In order to get started with our new section – The Cauldron – I have decided to invite a band that has been part of our adventure since the very beginning. I am talking about Kaiserreich from Brescia, here represented by their vocalist Serpent Est. This black metal band – that I value highly for their consistency and skills – has been active for about ten years and released two albums, "KRRH" ("Extremely derivative, but we will not ask for forgiveness", as he stated) and "Ravencrowned" ("One of the few things that I am really proud of"), and a split together with Nocturnal Depression. While we wait for their third work "Cuore Nero" and the already announced fourth one ("It will please all those that find our songs too long, being a single thirty-minute track"), Serpent Est shared with us a reflection about the importance of face-painting in black metal.
according to the staff, this space should serve as a place where musicians can share their experience with fans. There would be many things to tell you: from the cocaine addict organizer that couldn't stop snorting, to the one that showed us to our lodging in a terrible building, asking us if it would have been a problem for us to sleep in a filthy room with an ill Portuguese homeless. Also, there was the colleague that used to cut himself before the show and then tried offering his blade to us (politely rejected), or the drunk guy that kept harassing the audience, oh wait, that was one of us! There was also a groupie who insistingly asked "Please, fuck me!" (stupidly rejected), and the check-in at the airport wearing a belt with bullets, the aging lady dancing twist in front of the stage, or that show when our entire audience was composed of three fat dudes, that really enjoyed it.
There are lots of things to say regarding what happens in the backstage, that sometimes might be even more interesting than what the band is playing on stage. However, the aspect that I want to focus on today is the most recognizable trait of black metal, at least for those still connected to its old roots: face-painting. For many, it has always been a joke, for others it is more of a nostalgic homage, for me it is a founding aspect of the entire musical experience. An aspect without which — I won't hide it — it would be unconceivable to carry on with our musical project. Face-painting offers some sort of transfiguration through which all the notes, lyrics, and ominous vibrations can be channeled and directed towards the listener. This doesn't mean that we couldn't play or sing without make-up (we do that in the rehearsal room), but this allows all of those aspects to attain a primordial aura and embody something fierce.
The moment of make-up is a sublime introspective act, a ritual in which we are confronted with our own eyes in the mirror, searching for the most obscure dwellers of our inner selves. Each black stroke is a wound inflicted to the body and soul, a grim evocation capable of pulling that uncompromising part of us out of the abyss. So, is black metal just a "trick"? A pathetic sham? Yes and no. As for many other aspects of life, a person is rarely one single immutable entity. Mutation and contradiction are parts of us, and in the circus of music, especially when it is highly polarized like metal, this contrast is even stronger. Therefore, we can say that yes, most of what is played or said has a meaning only in the musical dimension, that is opened by distortions and lacerating shrieks.
The stage becomes a window on this deformed reality, and it shuts down straight after the end of the performance, swallowing the ghost that we were and allowing us to interrupt our role as its host. After the show, the curtain falls back and the lights turn on, the ghost has left and we just get back to being the usual scumbags: yelling at the streetlight, queuing at the post office, or swearing (this time believing it) when we hit our toes against a door while going to the bathroom at night. After all, you must probably be even less than stupid in order to pronouce most of the lyrics from black metal songs. This is one of the purposes of face-painting: evoke that part of us that firmly believes in what we are doing without compromising our lives, without turning us into a parody or imbeciles afflicted by hundreds of troubles, or — even worse — into puppets serving some psycho that would want us to be bloodthirsty and all-out misanthropes.
The black lines on our face are the signature of the darkness within us.
The black lines on our face are the legacy of the shadow over you.
The black lines on our face are Black Metal.