“I always find it hard to explain to people, what is the goal, what is the exact philosophy behind Panzerfaust.”
So says co-band founder and guitarist, Kaizer, of the long-running Ontario black metal band that is based in Toronto and surrounding areas.
“I never like to limit us in terms of categorizing or giving us a quick antithesis of what we are as a band, or what we represent. I try, but I find myself back at the drawing board almost every time.”
Correspondingly, the nine-year-old band’s sound has evolved considerably since their early days. Their 2006 debut full-length, The Winds Will Lead Us…, took influence from the late ‘80s, early ‘90s Norwegian camp, complete with cold, tremolo picking, tin can production and an obvious interest in military history. Fast-forward to their most recent, Jehovah-Jireh: The Divine Anti-logos (2013), and you’ll hear a stylistic blend and heightened songwriting abilities, resulting in something more obscure and intricate with crystalline production that explores philosophy and the human place in the cosmos. The gap between this record and the previous full-length (2008’s The Dark Age of Militant Paganism) was five years, a lengthy period exacerbated by intellectual growth.
“The music that was written for it, it was written in a month long period. But that’s how we write, in explosive periods like that. And it wasn’t over a long period of time. The lyrics took much more time,” explains Kaizer. Indeed, Jehovah… focuses on a “person who’s seen God in perhaps a metaphysical way.
“Questioning a god that could possibly love a species to which he subjects to famine, disease, war, death, misery, suffering. This god does not care about what happens to humanity, or at the very least, he wants these things to happen. Now, that’s basically the sum of that album, if I could put it in such short words.”
Although vocalist Goliath has provided hair-raising howls for the band since 2006, it is Kaizer who pens their manifestos, as he realized the true importance of the (screamed) word.
“The name itself, Panzerfaust, it derives from German anti-tank weapons, but the drummer (dubbed Lord Baphomet) and myself, who started the band, we were both very interested in the whole military history. It was interesting to us, that [is] basically how it started. It’s morphed into something that I think is more philosophical… something that is much more about exploring the deepest reaches of the mind,” he explains.
“I don’t know how you might relate that to stuff we did earlier, but things just naturally change.”
He continues, “We started writing music, I learned how to actually become a lyricist, and started to realize just how important lyrics are. I think they are as important as the music as the music they correspond to. So, it just kind of took a much more real feel. We don’t subscribe to any kind of ideology. We are not a Satanic band, or a heathen band of some kind, we’re anti-theistic, you might say. We are completely opposed to all religions. That doesn’t mean just Christianity, that means Islam, that means all religion, all voluntary, abject suspension of your critical thinking.”
He adds, “Where religion ends, philosophy begins.”
Despite the musical shift away from the second wave of blackened music, the band retains one crucial part of that lineage: when performing live, they switch between utilizing corpse paint and something more naturalistic.
“We like to change it up, almost as much as we can, not straying to far from what we’re about,” says Kaizer. “Something we’ve been doing more frequently is we use actually dirt we get from this cemetery that is around where we started as a band.”
This triggers comparisons to Mayhem’s Per Vngve Ohlin (who died by grisly suicide in 1991). Ohlin buried his clothes in the ground so they would absorb the smell of rot before resurfacing them for live performances.
“I have to say it’s inspirational in some ways, but we, it’s an idea… let’s put it this way. We played a black metal festival and I realized all the bands had corpse paint, and it’s hard to kind of distinguish bands from one to another, aesthetically speaking. So, I had this idea that I would give it a much more…. because when we play onstage, we get into our own void.”
He continues, “You leave yourself at the end of the stage. We go on and we are different people, you might say. So, by using dirt, it gives it a much more real feel. It’s not just a theatric process, or giving out a particular energy, but it’s something that I find corresponds aesthetically with the music we are playing.”
Kaizer concludes, “It gives it a much more real feel, it’s not just kind of a performance, or something for people to enjoy, it’s an experience for us as well.”
See Panzerfaust on Saturday, June 7 at Dickens Pub during Calgary Metalfest.
By Sarah Kitteringham