Interview with vocalist Kena Strömsholm
Interview conducted by Luxi Lahtinen
Date online: September 26, 2021
Azazel, led by Mr. Lord Satanachia, were at the forefront of the first wave of Finnish black metal in the early nineties when the Scandinavian black metal explosion happened, in Norway especially. They have been keeping it real since 1992 despite many lineup changes, turning crosses upside down, burning black candles, arranging booze fests at their homes and gigs, never giving a flying fuck what anyone might think of their unholy and controversial activities. They have had their ups and downs but somehow their black ship has managed to sail across the murkiest and stormiest seas without sinking.
The release of their latest album, Aegrum Satanas Tecum, on Primitive Reaction in September 2021, seemed like a good time to contact one of the band's newest lost and darkened souls, K-2T4-S (aka Kena Strömsholm, also in Festerday), who was keen to tell us how he got involved with this infamous Finnish black metal group, his role within the band, what future plans they have and whether this band is about more than endless booze fests and freak circuses...
How's life, Kena, after nearly two painful years without gigs, festivals, etc.? Still stumbling across this planet at least semi-sane, eh?
Kena: Pretty ok, thanks for asking. Covid hasn't affected me personally that much. I have been creative on many fronts and doing sports. Not much of a festival person anymore anyway.
Would you tell us how you got involved with this infamous yet legendary booze-infested "party-all-night-long" black metal outfit named Azazel?
Kena: I've known the Azazel guys for quite a long time and when they changed labels from Werewolf Records to Primitive Reaction, they started talking more in depth about the upcoming album. Tuomas from Primitive Reaction has also been a good comrade for a long time, so somehow one thing led to another and suddenly I was involved in the process of doing lyrics for a song on the album. And when putting things in order, we decided I would also handle the vocal parts for that same song and ended up doing the background vocals as well.
How much Apocalyptic Raid-style spirit, i.e., the first wave of Finnish black metal is there in the sound of Azazel 2021 Anno Bastardi?
Kena: I find the sound primordial and old school without any compromises. Sound-wise, it's harsh, not too polished, and obscure like early '90s black metal was. It was also very compelling to get Chris Moyen on board with a fantastic old school album cover.
AEGRUM SATANAS TECUM
I assume you are familiar with all the works Azazel have recorded thus far, so my question is how would you see this new album, Aegrum Satanas Tecum, compared to their previous releases? Does it have the typical Azazel feel to it, or has the band been taking a leap or two towards new territories music-wise?
Kena: Bands always say their latest is the best and, of course, why even make a new album if you can't evolve musically and individually. Musically, Azazel has always been primitive and in your face, musically and visually. Of course, many things have affected this from new members, new labels, the way of working, etc. but I see them in the same environment as back in the days. It's basically the same foundation, but a different playground.
What was your role on the new album besides doing some guest vocal lines for it? Were you also involved with the songwriting process?
Kena: I've been part of the process from the very beginning. I wasn't participating in the songwriting, but did help out here and there with ideas, artwork, etc. Both Tuomas and I got more involved than we expected. Tuomas also participated by doing some backing vocals.
Due to their black metal aesthetics and the primitiveness of the sound, and Miika's typical growled vocal parts, of course, songs like "Demons Attack the Nuns Chapel" and "Jesus Christ Impotent Rotting Savior", the only songs I have heard far, remind me of Impaled Nazarene's demos, sounding pretty rad and fun with a fair level of old school nostalgia squeezed into them. Then again, Azazel is Azazel, always keeping it real, so to speak. Uh, your thoughts on my (messy) statement?
Kena: Yes surely. Not starting this with name-dropping, but the influences derive from the '80s-'90s era indeed. When it comes to the old demo times of ImpNaz, I hear that resemblance, too. That was my first thought as well, but I see that as a good thing because the early stage of ImpNaz is when that band still was a diamond in the rough.
How would you say the album stands out among the many other Finnish black metal releases of the last two years, keeping in mind how strong and productive the black metal scene is here in Finland these days?
Kena: There are more bands coming out than ever. I stick to some favorites and occasionally find a few good new ones, which is rare. The new Malignament album, Hypocrisis Absolution, is one. When it comes to the new Azazel album, I think it's true to the old form of fornication, re-invoked old spirits and still shining brighter than the sun.
