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THE MEADS OF ASPHODEL

 

THE MEADS OF ASPHODEL "Will the Real Jesus Please Stand Up?"

Interview with METATRON by Dr. Abner Mality

"On a cold spring morning, around A.D. 30, a man was hung on a tree upon a mound of dirt. This is his story...of a man-made god."

This stark declaration marks the beginning of one of the most atypical and challenging metal albums ever released, "The Murder of Jesus The Jew". The band responsible for this work of blasphemous enlightenment is just as atypical and challenging as its music: the armor-clad, sword-bearing infidels known as The Meads of Asphodel, a band that wipes out boundaries in music with the same gusto it attacks the commonly-held "truths" of religion.

Their leader is the mysterious Metatron, named after the angel who is God's mediator with men. Here is a man fascinated with stripping the fantastic, the mythical and the holy from the most famous man who ever lived...Jesus of Nazareth. Metatron and the Meads are dedicated to telling the story of the man they feel was the REAL Jesus...a Jewish rabbi and martyr made into a god by a band of fanatic rebels.

It's a provocative approach sure to offend those who consider themselves true Christians. But the Meads aren't out to insult or blaspheme Jesus, like almost all other black metallers do. They just want to reveal the truth behind the legend. To do this, they use almost any music they can get their bands on, ranging from raw, vicious metal to authentic folk to progressive rock to bombastic classical. The combination of lyrical and musical blasphemy makes "The Murder of Jesus The Jew" one of the most notable albums of the year, in my opinion.

Recently, I ventured into the forbidding English fortress of The Meads of Asphodel, there to speak with Metatron himself. The following interview may be the most controversial one I've done in 12 years of Wormwood Chronicles. And also one of the best. As you'l see, Metatron is quite the character!

And now, as some would say, onward to Golgotha...

WORMWOOD CHRONICLES: The new album "The Murder of Jesus The Jew" is stirring up a lot of comment. You've done a prodigious amount of research on the topic of Jesus. Do you feel you know him personally after all of this?

METATRON: Yeah, I think I know my Jesus personally. Every one can have their personal take on him, with all the information out there on the "Jesus Engima". You take away the supernatural and you take away faith and you're left with a historical, real Jesus. It's very difficult to embrace that kind of person unless you remove Christianity from the equation. Everyone seems to forget that He was a Jew. It's very difficult to immerse yourself in that First Century, Palestine kind of world and absorb the religion of the day to discover the kind of guy this man was. It has taken me ten years of research and trying to become this person without any Christian twists and turns. Yeah, I think I know him well.

WC: It's probably one of the most objective studies on Jesus that's ever been done by somebody's who's not working for a university or some sort of a think tank.

M: Yeah, yeah, me father always told me, never mock something you don't understand. That includes mocking a human being or absolutely anything. Being in a Christian country and brought up with school nativities where you have the 3 Shepherds and the Star of Bethlehem, I always wanted to know, who is this guy? I have had an obsession trying to understand him. You soon understand how the Bethlehem story is complete rubbish. There's so many things about Jesus that are true, but there are also so many things that are wrong because his whole Jewishness has been completely lost in the growth of the Roman church, the singular worship of a God of the Hebrews has been turned into this Trinity of Three. It's a very, very complex subject. We want our music to come across to people first. That's very, very important. The lyrics are there to accompany it but for anybody who really wants to understand the lyrics, I've got this explanation on the website (the 60,000 word "Codex of Metratron", which you can find HERE). We're not trying to force this down anyone's throat. It's there if you want to read it. If not, then just enjoy the music.

WC: Have you ever read the book "Behold The Man" by Michael Moorcock, the British science fiction author?

M: My God! I've heard of it, I've not read it. I know Moorcock obviously from the 70's version of Hawkwind. I've seen him live a few times doing his narrations as Hawkwind do their trippy music. I'm aware of the person but not aware of that particular book.

WC: It really deserves to be re-released. It's about a time traveller who goes back to those times and finds out Jesus was a historical person. But basically he was very simple-minded and being manipulated by everyone around him. Then, in a twist, the historical Jesus dies and the time traveller winds up taking his place and becoming the man who is crucified. It's like a loop. Which came first? The chicken or the egg?

M: Yeah! Very clever!

WC: I almost wondered if the book could have been an influence for you.

M: I've certainly read a great amount of material relating to Jesus, but not that book. It sounds very interesting, I will check it out! It's very, very true that anything about who he really was has been lost.

WC: It's been more than 2000 years since this happened. A rumor can get distorted in just one day. It's a wonder that there's any truth left at all.

