bands I’ve been into because there is simply no links with what I do today. I record music every day. Someone said Ifernach would release a lot of EP’S because there is only one person behind the project, I guess it’s true. Like I said, I wake up in anger and fury every morning… the day that I will be a happy person that says life is beautiful, my project and journey would probably be over. Anger is what fuels Ifernach.
What bands influenced you musically and how did you end up moving into this particular type of music with extreme sound and, often, extreme thoughts and ideas?
No shame to say Burzum and Darkthrone. Everyone says that, but I think it’s the way we experience their music that changes from people to other people. And also at what time we discovered the genre, what we felt, what we were going through at the time. I will remember that day forever. Putting the needle on Darkthrone’s Transilvanian Hunger was, to me, a tempting invitation to the depths of Transylvania, or Norway… A wild call, and mostly something really really terrifying. Going into Burzum first albums was also a turning point, I don’t want to compare to punk here, but the horrific quality of the audio was inspiring me a lot, just like the punk days at school. That was way before I got into NSBM. No way I’m going to explain that, but this is devil’s music. The more evil it gets, better I like. For me it’s revenge on society, like on Halloween the dead rise back up. Always been a Samhain / Misfits / Danzig fan by the way. It’s crazy that people can love watching murders and torture on the screen and being such dedicated horror fans, but then automatically calls someone out when listening to NSBM or ”racist bands”. If you like murder, if you like guts and blood, you just can’t apply to any ethics code or human-wise shit. ALL MURDER, ALL GUTS, ALL FUNNNN.
Your music deals with very particular topics, related to your own origin. What made you choose this path and black metal as the vehicle for its expression (you may have already answered this above) and can you tell me more about the culture and expression you are sharing in your music?
Norway made me connect with the forest here. Simple as that. Black metal music is forest worshipping, so from time to time I got back into the forest I grew up, and started understanding more the whispers I heard from when I was young. I live on the land where my ancestors (from my mother side) lived and traded with the Europeans. There is a lot of mysteries and untold stories about the natives, and my project speaks about that. I try not to unleash the truth about the culture, but in exposing the dark side of it (wild hunt, torture cults, fire dancing, scalp collecting, to mention a few). I would say I do not speak for the natives. I am a lone wolf. But Ifernach is definitely a native Miq’maw inspired black metal band.
I am fascinated by the way you wear the corpse paint. Can you tell me about its significance? Also, I think I saw pictures with the more traditional form of corpse paint. Did it take much time for you to shape the visual identity that now is Ifernach and how did that process go? What symbols and meanings are people witnessing?
The one I was wearing at the Messe des Morts is a facepaint used for war by the natives more located in the south (USA).
My ancestors were proud warriors but I found no trace to this day of their face looking. They were wearing animal shapes on their bodies, and clothes. Animals were very important to their lives.
Ifernach needs to expose a violent image, you saw it with the knife and moose blood. Sick and tired of victimizing the culture. I was raised in hunting and I will practice the tradition from father to son. These things need to be shown on stage. Passamaquoddy used to wear swastikas on their clothes, don’t be surprised if I’ll wear some one day. Antifa is already crying. Sick of the people bashing our roots, culture, and runes. Ignorant fools raised up by the system!
Separately, I want to ask you about the knife, an item that seems to recur in aesthetic images like the absolutely stunning header image on your Facebook page, to the live shows and photo’s where you wield it, while covered in blood. Can you tell me about that and its meaning?
Just did it. Maybe next time with a gun. Who knows. Too much safe place in metal these days. I hate to play live because of that. Censorship.
Your latest record is Gaqtaqaiaq, which came out on Nekrart Records. Can you tell how this record was conceived and what the theme of this particular release is? I’m also curious how you go about the recording, do you do everything yourself and on what fronts is that most challenging or satisfying?
I record in the most terrible and annoying way possible. Nothing is wireless, cables are all jammed up together, I can barely move my head when I record the drums because I’m losing signal with the headphones. I record drum first, without any ghost track guitars. Crappy computer, one microphone. Cheap ass guitar amp. I play with the EQ’s, volumes, and that’s it. The way native American black metal should be done. Wild, raw and rude. Gaqtaqaiaq is a native word for End of the trail, journey. I wanted to expose the first contact between Native Americans and Irish men that came from the sea, sometimes dying at the end of the sea road. And for the ones who survived, witness a journey inside the mysterious northern woodlands of Gespeg. Fires at night, war cries and drum beatings. A soundtrack for my land, for what happened years and years ago. I sat there on the seashore and been thinking about it. A lot of Irishmen died on the coast, with sinking ships, not to mention the coffin ships. Musically, I couldn’t get a better result in being alone. Looking back at it now, I hate creating something with others, can’t stand it.
Listening to the record musically, I am fascinated by two elements. The first is the ever-present punk vibe in the music, the other is the sound of the guitar. I want to ask you if the first is a correct conclusion and how you created the second.
