After her very promising debut “Introductio” in 2010, Russian dark ambient artist Lamia Vox returned with “Sigillum Diaboli” in 2013, to establish her position among the most engaging musicians of the new dark ambient generation.
Besides musical influences, technical issues and the potential difficulties of being a woman in a male-dominated scene, we discuss the project’s philosophical and mystical basis; the channelling of magickal energies in the physical plane, the representation of the Devil as a motive force for personal transformation and evolution, the challenging of traditionally accepted perceptions about the Self, reality and the battle between ‘good and evil’. The Devil’s role as Initiator in the magickal path champions sacrilege as an alternative means to access the secrets of heaven, thus opposing the blind obedience and unquestioning acceptance considered a prerequisite in the orthodox paths. This type of uncompromising passion is the inspiration behind Lamia Vox’s music, and this interview sheds some more light on the depth and message of her music.
[Interview by Vitriol & stark]
First and foremost, let me thank you for accepting to do this interview with us, and to congratulate you on an amazing new release, that has proven to be a great personal inspiration for me.
I am happy to hear that, it is very inspiring to hear that your work inspires others! Let’s start our dialogue!
What was the starting point for the project, and what were the first steps it took?
It all started not with the music, frankly speaking. The initial impulse towards the creation of this musical project was set by extremely strong emotions, and the desire to bring them into the world required their embodiment in some form. I chose the musical form because I had the education that allowed me to realize almost any musical ideas that I had. I am continuing my education so far – if I lack knowledge and skills in any area, I take private lessons or attend the appropriate course. I always know what I need for the realization of my ideas, and thus the whole process looks easier.
Although there are some very interesting ambient artists hailing from Russia, for instance Karna and Kshatriy, Russian dark/black ambient isn’t very well known to the rest of the world. Do you feel that the Russian ambient scene is changing or developing lately, reaching out to a wider audience?
These projects are well known in Russia, they began their career long ago, and as far as I know, have been gaining great response from the public. I can’t say that I am deeply aware about the development of the ambient scene in Russia, I know only of those with whom I had the opportunity to meet in person at one time or another. Projects such as, for example, Anthesteria and Cyclotimia have already found their audience not only in Russia, but all over the world, because what they do is always a high quality musical product. As for popularity, the same laws apply here as in show business in general. Those who keep to more underground conceptions and explore dark and obscure themes will always find understanding only from a certain part of the public. And this is in fact right and good. So it should be.
Female musicians are also a rare thing in the dark ambient genre, that is normally dominated by men. Did you feel intimidated at some point, by your male counterparts or have you felt welcomed and accepted in the scene?
In the alternative/underground scene certainly less women are active, that is a fact. Therefore, it is correct to say that it’s dominated by men. As a conclusion, a woman has to achieve her art so well that it can take its rightful place among all the men in the genre. To realize this can be sufficiently demoralizing on an early stage of one’s musical career. These are the laws of the genre, especially if – to consider this scene more broadly – it is either aggressive or extremely decadent by nature. Both of these are extremes, and definitely bravery and perhaps a certain amount of madness is needed to work in these fields. For the female nature both are peculiar: the еxpected result would rather be a harmonious and comfortable “new age” with melodic vocals, so it is logically difficult for women to occupy a prominent place in this genre simply because of the nature of their creative energy.
One of the things I enjoy most about your work is that it doesn’t try to imitate the aforementioned male musicians, instead it celebrates its female origins and in a way, “counterbalances” the masculinity we find in other musicians’ material. Does femininity play an important role in your music?
Certainly! I cannot run away from what I am, and if I tried, my work would be a lie. Instead, I keep to the opinion that we should not manifest ourselves in some “role”, but have to try to reflect what we are for real. These extremely feminine and frankly Devilish motives have a very strong role in my music; you should take them as they are, because they are the main essence of Lamia Vox. Such a manifestation is the central aim for which this music and this project in general were created. The entire associative array that is used in the project is an integral part of the author’s consciousness, and comes from my own heart and mind.
You have a close relation to the black metal scene, as we can see from Lamia Vox’s aesthetics, as well as your participation in the “Metal Wolves of Death” comp (which I liked very much by the way). How did you end up choosing the path of dark ambient?
My connections with Black metal have always had an ideological context. I always cooperate only with those teams with whom I can share main aspects of the faith. I can say that such collaborations with other projects are taking place right now as well. At the moment I am working for one brilliant Norwegian team, which has caused a really strong impression on me. Regarding the choice of musical genre, I never wanted to play Black metal myself and probably could not even if I wanted to. However, Lamia Vox stays very close spiritually to what some Black metal bands are manifesting; those bands whose path wasn’t desacralized and whose actions have always been guided by their Black faith.
Personally I am an advocate of ambient borrowing elements from the darker aspects of metal, and vice-versa – I find it makes for a more interesting mix. Have you discovered in your experience as a musician, that this is true or do you generally try to keep the two separate?