Playing in front of a real crowd has been difficult because of the Covid-19 situation and its restrictions. Are you aiming to play live with Azazel when a suitable opportunity comes along?
Kena: Azazel will be performing live again. No touring or any major gigging, but there will definitely be some live appearances along with the new album. Coming to an Alko near you... nah, just kidding. I might even hop onboard if they take a more sober approach to it all.
WHEN THINGS GET A BIT OUT OF CONTROL...
I am sorry for bringing up this next topic, but we all remember the band's totally drunk performance at Steelfest in Hyvinkää, Finland, in 2017 which was pretty atrocious, but apparently it only strengthened the band's reputation for doing things their own uncompromising way, like it or not. I am 100% positive you have also seen at least a clip from that infamous performance, so what are your thoughts on it?
Kena: No apologies needed man. For The Dead Kennedys, it was too drunk to fuck, and for Azazel, too drunk to play. It's not anything the band is proud of, but shit happens when you party naked. And yes, even if it wasn't the best way of promoting the band, it surely outgunned their old reputation.
You said it right there. This somewhat controversial performance at Steelfest brought them the opportunity to perform on Finnish TV in 2018. Would you consider this performance a victory because it's not every day a Finnish black metal band gets a chance to perform on TV in prime time?
Kena: Yeah, the old Roman saying "panem et circenses" certainly got a new twist. Maybe they can rephrase the old saying to "booze and circuses".
What does your moral compass tell you about playing live while drunk? Isn't it letting your fans down or in Azazel's case is that something people are willing to pay money for, expecting to see them wasted and totally shitfaced on stage? If they are not drunk on stage, it's not an Azazel show...?
Kena: I think this is something that happens to many bands and it's not by intention. I don't see it as a good thing. Does it have any entertainment value? Yes, most definitely once, but in the long run I think it has more of a negative effect. I wouldn't mind seeing Britney Spears flashing her ass while shitfaced onstage. But then again as a paying customer and a fan, I would not like to see professionals acting that way. Once is enough, twice too many.
SINCERE BLACK METAL BOOZE PARTY
Excuse me for saying this but many see Azazel as some sort of "clown act", one not to be taken too seriously due to all the controversy they have brought upon themselves in the past. What do you have to say regarding these types of (harsh) observations?
Kena: Thank you for the kind words, haha... just kidding. Of course, people have different opinions and that's good. Many people probably see this as "only entertainment" on the basis of a couple of drunken gigs, and without knowing their music at all, but if you listen to the music, it's actually very prominent and primitive black metal. I'd rather see a drunken Azazel show than a wannabe anonymous black metal act hiding their true self.
Morals aside, Azazel surely have a reputation as one of the first Finnish black metal bands riding on the very first wave of the genre and to me, it seems like people all across this planet are very keen on witnessing the band live more than ever. Have there been talks within the band about whether Azazel might do some gigs outside of Finland as it's been a while since they conquered new grounds, the last time being at the Death Mass Festival in Prague, Czech Republic, in 2013?
Kena: I think this is not ruled out at all. Due to Covid there have not been discussions yet, but it is something that is very tangible.
Azazel's story is far from over for sure. Will you continue working with the band as long as it feels fun and you are invited to be a part of this unit?
Kena: I have so many ongoing projects at the moment, but if the timing is right, why not?
FUTURE: LESS CHAOS, MORE MAGICK?
What are your hopes regarding some future comings and goings with Azazel?
Kena: Less chaos, more magick. I hope they can manage to walk on these perilous paths without falling into the abyss.
Before I let you go for a well-deserved cold beer, I have one more question. Do you hate and/or loathe punk rock, too? This question always gets related to Azazel for some peculiar reason... ;o)
Kena: Nope. I've always been a great fan of punk and crust and will always be.
Thank you, Kena, for taking your time with the questions and I wish you all the best as a fellow old-timer. Stay metal, keep it true and hail Satan! Err... any better closing comments in mind perhaps?
Kena: Are there any better closing comments than that? :D
Listen to Aegrum Satanas Tecum here: https://www.primitivereaction.com/item/azazel-aegrum_satanas_tecum-cd
|Other information about Azazel on this site|
|Review: Aegrum Satanas Tecum|
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