Right. Always been a punk fan. But not the peace-activist genre. You know the street punk with no future genre. Discharge, Exploited, stuff like that. Real punk. Don’t fucking tell me Sid had something to do with veganism and politics. Fuck ’em all. I love CarpathianForest because of that, they got that same pissed off mentality like we’re gonna kill everyone and piss on their bodies, whether you care or not. ‘Laments of Eriu’ had a pretty raw guitar sound, when you look on Gaqtaqaiaq, it has a more atmospheric vibe with some delay. 4 guitar tracks playing all different paths and sometimes an old piano, that’s how I manage to do it.
I’m curious about your choice for the French language, as I understand it is not your mother tongue. Being a speaker of multiple languages myself, I can see how one may be more fitting for what you desire to express, but I’d like to ask you about this.
I been into a lot of Forteresse and Monarque records, two important acts in the Metal Noir Quebecois genre. Also, we all know native Micmacs fought the English alongside with the Canadiens-Français. It was some sort of dedication to the French language, and also that, as an English-born person, I am proud to speak a good French language, in the province, I grew up. Finally, I have to say it’s a little protest against all the Micmac books all written in English. The reds destroyed everything here, on my land and all around, their language even got into our culture and legends… It’s a shame.
You’ve described your style as savage black metal. Where would you say the savage element is and what does it embody to you, as in how would you describe that element of your music?
I try to express what I hear and what I feel when going into these familiar woods within my music, I want the people to hear the wild call I’ve heard. Transcend the voices into the music. I don’t know. These forests are filled with old legends, sometimes still marked with the signs of the past. Savage also because I want to expose more ”savage” themes with the music, like mention before (hunting, war rituals…) you know things that are not into books at school, some Anti-evolution practices. Against the modern world. I go outside in winter at -40 with some cheap ass fucking boots that I bought on the internet when I can go outside, kill a beaver, and make me the greatest boots I ever had of my life. This is how I would describe it. Even if we live in 2018, my main goal is still to learn how my elders used to survive on the land. There are so many techniques and tools that are lost in time… For example, I saw an old Innu tradition, that was literally to put blueberry paste into a tree bark cone, with teeth-written imagery on it, to survive the cold winters. How crazy is that? It was more important to learn chemical formulas or maths at school. Fuck that shit. Don’t think savages are fools, because they can’t do math, it’s because they are happy without numbering what they have.
When I asked you if you were willing to answer these questions, you made a point of not wanting to be associated with Antifa. Can you elaborate on that?
Fuck the code. Fuck censorship.
My ancestors died because of an immigrant invasion.
In the Antifa codebook, I am a total nazi for stating these… facts.
Graveland got canceled in Montreal because of Antifa, and the famous sign shown in the news saying: Heil Satan, Not Hitler.
These kinds of things remind me why my culture has been erased from its own land.
Well, to be honest, basically it’s free hate for everyone…
– about black metal and politics.
There’s a thin line between proud of one’s roots and hatred for the other. How do you look at this, in the light of your earlier mentioning of NSBM?
Well, to be honest, basically it’s free hate for everyone. It’s how I see it. It’s also a political thing but you know, in life I’d rather be the wolf, the lion, not a sheep following the others blindly… In my culture, the natives were strong people, fast hunters, we kinda lost our path. My hate comes from there, now we’re just rejects from the system, looking good buying things and feeding this whole monster that mixes everybody into the same mold; working, paying. I never said my color was better than another one. But my color has vanished (the red skins). People these days are putting tags everywhere like you say something, automatically you’re this, you’re that. Like just because I fight for the nativity of my land, automatically I am against black people. I truly believe that with the school system, social mentality and internet going on with their stupid trends, all hope is lost for native culture revival, so why let all these newcomers in? Back then we had tribes, separated by the habits of life and the ways to survive in our own environment. I believe in war, I believe in adversity, I believe in fighting, I believe in violence. Go take a walk into those woods you’ll find out. Life on earth, we changed everything, but it all comes up to one thing; survival.
Perhaps on a related note, what do you think that the role is for black metal in the world of today? Is it still a voice of rebellion and if so, what does it rebel against?
I think the problem is bands that are saying don’t do this, don’t do that, don’t support this, people will follow you blindly. Black metal is total war. No code, no rules. I think it is still a voice for rebellion (if you look at Kiev and their awesome festival) , and surely something more than just canceled shows by Antifa. In the end, some of them are musicians earning money, and I’m okay with that. But I hope it will always be the voice of evil, no matter what evil is (and I’m not talking about black metal coffee). Black metal went mainstream with Varg and Euronymous. I saw a rapper talking about Euronymous.. wow. Internet world today also, very hard to come out with something real and authentic.
What future plans do you have for Ifernach?
I have one show in the record, maybe one next in the winter of 2019. I am alone here, the guys who played with me at the Messe des Morts are very far from me (8 to 12 hours drive). It’s very hard to play a show live. I keep recording and reading. And learning the native language. Ankami, Wije’wi. Kiwaja’lin, We’kwata’si… I have a surprise release for Halloween eve. A tribute to horror, something a little off-series for Ifernach.
If you had to compare Ifernach to a dish, what would it be and why?
Raw meat. bloody flesh. The way my elders loved it. The way I am trying to enjoy it. Hahaha…
Disclaimer: The opinions voiced in this article are those of the artist. In no way am I endorsing these ideas as they are not my own. As we live in a time of turmoil, I feel that trying to understand others is a lost art at times and I hope this provides the reader with insights.