Depends on what you mean. If we’re talking about its conceptual framework there are more similarities than differences in my opinion. Considering Dark Ambient, these loans are not only relevant, but inevitable, even as it is what makes dark ambient really Dark. The Darkness is quite specific and defined in my mind, and it must always have a Demonic nature. Otherwise, it should be called gray ambient, light gray ambient or whatever else. Personally, I am not very much into the speculation on Darkness, without a single drop of true obsession.
Are there any projects, bands or artists that have had a particular influence on your sound, that you would like to mention?
When it comes to the sound, I’d say I try to study the composition and means of musical expression of the classical musicians. However, of course I listen to different music, and it should have an impact on me to some extent. In any case, the smaller the proportion of such an effect (including an accidental one) the better it is, as it determines the degree of uniqueness of your creativity.
“Sigillum Diaboli” constitutes a significant departure from the sound of your previous album, “Introductio”, that was more ritual and minimalistic, and more adherent so to speak, to the signature sound of ritual/black ambient. In this album you are more bold and include many different elements from many different genres. What brought about the change, and do you see this release as an expansion of your previous vision, or as a new beginning?
“Introductio…” has a very strict idea behind it, and this is extended to the sound as well, it was more rigid. It was created as a reflection of my own Nigredo, the initial stage of alchemical soul transformation. The last track “Follow the Fallen Stars” increases its tension in order to burst up into a manifestation, and also it was the foreseeing of the new stage of my spiritual Path. It was a musical transition to the next album which had already been planned as more bold, more martial and symphonic.
“Sigillum Diaboli” received some very enthusiastic reviews, many magazines want to do interviews with you – you have become a “celebrity” in this small dark ambient world. Did you expect such a reception of your album?
I’ve always paid too little attention to self-advertisement to be a celebrity. From this point of view, the increased attention to the release, considering the total lack of any decent advertising from my side, is really nice and flattering. I don’t think it is quite right to expect a certain response to your actions to understand if they are good or not, as the act or process itself must be valuable for you, and only then it is a real thing.
One of the very specific aspects of the Russian ambient scene is its preference for analogue musical equipment, old synthesizers etc. Whereas from a technical point of view, you prefer more modern ways of expressing yourself. What’s your opinion about these projects cherishing analogue sounds? Would you like to make some music using such equipment in the future?
In the music that I create an incredible variety of sound sources are often used. In my studio 7 hardware synths from rarities to just old school and new are in use, and then an incredible number of effects processors; I have also implemented the possibility to record live instruments or voice, sound sampling, etc. In spite of this, I cannot afford to deal mostly with sound design, which is done by many bands as mentioned above. Analog sound design, experimenting with sound wave forms, their psycho-acoustic properties are certainly very interesting for me, and I do not hesitate to use them when I need it, but I can’t allow myself to go really deep into these spheres, because I’ve always an elaborate, definite and clear idea, and it requires to use musical tools that would evoke a clear and certain associative chain.
You know, we had a small conversation at Santa Sangre about an interesting feature of your music, namely your vocals. There were two different opinions: one that your vocals are too much in the background, and the opposite that it’s somehow a crowning feature of “Sigillum Diaboli” and using it in such a manner makes it very special and unique. How would you describe the role of your vocals within the whole structure and concept of the music?
Their role is very important. In this music the vocals are used mostly by necessity, rather than just for decoration. All the texts presented here were really inevitable. They deliver not only a musical, but also a magickal function. Some of them are prayers, some are spells, some presented as clues to the ontological secrets of life and death. Singing brings more femininity to this music; it is the only tool I use that is gender-specific. The vocals as an instrument themselves may have two completely opposite meanings. One of them is Eve, the mother of humans, the human pain, love and humility.
That is definitely not my way. Such emotions will never find their place in the music of Lamia Vox.
Lamia Vox has a new home now, being part of the Cyclic Law roster. How did that come about, and are you happy in your new home? Do you feel that being part of a prestigious label, more prospects are opened up to the project?
I feel myself very comfortable on the label. Of course, it is the merit of Frederic Arbour; Cyclic Law has become a sort of peaceful haven for all of us, where you needn’t worry about anything and can totally rely on Frederic’s professionalism and excellent work. We all really feel in safe, good and caring hands because he is not only the label boss, but a very good, close friend. It is too early to talk about prospects, more so as it’s not very clear exactly what these prospects should be. But work on the next album has definitely been started.
Your music is quite accessible, remembering of course that it’s still dark ambient. But it has rhythm, melody… I think even people that aren’t really into this genre would enjoy “Sigillum Diaboli”. Let’s assume for a moment that some big label (like Trisol for example) noticed this young and interesting artist Lamia Vox. Would you sign with such a label if they proposed good conditions, or would you prefer to stay in the underground, within friends and people that see and feel things the same way as you?
It is obvious that if you want to be signed by a big commercial label, you need to have great commercial potential. And it nearly always means that your music can be perceived by a very wide range of people. But how is that possible, when what you manifest and proclaim is against light and life itself, and is unholy according to the opinion of most people. This could signal the collapse of the human essence in a man, and it would be truly wonderful of course. Another thing is that by being signed by such a label, the musician ceases to be free in his work, and often this also means the end of his unique creative way that was so demanded. Examples are well known.