M: It's true! We've got pretty early records of what he was about. I don't think myth can take hold that quick. I think that when he died, the sect that tried to keep his teachings alive was kind of pushed to the side when Paul came along. All that we've got left is this Roman version of it, yeah? The truth has become distorted. Most religions of the day are myths, because there's no real foundation for any of these beliefs. Look at Islam. Mohammed came out of a cave and the religion was born. Religion can start in the strangest, most fascinating ways. But when it comes to Jesus or Yeshua, you have to remember he was a Jew, he cared about his people and his religion. He didn't give a shit about anything else. Gentiles, they were nothing. He was only concerned with his religion. We're not pro-Jew or anti-Jew but you can't help but learn a lot about this race of people who have been kicked around all over the world. They've had a real shit time of it. I actually feel sorry for them. They know how to integrate. For example, in the time of World War I, there were Jews in Germany, England, France, Russia and they were all killing each other, because they were fighting for their respective countries.

WC: Most times, they are able to make the most out of a bad situation.

M: Yeah! And they've had a shit time. In this black metal world, when you talk about this race of people, you're usually on the racist National Socialist black metal side of the coin. That's where the Nazi shit comes into the equation. It's unusual for us to end up writing this album that tries to get to the bottom of things. Anti-Semitism was really ignited by the Catholic Church. It existed before the Nazis and would probably still exist if Naziism had not happened.

WC: The Jews also strongly resist any attempt to change their faith, which makes it worse for them.

M: Of course it does. It binds them together and makes them what they are. Their faith is everything to them. Without their religion, they are nothing. It's always been that way. Of all the tribes and countries of the world where religions have been bulldozed by this Christian monster, the Jewish religion has not been destroyed. The Celtic gods, the Germanic Gods, the Viking Gods...Christianity has completely erased them off the face of the planet.

WC: And what Christianity doesn't wipe out, Islam is there to finish the job.

M: Islam is starting to pick up because Christianity has kind of run its course when it comes to picking on the ignorant. Islam feeds on ignorance now, just like Christianity did in the Dark Ages and Middle ages. Nobody could read books back then. The Third World is fertile ground to be converted to whatever religion because the people are ignorant. That's no disrespect to them, that's just the way it is. As Islam evolves, it will get to Christianity's current stage probably in about 400 years or so. I can assure you, people are going to stop blowing themselves up and thinking they'll go to Paradise, just as Christians finally stopped going on Holy Wars like the Crusades.

WC: That's assuming there's anybody alive in 400 years at all.

M: (laughs) Unfortunately, we've got to wait that long before that happens!

WC: Let's move to the musical side of the Meads now. You guys are eclectic to say the least, but has there ever been any kind of music that you rejected because you thought it was too far out to use?

M: Yeah, yeah. Rap and reggae. It's just a personal thing, I must admit. While Anthrax have dabbled with that sort of thing, it's not something that we would ever dabble in. (Must admit, I felt like high fiving the guy through the phone--Doc)

WC: Except for those, you certainly have more on your plate than just about any other black metal band.

M: Yeah, we embrace all sorts of music. We can handle the jazzy, the doomy, the prog, the punk. When the music is created, if it sounds wrong, sometimes it's gotta be right! It's a strange way we go about our business but it ends up natural. We'll listen to songs and say "that doesn't work, that doesn't work, but if you take the end of that song and stick it on the beginning of this song, then you've got two different songs that you can use. It's a weird writing process but that's how most of our songs are born.

WC: The one song I've played for others and they are really attracted to is "Addicted to God"...

M: I knew you'd say that.

WC: It has a "Jesus Christ Superstar" kind of feel to it. Was that an influence on the song?

M: No. No, not at all. What is was, we had this really hard kind of song that disintegrated into this kind of jazzy vibe. I thought to myself, we need this kind of campy vocal harmonies that will burst out of nowhere. J.D. Tait (guitarist), who creates most of the music, looks at me and asks, "where are we going to find these vocals?" We found these couple of poofs...I think you call 'em faggots in the States...and made them the singers and they were right camp.(laughter) Not that we hang out in no gay bars, but that's where we got 'em. We asked them if they'd mind doing a vocal harmony. I knew what the words were going to be and how I wanted them to sound. That's what they done and we stuck it in the song. After we was done, I looked around and said "That is absolutely perfect!" If some one listens to this, it's going to completely fuck them up!

WC: It's so catchy, you can't get it out of your head!(laughter) Same thing with the acoustic song, "Stiller of Tempests". Very catchy song!

M: That's another one where the original demo version doesn't have the female vocals in it. It's just line after line. We took every other line out and said, we've got to get some female vocals in there. That song was completely transformed by doing that. When you first hear it, it sounds like Clint Eastwood riding out of the desert dust. Then the lyrics hit you. We make the songs into chapters to carry the story across. We were aware that each song had to be different. Concept albums can wind up with songs bleeding into each other and end up as one long song of nothing. We wanted each song to exist in its own area and could stand alone without necessarily being tied into the rest of the album. We wouldn't change a thing. When we look back on the album, there's nothing we would change. We're very happy with it and hope other people will be.