Being a practitioner myself I couldn’t help but notice the intense occult aura emanating from your work, that is very fascinating and realistic. Are some of the tracks based on actual ritual workings?
The project allows me to bring into this world magickal energies which were gained as a result of personal studies and practices. Of course it is very much based on my own magickal experience. On the other hand I transform my music into a magickal instrument in order to affect listeners on the spiritual plane. Indeed, all my music grows of a magickal and occult soil (the first album as well), and it has always been the main conceptual core of my work. In the second album all the tracks (excluding the bonus ones) have a strong linking to the eight points of the wheel of the Year, which are essential for me from both a practical and philosophical point of view. It also has very much to do with the alchemical and spiritual Magnum Opus on our earthly plane.
And a more personal question, do you follow a specific magickal path, and would you like to share some details about your practices with the readers?
I can’t say I keep to some specific magickal path; my spiritual paradigm is the result of multiple traditions – from Traditionalism, Gnosticism, Witchcraft, Shamanism to the most baneful aspects of ceremonial (ritual) Satanism. Chaotic forces that always inspire my work and faith are the abyss of unlimited might, whose heart is pulsating with the powerful rhythm and impulses of the Devil’s energies, piercing this structured world with the poisoned arrows of the primordial curse.
I put Chaotic liberation on top of my goals and make a fatal and irretrievable step beyond the boundaries of permitted limits (and what is called “human“); condemn myself to the damnation of the eternal path, pursuing supremacy and feeding the hunger for wisdom. I praise the forces of demonic transformation vitalized with the Devil’s blood. Magick is the main tool that allows you to feel those Demonic rhythms through the labyrinths of this world, as well as giving you the ability to transfer those energies into this world.
When I was listening to “Sigillum Diaboli” my mind travelled to Woland’s ball from Bulgakov’s “Master and Margarita”. So I’d like to ask, what do you think of the book? Do you have a favourite character?
I must confess, I am not a big admirer of this book. I tried to love it, I’ve read it 3 times, and I haven’t succeeded. I don’t like its grotesque and sometimes a bit vulgar manner; I’ve always felt something artificial in it, though some lines in the novel I found really genius. I very much like Bulgakov’s works, but this one is not among my favorites for sure. There are some other Russian authors who created the jewels among mystic literature I am really into. To name some: “Viy” by Nikolai Gogol written in 1835 and “The Family of the Vourdalak” by Aleksey Tolstoy, written in 1839 are for me among the brightest ones.
Speaking of the Devil, the philosophical version of him presented in “Master and Margarita” is in many ways in agreement with the view of modern Luciferianism, that rejects the simplistic view of Lucifer as a hideous being with evil intentions, tapping instead into the romanticism and heroism of the fallen angel rebelling against the will of a cruel God. Do you think one of the two opinions (traditional and modern) is more valid than the other, or does the truth lie somewhere in between?
This question approaches to the meaning of the sense of Evil itself. In my opinion, the most close interpretation was given by Arthur Machen in the introduction to his novel “The White People” : “Then the essence of sin really is … In the taking of heaven by storm, an attempt to penetrate into another and higher sphere in a forbidden manner … the holiness works on lines that were natural once; it is an effort to recover the ecstasy that was before the Fall. But sin is an effort to gain the ecstasy and the knowledge that pertain alone to angels and in making this effort man becomes a demon …”. I’m naturally more inclined to the view that modern Luciferianism preaches, though of course most likely I understand His essence differently. For me, He is the one who inspires people to transform themselves in a fatal and impermissible way, in accordance to their true will. The One who inspires to assault heaven. The One of the faces and names of the heart of Chaos.
You recently took part in a very successful concert in Trondheim Norway, alongside artists such as Triarii, Svartsinn, Empusae and Havan. How was the experience and the audience response?
It was a very special and majestic night! The perfect organisation by Frode Hindrum and Jan Roger Pettersen made the event spotless, and the lovely audience who came to see the performance made it the most unforgettable on my mind.
Are there any live performances that are particularly memorable to you, up until now?
As I mentioned above the latest one in Trondheim was unforgettable for me. It was more than just a great gig; I believe some magick was going on there that night.
Now that “Sigillum Diaboli” is out, do you have any plans for the near future? Any new live events, comps or releases we can expect?
I have a lot of ideas on my mind that I am ready to implement in my new album, and a lot of themes I would like to disclose in it. Other than that I am planning to participate in some compilations, one of which is “Attich Ebulum” under the aegis of Santa Sangre magazine. Then, some kind of collaboration is ahead with the extremely talented photographer, Krist Mort. It will be a soundtrack for her photo book, which will presently be issued by Сyclic Press, the new publishing branch of the Cyclic Law label. As for live performances, I have confirmed my participation at Darklands Fire festival in Rakvere, Estonia on December 7, 2013.
Thank you again for chatting with us, and our best wishes for the future!
I was glad to talk to you here, always a pleasure. Thank you so much for your interest and kind support, it is so important for me!