WC: That's a rare thing to accomplish. It is a very visual music. It creates an image in your head as you listen to it, if that makes sense.

M: Yeah, I think I know what you might mean. It's very important for us to give that kind of emotion. I think we've injected some emotional flow into the music. The lyrics are sometimes pretty strong. There's a lot going on, there really is. If some people go "fuckin' hell!" at the end, I understand, because it was a massive, massive jigsaw puzzle. We've got this massive lyrical concept and musically there's so much going on...it was a lot to piece together. But once we started to put it together, it went "bang-bang-bang!". We really, really thought we were going to fuck our brains up with it all! (laughter)

WC: You guys are now on Candlelight Records. Was there ever a time when they said "what the hell are you doing, what's going on here?"

M: (laughs) They did, they did. They freaked out when they saw the lyrics, especially to "Jew Killer". They gave us complete artistic freedom, they didn't ask us to change nothing. Yeah, they were pretty concerned with the album title, especially regarding Germany, because they're pretty touchy about that subject. I think they realized that "Jew Killer" was written from a Roman point of view. We wanted that particular song to be very, very strong, because it's all about a race of people being blamed for the death of a god that's been stolen from them in the first place. It's theirs, it's their god! It's like somebody in the West adopting Thor or Odin or Isis or Quetzlcoatl. "Hey, this is the god of the world....Quetzlcoatl!" Suddenly, in thousand years time, people might realize, he's Mexican. Completely! Quetzlcoatl is not a god of the West, You stole this fucking God, he belongs to the Mexicans. That's what the Christians did with the Jewish God.

WC: Gods get stolen all the time. The days of the week are named after the Norse Gods...

M: That's right!

WC: Thor's Day is Thursday, Woden's Day is Wednesday. People forget about that. Easter was a Celtic celebration.

M: That's quite correct. The planets are named after Roman gods. And the Romans stole them off the Greeks anyway! (chuckles)

WC: These facts used to be more widely known but in the days of the Internet, people are becoming more ignorant of the past, not less.

M: It's crazy, isn't it? The truth is out there, but it's hard to find. You talk about the Easter festival. You're worshipping the death of a human being, but you're wondering why you've got all these chocolate eggs and rabbits! It's a spring festival for the Celts, to celebrate everything coming up, the leaves are getting green and the rabbits are running around. But people forget.

WC: The winners write the history. Moving on now, does the song "A Canticle For the Lost Amputees of Aelia Capitolina Who Have Been Trampled Under the Iron Shod Hooves of Salivating Hell Rams and Impaled on the Shimmering Tusks of Salvation Within the Abandoned Tabernacle of a Bronze Age Myth" officially qualify for being the longest song title ever?

M: (laughs) Maybe. We tend to have them songs at the end of our albums, ones with a nice long title. Believe it or not, the actual titles do mean something. The "Lost Amputees" are kind of the Jews while Aelia Capitolina is what the Romans called Jerusalem once they destroyed it. "The iron shod hooves of the hell rams" refers to the Roman legions while "the shimmering tusks of salvation" is the salvation the Jews never could get. "Abandoned tabernacle" is pretty much what it sounds like while "a bronze age myth" refers to their religion. So it may seem like a long, long title of nothing, but it actually means what it says.

WC: I thought it probably did, but I wondered if there was a real attempt to make it the longest song title.

M: Yeah.(chuckles) I must admit, I did to stretch it a bit. Again, with the cover which has this sad man nailed to that tree and this dog chewing his toe and this extra long song title...it adds to this surreal picture that we've woven together. All these separate strange points kind of hit you at once. You look at the lyrics again, you look at the cover again, you listen to the songs again...we've deliberately put our own identity into the whole concept. All these little things start to pop out. Why is this dog chewing that guy's foot?(chuckles) We're looking for anything that can stimulate the listener , is what we're trying to do.

WC: That's like wearing the armor, right?

M: Yeah, we've been wearing that since 1998, we always have!

WC: Do you wear the armor when you play live and what live plans do you have?

M: That's the key question, the golden question. At the moment, we're discussing it. I've seen people like Immortal and Gehenna play live with a lot of hardware, but trust me, you cannot play live in armor. We're talking five stone of weight, I don't know what that is in your kind of weight ratio, but we're talking heavy shit!

WC: The band Armored Saint tried it around the time of their first album...

M: Really?

WC: They had to give it up. If you get their first album "March of The Saint", you'll see pictures of them in the Hollywood glam era of rock wearing breastplates and chainmail. I think they realized pretty quick that wasn't gonna work.

M: You don't realize it at first, but it's the shoulders that get ya. All that weight is hanging from your shoulders.

WC: These guys that would go into medieval combat wearing this and swinging giant swords for hours at a time...they had to be superhuman!

M: Oh yeah. You say hours but I don't think it's possible. I would suggest minutes.

I think you'd kneel with exhaustion and then the men behind you would push forward and so on. You couldn't not maintain that pace. No matter how skilled you were, it was the fittest who won the day.

WC: Or who had the better armor!

M: Yeah, absolutely!

WC: The album "The Murder of Jesus The Jew" is such a monumental achievement, which you've been building towards for such a long time, how are you gonna top it in the future?

M: (chuckles) I don't know. That is a really, really good question. It's not gonna be topped, is it?

WC: Could you do the same thing for Mohammed that you did for Jesus?

M: No! With due respect to Christianity, there's always missed translations. I don't think Mohammed's life would make a good album. He did not undergo the same tribulations as Jesus did. He was not martyred. Plus, we would need somebody writing for us who actually had grown up in the shadow of Islam. We would need somebody from the East to do it true justice.

WC: Maybe a figure for your own English past?

M: We've got to be very, very careful with it. I'm not sure where we're going. The Holocaust has been mentioned as a subject. We want people to enjoy us musically, first and foremost. We want a good part of our music to make people laugh, yeah? We want people to go, fuck, I've got to play that again or else go fuck, what rubbish! We're not going to please everybody. The Holocaust is a great interest of mine, but if we tackle that, there's nothing remotely funny about it. If we tried our quirky style with that kind of subject matter, I'm not sure it would work.

WC: And it is much more recent history, as well.

M: Exactly. So I'm not sure what we're going to do. It's a good question! (chuckles) I wish I knew the answer! But I'm sure it will come to me.

WC: What was the last CD or record you got just because you wanted to check out the band?

M: Uhhhhhh....bloody hell! That's a hard one. You know, I can't think! I'm not even sure if I can pronounce the band's fucking name! It was some sort of Russian pagan metal stuff. It was in the mold of Pagan Reign or Arkona. It's a band called Dragla or Drygla.

WC: Is it spelled D. R. U. D. K. H.?

M: Drudkh! Yeah! I've got a lot of Drudkh, they're from the Ukraine. That's the kind of music I'm really into. I think I've exhausted the European kind of vibe so I'm going to Russia to find this kind of pure strain. I like their kind of traditional instruments...the pipes, the whistles, it's really, really good. Not like Finntroll or Turisas! That's all the commercial side of it. I'm more into the underground side.

WC: That style's just starting to be uncovered for a lot of people...

M: It's fantastic! It's good because people are addressing their past. They're examining their traditional music and writing about their old times, which is good. People should remember where they're from, no matter where that might be.

WC: I like a band called Darkestrah...

M: They had a record out on No Colours, didn't they?

WC: It's based on ancient Mongolian or Tibetan music mixed with black metal. The lead singer is a girl, though it's impossible to tell. Now let me ask you this. In the history of the Meads of Asphodel, has there every been a Spinal Tap moment you'd care to share with us?

M: Gor blimey! (laughter) Off-hand, I can' t think of any!

WC: You mean you never had an armor malfunction or anything go crazy in the studio?

M: Yeah, well, we've had silly things. I got down on me knee for a photo shoot and I couldn't get up. (laughter)

WC: That's just what I'm looking for!

M: I was left on me knee, I couldn't get up! I was stuck! (laughter) Stuck in the mud! There ya go!

WC: That's one of the more unique ones I've had.

M: I got another one. This is a lesson to be learned. When you put chain mail on, you're supposed to put it above your head in a big roll and put your arms straight up and let it go. Then it thunders down, all down your back and legs. Well, J.D. Tait our guitarist has got really long hair, so when we went to take it off, literally every part of his hair was tangled up in the links. We couldn't get it off him! We spent a half an hour taking every bit of his hair out of the links! It just goes to show ya. These Vikings, I don't know what they done, they must have tied their hair up before they went into battle!

WC: Oh yeah. It looks good in a movie when it's flying around, but I'd imagine they had it in a braid. I also found out the so-called "horned" Viking helmet never existed.

M: That's right! The actual film "The Vikings" with Kirk Douglas and Tony Curtis had it right. It was a great film, even for today. The research that went into that was absolutely astonishing.

WC: That was a great movie!

M: Yeah, very authentic. You don't get any horned helmets in that.

WC: Any last words for the faithful here in the U.S.?

M: Yeah, of course! If you can get something out of our new album, then we did a job well done. We write our music for anyone who wants to listen to it and we really do hope that people enjoy it the same way we enjoy our favorite bands like Metallica, Venom, Dark Throne. We know what music does for us, it can be life changing. We hope we can do that for other people and that's why we do it.